The Délégation Générale pour L’Armement (DGA), the French Ministry of Defence Procurement Agency, has awarded the contract to Sagem for the supply of the FELIN (Fantassin à Équipements et Liaisons Intégrés), the French future infantry soldier system. The FELIN system will be an integrated part of the French Army’s future air and land network-centric system, bulle operationnelle aéroterrestre or BOA (the air land operational bubble).
The system will provide the soldier with improved close-combat capability in terms of lethality, survivability, mobility and C4I (command, control, computers, communications and information).
FELIN future soldier programme
In 1996, the DGA placed a contract on an industrial team led by Thomson CSF (now Thales) for the development of the dismounted combatant equipment technology demonstrator (équipement du combattant débarqué) or FELIN.
The system was tested over a two-year period from 1999. In 2001 the DGA invited Sagem and an industrial team of Giat and Thales to carry out FELIN definition studies. The DGA specified costs and delivery dates but no firm outline technical or capability specifications.
The DGA selected Sagem as the preferred bidder in 2003 and awarded the FELIN V1 (version 1) contract in March 2004. Each FELIN system is estimated to cost €26,000.
FELIN future infantry soldier system schedule
Under the FELIN contract, Sagem will deliver up to 22,500 FELIN V1 sets for 20 infantry regiments and an additional 9,000 FELIN sets for use by the troops of the armoured, engineering and artillery regiments of the French Army.
50 pre-production FELIN systems were delivered in September 2007 for trials. 358 pre-production FELIN sets were then delivered in 2008 for operational evaluation. Three infantry companies undertook a series of trials of the pre-production systems of the FELIN systems over 12 months.
The first 1,089 production FELIN systems were ordered in May 2006. First deliveries of production FELIN units was in 2009 with initial deployment in mid-2009.
In April 2008, Sagem received an order for 5,045 FELIN systems for the French Army, to be delivered between mid-2009 and the end of 2010.
All French infantry troops were equipped with FELIN V1 by 2010. Production of FELIN V2 is planned to begin in 2015.
The DGA has provided a target weight for the system of less than 25kg, to include the entire FELIN system, weapons, ammunitions, and 24-hour energy, food and water provisions. Effort is also being directed to the selection of the energy supplies and the method of recharging batteries.
The system will be delivered in five configurations for different levels of command. Each of the 20 regiments will be supplied with 1,000 systems.
The FELIN system includes portable computer, a voice and data radio, new combat clothing with body armour and a new ballistic helmet.
The new lightweight helmet provides ballistic protection and is fitted with Sagem’s monocular oculaire de vision déportée (OVD) optronic system with light intensifying camera. The helmet has two LED displays, each 3cm².
The headband of the helmet is fitted with a OH-295 osteo-microphone which picks up speech by sensing the vibration in the wearer’s skull. The OH-295 is supplied by Elno of France. The osteo-microphone and a vibrating speaker provide good voice communications even in a noisy battlefield environment.
FELIN weapon system
The weapon systems include the Giat FAMAS F1 5.56mm assault rifle, the Giat FR-F2 7.62mm sniper rifle and the FN Herstal Minimi 5.56mm light machine gun. The weapons are to be fitted with new sights for day and night operation and improved target acquisition.
The infantryman will have an image-intensifying sight such as the Sagem Clara, the commander a thermal imaging weapon sight. The sights are linked to the communications system so the acquired target images viewed through the weapon sights can be transmitted digitally in real time through the FELIN communications network.
The FAMAS assault rifle will be equipped with a video sight integrated to the FELIN system. The video sight will allow the soldier to extend the weapon and aim around a corner without exposing his body to the enemy’s line of sight. A push control button on the stock of the FAMAS rifle allows the soldier to call up other systems such as targeting aids without lowering the weapon from the firing position.
Sagem’s JIM MR multifunction binoculars have been chosen for FELIN. JIM MR combines uncooled thermal imaging channel, eyesafe laser rangefinder and a digital magnetic compass.
An initial order for 155 systems was placed in January 2009 for delivery by the end of the year.
The individual soldier will be equipped with a radio / global positioning system (GPS). The RIF (infantry information network) is a voice and data network that connects the soldier to other infantrymen in the section and to the section commander, who is connected to the SITEL battle management system of the vehicle. SITEL, developed by Sagem, is being fitted to all French Army vehicles and, as of April 2008, had been deployed with two armoured brigades.
The PR4G VS4 frequency-hopping tactical radio from Thales Communications has tactical internet connectivity and links the dismounted soldier to the vehicle’s SITEL.