The French army is spending a billion dollars to develop and purchase 30,000 FELIN modular infantry combat suites. FELIN includes new weapons, combat uniforms, body armor, sensors, computers, communications and display systems. The entire ensemble, including weapons, but not ammunition, food and the like, will weigh 53 pounds. The new equipment is to be issued to all French infantrymen by 2010.
FELIN is similar to the American Army Land Warrior effort, except that the French have dispensed with the attempt to develop high tech/science fiction type gear, and have gone to the same place Land Warrior is today. That is, use existing technology and quickly developing, testing and manufacturing a system that works, and that the troops can get as soon as possible. Thus the uniform will use current fire retardant fabrics, with better camouflage patterns, and the latest body armor design. The weapon will be a slightly improved version of the current FAMAS assault rifle. This version will have a night vision scope, and a wireless videocam, which will allow any infantryman to transmit, back to headquarters, what he is seeing, and aiming at. The new helmet will have night vision equipment and a personal radio, for voice and data. The new infantry radio equipment will automatically establish small networks among troops in infantry squads and larger units. Each soldier will have a wearable computer to keep all the electronics working, although the radio will function if the computer is out of action.
The battery problem is still there, but each soldier will carry wearable, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. These will keep a soldiers gear going for 24 hours at a time. Fuel cells, a new technology, just entering commercial service, will be used to recharge batteries at the platoon and company level. FELIN will use existing technology, and may go through several models of some items before the final version is made part of the ensemble. Each infantryman will get a set of FELIN gear worth about $33,000.