In the future, Canadian soldiers will be protected as much by knowledge and networks as by their equipment.

That’s the vision of the virtual vehicle technology recently showcased in Ottawa.

The demonstration was the first in a series of experiments —called the Canadian Multi-mission Effects

Vehicle Technology Demonstration Project and the American Unmanned Combat Demonstration Project — in which Canadian and American crews will operate each other’s equipment in simulated combat situations.

According to the Department of National Defence, the project is driven by the need for the Canadian army to keep up with the investments the U.S. has made in network-centric command and control, multi-role munitions and platforms and robotics.

David Saint, a leader in combat vehicle systems research and development at Defence Research and Development Canada, says most of the armies of the Western world are engaged in army transformation.

“”That means they’re driving toward the use of lighter weight vehicles and depending on technology to make the vehicles more effective and safer,”” he says..

DRDC, which is working with the U.S. Army Tank- Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center as well as General Dynamics, plans to make the virtual vehicles a reality by 2015.

“”When it is completed in late summer we will have a demonstration of the performance of all requisite technologies we figure we need ,”” says Saint.

“”Then we will use scientists to soup up the individual performance of each of these technologies to what they believe it will be in 2015, and that gives us the best possible handle on what the technology performance should be.

“”We know how to make the best possible soldier-machine interfaces in the world, we will take our very best shot at bringing together world class futuristic combat systems, and given our predicted technology performance, which will be well-informed, then we will figure out within certain error bars how well and how effective and what cost benefit we get for these technologies in 2015.””

The concept features a single vehicle crew capable of using direct fire, beyond-line-of-sight and air defence weapons concurrently.

The goal of the project is to not only increase combat effectiveness, but to achieve that goal with fewer crew members.

Using a private Internet-like network, says Saint, the vehicle is able to remotely identify and engage targets using Canadian and American unmanned air and ground vehicles.

“”We would use a network kind of like the Internet in order to distribute information nearly instantly,”” says Thrust.

The kind of information that would be distributed includes things such as the position of friendly forces to the extent it’s known, the position of enemy forces, intentions, orders and movements, he says.

“”That gives a crew a tremendous situation awareness and prevents them from being surprised.””

The MMEV project has cost roughly $8 million, according to Saint, although that figure doesn’t include many of the staffing resources.

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