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Home | Programmes | VOSS begins in earnest
Dutch flagVOSS begins in earnest

Lieutenant Colonel Jan Kerkhof, Programme Leader of the Dutch Soldier Modernisation Programme is responsible for putting VOSS into its wider procurement context

After an extended period of time undertaking research and finalising requirements, earlier this year the Netherlands received the go-ahead for its national Soldier Modernisation programme (SMP) or VOSS (Improved Operational Soldier System) project, with fielding planned to begin from 2011-14.

One clear and deliberate link with this previous work has been the continuation on the incremental approach which earlier Dutch efforts arguably pioneered.

Lt. Col. Jan Kerkhof, programme leader of the Dutch Soldier Modernisation Programme is responsible for putting VOSS into its wider procurement context. He commented, “This programme is a never ending process to continuously improve the effectiveness and protection of the dismounted soldier. One of the products in the SMP process is Project VOSS. Unlike VOSS, SMP isn’t conducting projects by its own but is supporting the Dutch Army by making the right preparation to begin new projects and by supporting their realisation.” The Project Leader VOSS is Luc de Beer of the Defence Material Command (DMO).

Dutch forces have been active both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lessons from both conflicts are being fed into VOSS. © DoD

Dutch forces have been active both in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lessons from both conflicts are being fed into VOSS. © DoD

The ‘Go’ decision for the project inside the MOD was given as the 5th of February. Due to its budget, the Dutch Parliament has to give its approval before the project can really start. This approval is scheduled before next summer. Lt Col. Kerkhof said, “The project strategy, which also covers the procurement strategy, is still under construction as long as the Dutch parliament hasn’t given its approval to the VOSS project. In the next period, all realisation alternatives will be studied.”

VOSS will equip personnel beyond the Army with the Operational Commands of the Army, Navy and Air Force all involved in the realisation of the operational requirements document. Consequently, several variants are planned within VOSS Lt. Col. Kerkhof explained, “The number of variants and the way they differ aren’t clear at this stage. Based on the preliminary information and insights it looks like there will be a basic configuration and a few additional configurations for every user group: Marines, Airmobile, Mechanised Infantry, Recce groups etc. This will be object of study during the next phases. The realisation of the project will be done in close contact with the users, in order to fulfil their requirements and expectations. The user is our main criterium for project success.” Under VOSS several products and modules are seen as central to the overall capability; A C4I module including the Communication & Information Module (CIM) has been used for the purposes of improved situational awareness integrating, radio and GPS equipment; power supply including the E lighter, a man-portable diesel generator which is still under development; Clothing and back-pack equipment and a state-of-the-art helmet in which a number of facilities are combined and integrated.

C4I focus is seen by the SMP/VOSS team as the major capability enhancement. Lt. Col Kerkhof commented, “During VOSS’ realisation, there will be a focus on the C4I integration with the Dutch Battle Management System (BMS), in order to secure a well accessible C2 chain. The software that was built for the CIM, was based on the BMS software. This software was developed by the Dutch C2SC (Command & Control Support Centre). Due to the hierarchical approach, the C2 system at the dismounted level, the CIM, complies with information at the level of NATO confidential.”

At this stage, no radio type nor manufacturer has been selected to be part of VOSS. Lt. Col. Kerkhof explained, “The trials of the prototype CIM were conducted with the [Selex] EDEPRR and the [Thales] RT9200 but it’s not clear whether this equipment should be part of the definitive configuration. Due to the launch of the VOSS from 2011 onwards, the Dutch Army is looking for radios that are already on the market, or will be within a short time to ensure latest, state of the art technology. We hope it will be within budget …”

The CIM has now been trialled with a number of Army units including Air Mobile and across other Services including the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps and Air Force Protection units, beginning in November 2006 and is continuing.

In parallel to VOSS, the TNO led Soldier Effectiveness research programme has been initiated with power figuring highly in programme of work’s priorities. Lt. Col. Kerkhof said, “Power is one the restricted or limited sources, like water and ammunition. The less you need, the fewer the soldier is confronted with in terms of mass and volume. The more mass and volume can be reduced, the higher the performance of the soldier can be.”

As part of earlier work the SMP programme has validated the need for energy management sources from which to draw upon, although not all will be implemented in VOSS. These include the E-lighter, powered by Diesel fuel – found easily on the battlefield - to create electricity and developed with Stork Industry Netherlands. A prototype was recently concluded and there are plans to integrate it into a VOSS prototype in the second half of 2009.

The Netherlands like many other countries have invested considerable funds in acquiring equipment to meet the urgent needs for operations in Afghanistan, informing requirements decision for VOSS. “The SMP section is in close communication with all the Dutch troops, in operation worldwide. Due to its ongoing market research for new products and new technology, it can quickly react by suggesting the Dutch Army in case of urgent procurements. Budgetary small procurements can be done by the SMP section itself.” This approach has resulted in the acquisition of a small number of ventilation vests, deployed with troops in Afghanistan with the feedback being incortared onto future VOSS requirements.

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