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Land Environment Tactical Communication and Information Systems

Volume 742: debated on Thursday 14 December 2023

The land environment tactical communication and information systems (LETacCIS) programme is a capability and business change programme that will deliver the land domain’s deployed digital backbone from formation headquarters to dismounted soldiers through the sustainment, evolution or replacement of CIS and associated applications.

The programme has made significant progress across the key projects which form the core of the “deployed digital ecosystem”:

Project TRINITY, which will deliver a deployable wide area networking “battlespace broadband” capability, is now on contract with BAE Systems (signed August 2023) and is on track to deliver from March 2026.

The multi-mode radio (MMR) project, which will deliver modern radios into the MOD’s tactical networks, providing increased interoperability with key allies, and boost communications capabilities of our deployed forces, began delivering equipment to training schools in October 2022—four months ahead of schedule—and is on track to complete full delivery into service by September 2024.

The land deployable gateway (LDGv2) project is on contract with GDMS (UK) from September 2023 to deliver an improved gateway solution for the land tactical environment, and is on track to begin delivery from September 2025.

The final major project within the ecosystem is the MORPHEUS project, which will deliver an advanced communications system to our troops on the frontline, particularly those operating in the land environment. The project’s aims are to:

Exploit modern technology to deliver a new, more capable baseline capability from which we can more rapidly evolve;

Enable easier and more effective interoperability, both with other UK systems, and with allies;

Lower the training burden on users, through more intuitive interfaces;

Avoid vendor lock-in, and use competition to drive VFM; and

Employ open architectures, to more easily integrate new technologies.

In order to enable an open data architecture approach—thus avoiding any potential for future vendor lock-in—the LETacCIS programme awarded an evolve to open (EvO) transition partner (TP) contract to General Dynamics Mission Systems (UK) in 2017 to deliver a lab tested design in December 2020. However, delivery against this timescale was not met.

We have been open that progress on the MORPHEUS project has fallen short of what was expected and since December 2020 we have been working closely with General Dynamics to agree the best way ahead. The MOD can today confirm that, as a result of these discussions, this contract has now been concluded. While commercial confidentiality precludes me from providing the House with specific details of the arrangements made, the Department can assure it that these arrangements have been verified by both HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office as representing the best value for money approach for the taxpayer. Overall, the MOD has reached a position where the deliverables are sufficient to enable the future of the MORPHEUS project and the next generation of tactical communications, a position reinforced by strong market engagement with suppliers.

In the meantime, the MOD will continue to work with General Dynamics to ensure it delivers the planned update to sustain the in-service Bowman system, ensuring that we continue to meet all our operational requirements. The update, alongside our own development efforts, will deliver new hardware and software, ensuring that troops on the frontline have a secure communications system, enabling them to effectively communicate across the battlespace. While workforce matters are for General Dynamics to comment on, this update will ensure a sustained workload at the Oakdale site for some time to come.

Several valuable lessons have been learned through the evolve to open contract. An internal lessons learned review has taken place, but the MOD has also commissioned the Cabinet Office’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority to conduct an independent review of the MORPHEUS project, with the aim of understanding where the Department can improve in future projects. This independent review will commence next year and a summary of the report will be placed in the Library of the House upon conclusion.

The Department is now proactively reconsidering the requirements that the MORPHEUS project is due to deliver, which we expect to conclude in the spring. This will ensure that UK armed forces have what is required as part of the next generation of tactical communications, recognising the advancement of technologies since the MORPHEUS project was initially conceived.

Following analysis of the requirements, we will engage with industry on a renewed basis, incorporating the lessons learned from this procurement, and move towards delivering the next generation of tactical communications systems, for the benefit of the whole of defence.