What is the Dismounted Situational Awareness Tool?
The British Army has developed a new battlefield/operational situation awareness technology package known as the Dismounted Situational Awareness Tool, and has been “hailed a “game changer”” (Nicholls, 2018). This “battlespace management application” enables improved communication between the US and UK.
The Android Tactical Assault Kit (Atak) – which is a mission, intelligence, and mapping app – installed on Samsung mobile phones allows users to share and post information to other troops, such as imagery and their location. The phones are also installed with a number of other useful military programmes and are chest-mounted using a colour-appropriate contraption that flips down to reveal the screen as and when required (Press Association, 2018).
With the new tool, personnel on the ground can upload new battlefield/operational information which can be seen by other team-members, units, and higher commanders. For example, the location of enemy combatant, minefields, and improvised explosive devices (IED’s). Personnel can also take a photograph and upload it, linking it to a physical location which all others can see.
Due to the GPS element, a proximity alert can also be set for exclusion areas or closing on a target/object on the map/ground.
Although the Dismounted Situational Awareness Tool is a US government-produced piece of equipment, UK testing comes under MORPHEUS which is the capability element of the Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information System (LE TacCIS) Capability Change Programme, which is leading a series of change projects to deliver modernised communications for deployments (i.e. Littoral, Land and Air-Land force elements operating in the Land Environment) (Contracts MOD, 2016).
What is the Aim of Dismounted Situational Awareness?
The aim of Dismounted Situational Awareness (DSA) is to (Contracts MOD, 2016; Chmielewski et al., 2018):
- Deliver a lightweight system that will generate a step-change in Shared Situational Awareness (SSA) and mission effectiveness throughout the dismounted company group;
- Enhance operational tempo and survivability by enabling effective decision-making;
- Minimise physical and cognitive burden; and
- Provide an optimised Local Operating Picture (LOP) with a near-real-time overview of the battlefield.
What are the Four Levels of Service of Digital Situational Awareness Tools?
Rooney (2016), an Operations Analyst and Military Psychologist who works for MOD and NATO, suggests typical digital situational awareness tools usually provide four levels of service:
- Satnav to show a soldier his current location and let him plot routes;
- Automatic position reporting to show him where other friendly forces are;
- Manually-driven data exchange to let him send and receive text and map markings of useful information like enemy locations and unit boundaries;
- Various ‘nice-to-haves’ like video streaming, links to cloud databases or smartphone apps that perform functions like calculate water consumption.
Rooney (2016) further states that although digital situational awareness tools have delivered benefits there are some dilemmas.
Chmielewski, M., Fraszczak, D. Kukielka, M. & Bugajewski, D. (2018) Military and Crisis Management Decision Support Tools for Situation Awareness Development Using Sensor Data Fusion. Conference Paper. January 2018. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-67229-8_17.
Contracts MOD (2016) Dismounted Situational Awareness (DSA) Industry Briefing Day. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.contracts.mod.uk/announcements/dismounted-situational-awareness-dsa-industry-briefing-day/. [Accessed: 24 July, 2018].
Nicholls, D. (2018) Social media ‘wizardry’ will help British troops win wars. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/20/social-media-wizardry-will-help-british-troops-win-wars/. [Accessed: 24 July, 2018].
Press Association (2018) New mobile battlespace technology app hailed a game changer by UK Army officer. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.bordertelegraph.com/news/16301855.New_mobile_battlespace_technology_app_hailed_a_game_changer_by_UK_Army_officer/. [Accessed: 24 July, 2018].
Rooney, D. (2017) Situational Awareness: The Digital Dilemma. British Army Review 168. Winter 2017, pp.73-79. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.wapentakes.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/BAR-168-Situational-Awareness-the-Digital-Dilemma.pdf. [Accessed: 24 July, 2018].