EUROPEAN SMPs ON THE MARCH
By Adam Baddeley, Deputy Editor, BATTLESPACE
Soldier Modernisation Programmes are arguably ‘densest’ in Europe with NATO and PFP countries each embarking upon national programmes. The Continent also provides the widest possible mix of approaches with three ‘core’ countries: France, Germany and the UK – along with the US – developing national solutions, while others seek to maximise the investment of those countries in their own designs using off-the-shelf, modular systems. Privately developed solutions are also emerging – notably that of the Saab Warrior – to compete internationally in the market. Within this broad group are further differences in approach are evident. This is particularly true in opinions as to the degree to which early systems or components should be fielded, or whether more extensive trials should be undertaken before they are deployed operationally. All in all European SMPs provide a fertile test ground for different approaches and technologies tailored to meet differing budgets. The European budgets however, tend to be more akin to those of the USMC rather than as large as that of the US Army.
NATO’s role in soldier modernisation is long standing – undertaking a Pre-feasibility study on soldier modernisation 1993-4 which led to the formation of the LG/3/WG/3 working on soldier modernisation, known since 2000 as the NAAG (NATO Army Armaments Group) Topical Group 1 (TG/1). It has since had an illustrative name change to Soldier System Interoperability.
Lt. Col Koos Meier speaking at SMI’s Future Soldier conference earlier this year identified C4I, power and combat ID as key areas that need to be addressed. In the C4I realm TG/1 is working towards development of standard NATO formats for indentifying data based on standard NATO symbols; a NATO data exchange software library and generating a STANAG for information interoperability. TG/1 has already drafted and circulated a proposed STANAG to enable ensembles to share power on the battlefield, which is expected to be approved in autumn as a NATO Staff Requirement. For Combat ID, a NATO Staff Requirements has established an agreed laser frequency.
Work on Communications interoperability took place at the October TG/1 meeting in Rome last year, where seven nations using WLAN cards communicated over an E-mail server and network manager.
TG/1’s recent work has been to establish an expert team looking at Weapon systems – stand connector and power sources in particular- and a NATO/Research and Technology Organisation study has been initiated.
Work on the government side is being increasingly complemented by TG/1 work with industry. The NIAG established the Soldier Systems Standardisation Industrial Working Group (SSSWIG) in 2003; both to support NATO and TG/1 work in the area and to develop standards. Membership of the SSSIWG comprises those companies appointed to role of prime contractors: EADS Dornier, Marconi Selenia Communications, Thales Defence ltd, TNO, Thales Communications, General Dynamics and Sagem. Colonel Meijer said that he was very happy with progress thus far and that without industry NATO’s progress in this area would be very difficult.
Italy’s Soldato Futuro programme is being led by Marconi Selenia Communications and comprises a team made up of Aero Sekur, Beretta, Galileo Avionica, Larimart and Sistemi Compositi.
Central to its portable ISTAR capability is the Observation and Target Designation Unit being developed to support all weather 24-hour operation. Ergonomically the device is managed by a three-button control panel on the top right of the system to enable the user to switch between modes and the device is equipped with a one-touch push button on the left used to initiate functionality.
Information will be presented using a Biocular LCD display feeding from the device’s laser Range finder, Uncooled TI and a high sensitivity CCD Camera. The device is equipped with a pr