EUROPEAN SOLDIER SYSTEMS UPDATE
By Stefan Nitschke, International Defence Analyst and Consultant
Soldier technology goes in line with the digitisation of the modern battlefield and the evolution of network-centric operations. Besides superior firepower offered by main battle tanks, armoured infantry fighting vehicles, artillery and attack helicopters, future soldier systems will be among the key components of the tomorrow’s land force. Providing extensive capabilities in the fields of improved situational awareness, lethality and survivability, the new generation of soldier systems draw on completely new armament, improved C2 and communications means, night vision devices and integrated ballistic protection. Because of the modularity of the range of systems, they can be adapted to different field requirements. Modern soldier modernisation programmes like the UK Army’s Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST), France’s FÉLIN (Fantassin à Equipements et Liasions Integrées), the German Infantryman of the Future (in German Army parlance “Infanterist der Zukunft” or IdZ) or the Norwegian Modular Arctic Networked Soldier (NORMANS) 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 offensive firepower against varying threats.
But it is more than this. As a multiplier of combat power in the modern land environment, modern infantry soldier systems and their 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. C4I will deliver increased situational awareness, enabling tracking and identification of own forces, thus minimising the risk of “blue-on-blue”. In sum, C4 will be the new paradigm of information technology to include fully integrated elements of doctrine, communications, procedures, organisational structures, equipment, facilities and even personnel. Since military forces are committed to joint multilateral operations and joint warfare, the integration of any of these elements into a network force will be progressively maintained to gain full-scale interoperability across various, previously disconnected forces. The modern soldier will herein be able to distinguish between enemy and non-combatants, or between enemy and non-C4I equipped or compatible allies. Fixed, deployable and soldier-carried sensors will provide the “eyes and ears” which, combined with C4I and NEC, will form the basis for information-led infantry warfare. Future sensors will be small and smart and will be widely deployed across the battlespace. 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.
The European soldier is not just the wave of the future, it is happening among the major European nations, France, Germany, Italy, and the UK are heavily investing in technologies used for the modernisation of the infantryman. The French land forces see their principal capabilities in the FÉLIN programme. In addition to the 40 prototype systems of the FÉLIN future soldier system which were already supplied to the 13th Mountain Infantry Regiment/BCA (27th BIM) at Barby for trials, the French Army is 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 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. This can then 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.
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