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French Colonial Marines to get Aliens medic-datalink

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Who remembers the movie Aliens, in which Sigourney Weaver and a team of spacegoing marines got stuck into the eponymous acid-blooded homicidal monsters? Anyone who does will be pleased to hear that one of the cunning technologies of the fictional Colonial Marines will soon be available to the French army.

The particular tech trick in question is the datalinking of vital-signs medical telemetry from sensors worn by troops back to the command post. Just as the ineffectual Lieutenant Gorman was able to watch his men flatlining as the Aliens slaughtered them, soon French officers may be able to monitor their troops' heart rate, blood pressure, etc, in real time - as early as 2015.

The capability is expected to be delivered as part of the second batch of FELIN - Fantassin à Équipements et Liaisons Intégrés, the new French digi-soldier suit. Revelation of the Colonial-Marines aspect came in a defence-procurement briefing yesterday, reported by the Ares blog at Aviation Week.

Colonel Jerome Perrin of the French defence purchasing bureau was apparently very enthusiastic about the biotelemetry capability. However, Ares also quotes an unnnamed former Foreign Legion officer as being bluntly dismissive.

"The [defence procurement agency], they can have their dreams, but the reality is that a remote command post should better not have detailed information about who is shot and what are the injuries," growled the ex-Legionnaire.

"Decisions... should be taken by the platoon leader, by the commander who is physically present in the fight. There are many examples of battles that were won against all odds because of determination and good judgement by the officers and NCOs on the ground," he added.

The former Legion officer also gave it as his opinion that the glorious massacre of Camerone* would never have been possible if the Legionnaires in Mexico had all been medically datalinked.

It could be seen as consistent with French military policy, of course, to hook up the mainstream French forces - among whom deaths would be a political issue at home - but not the expendable foreigners of the Legion. The French General de Negrier once famously said to a Legion unit "you men have joined the Legion in order to die, and I am sending you where one does".

The use of medically-capable FELIN would obviously be especially appropriate for the Troupes de Marine, aka Troupes Coloniales in the past. The Aliens scriptwriters would seem to have had them in mind when dreaming up their Colonial Marines.

America's Land Warrior equivalent of FELIN has officially been canceled, but is nonetheless seeing service in Iraq. However, it has no medical sensors. Neither does the UK's FIST programme, at the moment. ®

Bootnote

*The battle of Camerone is the keystone of the Foreign Legion legend, like Trafalgar for the Royal Navy. It occurred during the 19th-century French imperial intervention in Mexico, when a group of less than seventy legionnaires battled 2,000 Mexicans in a heroic last stand and were wiped out almost to the last man.

Camerone Day is celebrated every year in traditional Legion style, by getting paralytically drunk and singing about blood sausage. The famous wooden hand of Capitaine Danjou, Legion commander at Camerone, is reverently displayed.

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