Feeds

France's Thales wins key UK ‘robo-squaddie’ contract

Could be worth £2 billion

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

French defence contractor Thales has been awarded the £15 million contract for the assessment phase of the UK's version of the digital battlefield, the FIST (Future Integrated Soldier Technology) programme. Thales beat deadly rival BAE Systems to the deal, which in total could be worth something like £2 billion, and is actually somewhat broader-ranging than its name might imply.

It's instructive to compare FIST with the US digital battlefield vision we covered here recently, because although they are ultimately about the same thing, the philosophical approach is quite different, and we think speaks volumes about differences in military doctrine. The US is attempting to digitise the battlefield and portray it on screen, with for example tanks becoming a sort of mobile office and HQ moving all the counters around, whereas the Brits seem to start more from a fixed bayonets premise. FIST "is a tri-Service project that aims to provide an integrated fighting system to troops that have to fight on foot at close quarters with the enemy, a role which is now termed ?dismounted close combat.?"

This side of the pond we view the infantry section as a "weapon 'system'... a 'platform' much as we treat ships and aircraft." So it starts more at the individual level, with Thales' take on it prior to today's award saying:

"[FIST will] enhance... effectiveness in key capability areas of C4I (communications and situational awareness), lethality (weapons and sighting systems), sustainability (logistics), survivability (body armour and stealth) and mobility (weight and navigation)... Potential equipment under consideration includes thermal weapon sights, night vision, helmet-mounted/head-up tactical displays, GPS navigation and radio communications. Final equipment selection will be based on the conclusive evidence of increased effectiveness derived from the forthcoming 3-year assessment phase, commencing in 2003."

FIST is not however just about infantry. the MoD describes it as a "tri-Service" project, and with the likelihood of its appearing in aircraft and tanks, clearly the UK's forces will be deploying numbers of what you might call data gathering units. Joining up the data centrally then might give you something akin to the US system. BAE's proposal even says FIST will lead to " a quantum leap in the effectiveness of individual soldiers and sections within the network-enabled, digitized battlespace."

Do we see a certain amount of friction here? Yes, we fear we do. BAE sort of won the UK carrier deal, but only sort of. Thales also sort of won it, in a bizarre three-cornered compromise with the MoD as ringmaster and squabbles kicking off before the ink was dry. Thales, meanwhile, was viewed by the US as being deeply, suspiciously French even before more recent events. Yet Thales tells us: "Thales has active involvement in all of the major soldier modernisation programmes around the world including the USA's Land Warrior, France's FELIN, Normans in Norway and IdZ in Germany." The USA's Land Warrior? Does Donald Rumsfeld know about this? ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.