IdZ-ES in Berlin: a trail-blazing infantry system for the Bundeswehr
"Future Soldier – Expanded System", or IdZ-ES for short, is the second generation of IdZ, a state-of-the-art infantry system whose latest version, now perfected by the Rheinmetall Group of Germany, is set to replace the basic IdZ system starting in 2012. During the project engineering phase, infantry and mechanized infantry units tested the system in trials conducted in El Paso, Texas as well as at German Army training facilities in Munster and Hammelburg. These tests led to extensive alteration of individual components; however, they also confirmed the overall effectiveness of Rheinmetall's underlying approach.
The results of these field trials culminated in new user requirements, which are now defined in both user- and mission-specific terms. Taking the lead in developing the new system, the company has placed a premium on modularity. With an eye to ergonomic aspects as well as the need to keep weight to a minimum, Rheinmetall engineers have redesigned numerous components, replacing them in some cases with modular solutions.
Germany's Federal Office for Defence Technology and Procurement, BWB, contracted with Rheinmetall in December 2009 to supply a preproduction version of the system. Under the contract, the company is to manufacture an IdZ system for a section of ten soldiers, including all modular variants. This system will be used to demonstrate full compliance to tactical and technical requirements during function testing and field trials. Based on a series production contract to be signed in 2011, more than 4,000 individual IdZ-ES kits are to be supplied to the Bundeswehr starting in 2012.
Developed by Rheinmetall, the computer unit is the heart of the new system.
It weighs less than its predecessor, delivers more performance and requires substantially less power to operate. The same is true of the portable command computer, which forms part of the section leader's equipment.
Modular, day- and night-capable optronic aiming systems such as the ZO 3x4° with RSA-S and NSV 600 will be used, together with a fire control aiming unit for the 40mm AG36 build-on device. An additional concealed engagement unit, or CEU, will enable troops to observe and engage the enemy without breaking cover, while the MG4 light machinegun and M82 sniper rifle will be fitted with the thermal imaging device from the AIM infrared module.
In order to improve the ergonomics and combat effectiveness of standard small arms, a number of infantry weapons have also been modified. The G36 assault rifle, for example, has been fitted with an adjustable, foldable shoulder stock. Both sides of the rifle handguard are equipped with a push-to-talk button for activating the section radio, while the button for the laser rangefinder is located next to the trigger guard. The MG4 will also be modified on both sides of the shoulder stock.
With an eye to improving the overall modularity of the IdZ-ES system, special attention has been paid to optimizing the battle dress, body armour and harness system made by a Blücher Systems GmbH; separate items of equipment now provide protection against bacteriological and chemical agents as well as rain, while a new battle dress uniform comes in lighter and heavier versions. The new SK1 body armour system includes a ventilation shirt, while SK4 armour plates – considerably lighter and more ergonomically shaped than previously tended to be the case – lend added protection, as does neck, arm and crotch armour.
The new harness system enables soldiers to carry a full complement of basic and mission-specific equipment. A series of function tests, including trials conducted by sports medicine institute, has successfully demonstrated the ergonomic interplay of all components of this subsystem.
Units that operate primarily in vehicles will be issued with a harness system where the volume and thickness of components worn on the back are kept to an absolute minimum, enabling units to shift swiftly from one mode of fighting to the other. For light infantry units that primarily operate in dismounted mode, a modular harness has been designed to let troops to a carry a full combat load, coupled with an electronic backbone to assure optimum command and control.
Setting a new global standard for excellence, these measures ensure that German troops will soon be kitted out with an optimized, advanced array of infantry equipment, systematically designed to meet the needs of the modern battlefield.
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