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French flagFELIN’s big numbers

Adam Baddeley looks at France’s soldier modernisation programme - as orders to equipping five infantry regiments in 2009 are made

In October as part of the Phoenix exercise, FELIN operated with UGVs in a number of urban vignettes to validate capability and assess the utility of new technology. © Sagem
In October as part of the Phoenix exercise, FELIN operated with UGVs in a number of urban vignettes to validate capability and assess the utility of new technology. © Sagem

The Délégation Générale pour l’Armement‘s (DGA) April €143m award to Sagem Défense Sécurité for 5,045 FELIN (Fantassin à Equipement et Liaison Intégrées) ensembles is self evidently significant. Representing Europe’s biggest single buy of equipment for a Soldier Modernisation Programme (SMP) it will equip five infantry regiments from mid-2009 to the end of 2010 and follows the a March 2006 order for 1,089 systems. FELIN is currently in its operational evaluation phase, with 358 pre-production systems to be delivered by early June.

Significant though it is, these orders represent only a small minority of the systems required, matched against the final needs of the Army; put at 22588 individual systems for 20 infantry regiments with a further roughly 9000 individual systems for other personnel such armoured units. Other countries are also beginning to consider modules from FELIN for their own SMP efforts. In November 2007 Sagem, in partnership with EADS, was chosen to participate in the Switzerland’s Integriertes Modulares Einsatzsystem Schweizer Soldat) programme.


Trials with the first five FELIN Prototypes took place from December 2006 to March 2007, which were followed by a four month trial with 15 further prototypes and the commencement of industrial qualification. A two phase technical-operational evaluation kicked off in late Autumn 2007 with 30 prototypes and instructor training. These covered a range of issues including the evaluation of materials, equipment and modules. An actual parachute jump with FELIN equipment took place at this time, notable for being the first time a jump had taken place with ballistic protection. Troops with FELIN were also sent over a 500m course, identical to that of the US Army Research Laboratory in Maryland, which comprised 20 obstacles and a ‘house’ to enable the assessment of dynamic behaviour with different mixes of equipment.

In 2008, further deliveries were made to support Operational Trials over an eleven month period including assessment of FELIN in a company context, comprising seven 39 man platoons. These comprised experienced troops and units with little combat exposure with information feedback from the trials provided both via monitors permanently accompanying three of the platoons as well as data reporting at the end of the day by other units. Units involved in evaluation testing included the Regiment de Marched du Tchad of the 2nd Armored Brigade, and the 13th Bataillon de Chasseur Alpins, a mountain infantry battalion.

FELIN is making use of several French Army training centres notably CEIOT for live firing, CEBNTAC for rural scenarios and urban vignettes and red forces at CECZUB.

Weighing in at 24 kg, rising to 32 kg, with the full personal heavy-protection modules, FELIN separates out common individual systems; covering, load bearing and combat clothing, ballistic protection, NBC protection, helmet, portable computer, radio, equipped weapons, and introduces a number of role specific solutions for specialists.

Development of the programme has been undertaken by an Integrated Project Team with a multi-disciplinary staff from the DGA (EDPD) and Army Staff (EPEM). Further inputs from outside the IPT include an overall Steering Committee and well as committees dealing with Integrated Logistics Support, Configuration Management and other issues.

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