DSEI 2019: Maritime capability, innovation and autonomy

As the defence community comes together for Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) in London over the next four days, QinetiQ will be sharing some of the key insights we pick up from the show. With over 1,600 exhibitors and 300+ speakers, the event promises to be packed with new technology and innovation. Steve Fitz-Gerald, Managing Director of Maritime, Land and Weapons at QinetiQ, shared his thoughts on day one.

Carrier strike

Carrier Strike

It’s hard not to be impressed with the sheer scale of DSEI, no matter how many times you have attended. Each hall is over 500m long; enough room to berth the HMS Queen Elizabeth II aircraft carrier in the South Hall and her sister ship, the HMS Prince of Wales, in the North Hall (with some alterations to the roof).

The show is divided into a number of domains and the First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, kicked off the day with a very interesting keynote in the maritime area where he talked about the Royal Navy’s priorities. The North Atlantic is experiencing some of the highest levels of activity in decades, where ‘grey’ activities from other nation states have prompted the creation of a “battlespace of networked sensors”. The First Sea Lord also acknowledged the strategic impact the new Queen Elizabeth carriers will have on the global stage and how it will enable an enhanced forward presence and the deployment of 5th generation Royal Marine Commando Warriors to deliver strike capabilities or humanitarian missions. The last of his points was the use of technology and innovation to make the Navy “stronger, bolder and more impactful.” 

The following session focused on carrier strike and the adaptations the Royal Navy is making to enable power projection from the new carriers. This included the need to embrace autonomy, manned/unmanned teaming and use the vast amounts of data that will become available to commanders effectively and utilising 5th generation fighters to their full advantage.

The ability to protect our sovereign interests at home and abroad is vital to UK prosperity. The recent Formidable Shield 2019 integrated air and missile defence exercise in Scotland was a timely demonstration of the ability of the Royal Navy and its allies to come together to protect from evolving threats. You can watch the summary video here.

Prototype warfare: getting capability deployed to the front line

With state and non-state adversaries able to deploy new technologies quickly and to devastating effect, the UK needs to embrace prototype warfare – fast-tracking equipment to the frontline, safely and ethically. Iain Harrison, Director of Strategic Engagement – Land, shared his insights with DSEI, asking how we can get to “yes” at the pace of relevance.

Iain talks about the practical and perceptual issues associated with prototype warfare and how getting equipment to the front line for testing is vital if soldiers are to use it for their advantage. He also urged caution; stressing the need to be discerning and not to let prototype warfare become a “tech-fest”, but programmes that deliver real value.

Iain was also a major contributor to our recent insights piece, ‘Battle in beta-mode: The age of Prototype Warfare’, which you can download here.

DSEI - prototype warfare

Solider sailor pilot robot

Deploying robotics and autonomous systems to the battlefield will have massive implications on the way UK force train and fight. Not only will soldiers, sailors and airmen have to learn to work along side their robotic comrades, it will place yet more importance on the interfaces between people, robotics, autonomous vehicles and command and control systems. In a recent report we explored these issues in more detail.

An exciting and provocative first day.

Steve