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The European Commission has awarded a EUR 40 M grant to the Augmented Capability for HIgh end soLdiErs (ACHILE) consortium to develop innovative solutions for next-generation dismounted soldier systems in Europe, the consortium announced on 13 June 2023.

One of the main projects of the European Defence Fund (EDF) 2021, ACHILE is aimed at bringing a breakthrough transformation for soldier systems through an open architecture developed for the Preparatory Action Plan on Defence Research (PADR, which is a precursor programme of the EDF). It will seek to demonstrate enhanced interchangeable capabilities improving all areas of dismounted combat, including survivability, sustainability, mobility, localisation and navigation, perception and situational awareness, lethality/smart engagement and communication.

ACHILE will develop specific capabilities in four main areas: ‘Soldier Core’ and ‘Soldier Extension’ to address capabilities at soldier level; and ‘Team Core’ and T’eam Extension’ to address squad and networking capabilities, as well as robotics and weapon interaction at team level.

The ACHILE initiative is looking to develop transformative capabilities for dismounted soldiers in Europe. (Image: ACHILE)

The project is designed to deliver:

  • Better protection for soldiers, with lighter equipment and improved ergonomics, a modular approach and optimised size, weight and power (SWAP) capability up to the system level;
  • Enhanced soldier performance, in particular for visual and sound perception, and individual situational awareness;
  • Augmented team capabilities through network connectivity, shared situational awareness, and co-ordination with all other units on the battlefield.

France’s Safran Electronics & Defense is leading the consortium of 30 partners, with close support from Germany’s Rheinmetall Electronics for technical co-ordination as well as Indra Sistemas of Spain and Leonardo of Italy. Over the next four years the consortium will:

  • Study and deliver harmonised concepts of operations, as well as harmonised user and system requirements at European level;
  • Develop the standardised open soldier system architecture prefigured within the European Defence Agency’s Generic Open Soldier Systems Reference Architecture (GOSSRA);
  • Design advanced soldier system and enhanced capability suites and then evaluate them through technological demonstrators and proofs of concept, including innovative navigation units, head-up displays for augmented reality, weapon sights, and exoskeletons;
  • Design networking capabilities and evaluate them through large-scale demonstrations with battlefield management systems and communication systems;
  • Evaluate full-size demonstrators and prototypes in representative conditions and large-scale demonstrations.

ACHILE encompasses entities from nine EU countries and one associated country (Norway). This consortium covers the full soldier system value chain with a wide range of small and medium-size enterprises, mid-caps, research institutes, universities, and large groups.

Safran Electronics & Defense will co-ordinate the ACHILE project, supported by the core team, to meet the technical and contractual commitments signed between the European Commission and all involved entities.

“Through the ACHILE project the consortium will improve harmonisation of standards proposed to member states and thus contribute significantly to European co-operation,” the consortium stated in its press release.

Peter Felstead