BAE and Microsoft provide defence programmes with cloud technology

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BAE Systems and Microsoft have signed a strategic agreement that aims to support faster and easier development, deployment and management of digital defence capabilities.

In response to increased digitalisation, the collaboration brings together BAE Systems’ knowledge of building complex digital systems for militaries with Microsoft’s expertise in developing applications using its Azure Cloud platform.

As well as helping partners collaborate on large multinational defence projects, such as the Future Combat Air System, cloud technology could be used to combine and analyse different sources of data during military operations.

Air, land and maritime platforms face constantly changing threats, so their digital systems need to be regularly updated to recognise and counter them. As part of this collaboration, BAE Systems and Microsoft have used the Azure Cloud approach to accelerate software design, development and testing of a system that can deploy new software on to an Uncrewed Air Vehicle during flight. This approach to using the cloud could in future speed up the deployment of software to operational military platforms.

Modern fighter jets, for example, can require up to 24 million lines of code to function effectively, so using the cloud to deploy updates could make the process quicker and help retain a competitive advantage over adversaries.

The two companies have also explored how to reduce the time it takes for an innovative idea to move into production. While digital design and manufacturing have been at the heart of BAE Systems for decades, the growth in data volumes and complexity means that using cloud technology can help perform data analysis and simulation.

Azure Cloud is able to provide digital engineering capabilities that can help get the most out of data by digitally connecting the design, manufacture and operation of products throughout their life.

The agreement is underpinned by a commitment from both organisations to develop technology using open architecture digital tools, enabling customers to more easily work with third parties.  This could help BAE Systems collaborate with small businesses and partners without compromising security, by only allowing access to very specific areas of work. Using this approach makes it easier for smaller companies to meet rigorous defence security standards.

Since starting the collaboration, both companies have worked on three successful initiatives, highlighting the benefits of modern cloud software in the defence sector. These projects included enhancing real-time tactical naval intelligence through access to more dynamic data sources; development of secure software to deliver real-time updates to air platforms; and the creation of a digital thread to support the maintenance of maritime platforms from concept to disposal.

Commenting Julian Cracknell, Chief Technology and Information Officer at BAE Systems, said, “The data available to the defence sector and armed forces is often highly complex and comes from hundreds of thousands of sources, whether that’s satellite and radar feeds, intelligence gathered by ships at sea or even social media.

“Our innovative agreement with Microsoft will give us easier access to tools that help us make sense of this information for our customers – allowing armed forces to stay ahead of rapidly evolving threats, whilst maintaining the highest levels of security.”