Boar’head exercice with the British Army: FELIN makes European début
Developed and produced by Sagem, FELIN is a high-tech integrated equipment suite for soldier modernization programs and chosen by the French army for all infantry units. France has ordered 22,600 FELIN systems, now being shipped, and several French army regiments are already equipped. The system saw its first foreign deployment last December in Afghanistan, with the La Fayette Task Force, where it has quickly proven its effectiveness in a critical theater that harbors particularly insidious threats.
The capabilities of FELIN were recently put to the test in Europe for at the first time, from February 13 to 17 at the huge Otterburn military base in northern England, in the mountains near Scotland. For a full week, this vast range, swept alternately by the winds of the Atlantic and the North Sea, welcomed a joint French-British infantry exercise dubbed "Boar's Head". One unique feature of this exercise was that the French army dispatched a company from the 8th marine infantry paratrooper regiment (RPIMA), based in Castres, that was fully outfitted with FELIN systems, having taken delivery of their complete consignment in November 2011. Rounding out the tactical familiarization phase for FELIN, in joint maneuvers with the 5th company of the Royal Scottish Regiment from Canterbury, the 140 marines from the 8th regiment were able to use all components of the FELIN system during these exercises. They were operating under particularly realistic conditions because the Otterburn base combines operations in the open field with target shooting using live ammunition, making it a venue unique in Europe.
For the 1st company in the 8th regiment, the program started with individual shooting, working in 2-man teams, then in combat platoons and sections, and closing out with synthesis exercises mobilizing an entire company. The different exercise themes were inspired by feedback from current operations, and included offensive reconnaissance, assault and defensive actions, both day and night. At the company level, the 140 FELIN-equipped solders were backed by a fire support group from the British army, including three Land Rover Type 110 WMIK vehicles. The Land Rover WMIKs are heavily armed, with 12.7 and 7.62 mm machine guns, 40 mm grenade launchers and Javelin or Milan missiles.
C2, at the heart of FELIN maneuvers
"During combat, we have a tremendous C2 tool enabling us to follow the tactical situation in real time," says a French platoon leader. "That's a direct result of the soldier's individual radio, the RIF, and the Sitcomde tactical tablet – the Battle Management System of FELIN - for dismounted warfighters. Thanks to our new optronic aiming sight, after having detected, a target can be engaged at a range of 800 meters. These are the keys services to the system's value added. " Battle management system of FELIN, the Sitcomde system comprises a computer and software, a touch pad, a man-machine interface to receive and transmit tactical messages. It allows quick consultation of maps at different scales, real-time geolocation monitoring of different combat groups and consultation of local tactical situations. In particular, this C2 system offers the Blue Force Tracking function from the individual GPS units integrated in all FELIN outfits, to avoid friendly fire. The Sitcomde can also transmit an infrared image acquired by a FELIN-equipped solider, either from his aiming sight or from JIM infrared binoculars. A captain in charge of the 1st company in the 8th regiment explains: "The C2 notably provides Blue Force Tracking from the individual GPS unit integrated in all FELIN systems. Based on the Sitcomde, the FELIN's C2 gives us real time savings in transmitting intelligence, and in the final analysis, more fluid maneuvers. With FELIN, we also have an advantage in terms of engaging and neutralizing our adversary, including with fixed bayonets." His positive evaluation is shared by his colleagues in the 1st Infantry Regiment, the first unit to be equipped with FELIN, now deployed in Afghanistan.
JIM LR multifunction binoculars, another operational revolution
Also in the spotlight at Otterburn was the introduction of Sagem's brand-new JIM LR (Long Range) portable multifunction infrared binoculars. They are now deployed by company leaders, reconnaissance and anti-tank support platoons and sharpshooter teams. The combat section leader has a medium-range version, the JIM MR. It differs from the JIM LR in having a non-cooled sensor, while the GPS function is provided directly by the soldier's individual radio, RIF. The JIM LR binoculars can be used to modernize infantry, special forces, protection and forward observer units. A total of 5,000 JIM LR are already in service or on order, including 2,000 in France, with the remainder for various export markets, including NATO countries, and most recently the British Army. Sagem's JIM is a modular family of imagers, with optional services and functions, depending on operational requirements. The latest version of JIM LR features a fusion function for IR and daytime images, to see through camouflage. Now an integral part of the digital battlefield, JIM binoculars give all services an ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) function for primary evaluation of tactical situations.
Six French army regiments are now equipped with FELIN systems. With Sagem as prime contractor, this program is continuing at a delivery rate of four regiments per year. FELIN is currently the only integrated warfighter system in volume production in Europe, that is also combat proven in some of the most demanding theaters of operation.