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Director Capability delivers keynote speech on the future of the British Army

Major General Jez Bennett, Director Capability British Army, gave a speech today at the International Armoured Vehicles Conference & Exhibition held in Twickenham.


The subject of Maj Gen Bennett’s presentation will be The Army Operating Concept – A British Approach, where he will build upon the speech he gave at DSEI in September 2019. Highlights of his presentation will include the Modernisation Programme, experimentation and the Army’s relationship with industry. 

He spoke on the second day of the Conference and will also be taking part on a panel discussion entitled ‘Adapting the way we fight for the next generation of combat vehicles’. International Armoured Vehicles (IAVs) Conference involves more than 250 industry experts and 400 military leaders. Speeches and discussions focus around emerging technologies and preparing for future challenges. 

There is also a static display of armoured vehicles including Boxer, Ajax, and Foxhound. Representatives from DE&S are on hand during the Conference to answer questions. An abridged version of Maj Gen Bennett's speech is below:

"You will all recognise that the character of warfare has changed and continues to evolve.  The UK is adapting to the new realities and multiple security challenges.  Rather than simply responding to events as they happen, Defence is seeking to get ahead and drive the tempo of strategic activity. This requires a pan-government approach across both physical and virtual domains to enable us to act at the speed of relevance.   

Our Response – The British Army Land Operating Concept

The British Army is developing a new Land Operating Concept, fit for the next decade.  The concept is still in development, but I can offer you a flavour of our thinking and how our approach may shape future modernisation priorities and programmes.

The Land Operating Concept has at its heart the soldier (and the marine and air force gunner) as a platform, networked within the land environment, where the people live and where decisions are made.  It has seven facets to it, it’s focus being on integration.

At the strategic level the Land Operating Concept provides greater utility and greater integration across government and society, with allies, pan-domain and with industry involved earlier in the process.  At the tactical level it also drives greater integration, using both hard and soft effects and incorporating a greater use of human and machine teaming to blend mechanical and information age technology with a digital and data backbone, to deliver an ‘any decider, any sensor, any shooter system’. 

The Land Operating Concept builds on Fusion Doctrine to drive the conditions rather than respond to them.  It’s based on the Integrated Operating Concept framework of Protect, Engage, Constrain and Fight and is pan-domain, not just on land.  It also talks to what our allies are doing. The US re-focusing on a multi domain approach, the Australians on a persistency of engagement and the French on greater utility of medium weight. In terms of the PECF framework we acknowledge a tension between Protect and Fight in terms of the use of niche force elements. We also believe there is an elasticity between constrain and engage, in other words the ability and need to escalate to deescalate. In terms of Protect its about the Land Environment being the intrinsic guarantor of resilience in the homeland.  It also means we enable allies’ mobilisation through the UK. In terms of engagement it’s about regaining the initiative through greater persistence of engagement, more dynamically influencing the adversary’s perceptions.  All this is cohered through the new Land Operations Command, using regional hubs to generate a security platform for use by assets across government and in short is about prevention being better than cure.  Constrain is about creating multiple dilemmas across physical and virtual domains altering the adversary’s approach and creating decision paralysis.  An example is STRIKE that can self-deploy, certainly within Europe. It will do so on a dispersed basis, converging where necessary, picking up live real-time information from satellites, from carrier-air down to the AJAX protecting the BOXER vehicle from where the soldier dismounts.  Once the soldier dismounts their dismounted situational awareness will ensure they remain central to the network whilst interfacing with and amongst the people on the ground.   STRIKE’s ability to access and operate within degraded environments effectively ‘enables air to enable land’.  In terms of the fight, this about hard power for when smart power is not enough and talks to the British Army’s armoured modernisation.  It is also about the Division which remains the lowest level which can orchestrate across the Combined Joint Integrated Network within a NATO or US Corps and also deliver multiple concurrent effects. 

Of course, capability is about more than equipment.  In the people space our Project CASTLE is about talent management and refining the skills required to deliver this operating concept, creating horizontal pathways within careers to deliver the right person at the right place at the right time, and over time.  And it’s about being able to self-start that process, rather than being reliant on, and responsive to a system to do it for or to you.   In terms of training we have an evolving Collective Training Transformation Plan which delivers a single synthetic environment, effectively delivering training as a surrogate for warfare and including greater measurement and evaluation, so we are better able to understand the risk / benefit calculus. 

Modernisation Programme

The British Army, therefore, has a modernisation challenge.  We are seeking to invest in new and novel technologies whilst simultaneously attempting to modernise an aging and increasing obsolete fleet.  Central to our modernisation agenda is the digital and data backbone which places interoperability at the heart of the programme and will genuinely see the British Army transfer from the mechanical to the digital age.  Future capability will be enhanced with greater access to wider services and networks, specifically intelligence, surveillance and communication networks, to enable those operating in and from physical platforms to operate more intelligently and effectively.   The British Army’s approach is underlined in our investment in both the AJAX and BOXER programmes – the Army’s first digital age platforms.  The first of over 500 AJAX are now coming online and in December last year the British Army placed a contract for 508 BOXER to meet our mechanised Infantry Vehicle Requirement.  And there is more to come….In addition to STRIKE we are seeking to recapitalise our armoured vehicle programmes.  The Challenger 2 Programme, aims to deliver an enhanced main-battle tank, with greater lethality and survivability, that will provide precision direct fire and intimate support to the infantry until well into the next decade.  We also continue to trial and develop the enhanced lethality that the new turret and 40mm stabilised cannon will bring as part of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme – a genuine game changing capability for our armoured infantry community. 

Transformation Fund:

We are also exploiting new technology with the support of the Secretary of State’s Transformation Fund.  Over the last 12 months, the Army and the Transformation Fund has invested over £40m into 19 separate projects, focused on six capability areas: 21st Century Infantry, Platoon Robotic Vehicles, UAS, last mile resupply, Remote Control Fighting Vehicles and Information Manoeuvre.  Next year we have plans to invest a further £100m in novel technologies such as hybrid electric drives, a virtual proving ground to accelerate Capability Development and 21st Century HQs.


The Army is also seeking to develop a Venture Capital Partnership which should see an investment of £50m over 4 years.  Discussions are ongoing with MOD to link the Army Venture Capital Partnership with the National Security Strategic Investment Fund (NSSIF).  An agreed approach is expected soon.  Planning also continues to establish an Army Battle Lab on the Dorset Innovation Park, in Lulworth.  The Army Battle Lab will enable small / medium sized companies to come together, collaborate, experiment and develop novel technology.  The Battle Lab should allow year-round experimentation that is currently limited to the Army Warfighting Experiment. The project is joint funded by the Defence Innovation Fund, the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership and the Army.  IOC is expected in Summer 20.  In November the Army secured a total of just over £4m in the last round of Defence Innovation Funding to advance five separate projects: near-zero single living accommodation; wide wet gap crossing drone recce; solar car port; patient treatment environmental sim system; and an Army Alexa.  The first of these projects will start to deliver later this year.  We are making a conscious effort to focus new technology to be sustainable, not just to reduce our emissions but also to harness the capability benefits that new technologies could offer from reduced engine signatures and power management for example.


The Army Warfighting Experiment seeks to bring together industry partners, science and technology, academics and users to test, develop and integrate these new capabilities into our operating concept.  The first AWE was run in Dec 18 under the name AUTONOMOUS WARRIOR.  During the exercise 47 industry partners tested 71 robotic and autonomous systems.  It included 200+ troops from 15 separate nations.  The initial investment of £5m by the Army was supported by a further £10m from industry.  Following AWE18 there has been a further £13m invested through the Transformation Fund to exploit technology and place it into the hands of soldiers.   AWE19 will be conducted in Apr 20, and is focused on manned-unmanned teaming.  The exercise will be run in conjunction with the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA).  Six industry partners have been selected (Leonardo; General Dynamics; QinetiQ; Horiba-MIRA; SCISYS and Techever) to provide air and ground unmanned systems.  The exercise will assess whether vehicles can move around the battle field autonomously without the need for GPS and develop UAVs that can ‘hunt’ manned enemy platforms.  The Army has invested £3m which has been matched by a further £3m from private venture.   The focus for AWE 20 will switch to agile command and control and having received over 150 applications from industry, 136 partners have been selected to attend the main exercise later this year.  Over the course of the AWE programme we have seen increased industry involvement and the recent round of bids reflect a greater understanding of the Army’s requirements.  

Relationship with Industry

Many of you will remember that at DSEI in September we launched the Army Industrial Engagement Framework – or AIEF.  We are now seeking to put those words into action.  Your initial feedback has been extremely positive and it was a genuine pleasure to welcome over 300 partners from across industry to the Army’s Combat Power Demonstration in October.

To take our relationship forward I would like to move away from transactional setting of requirements and work collaboratively to solve future capability challenges.   By asking open questions we hope to be able to harness a much wider range of thinking and identify truly novel solutions to the challenges we face.

To achieve this we need to work increasingly closely with industry.  At DSEI, the Chief of the General Staff stated that industry would be in the lead echelon of our future force.  We are now working closely with the Cambridge Innovation Forum and several universities across the UK to integrate both industrial placements and academics within our teams.  


To conclude, the British Army is modernising and transforming to face the challenges in this era of constant competition.  In terms of the top three of what’s changed: we are creating a digital backbone to deliver a single information environment.  We are about more persistent engagement to deliver greater anticipation and we are about delivering an ability to create networked real time links between any sensor, any decider, and any shooter to harness pan-domain effect to be delivered into the land-environment.  We can only achieve success with the support of our allies, partners and industry.  We are committed to making our relationship closer than ever and I look forward to continuing this journey together.