In years to come, our enlightened heirs and successors will look back in the annals of history and say 'What the fcuk was the score with that ridiculous project, Bowman?' And they'll be right to raise a metaphorical eyebrow or 2 - Bowman has become synonymous with everything that is bad with Defence (supposedly 'smart') procurement.
In spite of my scepticism about Bowman, the voice component has (rightly) been accepted into service, but it is still along way from the ideal solution we envisaged back in the 1970s. Yes - that long ago. Oh, and 'data' is still laughably crap, but this is a bearer problem, not the applications as such. At least this is what my spies at Land Warfare Centre tell me...
It has been said that BOWMAN = Better Off With Map And Nokia, and to a certain extent, that's true. However, mobile phones work due to a massive array of static repeaters and transmitters, which apparently give little kids brain cancer. At least Bowman kit doesn't do that. Yet.
So what's good about Bowman? Well, we now have secure voice comms down to section level. We have the ability to 'see' the location of our own forces with a vastly reduced footprint compared to 'Blue Force Tracker', which virtually everyone thinks we should buy. Just one problem with that - it requires lots of satellites to work properly, or - you guessed it - static masts with repeaters and transmitters all over them. Not really the sort of thing our super-duper light 'punching-above-its-weight' Army really needs, I would say.
Another question I'm often asked is 'Was it worth it?' The answer must be an emphatic 'Yes!; and not just for the reasons outlined above. People seem to have forgotten just how utterly awful Clansman was. OK - it worked (sort of) but it was on its last legs, was wildly inefficient, couldn't handle heat at all (or cold for that matter) and so on and on.
If Bowman continues to deliver at pace, we will have an improving and world beating system for years to come. However, the MOD have prostituted their integrity and future capability by getting into bed with a company like GD(UK) and we are going to spend the rest of this millennium regretting it.
Recent revelations in the press would seem to bear out just how extremely dodgy the state of affairs with Bowman is when in the field. For the full bowel loosening state of affairs as of August 2008 read this!
No Bullets? Use a battery!
The one good thing about Bowman was that the Lithium-Ion batteries required to power most of the radio sets meant that should you ever find you'd ran out of rounds to use on the enemy, you could always bludgeon the bugger to death with one of these things - thus not only reducing enemy numbers but also freeing up several thousand tons of weight from your bergan.