Future Soldier Guide: Overview

History


In the late 1990's the IDF Land Forces Command launched a Future Infantry Soldier program, designed to test new concepts for infantry soldiers. As with similar programs of other Western armed forces, the IDF program aimed to integrate small arms, advanced digital optics, signaling and computing equipment into a single fully digitized tactical platform to be carried by an individual soldier. This platform would then increase lethality, command and control and survivability as well as support improved all weather deployment.

Several Israeli defense contractors were assigned to the program:

  • Elbit - the system integrator as well as the developer of its tactical computer.

  • ITL – the developer of the weapon’s fire control module (later known as “Viper”).

  • IMI – the developer of a modified Tavor as well as smart munitions with airburst capability (later known as “REFAIM”).

  • Tadiran – the developer of the system's tactical radio.

Original Components


The future infantry soldier platform was originally comprised of the following systems:

  • Weapon - known as "Multi Purpose Rifle System (MPRS)", it is comprised of advanced fire control module, featuring a red dot sight, day/night camera, a laser rangefinder and a laser pointer, as well as smart munitions with airburst capability.

Tavor fitted with an ITL Viper prototype and a REFAIM bullet trap rifle grenade.

  • Helmet/Head Mounted Display (HMD) - the soldier's immediate interface with the system, the HMD allows the soldier to view computer generated data, such as digital maps, intelligence information, and the location of hostile/friendly troops, all while keeping his hands free to handle the weapon. The HMD can also receive imagery from the weapon's optics enabling the soldier to look around a corner using the weapon, acquire a target, and engage with minimal body exposure.

  • Helmet Mounted Camera - capable of day/night usages and connected to the main computer carried by the soldier. The camera provides real time intelligence to command, and is a useful tool for post-deployment briefing.

  • Signaling – a customized tactical radio capable of transmitting audio, data and video feeds from and to commands or other front units.

  • Computer – the heart of the platform, includes a powerful rugged computer linked to all other components via fiber optics. The computer processes the data, stores it and delivers feeds as needed.

YATA


The Future Infantry Soldier program was first fielded in 2005 to 2006 as part of the YATA pilot in the Givati Infantry Brigade Reconnaissance Battalion. It included most of the original platform components as well as newer related concepts such UAV and UGV. Eventually, the YATA concept was disbanded and the future infantry soldier platform was never fielded again.

Digital Army


In 2004 the IDF Land Forces Command launched the Digital Army program. As part of this program, the IDF explored how the infantry future soldier program can be integrated and fielded within this overall program. Eventually, in 2008 the Golani infantry brigade was the first to be issued with the Infantry Command and Control system, a much less futuristic system, comprised of the following components:

  • Tactical computer

  • PRC-710 radio

  • Monocular HHD with integrated controls

  • 8” Touch screen monitor

  • GPS module

The Infantry Command and Control system primary components: a specialized vest for carrying the system, a tactical computer (attached to a battery pack), a PRC-710 radio, monocular HHD with integrated controls and a touch screen monitor (photo: IDF).

Current Status & Future


Since its initial introduction, the IDF Future Infantry Soldier program undergone many changes, resulting from ownership changes of original contractors as well as shift of focus by the IDF:

  • The weapon role in the platform was essentially diminished. The original platform was based on a modified Tavor with handguards containing integrated control bottoms for weapon’s fire control system, similar to the original Tavor with its ITL MARS handguards integrated controls. However, the ITL fire control module was later redesigned to work with any weapon including regular Tavor and the M16 family using a standard remote switch.

  • ITL now offers the Viper as a standalone advanced optic that would fit most assault rifles.

  • IMI small arms factory was sold to IWI. IMI still offers the REFAIM smart munitions, and recently introduced its own fire control module known as “Orion", which offers similar functionality to the ITL Viper.

  • ITL now offers its own future infantry soldier platform known as the “Advanced Infantry Soldier System (AISS)”, which competes with Elbit offering, including its own tactical computer and other interfacing modules.

  • Tadiran was purchased by Elbit. The signaling component of the platform is no longer based around a customized radio, but rather on the IDF standard issue Tadiran PRC-710.

  • The HMD subsystem role in the platform was diminished. The solution offered today is a handheld monitor or a monocular Hand Held Display (HHD) used to reduce the light emitting from the handheld monitor. The HHD typically also contains buttons to remote control of the computer system.

As was the case with other armed force's future infantry soldier program, the system is yet to be adopted as a full platform. However, its development contributes greatly to the implementation of network assisted infantry warfare concepts in the IDF. Its command and control elements, transformed into the ZEKEM-HIR system and will be continued to be tested and deployed. However, the future of programmed munitions is likely depends on that of the U.S. Army XM25 program. The XM25 is a standalone platform based on 25 mm grenades, rather than on 40 mm grenades fired from a under barrel M203 launcher like the REFAIM. If the X25 fielding is deemed successful, the IDF is likely to adopt a similar system, rather than a REFAIM based system.

Future Soldier Guide