Army bosses are hopeful that they may no longer need to rely on maps and compasses as they trial new technology that could finally surpass traditional navigation tools.
The new Dismounted Situational Awareness (DSA) system provides GPS technology through a modified mobile phone that acts as a navigation and encrypted instant messaging device. It is just one of multiple pieces of kit being tested by the Second Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (2 Yorks).
Developed by the US air force research lab, the technology will be worn on body army and will "redefine" orienteering technology as it means soldiers will no longer need to send bearings for planning and navigation.
Defence sources said that the developers took some time to create a safe mapping system that cannot be jammed by adversaries, despite the technology using chat systems similar to Whatsapp and navigation tools like Google Maps.
The technology also has a longer battery life, currently capable of lasting for eight hours, and comes with a battery pack that has four charges. When that fails, troops will have a generator they can use to recharge the devices.
‘An absolute game changer’
Major Henry Bowden, second in command of 2 Yorks, said the 50 DSA devices they are currently testing "will become one of the centrepieces" of the Army’s future armoury.
"The future will involve technology orienteering," Major Bowden told The Telegraph at Salamanca Barracks.
He said that while soldiers would always require the skill of reading maps and compasses, the new technology is "the way forward. It’s an absolute game changer".
A total of 50 DSA devices are currently being tested by the MoD
Credit: Cpl Tom Evans/MoD/PA
"We need to test these kits just as we would in any navigational situation," he said. "So technology orienteering will be part of the future training in order to see if it is better than using a map and compass."
As part of the Army’s Robotic Platoon Vehicle experimentation project, the soldiers are also testing the £290,000 Mission Master, an unmanned multi-purpose ground vehicle made by Rheinmetall Canada, and MUTT, the £250,000 Multi-Utility Tactical Transport made by General Dynamics.
Both vehicles are being tested in the UK in order to help inform the Army what future requirements "should" and "might" look like, the Ministry of Defence said.
New sight will bring distant targets within range
"We look at what we can exploit, what are the limitations, what’s good," Major Bowden said. "It’s boys with toys."
Another piece of equipment soldiers are currently trialing is the Assault Rifle Inline Low Light Sight (ARILLS), which was previously used by Special Forces.
The device operates on lithium batteries and thermal imagery, and has enabled soldiers to shoot targets at a range of 600 metres, double what they can typically do.
The new rifle also provides better footage through wooded and urban environments, enabling better accuracy while shooting at night.
General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, the Chief of the General Staff, told The Telegraph that "in order for the Army to be digitally fit for the information age, we have to experiment with emerging technology which is evolving rapidly".
He said that the battalion will demonstrate the "leading edge of technology, developing the associated doctrines, structures and tactics to mimic the pace and intensity of the transformation we already see taking place on the battlefield".