Imagine a soldier in battle with a weapon that could identify who was an enemy and who was your comrade.
That is what Thales Australia is currently developing in Lithgow.
In order to maintain a capability advantage for Australia's Defence Forces, Lithgow Thales has announced the development of a soldier weapon system for the future that will integrate disruptive digital technologies, advanced sensor and targeting equipment and networked communications.
"What it essentially means is, the weapon will detect targets and be able to have recognition of the target and whose side they are on. If the soldier then decides to engage the target, it will automate the aiming process and get the right direction and elevation and will allow to fire and increase the probability of hitting the target," Thales Soldier Weapons Systems director Graham Evenden said.
"Secondly the soldiers will be able to communicate with each other and send information, so it will be a collaborative engagement where they can decide which soldiers engage, whether they engage at the same time, etc."
Drawing together advanced manufacturing techniques and materials, Thales' advanced future soldier weapon system will integrate cutting edge sensors and targeting systems, biometric security safeguards, tactical network links to enable collaborative engagement and enhanced command, control and situational awareness for both individual soldiers and commanders.
Mr Evenden said the company looked at what was happening in the market and the emerging trends.
"We want the Australian soldiers and Australian nations to have an advantage in combat, and the next generation of small arms is digital technology," he said.
"So that's what we decided to do, and we've been supported by Australian universities and research organisations."
Mr Evenden said this weapon would be significant for any defence force, but for Australia to have the sovereign capability to manufacture the small arms was an incredible feat.
"It allows for Australia to have control of the software and the algorithms, and be ready to change the algorithm if needed. If these were made off shore then we wouldn't have that control," he said.
According to Mr Evenden the weapons have already been demonstrated to the army, which were impressed.
The project, which has been in the works for some time, won't be used in the army until an estimated date of 2024-25.
Thales Australia also hosted the Australian Chief of Army LTGEN Rick Burr AO, DSC, MVO at Lithgow Arms last week.
Mr Evenden said the trip was to show Mr Burr everything Thales had been working on.
"He came to view the factory and be shown what the people are manufacturing, the servicing of defence weapons and to meet the engineers who are working on this new technology," he said.
"Rick [Burr] also got the chance to go to the range and fire the weapon and see the cutting edge technology for himself."
Mr Evenden said it was a really good day and the Australian Chief of Army seemed impressed.
"It's very hard not to be impressed meeting the young and quite dynamic team working on this advancement," he said.
Mr Evenden said having Rick Burr attend the facility, solidified the knowledge that Thales was heading in the right direction.
"He was very appreciative of the work we do in Lithgow for our army, he made that really clear, that we are on the right track with what we are investing in," he said.
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