From todays Sunday Times......... June 30, 2002 Britain spends £1bn on robo-soldiers Jonathan Leake, Science Editor BRITAIN’S infantrymen are to be turned into high-tech “robo-soldiers” in a £1 billion project to create one of the world’s most technologically advanced armies. The scheme will see the army’s traditional helmets, uniforms and rifles scrapped. Instead, soldiers will bristle with gadgets including a gun capable of shooting around corners, a computerised helmet that can download maps, and a whisper-sensitive radio implanted in the ear that will remove the need for shouted orders. The officer overseeing the project, Lieutenant-Colonel Dave Stewart, said the move would be among the most significant in the army’s history: “The infantryman’s war is close, personal and very often violent, brutal and dangerous. This project aims to provide a revolutionary enhancement to his operational effectiveness.” The project, codenamed Fist (for Future Integrated Soldier Technology), aims to turn everything a soldier wears or carries into an “integrated fighting system” with every component linked to the rest. The first such kits could be introduced from 2008, with the whole army modernised by 2012. At its heart will be a computerised gun capable of firing grenades or bullets and equipped with a display screen enabling a soldier to aim it from around corners or over walls without exposing his head or body. The gun, equipped with laser rangefinders and thermal-imaging equipment, may even have voice controls and a radio link enabling it to be fired remotely from several feet away. The soldier’s helmet will include a pull-down visor capable of displaying aerial views of the battlefield with the soldier’s position and those of colleagues. A global positioning system and transmitter on his arm will keep commanding officers and fellow soldiers in touch with his movements and reduce the risk of his being mistaken for an enemy. The Fist project follows combat studies which show that the biggest problems for infantrymen are not fighting enemy soldiers but finding and identifying them. A senior officer said: “The figures show that 50% of soldiers get lost on their way to a battle, 10% of them so badly that they never find it. Moving across country or around urban areas accurately is vital.” Other figures show that even when soldiers do find the battle they can sometimes shoot their comrades rather than the enemy. Estimates from the second world war suggest that about 15% of allied casualties were caused by “friendly fire”. Such confusion — which is typical of all battlefields — often leads to soldiers not using their guns at all. Major Simon Johns, who analyses battlefield engagement and equipment capability at the MoD, said studies showed that only 25% of soldiers in battle fired their weapons. The rest spent their time running around looking for the enemy or taking cover. He said: “We could improve fighting effectiveness by an estimated 75% if we could enable them all to fire their weapons rather than worrying about surviving.” A key issue will be to equip soldiers for urban warfare. Studies show that modern conflicts increasingly take place in towns rather than in the countryside. Stewart said: “About 60% of the world now lives in towns and that is where the fighting happens. We need kit and training suited for that.” The decision over who gets the £1 billion contract is vital to Britain’s defence for at least two decades. Two British contenders, BAE Systems and Marconi, are up against Raytheon, an American-owned firm, and Thales, whose roots are in France. All four have spent months drawing up their vision for the project and trying to convince the MoD that theirs is best. Last week, however, none wished to discuss its plans in detail. A BAE spokesman said: “It is very tense. The future of a big chunk of Britain’s defence industry is at stake here.” Raytheon, which has a UK subsidiary with 2,000 staff, has promised that much of the work would be done in Britain. Some say that familiarity with home computing and video gaming will make it easy for future recruits to adapt, but others fear that the army will have to raise its recruitment standards. So MOD understand, what we want is the lightest kit, waterproof and rip proof, with trousers that don't wear out in 10 minutes flat. Decent webbing and a lighter more FOD resistant helmet. We want a gun that works properly, with enough length to be outside the other teams bayonet reach. We want more GPS and a whole load of other stuff. What we don't want, is to be implanted with christ knows what, or to have to "assimilate" a sh(tload of info, when we are getting shot at. Most of all, a boffins idea of "lightweight" is invariably not the same as mine.