Future Artillery Trends

At the Future Artillery, a conference hosted by DefenceIQ, Mike Ross, Director of Royal Artillery, outlined the trends and developments in the UK artillery industry. While future artillery remains unclear, there are many opportunities for development and growth in the industry. Here are a few of the highlights:

Future Artillery: Loitering Munitions (LMs)

Even though the deployment of loitering munitions might seem a long way away, the programme for loitering munitions will be accelerated within the next two years. Low-cost, capable of flying for long distances and striking targets with a high level of accuracy, loitering munitions are ideal for supplementing UAVs.

Loitering munitions also come with cost-cutting benefits and can be introduced more efficiently than UAVs; not only are they not subject to air regulations because they are not classified as aircraft, they are also designed for one-use only and do not have to be regularly maintained.

Ross added that loitering munitions might sound "very futuristic" but they are currently developed at a very advanced level. Ross predicted that they will undergo military testing in 2010-11 and will be introduced on the battlefield by 2012.

Future Artillery: Curtailing UAVs

With a rise in demand for UAVs, the use of unmanned aerial vehicle systems has doubled within the past twelve months. However, this increase has not been unproblematic, leading to air congestion and a high level of flight-density.

In order to ease the situation, it will be necessary to restrict the frequency of flights and the expansion of EMS technologies. On a side note, the Royal Artillery will replace the Hermes system with the Watchkeeper system, significantly enhancing UAV capability in battle.

However, even though there is a problem with the density of UAVs, wide-ranging surveillance, whether from the air or base-network surveillance, will be an important part in succeeding in military missions.

Future Artillery: Defeating IEDs

With the intense media attention this year, it is no surprise that Ross argued that the key determining factor in winning the war in Afghanistan is whether the battle against IEDs can be won. By far the deadliest threat to troops, complex strategies that combine intelligence, surveillance and technological advancements must be adopted to beat IEDs.

In order to counter IEDs, there will be fewer strikes, while the use of IED-detectors will rise. However, Ross stressed that it is not enough to have excellent IED-detectors but it is essential to understand the evidence that has been discovered. Therefore, intelligence will play a greater role and IEDs will be analysed and contextualised within an intricate system of financial, social and localised networks.

Future Artillery: Civil-Military Co-operation

In order to stabilise and reconstruct Afghanistan successfully, Ross contended that more troops must be on the ground, while finding the optimum balance between manpower and the needs of the infantry.

But alongside a military surge, there needs to be a civilian surge. He argued that the army needs to co-operate with third party organisations such as NGOs to build a safer Afghanistan. With shared expertise and wider collaboration, the British Army can understand the nature of IEDs more clearly, reduce civilian casualties and counter the insurgency with greater support.

The Future of Artillery

Ross admitted that he does not know how Afghanistan will look in the next couple of years but with the rise of IEDs and troop casualties it is clear that difficult challenges lay ahead.

Reluctant to make any firm predictions, Ross cautiously concluded that the British Army should "adapt to the growing need of where things are progressing."