FELIN is an abbreviation for Fantassin a Equipement et Liaisons Integres, which is French for Integrated Infantry Equipment and Communications. And it is a high-tech set of individual infantryman equipment, the so-called "set of the soldier of the future."
One of the first to enter the French army under the Scorpio program en masse will be the so-called “soldier of the future” kit - this is how the “digital” kit of the FELIN soldier is often referred to. In our opinion, the experience gained by the French gunsmiths and the military in the course of work on the project will be very useful for the domestic creators of weapons, military and special equipment. Especially - special weapons and equipment for the personnel of motorized rifle units.
The main contractor for the FELIN kit is the French company Sagem Defense Security. FELIN is an abbreviation for Fantassin a Equipement et Liaisons Integres, which translated from French means "Integrated equipment and communications for the infantryman." This kit, along with the traditional FAMAS assault rifle, includes new personal body armor with improved characteristics, camouflage jacket and trousers, as well as a wearable personal computer, radio station, GPS receiver with the ability to connect a wide range of digital terrain maps, helmet-mounted information display, optical systems - including sighting ones. FELIN uses two lithium-ion batteries from the Swiss industrial group Leclanche to power the numerous electronics.
Work on the program began in the first half of the 1990s, and in 1997-2000 prototypes of the equipment developed within its framework went through the phase of demonstration tests and initial selection by the military, as well as the coordination of final tactical and technical requirements. At the beginning of 2000, field tests of the main elements of the kit were carried out: one group of soldiers was equipped with FELIN, while the other used traditional equipment and weapons already available in the French army. The members of the first group emerged victorious from all tests and organized training battles. Even in spite of the fact that they were equipped in the "old" modifications of the kit, which, in comparison with the current FELIN, had a significantly greater mass and deteriorated characteristics of the integrated equipment.
Currently, three modifications of the kit have been developed and are being prepared for military trials: for ordinary soldiers, for squad leaders and for platoon commanders. In addition, all equipment and weapons included in the FELIN, according to the type of action and their purpose, is divided into three groups: individual use, special purpose and collective use.
Subsystems for individual use include six types of equipment:
protective uniforms with elements of moisture and flame protection and protection against weapons of mass destruction, as well as personal body armor (the basis of this subsystem is a vest-unloading of a new modification, on which personal body armor is hung; the so-called "electronic vest" is a system of optoelectronic and other radio technical equipment in as part of a personal computer, communication equipment, a man-machine interface, a GPS receiver, etc.; a backpack with a container for drinking water; as well as spare magazines for the FAMAS assault rifle and hand grenades);
"Wearable electronic platform", which is the basis, the "heart" of the FELIN set and includes, among other things, those optoelectronic and radio technical means that are part of the "electronic vest" (platform equipment is built on the basis of the USB 2.0 digital interface and has an open architecture allowing to include, as necessary, new or additional samples of radio-electronic equipment);
individual means of energy supply;
personal weapons - the main example of a soldier using the FELIN kit is the FAMAS assault rifle, but 5, 56 mm MINIMI light machine guns or 7, 62 mm FRS2 sniper rifles with appropriate scopes, including infrared, can be used as needed. The FAMAS rifle in the FELIN kit is equipped with a small-sized video camera that allows you to broadcast the image to the observation and information collection systems of the squad leader and platoon commander;
a combat helmet, which includes three components - a protective combat helmet with the ability to use protective front transparent screens, a communication system, and an optoelectronic system. The combat helmet has a built-in protective mask for use in the event that the enemy uses weapons of mass destruction and allows the serviceman to take water and food without removing it (the respiratory system of the mask uses - by choice - either an air balloon or a regeneration filter balloon). The communication system is integrated into the combat helmet, but can be used without it. The optoelectronic system includes a helmet-mounted camera based on EBCMOS technology, an information display based on OLED technology (displays graphic, text and video information coming from a personal computer, from a video camera and other information sources, including external ones), as well as a communication system FELIN, which allows the exchange of information between servicemen and unit commanders (the radio station of any serviceman can be connected to two communication systems at the same time - at the squad level and platoon level, it is also possible to conduct audio conferences on the battlefield). The radio exchange system has such functions as a soldier's "panic button", which issues a signal to the squad and platoon commander, and a channel for autonomous data transmission, and the platoon commander also has a module for communicating with the higher command. The communication system is based on the proven and proven DECT civilian technology.
Special purpose subsystems:
a serviceman's terminal information system;
universal infrared binoculars (only for the platoon commander);
case for storing and carrying elements of the FELIN set (using a standard plastic case, type iM3220, manufactured by Hardigg Industries).
battery charging system from FELIN kits;
a family of armored combat vehicles designed for use by units whose servicemen are equipped with FELIN kits (AFV types AMX-10P, VBCI and VAB).
FELIN equipment will be available in five versions. It will include weapons, ammunition, body armor, communications and data exchange, a laptop, a helmet with two displays and a microphone, a GPS receiver, rechargeable batteries, and a daily portion of food and water. The total weight of individual equipment will not exceed 25 kilograms.
The small arms will be presented in three versions: the FAMAS F1 assault rifle in 5.56 mm caliber produced by Nexter (formerly Giat), the FR-F2 sniper rifle in 7.62 mm caliber from the same company, and the Minimi light machine gun in 5.56 mm. manufactured by FN Herstal.
All weapons will be equipped with new day and night vision sights, as well as improved target designation tools.The presence of video sights will allow you to fire from cover, without getting into the field of view of the enemy and without endangering your life. Marines will receive Sagem Clara electro-optical image intensifier scopes, and unit commanders will receive infrared sights. At the same time, all of them will be able to transmit images in real time within the FELIN networks.
The kit will also include Sagem's JIM MR multifunctional binoculars. They are equipped with an uncooled thermal imaging channel, an eye-safe laser rangefinder and a digital magnetic compass. Thales' new PR4G VS4 tactical radios will enable marines to exchange voice and visual information both within units and with higher-level networks.
As planned by the developers, the military personnel equipped with FELIN will be able to constantly know the exact location of his comrades in arms, and thanks to the presence of a special "man-machine interface", they will be able to fire from their individual weapons at a target invisible to them (for example, keeping fire from around a corner or from cover). Also, the usual headphones were replaced by headphones and microphones with vibration capability. Such headphones, for example, are attached to a person slightly below the ear and the soldier perceives information from vibrations that affect the zygomatic bone and are then transmitted to the inner ear of a person.
In many ways, as you can see, the French kit coincides in technical equipment with a similar kit designed to equip the US Army ("Land Warrior" - Land Warrior), which is already undergoing a trial run in Iraq. Although there are differences: for example, the American kit allows any serviceman of the unit to receive all tactical information - including digital maps showing the position of their troops and enemy troops - while FELIN has access to tactical maps only for platoon commanders. (squad leaders and rank-and-file soldiers do not receive them).
The starting contract for FELIN was issued to the main contractor in March 2004 - according to its terms, the company must supply the customer with 31,455 such kits to various branches of the French army: infantry - 22,588, armored forces - 2801, engineering units - 3576, artillery - 2480.
The planned date of its commissioning is 2009, and the first 350 sets of the company "Sagem" should deliver to the customer by the end of 2008 - in order to equip the first, "test" unit of the French army - an infantry battalion, whose servicemen must conduct a comprehensive test FELIN. In case of successful completion of the tests in the period from mid-2009 to the end of 2010, the contractor will be required to supply 5,045 kits to equip the personnel of five infantry regiments.
Although a number of experts have already expressed concerns that a delay may occur, mainly due to technical and technological reasons, primarily related to the need to ensure full integration of all subsystems of the kit with the corresponding systems of the ground forces. For example, one of the FELIN advisors said in an interview with the French specialist media that "there are a number of serious problems with ensuring the normal functioning of the helmet-mounted information display and its integration with a number of other systems." According to him, the development company will not have time to correct the "shortcomings" that have arisen before the end of 2008, which will force the general deadlines for the delivery of the kit to the French ground forces to be shifted.
However, the French are not alone in their troubles: the "digital soldier" program implemented in the US Armed Forces was also hard in its time. American developers managed to get rid of all technical and technological problems only after two years of painstaking work and numerous military tests.