It’s called “collaborative combat”, and it’s based on advanced technologies, where Thales is leading the way.
“Warfare has always been collaborative, but, in the past, military information was simply exchanged from one unit to another,” says General Alain Bouquin, former Commandant of the French Foreign Legion and a Thales defence consultant. “This means lost time. By networking all the fighting vehicles and the sensors they carry, military personnel can share information immediately, reducing the process of detecting and neutralizing a threat to a matter of seconds.”
With shorter response times, greater precision and optimised firepower, collaborative combat will combine new “vetronics” (vehicle and electronics) capabilities with the power of software radio to give tomorrow's armed forces the edge — even when the adversary is numerically superior and has better knowledge of the terrain. “The idea is to dominate the enemy with minimum of stress and effort,” Bouquin says. “Collaborative combat means going from commands based on reasoning to commands based on reflexes that rely on options analysed by artificial intelligence.”
What will tomorrow’s digitalised battlefield look like? Here is a glimpse:
Tanks will be interconnected by Synaps, the Thales’ software-defined radio system so that they can communicate in near real -time. They will operate alongside wheeled armored vehicles equipped with common “vetronics” (vehicle electronics) to collect and transform battlefield sensor data into high-value protection and combat services.
To take one example, the vehicle’s optical and electronics system will include augmented reality software. Combined with the armored vehicle periscope, the crew will have a clear and detailed picture of the outside environment. With acoustic sensors providing 3D spatial coverage of the area around each vehicle, they can locate a shooter with even greater accuracy by automatically triangulating the sensor data from multiple vehicles.
The system immediately characterises the threat and alerts the crew, automatically deploying smoke rounds and/or flares to protect the vehicle. Special algorithms provide almost instantaneous support on how to respond to the threat. And because all the sensors are interconnected, it knows the exact location and weapon status of each platform. It can then use this information to engage the target with the most appropriate form of lethal force.
The concept takes advantage of Thales’ mastery of four major advances in the digital transformation:
- The Internet of Things will connect all the players on the battlefield –soldiers fighting vehicles, and weaponry - through cameras, sensors, GPS, and computers for a transparent, continuous flow of information. Soldiers themselves will be equipped with electronic devices that monitor important physical functions such as blood pressure or heart rates and transmit this information to local medical teams.
- Big Data will gather data from battlefield action, analyze it, and then store it in the Cloud.
- Cyber Protection will provide the cyber solutions such as sensors and firewalls necessary to detect abnormalities and to store data safely.
- Artificial Intelligence will provide algorithms for an automatic merger of all data to support the decision making process.
Thales’ solutions ensure mission readiness and simplify complexity so that military personnel can focus on strategic and operational decision-making. Thales is already offering live, virtual, constructive training in connected combat. High-performance simulators can replicate any cabin, environment and mission scenario, so that crews can train in an immersive high fidelity virtual operational environment. That will make them more efficient on tomorrow’s battlefields.
By contributing its technological leadership to bring all of these elements seamlessly together, Thales is making collaborative combat a reality. And that will connect to success on the battlefield.