The bad news came from out of the dark in an isolated ravine on the mountainside.
A small special forces combat team was closing in on a group of insurgents. Their infrared night vision goggles were giving them the critical situational awareness that they needed to positively identify and to take aim at their very high-value targets.
Yet, before the combat team could engage them, they themselves became targets of incoming fire. They had lost their advantage, and with the element of surprise gone, they were forced into a defensive firefight and potentially a withdrawl from the mission.
Pascal Secretin remembers the scene well—and what it meant. A veteran of over a decade of command in a French airborne combat unit, he is today responsible for the imagers and sensors product line for optronics systems at Thales.
He recalls, “What was clear from that moment was the nightmare scenario: the insurgents now also had obtained night vision goggles. When you lose that kind of critical information superiority, you lose battlefield superiority. Having more accurate and earlier information than your adversary on what is happening around you on the battlefield more quickly makes decisions quicker and engagement more precise, better attaining your targets and safeguarding your own troops, civilians, and property” Pascal Secretin, responsible for the imagers and sensors product line for optronics systems at Thales.
The challenge has never been more important—nor complex. During the twentieth century military superiority often meant the ability to deliver ‘might’; today, however conflict has changed. In the twenty-first century, the geo-political terrain is more challenging, threats are more varied, with both conventional and ‘asymmetric’ configurations which must be considered. The political and humanitarian desire to protect civilians also is understandably greater than ever and this requires greater precision then ever before.
Today’s conflicts are often defined by military planners as consisting of the ‘five C’s’: Conflicts today are ‘congested, contested, cluttered, connected and constrained’. What is clear from this analysis is that confrontations of this nature will not be won by force, but by precision. To achieve precision you require accuracy of information and intelligence, real-time connectivity, effective command and control, and ultimately, precise lethality for that decisive moment.
“Everything we do at Thales today aims to assure information superiority for battlefield superiority,” explains Pascal Secretin, “It starts with giving the soldier on the ground the “bio-optronic eyes of the frontline” to quickly understand the battlefield as naturally as a reflex, and to transform risks into opportunities for effective engagement. Just as important, troops in the field and in the streets must be connected to all the other ground, air, naval and command elements. They need to act as one seamless decision-making force based on precision and speed of information that is flowing back and forth between them all.”
Today’s soldier, he says, should be thought of both as an ‘intelligence gathering sensor’ and an ‘effector’ of precisely-targeted force, both of which are augmented and enhanced by technology. For these critical requirements Thales works with armed forces around the world to apply innovation to regain advantage on the battlefield. That means matching the most sensitive sensors that can detect what is most important on the battlefield with the ability to process increasingly large amounts information with Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytical tools. The objective is to make that information usable to the soldier and commander alike. All of this also requires perfect two-way connectivity to all of the other sensors, effectors and commanders on the battlefield, ranging from other dispersered combat units, to drones overhead, to command centres elsewhere.
Tomorrow’s weapons and munitions will be ‘smart’ and ‘connected’
Looking ahead the weapons and munitions of tomorrow will be more precise because they also will be more ‘intelligent’ and ‘connected’, allowing for fewer but more effective shots fired. Even traditional battlefield weapons can be made into ‘Smart’ weapons and munitions through the application of technology, such as the digitized rifle or the mortar guided munition which will be connected from end to end on the battlefield; from strategic command to the soldier on the battlefied.
That is what Thales calls ‘Collaborative Combat’, relying on continuous battlefield connectivity. Data and voice communications have to be assured through reliable radio connectivity such as the SYNAPS combat radio from Thales. SYNAPS provides continuous communication in contested, congested and cluttered conflict areas even while on the move and so designed specifically to deliver the Thales vision of Collaborative Combat.
In non-contested environments such as peacekeeping, Thales provides excellent connectivity to the soldier through its LTE solution with high data rate and ease of use. Both of these connectivity solutions are fully compatible, allowing for scaled connectivity depending upon the situation.
In all of these ways, Thales is helping to make this future happen, today, supporting the connected and augmented soldier at the key decisive moments, from observation to detection, transmission, understanding, and effective action.
With its equipment that ‘augments’ and ‘connects’ fighting forces with innovative technology, Thales is leading the way for greatly improved battlefield superiority, both today and for the next generation army of 2035.
Emmanuel Sprauel, Director of Strategy & Marketing for the optronic and missile electronics business line at Thales, sums up why Thales is uniquely capable of delivering this digital transformation.
“We can provide more added value because only Thales has the range of technologies that tomorrow’s army requires, starting with our experience in designing tailored algorithms for the Artificial Intelligence for rapid processing of immense amounts of battlefield information. Our product lines feature the most advanced sensors, whether on the soldier on the ground or on our mini tactical drones above the battlefield to generate a decisive value. And our leading expertise in connectivity and cybersecurity protect the flow of information that is so vital to the success and the security of the augmented and connected army of the future.” Emmanuel Sprauel, Director of Strategy & Marketing for the optronic and missile electronics business line at Thales.