The move offers business partners longer engagement opportunities and more thorough collaboration with the British Army leading to cutting-edge solutions that will enable the core equipment programme to solve potential problems more rapidly.
The AWE has run annually since 2017 and was preceded by the Urban Experiment (URBEX) Series.
It provides the British Army with a regular event through which they can engage and collaborate with industry partners, exploring and testing emerging technologies to inform investment decisions and find capabilities suitable for rapid exploitation.
Welcoming the new AWE programme, Lieutenant General Chris Tickell, Deputy Chief of the General Staff (DCGS) said: “This conference is taking place at a critical and exciting time for the Army.
“Together, AWEs 19 and 20 have provided important insights to the current levels of robotic autonomy, and digital connectivity between many of our systems and platforms.
“Through events such as this one, together, we have been able to achieve the UK’s first airborne crewed-uncrewed team, and the first seamless integration of Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) [or drones] into a helicopter’s mission system.
“We also built and deployed an experimental digital backbone which remains in place for future experimentation, thus closing the gap between our current and future capabilities.
“These activities, and many others, have heightened the Army’s awareness of the incredible advances in technological innovation. They have given us a clearer understanding of how we might implement current and future technology into Land Forces.”
Since 2017 the experiments have focussed on developing increasingly capable Human-Machine Teams (HMT). By pairing soldiers with AI-enabled machines, the Army is using HMT to enhance the understanding, reach and endurance of its forces.
These real-world demonstrations have helped accelerate several uncrewed air and ground systems into the Field Army, such as the Robotic Platoon Vehicles and Nano-UAS. The next 3 years of AWE will focus on integrating more capable systems in a demanding urban setting.
Establishing the AWE as a long term programme will allow industry partners to offer ideas to resolve issues the British Army is facing and then work with British Army, Defence Science and Technology Laboratories (Dstl) and Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) specialists to develop solutions which become viable products in a shorter period.
This provides industry with guaranteed access to British Army personnel to test their ideas and solutions, supplying user feedback early in the development cycle.
It also shows the commitment the British Army has to invest in and work with its industry partners to maintain Britain's place as a world leader in Defence and technology; an early indicator of the British Army's commitment to levelling up the UK.
Highlighting the vital importance of close collaboration with industry Lt Gen Tickell said the Army must remain competitive as a highly capable, prepared, and agile force, modernising through innovative concept development, progressive technologies, and new capabilities.
He added: “In the information age we cannot succeed without the efforts of industry and without your contributions to our nation’s defence.
“We understand that you too must be competitive and that you need our feedback about your products. We know that when you deliver the advanced technologies that give the British Army a competitive advantage, that you need our investment and it is a symbiotic relationship.”
AWE and other experimentation projects for prototype warfare are part of the innovative approach of the future Army. A new Land Industrial Strategy will also reset the Army’s relationship with industry and target increased exports and UK jobs.
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