Weight Watchers

This is an article published in our Modern Soldier Compendium from September 2017.

US Navy
Operations in extreme environments such as jungle warfare and cold weather environments, as illustrated here, bring with them additional requirements to reduce burdens. (US Navy)

Whether operating as a member of a mounted or dismounted special forces squad, the paradigm of maximum mobility, protection, lethality and connectivity remains a holistic solution which continues to evade even the most mature of armed forces around the world.

The ability to equip Dismounted Close Combat (DCC) personnel with the highest levels of personal protective equipment, tactical communications, weaponry and munitions; while providing them with the optimal freedom of movement and mobility to manoeuvre around the battlefield remains out of reach for many militaries. Instead, sources associated with the British Army explained to Armada how the most tactical levels of the DCC community continued to attempt to maintain some kind of balance between levels of body armour worn as well as scales of ammunition and equipment carried. Additionally, sources associated with the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) Special Operations Headquarters command component in Mons, southwest Belgium, reiterated to Armada how the special operations community also continued to face similar problems, even when receiving larger investments per soldier in relation to more conventional armed forces.

Australian DOD
That infantry troops require significant kit is an established fact, hence why lightening their load has become so important. (Australian DOD)

However, as the contemporary operating environment continues to shift rapidly and dynamically globally, armed forces are adapting and modifying legacy and slow-moving programmes to maintain the pace with emerging restrictions and opportunities across the battlefield. Hence the reason why some armed forces are now considering more flexible and innovative procurement processes centred around commercial off-the-shelf technology. Such a concept continues to be employed by the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) which launched a technology demonstrator effort for its Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) in 2013, with a view to promoting a final concept to the commander of the organisation in August 2018.

Speaking to Armada ahead of the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) in Tampa, Florida on 16th May 2017, USSOCOM officials explained how the Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF) continued to focus heavily on Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) providing the Command and programme managers with flexible, modular and fast-moving technology, with USSOCOM itself providing the guidance as the systems integrator in the effort. Over the course of the three-day event, specialist SMEs were invited to participate in multiple TALOS Industry Engagement sessions with the JATF which comprised soldiers from across the various Component Commands of the USSOCOM. As once source associated with the JATF explained to Armada: “This is typical of a special operations force organisation thinking outside the box when it comes to lightening loads, increasing lethality and mobility, but they remain a long way from identifying the perfect solution.”

US Navy
Operations in extreme environments such as jungle warfare and cold weather environments, as illustrated here, bring with them additional requirements to reduce burdens. (US Navy)

A similar development and procurement concept to the TALOS model is being considered by the German Army as part of its next-generation Mobile Tactical Information Network (MOTIV) concept in place of the award of a systems integration contract to one of the large original equipment manufacturers. This will be covered in greater detail later in this Compendium. Attempting to respond to such critical requirements, industry, academia and the armed forces continue to invest heavily in concepts to not only reduce the burden and lighten the loads carried by soldiers; but also increase the efficiency of operations which is particularly relevant to the successful execution of expeditionary operations. This Compendium will consider the concepts currently being explored by armed forces around the Globe with a particular emphasis on protection, mobility, lethality and connectivity.

by Andrew White