The biennial Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition took place September 12-15 2023 at ExCel London. Among the ships, tanks and aircraft there was plenty of simulation and training to see. MS&T Special Correspondent Andy Fawkes reports.
DSEI is a significant international defence exhibition with over 36,000 attendees in 2019, with the organizers Clarion claiming DSEI 2023 to have “record-breaking attendance” and the “busiest in its 24-year history.” Certainly, it felt very busy and almost overwhelming in terms of the number of stands and floor area to be covered. In 2021 at the last DSEI our MS&T headline was “Heavy Metal Meets Simulation and Training” reflecting the increasing number of S&T exhibitors. For 2023 this growth trend continued with many S&T exhibitors with their own booths and sometimes also in conjunction with other exhibitors or both.
The theme of DSEI 2023 was “Achieving the Integrated Force” which certainly reflects many military’s aspirations towards multi-domain operations but the traditional floor separation of land, air, sea, space, cyber exhibit areas perhaps countered this important theme. Indeed, one got the impression that many exhibitors were not stressing their credentials in this regard although some chimed with the theme. On a more positive note, it was excellent to see so many S&T exhibitors at the event albeit dispersed across the show floors.
“Training is a forethought and not an afterthought”
So said BAE Systems Air’s Head of Training Lucy Walton at the Project OdySSEy presentation and demonstration. This statement captured very well the new prominence of training at DSEI and places training at the heart of BAE Systems’ business. OdySSEy is a single synthetic environment providing multi-domain battlefield training and is notable in that BAE have also created an ecosystem of innovative SMEs that have brought data analytics, XR, supercomputing, simulation, and trainers together. We were told there were plans to expand into an LVC (live, virtual and constructive) construct and the likely first customer will be non-UK.
“You can’t surge trust”
This theme of partnership and collaborative working was to be found across the exhibitors, perhaps as a clear recognition that not one company can provide a complete solution to meet the latest military training requirements and aspirations. MS&T readers may be aware of the British Army’s Collective Training Transformation Programme (CTTP) which is now seeking a Strategic Training Partner (STP) to deliver the CTTP’s Army Collective Training Service (ACTS). With a value of $2.4 to $3.2 billion it certainly has the interest of companies large and small, and all of the bidders are teams. Three new partnerships were announced during the week in addition to those announced earlier. Without listing here all the companies involved, the statement made by Matt Chuter lead for the “Crucible” team that “you can’t surge trust” captured well that the STP will have to work with the Army in a partnership built on trust and flexibility to ensure it is ready for any evolving combat scenario over the 15-year contract.
Simulation Beyond Training
Simulation was found across DSEI in use cases other than training. Kickstarted by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), and announced at DSEI as a British Army 4-year contract, FORGE is a decision support tool. It integrates Hadean’s computing platform and ST Engineering Antycip’s constructive simulation VR Forces with Cervus’s data analytics platform Hive, and can simulate outcomes of over 42 courses of action at the same time. It is expected to support at least four large Army experiments per annum. Building on their analytics platform HEAT, training and analytics company VRAI have moved into the mission preparation space with their tool Sphinx, a collaboration with the Royal Air Force.
Towards an Integrated Force?
MS&T spoke to a range of companies delivering training, and although the capability to introduce multi-domain aspects through various LVC techniques is there, it is not clear how much customer pull there is. Seemingly the forces stick to their local training requirements and introduce multi-domain training as an extra. As examples, Inzpire have worked with QinetiQ and the Royal Navy on linking real ship control rooms but it was unclear whether joint training opportunities would be added to this by the RN. The company MASS delivers significant UK and muti-national training at the joint level but it was not clear how MoD wished to integrate this with wider S&T initiatives. We also spoke to a relatively new UK company JD2E who have grown to 19 staff in a relatively short time and deliver C4ISTAR training and simulation for the RAF It was impressive that current day technology plus training experts can deliver a whole range of services and rapidly adapt to changing requirements.
Data and Analytics
Inevitably on the show floor there was considerable emphasis on data and analytics in support of a broad range of defence activities, not only for training. This trend could be useful not only to raise the profile of training in the broader defence data community but also expose the data work being conducted in the S&T community. Certainly, there was a good range of S&T data and analytics companies exhibiting, including 4C Strategies, Cervus and VRAI.
The Next DSEI
Inevitably, there was somewhat of a UK bias to the S&T exhibitors at DSEI but it was a truly international event with much to see. This was not only from an S&T point of view but also with a rare opportunity to learn about the broader defence perspective. The next DSEI will be held at ExCel London September 9-12, 2025 and MS&T is looking forward to seeing whether the S&T community can continue and build on the strong momentum of DSEI 2023.