From Afghanistan to Ukraine and beyond: mobility and technology in an evolving battlespace

From Afghanistan to Ukraine and beyond: mobility and technology in an evolving battlespace

Deployable infrastructure has been at the heart of military activity for some time, evolving constantly to account for the changing needs of forward operations.

Having provided industry-leading expertise in deployable infrastructure, complex integrated systems and capability sustainment for nearly eight decades, we at Marshall have been observing and adapting to this ongoing evolution. As my colleague Lee Doherty recently observed, the conflict in Ukraine has not only changed the way operations are carried out, but the type of infrastructure they require.

Specifically, we are increasingly seeing a phase shift away from the “Afghanistan era” in which main operating bases would be surrounded by concrete walls with the aim of limiting enemy options to direct attacks over the walls or laying IEDs along roads. By contrast, in Ukraine we are seeing the adoption of launched munitions and UAVs in peer-to-peer warfare, laying the sheer importance of mobility and footprint reduction.

These days, it is much harder to justify maintaining a fixed operating base that is easily locatable, or a soft shelter base that takes time to break down and move on. This has led to a pronounced shift from soft-shell tented systems to hard-shell systems, and from fixed bases to containerised systems.

One of our customers, for example, is mounting Marshall-designed containers on vehicles to form mobile bases that can be moved and redeployed quickly and easily.

High mobility, fast deployment

Anticipating these trends, we have revolutionised our design approach around modularity and configurability. Having access to reconfigurable, interoperable equipment will enhance multi-mission and domain adaptability for our customers, providing significant benefits in the field.

Another particularly exciting recent change within Marshall has been the nesting of R&D along our individual business lines. For Marshall Land Systems, this means we've been able to set up a team of engineers, supply chain specialists and market specialists to identify emergent trends and adapt the products and services we offer.

As a result, we have now been able to integrate a range of industry-leading technologies into our products while also pioneering new approaches to managing and connecting deployable infrastructure.

The need for high mobility and fast deployment has led us to develop a range of new capabilities, including built-in hydraulic legs to remove the need for added cranes or forklifts to move containers on and off vehicles.

Likewise, at last year’s DSEI Exhibition we demonstrated a solar-powered containerised system utilising our micro grid power management. This system reduces or eliminates fuel requirements demanded by the use of generators to power systems, in turn reducing reliance on extended field logistics, ultimately increasing survivability for the troops involved and the resilience of the deployed system.

We’ve also recognised a category of Special Product Infrastructure - for example, our award-winning deployable containerised CT scanner for the military and disaster relief, which is an expandable container system equipped with a Phillips Incisive CT scanner. This is high-end technology you would normally see in a hospital, and is in operational service with UK, French, Canadian and Australian forces.

Meanwhile, our Mission Systems division works with defence primes and OEMs to provide the wraparound of deployable infrastructure for their complex battlespace systems to ensure they can operate effectively in the field, taking away non-core issues of wrapping deployable infrastructure around the complex C4ISR systems, enabling the capability to be effectively deployed into the field.

While many of the system elements we're developing are clear logical steps, the technology to be able to put them into a military environment is very exciting and by no means simple.

Building for the future

Marshall is proud to service major global production contracts for significant numbers of standardised base containers and land vehicles, applying our expertise in designing, developing and integrating complex sub-systems into a wide range of platforms, along with providing in-service support to ensure our customers have exactly what they need.

We have now outgrown the capability and capacity of our original manufacturing base, and are moving fast to accommodate our growing operation. In late 2023 we opened a new production facility in New Brunswick, Canada, and we are now establishing a purpose-built headquarters in Alconbury, UK, in 2025.

A key aspect of our long-running dedication to our sector, and to servicing the deployable infrastructure needs of the military, is our drive to train the next generation.

This is something Marshall provides through its dedicated training arm, Marshall Skills Academy. Drawing on more than 100 years of experience, the academy develops and delivers a single-source training provision for the Marshall businesses and other organisations, operating across the aerospace, defence and engineering sector. Using shared knowledge and expertise from industry and academia, Marshall Skills Academy is adapting existing and emerging technology to anticipate and meet the sector’s changing training requirements to help future-proof organisations and address the looming skills gap.

The academy addresses the very real issue of a rapidly expanding sector that needs both engineers and skilled manufacturers; we're very excited by the opportunities in the UK, Europe and in North America in deployable infrastructure as we continue to grow.

Find out more about Marshall Land Systems’ Deployable Solutions here.

By Steve Nokes, Director of Mission Systems, Marshall Land Systems