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Faced with new operational realities, the French Army is stepping up innovation

As it undergoes a transformation, the French Army is placing particular emphasis on innovation. At the annual presentation of its capabilities this week, we focus on a new dedicated body, the Future Combat Command, and some of the latest equipment.
LUNDIS IHEDN - Focus - L'innovation dans l'armée de Terre

It's a major issue, even if it doesn't get a lot of media coverage: at the moment, the French Army is undergoing a profound transformation. Requested by the Government and implemented by the Chief of the Land Staff (CEMAT), Army General Pierre Schill, this transformation is made essential by the current climate of uncertainty, the change of scale in conflicts and the acceleration of technology. This unprecedented strategic era calls for an unprecedented organisation, based on four pillars: to be and to last; to act; to protect; and to innovate. The latter is reflected, in parallel with efforts towards hybrid warfare in particular, by a closer match between doctrine and equipment, with a dimension that is both operational and forward-looking.

The Future Combat Command (CCF), which was created on 1 August and is currently being set up, is the army's major capability and doctrinal coherence body, dedicated to developing its capacity for innovation. It is headed by Lieutenant General Bruno Baratz, Commander of Future Combat, who reports directly to the Chief of Defence Staff. His deputy is Major General Benoît Vidaud, former Director of the Land Forces Technical Section (STAT) and current Head of the Command Doctrine and Training Centre (CDEC), which will be merged into the CCF by the end of the year. In addition to the CDEC and the STAT, the CCF will bring together the FECS (Force d'expertise du combat - Combat Expertise Force), the FECS and the STAT. Scorpio), the Division étude prospective du commandement et du combat interarmes (DEPCIA) and the Battle Lab Terre.

At the heart of the missions of this new command, innovation within the combat army fulfils a triple objective: to shed light on future commitments, to understand the challenges of the metamorphosis of warfare, and to boost the capability transformation of units. To put it plainly, the aim is to provide land forces with the tools and concepts they need to operate with greater responsiveness. To achieve this, the CCF's roadmap is to rapidly capture innovation, experiment with it, formalise it and facilitate its appropriation by soldiers.

THE CONVERGENCE OF FORESIGHT, DOCTRINE AND CAPABILITIES

At the convergence of the worlds of foresight, doctrine and capabilities, Future Combat Command must exploit every opportunity for synergy. By shedding light on the realities of conflict in today's world, and drawing on its capacity for analysis and the practical applications it derives from it, it also intends to contribute to the dissemination of the army's military thinking among civil society and foreign armies.

To fulfil its remit, the CCF works in three complementary areas:

  • Enlightening the army to understand threats. This precise, all-encompassing analysis must lead to innovation in all areas of contemporary and future conflict.
  • Innovating, in other words acquiring, evaluating and experimenting in close coordination with the directorates and departments of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, manufacturers and land task force units.
  • Exploit: as a factor of superiority, technology, to be fully effective, must be the subject of a concept of use, a doctrine, so that each operational function makes the best use of it. In joint, combined or allied combat, the shared culture and interoperability of all the players involved must also ensure that technological effectiveness is multiplied.

 

At the Presentation of the Army's Capabilities (PCAT) on Thursday 19 October, the CCF is responsible for the "Innovation" section. In conjunction with a number of organisations (STAT, Battle-lab Terre, École militaire de haute montagne, Structure intégrée du maintien en condition opérationnelle des matériels terrestres, etc.), it will be presenting a whole range of innovations, including wargame armed or transport drones, land robotics (maintenance robots, robot mules, etc.), small equipment (outfits and equipment for combat in polar zones) and maintenance (holographic maintenance project for light armoured vehicles, etc.).

BREAKTHROUGH INNOVATIONS, ON LAND OR IN THE AIR

Here are four examples of the equipment presented this year, and how it represents an innovation:

Drone Avatar de l'armée
French Army
  • The AVATAR armed drone (action by airborne robotic weapon firing vector). This demonstrator, which integrates an infantry weapon (an HK 416 F assault rifle) on a lightweight platform, represents a ground-breaking innovation: it extends the range of fire while improving target identification and the protection of operating soldiers.
French Army
  •          The PROBOT mule robot with basket. Teleoperable in and out of sight, but also towable, this robot has a load capacity of 750 kg. It can be used to lighten the load of combatants or, for example, to extract an injured person from a hospital.

Le robot armé PROBOT chenillé
French Army
  •         The tracked PROBOT armed robot. Incorporating a remotely-operated 12.7mm FN Herstal turret, it represents a ground-breaking innovation, increasing and extending the firing capacity and shielding its operators from enemy view.

Le robot NERVA
French Army
  •          The NERVA robot with camera. Its agility, adaptability and stealth make it ideal for reconnaissance, observation and jamming missions.