Soldier Survivability and Personal Protection Conference 2009
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Lt. Col. Nick Beyts (ret’d) and Group Captain Dave Bernard (ret’d) started the conference with their views on armour protection and load carriage. They highlighted the range of threats that dismounted soldiers must face, the predominant current threat, coming from IEDs of course.
Major Chi Park then gave a U.S. Marine Corps presentation which illustrated how the cost of equipping each soldier is continually rising—now $6K each. European perspectives were given on the first day of the conference by Romanian, Finnish and Belgian speakers. The Finnish Warrior technology programme is particularly wellfunded (up to 2017), whereas the Belgian Soldier Transformation (BEST), must rely on COTS/MOTS equipment as no funding is available for internal development work.
Colonel Ed Davis, Deputy Director of the U.S. Army Maneuver Battle Lab at Fort Benning gave a summary of lessons learned from recent U.S. operations. These include 1) soldiers in a network are more survivable and networked C2ISR systems can improve leader situational awareness by up to 65 percent, but if the network is degraded and you don’t know it, you are actually worse off than if you weren’t in a network, 2) a manpack UAV at Platoon level is very useful, 3) soldier load is important and 4) face and neck protection are key areas in need of improvement.
Lt. Col. Paul Parker, Trauma and Orhopaedic Surgeon at South Tees NHS Trust added a U.K. perspective of lessons learned from past campaigns. These included: 1) putting water in tyres improves survivability, 2) don’t sit over the tyres if possible, and 3) roll bars and seat belts do save lives. Most deaths occur within 10 minutes of being hit and 48 percent of survivors require a blood transfusion, blood being kept in CASEVAC helicopters.
Major Robert Bender, an EOD expert from the U.S. Army, gave a breakdown of the standard U.S. Army EOD company; company strength is 44 and there are 9 teams in each company. Each team has two robots. Robots cost $124,000 each (the Foster Miller Talon) and their batteries cost $10,000. Robots are difficult to deploy.
The Gas Micro Aerial Vehicle (GMAV) is a JIDO funded UAV called Tarrantula Hawk and also in service as are dismounted jammers. The challenge is to incorporate fullspectrum jamming into a ‘one box’ system. AN/PLT-4, AN/PLT-5 and Thor are in service but are not easily portable.
The 23 variants of MRAP vehicles are operated and these can weigh over 35 tons. The Panther is the vehicle of choice. MRAPs are prone to roll over without any help from the enemy and the MRAP–All Terrain Vehicle (MRAP–ATV) is under development.