SoldierMod.Com :: Soldier Modernisation
  SoldierMod Volume 9 - 2012
Volume 9 Articles

Country flagSoldato Futuro:
‘Precursor’ Systems Under Trial

Demonstration at the Infantry School in March has tested
pre-production systems with a key night vision procurement decision due shortly

PDF icon Download article as PDF
The Bravo Team leader talks through his SWave HH SDR with the platoon commander who is equipped with the ACH helmet and an ITT Exelis TM-NVG © P. Valpolini
The Bravo Team leader talks through his SWave HH SDR with the platoon commander who is equipped with the ACH helmet and an ITT Exelis TM-NVG
© P. Valpolini

The mid-March trials held at the Italian Army’s Infantry School in Cesano, north of Rome, marked the final point of the Spiral 1 development of the Soldato Futuro. The trials were not only used for finalising the very last modifications to the system but it was also the first time that the so-called ‘precursor’ configuration, that is the one that will be adopted in the first production batch with a very few minor changes, was tested at team level. The test used two fully equipped infantry teams, one with the “Forza NEC” configuration and one in the previous configuration. This allowed the National Armaments Directorate, the Army Staff and the industrial team led by Selex-Elsag to show the system to foreign delegations in attendance.

The demonstration theme was the use of two medium infantry teams in close quarter battle, both teams being carried by a Freccia 8x8 armoured infantry fighting vehicle and being armed with the Beretta ARX-160 assault rifle and GLX-160 underbarrel grenade launcher. The exercise took place in the School’s urban warfare training area, the action being led by the platoon commander in the Freccia, acting as a command post and was stationed near to the EXCON. This enabled a link to the SICCONA command and navigation screen of the Freccia with a giant plasma screen where the delegations could follow the action on a digitized map, each man being visible thanks to the blue-force-tracking system integrated into the Soldato Futuro.

The eight-man “Alpha Team” was equipped with the prototype system, also known as “SF92” (92 referring to the number of pre-production systems produced) with communications being provided by the 800 – 900 MHz Individual Pocket Radio; the team dismounted from its Freccia in front of the stand, and moved by foot towards the first two houses of the village to start its reconnaissance. Once the team reached the build-up area, it was ambushed by an enemy party and then withdrew to find cover and fix the opponents. Using the Soldato Futuro C4I system, the team passed over to the platoon commander the enemy position; this was relayed to a sniper team equipped with the Selex Galileo Linx target acquisition binoculars. The picture acquired by the spotter was relayed to the platoon command post and once the target was confirmed, the sniper opened fire on selected targets, the remaining opponents being forced to withdraw. The “Bravo Team,” kept in reserve as a Quick Reaction Force, was then summoned to the area by the platoon commander. The team debussed from its Freccia at the other end of the village, and together with the Alpha team set up a cordon and then broke into the buildings to carry out the search. From inside the building that was previously occupied by the opposing forces, the Bravo team leader sent his battle-damage assessment using the C4I messaging system, and send a MEDEVAC nine-liner about one of his team members who had suffered a minor injury.

The exercise allowed the demonstration of the Soldato Futuro’s capabilities in terms of lethality, command and control, survival, mobility and communication, the latter being particularly stressed as the two teams used two different radios and frequencies, the Bravo Team being equipped with the Selex-Elsag wideband SWave Handheld (HH) Software Defined Radio (SDR) working in the 30 – 512 MHz band. The new radio has a built-in crypto device, secrecy level up to company commander being Restricted with Secret being used only above company level using secure radios. The SWave HH SDR was also available on board the Bravo Team Freccia in the vehicular configuration, thus allowing data transmission through the High Capacity Data Radio installed on board.

The March 2012 test saw for the first time a full infantry team equipped with the precursor version of the Soldato Futuro. Besides the new radio, the whole C4I system has been revised. In the past all cables were routed to the DDA (Data and Audio Distributor), a big push-to-talk system worn on the chest. In the latest configuration all cables from peripherals go to the wearable computer, a new DDA which also acts as a mouse for the computer. This ensures man-machine interface redundancy and increases the system’s scalability. The update of the C4I component includes the adoption of a new processor ensures higher computing speed, a new map management system, the elimination of the communication node that allowed the data transmission, the replacement of one of the batteries with a hot-swap system based upon the Ferrari F1 Kers capacitors, and other measures enabled a reduction in weight of the C4I components from over 12 kg to roughly 4 kg.

The Cesano tests also saw the use for the first time of the new aiming suite made up of three separate items; an optical sight, a clip-on thermal imager and a laser pointer. The Bravo Team riflemen were equipped with the Elcan SpecterDR multi-function combat day sight weighing 640 grammes, a dual use optic with a x1 position with 24° FoV and illuminated red dot for CQB and a x4 position with 6° FoV with ballistic drop reticle for long-range shooting, integral back-up iron sights being available on top of the scope. For night vision and for specific situations the L-3 Warrior Systems (WS) Mini Thermal Sight can be clipped on the Picatinny Rail in front of the optical sight. This uncooled thermal sensor can also be hand-held for surveillance and can pick-up a static man at 400 m distance. The aiming suite is completed by another L-3 WS system, the AN/PEQ-15 ATPIAL (Advanced Target Pointer / Illuminator / Aiming Light). This 231 gramme system includes an IR laser pointer with 600 or 2,000 m range, a visible laser pointer which can be seen up to 25 m distant in sunny conditions, and a laser illuminator with over 2,000 m range. The new sighting suite had gained acceptance by the soldiers of the Experimental Digitised Unit (USD, formerly 31st Tank Regiment), although new solutions might be adopted in the following batches, the Soldato Futuro being a spiral programme.

Awaiting a technological breakthrough that will allow the Nimos night mobility system to reach the required performance, the Italian Army is considering two alternatives in the form of two different image intensification NVGs. One is the AN/PVS-21, which is already in service in some units; very compact, it has a see-through lens, a wider FoV compared to other similar systems and allows the injection of images coming from other sources such as an electronic sight mounted on the weapon, providing a shoot-behind-the-corner capability. The second option is the TM-NVG (Tactical Mobility – Night Vision Goggle) developed by ITT Exelis. Less compact that its competitor but slightly lighter, the TM-NVG is made of a primary II monocular that not only allows the injection of images in front of the soldiers eye thanks to a semi-transparent mirror and an 800x600 pixel screen, but thanks to a CCD sensor permits to capture a 960x640 pixel colour image for transmission through the C4I system. A second standard monocular is used in front of the other eye. Used to the AN/PVS-21, at the beginning USD soldiers had mixed feelings about the new NVG especially due to its forward dimensions. Two such NVGs were available to the Bravo Team, mounted on US ACH helmets in order to avoid mechanical integration with the Italian Army helmet. Along the test period at Cesano the soldiers changed their mind and apparently this system is on top of the wish list, a decision being expected very soon.

Other solutions adopted in the Forza NEC configuration were also visible at Cesano during the trials. Among those the new combat uniform, provided by AeroSekur, manufactured using the Defender M fabric from Tencate with a 220 gr/m2 weight. The BDU has been wholly revised in terms of pockets and reinforcement panels. The latter are now available in the form of pockets on knees and elbows, sized for containing protective inserts made of D3O; commonly used as protective pads in sportswear, D3O is a non-Newtonian fluid that flows freely when moved slowly, thus leaving maximum freedom of movement in standard conditions, while it locks together on shock thus absorbing and dispersing the impact energy, going instantly back to its fluid state after the shock. The clothing system ranges from underwear to a series of winter garment, all manufactured with flame retardant fabric. Rain protection is provided by a new two-piece garment that adopts Gore Performance Zone system, allowing to considerably reduce weights and volumes. The choice of combat boots went to those adopted by Italian Army parachute units, developed by Cosmas.

Paolo Valpolini

Upcoming Events
Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict
Other publications by Intercomms: