back to article MoD orders £3m anti-friendly-fire 'Combat ID Server'

Controversial gov-plunder warboffinry firm Qinetiq - in partnership with US armsbiz giants - has won a £3m deal from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for a prototype server intended to prevent "friendly fire" incidents. Qinetiq will ally with General Dynamics and Rockwell Collins to provide the MoD with a "Joint Data Network …


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  1. Mark


    hack into this server when you're at war with the UK and know where all the "friendly" units are.....

  2. RobE

    MY idea was really that good?

    OMG! I literally just emailed the MOD via their website to suggest just such a system then I log onto the reg a couple of hours later and I saw this article?! Is it really likely that my idea got suggested and bought in less then 3 hours?!

  3. Andy Barber

    Battery life

    Why can't they keep the battery charged by the soldier simply walking? Even if stationary (hidden) a soldier could use a Baylis device to remain present on the system.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    surely you just

    make sure there are no Americans around?

  5. Paul
    Thumb Down

    "near real time" locations of friendly units

    How "near real time" ?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    @Mark Better still

    Any friendly troops not shown on the server will be targeted without verifying that they are the enemy (they must be the enemy the computer says so), so delete units and watch the army fight itself.

  7. Victor

    Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

    More simply, have unfriendlies grab these life-saving "I'm friendly" tags off captured units, and we'll have plenty of wolves in sheep's clothing!

  8. Anonymous Coward

    About Time

    This would have saved a few British lives if it had been available to us in the Gulf in 1991 and indeed several other conflicts since then. That it has not already been invented, marketed and deployed yet is sad - especially when deploying over large areas with forces from several different countries.

    Mines the one with the red and blue transponders in the pockets.

  9. Sulehir


    Take it a step further, find out where they are... then change the locations.

  10. Sabine Miehlbradt

    Let's just hope

    The American pilots are not red/green colorblind.

  11. Dr. Ellen

    Unintended Consequences

    And what will happen, pray tell, if the opposition hacks into the signals and uses them to program their own GPS-enabled weapons? Even if the weapon is just a lurking suicide bomber, it cannot be good for them to know where our side is.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Well I think the real trick will be..

    Will anyone tell the Americans we have one, and will the American use it.

    *\. The only Friendly-Fire tag you really need is a Flak Jacket.

  13. Graham Marsden

    "accidentally hit by friendly forces"

    Why mince words? Why not just say "The Yanks"...?

  14. George
    Thumb Down

    £ that it?

    If its only £3m and the American's already had it in one form or another why are we only now buying it?

    They really do not do a good enough job for our military personnel.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Or Be a "Friendly"

    This server had better be armor-plated, and every single person that ever has anything to do with its innards had better be incorruptible, because this server will be Target Number One.

    Sadly, like all milspec pork, people will only find out by becoming dead.

  16. Martin Lyne


    £3m? For a Google Maps mash-up and XML feed?

  17. NukEvil

    Or, better yet...

    ...hack into the server while you're at war with the UK and flip all the friendlies to enemies and vice versa...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The thing about combat is that conditions, positions, etc. are so fluid that near-real-time is not anywhere near enough. Hard real-time requirements are what this situation calls for, added to the need for absolute confidence in ones intelligence (where are they now?). I think that a lot more friendly-fire incidents will occur due to misplaced confidence in one's equipment and databases. That is one of the advantages of the use of laser indicators used by ground troups - that there is probably a human intelligence pointing the laser and they should hopefully know who they want to shoot (back) at.

  19. amanfromMars Silver badge


    "hack into this server when you're at war with the UK and know where all the "friendly" units are.....".... By Mark Posted Friday 6th February 2009 16:25 GMT

    Well, all the ones where access is provided. Core Control is somewhat Securer with ITs Turing Enigma Trigger Algorithms ..... GBIrish CodeXXXX...... call it what you will for Liquid Dynamic Security in Virtual Peace.

    Do you believe that the MOD/DOD can discipline Nations to Enjoy Growth in Safety and Freedom.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Bowman? Hahahahaaaahahaha

    The data bandwidth of Bowman equals that of an analogue GSM at the end of range on a rainy day - signalling in Morse Indian style (with a fire and a blanket) may be faster.

    By the time the GPS data has been delivered the poor sap carrying Bowman has moved again - and may have run out of battery.

  21. Ru

    £3m? For a Google Maps mash-up and XML feed?

    I was thinking the opposite actually... a *mere* 3m for equipment to coordinate data from a vast range of awful military electronics, each with their own baroque protocols and quirks? Like that will ever stay in budget.

  22. Richard Jukes

    How long?

    How long until there is a small light mounted on the barrel of guns or in the scopes? Red for Enemy and Green for Ally!

  23. Trevor Watt

    A recent incident

    In a recent incident a UKLF Westland WAH-64 Apache almost opened fire on a fire section of Royal Marines, thankfully because of the new helmet markers the crew realised that they were friendlies. Enemy engagements on the ground can be very fluid and the UK's forces are trained to work to their own initiative within the mission briefing, you simply tell them what the patrol hopes to achieve and they do it without further instruction. The reason the Apache crew almost engaged the marines was that the Apache crew did not realise the marines could have moved so far from one fire position to another so quickly and without having been told to do so.

    So will 'almost real time' be almost enough? The fog of war can get very, very thick at times and accidents will always happen.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Richard Jukes

    Surely you mean red and -blue-!

    "Somebody get our flag back!"

  25. R Callan

    How about

    Reading some history books? The most important thing has always been "Identify your target"! This can be done by actually looking at close range, either from the air or from the ground. What exactly was the function of those forward artillery observers and cab-rank controllers?

    There seems to be too much reliance on computers these days (remember when computers were called the dumbest of dumb clerks, they do exactly what they are told and nothing else). This leads to stupid and final results. Think Iranian Airbus, think A10 Warthogs at 10,000 ft instead of 50 ft and destroyed Challengers with dead UK soldiers.

    Warfare is unfortunately not machine verses machine, but man verses man. Don't forget the man and let him make the reasoned decision.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm in battle and my radio breaks/ battery goes flat/ water gets in . So now I'm a target?

    Daft idea will never work.

  27. amanfromMars Silver badge

    War Sucks but the Money's Great/not Great *

    Anybody else here think War is a Dumb Losers Game? How about Junk all the Arms and Ammo and Start Building New Worlds Providing New Skills to Learn and Perfect.

    Join the Army and become a Psychotic Wreck and/or Sociopath Pariah is a Hard Sell in these Hardened Times and Tempestuous Days.

    Oh ... Sorry, does that not suit the hunter/killer element of dumb fellow animals. ZHeroes of the Plain.

    * Depending on whether your Supplying or Dying

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As if this would help...

    Putting bloody great big white sheets and chevrons on top of sand-yellow Warrior APCs didn't help during GW1, and we've had similar "incidents" where Amer^H^H^H "friendly" forces have shot up British forces despite obvious Ident markings even a blind wlarus with sunburn could hardly miss.

    Why should a new "near-realtime" system help? All that will do is tell the flyboys where we *were* last time the system updated itself.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google "Blue force tracking"

    Its been around for years.

    I even made a simple demo using regular wifi and wimax, hand-held units running windows mobile, COTS mapping software and encrypting p2p software. Cost would be way < 1000 UPK per unit but couldn't even get in the door to demo it :-0

  30. DutchOven

    @AC (and his @ paul)

    "Is: "They were somewhere over thatawy last month" realtime enough?"

    "Osama was there in the last six months" is all they needed to invade Afghanistan.

    (and the hijackers on 11th Sept were all trained in the US)

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