Army innovation challenge targets future soldier tech

Brandon How

A $16 million Army innovation challenge supported by the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator is seeking new technologies to complement its long-running Soldier Combat System program.

The Army Innovation Day 2024 procurement is focused on three technology themes and aims to enhance the “endurance, lethality and survivability of soldiers” for littoral operations, according to the challenge statement.

The military definition of a littoral region refers to areas of coastline “which are susceptible to influence or support from the land” and vice versa.

Theme one of the procurement includes a search for technologies that provide portable power and data management, mitigation of non-battle/environmental casualties and data on the readiness, fitness and wellbeing of soldiers and teams.

The other two themes focus on innovative portable weapons, as well as equipment that can conceal soldiers and equipment from visible, near-infrared, and thermal detection.

A littoral environment training exercise conducted by the Australian Army. Image: Defence/PTE Kerri Miller

The innovations must be “complimentary to and compatible with the Soldier Combat System”, to improve the performance of soldiers as well as the combined-arms fighting system “with a deliberate focus on Distributed Littoral Operational (DLO) capabilities”.

The Soldier Combat System program seeks to improve the performance of Australian soldier through new technologies. The fourth phase of the program, formally known as Land 125, is referred to as the integrated soldier system program.

The regional subsidiary of multinational aerospace and defence company Babcock is leading work on the program in partnership with digital engineering firm Shoal Group, defence equipment Buzzworks, and Bond University’s tactical research unit.

Defence has previously flagged that the Soldier Combat System program could eventually enable Australian soldiers to operate seamlessly with robotic and autonomous systems.

Through the innovation day procurement, participating companies or research institutions must be able to deliver systems that at least meets technology readiness level five (early prototype stage) and can be scaled to TRL eight (pre-commercial demonstration).

Proposed innovations must be able to reach a test and evaluation stage, in collaboration with Army, by the second half of 2026. However, Army is not seeking systems that are already at full commercial development.

The procurement will close on June 13, with successful tenderers to be invited to to submit to the request for proposals stage.

Stage two of the procurement process will involve exhibiting capabilities at the international defence expo Land Forces 2024 conference in September.

Following the innovation day event, successful tenderers will be notified in November.

Since Army Innovation Day’s inception in 2014, 51 contracts have been awarded to defence industry.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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