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  SoldierMod Volume 11 - May 2013
Volume 11 Articles

Country flagDigging Deep into Soldier
Technology Research

Darryl Kewin, Deputy Director, Integrated Soldier Systems Development Directorate, Land Systems Division (LSD), Australian Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), discusses recent developments at Diggerworks

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When talking about developing new soldier technology the discussions are always with an aim to improve soldier effectiveness through various techniques including load reduction, equipment ergonomics, interoperability and communications & networking.

These are all great principles, but in order to be of value they need to be rigorously tested and researched. In the US they have Gruntworks, the Marine Corps’ cutting-edge equipment test and training facility in Quantico and in Australia, following in their nomenclature system, they now have Diggerworks, created specifically to help integrate the soldiers’ systems and provide options to the Army and solutions to the issues that they run into.

To explain in more detail what it is and what they are doing there, we spoke to Darryl Kewin, Deputy Director of the newly formed Integrated Soldier Systems Development Directorate, (the official title for Diggerworks), in the Land Systems Division (LSD) of the Australian Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO).

Q: What are some of the projects that you’re working on at the moment at Diggerworks?
A: We’re currently working on evaluations of the combat uniform, looking at thermal burden of our body armour systems as we go back into the near region, and as we look at our amphibious capabilities in Australia.

Q: It’s interesting that you bring up thermal burden, because people (at Soldier Technology US) have been talking about the cognitive burden and weight burden, and they’ve also been talking about movement restrictions, but you are possibly the first person here that brought up the thermal aspect.
A: The reason we’re looking at the thermal burden is we’ve been in Afghanistan for a long time now, and the body armour systems have been designed for that. Now that we’re moving back into near region and our amphibious capability, we have to look at operations in the hot and humid jungle environment and we’re not sure exactly how our soldiers will perform in that environment.

Q: So what are some of the ideas that you’re looking at?
A: The idea is to do a comparison of the different levels of body armour that a soldier would need, and to see how they perform. Whether or not a lower system would perform better from a thermal point of view, or whether wearing the higher levels, with a plate and soft armour system, makes no difference.

Q: How are you working with your partners around the world to make sure that you’re all moving forward the way you want to be moving?
A: Within Diggerworks, we have an industry engagement division, and we also have a military engagement. So we’re involved in a lot of these types of conferences (i.e. Soldier Technology). Additionally, through our defence science and technology officers and with our allied nations, we have controls where we share data.

Q: Where do you see Diggerworks in the next 12 months?
A: Over the next 12 months, our main focus is on support operations, depending on what comes in through Army headquarters. After that are trials for our camouflage, for our thermal burden, and also the development of our new body armour systems. Another area we will look at is water purification and hearing protection for our soldiers.

Soldier technology research will be a core focus at Soldier Technology, the world’s only global soldier and marine modernisation meeting, taking place 11-14 June 2013 in London.
The event attracts 450+ soldier modernisation programme managers, prime contractors and equipment manufacturers annually. Soldier Technology will gather the key national programmes and their stakeholders mentioned above to drive innovation and export opportunities.

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