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Mobile deployable infrastructure increasing
the survivability of the warfighter

Military Vehicle Systems talks to Steve Nokes, Director of Mission Systems at Marshall Land Systems (MLS), which has been providing industry-leading expertise in deployable infrastructure, complex integrated systems and capability sustainment through Managed Support Services for nearly eight decades

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Deployable infrastructure has been at the heart of military activity for some time, and remains key as warfare continues to evolve, often changing itself to account for the changing needs of forward operations. Such changes are something Marshall Land Systems has seen firsthand, says Director of Mission Systems Steve Nokes, with the conflict in Ukraine not only changing the way operations are carried out, but the infrastructure they require. “We're seeing a phase shift away from where we were in Afghanistan, where it was all main operating bases surrounded by concrete walls,” says Nokes, leaving the enemy the only options of trying to attack over walls or laying IEDs under roads. The advent of launched munitions and UAVs have pushed forward the need to be more mobile - even when it comes to bases. “The days of having a fixed operating base that is easily locatable or a soft shelter base that takes time to break down and move on, are largely numbered. What we're seeing from customers now is a significant shift to hard shell systems predominantly and a lot of the people we're dealing with are re-equipping with hard shelled systems from soft shell systems, from fixed bases into containerized systems.”

As experts in designing, developing, installing and integrating complex sub-systems into a wide range of platforms, including our standardised base containers and land vehicles, Marshall Land Systems is at the forefront of this area, servicing major European contracts for significant numbers to the point that it has grown its Cambridge manufacturing base's capability and capacity and is moving imminently to accommodate its growing operation. Marshall not only designs and develops highly mobile and robust systems, but offers integration expertise that ensures platforms can be equipped with specialist and bespoke capabilities and works closely with OEMs to deliver, along with in-service support to ensure they have exactly what they need. “What the customer wants is to be mobile,” explains Nokes, citing the example of one customer who is mounting Marshall-designed containers on vehicles to form mobile bases that can be moved quickly and easily. “That way, they keep themselves protected, they keep themselves with a minimum footprint that is exposed to enemy observations, and are therefore more survivable.”

High mobility, fast deployment

That need for high mobility and fast deployment is pushing other developments at Marshall Land Systems, explains Nokes, including built-in hydraulic “legs” to remove the need for added cranes or forklifts to move containers on and off vehicles. “Those types of systems are available to bolt on,” he tells Military Vehicle Systems. “But there aren't many systems that are developed to make those integral in a way that makes it a very tidy solution.” Alongside constant innovation, Marshall is aiming to mature its approach as an end-to-end service provider. “Our strategy underwent a revision two and a half years ago, where we looked carefully at where we are in the market, what was happening in the market and what we can bring to it and realised that actually there's a segmentation to the market that is quite appropriate.” At Marshall they look at that segmentation in various ways, including maintenance support service as well as several product segments, from basic operational infrastructure systems to more specialist offerings. “What we aim to bring to the market is a catalogue of systems that customers can peruse and say, 'that's exactly what we need for this tender', so we can have something that's virtually off the drawing board very quickly into production. We've also got special product infrastructure - for example, we do an award-winning deployable containerised CT scanner for the military and disaster relief, which is an expandable container system that's got a full Philips Incisive CT scanner inside it, high-end technology that you would normally see in a hospital.” Marshall has worked extensively with Philips to ensure that the scanner can go into a militarised environment, and is now selling this piece of deployable infrastructure across a number of nations, including France, Australia, UK and Italy and a number of others. Another element is Mission Systems, headed up by Nokes, where Marshall works with defence Primes to provide the wraparound of deployable infrastructure for their complex battlespace systems to ensure they can operate effectively in the field. In all of these areas, Marshall's reputation and long standing work in this sector makes it a trusted player, building on long-term relationships with Primes beyond just one project.

Training the next generation

Part of its long-running dedication to this area, and to servicing the needs of the military when it comes to deployable infrastructure, is the drive to training the next generation - something Marshall is providing through its Marshall Skills Academy. 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. It draws on more than 100 years of experience, using shared knowledge and expertise from industry and academia, in both 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. For Nokes, 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 this particular area as it grows, and certainly having the capacity to be able to service and fabricate in North America for the Canadian market.”

Similarly, Marshall's recognition of the need to look to the future and prepare for the rapid changes that are so common in defence helps it stay at the forefront of the market. “One of the exciting things about the strategic change in the business a couple of years ago was the nesting of R&D in individual business units which meant we've been able to set up a team of engineers, supply chain specialists and market specialists to look at trends, looking at what's coming down the line in three or four years time and what we need to change around our systems to respond to that.” That trend-watching and future-gazing was most obvious at this year's DSEI Exhibition at London ExCel, says Nokes, where a solar-powered containerised system demonstrated the advantages for deployable infrastructure in reducing or eliminating fuel requirements and ensuing supply chain logistics, ultimately increasing survivability for the troops involved. “There are elements that we're playing with and dealing with that sound logical, but the technology to be able to put them in place into a military environment is not always simple and not always available. But actually, it's now grabbing attention quite widely.”

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