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The future of warfare will be in an urban setting, and it will use new technology with the necessary tactics to follow. That is the underlying concept behind the Contested Urban Environment (CEU) meeting recently held in Adelaide, Australia. Markedly, the next one will be held in Canada in September 2018.

On the Matter of the Contested Urban Environment and The Five Eyes Alliance

Besides the country hosting the international activity, other participating countries of the Contested Urban Environment meeting include the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Called “The Five Eyes”, it is the alliance of military intelligence from the above five countries. The Five Eyes’ Technical Cooperation Program aims to test new tech equipment for urban warfare situations. The previous Contested Urban Environment meetings or challenges were desktop simulation exercises. And the CUE17 is the first time that the exercise used a building or campus—in this case, a former hospital campus—for urban warfare simulations.

The experiments are a means to continue investigations into emerging tech to enhance surveillance, reconnaissance, and intelligence capabilities for tactical forces in an urban battlefield. As simulations, the Contested Urban Environment meetings were observed, monitored and analyzed for relevant learnings. During the CUE17, there were around 80 scientists in attendance—from the participating countries who were there to analyze the simulations. There was also a hundred military personnel from the Australian Defence Force who participated in the simulations with the former hospital as their proving grounds.

Raw Data to Pertinent and Relevant Information

One aim of the program is to find out the benefits and advantages of an integrated wide-area aerial intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance, coupled with ground-based sensors along with target sharing tech in a cramped and complex urban war zone. To reach these objectives, there were new tech gadgets and devices that had field simulations. These included the Australian Defense Science and Technology Group’s Defence Experimentation Airborne Platform; Wide Area Surveillance Activity-Based Intelligence (WASABI), which comes along with a 96 MP digital camera; Selex Galileo PicoSAR synthetic aperture radar and a Wescam MX-20HD full-motion, HD video sensor; Evolutionary Layered ISR Integration Exemplar Architecture ISR software; social media analysis tools; and the use of existing infrastructure like outdoor CCTV cameras.

The data came from airborne and ground platforms in various formats using the above technologies, but it did not have an integrated analytics system. For example, the tools allowed for a pre-planning stage with the placement of sensors in designated areas. (Notably, these also help map out dead spots which do not have coverage for video or surveillance.)

How It Works

a photo of two soldiers rappelling down the side of a glass building as an example challenge that's done during Contested Urban Environment meetings
One hundred military personnel from the Australian Defence Force participated in the simulations done in the recent CUE17 in Australia.

When an activity occurs, the sensors relay the information to other monitoring units which allow for re-cuing and redeployment. If needed, airborne devices kick into the action to cover any possible hostile actions. All of this information, as well as live feeds, reaches the combatants on the ground. Through all of these, the automated nature of the sensors and other equipment is readily addressed. However, further analysis with a broad perspective does not exist, which is what the scientists are already working on.

The bold idea behind CUE17 is the on-site analysis by the observers who are working towards an integrated system binding all of the tools. Integration is important for the automated dissemination of real-time information to those on the ground as well as for the controllers.

Tactical automation comes into play only with pertinent information to those who need it and can use it immediately.

On the Future of  Contested Urban Environment Meetings

Justin Fidock of the Australian Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group shares, “We are integrating ground and air-based sensors and using multiple methods to draw insight into technology, with a strong emphasis on qualitative data.”

Moving forward, the annual event will keep using new technology in new ways in conjunction with the Five Eyes partners. Canada will hold the next Contested Urban Environment event or the CUE18 in September. The U.S. will host the activity in 2019.

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