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Canadian flagCanada turns need into reality

Lieutenant Colonel Jacques Levesque, Programme Manager Integrated Soldier Systems Project (ISSP) is responsible for delivering Canada’s Soldier Modernisation Programme (SMP) for fielding from 2011-2018, building the system up from a very broad and deep understanding of requirements, garnered over more than a decade of research

ISSP and related work focused on the dismounted soldier has significantly contributed to operations in Afghanistan. © DoD
ISSP and related work focused on the dismounted soldier has significantly contributed to operations in Afghanistan. © DoD

Canada’s experience has emphasised the primacy of establishing clear and well understood requirements validated by thorough investigation and assessment. The term ‘Why before What’ encapsulates this way of thinking. This approach has been in response to the false start of the Integrated Protective Clothing and Equipment Technology Demonstrator (IPCE TD) in the mid 1990s, an early attempt to go too quickly to a system design, with unhappy results.

Lt. Col. Levesque said, “We realised that we had not been rigorous enough in defining why we needed to give a capability to a soldier in the context of mission success and the individual soldier’s concerns with weight, volume and power demands. Just because a certain technology is available doesn’t mean the soldiers need it to do their job. So, “Why give the soldier technology” became as important for us as “What technology to give the soldier”. The answers to ‘Why before What’ are now part of our solution so that we can demonstrate to the soldier the value of carrying the system, and are specifically related to justification for the project to the Army as well as supporting project user acceptance.”

Arguably, the most significant consequence of this ethos is the absence of a weight goal in ISSP, Lt. Col. Levesque explained that this is a deliberate omission from the requirements. “In the end, you have to agree on what that weight - which is from the body out and that includes underwear - would be for. We say our burden of proof for the project is that the soldier has to agree to carry the weight. They have to agree that the system gives them sufficient functionality because they will carry only what they need.” That weight however, can be considerable. “When I went through basic training, five magazines were all you carried. Right now some contingents are carrying 15 magazines of ammunition. They are the ones who are being shot at and if that is important to them, they’ll carry it. Of course, weight is not unlimited but if it gives them the extra functionality they want and need you have to go there.”

Current thinking puts the maximum theoretical all in weight for the soldier at 30 percent of their body weight, put at an average of 26.2Kg. This is however acknowledged to be at variance with operational realities in Afghanistan; where kit weighting over 37Kg is carried in temperatures that reach over 40 degrees centigrade.

The ISSP has more in common with other SMPs than those aspects which differentiate it. Lt. Col. Levesque cited the example of the USMC’s MERS programme, “We and the Marines are pretty much like peas in a pod and our programme timings are in sync. We think the same way, we operate the same way and do business the same way and we are a lot closer in size to them than we are to the US Army. There are over 500 agreements between our two countries in defence co-operation across the Services, so there is always something going on.”


Fielding for ISSP is due to begin in 2011, however, in the work up to achieving Treasury Board approval, there has been a nine-month slip in all the milestones, with Treasury Board approval currently expected in June 2008.

ISSP will deliver its capabilities through a series of three Cycles, each with a Definition and Implementation phase, representing; Initial, Improved and Full capabilities. During the initial Definition Phase, the Project will award a contract to an overall Program Integrator through a competitive process with pre-determined evaluation released to Industry through the Government Electronic Tendering System. EADS, Raytheon, Rheinmetall, Sagem, GDLS and Thales have each expressed interest in ISSP. The resulting contract will cover Cycle 1 including systems integration, trade-off analysis, integrated logistic support, and in service support. The resulting contract will also include an option for definition and implementation of an upgrade to Cycle 1. This option will be identified as Cycle 2. A separate competitive process and contract for Cycle 3, including integrated logistics support and in service support will be released to Industry.

The Program Integrator will be responsible to design and prototype an integrated Cycle 1 system based on an unbiased assessment of the best available Commercial Off the Shelf / Military Off The Shelf (COTS/MOTS) technologies and components, and deliver prototypes for user acceptance trials. Once the contractor has successfully met the performance-based evaluation for the Cycle 1 system, the Project will authorise production. The subsequent Cycle 2 Definition and Implementation Cycles will be identified as options in the initial contract and will be linked to the successful completion of the previous deliverable and successful user acceptance. A separate competitive process and contract for Cycle 3 will be released to Industry, with production again being linked to the successful completion of the previous deliverable and successful user acceptance.


In the run up to the commencement of ISSP, the Department of National Defence (DND) has placed major emphasis on a series of technology demonstration programmes (TDPs) and research projects which have directly supported the production of the Statement of Operational Requirement for performance needs for ISSP.

Other materiel projects feed into ISSP from separate programs, such as the Small Arms Replacement Project II (SARP II), Sniper Systems and Future Combat Uniform, all DND programmes of record. Lt. Col. Levesque said that the ISSP will either be the baseline for these projects or benefit from the work done to provide the capability, depending on timelines.

ISSP and related work focused on the dismounted soldier has significantly contributed to operations in Afghanistan. Lt. Col. Levesque explained, “A specific example was the R&D within the Soldier Information Requirements – Technology Demonstration Program (SIREQ-TDP) sponsored by the ISSP team. SIREQ demonstrated specific advantages to providing a communications capability at the soldier level within the section. Based on the research an Unforecasted Operational Requirement was raised to push radios to that theater and has been expanded over time.” This lead to the acquisition of the Selex Communications Personal Role Radio, since then, a data enabled version has been acquired for deployment.

The recently completed SIREQ TDP demonstrated capability enhancements in command execution, target acquisition and situational awareness for the individual Canadian dismounted soldier in 2010-2015. The Soldier’s Integrated Headwear System (SIHS) TDP is tasked with demonstrating the most promising headwear integration concept by demonstrating novel concepts is due to be in 2008. The SIHS work is investigating far more than the upper level of weight that is safe and appropriate for the soldier’s head. “Research has shown that the all-up weight isn’t as important as weight distribution on the head - Centre of Gravity and Moment of Inertia,” Lt. Col. Levesque explained. SIHS has focused on an integrated solution that involves weight, balance, comfort and functionality across the domains of five sub-systems aspects; head, hearing, vision, respiratory and speech.

A proof-of-concept lightweight, low profile, fully functional, protective day-use combat uniform with protection against toxic hazards chemical and biological exposure and is being examined with the ongoing Chemical Biological Plus (CBPlus) TDP, which is due to be completed in 2008.

The Advanced Soldier Adaptive Power (ASAP) TDP is investigating a dynamic mixed power architecture. Discussing power requirement for ISSP Lt. Col. Levesque said, “The mixed power distribution architecture and the requirement for dynamic power management is based on our research - notably from the SIREQ TDP and ASAP TDP - and our understanding of the lesson learned from other NATO partners experiences with their fielded systems and our experience in Afghanistan. It is our expectation that individual devices will as appropriate have on-board back-up power as well as connectivity to a distributed power source so that a particular capability can still function in a stand-alone mode when temporarily disconnected from the power and data bus.”

Two new Technology Demonstration Programs have also begun; The Advanced Modular Multi-Threat Protective Headwear System (AMMPHS) TDP is examining novel concepts for integrating enhanced blast and ballistic protection technologies into a headwear system and the Soldier Integrated Precision Effects System (SIPES) TDP, a four year programme approved in March, will demonstrate the viability, utility and usability of integrated novel small arms related lethal and non-lethal technologies for future, lightweight, small calibre weapon systems which address current capability deficiencies.

Beyond ISSP is Soldier System 2020. This explained Lt. Col. Levesque, “is essentially our placeholder, as much as ISSP is Cycles 1,2, and 3 Soldier System 20202 is Cycles 4,5and 6.” Work on this is currently being undertaken within the Army doctrine community at this stage. Lt. Col. Levesque continued. “At this point the current generation of soldier systems technology hasn’t taken hold in all armies. Armies will have to master that yet before we can see what the next step is.” Suggestions of what those capabilities might be were floated in the DND’s recently published ‘Crisis in Zefra’, a doctrine novella, describing potential of the future capabilities. These include visual augmentation, one example being the projection onto a soldier’s head mounted display of images from sensors on board an IFV that would otherwise be obscured from the soldier directly – in essence the soldier seeing through the vehicle’s eyes.’

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