DSEI 2021: Rafael Showcases AI-Enhanced Battle Management for Armoured Vehicles
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems showcases AI-powered situational awareness at DSEI. (Photo: Sam Beal)
Retrofittable AI ‘brain’ transforms armoured vehicles to cope with the demands of modern urban warfare, says Israeli manufacturer.
Rafael unveiled for the first time its AI-enhanced Next Generation Combat Vehicle Suite (NGCV-S) at DSEI in London on 14-17 September.
Brimming with a smorgasbord of sensors, cameras, augmented reality (AR) and drones —tied together by a web of AI algorithms — NGCV-S is envisaged by Rafael as a retrofit solution to transform armoured vehicles into lethal and survivable platforms for a congested era of urban warfare.
Speaking to Shephard, Bar Oriol, head of marketing and business development at Rafael, explained that the AI-enhanced NGCV-S would effectively act as the vehicle’s nervous system, connecting disparate weapons systems and sensors with algorithmic precision.
The premise behind NGCV-S is simple: integrate all vehicle systems and incoming data into a unified whole, pruned by AI in the form of the Hypercore system that acts as the ‘brain’ for the system.
Oriol hopes this approach will close cumbersome sensor-to-shooter loops as well as lighten the cognitive workload of crews.
In one demonstration, AI-generated suggestions appear on an AR display for crew to determine which safest route to avoid IEDs, or which weapons to deploy given the threats at hand.
‘We get all the information, fuse it, prioritise it, and then present the relevant information to the crew,’ noted Golan Ben Giat, director of marketing and business development at Rafael.
Moreover, the Israeli manufacturer believes NGCV-S should prove exportable and the software can readily be plugged into foreign hardware.
Hypercore acts as the ‘brain’ for NGCV-S. (Photo: Sam Beal)
‘We are already working [with] open architecture, looking to be compliant to all the standards in the US and Europe. [That way] customers can pick and choose from our capabilities. We can provide the hardware, but we can also provide it in software assuming that you as the customer have the relevant hardware. It is an open and modular approach,’ Oriol explained.
Complementary systems to NGCV-S, such as Fire Weaver, could prove attractive to the UK MoD as it tries to meet demand for increased situational awareness and beyond visual line-of-sight capabilities. Oriol mentioned the technology would match the requirements of the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle in the US.
According to Ben Giat, the technological advances heralded by NGCV-S could alter the character of modern warfare. Where defence has often held an advantage over offence, NGCV-S ‘switches things around’ by considerably bolstering the lethality of the attacking force.
Ben Giat claimed: ‘We can overpower a force three times our size because of the efficiency of our total system that would include managing effectively all connected platforms, the weapon system, and a suite of sensors.’
Asked by Shephard about the vulnerability of the technology in a degraded environment, Oriol noted that many of NGCV’s capabilities remained insulated given they do not rely on external communications or networks like GPS. The suite’s 3D modelling capabilities allow any vehicle to operate in a GPS-denied environment, for instance.
Oriol asserted that tactics which could prove difficult for AI to discern, such as littering the battlefield with inflatable tanks, will be picked up on by computers ‘a lot faster than the crew’. If such assurances are not enough for dubious customers, early versions of the NGCV-S are already battle-proven. Ben Giat claimed that during the most recent bout of fighting in the Gaza Strip, NGCV-S greatly surprised officials with its combat effectiveness and decision-making swiftness.
‘Even though a few of our technologies proved not yet mature enough, they brought great results. We are using the operational feedback to progress and mature very quickly,’ the Rafael executive added.
In an era of urban warfare, the value of the AI brain in NGCV-S could lie in its ability to curb collateral damage.
‘Everybody was very surprised with the precision and the capability of all the weapons to hit the specific target and really reduce the collateral damage,’ Ben Giat insisted.