Digitalisation unites armed forces and gives them superpowers
The overriding buzzword in the defence world at the moment is ‘multi-domain’ – when all domains in a nation’s armed forces share information and collaborate as one united defence force. It is now technologically possible to unite land, sea, air, space and cyberspace – and the development doesn’t stop here.
Article published in Flagdagsmagasinet:
Countries worldwide are in the process of digitalising their armed forces. Drones, sensors, cameras, satellites and radars gather millions of pieces of data which, using artificial intelligence (AI), can be converted into clear images and used to support decision-making. The big golden egg is when the technology is used to bring together the army, navy, air force, cyber and space to form one unified force. Danish Defence has seized this opportunity through a 20-year framework agreement with the Danish company Systematic, who make the defence software system SitaWare.
What is the significance of this for Danish Defence?
Henrik Røboe Dam, Director Air, Defence Operations at Systematic and former general major and head of the Royal Danish Air Force, says:
“By taking the entire SitaWare suite into use, Danish Defence can, for example, monitor Danish waters, and use AI to identify vessels which are behaving irregularly.
Imagine, for example, that Danish Defence is monitoring maritime traffic in the Baltic Sea, and reports two foreign naval vessels that are sailing irregular courses. The two vessels are now lying stationary in the open sea and are joined by something that is trying to pass off as a fishing boat. In the command-and-control (C2) system SitaWare Headquarters, the Danish National Maritime Operations Centre (NMOC) can get a digital overview showing the area, and which is updated as the situation develops.
The picture is based on data from Danish Defence’s own sources, and it is also possible to import data from the authorities or from open sources such as social media etc. Using SitaWare, the NMOC can share the picture with the Danish Joint Operations Centre (JOC) and with the Royal Danish Air Force.
It is decided that the situation needs closer attention. Two fighter jets are scrambled and fly over the area. Data from the aircraft’s radar, cameras, sensors and input from the pilots are displayed on the screen – which is now being shared with the Army and Navy.
It looks as though the ships have dumped something into the sea. The environmental authorities are contacted, and the Navy dispatches a ship with a helicopter on board. The situation is also being monitored in SitaWare on board the Danish naval vessel, and observations from the ship’s crew are plotted into the system and shared with the other services.
On Bornholm, the battalion commander is asked to dispatch two vehicles and a group of soldiers, who are tasked with controlling the coast, and ensuring that any material from the foreign ships is collected should it drift ashore. The soldiers monitor developments in the area from their vehicles, and via SitaWare receive orders about which stretches of coastline to keep an eye on.
If they find anything, the location can be marked with a finger on a digital map which the soldiers can access – either via a mobile hand-held SitaWare Edge device sitting on the soldier’s chest, or on a tablet with SitaWare Frontline installed in a vehicle. When a find is marked, it can be seen by everyone throughout the chain of command.
If it becomes apparent that a serious discharge of oil or chemicals has occurred, the police and emergency services can be contacted. These authorities can also be given access to the military overview so that everyone has the same information and action plans. It would also be possible to download information on available personnel and the qualifications possessed by the individual soldiers.
In this way, it is possible to tell how many people can help solve a specific task. Also, data on stocks of protective equipment on Bornholm can be imported, and fresh supplies ordered if necessary,” explains Henrik Dam about the envisaged scenario.
SitaWare passes with flying colours – also in the real world
Out in the real world, the Irish Defence Forces serve as a very good example of how to reap the full benefit of digitalising your armed forces. Here, vehicles, aircraft, ships and helicopters are all equipped with SitaWare when embarking on a mission.
“Our ships don’t sail anywhere unless SitaWare is installed and functions for the vessel in question. It gives us a shared and complete situational overview across all three services – army, navy and air force. Having all the information to hand and the ability to share the data in real time with everyone in your network makes SitaWare a very powerful tool indeed,” says Lieutenant Commander Brian Mathews from the Irish Naval Service.
Multi-domain technology makes it possible to do more than just bring together all the various threads to form a shared picture. It also paves the way for collaborating in new ways and at multiple levels. If the systems are integrated for this, an army unit can, for example, communicate directly with a frigate instead of having to go all the way up through the chain of command
– just as an aircraft can communicate directly with an army unit on the ground and save precious time.
“It’s vital that communication can happen directly and quickly. Otherwise, one risks waiting two hours from when an enemy is spotted by an army unit until a frigate is informed. And in that time, a lot can change,” says Henrik Dam.
Brian Mathews from the Irish Naval Service agrees:
“The biggest single effect of SitaWare for us was when it became clear that we could improve our operations because we can share information between the different services in real time. We use SitaWare across all three domains – the air force, the army and the navy. It means that we can now get a complete and shared operative picture across the three domains, which is an incredible strength,” he says.
Denmark’s armed forces gearing up for greater digitalisation
The Danish armed forces are also in line for more digitalisation. For 15 years, soldiers have had SitaWare with them when heading out on missions.
In February 2023, the Danish Defence Acquisition and Logistics Organisation signed a 20-year framework agreement with Systematic on the future use of the SitaWare Suite.
“We’re facing large-scale digitalisation, which will be crucial for the future effectiveness of Danish Defence. Consequently, we’re now entering into a long-term strategic collaboration with Systematic, so that we can ensure effective data consistency and data exchange between Danish Defence’s operative systems across all the various services,” says Lieutenant General Kim Jesper Jørgensen, Director of the Danish Acquisitions and Logistics Organisation.
SitaWare is already the digital core of the emergency services, the Danish Home Guard, the Royal Danish Army and the Royal Danish Navy, and with the new framework agreement, Danish soldiers can look forward to even stronger multi-domain operations.
Expects increased collaboration with NATO and member countries
SitaWare is already the dominant product among NATO member countries in the land domain, and Systematic expects increased collaboration with NATO and its member countries in future.
“We find that defence forces worldwide are well aware that digitalisation in such a big and complex organisation requires the right strategic partners. It’s not enough that suppliers develop effective systems. It’s also necessary to have partners with in-depth knowledge of the defence sector. Documented experience and success with digitalisation processes in other sectors with a correspondingly high level of complexity and critical systems is definitely also an advantage,” says Henrik Messell, Group Senior Vice President for Defence Operations at Systematic.
Armed forces worldwide contributing to better products
Systematic has been working with defence software for more than 35 years. In close collaboration with its customers, the company has in this period developed SitaWare into a comprehensive program package, with new functionalities continually being added to meet customer wishes and also because they make sense.
“We depend on external suppliers who support us and help identify our needs and maximise our functionality. Systematic supplies new services and applications for SitaWare – also functionality that we haven’t necessarily sought. For us, it’s just as much of a partnership as a customer/supplier relationship. It’s important to have a trusting relationship, where we can call and obtain the support we need, and if we want to develop new functionality, we can pass on our wishes and have them considered during product development. It makes us feel that we’re valued customers with something to contribute. And I think that’s a decisive factor,” says Lieutenant Commander Brian Mathews from the Irish Naval Service.
Facts about the SitaWare suite
Systematic’s C4ISR* solution, SitaWare, is a command-and-control system for military use. SitaWare creates a detailed overview of your forces, battlefields and critical installations, and makes it possible to plan, coordinate and communicate effectively between military units and services.
SitaWare is used on land, at sea, in the air, in cyberspace between all services and also between nations. SitaWare integrates military radio networks, monitoring systems and target designation with analysis and decision-making support functions, and uses AI for data processing. The system is built on open architecture, which makes it easy to integrate with other solutions.
* C4ISR: Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.
SitaWare comprises a number of standard products which use the same communication system:
SitaWare Headquarters – stationary systems used by commanders at HQ.
SitaWare Frontline – mobile system installed on touchscreens in vehicles.
SitaWare Edge – a hand-held system used on a small display carried by infantry soldiers.
SitaWare Insight – intelligence solution for analysis and decision-making support which is used as part of SitaWare Headquarters. SitaWare Insight gathers and clearly compares data from a myriad of data sources. The solution also uses AI, for example for identifying different objects and deviations in well-known patterns.
SitaWare Aspire – digital training, simulation and educational platform that provides realistic and practical experience with using the SitaWare suite.
In the civilian world, Systematic supplies, for example, the electronic health record (EHR) that forms the backbone of the hospitals in all the regions in west Denmark, i.e. in Jutland and on Funen, and developed the shared infrastructure for telemedicine for all the Danish municipalities and regions. For more than 20 years, Systematic has helped to drive the digitalisation of Denmark by connecting complex processes in coherent systems which are easy and safe to navigate.