Creating time and space for the New Zealand Defence Force
The New Zealand Army’s use of SitaWare has helped to increase location transparency of deployed troops, while also allowing soldiers the time to think.
The selection and deployment of a C4ISR system is a complex one, particularly when the end user has to deal with a variety of challenges such as complex communications architectures, bandwidth restrictions, interoperability, and more.
Within the ecosystem of a C4ISR system, users have different requirements based on their position in the battlefield. Headquarters staff at battalion and above need to know where companies and platoons are, while individual squad leaders need to know where friendly and enemy forces are located.
Combining these two factors with the modernisation of signalling capabilities is also an intricate challenge. This can come with programme risk factors as the integration of multiple software and sensor technologies can require the development of new drivers or Application Programming Interface (API) gateways to ensure compatibility.
The New Zealand Army’s journey with Systematic’s SitaWare suite can be traced back to 2007, when the organisation undertook a series of battle lab exercises that culminated in Exercise WOLF 3. Following this, the Army adopted SitaWare as the battlefield management software for the tactical area network environment – or TANE – a bottom-up approach to networking the battlefield.
This programme is part of the wider Network Enabled Army Programme, which is equipping the New Zealand Army’s Land and Special Operations Forces with a range of systems, from satellite bearer communications and command posts through to individual soldier radios and sensor systems.
From 2011, SitaWare Headquarters was used for the planning and execution of missions during exercises, as well as the generation of a common operating picture (COP) during operations. The decision in 2014 to integrate SitaWare from the dismounted soldier level through to company commanders and higher has given the New Zealand Army much greater levels of situational awareness and transparency. Systematic’s SitaWare Tactical Communications (STC) communications system has also been deployed to support mobile tactical communications, as new radio systems are also brought online.
Ultimately, the successful deployment of SitaWare Frontline and SitaWare Edge has enabled greater transparency and digitisation in the actions of soldiers down to the dismounted level. But what does this mean to a soldier in the field?
One New Zealand Army company commander told Systematic that the employment of SitaWare has greatly reduced the time needed to deliver quick action battle procedures, with the combination of digital and voice transmission of plans reducing a 45-minute briefing down to 30 minutes, and a data-only delivery being even less.
The integration of a regularly updated combined operational picture (COP) into a handheld device also allows leaders, down to a section commander, to plan and deliver operations and share their intentions across their own squad, as well as upwards to higher command and nearby units.
Planning through the SitaWare Edge platform has continued to be improved by Systematic, allowing dismounted troops to create and share plans in more detail with superior units, as well as peers and subordinates.
Practical experience with the blue force tracker increases situational awareness that allows a ‘space to think’. This gives commanders time to do tasks such as contingency planning, as well as prepare for the next phase of the operation. This allows for units to increase their operations tempo and information superiority over the enemy.
The increase in data capabilities, as well as tools such as text-based chat allows for a more robust communications plan. This multichannel approach to communications allowed for units to quickly establish and re-establish communications if they were interrupted, a feature that was particularly useful for geographically disparate units that may fall under a company commander.
Similarly, the preconfigured Hot Buttons that support actions such as medical evacuations (MEDEVACs) and fire support requests have also allowed improvements in time and asset management for commanders at a variety of levels. Assets to support operations can be pre-staged earlier in the operation, and briefed rapidly to deal with requests as they come in.
Additionally, the attribution of user identification to chat messages, map edits, plans, orders, and more has significantly increased the transparency of the military operating environment. This has the corresponding effect of ensuring that operations can be conducted safely, and after-action reviews can help identify users who may need further support in operational training.
A key aspect of the relationship with the New Zealand Army has been the support provided by Systematic across a variety of functions. In addition to installing and configuring SitaWare Frontline and SitaWare Edge software solutions, Systematic engineers have worked with hardware vendors to resolve configuration issues. This has allowed for a smoother deployment of the SitaWare suite to the New Zealand Army.
“A lot of issues occur around the operating system and configuration when new technology is being deployed,” Colin Young, Lead Solution Engineer at Systematic New Zealand said.
“We’ve taken a more holistic approach in working with the customer, working on configurations, deploying patches for the operating systems, as well as working on operating system deployment and even hardware issues like cabling. As a result, we’ve been able to help the customer deploy SitaWare Frontline and SitaWare Edge more easily across their userbase,” Young added.