Procurement: Russians Seek French Infantry Gear


June 25, 2010:  France is marketing its new infantry equipment ensemble to Russia and Middle Eastern nations. Currently, 22,588 Felin (Fantassin a Equipements et Liaisons Integres, literally “infantryman with data-linked integrated equipment”, in plain English; "Future Infantry Soldier System") kits are being manufactured for the French Army. Some $1.5 billion was spent on development and manufacture of Felin kits, which will equip all French infantry. The first units are receiving Felin this year, and all the infantry will be so equipped within five years. Several hundred evaluation kits have been in use for over a year. Russia, and several other countries, have checked out Felin, and liked what they saw.

Frelin is not unique. France, like most other Western armies, has developed a new suite of equipment for its infantry.  It took more than a decade of development and testing before it was ready to go into production. Typical problems were, the personal radio, whose development was stalled for a bit because the government mistakenly sold the frequency for this radio (802-862 Megahertz) when they auctioned off a number of other  frequencies. A new frequency had to be adopted. The only downside on this, other than a deployment delay, was a shorter range (a few percent less) for the radio in forests and urban environments. The current range is 1,000 meters in the open, 600 in forests and urban areas, and a hundred indoors.

Felin consists of 150 items, 73 of them part of the basic equipment. Typically, an infantryman will carry 70 Felin items (including weapon, ammo, food and water), weighing about 57 pounds (26 kilograms). The weight of the Felin gear is well designed for troops on the move. It is well distributed, and this was done with soldiers, maneuvering during combat, in mind. This includes the protective armor.

Soldiers can carry up to eleven electronic items. The helmet contains 13 items (goggles, digital camera, ballistic visor, night vision equipment, commo items and so on). Water is now carried in a camelback container, which U.S. troops and hikers have been using for years. One thing the infantry miss is the close fitting, and more stylish combat uniforms they currently have. The Felin combat uniform is baggier, to accommodate the many new items of equipment. While much of the gear is evolutionary, the complete package looks pretty radical, when seen next to a pre-Felin soldier dressed for combat.

Russia has been shopping for lots of French military technology of late, including amphibious ships and military electronics, usually for exported Russian tanks and aircraft. This is not a new development. French cultural and commercial relations go back over two centuries. When Russia turned to the West in the 18th century, France was the dominant power in Europe. Thus it became common for the Russian royalty to raise their children speaking French. All manner of French cultural influences entered Russia, a process that was largely halted with the establishment of the communist Soviet Union in the 1920s. But some commercial connections remained, with French technology continuing to flow to Russia. Now, the French are using these historic links to resume their once dominant commercial presence in Russia, at least when it comes to high tech military and commercial items.



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