This ability to move at pace when new and advantageous technologies come along is the best way to ensure that you win the battle. Sometimes, though, processes can get in the way of that early adoption.
In a bid to streamline and ensure that battle-winning innovation is delivered as quickly as possible, Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) came up with the Buy and Try at Scale (BATS) initiative.
More often than not the quickest to adopt gains the competitive edge
Developed by the Future Capability Group (FCG), which is part of DE&S, the process is an innovative way of driving small scale procurement quickly to provide small numbers of platforms and systems for experimentation with relevant units.
It gives the unit a chance to experiment ‘in the field’ while further developing the Army’s understanding of emerging technologies, refining and redefining requirements; helping to unpick Defence Line of Development (DLODs) and reduce potential risks to future requirements.
Once units begin to get to use the equipment, work out the kinks, and provide feedback, this is where the advantage of the BATS initiative really begins to bear fruit. This process of innovation, experimentation, and feedback is repeated until a mature requirement is established for any potential future procurement.
The main benefactor of this approach, though not exclusively, has been the Army. One of the units charged with making full use of BATS has been the new Enhanced Light Forces Battalion (ELFB), 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (2YORKS).
It is one of the methods that is being used to equip the unit with Robotic Platoon Vehicles (RPVs) and Uncrewed Air Systems (UAS) and is being considered for other projects to support both 2YORKS and the new Army Special Operations Brigade for further experimentation. The move is a part of a £120 million three-year programme that is transforming how future soldiers will operate and fight.
For Commanding Officer (CO) 2YORKS, Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) James Ashworth, the opportunity is one that he and his soldiers relish.
With such a conceptual investment to redesign and reimagine how we will fight in the future Lt Col James Ashworth
Lt Col Ashworth said: ‘It’s not only a huge privilege to command a battalion that’s been entrusted with such a financial investment, but with such a conceptual investment to redesign and reimagine how we will fight in the future.
“It’s about trying to bring capability acquisition into the fielded force in a much more agile and quicker fashion. From the start of this programme right through to the end, we will have revolutionised how a light forces battalion will fight in less than three years. I think that’s a great example for the rest of the Army.
“The Future Soldier concept is about the integration of machines and humans into that single team. It’s about enhancing mass. Yes, the Army is going to get smaller in numerical terms, but that should not mean, and won’t mean, a reduction in capability.
DE&S FCG commercial manager, Brad Hayward, said that this ‘novel approach’ has proved a popular solution with industry and has enabled the rapid deployment of new technology.
Speaking recently, he said: “This speed of activity goes some way towards bridging the gap between the pace of change in technologies and the requirements for the front line commands’ future transformational efforts.”
The BATS process is a great example of innovation and evolution. The benefit to Defence is tangible and will provide the best equipment and know-how to our soldiers to enable them to address future threats.