SOLDIER MODERNIZATION – IS THE PACE SLACKENING?
By Adam Baddeley
For the infantryman, soldier modernisation is a good news story. Greater capabilities are enabling and delivering delivers greater utility and employment. The largest programmes have almost all undergone significant schedule slippages due to technology maturity and funding issues. That said, the pressure to deliver capability to the troops in the field is seeing SMP-like capabilities in the hand of troops today, delivering combat experience and lessons learned to the large-scale formal programmes that will succeed them.
Speaking at WBR’s Soldier Technology conference, John Foley, Thales Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST) Prime Contract Management Office (PCMO) Technical Director, outlined the way ahead for the UK’s Future Integrated Soldier Technology programme, which from late 2006 has undergone a number of key changes following extensive trials..
Dstl is continuing to analyse the trials data from both recent FIST Surveillance Target Acquisition (STA) and C4I trials directly supporting both COEIA analysis for Main Gate (MG) and more indirectly a flurry of Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) activity. FIST however, remains in a hurry with potential competitions for STA and C4I equipment, run before MG, so that the business case could be made more coherently, with a ‘ready-to-go’ solution to put in front of the decision makers in early 2008.
Since 2006 FIST have become a more explicitly incremental programme, with APX, Thales’ extension to the original Assessment Phase – which would have concluded in 2006 – designed to provide further data needed for Combined Operational Effectiveness and Investment Appraisal (COEIA) trials and bring into service key STA and C4I improvements in both areas, long identified as bringing immediate significant gains to the infantryman’s effectiveness.
Under plans MG for Increment 1 of FIST will deliver immediate enhancement to take to MG that can be integrated rapidly in the areas of C4I and STA. These capabilities will deliver a fully integrated Initial Operating Capability of no later than early 2010 although some capabilities will arrive sooner where possible
Increment 2 will improve both areas not least in terms of platoon communications to replace Bowman VHF for FIST users, as well as adding wider capabilities in a more tightly integrated man platform environment in about 2012-14. Beyond the path becomes blurred.
Work on STA in FIST is the most advanced. The PCMO under took three significant live fire trials over a six week period February –March 2007 at Warminster, Swinnerton and Castle Martin. The ranges used were instrumented using an SDE data logging system with the data being analysed by Dstl.
The PCMO has outlined the planned distribution of STA assets across the fire team. Each member will have a Day Night Sight with the exception of the ParaMinimi Gunner who will have a Thermal Day Sight and the Light Support Weapon-equipped marksman, with a Light Weight Day Sight. Each member will have a Close Quarter Day sight. The commander is the only user of the hand held day/night Commander Target Locator (CTL) with the 40mm UGL being equipped with the 40mm Quadrant sight and Laser Range Finder (LRF). An Off Axis Viewing Device (OAVD) probably best described as a camera on a pole will be held across the fire team.
In the three trials an ACOG sight was selected, with a Close Quarter Battle sight attached and was strongly liked by the troops due to its reduced weight with users demonstrating a significant reduction in short range engagement times. For FIST Increment 1 only the Lightweight Day Sight is deemed a viable capability and will retain current night sight. For the Paraminimi equipped gunner a QioptiQ VIPIR sight was selected with a CQB sight attached offering x2.7 magnification and a 9deg FoV. A day channel was also added either via an embedded CCD camera of optical day channel. The t