Future Forces International Exhibition 2016: news from Prague

Over 20 NATO working groups and expert teams took part in the working group sessions, while six events took place on Thursday and Friday: Word CBRN and Medical Congress, Geospatial Hydrometeorological and GNSS Workshop, Future Soldier Systems Conference, Military Advanced Robotic Systems Conference, Future of Cyber Conference and Logistics Capability Workshop.

Experts met in Prague for NATO working groups as well as for a series of conferences on different topics. © P. Valpolini
Experts met in Prague for NATO working groups as well as for a series of conferences on different topics. © P. Valpolini

Beside the hall hosting the meetings, two more halls were hosting over 180 exhibitors. Among the many stands at the PVO exhibition Centre in Prague – Letňany it was possible to find a number of prototypes of new systems, some of which are ready for production while others are still at a much earlier stage.

Let’s start from the Czech companies. VOP CZ was exhibiting the prototype of its MGC-01 remotely controlled weapon system. Optimised for the NSV 12.7 mm machine gun, it has been designed aiming at a low-cost and simple product, to be proposed on the T-72 upgrade market, the first potential customer targeted being obviously the Czech Army. With a –3°/+60° elevation arc and a 360° continuous azimuth movement, it is fitted with a VB30S low-light TV camera.

Tatra Defence Industrial’s T-KAT light armoured vehicle might soon migrate from a Ford commercial chassis to a purpose made chassis by Tatra. © P. Valpolini
Tatra Defence Industrial’s T-KAT light armoured vehicle might soon migrate from a Ford commercial chassis to a purpose made chassis by Tatra. © P. Valpolini

Tatra Defence Industrial has unveiled a new 4×4 light armoured vehicle, the T-KAT, which prototype is based on the Ford F550 chassis. With an 8.9 tonne GVW, it can host eight passengers protected at Level 3, the superstructure having been developed by Plasan Sasa of Israel. To fulfil the Czech MoD requirements Tatra of is working on a locally developed 4×4 chassis.

Explosia is well known in the explosive domain, being the producer of the well-known Semtex. At Future Forces 2016 it introduced the last evolution of its plastic explosive, the Semtex 90, which maintains most of the features of the original explosive but is considerably more malleable in cold weather conditions. Developed on request of the Czech Army and still a mix of RDX and PETN, it will certainly be appreciated by those forces that might find themselves involved in arctic climates.

Need for a malleable plastic explosive in cold weather? Ask Explosia for its Semtex 90. © P. Valpolini
Need for a malleable plastic explosive in cold weather? Ask Explosia for its Semtex 90. © P. Valpolini

On the aviation side, the Department of Aerospace Engineering of the Czech Technical University of Prague exhibited the UL-39 Albi, an all-carbon fibre (over 90% of the weight) light aircraft powered by a piston engine driving a ducted fan which gives the aircraft a jet-look. The Albi carried out its maiden flight in April 2016. A new version of the aircraft, the Albi II, is being developed as a military trainer. Propulsion will be provided by a turbo shaft engine driving the fan, the 7.71 m long, 3.06 m tall aircraft having a 7.22 m wingspan and an empty weight of only 480 kg, with a payload of 410 kg. Stall speed is forecasted at 51 kts, while VNE will be 194 kts. The head of department forecasts an operating cost 10 to 20 times lower than that of current basic trainers, acquisition cost being also lower, a parachute recovery system being for example adopted instead of ejection seats. The military prototype should fly in three years time.

Coming now to foreign companies, SEC-Technologies from Slovakia was exhibiting a model of its Falcon 4G, the fourth-generation CBRN standoff detection system, which leverages the success of the previous Falcon 3G, currently in use with the Slovak Army on the Aligator CBRN reconnaissance vehicle.

Currently at prototype level, the Falcon 4G is ready for manufacture. Compared to the previous generation its detection range is increased from 3 to 6 km, sensitivity being five times higher.

Two new systems where exhibited in the night vision domain. AIM Infrarot-Module of Germany was showing its new thermal sight which operates in the 0.9 – 2.5 μm. The current prototype is hosted in the same case of the Huntir Mk2 , but AIM looks forward to present the real prototype in the dedicated case the target weight being 1 kg with battery. Thermoteknix of the UK had in its booth the Fuser, an engineering demonstrator that includes a 16 mm Photonis tube and a company made thermal channel, power being provided by two AA batteries. No more data were available, but the company looks at first deliveries in Q2 2017.

At the NFM booth it was possible to see the latest development of the Thor load carrier developed for Singapore, which is currently being tested by 12 members of that country Special Forces in Australia. The system is based on a front and a back frame linked by a yoke that allows decoupling the movements, leaving full freedom to the soldier; the frame is made of a semi-rigid hydrophobic fabric which development took the company a few years. The key element is the lumbar support belt, which can be fitted to the single soldier thanks to the extensive use of Velcro; the yoke ensures the balance from the front to the back while avoiding transferring weight on the shoulders.

Bottom, the current aspect of AIM Infrarot-Module short wave infrared sight, on top the final case that will host the system, and which will be available in 2017. © P. Valpolini
Bottom, the current aspect of AIM Infrarot-Module short wave infrared sight, on top the final case that will host the system, and which will be available in 2017. © P. Valpolini

Born as a Future Soldiers Exhibition and Conference the Prague event still maintains part of its hallmarks, many stands being dedicated to soldiers’ equipment. Among those that of Revision, which was exhibiting its NervCentr power management system dedicated to the infantryman. Its SharePack can be linked to different energy sources or energy users, in order to reload or to provide electrical power. It is USB compatible and can be reloaded with over a half-dozen chargers as well as solar panels.

Microflown AVISA of the Netherlands, well known for its Acoustic Vector Sensor based on the air velocity rather that on pressure measurement, is developing for the Dutch Ministry of Defence a soldier-borne version of its AMMS (Acoustic Multi-Mission Sensor) as part of the “Walking Ears” project. Known as PALS (Personalised Acoustic Localization System), its sensor is smaller than the AMMS and can be worn on the helmet, on the shoulder or on the backpack. The smaller dimensions led to a re-optimisation of the algorithms used, the system having been tested for the first time in early October as a stand-alone item, further tests being expected in November with multiple soldiers and the networked version of the system.

Revision NervCentr power management system aims at solving the increasing need of electric power by the individual soldier. © P. Valpolini
Revision NervCentr power management system aims at solving the increasing need of electric power by the individual soldier. © P. Valpolini

BlackBox Biometrics of the US was showing its Blast Gauge. Based on a 3-sensor, one worn on the head, one on the shoulder and one on the chest, the system is triggered by overpressure, although it also records the acceleration. As medical literature confirmed that repetitive exposure to blast generates dangerous brain damages, this kind of sensor is becoming a must, especially in the US. Over half a million systems of the previous version have been delivered, the new one featuring a wireless communication system and a long-lasting battery being now proposed.

Installed on top of the helmet Microflown Avisa mini-AMMS warns the soldier of incoming fire, giving him the grids of the shooter. © P. Valpolini
Installed on top of the helmet Microflown Avisa mini-AMMS warns the soldier of incoming fire, giving him the grids of the shooter. © P. Valpolini

Remaining in the medical field, Cresilon acquired a considerable experience with its Vetigel, a haemostatic gel kit that can be used for biopsies of soft tissues, dental extractions, and trauma in companion animals. From that the US company developed the Traumagel, which can be used on humans. The materiel comes in gel form and is applied thanks to a syringe, filling the wound and stopping bleeding without applying any pressure. When the medic needs to take away the Traumagel, he uses a salt solution that transforms the gel into something more solid and not sticky that can be easily taken off in its entirety from the body.