Tag Archives: communications

The World According to Shephard: Week 48

This week has demonstrated that the world of military simulation is very much alive and flourishing as the Shephard team has spent the week in Orlando bringing you all the latest news from the industry’s annual meet. You can find all of the coverage from I/ITSEC here.

Armed to the hilt

The US Air Force’s MQ-9 Reapers are to get an ammunition boost with the integration of small diameter bombs onto the platforms. General Atomics was awarded a $17.5 million contract to kit out the UAS with GBU-39Bs.

Meanwhile the H145M will begin live fire tests of Airbus Helicopter’s HForce weapon system loaded with Thales’ FZ275 laser guided rockets. The new live fire tests follow on from successful ballistic development testing of the system.

BREAKING: New Block 5 MQ-9 debuts in combat

‘The secret of war lies in the communications’

Napoleon’s tools of communication may have looked dramatically different from today’s but their importance on the battlefield has not changed. Last week saw Thales demonstrate its new family of Software Defined Radios, Synaps, which they believe represents the future of ‘collaborative combat’ for the modern connected military.

Australia has approved Project Land 200 Tranche 2 as the country pushes to digitalise its armed forces with a new battlefield command system for the army. The system will enable commanders to plan, monitor, direct and review operations in real time.

Thales

Shipbuilders back in business

The second of the Mexican Navy’s updated Oaxaca-class patrol vessels has been commissioned into its fleet. This comes at the end of a year that has seen the navy’s fleet expanded considerably with new patrol vessels as significant investments have been made in the country’s critical infrastructure and shipbuilding capability.

Meanwhile in Indonesia the shipbuilder PT Palindo Marine launched a 110m OPV designed for the country’s coast guard agency. Indonesia has been developing its indigenous shipbuilding expertise and is soon likely to see the navy’s seventh landing platform dock begin construction.

Indonesia_OPV_-_small

Saab Kockums has begun construction on parts of the hull for the Royal Swedish navy’s new A26 class submarine. Saab is also upgrading the RSN’s Gotland-class submarines with a new combat management system and other capabilities which will be carried across to the A26.

How to solve a problem like drones

The European Parliament and European Council reached an informal agreement this week to introduce union-wide rules on the civil use of unmanned systems. The design and manufacture of UVs will have to comply with EU basic requirements on safety, security and data protection.

Also in Europe, Endeavor Robotics has delivered 44 FirstLook UGVs to Germany as the company continues to enjoy a bumper year. The UGV, which can be dropped from 16ft onto hard surfaces without sustaining damage, is used by a wide range of civil, parapublic and military customers around the world and has won a number of large contracts with the US.

FirstLook

 

Arming soldiers for the 21st century

There was a time, not so long ago, when the most advanced bit of equipment an infantry soldier carried into battle was his rifle. Over the years that has slowly changed as soldiers have been equipped with more technology such as personal radios, night vision equipment and GPS devices.

Personal protection, in the form of helmets and body armour, has also seen significant progress, allowing more troops to survive on the battlefield.

Revision TALOS

Revision Military’s futuristic vision of a Special Ops soldier (Photo: Revision)

Today, armies around the world are looking to further boost their dismounted soldiers’ capabilities through ongoing modernisation programmes. Some of these programmes can be quite ambitious. Take for example US Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, a five-year effort to improve protection, mobility and situational awareness for SF operators who are responsible for breaching buildings.

TALOS has inspired some pretty impressive prototype suits that look like they’ve come straight from the wardrobe department of a Hollywood film (in fact, one Hollywood special effects company has actually taken part in developing an exoskeleton for TALOS!).

US Special Forces ‘Iron Man’ suit

US protection specialists Revision Military turned heads at this year’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) when it unveiled its Kinetic Operations Suit (KOS) as a potential option for TALOS.

KOS includes a fully-enclosed helmet with cut-outs for a panoramic four-tube night vision system – similar to the equipment used by US Navy Seals during the Osama Bin Laden raid. Other features of the system include body armour (that can cover up to 60% of the body), a lower-body exoskeleton, a rigid spine that supports the weight of the helmet and armour, a cooling vest and an integrated power pack.

As ever, power remains one of the biggest issues for so-called ‘Iron Man suits’ such as TALOS and soldier modernisation in general. Some estimates suggest that the exoskeleton alone would require three to five kilowatts of power to operate for a typical 10-12 hour patrol, which is not possible with the current generation of man-portable power packs.

Reducing the soldier’s battery burden still remains at the top of the list for future soldier systems.

smart_vest_cropped

The Dutch MoD has recently awarded contracts for its Smart Vest programme (Photo: Elbit Systems)

The increase in electronic equipment carried by soldiers over the last few decades, and particularly since Iraq and Afghanistan, has bumped up the number of spare batteries. The last thing you want on a patrol is for the batteries in your radio, weapon sight or laser designator to stop working. That can cost lives.

That means troop now have to carry in the region of 30lbs (13.6kg) of spare batteries.

One Dutch company, Fokker Aerospace, might have come up with a solution to the age-old soldier power question. It has developed the E-Lighter, a 1.8kg diesel-fuelled power source that can be worn by the soldier on his chest rig or webbing. It can be powered by ordinary diesel or JP-8 jet fuel, and can provide 15W of power and, according to Fokker, a 50% weight reduction compared to standard batteries.

The Dutch Army is in its final phases of testing the E-Lighter and is expected to order several thousand units for its VOSS modernisation programme.

In addition to the E-Lighter, the Dutch MoD is also acquiring ‘Smart Vests’ as part of VOSS, which will significantly enhance infantry soldiers’ capabilities with the acquisition of new C2 capabilities such as a handheld computer for commanders, as well as C4I systems.

Modernisation dogged by technical and budgetary issues

It’s not all plain sailing, however, and many soldier modernisation programmes have been hit by either technical hitches or budgetary problems.

US Army rifleman radio

The US Army has experienced problems with its new generation of radios (Photo: US DoD)

The US military has had issues acquiring a new-generation of software-defined radios with both the Rifleman Radio and Manpack radio struggling to meet requirements during testing. According to the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation’s FY14 annual report, the Rifleman Radio suffered from excessive battery temperatures that could cause first-degree burns and the Manpack radio was heavier and had less range than legacy radios.

Other modernisation efforts have progressed at a snail’s pace, including in Britain where the MoD has only just completed delivery of the first increment of the FIST programme, which mainly includes upgraded weapon sights.

The next increment could include more advanced technology such as helmet-mounted displays to improve C2 for commanders, though no timeline has been set. Modernisation in countries such as Germany (Gladius), Spain (ComFut) and Canada (ISSP) has also lacked any developments for some time.

Despite this lack of progress, there’s still no doubt that an infantryman is much better equipped today than he was at the beginning of the century. British soldiers, for instance, are almost unrecognisable from their pre-Iraq War counterparts with new camouflage, body armour and weapon attachments.

But there is still progress to be made and expect to see more soldier modernisation announcements in the near future.

For more on Soldier Modernisation, see the July/August edition of Digital Battlespace