SitaWare's Role in the Digitisation of the Leopard 2 Tank
Ingeniøren, Denmark's leading engineering publication, has published an article on the digitisation of the Danish Army's Leopard 2 tank, featuring the role of SitaWare Frontline as its battle management system.
What the media saidThursday, April 2, 2015
The online article by Steffen McGhie looks at the upgrading of the Danish Army's Leopard 2 tanks with digital radios, computers, routers, sensors and GPS equipment in line with the installation of the Army tactical communication network. SitaWare Frontline is the battle management software used by the Danish Army and provides real time situational awareness of own and hostile units during combat situations. Here is a translation of the original Danish article.
Danish Leopard tanks go digital
Digital radios, routers and GPS systems will create “a whole new way of waging warfare,” says a Danish officer.
By Steffen McGhie
The Leopard 2 tanks of the Danish Army are now entering the digital age. This is taking place with the implementation of the Army tactical communications network (HTK in Danish), which will involve upgrading the Danish Army tanks with digital radios, computers, routers, sensors and GPS in a process extending until the end of 2016 and costing double-digit millions in Danish kroner.
In 2013, Defence Command Denmark decided to upgrade a total of 405 Danish Army vehicles by installing the Army tactical communications network, and now it is the turn of the army’s tanks, they face the biggest technical challenge.
“Now we are -digitizing the battlefield, and we are beginning to use electronic maps. This is a huge step, and it will result in a whole new way of waging warfare,” said Major Anders Wendt, head of technology and simulation at the Danish Ministry of Defence’s Material and Procurement Agency (FMI).
At the present time, the use of maps in combat situations is only analogue, involving visual contact with hostile units and radio communication with the Danish Army’s own forces.
Helping prevent friendly fire incidents
From now on, all input from the tank commander and from the tank sensors will be registered in the so-called battle management system (BMS), which represents the software component in the Danish Army tactical communications network. Data is fed into a digital map that is updated in real time and provides all units with the same view of the positions of both friendly and hostile forces. The BMS software used by the Danish Army is SitaWare Frontline, supplied by the Danish company Systematic.
”The data registered can include reports about the position of hostiles, messages about firing directions, the presence of chemical hazards , and much else. Not least important is that crews can see positions of their own troops and units – also called blue force tracking. This is done by registering GPS positions from their radios, thus helping avoid friendly fire incidents,” explains Anders Wendt. The term blue force tracking refers to the fact that NATO forces are traditionally marked in blue during exercises.
“One of the developments that has increased the need to distinguish between friendlies and hostiles in combat situations lies in the trend towards asymmetric warfare,” Anders Wendt continues. ”On the modern battlefield, it is extremely important to be able to share information and identify who’s who. This is often difficult in current operating contexts, when you are often engaged against irregular forces in a fragmented battlefield, and where hostilities are no longer fought by two large armies confronting each other across a clear front line. Nowadays we often have to engage in operations involving small forces,” he explains.
At the same time, the digitization of tank operations makes for more rapid decision-making. “In layman’s terms, you can say that the forces quickest to make decisions in a combat situation are the ones that get ahead of the game. Currently, we have to actually get together in order to pass on orders over a map onto which we have drawn the plans. With the new digital system, we can distribute the plans to each individual tank commander, without having to actually bring them all together to pass on orders,” says Anders Wendt.
According to the Danish Army, which uses the Leopard 2 tanks, the need for quick decisions is becoming increasingly urgent. ”Many of the current threats will accelerate in the future. One example of recent developments is that RPGs (shoulder-fired rocket launchers, ed.) are now readily available on the black market, and are easy for irregular forces to get hold of. This places new demands on our tank units,” according to Lt. Col. Jess Nørgaard Rasmussen, Head of Technology and Infrastructure Department in the Danish Army General Staff.
Not much space
The Danish FMI organisation is currently working on prototypes of the upgraded Leopard 2 tanks. Over the next 18 months, all 16 operational tanks will be equipped with a monitor and an encrypted digital radio, which together form the hardware cornerstone for the BMS software.
The tanks will also be given new military-grade GPS systems for target designation and ruggedized computers that can withstand dust, shocks and fluctuations in the power supply, along with a new intercom system and a router that connects the tank communication system and sensors with the BMS.
”It’s quite a job to make room for all these electronics and the many cables in these 18-year-old tanks,” notes Lt. Col. Bjørn Kongsbak, who is in charge of vehicles at FMI.
”For example, making room for a large screen and a computer is quite a challenge within the confines of a tank. The turret has to be dismantled,” he explained.
FMI cannot yet disclose the final price for these tank upgrades, but a realistic estimate lies in the region of tens of millions of Danish kroner. According to FMI, implementation of the Danish Army tactical communications network in all 405 vehicles will amount to hundreds of millions.