Friendly Fire Equipment Not Designed For Job

Taken from The Sunday Telegraph, 2nd September, 2007

Friendly fire equipment not designed for job

Billions of pounds' worth of military equipment that the Government says will prevent friendly fire deaths was never designed for the role, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

Facing mounting criticism over Gordon Brown's failure to invest in the Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defence claims it has allocated £3.8 billion for projects to prevent incidents such as the deaths of three British soldiers in Afghanistan in an attack by a US fighter jet 10 days ago.

But manufacturers and defence experts say many of the key projects cited - such as the £2 billion Bowman radio - were not designed to identify friendly forces on the battlefield.

Others are not compatible with equipment used by Britain's allies, notably the Americans.

Some projects, including the crucial battlefield target identification system, remain on the drawing board years after they were to have been introduced.

One major project, a system that lets aircraft identify targets on the ground from a distance, has been cancelled.

Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, accused the MoD of exaggerating the amount of money it had spent in a cynical attempt to deflect criticism.

"Even when it comes to the deaths of our servicemen and women, New Labour can't stop the spin and lies," he said.

"Any idea that Brown would be any different from Blair has been utterly exposed by events in recent weeks."

It made no sense, he said, for Britain and America to field different systems for communication and identification, and a Conservative government would overhaul the system.

The Ministry of Defence insisted that it was unrealistic for all the equipment to be compatible with that used by the US.

"It is something of a red herring to say that each piece of equipment has to be interoperable," a spokesman said.

"It is not a requirement for each piece of equipment to be able to talk to each piece of equipment. Information overload can be counterproductive."

In response to criticism that it had failed to invest in equipment to prevent friendly fire incidents, known as blue-on-blues, the MoD claimed last week that it had spent £3.8 billion on battlefield target identification technology in recent years.

In fact, no money had been allocated to that particular programme when the National Audit Office last reported on Government spending on combat identification projects and it remained on the drawing board.

The NAO report, published last year, examined a number of other programmes listed by the MoD as relevant to combat identification and concluded that there was more it should do, particularly in bringing on the much-delayed Battlefield Target Identification System.

A prototype of this was completed in 2001, but the MoD has failed to make significant progress on a working system.

Government spending on defence as a proportion of GDP is at its lowest since 1930 and manufacturers believe that the Government must pay more to ensure that equipment for the Army is compatible with that of friendly forces.

Mark Douglas, vice-president of corporate affairs for General Dynamics, which makes the Bowman system, said although it was a highly adaptable piece of equipment, it was not designed to identify friendly forces in the heat of battle.

"Unfortunately it will not stop the sort of thing that happened [in Afghanistan] and it was never intended to," he said.

Charles Heyman, editor of Jane's World Armies, said there were problems with all technical solutions to friendly fire, but he could not see why the MoD would not want all its equipment to be compatible with other NATO forces. "That flies in the face of NATO instructions for the past 30 years," he said.

In a statement the MoD said: "Interoperability of our Armed Forces with those of other nations is a key issue for current and future operations. Our planning is based on the fact that we will often need to operate with, but not necessarily identically to, our close allies."

Equipment standards and technical interoperability were important, it said, and it was working with allies on these; but they could not entirely eliminate the risk of friendly fire. "Compatible procedures, tactics and techniques" were also key factors.
Whilst shocking, pretty much what I've come to expect from the current government in office. Do nothing, invest bugger all in vital systems and then try and lie their way out of it when they get found out. Callous bastards.
A multi-national exercise took place in 2005 to allow a system of Combat Identification to be adopted. A number of manufacturers/nations were represented and the exercise was hosted by UK on Salisbury Plain.

Sadly the whole thing had descended into bickering at the conferences; it was not taken at all seriously and seemed simply a platform for QINETIQ to sell something to other nations.

To show you how serious it was taken by the host nation (us), a search of google reveals nothing from us on the subject; for that we have to rely on one of the minor visitors just to confirm it even happened:

Urgent Quest

The whole thing was of course standalone and not linked to any other IPT (e.g. Bowman) :roll:

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