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A soldier from the Royal Anglian Regiment "The Poachers" and a Royal Signals radio operator use a hand-held GPS during Operation Charge of the Knights-14 in Basrah City with UK MITT Group attached to 50 Bde, Iraqi Army; 18-19th June, 2008. Crown Copyright photo by Army Corporal Rob Knight

Soldier Technology exhibition and conference held early June 2008 in London provided an insight into the hottest issues concerning the developers of modern integrated soldier systems (ISS). One was the growing need for interoperability, standardization and coordination of soldier systems, as Integrated Soldier Systems (ISS) are fielded with future joint forces operations, in peacekeeping mission and contingencies. Several speakers addressed the need to deploy systems not only with the warfighting echelon, but also with combat support and combat service support levels, enabling their integration and participation in the situational awareness and battle management process, eliminating a 'weak link' that could be prone for disastrous fratricides. Another highlight was the critical role of human factors in the design process of the integrated soldier system.

British Soldiers from the Royal Anglian Regiment "The Poachers" take up covering positions during Operation Charge of the Knights-14 in Basrah City with UK MITT Group attached to 50 Bde, Iraqi Army; 18-19th June, 2008.. Crown copyright photo by Corporal Rob Knight
Program managers provided updates about the status of some of Europe's leading ISS programs including FIST, FELIN, NORMANS, the Israeli Advanced Infantry System (IAS), Canada's Integrated Soldier System Program (ISSP), and South Africa's African Warrior project. The common denominator of all presentations, was the need to address the human factor and design the systems as a modular and open framework capable of continuous improvement and growth and dealing with various levels of technological maturation levels.

The idea is to field only those applications and services, defined by the soldiers as essential and critical for their missions requirements. Systems should be modular, tailored to fit the human body as comfortably as possible, at the lowest possible weight. All speakers agreed that reducing the warfighter's weight-load, below 30 kg is theoretical. Yet they addressed different weight limits – from 25 kg, as the goal for the US and French systems to 45 kg, which were the 'de facto' goal for the African Warrior set. At present, British forces in Afhghanistan are carrying typical combat loads of 52 kg.

But overweight is not the only problem: ergonomic, load balance are also negatively affected from the 'Christmas trees' style soldier gear. Systems designers agree, that designers must regard the soldier as a 'platform', addressing human factors as early in the program as possible, eliminating load duplications, and solving conflicts between protection, weapons, load bearing vests and C4I systems to provide reasonable comfort, freedom of movement and load balance.

Portable power is definately the biggest issue for dismounted operations, particulerly since the weight of batteries required for extended missions is becoming a significant element in the combat load carried by the troops. Some of the speakers at the conference provided few guidelines for power systems developers, particularly as related to more compact batteries, fuel cells and smart chargers and alternative power sources which could alleviate some of the logistical load from the warfighter.

The following report of Eurosatory 2008 focus covers the following topics

New hand held miniature Harris 7800S  series communicators can transfer secure voice, data and live video (demonstrated here). Photo: Tamir Eshel, Defense Update
Minie is an integrated display combining I2 and helmet mounted display developed by Thales. Photo: Tamir Eshel, Defense Update Rockwell Collins and Sagem demonstrated the target acquisition system recently delivered to the British Army (Royal Artillery) and Air Force (forward air controllers). The system integrates the JIM FLIR from Sagem and Rosetta joint fires digital targeting application. from Rockwell Collins. Photo: Tamir Eshel, Defense Update




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