Written by Lieutenant Colonel S. Rybakov, Major V. Pugovkin; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review 2020 #10, translated by Mona Lita exclusively for SouthFront
At present, the leading countries of the Alliance are actively implementing programs to create promising equipment for military personnel. They combine research carried out in the interests of increasing the productivity and effectiveness of the actions of subunits and individual military personnel on the basis of modern and developed weapons and compact radio-electronic services (RES).
As part of the ongoing research and development, radio-electronic equipment that is being developed is in the process of being integrated into the equipment of military personnel. A comprehensive analysis of the programs shows that the introduction of RES, in conjunction with automation equipment, into the structure of a soldier’s equipment will significantly increase not only the combat potential of a particular infantryman on the battlefield performing combat missions, but also the collective combat capabilities of the entire tactical unit as a whole.
Currently, ongoing scientific research in foreign countries is being carried out in the direction of integrating the infantryman’s electronic equipment into a single information and communication space (SICS). It is expected that work on these programs will be completed no later than 2030. Their feature is the gradual build-up of the capabilities of electronic systems, which will make up at least 80% of the entire set of equipment for the soldier of the future.
The leading NATO countries are actively funding the following national programs for the development of individual infantry combat systems (ICS): NettWarrior (USA), Fist (Great Britain), Felin (France), IdZet (IdZ, Germany), and also Soldate Futuro (Italy).
The main RES, which is part of the American ICS “Net Warrior”, is a portable set of automation tools with specialized software, interfaced with a radio station according to the IEEE 802.11n Wi-Fi standard (up to 600 Mbps in the 2.4 -5 GHz), communication and navigation, coupled with a helmet-mounted display. This electronic equipment will allow a soldier to automatically transmit video surveillance data of the battlefield, which is collected by digital video recording devices operating in various frequency ranges and attached to any small arms, as well as transmit (receive) information about the operational situation in a time scale close to real time. In addition, it provides for the possibility of operational targeting of weapons of fire from reconnaissance and strike unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – from the tactical type RQ-7A “Shadow” to the strategic MQ-9A “Reaper”, MQ-1C “Gray Eagle”.
The helmet is equipped with a monocular optical system and a voice headset, which allow a soldier to interact in a protected information and telecommunications network as part of a unit during combat operations. To ensure stable communication, various combat platforms are planned to be used as nodes for relaying signals over wireless communication lines.
It is assumed that in order to increase the efficiency of reconnaissance of tactical subunits, the Skylark reconnaissance UAV will enter service, the main tasks of which are the search, detection of the location of radio emission sources, and observation of the technical means of reconnaissance of a potential enemy. At the same time, reconnaissance data from such a device can be obtained not only by the subunit commander, but also by his subordinate personnel using a portable remote control, which is part of the equipment of each serviceman.
The UAV control system includes four main components:
- compact personal computer (PC)
- the tablet
- Remote Control
- active Skylark Rambo sensor.
In order to ensure an even distribution of the mass of the technical elements of the system and the comfortable movement of a serviceman while dismounting in open areas and in urban conditions, the electronic equipment is placed on the unloading of the infantryman in a strictly defined sequence.
In addition, currently under the STC program (STC – Special Operations Forces Tactical Communications), the equipment is being furnished with secure communications for the country’s special operations units. Within its framework, tactical portable and transportable radio sets (RS) are being developed, which will make it possible to perform tasks in difficult conditions of a radio-electronic situation and at a considerable distance from the contact line of troops. RSs created under this program are designed to provide stable radio communications for both individual servicemen and subunits in the absence or strong interference with the signals of the Navstar space radio navigation system (RNS).
Further expansion of the use of Manet’s distributed wireless telecommunication networks will help reduce the dependence of tactical units on satellite communications.
In addition, the standard set of RSs is planned to be supplemented with a smartphone and a tablet, which will automatically connect to these networks with the ability to exchange information in various formats, including video files.
Under the STC program, Harris received a five-year contract for $ 390 million for the development and supply of the RF-335M-STC NN and AN / PRC-159 (V) 1 portable radios of the Falcon-3 family. Designed as the main radio stations of the ICS, they will be produced in two versions: wearable RF-335M-STC HH and network wearable multiband AN / PRC-159 (V) 1, which allows providing full-duplex multichannel communication. There is a plan to equip them with Navstar navigation modules with guaranteed protection against deliberate interference.
The wearable RF-335M-STC HH will provide operation in any climatic conditions in accordance with the requirements for lightweight, portable, broadband, multifunctional tactical radios. It is also capable of providing steady communications with previous generation stations.
Depending on the operating conditions and the tasks set by the command, PC RF-335M-STC HH provides remote updating of the main software.
Communication protocols are downloaded and updated to the radio station automatically. Thanks to this, they can operate in several types of radio networks: adaptive broadband C-band, mobile time division multiple access C-band, tactical control link time division multiple access C-band, infantryman radio network, and broadband HF frequency range. Currently, the developed new protocols used in these telecommunication networks are undergoing certification and commissioning processes in the USA.
The AN / PRC-159 (V) l network wearable multi-band radio provides simultaneous voice, high-speed data and situational awareness.
The ICS UK “Fist” project is the most expensive and long-term project among all European projects. The initial design phase of such a complex began in 1994, and the full completion of the work was planned by 2022. The cost of one “Fist” with all additional superstructures is about 84 thousand euros, which is approximately 3 times more than other European analogues.
It provides for the equipping of 30-35 thousand servicemen of the British Armed Forces. The equipment is developed by the companies “Wales” and “Kinetic”. The ICS optimizes the conduct of combat, reduces the physical and psychological stress on the soldier, and significantly reduces the level of stress during long-term combat operations. “Fist” includes: various electronic systems and devices (laser rangefinder, electro-optical converters, target designator); uniform; protective helmet equipped with built-in information systems; extended weapon system and body armor.
The key part of the complex is the communication subsystem, which provides closed communication within the subdivision. In the event of its loss with a serviceman, backup communication channels are automatically turned on and installed. The transmission of data and voice commands is carried out directly from the control center to the serviceman. The ICS is equipped with the Navstar RNS module.
The helmet displays a map of the area for situational awareness. In addition, the British company “Kinetic” is developing technologies to increase the contrast and provide the possibility of thermal (infrared, IR) images for target acquisition.
Currently, the existing detection systems do not allow to accurately determine the coordinates of targets for weapons of fire, and sensors operating in the mid-IR range provide sufficient range and accuracy of detection, but have large weight and dimensions and are installed on vehicles.
The Oinetic company is developing uncooled devices operating in the short-wave infrared range with low energy consumption and minimal susceptibility to the environment (insects, foliage, solar reflection, etc.). It is planned that these devices will be relatively compact, have low weight, low cost in production and maintenance.
Specialists of BAE Systems are developing a system that, using antennas located on clothing, can transmit and receive images from a video camera mounted on a helmet in the infrared and other ranges, and will also provide reliable communication between servicemen within the unit. In this case, viewing is carried out on a small tablet computer with a touchscreen display attached to the wrist. With the help of the installed specialized software, personnel will be able to quickly receive and transmit data about a situation to the control point (CP), determine and report their location.
A feature of the system is the ability to classify objects displayed on the screen, to identify critical ones among them. Antennas attached to items of equipment work regardless of the position, actions of the serviceman, as well as the environment. They began to be actively used because conventional pin antennas or short antennas connected to a radio station cannot provide a stable signal. The approximate cost of one set of “Fist” will be at least 70 thousand US dollars.
Additionally, it is planned to equip the ICS with wearable PC N-4855 PRR (Personal Role Radio) and SSR (Soldier System Radio). The first, developed by the specialists of Marconi Selex Communication, provides the ability to use the technology of wireless local area networks “WLAN” (WLAN – Wireless Local Area Network). Its output power is 50 mW in the 2.4 GHz band. In the UK, this PC is UK / PRC-343.
Radio stations of the SSR family have a number of advantages over the PC series PRR, which makes them a more promising option for equipping ICP. They can support up to 32 active correspondents in full duplex mode.
The equipment of the German Armed Forces is being developed under the IdZet program. The combat complex will include the following systems: with laser guidance, mounted on a weapon; night vision; PC-based control and communication, built into the unloading vest; subsystems of RCB – and ballistic protection.
The most important subsystem is the Navikom S41 navigation-connected complex, created by the European company Wales. It allows you to determine the location of a soldier and his unit, as well as minefields (which were determined in advance by other sensors), targets, troops (forces) of allies and a potential enemy. The complex provides Communications Security and information exchange between military personnel and various levels of command in a time scale close to real.
The central element of control and interaction in the system is a small-sized tablet computer with a touch screen of about 25 cm and it’s ability to update cartographic and other information. Because of that and using the built-in Navstar RNS module, servicemen can determine their location and plot any route. The PC sends to the PU information about the current location of the serviceman and the unit, intelligence data, photo and video materials, and other operational information.
The infantryman’s armament includes small arms, on which the technical elements of the RES are installed, coupled with the control panel (three rubberized buttons) and allowing wireless control of the radio station and the laser rangefinder. In addition, the ICS is planned to be equipped with digital radio stations of the type MR300 manufactured by Rode and Schwartz with a range of up to 10 km.
The ICS, developed in France under the Féline program, is the most advanced. R&D work on its creation is carried out by specialists from the Nekter and Sazhem companies, as well as the French branch of Thales. In total, 25 enterprises are engaged in the production of complex equipment. The program is being implemented in three main stages – until 2008, 2015 and 2025.
The radio electronic means that are part of the ICS provide location determination, exchange, processing and display of tactical data, display of combat control signals on the displays of a helmet-mounted optoelectronic system and a small-sized PC, as well as transmission of information in various formats, including high-resolution video.
The electronic equipment of such a combat complex includes:
- multifunctional helmet with a removable optical-electronic system;
- small-sized PC and power supply and video data management device;
- thermal imaging devices, video camera and night vision device;
- portable radio station;
- receiver RNS “Navstar” and electronic magnetic compass.
Due to the widespread use of the block-modular principle of production of the main elements, the set of RES can be changed depending on the tasks to be solved in the field without the involvement of specialized forces and devices. For example, the subunit commander’s ICS provides for equipping with a second portable radio station operating in the higher-level control network, as well as with a binocular laser rangefinder-target designator with an integrated navigation module of the Navstar RNS.
The multifunctional helmet with a removable optoelectronic system is equipped with a compact wide-angle digital video camera and a voice headset with an osteomicrophone. The latter is structurally integrated with the headsets and is located on the inside of the helmet. The advantage of such a microphone is that a soldier can use personal protective equipment (gas mask) without reducing the quality of communication. When working, it fits snugly against the head and provides sound transmission through the bones of the skull. The infantryman’s kit may also include combination goggles to protect the visual organs from the effects of laser radiation.
The camcorder allows you to receive images both during the day and at night. At the same time, using it in conditions of insufficient illumination, a soldier can see an object comparable in size to a human at a distance of 150 m and recognize it at a distance of up to 70 m.
The main elements of the Felin ICS also include the Jim LR and Jim MR thermal imaging devices.
Jim MR “is a multifunctional optoelectronic observation device based on an IR camera with a cooled matrix of sensitive elements, which provides detection, recognition and determination of the coordinates of targets on the battlefield at any time of the day, in difficult climatic conditions, as well as when the enemy uses means of masking the visible range of the optical spectrum.
The device is equipped with a built-in color video camera, a Navstar RNS module, an electronic compass, and a laser rangefinder-target designator. In addition, it has a data transmission interface with ports of the RS-422 and CCIR standard, which makes it possible to transmit video and initial target designation data over a radio channel or cable communication lines to other units. Additionally, the product can be equipped with a Bluetooth wireless data transfer port and an RS-170 standard port.
Thermal imaging device “Jim-MR” is a multifunctional optoelectronic observation device based on an IR camera with a non-cooled matrix of sensitive elements. The target detection range (tank / man) is 4 km and 2.5 km, respectively. The weight of the device does not exceed 2.8 kg. The working wavelength range is 8-12 microns.
The helmet-mounted display “OVD” (with black and white image) with a resolution of 800×600 pixels is made on the basis of organic light-emitting diodes. The device is equipped with an interface with an IEEE 1394 standard port for connection to an optical-electronic sight, which allows remote observation from closed positions.
Night vision device “Jif” is designed for observation in the dark. The package includes built-in IR illumination and a display based on organic light-emitting diodes with a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels for displaying video information from other observation and aiming devices.
The portable personal computer of the commander of the Sit Com-de unit, equipped with geolocation means, is designed to perform the following functions:
- displaying the location of friendly troops (forces) and enemy forces on an electronic map of the area based on data received from aerospace reconnaissance assets;
- planning routes of movement;
- determination of electromagnetic availability zones and line-of-sight range to tactical level radio emission sources;
- obtaining data on the radio-electronic situation, physical and geographical conditions of the area and other operational information.
To connect external devices “Sit Comde” has ports: serial RS-232, USB 2.0, “Internet”, “Bluetooth” and IEEE 1394. The computer is compatible with the automated control systems “Sir” of the brigade – regiment link and company link “Sit “ground forces of France.
The TRC-3600/3700 family PC is a communication system that includes a frequency band management subsystem and an information closure subsystem that provides the user with the functions of e-mail, file transfer, fax, etc.
The HF PC of the TRC-3600/3700 series can be integrated into various RES configurations, such as the TRC-3610/3710 portable radio station, the PC transportable on the TRC-3630/3730 transport base with a 400 W power, as well as with the PR4G series stations.
For communication with the higher control bodies, tactical multifunctional anti-interference digital VHF radio stations of the PR4G series (TRC9100, 9210, 9310, 9600) of the French company “Vales” are used. They operate in the VHF band (30-88 MHz) and provide anti-interference transmission of classified voice messages and data in one channel at speeds up to 64 kbit / s, using IP-protocols in ground-ground and ground-air-earth radio networks.
The equipment of the PR4G series includes: transceivers of various designs (portable, wearable, transportable, installed on a transport base), peripheral equipment, as well as a device complex for generating and transmitting programs for controlling the operation of radio stations in radio networks.
Communication networks deployed on the basis of PR4G radio stations have high noise immunity from electronic suppression equipment, a low level of opening by technical means of radio and electronic intelligence. They ensure the exchange of data by way of automated military control systems, compatibility with PCs of other countries and radio stations of the old fleet operating in the transmission mode at fixed frequencies, and also have new capabilities (transmission of combat control signals, data on the current operational situation, selective and circular calling.
The Italian program for the creation of equipment for the infantryman “Soldate Futuro” is part of the global rearmament system “Forza Nek”, according to which the country’s armed forces must completely switch to new military standards by 2025.
The complex of equipment for a soldier in Italy includes: electronic equipment; elements of ballistic and NBC protection.
The main element of the fighter’s equipment will be the electronic equipment, consisting of a personal multifunctional programmable radio station, a tablet PC and a video camera.
Personal PC is designed for secure transmission of digitized voice information and data, including video. The unique types of signals used in the work of personal radio stations, and the digital wireless network make it possible to provide reliable communication in conditions when traditional main (trunk) and trunking networks are absent or are out of the access zone.
Such a network is designed to provide reliable communications even in difficult urban environments and in open areas. Duplex, simplex, and multi-group conferencing modes will allow you to conduct a simultaneous session on the network with several correspondents, ensuring the efficiency of operational work.
Thus, the further growth of programs for the development and implementation of new electronic distribution systems, built into the equipment of the infantryman of the future leading NATO countries, will significantly increase the combat capabilities of tactical units on the battlefield, and the higher command will reduce the time for making a decision. In addition, the new generation equipment being developed can significantly reduce combat losses among personnel.
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