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Warfight at Army Expo: Our warfighting capability on full display

A range of state-of-the-art air and land assets showcased the British Army’s lethal punch as it displayed its warfighting capability during the Army Expo in September.

Army Expo 22 allowed an insight into military modernisation and transformation with a Future Soldier vision at the heart of the event.

On the Warfight stand visitors witnessed a demonstration of a future armoured urban and the Global Response Force, showing how the British Army will harness new technology to become more lethal, including the human-machine teaming concept, using artificial intelligence and robotics to support military operations.

This was also the first time the public will have seen the newest version of the Apache AH-64E in operation.

What is seen offers a snapshot of the British Army’s capabilities and activities which capture the essence of Future Soldier Chief of the General Staff
General Sir Patrick Sanders

The 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team is 5,500 personnel strong, able to provide airborne and air assault infantry, close support artillery, engineering, logistics and medical support.

The demonstration offered an insight into Global Response Force capability, which is based on elements of the Royal Air Force’s Air Mobility Task Force and the 1st Aviation Brigade Combat Team.

Major Ollie Wickham, of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, (3PARA) set the scene for visitors as they watched various military assets come into play in front of them.

He said: “The Global Response Force has been deployed to a region to secure a point of entry for follow-on armoured forces. The target is an enemy command and control node which has been identified as a high-value target.

“Prior to any operations on the target the Pathfinders have been inserted by high-altitude and into an out-of-sight location, able to feed back real-time information to lay the ground for an assault.

“The Pathfinders are unique to airborne forces and a highly trained reconnaissance element that provide early eyes and ears on the ground.”

A landing zone established, an Apache Attack Helicopter AH-64E, deployed by 1st Aviation Brigade Combat Team, clears the ground of enemy targets with rockets and ammunition from a 30mm chain gun and is backed up by a Wildcat reconnaissance helicopters, before two Chinooks insert more than 100 troops from 3 PARA onto the ground.

Major Wickham explains how a V60 quadruped robotic dog has now entered the scene following a number of explosions and, also, how the advancing troops have taken command of the dog from the Pathfinders, described as hidden a few kilometres away in the treeline.

“With its attached cameras it can look forward of the forward line of our troops without risking human life,” he said.

“We could also use it to look into rooms before we enter. The camera feed can be beamed to commanders to give an idea of what can be seen.”

The company of troops from 3 PARA has since separated into platoons, tactically advancing onto the buildings in view and which have enemy firing from positions inside.

“There’s a deliberate clearance of the buildings sequentially as each platoon echelons through with its three integral rifle sections of eight paratroopers clearing a floor each,” said Major Wickham. “The priority is a speedy but thorough clearance.”

Also on display at the Army Expo is the multirole Boxer armoured fighting vehicle, M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) and the Watchkeeper, an uncrewed aircraft system with a range of intelligence and reconnaissance cameras and sensors, including a state-of-the-art surveillance radar.

Major Wickham said: “The Global Response Force is capable of employing very high readiness forces through air manoeuvres in order to react to crises, deter aggression and provide decision makers with a choice to respond.”

Air manoeuvre insertions are highly relevant to Operation Mobilise, with readiness for dealing with emerging threats as a mindset, illustrated most recently on Exercise Swift Response in Macedonia that saw brigade-level manoeuvres with NATO and multinational partners and force projection across Europe.

The second set-piece on the Warfight stand was narrated by Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Dean Canham, Commanding Officer of the 1 Mercian Battlegroup.

He said: “The land domain is where the decisive act of warfare ultimately takes place. This is the tip of the British Army’s bayonet and where the Operation Mobilise rubber hits the road.

“From F-35 aircraft launching from the Carrier Strike Group, target imagery from satellites, intelligence from cyber capabilities and collaboration with NATO allies, multi-domain integration plays a vital role in preparing us for that fight.”

Visitors watched on as drones swarmed an enemy target, feeding back images and information as “eyes forward for troops” with an ensuing battle taking place and an explosive attack drone destroying one of the targets.

A large screen also showed Apache helicopters and MLRS firing on targets, with simulated explosions in the urban battlespace erupting in front of the watching gallery of visitors.

Lt Col Canham said: “Through Future Soldier the British Army will seek to maximise the effects of long-range artillery and missiles to prepare the battlefield to our advantage in the close-in fight.”

A Trojan Armoured Vehicle then moves in to clear road debris and make way for a Challenger 2 tank to take the lead, with dismounted soldiers and robotic platoon vehicles providing mutual support. Soldiers from the United States Army’s 1st Battalion 29th Infantry Regiment also took part in the demonstration.

“At this point, where we have reached house-to-house street fighting, the armoured battlegroup and its infantry soldiers, enhanced with Future Soldier technologies, come into their own,” said Lt Col Canham.

“What you have seen is a glimpse of the most visceral aspect of warfare.

“The combination of soldiers, enhanced with technology, enables us to maintain our advantage and underlines the fact that nothing can do what a soldier can do.”

Chief of the General Staff, Sir Patrick Sanders, told guests at the Army Expo: “The Warfight stand offers a vision of warfighting in the future, showcasing the Global Response Force and armoured forces, integrated across multiple domains including air, sea, space and cyber, enabled by Defence and industry partners and in concert with our allies and at the heart of NATO.

“What is seen offers a snapshot of the British Army’s capabilities and activities which capture the essence of Future Soldier.”