Canadian Army uses science to enhance multinational interoperability

From Defence Research and Development Canada

January 18, 2017

The Canadian Army recently joined colleagues from 17 other partner nations to test and assess the interoperability of their various systems and networks.

The U.S. Joint Staff-led demonstration BOLD QUEST was held at Fort Stewart, Georgia, this past fall. The Canadian Army focused on how the addition of technology into ground forces impacts operational effectiveness. Soldiers wore a communication system called Nett Warrior that supports the mission of combat leaders on the ground. The system—connected through a secure radio to a network—displays the location of individual soldiers, vehicles, points of interest, and enemy activity on a digital geo-referenced map, and enables communication by voice, data, and location messages.

Dr. Katherine Banko, a Defence scientist from Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Operational Research and Analysis (DRDC CORA), evaluated how the technology impacted combat effectiveness. Two sections from 38 Canadian Brigade Group and a section from the New Zealand Army formed a platoon embedded into a U.S. company. The troops conducted missions against a near peer enemy force also wearing the same technology. “Operational research is exciting in that we can apply a method to tactical field demonstrations like BOLD QUEST to gain additional data that otherwise can’t be gathered,” explained Dr. Banko. “Unlike the controlled setting of a lab, the biggest challenge is getting valid and reliable data in a military environment where anything can and does happen.”

It is anticipated that next year’s BOLD QUEST will test how a similar system procured for the Canadian Army through the Integrated Soldier System Project operates together with other coalition systems.

In addition to BOLD QUEST, Canada took part in the U.S. Army’s Warfighting Assessment (AWA) 17.1 exercise alongside more than 5000 personnel from the U.S., Australia, Denmark, Italy, and the U.K. earlier last fall.

The AWA, held at Fort Bliss, Texas, was a virtual combat simulation against a near-peer enemy. The exercise allowed coalition forces to conduct realistic operations to improve how they fight, communicate, and share digital data on the battlefield.

As part of the AWA, Emile Pelletier, a DRDC CORA scientist, assessed how the Canadian Army’s 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group used the Land Command Support System in planning and conducting tactical operations.

With rugged laptops for the headquarters, radios for vehicles, and forward-deployed soldiers on the ground, the Land Command Support System allowed the Canadian Army to communicate with each other and other nations.

“The unique thing about these types of exercises is that they help the operators to work better with their international partners, but they also offer scientists great insight into the evolution and direction in which we should take our scientific research for their benefit,” said Mr. Pelletier.

Now that both events are over, scientists will proceed with the analysis of the data before sharing their findings with the Canadian Army, in support of the capability development and procurement process.

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