Page 79 - The Rifles Bugle Autumn 2019
P. 79

 Kit and Technology Experimentation
Salamanca Company has been lucky enough to attend two premier kit and concepts exercises in the last year. The first was the British Army’s Ex Autonomous Warrior 18 (AWE18). This is an annual, year-long experiment led by the Infantry Trials and Development Unit (ITDU) that focussed on the integration and tactical employment of semi-auton- omous equipment at the subunit level. Salamanca Company provided a heavy mechanised platoon, in Mastiffs, and the Company Group HQ. It was a fantastic three-week exercise on Salisbury Plain and allowed the Company the opportunity to test a wide range of kit, almost all of which enabled the company to either identify the enemy at a greater distance, generate a higher tempo of operations or to increase the endurance of the platoons. This kit included section-level miniature Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles that can be robotically controlled out to a kilometre from the operator whilst carrying a one tonne payload over even the most-boggy terrain. The Company also trialled the ‘augmented reality’ night and day optic, that will overlay a digital situational awareness tracker on top of combined infra-red Night Vision Goggles (NVGs). In short, AWE18 has identified the enhancement to our capability that autonomous kit can provide; it can increase tempo and lethality whilst simultaneously taking the risk from and reducing the logistical burden on the solder. Our input was valued such that quotes from our Riflemen were refer- enced in the AWE18 exploitation conference in the London Science museum in March this year. Here, it was announced that the Army will invest £66m into autonomous kit, and the Riflemen had a direct impact on this decision to invest in innovation.
Only a month after AWE18, in January 2019, 1 Platoon deployed to Fort Benning in the United States to partake in the US Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE19), a similar but much larger exercise that has a broader focus on new kit and tactics for the manoeuvre sub unit. This was an
excellent opportunity to capitalise on Salamanca Company’s experience of experimentation and continue the Regimental tradition of innovation. Over 9 weeks, 1 Platoon exercised alongside a US platoon and an Australian Army recce section, often fighting against each other in force-on-force serials. We tested concepts and kit that ranged from new tourniquets and rapid access rifle magazine pouches, to electronically driven logistics stretchers all the way to a fleet of layered capability drones that included a company level drone with a 15-hour endurance time. Perhaps most impressive was the Dismounted Situational Awareness system; essen- tially a Samsung phone worn on our chests that gives real time location, navigation and friendly forces positioning onto any available mapping in an intuitive and user-friendly display. It will also allow the user, even down to the Section 2IC level, to call in accurate fires and cue UAVs. This was a very similar system to that tested by the rest of Salamanca Company at the same time on the ITDU trials. In short, a phenomenal capability that has huge potential.
Of course, whilst the focus of our deployment to Fort Benning was on kit trials, we had the chance to explore the wider States. During the leave period, Riflemen travelled to New York City, Florida, road tripped across 13 states, and skied in Colorado and New Orleans, to name but a few escapades. For the platoon, it was a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the British Army’s ‘offer’. We had great success on this exercise and our input was valued greatly in the exploitation conference held before our return to the UK. Indeed, the Battalion has been invited back to attend AEWE20, a chance to explore greater the capability of future kit and concepts but also to visit and travel the States. I would highly recommend participation in both exercises; a great opportunity to understand the future concepts and kit that we and our allies might one day use.
Lt Gwil Wyn-Jones
Officer Commanding 1 Platoon
         enemy was played by the QDG, who were free thinking and hugely effective, forming small three – four man skirmishing teams adept at calling in fire and conducting close contact ambushes. The effectiveness of these small teams in learning our identify friend or foe (IFF) procedures and degrading our forces really pushed the platoon and resulted in many Riflemen stepping up into command positions – great development for their future careers.
Frustratingly five members of the platoon were unable to take part in the final exercise due to contracting Salmonella. Despite this the platoon again excelled in what was the most arduous and testing phase yet, with more undulating terrain and even more active wildlife. Upon completion of the final exercise, the platoon was able to undertake a multi-activity AT package which included various water sports, mountain biking, rock climbing and a well earnt beer accompanied by lessons on how to be ‘road-man’ by Rfn Smith and Rfn Hammond.
In summary the Platoon thoroughly enjoyed Ex Askari Storm. It is excellent light role training in a phenomenal and exotic country. I would whole- heartedly commend it to any Rifleman, regardless of rank for what was without a doubt the highlight of my Army career to date. The Riflemen deserve every bit of high praise they received and thanks must go to our hosts in 2 RIFLES for making us feel so welcome.
Lt Tom Nelson
Officer Commanding 2 Platoon
      2 Platoon blending in with their surroundings

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