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Home | Programmes | ISSP Moves to RFP (CANADA)

Country flagISSP Moves to RFP

Canada’s ISSP soldier modernisation programme is moving rapidly from research and development to fielding

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  The Initial Operating Capability for ISSP is planned for FY2014 © DoD
  The Initial Operating Capability for ISSP is
planned for FY2014 © DoD

“We will never move as quickly as we want but the good news is that we are looking to put an Request for Proposal out before the end of 2011” explained, Lt. Col. Jacques Levesque, Program Manager for Canada’s Integrated Soldier System project (ISSP). The Initial Operating Capability for ISSP is planned for FY2014.

This acquisition fits into the Canadian Army’s vision for Soldier Systems which comprises three phases: The Soldier of Today, Soldier of Tomorrow and Soldier of the Future.

For the initial phases of Canada’s deployment to Afghanistan, troops were equipped with the Army of Today Clothe the Soldier (CTS) equipment. CTS addressed improvements to Survivability and Sustainability with the introduction of the New Soldier Helmet, Canadian Disruptive Pattern (CADPAT) Camouflage, Ballistic Protection, Clothing and Individual Equipment, knee pads and new load carriage equipment.

Pressing requirements for Canadian operations in Afghanistan led to enhancement to C4I and lethality. This saw a midlife SA for the C7A2, C8FTHB and the C9A2 section machine guns, a range of Urgent Operational Requirements (UOR) and Crowd Confrontation Systems. The C4I enhancements are based around five central acquisitions; the AN/PVS-14 Night Vision Goggles, PEQ2A and 4B laser aiming modules, 8500+ Personal Role Radios, thermal weapon sights and binoculars and the DAGR Handheld GPS.

Lt. Col. Levesque said, “What you see in Afghanistan today is Clothe the Soldier “Plus” where we have had a series of UORs that were fielded quickly, to meet critical requirements. The disadvantage of these is that they are typically fielded without the normal support systems and training. It is not an ideal fix, but serves as a band aid.”

ISSP Background

The ISSP is noteworthy for the wide ranging research projects that underlie current ISSP dismounted soldier capability thinking. Lt. Col. Levesque said, “In 1995 we let a contract with a major systems integration company to design an integrated Soldier System. The project failed not because of the company, not because of us, but because of the way we structured the contract.”

This failure prompted a significant and radical rethinking about the whole approach. Instead of asking what technologies the soldier should be given, Canada’s approach was to instead understand how soldiers do their business, why particular technologies and capabilities should be put in their hands and how these technologies would help them do their job. In the place of a ‘big-bang’ approach, a series of research projects have been undertaken across the whole gamut of soldier systems capability areas. These projects have been run by Canada’s Defence Research and Development Agency (DRDC).

Lt. Col. Levesque said, “The project sponsor is my customer and I am the exploitation manager for all these technology demonstration projects. We have a series of R&D projects that make us more informed customers about the way soldier do their business and we plan to exploit that. The question that comes out after we have all these technologies together, is when will the technology be available. You can’t always keep chasing that next step – at some point you have to deliver what’s available now.”

The monitoring of this research effort will continue throughout the foreseeable life of the ISSP under the Technology Road map effort. (

  The ISSP programme has a value of C$310M, making it a major Crown project and is being delivered in three phases or Cycles © DoD
  The ISSP programme has a value of C$310M, making it a major Crown project and is being delivered in three phases or Cycles © DoD

ISSP Issues

The key challenges Canada has in delivering capability to troops are certainly not unique. One critical concern is for the soldier is added weight in a new system.

Conventional wisdom says no more than a third of a soldier’s body weight - in Canada this is average of 26.2Kg - should be added in the equipment they carry. A typical load in Afghanistan exceeds 37Kg comprising elements such as 10Kg of ballistic protection and 9Kg of ammunition and weapons. It must also be carried in temperatures that can exceed 40C. Lt. Col. Levesque commented, “Obviously weight is a preoccupation for us.”

It is not however a simple answer as he commented further, “In my experience functionality trumps weight. Infantry soldier used to carry five magazines of ammunition, four on the body and one in the weapon. Today they will carry 15 magazines. The weight of that ammunition is worth it to them. The functionality is worth carrying the weight. The capability a new soldier system will give to the solder has to outweigh the cost of the weight of carrying it. Some countries say no more than 15 or 26 lbs but it doesn’t matter. In the end you have to give sufficient functionality. Functionality trumps weight.”

There are a range of reasons for this burden, not least the demand for power. In a two week high intensity operation in Afghanistan, 17500 AA batteries were consumed over a fortnight by a single Canadian infantry company, with the typical soldier carrying at least 15 AA and two CE123 batteries.

Evidence such as this has convinced the ISSP team of the needs for much improved power management and architectures. Lt. Col. Levesque said quite simply, “We need a centralised power supply and distributed system.”

But greater integration isn’t limited to power, but involves the whole ensemble. Lt. Col. Levesque said, “The Soldier’s equipment today is not much changed from Korea, just a lot more devices. There is a bog standard tactical vest, a compass, a map, a series of separate devices, a couple of radios and hearing protection. It’s not integrated, it’s all bought separately. The key is to integrate the components of the entire system to ensure greatly enhanced capability.”

Addressing which devices should be added and when, during the life cycle of ISSP, Lt. Col. Levesque said, “Some elements have been bought already. The trick in all this is that not everything is available. You quickly get into a situation where you are chasing technologies and the whole system is waiting for one last element. The trick is to know when technologies and devices are available.”

As with other Soldier Modernisation Programmes, the ISSP programme emphasises the importance of communication but addresses this through the concept of a Team Network. Lt. Col. Levesque said, “It’s a triple challenge; the network on the soldier, the network within the section, squad, platoon or company, and the connections to the vehicles and backbone bearer systems.”

The level of communications functionality will only increase a response both to objective analysis and the demands of soldier. Lt. Col. Levesque said, “We can’t go back. We have had soldier radios in service since 2001 and every soldier carries a radio. You can’t tell them they don’t need one now. Every soldier expects to have a basic level of C4I.”

ISSP Procurement

The ISSP programme has a value of C$310M, making it a major Crown project and is being delivered in three phases or Cycles. Each Cycle provides ISSP kit for six task forces each roughly a thousand strong, based around an infantry battalion and supporting troops. This will see at any one time, two tasks forces each in operational deployment, pre-rotational certification and training.

Three variants had been proposed by the ISSP team: Command Assault and Support, each with a different equipment set. These are now under review with further details expected to be released over the Summer.

The procurement schedule for ISSP covers the first two of the three Cycles with an integrator company selected on the basis of a best value competitive contract. Each Cycle would receive incremental improvement over ten years, each with definition and implementation phases, with approval to proceeds at each Cycle. The contract will also include integrated logistics support and in-service support.

The ISSP’s Cycle One began in late 2008 and will continue until 2015. Cycles Two and Three also last approximately five years beginning in 2013 and 2015 respectively with the definition stage comprising roughly half each cycle’s timeframe.

Lt. Col. Levesque said, “The key for us is soldier acceptance. It is critical to the success of the project that the soldiers agree that the increased capacity the system gives them is sufficient. I wouldn’t say soldiers are fickle, that would overstate it, but you have to know your audience. You have to be careful that you apply some reasoning to the answer you get from soldiers otherwise you wind up redesigning endlessly.”

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