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  SoldierMod Volume 10 - Jan 2013
Volume 10 Articles

Country flagSoldier Modernisation in the Framework of the European Defence Agency

Benjamin Fuchs, Project Officer for Soldier Systems,
European Defence Agency

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Germany, which participates in CEDS, can feed the EDA’s work into its Gladius programme. Photo: © Rheinmetall.
Germany, which participates in CEDS, can feed the EDA’s work into its Gladius programme. Photo: © Rheinmetall.

“Thinking nationally is not going to bring us forward. In the past very often [countries] have worked nationally, also promoting our own defence industries. This will also not do any good for them in the future because we are not going to acquire so much equipment, we have to work in another way,” explained Benjamin Fuchs, Project Officer for Soldier Systems at the European Defence Agency (EDA). The EDA was founded in 2004 to support the EU member states improve or develop capabilities in the framework of Common Security and Defence Policy, including better investment in defence from the total of €194 billion.

EDA’s Project Team (PT) Soldier Systems previously known as PT 21st Century Soldier Systems, relates to a number of EDA efforts. In the Research and Technology fields, this includes the AHEAD work of head protection, MUSA SNIPOD, CEDS and HyMUP. Other projects include light mortars and future land systems with inputs from other areas such as the Precision Guided Ammunition work as part of the Precision Engagement work strand.

“We have a different focus than the Land Capability Group (LGC) 1 in NATO, because we have more of a holistic approach to it. We also look at unmanned systems, positioning and engagement to support infantry soldiers. The national experts of the PT Soldier Systems members at EDA are also the same people that are participating in the LGC 1 meeting which is already preventing duplication as it wouldn’t be in their interests. That is a question that is very often raised.

Within this the core programme is Combat Equipment Dismounted Soldiers (CEDS), a CAT B programme with nine national contributing member states within the EDA; Spain, Austria, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Portugal , Romania and Sweden. The goal is to develop a common soldier systems based around a common staff requirement formulated in 2010. A number of feasibility studies are ongoing but progress has been slow. Fuchs said, “There has been a little progress. We are stuck in that multi-national co-operation for a variety of reasons. It has been quite a tough time for CEDS.”

A number of feasibility studies are planned, power supply, energy harvesting undertaken by Austria and an in-kind contribution, stabilising body temperature, lightweight ballistic protection, head protection, adaptive camouflage and baseline information which is as study in proposes, a human factors interface and in observation two studies, precision targeting and observation under reduced visibility which is being undertaken as an in-kind contribution by Romania. Finally, there is work on a 3D positioning system which is now completed.

Fuchs updated on the project’s progress, “That is something that was taken out from the programme and put into broader perspective because there were also other nations, not in the CEDS programme that were still interested in that capability. 3D positioning systems means that you are able to navigate without satellite connectivity, so you can navigate within buildings or in difficult terrain for example in urban areas or mountains. The demonstrator is already there it is in my office and for six months but those who had paid for it had no interest in testing it but that is probably due to the internal processes in MoDs. Now the first participating member states are asking me to send them the demonstrator.”

The GPS demonstrator consists of a GNSS sensor worn in the boot with a wired connection to the boot. Fuchs describes the results as reasonable and that it delivers better results than what is on the market today. The goal is to push development on so that the accuracy, availability and critical soldier integration requirements can be fulfilled at a reasonably low cost in the 2015 time-frame.

Another element of CEDS treated separately due to additional interest from countries outside the nine is bio-sensor information system which is still in progress.

A major thrust of the EDA’s work on soldier modernisation is within the Joint Investment Programme on Force Protection research activity in which 20 nations contributed a total of €70 million to invest in 18 separate research, technology development & demonstration in force protection. In which funding is shared as are the research results.

Fuchs cited six which are directly related to soldier systems and in which good results have already been found; European Protective Individual Defence Armour or EPIDARM covering chemical and ballistic protection; Advanced Helmet And Devices for individual protection which focuses on sensor for situational awareness; MUSAS or Multi-sensors Anti-Sniper system and Sniper Positioning and Detection addressing different approaches for sensor communications; the self evident Wireless robust Link for urban operations or WOLF and finally CARDINAL a capability study to investigate the man machine inRelationship for improved Decision making in improved Decision making IN an urban military environment.

Other efforts are also underway: these include the Joint Investment Programme on Innovative Concepts and Emerging Technologies (JIP-ICET.) This considered a number of topics with 64 proposals submitted with the EDA going ahead with ten projects and 2 studies and launched by 11 member countries with a budget of €19.1 million.

As an example of its work, Fuchs cites the Nanotex work which is tasked with forecasting on the use of nano-materials and nano-technologies into multifunctional textiles for military applications during the next ten to twenty years and then identify gaps in technology that could be militarily useful. Roadmaps have now been developed to secure the lead on the selected areas.

Afghanistan was the first combat operation for a very long time and it is shaping how militaries look like nowadays. Future operation may be very different, so of course we need to solve the problems or the challenges that we are facing in ISAF but we are possibly going to see something complete different in the future, maybe even conventional warfare again and then we have to switch completely the mindset and equipment etc.

Fuchs explained that the CEDS programme is not currently generating, “very productive discussions on follow on projects.” However, for the future he cites the possibility of through wall vision and anti-structure weapons for urban operations as well as counter-defilade target engagement systems similar to the XM25.

Fuchs commented, “There are several companies in Europe who are working on something similar to the XM25 with 40mm airburst ammunition but again it is not always the same technology. If several nations are going to procure their national industry solution [they won’t be interoperable].”

“We should certainly have a broad view on not only the soldiers themselves, but everything surrounding him, adding capabilities and that certainly include unmanned vehicles. The US have shown us that you can use Unmanned Ground Vehicles, not only for CIED missions, but also for reconnaissance missions for example. This is something that needs to be exploited much more that we currently do. The same with unmanned air vehicles. There many UAVs that are carrying [munitions] They are very precise and easy to use, even by infantry soldiers. You would also be able to identify your target just before you hit it.”

Some areas that relate to the soilder can work with European Union projects much more freely than an EDA project on assault rifles ever could. Fuchs believes work on augmented reality would be one of them. He said, “We also intend to have closer look on the Augmented Cognition and decision aids tools. There are several studies on going in the R&T Directorate [of the EDA] and this is something that should be exploited and something that we could do more, especially with research institutes in other European institutions. There are already several programmes ongoing in the EU on augmented reality for other applications, for example for nuclear reactor safety for assistance system of cars. Perhaps this is a field where we could have some civilian military synergy in the future?”

Benjamin Fuchs was speaking at WBR's Soldier Technology 2012.

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