EUROPEAN SOLDIER SYSTEMS – MARCHING ONWARDS
By Adam Baddeley, Deputy Editor, BATTLESPACE
The approaches adopted for the development of SMPs by Europe’s militaries have much in common. Not least is the shared goal of avoiding unaffordable, large investments in poor technology choices. The understandable caution and delay this has engendered has not however meant an embargo on innovation, with partial modular solutions to the SMP requirement deployed quickly and effectively by several countries, with the aim of building up complete SMP ensembles over time. Concern regarding the negative implications of this approach long term on whole-system integration are driving others to adopt a more deliberate, ‘biggish-bang’ approach while ‘late-adopters’ are waiting to identify best-of-breed through others operational experience before they commit their limited funding.
The German Army’s Infanterist der Zukunft (IdZ) programme remains the European and indeed world leader in terms of systems deployed operationally. EADS Defence Electronics is leading the Projekthaus System Soldat (PSS) industrial consortium responsible for delivering the ensemble. In November 2004, EADS obtained a $94-million series order from the Federal Office of Defense Technology and Procurement (BWB) for 196 ten-man IdZ Future Soldier basic systems. These systems are planned for use throughout the German armed forces although the Bundeswehr Spezielle Operationen (Bundeswehr Special Operations) will receive most systems. Delivery of the first 30 systems is scheduled for mid-2005.
The acquisition is the latest in a series of incremental procurements. The first prototype, the Einsatzbedingter Sofort Bedarf, was given a five-month trial at Prizren in Kosovo during 2002. Subsequently, under the Euro 9million Basic Systems Rapid Fielding Initiative award, valued at EUR9million, for 15 systems which were deployed to Afghanistan by July 2004; followed by an order for 30 systems under a EUR17.5million order for Germany’s NATO Response Force. These are expected to be followed by a larger, EUR477m acquisition of 1116 systems from 2009, which is intended to last until 2018.
Sagem is continuing its work on the EUR796 million FELIN (Fantassin à équipements et liaisons intégrées) programme awarded on Match 2004. Deliveries will begin in early 2006 with the first regiment to be equipped by mid-2007. This will then be rapidly ramped up to deliver FELIN to two-thirds of the army’s infantry units by the end of following year with deliveries due to be completed in 2012. A total of 31,600 systems will be acquired, of which 9000 will be allocated to armoured, artillery and combat-engineer units. These latter systems, rather than being optimised for specific use, a la Mounted or Air Warrior, will see the combat infantry-specific elements of FELIN omitted.
The more deliberate path taken by the UK’s Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST) under the aegis of Thales. The programme’s V2 FIST trials are scheduled to start in the first week of October and end in late November. FIST is scheduled to reach Main Gate in November 2006 following the scheduled completion of trials in 2006. The Demonstration and Manufacture Phase will then begin. Delays, due to personnel availability in the Army, have seen Initial Operating Capability – the first brigade fully trained and equipped – slip from 2009 to 2010. A total of 29,000 equipment sets are to be acquired at a predicted cost of £580million.
FIST undertook its V1 trials in Autumn of last year. In June 2005, Thales announced the first set of equipment that will be used to assess FIST concepts in the follow on V2 trials. Several companies were selected: AEA Technology for Power solutions; Chelton Defence Communications for Long Range Radios for the section commander, using the Tadcomm PRC-710 VHF hand-held radios; NP Aerospace for helmets and body armour; Police Resource International for load carriage sub-syst