Germans Deploying Soldier Systems Sans Smartphones


PARIS -- Germany will start sending troops to Afghanistan next year equipped with individual computer systems much like the one the U.S. is testing down at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The German Bundeswhere will issue 300 of the dismounted soldier systems called GLADIUS in October to infantry soldiers. Those soldiers will train with them for six months before deploying to Afghanistan outfitted with the systems in 2013.

Germany plans to buy 10,000 Gladius systems built by Rheinmettal Defense. Germany started to develop the system that was called IdZ-ES in 2001. A basic system was bought from EADS/Cassidian in 2004 with most commercial-off-the-shelf technologies for 2,800 soldiers testing the system. Rheinmetall has the current contract and displayed the system here at the Eurosatory land warfare conference.

Engineers built the entire system to work in concert down to the underwear the soldier wears under his battle dress uniform. The under shirt has a built in fan and ventilation system to make sure the soldier will not over heat in temperatures up to 104 degrees.

"Every part had to work together or soldiers wouldn't use it," said Olaf Aul, Rheinmettal's head of System Engineering for Soldier Systems.

Many portions of Gladius will remind U.S. soldiers of piecies of the Army's former Future Force Warrior program. The U.S. nixed pieces of Future Force Warrior like the eye scope that Army officials worried would get too expensive to field to large masses.

Rheinmetall engineers did not include smartphones in the current system. However, the squad leader will have a miniature computer connected to the command network that will allow him to see the larger battlefield. The computer is only slightly larger than the Motorola Atrix phones seen at White Sand Missile Range.

Every soldier will receive a eye scope and a helmet mounted display that provides the same type of information that a U.S. soldier would see on the smartphone on the U.S. system. However, without the glare during the day or light emitting from the system at night that U.S. soldiers have complained about at the Network Integration Evaluation.

Each German soldier will carry a core computer with two batteries built to run the system for 24 hours. The pack weighs about 11 pounds and the soldiers can recharge the batteries at their vehicle.

The soldiers wear headsets that connect to the UHF squad radio. The squad commander carries a VHF radio that connects to higher headquarters. Push to talk buttons are built into each soldier's G36 assault rifle allowing soldiers to keep their hands on their weapons.

The Gladius system also powers the night vision goggles mounted to the soldier's helmets. The integrated display allows the soldier to see blue and red force positions at night.

"We're excited to see how this works in Afghanistan and in the training before it," Aul said.

-- Mike Hoffman

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