EUROPEAN C4I UPDATE
By Stefan Nitschke, International Defence Analyst and Consultant
Increasing demands shape C4 requirements
With the US Army’s vision of an FBCB2 version to be anticipated to support the Army’s Future Combat System (known as the FCS Battle Command) and the development of a Joint Battle Command – Platform (JBC-J) improving future joint capabilities and interoperability, the Europeans are on the right path to play a bigger role in multinational network-centric operations. However, most of the ambitious programmes, involving improved theatre intelligence capabilities, new excellent sensors and platforms, real-time communications links, and vehicle-carried battle management systems (BMS) are to be conducted in the tighter defence budgets.
Among the major European nations, France is heavily investing in theatre intelligence capabilities. It sees its principal net-centric capabilities in the SITEL, BOA 2 (Bulle Opérationnelle Aéroterrestre), and FÉLIN (»Fantassin à Equipements et Liasions Integrées«) programmes. SITEL, an acronym for Système d’Information Terminal Elémentaire, is about to be fitted to a first batch of 30 combat vehicles of the French Army for deployment in Afghanistan. The platform-level BMS will be adapted to different land vehicles, including VBL reconnaissance vehicles and the AMX10P tracked carrier. The SITEL BMS, a development of Sagem Défense Sécurité, comprises a clip-in Toughbook which can be connected to PR4G VHF radio equipment. A GSM telephone network and a GPS receiver also found in this systems architecture will be for conferencing, blue force tracking, position determination, navigational purposes, and after action reporting. Some 4,500 systems will be procured to be fitted to armoured and utility vehicles of at least five Army brigades. The French Army is indeed at the forefront of digitisation activities throughout Europe, including several other programmes which are making significant progress. Among them are the SIR regimental-level command system and the SICF division/brigade-level command information system of which the latter will be interoperable with other European C2 systems.
In addition to the 40 prototype systems of the FÉLIN future soldier system which was already supplied to the 13th Mountain Infantry Regiment/BCA (27th BIM) at Barby for trials, the French Army is now receiving an additional 358 pre-production systems. This figure forms part of a total quantity of 31,500 systems which have been ordered for delivery until 2013. As to the FÉLIN’s communications equipment, there will be a RIF infantryman information network radio with GPS and two antennas as well as a computer containing an identification chip for the soldier’s position to be transmitted to the Platoon commander’s Dismounted Management System. The latter displays a digital map which continuously updates the position of the soldier in the network.
French elements of the Franco-German Brigade (including the 110th Mechanised Infantry Regiment/RI and the 3rd Armoured Reconnaissance Régiment/Regiment de Hussards) will be also equipped with the SITEL BMS. Utility vehicles and some examples of the WIESEL 20mm and TOW weapon carriers operated by the German units of the brigade, including the Light Infantry Battalion 292 and the Armoured Artillery Battalion 295, are receiving the German Army’s FüInfoSys H/FIS-H C4 system to also include INMARSAT C satellite communications and GPS. An initial batch of hardware and software components has been handed over to the HQ Company in January 2008. FIS-H will be comprised of the range of C2 applications, communications, and computing services which will be linked with all combat, combat support, and service support elements of the German land forces from division HQ down to the individual soldier. Also utilising the mission-proven FAUST E1 battalion-level BMS which evolved from the GeFüSys battalion-level and FüWES platform-level BMS, the overall system