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UK Defence Equipment Plan notes issues with major C4I programmes

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has released its Defence Equipment Plan 2021, revealing key updates on Project ‘Morpheus' and the New Style of IT (Deployed) (NSoIT) programme.

The report notes the challenges surrounding ‘Morpheus', the British Army's command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) programme to develop the next generation of tactical communications. According to the report, ‘Morpheus' “has fallen behind schedule and is subject to a contract renegotiation. The current in-service system, BCIP 5.6 [Bowman tactical communication] will be sustained for up to a further 5 years, extending its out-of-service date to 2030–31”.

BCIP 5.6, according to prime contractor, General Dynamics, will evolve into an open modular system, and will be the launch pad for ‘Morpheus'.

Separately, the NSoIT programme, intended to deliver “operationally deployable UK secret, mission secret and official information and communications technology to the land and maritime environments”, has “completed testing of the first Secret and Official Operational Network (OpNET), lightweight, medium, and large nodes for land environment and the Secret and Official OpNET Large+ solution for maritime environment”, the plan stated. NSoIT will incorporate a next-generation deployable communications and information system – OpNET – replacing several divergent and obsolete legacy systems, it added.

Despite this, the project has suffered significant delays and cost increases. The report revealed that during the 2020–21 financial year, expenditure for the NSoIT programme rose by GBP47 million (USD63.7 million). This was largely attributed to the challenges of integrating legacy applications and functions, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, the plan details. Consequently, the in-service date for the project has been pushed back by more than 19 months, it added.

The MoD report also disclosed the intention to increase the number of batteries of mini unmanned aircraft systems under ‘Project Aquila'.

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