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The Future Indirect Fires 2021 conference, held in Bristol, UK, took place earlier this week in the context of the UK’s Integrated Review which was published in March this year. As a result, the British Army took the opportunity to give more details of its requirements. This comes after the review placed a greater emphasis on fires and artillery systems as the UK, and many allied nations, re-equip their armed forces to operate in high-intensity scenarios, following enduring COIN conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the short term, the British Army’s M270 rocket system will be recapitalised. The service is currently in the process of procuring a new self-propelled artillery system, a funded programme currently at concept stage, which has drawn a significant amount of interest from industry. This includes a widely publicised effort from Hanwha, which is offering its K9 THUNDER solution.

In the longer term, under a currently unfunded requirement, the British Army is seeking a new light gun. This will be used to equip its rapid reaction and light formations (including 16 Air Assault Brigade and the new Light Brigade Combat Teams outlined in the Defence Command Paper which accompanied the Integrated Review).

A returning exhibitor was AM General, promoting its ‘Soft Recoil Technology’ to enable small vehicles, including its famous HUMVEE, to deliver indirect fires. This avoids the need to deploy a towed system, something the company claims is too slow for the modern battlefield.

Developments in Fires

Both industry and military figures reminded delegates that as armed forces around the world lose critical mass, the shortfall has to be made up by ensuring that indirect fires solutions are able to prosecute targets more accurately, using the timeliest information possible.

For example, Saab UK gave an update on its Ground Launched Small Diametre Bomb (GLSDB), a munition able to hit targets up to 150km away, which is currently having its capabilities expanded. Options to do this include an Extended Range variant with a range of 200km and the option for several GLSDBs to be fired in a swarm but capable of identifying priority targets.

Similarly, Hirtenberger Systems used the event to give an update on its Grid Aiming Mode (GRAM) guidance system for 60mm mortars which is designed to digitise these key weapons, increasing their lethality and accuracy. Another company present at the event was Elbit Systems UK, which emphasised its own solutions including training and Command & Control offerings.

The conference concluded yesterday with a presentation on a likely adversary for Western forces, explaining how indirect fires are of central importance to Russian forces, taking precedence over other arms in combat situations.