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By Adam Baddeley, Deputy Editor, BATTLESPACE

Jun o5. Thales announced last week the selection of equipment solutions for the second stage of validation (V2) testing for the UK Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST) programme’s. This selection includes new communications solutions supporting short and long range capabilities.

Compare and contrast

According to Steve Turner, UK Director Land Systems, the main difference between FIST and other European soldier systems is the requirement for FIST to operate completely dismounted with no vehicle support. While it has to operate independently of vehicular support, FIST still has to work with vehicles. Turner pointed out, “With European systems there is a vehicle not too far away that acts as a base station, to get over the range issues. FIST has to be out on its own and the command infrastructure has to have the range to support this. It is an issue that makes the necessary ranges longer on FIST than they might be on other systems.”

Differences in approach have not meant disinterest in the British approach to SMP development generally by similar European programmes. FIST is going through a tortuous process of having already established a capability need and then trying to derive from that what that actually means in terms of range performance. Turner said, “We have not really seen that in other soldier systems programmes. Generally what they have gone through, is some kind of experimental process and interim purchases of equipment that is readily available.” He explained that this is now changing and the more comprehensive approach adopted by the FIST is becoming more attractive to them. Turner added, “What we are seeing now is that with the next generation of Infanterist der Zukunft and the Dutch Digitized Solder System, the teams are actually coming to the FIST customer to look at their requirements in order to save time. We have seen quite a lot of traffic into the Defence Procurment Agency (DPA) trying to understand why FIST is coming to the conclusion it has, so that other nations don’t have to go through the same process.”

“I suspect that FIST might become something of a driver for other specifications although FIST may be a little over specified because it. must be able to work entirely independently [of vehicles].”

Division of responsibilities

FIST communications requirements for section level communications are for range of 80m in urban and 2000m in open while the command net linking platoon and company commanders with subordinate sections are 1km urban and 5.2km in open. “We have just run a competition for equipment for the V2 validation trials later this year and the specifications we issued are pretty much the specification we think FIST will need as it goes into service in 2009/10.”

The Thales team have selected a short-range radio from Selenia Communications based on a voice and data capable PRR and long-range radio from Chelton Defence Communications based on the Tadiran Communications PRC-710 VHF radio. “We are looking at the benefits at the moment of radios with higher bandwidth and smaller size, weight and power consumption. Ultimately its then the customer’s decision as to whether he wants to look into that as part of FIST or whether it should be part of Bowman.”

“What they have asked us to do is assess the options for FIST and we believe from our functionality trials we can see some benefit from improving the data rate between the section and the platoon. The Bowman radio has a particular data rate and we believe the functionality can be increased improved by improving that data rate. The option is then to improve it by changing or modifying the existing Bowman radio or replacing it. In the short term we will demonstrate that capability with a higher data rate radio. The MoD can then make the decision to stick with Bowman, go back to General Dynamics to ask for increased bandwidth on the PRC-354 radio

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