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Norwegian flagNORMANS pursues core functionality

NORMANS – Norwegian Modular Arctic Network Soldier - is moving toward company level trials within a mechanised battalion in 2009. Rune Lausund, NORMANS Programme Manager at the FFI (Norwegian Defence Research Establishment), discusses the concepts underwriting Norway’s approach to soldier modernisation

Caption: Early trials of NORMANS featured assessments of a systems approach whose results suggested an incremental approach was the way forward. © FFI
Early trials of NORMANS featured assessments of a systems approach whose results suggested an incremental approach was the way forward. © FFI

“NORMANS is a concept of elements and those elements will only be procured when they are mature”, explained Rune Lausund, NORMANS Programme Manager at the FFI. “It is also important to understand that NORMANS actually comprises several different activities; it’s a concept, a Research and Development initiative and an incremental procurement programme. We are not going to procure NORMANS as one complete programme or system. It is a system of systems. We have a system view which the FLO procures in an evolutionary manner, when that technology is ready.”

C4I

The FFI’s work on the NORMANS programme has been closely associated with C4I developments since its inception in the late 1990s. Lausund explained, “I see NORMANS from a research perspective, where we look at all aspects of an integrated soldier system with all the aspects being linked. C4I is a major part of that whole.” That is not to say that wearable computing and software obscures every other SMP building block in terms of priorities. Lausund continued, “We integrate a range of materiel, so it is impossible to say what starts NORMANS off.”

The FFI delivered a recommendation to the Army project team undertaking NORMANS in 2005, outlining a C4I strategy in which capability would be procured incrementally. The first module in the multi-step approach comprised hearing protection and an intra-squad radio. Equipment matched against this requirement is now being procured via the Norwegian Personal Field Radio programme which selected the Harris RF Communications RF7800 Secure Personal Radio, matched with Nacre’s QuietPro headset.

The next procurement in the project in that area has been informally dubbed ‘Digitisation Stage 1’. Lausund said, “This includes the first part of the overall C4I capability, largely comprising the functionality we have been trialling in recent years. The first pre-procurement project is equipping a company unit that we will integrate with Norway’s vehicle Battle Management System programme. We will then undertake verification trials before we start full procurement of a small display type system on the individual soldier and more detailed mapping in a PDA type system for commanders and specialists.”

A competition is now underway between Norwegian companies to supply this C4I system, based on specifications from the FFI’s multi-year trials, which is due to be competed early next year. This will be used in the company trials looking at every aspect of NORMANS functionality planned for 2009 and held at Rodsmoen Live Firing and Training Area, a fully instrumented environment covering 39 square kilometres adjacent to the Norwegian Army’s major base at Rena. Lausund said, “The way we look at this is that further decisions on NORMANS will be based on the report from those verification trials.”

Lausund explained that that the next step of the procurement in terms of C4I will be to go to larger functionality based on validation of further User Requirements. “We will not recommend procurement of functionality that does not increase the effectiveness of Army units. In our first step however, requirements focusing on main functions like navigation, Blue Force Tracking, and enemy positioning are prioritised.”

The definition of functionality is key to the C4I route NORMANS takes. Major Terje Noren, Co-ordinator Soldier and Base systems at the Norway’s Defence Systems Management Division explained, “We start with the core functionality and we add on functionality as it technically matures and is verified as having an operational need and use.”

Thinking carefully about Core Functionality is one of the approaches to dealing with the extreme cold of the Arctic, explicitly stated in the very name of NORMANS. Major Noren said, “Obviously we have requirements that are linked to the Arctic requirement. It is not quite true that we are developing a much more expensive system because of that requirement. The key here is that we focus on core functionality that can be used in all environments. It is also important for us to strongly emphasis the importance of mobility and sustainability in the Arctic climate”.

Operating in the Arctic circle is a permanent fixture of Norway’s defence posture. NORMANS is designed to deliver sustained capability in this environment and is providing lessons learned to allies. © US DoD

Operating in the Arctic circle is a permanent fixture of Norway’s defence posture.
NORMANS is designed to deliver sustained capability in this environment and is
providing lessons learned to allies. © US DoD

The Arctic requirement shapes NORMANS in different ways. FFI’s NORMANS C4I manager Lars Erik Olsen explained, “From a purely technical point of view, an extreme cold environment means displays are slower, cabling is more brittle and of course batteries don’t perform as well. Those things can be helped with more money; displays can be heated and can buy more expensive better insulated cabling.”

He emphasises the point that adapting the systems for Arctic operation is a holistic endeavour applying to all aspects of the system. “[Ultimately], you have to make it usable by a fully clothed soldier via the user interface, the core functionality needs to be usable via that interface.” Writing on a small screen with a stylus in an unprotected hand simply isn’t suitable for a soldier in a sub-zero blizzard but operating simple functions reliably while wearing gloves is far more appropriate.

NORMANS has close insight into C4I interoperability requirements at NATO level, with Lausund chairing the Land Capability Group 1’s (LCG/1) C4I group until November last year. He commented, “In November we delivered a number of draft STANAGs to the LCG/1 plenary session. There are still further annexes that are under development and were not handed over at that time. There is also ongoing work in those areas linked to the data model and exchange mechanism. A NATO Industrial Advisory Group effort has been formed to work more closely to look at potential candidates for exchange mechanisms undertake simulations to assess them.”

FORCE PROTECTION

Norwegian forces operating in Afghanistan are providing a continuous feed into the FFI’s work on NORMANS. In 2004 a new modular body armour systems was developed by Norwegian firm NFM and quickly deployed which the NORMANS team reported, caused some envy amongst foreign forces working with the Norwegians who were using bulkier equipment. In 2007 following feedback further refinements were made, resulting in a 2Kg drop in weight, while retaining at least as good protection.

In earlier work undertaken by the FFI in the area of CBRN protection the approach has been to use the Use the combat suit as the first protective layer built using preferably ‘Goretex’ like fabric with a semi-permeable membrane and an adsorptive material in the second protective layer which an insulation layer but which also reduces the heat load.

 
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