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Computer soldiers byte in.

It was not uncommon at defence exhibitions in the 1980s to see futuristic mockups of what the infantry soldier would look like in 1995, 2000 and 2005. None of these 'starship trooper' concepts have appeared and the programme dates have slipped to 2010, 2015 and 2020, and no doubt these dates will continue to slip. Nevertheless, an evolutionary improvement in the capability of the individual soldier is gaining momentum in many armies.

The need to get mature technology into the hands of troops as rapidly as possible has led the directors of the numerous soldier modernisation projects underway in Nato and for other armies.

The need to lighten the soldier's load while improving lethality, survivability, C4I, mobility and sustainability--the five key areas of soldier modernization programmes--is a truly demanding challenge. Historically, soldier equipment has been bought as separate items--boots, body armour, radios, weapons or helmets. Moreover, integration was a term rarely used to describe this equipment. Most of these items were considered relatively 'low tech'. Yet as soldiers faced an increasingly challenging range of peace support operations and warfighting missions throughout the 1990s the view was accepted that combat effectiveness could be much improved if individual soldiers were treated as systems. Improving situational awareness is now as relevant to the individual infantry soldier as it has always been to the fighter pilot. Indeed, the infantry soldier will soon view the battlefield through head-up display. The war on terrorism has seen armoured and artillery units deployed in the infantry role and logistics units have become prime targets for attack. Hence there is need to equip these troops with at least the basic elements of the infantry soldier modernisation package.

The principle forum for the exchange of ideas about soldier modernisation projects is Nato's Topical Group 1 (TG/1) on Soldier System Interoperability, which has its roots in a feasibility study on soldier modernisation launched by the Alliance's Army Armaments Group in 1993. Twenty Nato nations and nine nations from outside the alliance are participating. At the initiative of industry the Soldier System Standardisation Industrial Working Group was formed in 2003 to work with the TG/1 to address interoperability issues and seek the harmonisation of interface standards. The group's members are the prime contractors in national soldier modernisation projects: Eads-Dornier, General Dynamics, Selenia, Sagem, Thales Defence, Thales Communications and TNO. There is agreement that C4I, power, combat identification and interfaces are the critical areas for standardisation.

Future Warrior

The soldier is <<America's most deployed combat system>> according to the US Army's Program Executive Office Soldier (PEO Soldier) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The Army is directing large amounts of money and effort to improve the effectiveness of the soldier across the full spectrum of operations encountered today and that are likely in the future.

The Army's 21st Century Land Warrior, launched in 1993, has undergone considerable reorganisation in recent years. This was in part influenced by trials conducted from November 2002 to February 2003 that convinced the service that many technologies were not mature enough to field the Land Warrior--Initial Capability in October 2004 as planned. Power was identified as a critical weakness. In June 2004 the Senate Appropriations Committee noted <<with great concern that the Land Warrior programme has been in existence for over ten years and, to date, has not been fielded. The Committee notes with great encouragement, however, that with the transfer of this programme to PEO Soldier, the Army has dedicated the necessary resources and attention to this technology in the past year to make a much more realistic program, which uses soldiers as its main focus>>.

General Dynamics C4 Systems was awarded a $ 60 million contract by the Army in February 2003 to lead the system development and integration of a revised programme. The first element to be fielded from fiscal years 2006 to 2008 would be dubbed Land Warrior--Stryker Interoperable (LW-SI) to equip six brigades that operate the General Dynamics Land Systems Stryker 8 x 8 light armoured vehicle. This would be followed by the Land Warrior--Advanced Capability in FY10. Beyond this GDLS was conducting the Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) for the army's Future Force Warrior (FFW) project looking at the period 2020 and beyond.

In March 2005 the Army consolidated the Land Warrior and Future Force Warrior ATD programmes into a single contract, now funded to the tune of more than $170 million, under General Dynamics C4 Systems to enable new technology to be 'spiralled' into service sooner and also create cost efficiencies.

The initial Land Warrior increment will equip soldiers with a dismounted battle command system known as the Commander's Digital Assistant (CDA). This was initially developed in two configurations: a CDA-Handheld based on the commercial iPAQ 3975 personal digital assistant and a CDA-Tablet based on the Panasonic CF-34 notebook computer. Since December 2002 limited numbers of digital assistants have been deployed in Iraq for operational evaluation. Feedback indicated the screen on the CDA-H was too small to allow effect viewing of maps so the decision was made to field a single system with a screen size mid-way between the two initial versions.

In the next increment the army intends to allocate $ 59 million in the FY06 budget to equip the Stryker experimental battalion with 500 individual Land Warrior systems. These will be based on the configuration that was tested for almost four months at the Army Infantry Center and School at Fort Benning, Georgia in 2004.

In late April General Dynamics C4 Systems received two contracts worth $ 2.7 million to develop and field an advanced Mounted Warrior combat helmet system with integrated wireless voice communication capabilities. When connected to a combat vehicle the soldier will be able to view operational data and video on a helmet-mounted display. A $ 500,000 contract will fund the initial planning effort to equip the Stryker experimental battalion for operational evaluation. The second contract, for $ 2.2 million, covers 165 helmet-mounted displays for use with a Stryker battalion deployed in Iraq for operational feedback.

Much attention has been focussed on the Land Warrior's weapon project. The earlier Objective Individual Combat Weapon, that combined a 5.56 mm kinetic energy weapon with a 20 mm grenade launcher, has evolved into three elements: the 5.56 mm XM8 Lightweight Carbine, the 25 mm XM25 Airburst Weapon System and the XM29 Integrated Airburst Weapon System that combines the two components. ATK Integrated Defense is the prime contractor and leads on the development of the airburst components, while teammate Heckler & Koch is developing the KE weapon. Following testing with 'Spiral 1' XM8 weapons in FY04 the army will use 300 'Spiral 2' XM8 weapons for additional testing before making a low rate initial production decision.

In late April ATK delivered the first six prototype XM25 weapons for field-testing. The XM25's fire control system is an advanced laser rangefinder that transmits information to the chambered 25 mm high explosive so that it detonates at a precise point above the target. "The initial field tests are very promising," said Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Clarke, Project Manager for Individual Weapons. "A weapon system like the XM25 will prove invaluable to our warfighters. It will be a clear differentiator on the battlefield."

Changes in the Land Warrior programme have reflected the Army's desire to accelerate the introduction of new technologies into service to assist in the war on terrorism. To accelerate this process using off-the-shelf technology the army launched the Rapid Fielding Initiative in late 2002. In FY03 18 individual items of equipment were fielded to eight brigade combat teams, 49 items to 19 teams in FY04 and 58 items to another 26 in FY05. Up to 5000 soldier kits are shipped each week and if need be equipment can be delivered from the 'warehouse to the foxhole' in nine days. The end state of this multi-billion dollar programme will involve more than 840,000 active and reserve personnel receiving equipment through the Rapid Fielding Initiative.

The initiative includes items issued to the individual soldier and items issued as part of team equipment sets. Examples of the first category include the Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH), the Camelback hydration system, goggles, the M4 carbine/M16 rifle magazine and the Improved Hot Weather Desert Boot. Examples of the unit issue include 162 lightweight shotgun systems, 58 common laser rangefinders, 369 M249 ammo soft packs and 882 M24 small binoculars per BCT set.


Sagem is the prime contractor for the French Army's [euro] 796 million Felin (Fantassin a Equipement et Liaisons Integrees, Infantryman with Integrated Equipment and Links) project to deliver 31,600 sets of individual soldier equipment. The company was awarded the contract in March 2004, its largest defence contract up to that point, by the Delegation Generale pour l'Armement (DGA) defence procurement agency following a two-year conceptual design and engineering phase.

The contract came as something of a surprise as a consortium led by Thales (then Thomson-CSF) was awarded the contract for the Equipement du Combattant Debarque (Ecad) technology demonstration programme that informed the Felin decision. This technology was evaluated between 1999 and 2000. The DGA subsequently invited Sagem to enter the Felin competition along with a Giat-Thales team.

The Felin contract covers the delivery of 22,600 individual systems to equip 20 infantry regiments, 2800 systems for the armoured cavalry, 2500 for the artillery and 3500 for engineers for a total of 31,500 systems. The cost per unit was estimated in 2004 to be [euro] 26,000. In June 2006 Sagem is scheduled to deliver 358 sets to equip two infantry companies for evaluation and trials. Delivery of production sets is scheduled to begin in mid2007 and the project goal is to have two-thirds of the infantry equipped by the end of 2008 and the full production run delivered by 2012. These systems are referred to as Felin V1 (Version 1).

Felin equipment will be delivered in five different configurations to match the requirements of different ranks and the different combat arms. Section and platoon commanders will use a new battle management system. A new ballistic helmet will be fitted with two three-cm2 helmet mounted displays to allow all soldiers to view data transmissions by day and night. The helmet will also have a built in microphone linked to the soldier's personal radio. Sagem is exploiting its civilian mobile telephone technology to develop a new personal radio to carry voice, data and radio transmissions. It will also incorporate a position locating system. Instead of a conventional microphone the radio will be linked to an osteophone that will pick up bone vibrations instead of sound waves making it much more effective in noisy environments.

The soldier's individual computer will regulate the energy supply across the various subsystems. High capacity lithiumion batteries will provide enough power for a 24-hour battlefield day, including intensive night operations. An integrated charger can be plugged into a vehicle when the soldier is mounted and a portable battery charger provides autonomy when dismounted.

The Felin includes three primary weapons that are already in army service: the Giat 5.56 mm Famas assault rifle, the FN Herstal 5.56 mm Minimi light machine gun (LMG) and the Giat 7.62 mm FR F2 sniper rifle. These will be fitted with day and night sights. A red dot sight is also being fitted to he Famas for snap shooting. A much-improved version of the Famas is planned to be fielded as part of Felin V2. This will include a camera, a laser rangefinder and other observation and targeting aids. Soldiers will be able to transmit their sight pictures to other team members.

The army wants the complete Felin ensemble, including weapon, ballistic protection and food and water for 24 hours, to weigh less than 25 kg.

Around 2015 the army will begin fielding an improved Felin V2 that will be fully integrated into the service's Bulle Opdrationnelle Aeroterrestre (BOA) network enabled warfare concept.

Soldato Futuro

Selenia Communications is leading an Italian industry consortium to develop the Italian Army's Soldato Futuro. The other team members are Aero Sekur, Beretta, Galileo Avionica, Larimart and Sistemi Compositi.

Selenia delivered technology demonstrators of the system components for evaluation at the end of 2004 and is scheduled to deliver a Phase II integrated prototype ensemble at the end of 2005. The current in service date is 2008. The system includes equipment already in service, commercial off-the-shelf technology and items developed specifically for the army's requirement.

Selenia is leading the development of the command and control system. An individual computer will be linked to a ten-cm screen worn on the left forearm that will enable the soldier to send and receive text messages, and will also display digital maps and GPS grids. Every soldier will be equipped with Selenia's new Individual Pocket Radio that is capable of transmitting both voice and data information. The radio is similar in size to the Personal Role Radio that the company's British subsidiary supplied to the Ministry of Defence but with range increased to 1300 metres. Section commanders will also be equipped with a more powerful radio to communicate with their platoon headquarters. Electronic components will be linked via a combat vest, dubbed the Universal Support Module, developed by Sistemi Compositi.

Junior leaders will be equipped with a 20-cm screen to allow better viewing of maps and other data. They will also have a Target Acquisition Unit being developed by Galileo Avionica that will incorporate binoculars, a thermal imager, a compass and laser rangefinder.

Beretta is developing a new 5.56 mm assault rifle derived from the Beretta AR 70/90 5.56 mm rifle now in Italian service. Objectives include reducing the size and weight compared to the AR 70/90. Without sights and with an empty magazine the weapon will weigh less than three kg and measure 840 mm with the butt extended compared to the 998 mm length of the present rifle.

Each rifle will be fitted with the new Individual Combat Weapon Sight (Icws) developed by Galileo Avionica. It features a x3 optical sight, a daylight black and white TV/night infrared channel, a visible and an infrared laser emitter and a red-dot battle sight for snap shooting. At night the soldier will be able to distinguish a mansized target at 600 metres. Larimart has developed a wireless link that will allow soldier to transmit their sight pictures to other members of the section.

Sistemi Compositi's new helmet can be fitted with either a bulletproof or a splinter-proof visor. Anti-laser goggles will also be provided. The company's combat body armour will provide protection against 9 mm rounds and plates can be inserted to defeat 7.62 mm armour-piercing ammunition. Sistemi Compositi has also developed a new combat uniform in woodland and desert camouflage patterns.


Germany is also taking an incremental approach with the development and fielding of its Infanterist der Zukunft (IdZ). Eads Defence Electronics is the prime contractor leading the Projekthaus System Soldat (PSS) consortium that includes Drager, ESG (Elektroniksystem- und Logistik-GmbH), Heckler & Koch, Thales and Zeiss Optronics.

The IdZ includes combat body armour, NBC protection, night vision equipment, digital navigation and communication, tactical speech and data communication and weapons.

Each 'system' equips a ten-man section. Two sections and a platoon headquarters of German peacekeepers were equipped with three prototype systems in 2002 for a test and evaluation under operational conditions in Kosovo. This was followed by an urgent operational requirement contract for 15 Basic IDZ systems, worth Euro nine million, for deployment with German peacekeepers serving with the Nato-led International Security Assistance force in Afghanistan. The first of these was delivered in July 2004.

In December 2004 the defence procurement agency awarded a [euro] 66.5 million production contract for 172 Version 1 systems for delivery between 2005 and 2008. These will equip rapid reaction forces including units assigned to the Nato Response Force. The next production stage from 2009 until 2018 involves the fielding of 1116 Version 2 systems worth [euro] 477 million.

Heckler & Koch is supplying all of the IdZ small arms: the 5.56 mm G36 assault rifle and AG36 UGL, the 5.56 mm MG4 LMG and the 4.6 mm MP 7 personal defence weapon (PDW). After more than a decade of discussion and a controversial evaluation of the H&K MP7 and the 5.7 mm FN Herstal P90, Germany has become the first Nato country to field a PDW to regular forces. The Zeiss Optronik NSA 80 night vision sight will be fitted to all G36s and each section will have two AN/PAS-13A (V) Thermal Weapons Sights from Zeiss Optronics. All infantrymen will be equipped the Thales Optronics' Lucie night vision goggles and the section will have two Vectronix Vector IV laser rangefinders.


The British Future Integrated Soldier Technology (Fist) project is in the last year of a three-year assessment phase to determine the optimum equipment solution to provide a Fist initial operating capability sufficient to equip a brigade in 2010.

The project is rooted in the tri-service Future Fighting Soldier System (later renamed Fist) technology demonstration project that concluded in 1999. This indicated that the effectiveness of the infantry solider could be improved by up to 80 per cent through the selective use of advanced technology. Other procurement projects and urgent operational requirements since then have introduced into service the Marconi Personal Role Radio, the ubiquitous Minimi LMG, the Heckler & Koch AG36 40 mm, new night vision equipment and the Bowman combat net radio system. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Defence believes that the integration of the Fist with existing equipment into an ensemble will still improve combat effectiveness by 50 per cent.

Thales was selected by the Defence Procurement Agency in March 2002 to receive the 15 million [pounds sterling] contract to undertake the assessment phase working in conjunction with the agency's Dismounted Close Combat Integrated Project Team (DCC IPT). The Thales consortium includes Beyts Associates, HVR Consulting Services, Sigma Consulting, Systems Design Evaluation and Unipart Logistics. The DCC IPT is split into three main sections: the DCC1 manages the procurement of small arms and surveillance, target acquisition and night optics outside of the Fist project. The DCC2 manages the Fist programme, and the Systems Management Group (SMG) supervises the integration of the Fist with wider battlegroup systems to create the Integrated Soldier System.

The subsequent demonstration, manufacturing and support phases, worth some 2.8 billion [pounds sterling], are intended to provide 29,861 individual 'Fist 1' systems to equip British Army infantry units, Royal Marines and the Royal Air Force Regiment and also selected armoured corps, artillery and engineer soldiers.

Equipment was tested in five operational scenarios: rural defence by day, rural attack by day, rural attack by night, urban attack by night and urban defence by night. A company level validation trial is planned for later this year. Main gate funding approval is scheduled for August 2006 for the two-year Fist 1 demonstration phase and the manufacturing phase.

The core Fist 1 elements that every soldier will receive are:

* helmet

* load carrying equipment

* infrastructure 'Wiring Loom'

* intra-section voice and data radio based on the PRR

* audio headset

* combat body armour with plates

* eye protection


* night vision goggles

* limited information processing

* power unit

* improved combat clothing.

The 5.56 mm SA80 small arms family, introduced into service in the late 1980s, will remain the basic weapon of the Fist soldier. Heckler & Koch has completed a 110 million [pounds sterling] project to bring the trouble-plagued weapon to the much-improved SA80A2 standard. Lethality enhancements planned under the programme will take the weapon to an 'A3' standard (not yet an official designation) with improved sights, a weapon control unit and weapon link to transmit data and receive power.

Specialist configurations will be fielded for mortar fire controllers, forward observation officers, forward air controllers, engineers, medics and others. Programme officials stress that Fist 1 represents the first phase in developing a true soldier system.

Land 125

Land 125 is the project title for the Australian Army's soldier modernisation project that is intended to provide an interim capability to about 5,000 troops in five regular infantry battalions, two armoured reconnaissance regiments, the School of Infantry and the Combat Training Center by June 2006.

The interim capability, known as Soldier Enhancement version one (SEv.1), will consist of five components: new individual combat load carriage equipment, an enhanced combat helmet, one lightweight thermal weapon sight per section, a soldier personal radio able to communicate up to 500 metres and protective pads for elbows and knees. Since last October 2004 these element have undergone a field evaluation by 1st Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (RAR). This phase of the project is costing A$ 35 million.

The helmet, chosen from eleven designs submitted by seven companies, is a modified version of the Rabinex RBH 303 helmet in service with the Israel Defence Force. The new helmet, designated the Insight RBH 303AU, entered service with the RAR's commando battalion in mid-2004. Selenia has delivered more than 1000 Personal Role Radios enhanced from the basic model to allow data transmission.

From mid-2007 the project team intends to begin acquiring SEv.2, in which is planned to include a dismounted battle management system, a leader's radio for section and platoon commander, survivability components and an enhanced version of the Austeyr F88 5.56 mm assault rifle with integrated optics.

Although elements of Land 125 are being sourced from overseas, Australian industry is fully involved in the project. One example is the (Generette) personal generation system developed by Tectonica Australia. The company received an A$ 1.7 million dollar development contract under the auspices of Land 125 in April 2004. Earlier this year the Defence Materiel Organisation completed testing of subsystems, and testing of demonstrator units built to the final design will occur toward the end of the year.


The Swedish armed forces launched project Markus (MARKstridsUtrustad Soldat, Ground Combat Equipped Soldier) as a conceptual study in 1999 and a project office to manage development was established in 2002 in the Tactics and Development Section at the Army Combat School. The Markus project followed on from the Grupp 2010 that examined the optimum organisation, weapons and equipment for an infantry section beyond 2010 operating within the broader context of Sweden's network based defence concept.

The time frame for fielding components of project Markus is set for between 2010 and 2015. Following a demonstration later this year of some components at squad, platoon and company level recommendations are expected to be made about which elements to procure.

In parallel with the military study Saab has developed the Saab Warrior (recently renamed Saab SMP) that it will offer to the armed forces and export customers. The company plans to develop a basic, enhanced and advanced version to meet different operational requirements. An interesting aspect of the Markus project is that, unlike most modernisation programmes, it is intended to equip a conscript army that undergoes less training than professional armies. As the typical 18 or 19 old conscript today has been brought up with computers, mobile phones and other digital products Saab officials believe that it will not be too difficult to develop a user friendly interface.
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Title Annotation:Future Systems
Author:Kemp, Ian
Publication:Armada International
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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