Slow "friendly-fire" progress criticised

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by oldbaldy, May 1, 2007.

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  1. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours
  2. Silly question, but instead of developing a compatable system, why not just buy a Blue Force tracker and implement it NATO wide?

    Backhanders and brown envelopes doing the rounds no doubt.
  3. That's far too obvious. Maybe the US doesn't want to share the technology, at least not with all of NATO. And of course there's 'industrial' considerations - no money for BAE/EADS/Thales etc. in an OTS US system. But if the UK is goign to continue to fight alongside the US then yes, BFT would appear to be the way to go.
  4. The integration and interoperability of Blue Force Tracker with UK troops and proposed UK CID systems has been demonstrated some time ago. In procurement speak, that means Technology Readiness Level 7, the minimum requirement to attain Main Gate, and to proceed with a production and embodiment programme.

    As it’s “ready to go” but, as the PAC notes, hasn’t, what are the reasons? The usual suspect would be funding, but I believe it goes deeper than that.

    Blue Force Tracker is but one small element of Combat ID. Those who know how MoD works will realise “one small element” is the death knell for such a programme or requirement. Everyone (all stakeholders) immediately takes the line “I’m a minority Customer/User so nothing to do with me, but if someone else staffs it, does the legwork, funds it, procures it, supports it etc etc, sure, I’ll gladly use it”. And emerge from the shadows at the death and take credit if they’re successful. And stab those who tried in the back if it’s not.

    Ingram is reported as saying;

    "Incidents of friendly fire are tragic, and are generally caused by a number of complex, inter-related factors – not by the lack of a particular piece of equipment”.

    This is true but, as usual, facile. It just proves the above – he’s a Government Minister yet he just doesn’t want to know. Too complex and, hence, career limiting if he gets involved. This is not leadership. At best, he’s a third rate manager. But never a leader. Sod off Ingram, you’re pathetic.

    Why does Lord Drayson not speak? Under the recent reorganisation, he has been promoted to Minister of State. He’s no longer Minister (Defence Procurement) but has a wider remit as Minister for Defence Equipment and Support. Apologies if I’ve got titles wrong, but my point is that we are talking about acquisition (of which procurement is part) and he doesn’t comment. Why? Any bets on Ingram losing his job under the hardy Fifer, while his Lordship continues to lord it?

    If you take a look at the various operational capability elements you get an idea of how broad the stakeholder group is. Air to Air, Land to Land, Sea to Sea, Air to Sea and so on. (I think surface to surface, which you read about in Combat ID papers, which groups land and sea as one, is too simplistic, if only because sea components can carry the weight of kit, but land can’t all carry (or, importantly, power) the same kit, so have separate requirements. And I’d break this down further for those very reasons - load and power - into Mounted and Dismounted).

    The difficulty is therefore not technological, but organisational. While there exists a management process for delivering Combat ID, it requires experience, drive and determination to get to grips with it, and a long term team to do it. None of these are conducive to career advancement in MoD, so the able people avoid the task like the plague. And, whatever the technical solution, it requires integration. This is bread and butter stuff to Land and Sea DECs and related IPTs, but anathema to most Land equivalents. They have no history of doing it and spend huge amounts of money trying to work out what it is, never mind implementing it. Same goes for interoperability. Sea and Air tend to be able to communicate with friendly forces, albeit often via a convoluted route. The Army simply don’t see it as a requirement. Yes, I know YOU do, but how many Army projects include full funding for integration and interoperability?. Not a lot. They start off with good intentions, but soon ditch these core requirements as soon as the above problems become apparent.

    The ethos must change. Because the above issues are unlikely to change in the near future – they were identified 20 years ago and successive regimes have done nothing – I think I’d propose appointing, funding and empowering an external body to manage the delivery of Combat ID. Someone who does not have to deal with the daily hassles of internal MoD politics. A higher Governmental appointment with the Services and DE&S told – “You’ve ****ed around for decades and got nowhere, so state your case, stand back, and take what you’re given”. The only imposition I’d make is that each Service would be represented by a respected retired officer. For the Army, I’d recommend someone like an ex-Commandant ITDU, who had been so appointed in the first place because he had the correct attributes.

    Just my thoughts.
  5. Excellent post, bakersfield. On what basis do/have UK forces used BFT in OIF/OEF? Did we have to give it back to Uncle Spam after the invasion phase? Are any UK units equipped with BFT now?
  6. According to AVM Dalton's evidence to the Committee, BFT could be set up if needed for a future conflict. Sounds as if it would have to be procured/borrowed first.

    I recommend a glance at the Public Accounts Committee's report - mercifully 'only' 32 pages! Link to html or pdf document - 'Progress in Combat Identification'


    D.Y (BAFF)
  7. Andy

    I won’t go into details, partly because of sensitivities, but this extract from QinetiQ’s website hides a story…..

    We have a long history of working with military customers on all aspects of integrated Combat ID capabilities, providing deep experience in all three strands of Combat ID, i.e.

    • Target Identification (Target ID)
    • Situation Awareness
    • Tactics, Techniques and Procedures

    Our Combat ID related capabilities include:
    • Target ID system assessment
    • Combat ID architectural design
    • Situation Awareness systems management
    • Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) and Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR)
    • Airspace management
    • Real-time data links

    Given all the above is true, why is it that they have “a long history” on Combat ID? Not so long ago 99%+ of their income was from MoD UK. This means that large parts of the MoD have, over a long time, funded research and development of Combat ID. QQ haven’t suddenly paid for this knowledge themselves, it’s MoD-funded when they were RSRE, DERA, DRA etc. And now they’re a private company, any Tom, Dick or Harry can take advantage of our generosity and exploit it – while we don’t.

    Why was the R&D output not “pulled through” into Service? See my previous post. Noticeably, the PAC don’t really explore this detail. They’re prepared to criticise, but don’t want to dig too deep, or follow it through. They never know, one of them may have his bluff called by Broon and get Ingram’s job. So they stop short and are, effectively, toothless tigers.

    Let’s just say if you wanted a Combat ID system for your troops, QQ would wheel out their (MoD’s) old trials kit from the 90s and you’d be astonished at how effective it is.