Smarter Warfighting with Tech

30 Sep 2023

Working as an engineer in DSTA is much more than designing solutions in an office environment. At the latest instalment of Exercise Forging Sabre (XFS 2023), our staff toughed it out alongside their SAF counterparts to experiment and validate the latest technologies in the field, which help the SAF to sense better, fight smarter, and strike as one.

Held in Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, USA from 11 to 30 Sep, the locale features an airspace 20 times the size of Singapore, which afforded SAF and DSTA the latitude to conduct large-scale, realistic trainings and technology evaluation.

Exercise Forging Sabre_1 Exercise Forging Sabre_2

Engineers at the command post in XFS 2023.

Exercise Forging Sabre_3 Exercise Forging Sabre_4

Multi-disciplinary teams out in the field with SAF counterparts.

During the exercise, our engineers from various programme centres worked closely with the SAF to experiment new tech and concepts. They were embedded within the SAF as a “Tech Cell”, which enables them to receive on-the-ground feedback and quickly implement software improvements for deployment during subsequent missions during the exercise. This drastically reduces the timeframe for software enhancements, which typically takes weeks.

In the command post, our engineers upgraded the Command and Control Information System (CCIS) with a host of new features. The CCIS enables commanders to make informed and prompt decisions to carry out an integrated strike quickly and effectively. Through the seamless integration of various live data feeds and leveraging tech such as data analytics and processing, the system provides real-time analysis of the battlefield and recommends optimal warfighting solutions to shorten the strike decision chain.

Enhancements were made to the CCIS to assimilate additional sources of live data – such as from the air surveillance radars – to enrich the situational picture for faster sense-making. Latest versions of automatic target detection and classification algorithms were deployed to analyse video feeds from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). This eases the cognitive workload of UAV operators and helps mission commanders plan efficient and precise strikes with minimal collateral damage. DSTA engineers also tested Natural Language Processing models through chatbots, to enhance operational efficiency and safety during exercise.

Exercise Forging Sabre_5

The CCIS user interface with various new features and apps integrated.

Exercise Forging Sabre_6

Interface of chatbot to improve processes and efficiency, and enhance exercise safety.

The XFS locale provided an outfield environment for DSTA to iterate and evaluate new warfighting concepts involving low-cost solutions co-developed with the SAF. With the Army, our engineers experimented with various sensors integrated with an autonomous robot dog team to search for potential threats within buildings, to reduce the risks faced during missions. This helps reduce the reliance on deploying personnel on the ground and increases the situational awareness for our soldiers, giving our forces an edge in urban operations.

Exercise Forging Sabre_7

Autonomous robot dogs teaming up to explore indoor environments.

Exercise Forging Sabre_8

DSTA Engineer working with Army counterparts in the field and apply iterative improvements during the exercise.

Additionally, our engineers fielded an autonomous drone swarm prototype with the RSAF, to explore uncharted areas for surveillance purposes. With the integration of algorithms developed by DSTA, the drones were able to conduct missions and detect targets at closer range and lower altitudes without the reliance on GPS.

Exercise Forging Sabre_9

Autonomous drones conducting surveillance in a team.

Exercise Forging Sabre_10

DSTA Engineer working closely with RSAF personnel to improve the drone system.

Our developers and engineers continuously push the boundaries of what is possible. The field trials provided them with invaluable experience and data that will enable future engineering developments, ensuring that they are able to introduce robust capabilities to the SAF to meet their operational needs.

Exercise Forging Sabre_11 Exercise Forging Sabre_12