FIST – Future Infantry Soldier Technology System

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The FIST program covers the development of all areas of technology for the dismounted infantryman and emphasizes systems integration.

The five main areas of FIST capability are C4I, Lethality, Mobility, Survivability, and Durability.

Under FIST, the infantryman’s SA80 assault rifle will be equipped with an upgraded sighting system on the weapon or linked to the soldier’s helmet-mounted sight.

Thales UK was selected in March 2003 for the evaluation phase of the FIST program to study options in terms of technology, methods and processes.

Infantry weapons will include MBT LAW, which was selected in May 2002 as the British Army’s Next Generation Light Anti-Tank (NLAW) weapon.

The Javelin missile, with a range of 2,500m, was selected by the British Army for the Light Forces Anti-Tank Guided Weapon System (LFATGWS) requirement.

The FIST program will develop new soldier clothing, including body armor, a helmet, and a helmet-mounted display that interfaces with other battlefield network elements.

FIST - Future Infantry Soldier Technology

The FIST (Future Infantry Soldier Technology) program is managed by the Dismounted Close Combat Integrated Project Team of the UK Ministry of Defense Supply Agency at Abbey Wood, Bristol.

Thales UK was selected in March 2003 for the evaluation phase of the FIST programme. The two-and-a-half-year evaluation phase explored options for technology, methods and processes.

Future Testing of Infantry Soldier Technology

The first major experimental trial for the FIST project under the evaluation phase took place in January 2005 at the Army’s Salisbury Plain training area.

“The FIST system is expected to enter service between 2015 and 2020.”

70 soldiers took part and each soldier was equipped with experimental systems including radios, computers, GPS, weapon sights and cameras “out of the box”. The effectiveness was compared to soldiers equipped with conventional infantry systems.

The test data was used to inform design decisions for the development of the FIST V2 system, which began testing in October 2005.

FIST Trial Phase Contractors

In June 2005, Thales announced that the following services would provide services for the FIST V2 trials: Thurso’s AEA Technology (power management, including batteries); Chelton Defense Communications of Blackburn (section commander’s long range radios; NP Aerospace of Coventry (helmets and body armor); Police Resource International of Exeter (load carrier subsystem and body armor integration) Selex Communications from Chelmsford (short-range individual soldier radios) Thales UK from Wells (command and control software for dismounted close combat, including mission planning and situational awareness).

An expansion of the FIST V2 trials took place in November 2006. Four teams competing for the command, control and communications system participated: Selex Communications – Soldier System Radio (SSR) and Advanced Situational Awareness Software ; Thales – Vector Tetra Soldier and Radio Integrated Combat System (SICS); ITT Soldier Radio and Cobham Integrated Digital Soldier System (IDSS); Raytheon MicroLight Radio and Cobham Soldier Radio and Integrated Digital Soldier System (IDSS). In May 2007, Raytheon’s MicroLight radio was chosen as the communication system for FIST V2.

In September 2009, the UK MoD awarded a £150 million contract to Thales UK for the delivery and in-service support of the STA (surveillance target acquisitionz) system. Deliveries are expected to be completed in June 2014.

In June 2011, Vectronix won a contract with Thales Prime Contract Management Office (PCMO) to supply 1,400 MOSKITO multifunction target acquisition units for the FIST. The contract brings total orders to more than 4,000 units. Meggitt Defense Systems received a £13 million contract from the UK Ministry of Defense in November 2011 to upgrade the Dismounted Close Combat Trainer (DCCT) to support FIST integration.

35,000 sets of FIST kits are expected to be procured and the systems will be deployed by the British Army, Royal Air Force Regiment and Royal Marines. The FIST will enter service between 2015 and 2020.

The FIST program is in its infancy and in many areas of speculative development and the scope of design, in concept, performance and content continues to evolve.

Objectives of the UK FIST Future Soldier Program

The FIST program covers the development of all areas of technology for the dismounted infantryman and emphasizes systems integration.

“FIST will provide the soldier with enhanced situational awareness, lethality and survivability.”

The FIST system will provide the soldier with improved situational awareness, lethality and survivability.

Systems will be evaluated on a measure of improved capability and soldier friendliness with ease and comfort of use.

The five main capability areas are identified as C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence), lethality (weapons and sights), mobility (navigation, equipment size and weight), survivability (clothing, stealth, body armor) and durability (logistical considerations).

It is not envisioned that every infantry soldier will receive a FIST system. The unit commander will specify FIST systems suitable for operational and mission requirements.

Consciousness

One of the main strategies of the FIST program is that the infantry soldier is a key part of the UK’s networked military force.

The FIST Soldier Communication System provides communication down to the company level. Above the company level, communication is via the Bowman Integrated Combat Radio System.

The soldier will have a small, encrypted radio that works in line of sight, within close range of other members of his unit. The patrol leader’s radio will communicate with the forward operating base.

The network system will automatically redirect to allow continuity of operations when a communication link is interrupted, such as when a soldier is moving up a hill or ridge.

Voice and data communications can be transmitted directly to the soldier or via drone relay links from headquarters, which have downloaded battlefield commands, information and imagery from forward observers, unmanned aerial vehicles , remote sensors and other means of airborne or satellite surveillance.

The soldier will have a global positioning system, countdown timer and map displays to increase situational awareness. The use of helmet displays, wrist displays, handheld and laptop computers and communication systems will be considered.

Lethality

“The SA80 will be equipped with an upgraded sighting system on the weapon or linked to a helmet-mounted sight.”

The improved FIST lethality ability is mainly due to improved aiming and weapons. The use of uncooled sighting and sighting systems saves weight and logistical requirements.

Infantry are currently equipped with the SA80 5.56mm Assault Rifle. The SA80 will be equipped with an improved sighting system on the weapon or linked to the sight mounted on the soldier’s helmet. A linked aiming system allows the soldier to fire around the corners of the target while remaining in a protected position.

Other weapons available to the soldier include MBT LAW and Javelin anti-tank missiles and High Explosive Fragmentation Grenade (HEFG) launchers.

To engage targets hidden in trenches or behind dugouts, the soldier can measure the target’s range with a laser rangefinder. The range data is uploaded to the weapon cartridge and the hovering weapon cartridge explodes at the designated range to hit the hidden target.

Clothes

The garments will reduce the soldier’s visual, radar, and infrared signatures, while providing personal temperature control and environmental protection. The garments may have built-in wires or some type of wireless technology like Bluetooth to interconnect the FIST components.

Body armor grades will be selected for different operational requirements.

An integrated helmet will provide ballistic protection and interface with other elements of the battlefield network. The helmet-mounted display can show the battlefield situation, with the wearer’s position, positions of friendly and hostile troops and equipment, and priority targets, as well as images uploaded from its weapon sight.

NBC Protection

The infantry soldier will be warned of a nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) warfare hazard via the Battlefield Information System (BISA) applications. BISA, being developed by SciSys, runs on the Bowman Communications System and is linked to the Royal Air Force Command Control and Information System (CCIS), Royal Navy Command Support System (CSS ) and the Joint Operational Command Structure (JOCS). New lightweight and breathable materials are developed for NBC protection.

Power supplies

The future power requirements of the infantrymen are estimated to be an order of magnitude higher, that is, ten times greater than that currently used. Designs will continue to be based on advanced lithium-ion battery technology until emerging technologies such as fuel cells and fuel cell chargers become more mature.

“The future energy requirements of infantrymen are estimated to be ten times higher than those currently in use.”

QinetiQ, in Farnborough, is studying FIST power supplies, including fuel cell configurations and the application of QinetiQ’s ammonium borate hydrogen generator.

ABSL Power Solutions Limited (formerly AEA Technology Battery Systems) has produced a modified power system for the FIST V2 trials, which includes two lithium-ion batteries, each built into the SA80 rifle magazine pouch and connected to the unit of power management (PMU). The PMU powers the GPS receiver, situational awareness computer, thermal imaging and image intensification sights, and voice/data radios.

The UK MoD is funding the development of a portable fuel cell to recharge conventional batteries by an industry team including Black and Decker, Ineos Chlor, Intelligent Energy and QinetiQ.

In early 2004, the British Ministry of Defense announced a bilateral information exchange agreement with the United States, covering power source development, energy management, fuel cells and batteries.


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