‘Boar’s Head’ Exercise with the British Army: FELIN makes European début
|A captain’s SitComDé terminal.
Photo: © Sagem.
Is it possible for soldiers to shoot better and more accurately, even further and in total darkness, without getting lost and while staying connected with fellow troops at all times? An operational and technical revolution, FELIN has been designed as a system that fulfils these crucial needs within an infantry force. This capability has been demonstrated during a combined training conducted by the British Army with 5 Scots and a company of the 8th RPIMA, a Marine Infantry Paratrooper Regiment of the French Army, now fully equipped with FELIN
Developed and produced by Sagem (part of the Safran group), FELIN is a high-tech integrated equipment suite for soldier modernisation programmes and has been chosen by the French army for all infantry units. FELIN is also deployed in sister units that are part of the tactical battle group: cavalry, engineers and artillery. France has ordered 22,588 FELIN systems, now being shipped and with several French army regiments already being equipped. A soldier integrated system, FELIN has made France the European leader in infantry modernisation programmes. The system saw its first foreign deployment last December in Afghanistan, with the La Fayette Task Force, where it has quickly proven its effectiveness in a critical theatre that harbours particularly insidious threats.
British & French cooperation in training
The capabilities of FELIN were recently put to the test in Europe for at the first time,during 13th-17th of February at the huge Otterburn military base in northern England, near the Scottish border. For a full week, this vast range, swept alternately by the winds from the Atlantic and the North Sea, welcomed a joint French-British infantry exercise dubbed “Boar’s Head”. A unique feature of this exercise was that the French army dispatched a company from the 8th Marine Infantry Paratrooper Regiment (RPIMA), based in Castres, that was fully outfitted with FELIN systems, having taken delivery of their complete consignment in November 2011. Rounding out the tactical familiarisation phase for FELIN, in joint maneuvers with elements of the 5th Battalion, Royal Scottish Regiment based at Canterbury, the 140 Marines from the 8th Regiment were able to use all the components of the FELIN system during the exercise. They were also operating under particularly realistic conditions because the Otterburn base combines operations in the open field with target shooting using live ammunition, making it a venue unique in Europe. In exchange, the British troops will make use of a training course in Sissonne at the CENZUB (Centre d’ENtrainement au combat en Zone UrBaine) training range in eastern France, a dedicated site designed to prepare battle groups for urban warfare. Then, in April, the 8th RPIMA will visit CENZUB for two weeks of urban combat training, with its FELIN systems as standard equipment.
For the 1st company in the 8th Regiment, the programme began with individual shooting, working in two-man teams, then in combat platoons and sections, and closing out with exercises representing an entire company. The different exercise themes were inspired by feedback from current operations, and included offensive reconnaissance, assault and defensive actions, both day and night. At the company level, the 140 FELIN-equipped solders were backed by a fire support group from the British army, including three Land Rover Type 110 WMIK vehicles. The Land Rover WMIKs are heavily armed, with 12.7mm machine guns, grenade launchers and Javelin or Milan missiles.
|A FELIN-equipped soldier from the 8th RPIMA with a soldier from 5 Scots.
Photo: © Ph Wodka-Gallien – Sagem.
C2, at the heart of FELIN maneuvers
“During combat, we have a tremendous C2 tool enabling us to follow the tactical situation in real time,” says a French platoon leader. “That’s a direct result of the soldier’s individual radio, the RIF, and the Sitcomde tactical tablet – the Battle Management System of FELIN - for dismounted warfighters. Thanks to our new optronic aiming sight, after having detected, a target can be engaged at a range of 800 meters. These are the keys services to the system’s value added. ” The Battle Management System (BMS) of FELIN, the BMS Sitcomde system comprises a computer and software, a touch pad, a man-machine interface to receive and transmit tactical messages. It allows quick consultation of maps at different scales, real-time geolocation monitoring of different combat groups and consultation of local tactical situations. In particular, this C2 system offers the Blue Force Tracking function from the individual GPS units integrated in all FELIN outfits, to avoid friendly fire. The Sitcomde can also transmit an infrared image acquired by a FELIN-equipped solider, either from his aiming sight or from his JIM infrared binoculars. A captain in charge of the 1st company of the 8th Regiment explained, “The C2 notably provides Blue Force Tracking from the individual GPS unit integrated in all FELIN systems. Based on the BMS Sitcomde, the FELIN’s C2 gives us real time savings in transmitting intelligence, and in the final analysis, more fluid maneuvers. With FELIN, we also have an advantage in terms of engaging and neutralising our adversary, including with fixed bayonets.” His positive evaluation is shared by his colleagues in the 1st Infantry Regiment, the first unit to be equipped with FELIN, now deployed in Afghanistan.
JIM LR multifunction binoculars, another operational revolution
Also in the spotlight at Otterburn was the introduction of Sagem’s brand-new JIM LR (Long Range) portable multifunction infrared binoculars. They are now deployed by company leaders, reconnaissance and anti-tank support platoons – notably from the light armored VBL Milan - and sharpshooter teams. The combat section leader has a medium-range version, the JIM MR. It differs from the JIM LR in having a non-cooled sensor, while the GPS function is provided directly by the soldier’s individual radio or RIF. The JIM LR binoculars can be used to modernise infantry, special forces, protection and forward observer units. JIM LR can also be used remotely through a radio network and tactical terminal, as part of a network of surveillance sensors. A total of 5,000 JIM LR are already in service or on order, including France, with the remainder used for various export markets, including NATO countries, and most recently the British Army. Sagem’s JIM is a modular family of imagers, with optional services and functions, depending on operational requirements. The standard version integrates high performance imaging software while the latest version of JIM LR also features a fusion function for IR and daytime images, to see through camouflage. Now an integral part of the digital battlefield thanks to standard interfaces, JIM binoculars provide all the necessary ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) functionality for the engagement of targets and the primary evaluation of tactical situations.
Seven French Army Regiments are now equipped with FELIN systems, including a battalion from the Foreign Legion. With Sagem as prime contractor, this programme is continuing at a delivery rate of four Regiments per year. FELIN is currently the only integrated warfighter system in volume production in Europe and is also combat proven in some of the most demanding theatres of operation.