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International Land Force Developments

Just as they have with U.S. land forces, the last 12 to 18 months have witnessed a number of significant activities and milestones related to land force programs around the world. Although a comprehensive look at the myriad developments would greatly exceed the constraints of a single article, the programs cited in the following pages were selected to stand as representative examples of broader international trends. Moreover, where appropriate, these international efforts will be compared or contrasted to similar activities under way in the United States.

 

International Soldier Systems

One of these contrasting examples is the U.S. Army’s “soldier system” program dubbed Nett Warrior. Named for Col. Robert B. Nett, who received the Medal of Honor as a lieutenant during World War II, Nett Warrior is an outgrowth of the Army’s early Land Warrior and Ground Soldier System Increment 1 experimentation. The system provides unparalleled situational awareness and understanding to the dismounted soldier, allowing for faster and more accurate decision-making in the tactical fight.

A U.S. Army soldier from 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, reacts to mock opposition forces during Network Integration Evaluation 13.1, at Dona Ana Range, N.M., Nov. 19, 2012. Soldiers from 2-1 AD used NETT Warrior in scenarios designed to evaluate the benefits the portable, hand-held device provides them during dismounted operations. U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Deanna Bague, Brigade Modernization Command

A U.S. Army soldier from 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, reacts to mock opposition forces during Network Integration Evaluation 13.1, at Dona Ana Range, N.M., Nov. 19, 2012. Soldiers from 2-1 AD used NETT Warrior in scenarios designed to evaluate the benefits that the portable, hand-held device provides them during dismounted operations. U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Deanna Bague, Brigade Modernization Command

But the United States is hardly alone in that tactical vision, as evidenced by a range of international soldier system activities in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, and Russia.

France, for example, is procuring and fielding the FELIN integrated soldier modernization system developed by Sagem, a Safran group company.

According to contractor overviews, FELIN is designed as “a complete, modular and unified system for infantry soldiers … deliver[ing] a significant improvement in protection, observation, communication, engagement, mobility and support functions for front-line soldiers. FELIN features an enhanced ergonomic design, plus better protection against modern small caliber weapons. The brand-new sighting system facilitates the neutralization of adversaries day or night. Because of its enhanced observation and positioning capabilities, FELIN also considerably improves night maneuvering and combat capabilities.”

The French army’s 1st Infantry Regiment began receiving its FELIN systems in August 2010.

Similarly, in June 2012, the German Bundeswehr placed an order with the Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall Group to supply it with a state-of-the-art soldier system called “Gladius.” The initial order covers a total of 900 soldiers (90 infantry sections or squads) who will be outfitted with the new Gladius equipment developed by Rheinmetall.

Rheinmetall representatives trace the heritage of the Gladius system back to 2009, when the company was awarded a contract to develop a pre-series demonstrator version of the system for the Bundeswehr. That demonstrator supplemented the basic Future Soldier (IdZ) system that Germany ordered in 2005 as an interim response to an urgent operational requirement.

A company release notes that Gladius is “intended to expand and improve the capabilities of the existing system, particularly with regard to networking, command and control, and combat effectiveness.”

The design provides soldiers with relevant data concerning the tactical situation, the position of friendly forces, the mission, and system status. It includes a GPS and an inertial navigation system as well as a magnetic compass, facilitating reliable orientation on the ground.

The FELIN integrated soldier modernization system undergoing operational testing in an urban environment, April 13, 2011. The French army began receiving its FELIN systems in August 2010. Safran photo

The FELIN integrated soldier modernization system undergoing operational testing in an urban environment, April 13, 2011. The French army began receiving its FELIN systems in August 2010. Safran photo

It is anticipated that the first units equipped with Gladius would be ready to deploy on contingency operations in 2013 and 2014.

Meanwhile, the Russian army conducted its own soldier military equipment (“BES”) activities in the fall of 2012. As described by Russian defense ministry ground force representatives, the tested equipment includes approximately 40 individual elements, including protection from environmental threats; protection from weapons of mass destruction; body armor; non-lethal weapons; command and control systems; communications systems; sensors; navigation systems; life support systems; protective eyewear; sound protection; thermal wear; and water filtration systems.

Defense ministry statements in February 2011 had indicated that Russia had been in talks with France over the purchase of a small number of FELIN systems for evaluation. However, Chief of the General Staff Gen. Nikolai Makarov later said Russia would produce its own BES program.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...