The UK Ministry of Defence says it will commence trials of its "Combat ID Server" (CIDS) system from September, according to reports. The CIDS is intended to make it easier for people about to unleash heavy firepower to find out if there are any British troops in their gunsights, so helping to reduce so-called "blue on blue" incidents.
Jane's International Defence Review reports that CIDS will undergo testing from September until May next year. The demonstrator programme uses imported American Rosetta data-gate tech from Rockwell and NetLink kit from General Dynamics, but "all development and integration work will be conducted within the UK" by Qinetiq and the two US firms' British subsidiaries, according to Qinetiq.
The idea of CIDS is that it will maintain a database of British unit locations on the ground in the same way that US "Blue Force Tracker" equipment does, updated in "near real time". The CID server will pull in this information from many different sources, most notably at the moment the controversial Bowman radios used by UK land forces.
Every node in the Bowman "radio cloud" can locate itself using onboard GPS, and this information should be passed continually to the local CIDS. The system is intended to be compatible with US Blue Force Tracker gear as well as equipment to be used by British strike pilots, artillery commanders and so on.
This should mean that an American or British pilot, swooping down to drop a bucketful of Western values on some benighted battlefield in Afghanistan, will be able to see blips representing UK ground units in his or her heads-up display. This ought to help with the prevention of morale-sapping friendly fire incidents - always assuming that the pilot in question hasn't been placed on a course of war-amphetamines by a hard-charging CO, in which case he might be quite used to crawling blue dots appearing in his gunsights.
There might be other obstacles to total success with CIDS. One of the most important Bowman radios for this purpose, the "portable" set carried by the leader of every four-man team of dismounted British foot soldiers, reportedly has a few technical issues. Among these are the fact that it has poor battery life, and that the battery must be removed to check the charge level. This means that infantry corporals tend to leave it turned off most of the time, so as to be sure that some juice will be left when they need to send a message.
Sadly this will also mean that the Bowman box can't update the CID server with its position, and that no warning blips will appear.
However, CIDS is only at the demonstrator stage for now, and the Army is hoping to sort out the problems with portable Bowman. In the meantime, the system should at least work with vehicle-mounted nodes.
The Jane's article is here (subscription required). ®