The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has unveiled its new strategy to equip troops with the latest cutting-edge technology and has called on all sectors to contribute ideas.

The defence technology plan (DFT) is a new strategy to publicise all MoD research needs to encourage as wide net of suppliers as possible to develop new technologies into battlefield applications.

UK Minister for Defence Equipment and Support Quentin Davies said that the intention of the DFT was to embrace and encourage novel cutting-edge ideas that will keep future forces one step ahead of the enemy.

“It is more vital than ever that we exploit new and emerging technologies. To do this, we need to make the best use of the defence industrial base, as well as the ability and expertise found among small businesses, talented individuals and academia,” Davies said.

“We actively want to move away from using only a small number of multinational companies and encourage investment into ideas from smaller enterprise.”

The DFT addresses the MoD’s research needs by setting out five capability visions that are designed to stimulate the development of new technologies and new uses of existing ones.

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The five capability visions are:

  • Reducing the burden on the dismounted soldier – lightening the load on a soldier from 70kg to 25kg while maintaining and improving personal protection levels
  • Future rrotected vehicle – lightweight vehicles capable of achieving similar effectiveness and survivability of a main battle tank
  • Novel air concept – cost-effective and reusable unmanned air systems
  • Reducing fossil fuel dependency – alternative energy supply sources and management
  • Electronic warfare – understanding the threats of and to sophisticated electronic systems and information technology and how they can be protected against

DFT science and technology director Paul Stein said that by publicising key long-term defence challenges the military hopes to create innovative thinking and actively encourage speculative suggestions.

“The point of the DFT is to show suppliers where we intend to invest,” Stein said.

We believe that a readily available, evolving, web-based plan will encourage fresh thinking and result in significant benefits for future combat forces.”

To underline to MoD’s commitment Minister Davies also announced close to £2m of funding to the following research contracts:

  • A £28,000 contract to Mindsheet to make their Unmanned Ground Vehicle robot, Testudo, more rugged and user-friendly
  • A £1.3m contract to Stellar to consolidate the system capabilities of the Saturn autonomous system of unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, last years MoD Grand Challenge winner
  • A £115,000 contract to Swarm Systems to develop their idea of a cooperative swarm of micro-UAVs
  • A £96,000 contract to Blue Design Ltd to develop its D3O shock absorbing material for troop helmet linings
  • A £246,000 contract to Teledyne Defence Limited to continue research into helping helicopter pilots operate in dust clouds caused by rotor blade downdraft.

Proposals can be submitted to the MoD through the website. The ideas will then be assessed by the Centre for Defence Enterprise.

By Daniel Garrun.