EUROPEAN SOLDIER SYSTEMS UPDATE 2010
By Stefan Nitschke, International Defence Analyst and Consultant
Modern infantry soldier systems are becoming key components of the today’s and tomorrow’s land force. In Europe, the main soldier modernisation programmes include the UK Army’s Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST), France’s FÉLIN (“Fantassin à Equipements et Liasions Integrées”), the German Infantryman of the Future (“Infanterist der Zukunft” or IdZ), and the Italian “Soldato Futuro”. It is important to note that these and other programmes in the Czech Republic (Future Czech), the Netherlands (VOSS), Norway (NORMANS), Spain(COMFUT), Sweden (MARKUS), and Switzerland (IMESS) will not only change the complete soldier profile, but they will also make command easier, with more information available during planning and combat, enhancing protection as well as superior fire power against varying and increasingly asymmetric threats. As best shown in Afghanistan, the individual infantryman and its equipment will become part of a rapidly re-configurable network in which the C4I devices carried by the infantrymen relay real or near real-time messages and data to key decision makers. Within this scheme, C4I will deliver increased situational awareness, enabling tracking and identification of own forces, thus minimising the risk of “blue-on-blue” engagements. In sum, the combination of modern soldier systems and C4I will be the new paradigm of information technology to include fully integrated elements of doctrine, communications, procedures, organisational structures, equipment, facilities, and even personnel.
Technologies for the modern soldier
Since military forces are committed to operations like those in Afghanistan, the integration of modern soldier systems into a network force will be progressively maintained to gain full-scale interoperability across various, previously disconnected forces. As shown in various after action reports provided by the 19th German ISAF contingent, the individual soldier will require to distinguish between enemy and non-combatants, or between enemy and non-C4I equipped or compatible allies. This has been a complex task during many recent counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan, also requiring huge efforts to allow for proper communications between individual units or soldiers. Operations in a tough environment as best represented by Afghanistan also take a lot of actionable intelligence and use of special tactics, whereby the success of such actions to find and identify the enemy in the rugged terrain and urban areas will depend upon heavy investments in the individual warfighter’s information superiority, survivability, sustainability, and fire power.
Within this scheme, fixed, deployable and soldier-carried sensors will provide the “eyes and ears” which, combined with C4I and network-enabled capabilities, will form the basis for information-led infantry warfare. To provide a combat-winning capability, the correct fusion and filtering of sensor data to provide an accurate picture of the combat environment will thus be needed. To bring in advanced technologies for the modern infantryman, the year 2010 will see increased activity in any respect. In doing so, the French land forces will further intensify their principal programme in this field, the FÉLIN. Following extensive trials during the last couple of years, the French Army is about to receive additional pre-production systems as part of a total quantity of 31,500 systems that have been ordered for delivery until 2013. As to the FÉLIN’s voice and data communications equipment, there will be an infantryman information network radio with GPS and two antennas as well as a computer containing an identification chip for the soldier’s position.
The German Bundeswehr developed and introduced the Infantryman of the Future or IdZ systems approach. It is being used – in the form of the basic system – with success with German ISAF tro