Monthly Archives: June 2007
Another mystery death occurred last Wednesday in downtown London, when Ashraf Marwan, an Egyptian billionaire and son-in-law of the late President Nasser, was found dead outside his flat in the posh Carlton Terrace in Central London. According to Scotland Yard investigating, no suicide note has sofar been discovered and Police are thus treating his death as “unexplained”.
Investigators are exploring three possibilities: that he was murdered by unknown assailants, he jumped to his death or, accidentally fell after losing his balance. In fact, Marwan is the third Egyptian to have jumped, or have fallen off a balcony in London in recent years.
Police issued a gag order on its investigation, indicating that all these deaths may have been shrouded in mysterious circumstances. Six years ago – in June 2001 – the famous Egyptian actress Soaud Hosni allegedly threw herself off the balcony of a residential tower in Maida Vale, North London. Before that, in the mid-1970s, General Leithy Nassif, the former head of the presidential guard under the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat also fell off a balcony in the very same tower in Maida Vale luxury district. The common link between all three deaths is that they all had intelligence connection and were rumored to have been writing their memoirs at the time of their alleged suicides.
Perhaps most prominent among the three was Ashraf Marwan. Marwan’s career and his wide-spread connections represent a feast for anyone interested in conspiracy theories. Having married Abdul Nasser’s daughter Muna shortly before the late Egyptian president died in 1970, he became President Sadat’s closest personalpolitical aide in the early 1970s, and later head of Egypt’s Military Industry Organization before moving to London in the 1980s where he became a billionaire.
Ashraf Marwan was a man of immense wealth who owned luxury Mediterranean hotels, had shares in the Chelsea soccer club and associated with the notorious international arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, the controversial business tycoon Tiny Rowland and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. However it was the allegation – made public for the first time four years ago – that he was a secret agent for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war that put him in the spotlight. In 2004, retired major general Eli Zeira, head of Israel’s military intelligence during the Yom Kippur War, had alleged that Marwan was recruited by the Israeli intelligence, Mossad, a year before Nasser died, but allegedly acted in fact, as double agent to the two countries.
After the near-disastrous Yom Kippur War, in which Israel was caught unprepared for an Egyptian and Syrian attack, the Israeli Agranat commission of inquiry laid much of the blame on General Zeira and the Military Intelligence. Retired General Zeira sought to protect his professional and personal reputation for decades. Fourteen years ago in his biographical book “Myth Versus Reality: The Yom Kippur War” he revealed Israel had had an unidentified “senior agent” or “source” operated by the Mossad in Egypt. The spy, until then known by the code word “Babel,” seems to have warned Israel of the coming war, just hours ahead of Egypt’s attack. But the warning was ignored because Military Intelligence believed the spy was really a double agent deliberately planting falsified information on the “H” Hour of the Egyptian cross-Suez Canal attack.
When Ashraf Marwan was finally identified as “Babel” in foreign newspaper reports in 2003, retired General Zvi Zamir, chief of Mossad during the Yom Kippur War, accused General Zeira of revealing the identity of a secret agent. General Zeira reacted by filing a libel suit against Mr. Zamir in 2004, which he lost just three weeks ago when a retired Supreme Court justice ruled he had in fact told several reporters and historians the name of Mossad’s top agent in Egypt.
According to Israeli media reports, Mr. Marwan approached the Israeli embassy in London in 1969 and volunteered to spy for Israel. But his offer was turned down for fear he was a plant. But he was later recruited by Mossad. Two days before the October, 1973, Yom Kippur War, Mr. Marwan contacted his Mossad handler in Cairo and whispered a code-word warning of imminent war. He then flew to London, where he met Mr. Zamir, the Mossad head and told him Egypt and Syria were planning to go to war the next day, giving the “H” Hour as 1800 on Saturday October 6. But the Egyptian army started the Yom Kippur war at 1400 hours, six crucial hours before Marwan’s warning! This difference, and other signs, have sparked the ever since controversial discussion, whether Ashraf Marwan was a genuine or “double” agent serving both sides.
Marwan’s friends told Arab media that the 63-year-old Marwan had been considerably upset in recent weeks, after Justice Theodor Or’s ruling had linked his name directly with Israeli intelligence. “He believed that there were official Egyptian sources behind this media campaign against him, and that behind it all there were plans to harm him,” his friends said. But on the other hand, Egypt’s state-controlled media last week praised Ashraf Marwan, saying he received the highest honor for his “services” during the 1973 October war. As for the usual allegations, blaming Mossad on Marwan’s untimely death, it has no reason to do this. In fact, for decades, Mossad chiefs staunchly adhered to its version, that Ashraf Marwan was a trustworthy agent.
But there are other theories cropping up in the media, since Marwan’s “jump” from his balcony last Wednesday. Mr Ashraf Marwan’s name was linked with claims of years in his illicit weapons trading activities throughout the Middle East. He was also rumored to be a close associate of the maverick Mohamed al-Fayad, owner of Harrods and father of Dodi, Princess Diana’s companion who died with her in the still controversial car crash in Paris. According to press reports, Marwan was said to be the principal player in the Tiny Rowland versus al-Fayed war over the House of Fraser which owned Harrods. In his book “Who Killed Diana?” Simon Regan an investigative journalist and author of biographies of Prince Charles and Princess Margaret, dedicated a special chapter in his book to Marwan. Regan is cited saying that: ‘Cold journalistic logic brings one to the inevitable conclusion that Ashraf Marwan made the most perfect double agent for nearly all of the Mid-eastern and Western espionage agencies.
So did Mr Marwan die a “natural” death or was he “helped” by some mysterious circumstances to silence the controversy between the two nations, already at peace since 1979? It is known, that during the past few years Marwan was busy writing his memoirs and said that the book would be titled “October 1973 – What took place.” His book was expected to shed light on his activities in the Egyptian leadership and on the claims that he was a Mossad agent. If he did address this issue in his memoirs, he probably would have denied the charges.
No doubt, London investigators are searching for the manuscript, which could perhaps shed some light on the mystery. It may, or not be coincidental, that only last March, a similar mysterious death occurred in Russia, when the outspoken journalist Ivan Safronov died allegedly after falling from the fifth floor of his Moscow apartment building. But is it not an undeniable fact that too many controversial celebrities seem to be jumping off balconies lately?
Defense Update surveys the latest protection and survivability gear including body armor and helmets, developed for the modern infantry, including new ergonomic bullet-proof vests, fire resistant clothing and microclimate personal cooling systems and load carrying systems, enabling the warfighter to endure andsurvive in combat as well as endure extreme climatic conditions. Among the body armor types covered here are the US Army Interceptor, the controversial Dragon Skin, Israel Defense Forces Hashmonai ergonomic body armor and latest body armor developed for theGround Soldier System program.
Defense Update reports on the latest trends in tactical eyewear, protecting the warfighter’s eyesight without compromising look and style. This feature covers modern types of tactical eyewear, problems and limitations associated with prescription glasses and the advantages of Laser refractive eye surgery for the combatant. The article also lists many ballistic protective eyewear approved for use by the US Military.
An updated and revised version of our article from October 2004 , rewritten to reflect the new trends in this exciting new field. This feature covers the latest innovations in soldier systems, including protection, ergonomics and command and control. Special updates are provided on the latest versions of the US Army Future Force Warrior systems and Ground Soldier System program, the FELIN system, IDz, D2S2 and the several new Israeli programs. A follow-on article planned for publication in June will add another dimension to this coverage, with an overview of command and control systems, designed to empower and support the small unit commander and team leader of a modern and ‘future’ infantry unit.
Attack helicopters are providing an essential asset for modern warfare, but high vulnerability to ground fire and limited weapons choice and issues of communications, affecting their integration into the ground combat . Defense Update reviews the weapons currently available for helicopter gunships, highlighting the advantages and limitations of ‘fire and forget‘ missiles and ‘man in the loop’ laser guided and electro-optically controlled weapons which are proving their worth in modern asymmetric combat.
The Pentagon has approved the expansion of the MRAP program to over 20,000 vehicles. The US Army plan to increase its fleet of MRAP vehicles from the planned 2,300 to 17,700. The Marines’s allocation will remain at 3,400 and special operations forces will receive about 300 (170 have already been ordered). This plans will virtually phase out the HMMWV from use in combat patrols and high risk missions. Responding to the urgent requirement, the Army plans to have all 17,700 MRAPs in theater by April 2009. To accomodate this plan all suppliers are expanding their production facilities to speed up deliveries, reaching several hundred vehicles per month by the autumn of 2007. By October 2007, 8800 vehicles are on order and the Pentagon expects 1,500 of them to be delivered to US forces in Iraq by the end of 2007.
The total procurement of MRAPs for all services could surpass 20,000 units, with an estimated procurement cost above $10 billion. However, the MRAP life cycle cost is expected to rise significantly above that level, due to the need for frequent damage repair resulting from high operational tempo and frequent battle damage. Some estimates value the program’s life cycle cost at about $20 billion. The up-armored Humvees proved vulnerable in Iraq and Afghanistan, resulting in the growing demand for vehicles that could better withstand roadside bomb blasts.
Between October and December 2006 the U.S. Navy evaluated nine suppliers for the procurement of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) trucks, destined to augment and later replace up-armored HMMWVs currently operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. The new vehicles provides much improved protection , specifically against Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), which cause 70% of all U.S. casualties in Iraq.
The initial joint services program, was expected to cost over US$2 billion is being managed by the US Marine Corps. However, given the poor performance of lightly armored vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the realistic requirement for MRAP rose to over 7,700 vehicles, worth an approximate $8.4 billion. Some 3,700 MRAPS will go to the USMC while the Army plans to buy 2,500. The Army is expected to get much more than what it currently plans, as priorities are changed and additional funding allocated. MRAP is the “highest priority Department of Defense acquisition program,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote in a memo sent in early May 2007 to the secretaries of the Army and Navy. Current forecasts based on urgent requirements directed by the Department of Defense, call for the rapid acquisition of 17,000 – 20,000 heavily armored MRAP vehicles, replacing protected HMMWV currently operating in theater. Despite the demand, manufacturers are producing the vehicles at full capacity and it is doubtful if they can increase production further in the near term.
Previous MRAP models (including Cougar JERRV and Buffalo mine protected trucks) are currently in service in Iraq and Afghanistan. These armored vehicles have a proven record of saving lives by augmenting the current level of mine, rocket propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices (IED) protection with a V-shaped hull and raised chassis.
Of the original 4,100 vehicles included in the initial program, 1,500 will be Category I Mine Resistant Utility Vehicle (MRUV) (designed for the US Marines and U.S. Navy use) while 2,600 will be Category II Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle (JERRV) destined mostly for U.S. Army units.
According to the original plans, the Army would get 2,500 vehicles, the USMC: 1,022 and Navy: 538. As mentioned above, the Army plans to significantly increase its procurement, with over 10,000 additional vehicles. Current MRAP, considered to be better protected against IEDs, mines and, if required – RPGs, is expected to significantly improve the protection of troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The vehicle will use bullet-proof armor and are designed with V shaped hull, deflecting the blast effect created by mines or IED explosions.
By February 23, over $200 million were awarded to five contractors for the low-rate initial production of some 400 vehicles, both category I and II MRAPs, including Cougars, RG-33Ls, Alpha, Golan and RG-31s. By April 24, an additional orders for more than 1,190 MRAP vehicles was awarded to Force Protection.
In July 2007 Armor Holdings’ Stewart Stevenson subsidiary received production orders for 1,170 Caiman model MRAP vehicles based on the company’s FMTV truck. The Caiman vehicle is based on Stewart Stevenson’s FMTV truck chasis, applied with bullet proof armor and IED protection to fulfil the MRAP mission.
Further orders were issued to Oshkosh for 100 Alpha vehicles and to PVI for 60 Golan based MRAP were issued in March 2007. BAE Systems received orders for 90 4×4 and 6×6 RG-33s.
The U.S. Navy program office has allocated over US$34.5 million for the initial evaluation phase of 36 vehicles. Nine contracts have been awarded last week to most producers of armored vehicles, excluding AM General, (AMG) the producers of the HMMWV, which will continue production of the lighter, Up Armored vehicle under existing programs. The joint venture between AMG and AMG Each company will deliver four test vehicles (two per category), within 60 days. Among the contractors are some of the well established names, such as BAE Systems, GDLS and Force protection, and truck producers Oshkosh, International and Stewart & Stevenson (Armor Holdings) but also smaller producers of special armored vehicles, such as New Haven, Michigan based GPV and PVI, based in North Charleston, S.C. The full list of MRAP contractors include:
Due to the tight procurement schedule, only commercially available designs were considered. The vehicle should be designed for off-road and highway mobility, and be configured for personnel, cargo and litter transportation. Two versions of the targer truck size vehicles are considered – a Cougar
sized, 38,000 pound (17 tons) vehicle with a payload capacity of 5,000 pounds (2.25 tons), that will be able to carry 6 – 10 troops (about 2,000 vehicles required). The vehicle will be configured to carry existing gunner protected turrets or remotely controlled weapon stations, enabling the gunner to load, operate and engage targets from fully protected positions. To improve recovery after mine damage, the vehicle will be built of modular components that could break away from the vehicle in the case of a blast. Its energy absorbing seats should be capable of withstanding the accelerative effects of mine blasts. The truck sub-category also includes a larger 45,000 pound (20 tons) armored truck, (Buffalo
size) are also required by the USMC and Navy.
Two truck manufacturers Oshkosh and International were selected among nine companies, each providing two Category I and two Category II vehicles for testing. The Category I vehicle is the smaller of the two vehicles, intended for urban operations and referred to as the Mine Resistant Utility Vehicle (MRUV). The Category II vehicle is a larger platform, designated as the Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle (JERRV), and is designed to carry up to 10 passengers on multiple types of missions.
International Engines and Trucks (IET) has teamed with the Israeli armor expert Plasan Sasa to provide protected Mine Resistant, Ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles. The two companies have already completed another armoring design, fitting add-on armor cab to the MXT-MV utility vehicle. International’s trucks will utilize a modular concept to armor its trucks for the MRAP bid. The design maintains the standard chassis to ensure commonality and enable worldwide support, while assembling the modular, V-shaped crew compartment hull on top. The V-shaped hull helps to deflect any blasts from underneath the truck to dissipate around the crew area, minimizing damage. The chassis types selected for the bid include commercial trucks built to carry heavy loads, therefore accommodating the weight of protective armor built into the truck design. This design maintains the vehicle’s maneuverability even under full loads.
International’s has an armor integration center in Mississippi, and is teamed with Israeli armor expert Plasan Sasa to design and produce the protection suit for International’s MRAP model. In March 2007 the company will deliver to the U.S. Marines four vehicles for testing. In June 2007 International receivd an initial order for 1,200 Category I MRAP vehicles.
The armor protection of the vehicle include mine protection and ballistic protection of the full, roof protection from overhead airburst and side protection against fragmentation and blast. The transparent armor windows will have protection level equal to or greater than that of the ballistic armor on the vehicle, and will have built-in gun-ports. RPG protection could also be an option.
An updated review of the MRAP program is available in the February 2007 edition of National Defense Magazine.
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The millimeter-wave guidance of the Hellfire Longbow version (as well as the British Brimstone) is inadequate for missions where are not clearly defined far in advanced (specific types of tanks, missiles etc). For example, the cannot target a ‘red pickup truck’ suspected carrying improvised rockets or machine guns, as it rarely matches a specifically distinguished “target file” stored in the missile’s memory and is too similar to many civilian and innocent pickup trucks moving in the combat area. The missile’s “fire and forget” capability is therefore, a burden, and of no advantage, as it lacks the “man in the loop” wisdom and control. This capability is becoming an essential requirement for successful operations and minimizing collateral damage, when operating in an urban environment.
NATO especially, lacks effective ‘man in the loop’ capability for its expeditionary forces. The mainstay of NATO’s combat helicopter capability remains on missiles developed for the cold-war era, optimized to fight masses of Soviet armor under the worst typical European weather conditions. Missiles such as the Trigat LR were developed since 1988 under collaborative effort of France, UK and Germany. In the recent years, the UK and French governments withdrew from the program. Britain and France have yet to decide on the type of missiles they consider for their attack helicopters. Britain is deploying the Apache Longbow, while France is investigating several alternatives to equip its future forces. The French army has not yet decided on its future weapon for the Tiger, but is inclined to adapt the Hellfire, which has already been selected by the Australians for this helicopter. Turkey, which also considers buying new attack helicopters, is considering the SPIKE or South African Mokopa ZT6 for this role.
Spain has apparently made its choice, selecting SPIKE over Hellfire and TRIGAT LR (PARS-3) for its new Tigers, leaving Germany the only country to back this autonomous 3Rd generation missile, still pursuing this weapon for their Tigers. In 2006 the German government has allocated MBDA 300 million Euros to deliver these missiles. India, developing the NAG 3rd generation anti-tank missile, also pursuing similar a ‘fire-and-forget’ capability, could find itself in the same dead end.
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Laser guided weapons, such as the Lockheed Martin Hellfire, and Lahat and Nimrod, developed by IAI/MBT offer many advantages for heliborne and airborne use. The SAL seeker is relatively low cost, offering high precision operational flexibility, despite its adverse weather limitations.
Integration with into net-centric operations enables combined forces to overcome most of the limitations inherent to laser guided weapons, as missiles can be fired ‘blind’ into ‘basket’ where line of sight with the target is assured, enabling the seeker to lock on the designated target. This concept of operation places high priority on target designation capabilities, deployed close to the target by unmanned platforms and Special Forces. Not every laser seeker will be suitable for the task. Only the more sophisticated missiles offer the flexibility and field of regard (‘side looking’) capability adequate for effective lock-on after launch targeting. Such capability seldom requires their seeker to be mounted on a gimbal, to achieve adequate field of regard, something that simple, low-cost stiff-necked or static seeker assemblies may not support.
The LAHAT laser guided missile is lightweight weapon can be employed by light helicopters. It can be fired at targets over distances between 8 to 13 kilometers, with devastating effects against armor as well as softer targets. Besides its potential helicopter application, LAHAT is considered by several armies for its original role as gun-fired laser-homing munition for tanks. Nimrod, a much larger missile, is operational with the IDF and has also been evaluated as a helicopter borne weapon. Utilizing its extended range (over 22 km), this missile is often used in ‘lock on after launch’ mode, combining inertial guidance and semi-active laser homing to strike targets at long ranges. The Israelis are employing their Nimrods primarily as ground launched weapons, but an airborne version, carried on helicopters such as the CH-53 was also tested. Although unconfirmed by official sources, both laser-guided weapons were employed in combat for several years.
With the availability of such ‘net centric’ precision attack missiles, the role of attack helicopters is also re-examined, and several air forces and manufacturers are already considering using assault helicopters for some attack roles, employed either as a ‘sky truck’ or in direct support, when they are fitted with target acquisition systems. Examples for such approaches are the modified Mi-8/17s, the development of the Rumanian Puma and the new multi-role/attack version of the Black Hawk.
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Since most helicopters were designed for full scale anti-armor warfare, they may be inadequately equipped to carry out low intensive combat missions. The most common weapon in use today is the Hellfire semi-active laser (SAL) guided missile. Hellfire has excellent precision and “man in the loop” control, as it homes in on a target marked by ground or airborne designators. However, when employed against “soft” targets, such as unarmored vehicles, or buildings, the Hellfire does not generate the required lethality.
To improve its capabilities against such targets, blast-fragmentation and thermobaric versions of the AGM-114A were designed. With the enhanced range of warheads, laser guided Hellfire provide adequate standoff range and precision suitable for LIC operations.
Second generation TOW II and HOT missiles are not optimized for LIC, as they are limited to relatively short range, due to the wire guidance limitation. Similar to the basic Hellfire, they also have an excessive target penetration, due to the anti-armor warhead design. Equipped with blast fragmentation warhead, currently available for TOW, this weapon has regenerated some interest with LIC operators. The Fourth generation (now cancelled) Joint Common Missile (JCM) was designed to replace Hellfire and TOW currently in service, offering advanced multi-sensor seeker (SAL, Imaging Infrared (IIR) and millimeter radar)and adaptable warhead design. Instead, product improvements have been introduced to the TOW missile, eliminating the wire guidance with an RF link, while the Hellfire was modernized with mission-specific warheads, optimizing fragmentation and structure penetration capability. Furthermore, thermobaric warheads and a special model optimized for UAVs were introduced. In France, MBDA is focusing on a similar concept represented by the MCT (also known as EMM) which will offer similar capabilities for the future ground launched and helicopter launched missiles.
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The Israeli SPIKE missile family represents the only true “fourth generation” missile currently available on the world market. This family includes the man-portable SPIKE LR, employed from land platforms, on armed helicopters and UAVs, and the heavier SPIKE ER, designed for vehicular, naval and airborne applications. The missile offers today some of the capabilities considered only in other army’s ‘wish lists’.
SPIKE utilizes an Imaging Infrared seeker, with automatic target tracker and special fiber-optical datalink. It is designed for deployment from helicopters in a “fire and forget” or “fire and observe” operating modes, which retain “human-in-the-loop” capability in most firing scenarios. The missile can be linked to the firing platform throughout the flight, enabling a clear view of the target as the missile closes in for the kill. Spike ER uses penetrating blast fragmentation (PBR) warhead to effectively engage targets such as vehicles or buildings.
Another unique Israeli weapon is the Delilah, originally developed as an electro-optical precision guided weapon, capable of loitering over the target area for extended periods of time. Delilah was successfully used during the last Lebanon war. A modified version is currently under development to equip naval helicopters and surface ships. The missile will offer naval task forces a unique, precision attack capability to launch highly accurate attacks against surface and ground targets over ranges of 200 kilometers.
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European combat helicopter missions, as part of modern Army Aviation units, are rooted in the 1980s, when NATO deployed large numbers of attack helicopters as part of its defense planning to counter numerically superior Warsaw Pact armor and mechanized forces. Combat helicopters retained essential capabilities to cover the long gaps along the border between East and West Germany. They had the firepower and mobility of tanks, with superior maneuverability and mobility in the vertical dimension, which enabled them the capability to deploy and confront those sectors where the enemy was aiming its main thrusts. Special attack helicopters were designed specifically for this role.
Based on the original combat gunship concept of the Vietnam War era, a new generation of Western attack helicopters was designed, including the AH-64A Apache, AH-64D Longbow and Eurocopter Tiger. These platforms were equipped to locate, pursue and hunt tanks and other priority targets such as mobile artillery, air defense and command and control assets. They were designed to operate independently, or as part of combined hunter-killer teams of observers and shooters. Their weapon systems were based on accurate anti-armor missiles, which improved from basic wire guided second generation missiles, through laser seeking Hellfires and the sophisticated, autonomous (fire and Forget) to third-generation missiles, such as the Hellfire Longbow and Trigat LR, designed for all-weather, autonomous operation.
These missiles were designed to identify the unique characteristics of Russian made armored vehicles, operating in open or covered forested terrain. They could pick up the targets in heavy clutter, discriminate true targets from countermeasures, decoys or burning hulks, lock on priority targets, based on significant and distinctive millimeter-radar or infrared signature, identify the most vulnerable area and strike with maximum kill probability. Since attack helicopters were expected to meet large armored formations in the Central European battlefield, these platforms were designed to rapidly engage multiple targets simultaneously, and generate maximum “kill ratio” before being detected and engaged by the enemy. A primary design goal was the survivability of the platform, which relied on long range engagement with “fire and forget” missile.
After the disintegration of the Warsaw pact and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the threat of full scale war in Central Europe diminished. Low intensity conflicts, which evolved in the Balkans, as well as the Middle-East conflicts demonstrated the importance of the helicopters, as a flexible, versatile and dependable support platform.
Adequately protected and armed, attack helicopters can rapidly deploy to crisis area, either independently or as part of combined peacekeeping forces, carry out reconnaissance and patrol missions, and use precision firepower to support ground operations, deter hostile forces or carry out clandestine operations against guerilla forces, insurgents and terrorists.
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Traditionally infantry operated in small units such as squads, companies and platoons. While ancient armies used larger formations to aggregate firepower, enhanced communications and devastating firepower of the modern age empower the infantry leader to use different tactics. In practical terms, allocation of communications determines the smallest size of combat element, which can be controlled as a coherent unit.
In most regular armies, the squad is the smallest tactical level unit. Below the squad, only better equipped Special Forces operate in smaller teams. In most recent conflicts, infantry formations were controlled by voice and visual hand signals, shouts or whispers. Lack of communications has sofar limited dismounted infantry operations due to command and control limitations. As they dismount their Armored Personnel Carriers, individual soldiers and sub-squad teams could only disperse within shouting range from each other, to deploy firepower in mutual support, coordinate their movement and prevent fratricide.
Intra-squad voice and data communications significantly improve infantry operations. For the first time, independent sub-squad elements can be employed and coordinate their activity and firepower. Mutual fire support between and within squads can be controlled. Improved situational awareness and reporting provides better real-time intelligence and information gathered in real time. Modern intra-squad specialized Personal Role Radios (PRR) offer effective communications within the squad and between combat teams, enabling effective dismounted infantry operations at a level previously reserved only for Special Forces.
Digital information is usually displayed on hand held computers and ruggedized Personal Digital Assistants (PDA). These tactical and hand held devices provide unprecedented situational awareness and access to information. PDA devices and hand held computers are used by dismounted infantrymen and commanders to provide situational awareness combine integrated navigation, observation and orientation devices, utilizing optronics, digital compass and GPS systems and laser rangefinder for combat orientation and coordination.
Such PDAs are running mission or role-specific applications linked to data-enabled PRRs or hand held data-enabled combat-net radios, operated by squad and platoon leaders. These computers are presenting maps, aerial imagery, sensor data, intelligence information etc. They generate and distribute standard reports. Whiteboard application allows commanders to share common maps, overlayed with mission-specific information and graphics sketched by each member. Using this facility, commanders can coordinate planning without gathering at vulnerable locations. Other applications are provided to rapid response units such as SWAT and mobile guards, guided by ground and perimeter protection sensors. Provided with own position, target locations, images and navigation instructions, such applications optimize their movement providing the shortest (distance) or fastest (terrain, road condition etc) intercept routes, gaining optimal engagement parameters. Similar PDAs provide remote controlled of sensor systems, including autonomous ground robots, (UGV) miniature UAVs (MAV), unattended ground sensors, and even remotely controlled weapon’s platforms.
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Apart from their additional weight vests block natural ventilation, preventing sweat heat dissipation. Physiological tests have demonstrated that body and surface temperature of soldiers wearing bulletproof vests can rise by up to 2C degrees (4F) after one hour continuous physical workout, compared to those not wearing vests. Since sweat is gathered between the shirt and vest, air becomes saturated with humidity and the body’s natural cooling process renders ineffective, resulting in increased heartbeat and body temperature, to extreme levels effecting physical and mental capabilities.
The introduction of “breathing” clothing apparatus, such as athletic garments, active air circulation or micro-cooling, as well as redesigned protective vests, introducing larger gaps between the uniform and shield could reduce such adverse effects improving the soldier’s sustained physical abilities.
Improving mobility of individual soldiers can be achieved by providing lighter, improved fitting and more comfortable equipment, and optimizing to physiological conditions under which they fight. Infantrymen usually go to war carrying loads of up to 50 kg, including personal and mission-specific equipment. Infantry combat suits are designed to reduce this load below 25kg. Further mobility improvements include providing pads to protect neck, knees, elbows and shoulders. Such pads offer mechanical or ballistic protection and assist the soldier in maintaining positions for extended durations. Another mobility improvement can be achieved by offloading some supplies to onto a small load carrier, be it exoskeletons, an ATV or small and maneuverable robotic “mule” which can closely follows the troops.
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