Military Review

Soldier systems under the blows of the winds of war (Part of 2)

FIST program difficulties

For its part, the UK should have adopted a more consistent approach to the modernization of infantry systems than previously planned. The future of the British Army infantryman was seen in the framework of the FIST program (Future Integrated Soldier Technology - a promising single soldier technology). The start of the FIST can be considered the issuance of the Thales contract in March 2003 of the year to evaluate the effectiveness of the project. For two and a half years, it was intended to carry out assessment and testing, then start production in the middle of 2006 and put the system into service in the middle of 2009. The complete system had to be the size of a brigade with all the necessary weapons and equipment. However, by the end of the initial series of efficiency assessment phases, the big military ranks started talking about changing the procurement process and issuing contracts.

Former director of supply services in the British Defense Ministry in 2006, Brigadier General Bill Moore, said that the number of urgent UOR requirements procured for Iraq and Afghanistan may have been "in line with 75 - 80 percent of the total need for FIST systems." It was a recognition that the clear plans for the FIST were to some extent adjusted by the fighting.

The potential increase in the scale of hostilities in Iraq in 2003, and then in Afghanistan in 2006, led to a significant increase in procurement of systems for infantry. For operation "Telic" in Iraq were purchased new uniforms, body armor / helmets, night vision goggles, thermal imagers and new weapons (light machine guns Minimi 5,56 mm), much in quantities more than 10000 kits. For Afghanistan in 2006, the largest number of kits were purchased for infantry, with a focus on new surveillance and target detection (STA) systems and protection (body armor / helmets). For 2003 - 2006, almost 500 of various sets were received, most of which were intended for dispersed forces.

Although they were purchased in accordance with the special urgent needs process, many of them have now been taken into the “basic” defense procurement program, which means the transition of the FIST from the “simple” supply program to a program attempting to reconcile the many urgent systems that are purchased.

An example of where the UOR and major initiatives were effectively aligned is the FIST Increment 1A STA (surveillance and target aquisition) package, issued to Thales as the main FIST contractor in 2009. This contract worth GBR150 million (USD241 million) was taken into account the experience of the army acquired during the operation of military equipment already acquired through the urgent FIST SISTA (Synergistic Individual STA) program in 2007. In accordance with this contract, starting with the evaluation phase of FIST, 4000 acquired new uncooled Qioptiq thermal imagers along with Elcan SpecterOS 10800 daytime devices, improved hand-held thermal imagers and additional artillery surveillance systems were also supplied.

A lesser success was accompanied by the related program FIST IB (C4I), from which an acceptable integrable solution has not yet emerged, despite lengthy trials and attempts at operation in theaters. As a result, dismounted troops should use the Bowman VHF (PRC354 / 355) heterogeneous patrol radio set and incompatible UOR hand-held radio stations. The latter include personal voice and data encryption stations Selex EZPRR 2,4 GHZ and so-called light commander radio stations (handheld transceivers with Harris RF-7800S Falcon III UHF encryption for platoon and patrol commanders). Their positioning systems for the wounded on the EZPRR base supplement their platoon commanders with rudimentary situational awareness.

A separate area complementing FIST is designed to give meaning to auxiliary systems that a dismounted soldier must cope with, such as clothing, a backpack, and a bulletproof vest. The PECOC (Personal Equipment and Common Operational Clothing) personal outfit program aims to integrate these systems in order to increase their practicality while improving performance in extreme climates. Like the FIST program, PECOC is and will remain a “work in progress” project, as step-by-step supplies of uniforms will be carried out in order to harmonize UOR purchases and introduce new technologies.

While FIST is not dead yet, but its course and pace have slowed. Currently, there are certain problems, especially in connection with the post-Afghan future of the British military contingent, which should be withdrawn from the country by the end of 2014.

Fdcc focus

An important link in the chain of solving such problems is the research program FDCC (Future Dismounted Close Combat - future dismounted close combat). It is led by the UK-based Systems Engineering & Assessment (SEA) and also includes the University of Crenfield, Qioptiq and Roke Manor Research, all working on dismounted soldier problems and technology challenges.

“FDCC 1 has become something of a possible art and an understanding of technical solutions for the next 30 years,” said SEA's FDCC program manager Sid Keith. FDCC 1 worked for three years, in 2007 - 2010. We considered the soldier as an integrated system: physiognomy, weight, logistics, combat stability, survivability, all this. We sought to understand who such a soldier and what he needed to perform a combat mission. And we are also considering the best STA systems and options. ”

“The contract was extended in 2010,” continued Kate. “The FDCC 2 program was launched in the 2011 year, in which we tried to focus on where the defense ministry should direct its limited resources. We looked at areas like soldier systems and mortality. It included issues such as the replacement of the current individual weapons, and then the rest of the weapons in the platoon. "

“FDCC 3 has been going on for the entire 2012 year. Here we worked on the development of the FDCC 2, a special emphasis on what happens when a soldier pulls the trigger, what happens in the barrel, and so on. ” Some of the key questions asked by the FDCC 3 are focused on human factors; learning; on everything that influences decision making; on the effect of various ammunition (from 5,56-mm through 7,62-mm to 40-mm grenades and 60-mm min); the nature of the formation of the fragments; and damage assessment.

“We narrowed the scope of the FDCC 2 / 3 to concentrate on key technology areas,” said Kate. - There are now several technologies that could be useful to implement them as soon as possible. One such technology, explored by SEA and its partners, is centered around a system that could train soldiers, but which could also be applied to weapons. Using sensors in service to measure wind and a series of image processing algorithms connected to sights, soldiers could receive a direction signal and target identification information, duplicated by visual signals about whether the target is at a distance of defeat or not.

“Does signaling really increase lethality?” We used experimental systems — all commercial equipment and such elements as a tracking device on a helmet, like from the Avatar movie — with real soldiers personally observing their work. I emphasize that the signal sighting system is not a substitute for real learning and is not a substitute for thinking. She works much better with well-trained soldiers, not recruits. ”

Soldier systems under the blows of the winds of war (Part of 2)
Experiments are continuing on the FDCC program to improve the mortality of the soldier system. In the photo, a commercial target tracking system developed by SEA as a possible complement to the SA5,56 A80 2-mm rifle

Urgent UOR systems purchased for Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for 75 - 80 percent of the requirements for the planned FIST system, with the main exception being the C4I component. In the photo, British marines carry out their weapons on an improvised proving ground in Afghanistan in 2007. An infantryman in the foreground holds a modified SA80 A2 SISTA rifle with a Picatinny guide, front end / bipod and ACOG / CQB sight. The soldier behind him holds a modified weapon with a grenade launcher, albeit with an unrevealed outdated frame sight. Communications equipment remains at the level of voice transmission provided by the Selex PRR, which entered service about 10 years ago.

“We believe that personnel are better at detecting targets, identifying them and pointing at them. You can use less ammunition, that is, a smaller load for carrying. This reduces the load, so you are less tired. "

As Kate explained, the system can also help in assessing combat damage. “Really, I need to do something more about the goal? Indeed, what should I do against the enemy? If I shoot at a certain type of enemy target, when should I stop? How do I know that? ”

Also, as part of the research on weight reduction with the aim of increasing combat effectiveness, the FDCC 3 studied weapon modification and various types of ammunition. “You may consider such a question as the use of stellit (cobalt-chromoferm alloy) platings for gun barrels,” explained Amy Helliker, a senior teacher at Cranfield University. “We did a similar thing on the trunk of the universal machine gun and it already serves 60000 shots, usually you have to change the barrel after 4800 shots. Therefore, you save on the fact that it is not necessary to carry spare barrels. It is not cheap, but you also get better thermal performance, and therefore greater accuracy. ”

She further continued: “We also considered alternative materials for the manufacture of cartridge belts for a machine gun. Plastic tape from the Slovenian company Arex is used by the French army for training, but with a slight change in the design we tested it in all states and inserted it into the machine gun for firing. There were no delays due to plastic tape, although there were some stops due to dirt, but with metal tape there were even more stops. With an average ammunition shooter in 400 cartridges, you save a lot with plastic tape around 1 kg. "

Under the FDCC program, a question was studied that was considered by the American army in the middle of the end of the 80. Namely, various types of rifle ammunition, such as duplex cartridges (two bullets in one sleeve), swept bullets and the like. “Some technologies have changed,” Helliker said, recognizing that research under the FDCC is being conducted along an already trodden path. - But other technologies have seen a big advance. Duplex cartridges have declined in quality, while arrow-shaped bullets form a very small hole in the target, which will not allow to get the desired result. ” [Artifact bullets can also roll over in human tissues.]

According to Helliker, the work of the University in Cranfield on the calibers and types of ammunition yielded some interesting results: “A number of new calibers may contradict the Hague Convention. And while it is not necessary to consider an intermediate caliber - there is not yet any data that would confirm the profitability and combat effectiveness of such a path. For now, we see that in a platoon you need a mixture of calibers. ”

The FDCC is not in itself a procurement program, but it helps inform the British consumer about the state of affairs and what could be bought right now, and what it would make sense to spend resources in the coming years.

One research project that has every chance of moving very quickly from the “what if” stage to something that is more visible to the British contingent in Afghanistan is an 40-mm grenade with a Doppler radio sniper based on the works of Fraser Nash. “In order to increase the efficiency on the final part of the trajectory due to the remote blasting at a low cost, we studied the Doppler fuze. It uses a sensor similar to the one that can be found at the garage door to determine the optimal distance of removal, and the Defense Ministry is very interested in them. "

The mass issue caused some frustration among the various research groups participating in the FDCC. It is well known that the load on the infantryman is already far beyond the limits of reasonable and that excessive weight, which the dismounted personnel transfers, has many consequences, stress, fatigue and worsening of decision-making and all this reduces the accuracy of the fire. But ... "every time we tell the soldiers that we saved 1 kg here and 1 kg there, the reaction is almost the same," Helliker explained. “Fine, I can get more ammunition!”

Infinite state

A decade ago, a Pentagon columnist pondered on digitization progress (here the C4I component of soldier systems is potentially an important component) and concluded that "there will be no end state: you cannot stop Moore's law, new ideas, or the impact of new operations."

Especially with the latter in mind, some of the leaders of the soldiers' programs will no doubt feel comfortable with the current emphasis on "regulated" and "mixed hostilities." New operations are a speculative concept of a future conflict, and the military can effectively establish its own rules. In particular, this will allow them to “concretize” the approximate deadlines for completing the execution of their “soldier as a system” programs without fear of immediate contradiction, at least until the first shot is fired in the next conflict.

Materials used:
Jane's International Defense Review
Articles from this series:
Soldier systems under the blows of the winds of war (Part of 1)
Soldier systems under the blows of the winds of war (Part of 2)
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  1. xenod55
    xenod55 14 May 2014 13: 56
    The machine gun barrel can and can withstand 60000 shots, but the machine gunner just can’t stand it, they just won’t give it. And he needs 10 tons of ammunition. In this case, I propose to place a special plate on the butt, where to bring the previous owners and the cause of their death.
    1. Recon
      Recon 14 May 2014 16: 16
      Speaking of bk machine gunner. Our drag 1100. This is tin, and we unload them as we can. Maybe there are supermen who carry even more, but I have not met such yet.
  2. k_ply
    k_ply 14 May 2014 16: 03
    What is the essence of irony? High mortality among machine gunners? The crews and the landing of armored vehicles in modern conflicts suffer greater losses than dismounted rifle units. We are talking about reducing the mass of portable equipment, interchangeable RP barrels (about 3 kg - 7,62 mm) and, especially, heavy machine guns. For example, at one time good results were achieved during testing of the AEK-999, the barrel resource reached 42 thousand prot., With the required one - at least 30 thousand, by manufacturing and chrome-plating the barrel channel using aircraft gun technology.
    1. Recon
      Recon 14 May 2014 16: 10
      The irony is that the machine gunner is the first target for the enemy. Especially for a sniper. Whatever his good and disguised position is, he immediately gives it out with a machine gun fire, and golden olives, hattabs, VOGs, grenade launchers and other pleasant gifts fly there.
      Z. we are talking about armed clashes in the North Caucasus, I cannot speak for other "modern conflicts".
  3. k_ply
    k_ply 14 May 2014 16: 29
    Those are elementary things. The machine gunner works as part of a rifle unit (squad), i.e. + "golden olives, VOGs, grenade launchers and other nice gifts" and sometimes with a sniper (s) (the infantry is essentially a "bait" you cannot escape this), the significance of its firepower requires the machine gunner to be mobile and take care of his comrades in battle ... So the essence of irony is not clear, new battle tactics were born, someone against 7,62-mm single / RP machine guns?
  4. k_ply
    k_ply 14 May 2014 16: 49
    I remind you that PK / PKM (box fighters are carried by the squad, incl. 2nd No.) only as part of the rifle squad can ceaselessly suppress single enemy sniper fire (in the absence of AGS-17, for example).
    1. Recon
      Recon 15 May 2014 15: 56
      Are you talking about combined arms combat now? Bts rifle squad is not about fussing in the mountainous and wooded area. Everything is completely wrong there.
  5. Alex1977RUS
    Alex1977RUS 20 November 2015 18: 42
    ... The issue of mass caused some degree of disappointment among the various research groups participating in the FDCC. But ... "every time we tell the soldiers that we saved 1 kg here and 1 kg there, the reaction is always almost the same," Helliker explained. “Fine, I can take more ammunition!” ...
    And what is surprising?
    The fact that the British soldiers who fought again discovered the old infantry truth, that there are few or few rounds of ammunition, but you can’t rest on yourself anymore?
    That's the discovery ... Humanities, what else can you say ...