Gregor Ferguson, Executive Manager Innovation and Industry Engagement, AMDA Foundation
The Innovation Awards program announced by the AMDA Foundation Limited in 2012 and implemented from AVALON 2013, Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition, has addressed directly the operational and sustainment needs of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as well as those of the civil and commercial aviation and maritime communities. Since 2013 nearly 200 entries have been received and some $395,000-worth of SME Innovation Grants and Young Innovator Scholarships have been awarded at the LAND FORCES International Land Defence Exposition and its sister events, the INDO PACIFIC Maritime Exposition, AVALON and the CIVSEC Civil Security Conference.
To illustrate the relevance of the LAND FORCES Awards and the contribution that Australian innovators can make to ADF operational capability, consider a single, imaginary operation undertaken by a deployed Army unit. This scenario features just a few of the AMDA Foundation Innovation Award winners.
The ADF has deployed a small force into a remote and contested tropical area to protect an Australian aid group and, if necessary, extract it in the face of serious threats from a non-state actor. First into the operational area is a small Special Forces team that will carry out a reconnaissance of the area to both identify specific threats and gather more general environmental information of value to the force commander.
The SF team deploys lightweight, autonomous Rapid Scout cameras (Intelligent Surveillance Integration, SME Innovation Grant, CIVSEC 2018), disguised as trees and rocks, to provide persistent, wide angle surveillance of the aid team’s headquarters and the approach paths that may be used by hostile forces. There’s a potential threat from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) deployed by the terrorist group that is active in the area, so the SF team is protected by the Silvershield counter-IED EW system (L3 Micreo, LAND FORCES 2018 Innovation Award for Combat equipment and Mobility). The SF team also suspects the likely use of CBRN agents so carries a chemical warfare agent detector, the Black Canary toxic threat warner (DST – LAND FORCES 2018 Innovation Award for Combat Equipment and Mobility – Highly Commended).
Back at its firm base, the Army force is preparing for the impending operation by monitoring the Rapid Scout imagery feed and integrating this with other intelligence gathered from satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft in the Currawong Battle Management System (BMS) (Boeing Defence Australia, LAND FORCES 2018 – National Innovation Award). Meanwhile the force commander is integrating the units under her command with other assets and the rear link to higher command using the deployable Australian Army Mission Secret Network (MSN) system (Army Land Network Integration Centre, Army HQ, LAND FORCES 2018 National Innovation Award – Highly Commended).
While the force HQ prepares for the coming deployment, the troops themselves and operators of key platforms such as Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters (ARH) and ASLAV Boxer reconnaissance vehicles are well practiced, having trained in target identification and contact drills using two distinctive Australian innovations: the Autonomous Robotic Target System (Marathon Robotics, LAND FORCES 2016 SME Innovation Grant) and the Tank and Reconnaissance Ground Enemy Target Systems (Gaardtech Limited, LAND FORCES 2018 SME Innovation Grant - Short Listed).
When the order comes to deploy, a convoy of vehicles heads into the operational area, supported by Tiger ARH and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
The force is anticipating drone surveillance and possibly even direct attack by both adversary and terrorist forces, so is equipped with a portfolio of sensors and effectors to disable hostile drones (DroneShield Limited, LAND FORCES 2018 SME Innovation Grant and AVALON 2019 SME Innovation Grant; designer Angus Bean won the LAND FORCES 2018 Young Innovator Award). The force is also equipped with the Silvershield and Black Canary threat sensors, along with the Nplex rapid disease diagnosis system (DMTC Limited, LAND FORCES 2018 Innovation Award for Combat equipment and Mobility) which enables very rapid diagnosis of diseases, whether endemic or inflicted by an adversary, and so enables rapid treatment and response.
The convoy is crossing rough ground, but the Boxer wheeled recce vehicles are equipped with an Active Suspension System which reduces impact and wear on both the vehicles and their equipment and their occupants (SupaShock LAND FORCES 2016 National Innovation Award – Short Listed). The structural integrity of the Hawkei protected mobility vehicles (light) with their crucial C4ISR connectivity in the face of small arms fire, IEDs and land mines is ensured by the rigour of the engineering, test and manufacturing programs that have delivered these vehicles to the Army (Thales Australia, LAND FORCES 2016 National Innovation Award, Short Listed). The vehicles themselves have received additional protection thanks to a lightweight Ultra-High Molecular Weight (UHMW) polyethylene fibre-reinforced composite armour designed using mathematical models developed by a young DST engineer, Dr Long Nguyen (LAND FORCES 2016 Young Innovator Scholarship).
The soldiers who must face the enemy on the ground are also prepared and protected. Not only did they conduct realistic lie-fire training using Marathon Robotics’ autonomous targets, they wear boron carbide and polymer ceramic composite armour plates and helmets based on materials developed by Australian researchers (DMTC Limited LAND FORCES 2014 National Innovation Award) and Deakin University research engineer Tristan Alexander (LAND FORCES 2014 Young Innovator Scholarship).
The weight the soldiers carry is reduced considerably by the Bantam soldier-mounted power management system which eliminates the need for a plethora of heavy batteries and spares for things like radios and weapon sights (Tectonica, LAND FORCES 2014 SME Innovation Grant). And it’s all integrated in specialist load-carrying equipment: the One299 external adjustable pack frame which is ergonomically designed for comfort and extended use (Australian Defence Apparel Limited, LAND FORCES 2016 National Innovation Award).
In the air, manned and unmanned aircraft sweep the route ahead, using radar and optical sensors to detect potential targets and identify them (Sentient Vision Systems, Kestrel imagery analysis system, SME Innovation Grant, PACIFIC 2013). Down on the ground intelligence analysts sift through current and previous video tapes to identify targets and new patterns of behavior, helped by an innovative video search system (General Dynamics MediaWare D-VEX video search system, National Innovation Award (Highly Commended) AVALON 2013.
When the mission comes to an end an unmanned aircraft may need to recover to an unsurveyed airfield and land in a GPS-denied operating environment (BAE Systems Australia, UAS Intelligent Recovery System, National Innovation Award, AVALON 2013).
Contact! The lead elements of the force have encountered resistance. It’s clear the aid team will need to be evacuated, and probably under fire. While the combat troops deploy to respond to the emergent threat, the force commander disposes of her own assets: a MAVERICK passive radar system which can’t be detected or jammed (Silentium Defence, LAND FORCES 2018 SME Innovation Grant – Short Listed); a Mobile Microgrid and Hyperspectral Tile system to provide stealthy power to the deployed force (ONETIDE Modular Systems, LAND FORCES 2018 SME Innovation Grant – Short Listed); and tactical rechargers and GPS repeaters (Rojone Pty Limited LAND FORCES 2018 National Innovation Award – Short Listed) to help with sustainability and situational awareness.
The force commander maintains control of her deployed units using the Currawong BMS while force protection troops scan for hostile forces, including armed and surveillance drones, and her medical advisers monitor the Black Canary and Nplex sensor systems for hostile pathogens and endemic disease vectors. The force’s ISR specialists continue to monitor imagery and other intelligence gathered by UAVs and the concealed Rapid Scout cameras.
Aloft, the force’s UAVs and Tiger ARH engage and disperse the hostile force, but it’s clear the aid group needs to be evacuated for the safety of the personnel employed there. A couple of them have fallen ill with malaria, while one has been wounded in the fighting. A number of terrorists have also been wounded and captured. An ADF helicopter is called in to extract the casualties and get them to a safe treatment centre as quickly as possible; they are loaded onto stretchers specially designed for aeromedical evacuation (Aero-Medical Integration, National Defence Innovation Award (Highly Commended), PACIFIC 2015).
The force prepares to pull out. In a smooth, coordinated operation the main body withdraws back to safety while the rearguard prevents any follow-up or exploitation by the terrorists. The rearguard is aided in this by real-time access to reconnaissance imagery and other intelligence thanks to lightweight, deployed nodes of the MSN and Currawong Systems.
Once the operation is concluded all players undertake an after-action review using the VADAAR integrated recording and playback system (Immersaview, SME Innovation Grant (Highly Commended), LAND FORCES 2016).
For further information about the LAND FORCES 2021 Innovation Program please contact:
Executive Manager Innovation & Industry Engagement
Tel: 0414 803 717
For Media enquiries contact:
Head of Industry and Corporate Communications
Tel: 0438 311 644