1. ITV Report

Scientists at the Frontline

Nick Barrett is the programme leader of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s support to operations team Photo: Crown Copyright/MoD 2012

It has been more than ten years since science and technology experts based at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) first deployed to Afghanistan in support of UK operations.

Boomerang 3, which uses sound to detect small arms fire, was chosen thanks to research by DSTL scientists Credit: Crown Copyright/MoD 2012

More than 350 separate deployments have been undertaken by staff in a range of roles including a Science Adviser based out there. They have been providing scientific and analytical advice without interruption to military commanders in Afghanistan since summer 2005.

The linkages that we've had with DSTL have been absolutely critical. For example, I would suggest that we're in a case of adapting our equipment, learning from what we're seeing here in Afghanistan, what the insurgent is able to do with our equipment. DSTL are absolutely critical in exploiting that information and then for allowing us to adapt our equipment so that we can ultimately be successful in this campaign.

– Col Colin McClean, Commander, Equipment Capability
When it comes to equipment - a spade is always handy. Nick Barrett from DSTL has been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan Credit: Crown Copyright/MoD 2012

The laboratory also tests new technologies in appropriate conditions to assess their suitability for the tasks for which they have been developed. A secure trials area was opened in 2007 so that testing can go ahead in a controlled environment.

There is no real routine to being a Scientific Adviser in Afghanistan. No two days are ever the same but it revolves around performing trials, providing advice back to the UK.

There is a large counter IED focus at the moment, trying to defeat the devices that are affecting our troops out there on the ground. We're trying to detect them or defeat them in any way, shape or form that gives us a tactical advantage on the ground.

– Neil Higson, Scientific Adviser in Afghanistan
This is part of the pelvic body armour designed to protect troops performing high risk tasks in Afghanistan Credit: Crown Copyright/MoD 2012

Apart from using their own specialist knowledge, staff in the field also refer to DSTL's 3,500 strong workforce and to colleagues in the wider Ministry of Defence, other government departments, industry and academia. The range of knowledge and experience ensures the most up-to-date scientific advice is provided to the military.

Watch the full report by Eli-Louise Wringe here: