A COMBINATION of humans and robots fighting alongside each other in the conflicts of the near future is not inconceivable, a senior British Army officer has said.

Brigadier Zac Stenning is the commander of the 1st Armoured Infantry Brigade, which is currently taking part in Exercise Saif Sareea 3 in Oman. During the month-long exercise, Stenning said his Wiltshire-based troops will be experimenting with commercial drones and their tactical utility in conflict.

Asked how he thinks warfare will change in the coming decades, he said he thinks conflict “will look significantly different to now”. “It could be a combination of man and robotic machinery, that is not inconceivable,” he added.

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Stenning said there must be a balance between technology and new tactics, but that fundamentally it is about personnel and their ingenuity.

He said the ability of humans to out-think other humans, and to outthink the environment, would remain “our decisive capability”.

More than 5500 British personnel and 65,000 Omani troops will take part in the exercise. UK troops will be operating 18 Challenger 2 battle tanks and more than 100 armoured vehicles, plus other equipment, as they train in the harsh desert conditions and searing heat over the coming weeks.

Quizzed on whether he thinks tanks and armoured vehicles will be relevant in future conflicts, Stenning said their ability alongside infantry personnel, engineers and artillery, if required to move forward across ground, is an “enduring requirement”. “Of course, what armour does is it offers us a level of protection,” Stenning added.

“Also, it involves the ability to be lethal, to carry weapons systems that can reach out further than your opponents, and I don’t think that’s a struggle that will continue throughout history. One of the things that is interesting is how we now bring in technology – robotic capabilities, information systems, this is changing.

“This nature of warfare that we are seeing is really starting to change, and I think it is a hugely exciting time. Our brigade is involved in it, and it has got to be part of the joint force.

“The joint force is evolving as we are going forward. The use of artificial intelligence – there are many, many exciting things going on.”

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Also involved in the exercise are troops from 40 Commando, who assisted in the aftermath of the Salisbury nerve agent attack on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March.

Commanding officer Lt Col Paul Maynard said the incident came just weeks after they had carried out a three-week counter-chemical, biological and radiological exercise. He said: “For me it was a proud moment because yet again it shows the versatility of what the marines offer, and the fact that we can turn our hand in that moment of crisis as a first response.”