British army tests battlefield network of soldiers

LONDON, England, 14 January 2005. The U.K. Ministry of Defence's Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) and Thales U.K. have successfully concluded the first major experimental trial of the current phase of the Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST) project.

Jan 14th, 2005

LONDON, England, 14 January 2005. The U.K. Ministry of Defence's Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) and Thales U.K. have successfully concluded the first major experimental trial of the current phase of the Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST) project.

In the test, each soldier was equipped with experimental FIST systems, comprising a combination of "off the shelf" modules, including radios, computers, GPS, weapon sights, and cameras. The equipment is linked together to form an integrated soldier system.

These experimental systems are designed to answer a series of questions concerning the functionality required by individual members of the infantry section, such as riflemen and commanders, in particular relating to their information needs during operations.

The soldiers were put through a number of scenarios, typical of those encountered by infantry soldiers, including a night patrol, rural defence, and urban assault. Their effectiveness was compared with that of other soldiers equipped with conventional infantry equipment.

The resulting trials data will be analysed and used to inform the major design decisions during the development of a FIST V2 system, which will be a further step toward the final FIST system that ultimately enters service. This V2 system will be optimised for weight, power consumption, human factors, cost and reliability and will be the subject of a major trial in the second half of 2005. The major investment decision will be taken after the conclusion of the current Assessment Phase in 2006. FIST is currently planned to enter service around the end of the decade.

FIST is a programme which treats U.K. soldiers engaged in Dismounted Close Combat (DCC) as a system in their own right. This marks the first time that soldiers are being equipped in an integrated way. The trials demonstrated significant time reductions to complete activities such as reporting, navigation, casualty finding and communication of tactical information, as well as showing the potential for reducing casualties.

In addition FIST equipped soldiers will suffer less from the impact of fatigue and strain than their non-FIST equipped colleagues.

The recent trial, part of the Assessment Phase, took place at the Army's Salisbury Plain Training Area and involved some 70 soldiers, representing the organisational structure of an infantry company. 15 specialist engineers collected the trial data for subsequent analysis. This is the latest of a series of trials that will assess the requirements for the FIST system and identify the factors that will influence the next phase.

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Macnaughton, the FIST Project Manager at the DPA's Dismounted Close Combat Integrated Project Team, said, "the combined MoD and Thales UK team have worked together closely to undertake this critical trial. The data gathered will provide an essential input to the forthcoming V2 development phase."

Graeme Howorth, the FIST Project Director for Thales UK, added, "field trials using real soldiers are an essential element of the project's system requirement and design process, reflecting the importance of Human Factors to FIST. All design decisions are made with careful consideration of the individual soldier's needs. We are very grateful for the professionalism displayed by the troops of the 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, which took part in the trials."

Thales is the world's leading soldier systems company and is already contributing to major soldier modernisation programmes for NATO countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, and Norway.

For more information, see www.mod.uk or www.thalesgroup.co.uk.

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