Instead of one big conference as it has done in the past, Eurosatory 2010 has opted for holding eight two-hour conferences.
The first of these was dedicated to the thorny issue of weight versus capability on a platform that hasn't changed over centuries: man. As Klaus-Peter Nick, senior sales manager for soldier systems at German company Rheinmetallag, remarked: “he is just a normal being, he is no Batman, Superman or James Bond!”
Lt. Col. Philippe Testart, in charge of doctrine and lessons learned at the French Infantry School, told how Napoleon had checked the weight of his grenadiers in 1802 and discovered that each was carrying 40 kg. His approach was to lighten the load by ensuring the country he was invading provided all necessary logistical support!
This figure of 40 kg has remained the benchmark. Beyond that the soldier becomes seriously incapacitated to perform his mission. Testart quoted a U.S. study that showed a soldier carrying 40 kgs can only walk 8 km a day compared to the 32 km he could achieve if he were carrying nothing. But between 30-40% of this weight – in a combat situation at least – consists of body armor “which is impossible to lighten for the moment,” he remarked.
The French army, he said, is researching six sectors to see where and how the loads can be lightened. One sector concerns the individual soldier (the other sectors are the platoon, coherence, organization, training and logistics), sub-divided into six areas: energy, communications, protection, observation, aggression, sustainability.
Industry is also working in these areas and Terence Vandeventer, the deputy vice president sales and marketing land warfare at French company Sagem, talked about long-term research being done to reduce weight and volume while retaining power. “This is a constant effort by all industries working in soldier systems,” he noted. For example: how do you transform the soldier's body movement into power? Every bend of his knee, movement of the backpack, friction from the sole of his shoe, has the potential to be turned into the power he needs for his radio, data link etc. “But we're also looking at a soldier smart-phone type solution” he said, where one small hand-held “phone” would have multiple functions.