Holographic quantum technology and acoustic sniper sensors may sound like the stuff of science fiction films - but they are actually new defence technologies which could soon be destined for the battlefield.
Future Soldier, an event held today (11 March 2008) at London’s National Army Museum to coincide with National Science and Engineering Week (7-16 March) demonstrated how UK defence firms including QinetiQ and the Ministry of Defence are drawing on science and engineering to develop cutting edge equipment for the Armed Forces. Some technologies are already providing troops with a battle-winning edge on operations; others will need further development and some may be overtaken by new technologies before they make it to the field.
The event was opened by Baroness Ann Taylor, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, who said: “All around us we can see how advances in science, engineering and technology affect our everyday lives. Defence is no exception. Members of the Armed Forces are increasingly interacting with ever more sophisticated technology as part of their job.
“There is already a huge difference between the personal equipment a British infantryman used in Kosovo back in 1999 and what they are using now in Afghanistan. We have come a long way - largely because we are working closely with the defence industry to exploit new technologies to protect and empower our people on the frontline. The threats they face are continually evolving and we have to continue to meet the challenge of keeping one step ahead.”
Exhibitors at the event were joined by soldiers from 2 Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters), who have recently returned from a tour of Afghanistan. They demonstrated a range of personal kit which is helping to provide greater capability, protection and comfort for troops than ever before.
"This is a marvellous opportunity to show young people how exciting science and technology are. Thales has world class capability in soldier systems, as the examples on display here today demonstrate,” explained John Howe CB OBE, Vice Chairman of Thales UK, one of the industry sponsors of the event.
“The British Defence Industry performs a vital role in support of the UK’s international security policy and our armed forces who are in the front line of delivering it. We produce high quality equipment, have world beating technology, applied by a talented and dedicated work force, to ensure that our servicemen and women are as safe as possible in performing their missions successfully," added Sir Kevin Tebbit, Chairman of Finmeccanica UK.
“As an industry we are changing in line with new security challenges and with the standards which society rightly expects of us. We are also committed to encouraging young people to take up careers in Science and Engineering and we are keen to attract more high calibre people to work with us. Our sector is one of Britain’s success stories. The careers available are exciting, varied and wholly worthwhile, providing the capability that enables our armed services to be a force for good in the world.”
Every year the UK defence sector recruits many hundreds of science and engineering graduates and the Future Soldier event was held by the UK defence sector to mark National Science and Engineering Week. Other defence sector events this week include QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce and Thales UK interacting with a number of schools in various parts of the UK, together with the sponsorship of a science prize and the cubs/scouts science badge by Rolls-Royce.
Specialists from the MOD also work with the Engineering Development Trust (EDT) and their ‘Go 4 SET’ Scheme which aims to stimulate the interest of young people in Science Engineering and Technology. The MOD provides support to teachers to deliver science and other key curriculum lessons via the free, online Defence Dynamics teaching resource. Covering themes as diverse as mapping, flooding, genetic engineering and survival skills, lessons not only apply theory in the real world but also encourage students to debate the moral issues behind the introduction of new technology.
National Science and Engineering Week (formerly National Science Week) is an opportunity for people of all ages, areas and organisations to take part in science, engineering and technology activities. It is coordinated by the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) in partnership with the Engineering and Technology Board, and funded by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.