by Nathan Gain and Christina Mackenzie
The months ahead are going to be busy for the STAT, starting with a crash programme for operation Sentinelle, the anti-terrorist mission deployed in France. “We are developing the first stage of a new communication and information system called Auxylium which uses 4G technology and smartphones,” General Beaudouin, director of the STAT, told parliamentarians during his hearing on 17 February.
“During the terrorist attacks, the telephone network became saturated (…) Next June, during the Euro 2016 [football competition], we will be able to equip our soldiers (…) with very high speed smartphones but within a bubble totally reserved for the military and thus not penetrable by the Orange or other networks,” he continued. In parallel, a new, light system to intercept, hear and scramble armed terrorist groups, “a capacity we notably developed in Mali,” will be put into service.
2016 will, above all, be the “Scorpion year”. This major programme will start a new phase with the final definition of the Jaguar and Griffon armoured vehicles thereby enabling industrialisation to begin. The STAT also plans to launch the “light Scorpion”, a 4×4 lightweight, tactical and multipurpose 12-tonne vehicle to accompany the Jaguar, the Griffon and the Leclerc main battle tank.
The special operations command (COS) will receive the 25 first heavyweight special forces vehicles, known by their French acronym PLFS (poids lourds des forces spéciales), “a crash programme that is an absolute priority,” the General remarked. The STAT is also planning on introducing the Fardier, a small air-droppable vehicle “designed to transport ‘impedimenta’,” (bulky equipment necessary for combat).
In other fields, a new brigade and regiment level command post training simulator, Soult, will be put into service, while the Army’s rocket/missile sector will benefit from the evaluation campaigns of MBDA’s MMP (medium-range missile) and the new generation rocket.
Air-combat will also make major gains in 2016 with the introduction of day-time 4,000m parachute jumps and assault landings from the A400M. In order to guarantee one-sixth of the parachute units’ annual operational training jumps the Swedish C130H and the Austrian C130K will be qualified. The Gazelle helicopters used by the COS will be equipped with a Gatling machine-gun (7.62mm mounted on an articulated arm and fired by a commando at the back) which will help counter the obsolescence of this helicopter whilst awaiting delivery of the first joint lightweight helicopters from 2028.
Later in the year the STAT will turn its attention to the armed forces’ future automatic pistol: “we’ll finally be able to stop using the MAC50 automatic pistol made by the Manufacture d’armes de Châtellerault,” Beaudouin remarked, relieved. Amongst other files on his desk: the first level of robotisation for disembarked combat; the successor to the high mobility vehicle deployed in Guyana to protect the Kourou space station; the joint (with the DGA) plan for testing and evaluating the Patroller RPAS (remotely piloted air system) and the minidrone which will replace the DRAC (drone de reconnaissance au contact).
The director of the STAT did not hesitate, however, to also share some of his main concerns with the parliamentarians. These include: infantry firepower ranging from the automatic pistol to the 2,500m medium-range missile; the new Contact radios; the SICS information system which will replace today’s system; the medium-range missile and other weapons which will need to be integrated onto the Jaguars and the Griffons as well as the Barage scramblers; the delivery of simulators which will enable far more realistic training. And, “not the least of my worries,” according to Beaudouin: “accompanying the rise in use of a new federation of information and communication systems which will, thanks to breakthrough technology, replace the whole chain of command as it stands today, from the division to the section. A transition of this scale has never yet been undertaken.”