British Army personnel got a glimpse of the future as they took on the task of trialling new equipment on Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA) during Exercise Wessex Storm.
The drills, which took place during the period of 18 February to 11 March, were designed to test the capabilities of soldiers within an assembled battlegroup under arduous conditions.
As part of the training, the normally Catterick Garrison-based Light Dragoons were selected to try out an array of state-of-the-art kit to determine how the systems could be best used.
The new platforms included the Dismounted Situational Awareness (DSA) device, which is worn on body armour and allows the individual to pinpoint their own location on electronic mapping and track friendly forces movements.
Other systems to be diligently demonstrated by the Light Dragoons included the SPEXER 360, an X-band radar designed for tactical surveillance, and Saab Barracuda camouflage nets, which use advanced materials to conceal key locations from plain sight and thermal imaging devices.
The new radar will give allied forces earlier, more detailed warning of threats, including approaching aircraft, while the camouflage nets are notably quicker to erect – a welcome bonus to the troops on the ground who can then get on with their routine.
A battlegroup is comprised of an infantry or cavalry unit as its base, with attachments from the likes of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) and Intelligence Corps providing niche capabilities as required.
Other exercises involving groups of this size take place in Canada (Exercise Prairie Storm) and Kenya (Exercise Askari Storm); completion sees the battlegroup in question passed ready for operational deployments.
While the Yorkshire Regiment is also trialling potential new equipment in Cyprus, including two different Robotic Platoon Vehicles (RPVs), the activity on SPTA allows the Army to cast an eye over innovation much closer to home.
The Light Dragoons are able to trace their lineage back to the days of soldiers charging into battle on horseback, but these days their specialism, as a light cavalry unit, is reconnaissance.
This skill allows battlespace information to be rapidly reported back to commanders, giving them more options to deal with situations as they arise; hence, this innovation role is well-suited.
The unit and its Jackal 2 vehicles were deployed to Mali last year, as part of a UN peacekeeping operation, and Poland in 2020, under the banner of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP).