Exo-skeletons, tech to see through walls, bridge launchers, microbots and more: Key NATO partner France made a very strong home soil showing at the largest land warfare show in Paris.
The Eurosatory 2012 event, the largest international military technology show focused on land warfare, was held June 10 to 15. A whopping 53 countries were represented by more than 1,400 exhibitors for the 55,000 visitors -- including a surprising boom in companies from non-Western countries showing off new weaponry, especially Russia and China.
But the home town was no slouch, showing a lavish spread of new gear sure to make military buyers drool.
One big reveal was the new version of the Hercule exo-skeleton, which adds superarms to its superlegs. Exo-skeltons are meant to assist a solider carrying heavy loads, and thereby extend his stamina.
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The French Ministry of Defense (MoD) says this first European exo-skeleton has several advantages over U.S. and Japanese prototypes. They believe it has better movement fluidity, better autonomy and is easier to use due to its absence of sensors.
Intended for infantry soldiers and artillerymen, Hercule will also have applications in medicine, security and civil engineering.
See through walls
How would you like to see through walls? Then the French Millicam is for you. It can detect a human presence through a wall or find an object hidden behind a range of materials.
From detecting weapons or IEDs in the battlespace to checking passengers before they board public transportation technology that offers a sort of X-ray eyes holds a lot of promise. It works indoors or outside, day or night, doesn’t emit radiation and is undetectable and harmless, according to the French MoD.
Instant bridge launcher
Within ten minutes, SPRAT creates a bridge for any military vehicle including tanks to cross rivers and ditches up to 82 feet wide.
The large SPRAT system comprises two vehicles: One acts as the launcher and the other a semi-trailer that’s part tractor, part trailer and carries two additional bridge sections.
In May, a fifth SPRAT was delivered to the French Army 13th Engineer Regiment; A total of 10 will be built for the French Army by 2013.
Smart micro robots
Micro robots designed to clear roads of improvised explosive devices and to inspect suspicious vehicles and objects -- the company calls them Minirogen -- also made a guest appearance at the show.
Weighing in at only 6 kilos, these little guys are perfect for investigating those tough to reach potential hiding places from the bottom of vehicles to ditches. The DGA (French Procurement Agency) has been investing in robotics for several years now and the first ten of an order for 29 of these little robots were recently delivered.
Armored infantry fighting vehicle
This month the 400th VCBI, an armored infantry fighting vehicle, will be delivered to the French Army.
Made by Nexter Systems and Renault Trucks Defense, the 8x8 VBCI has been used in Lebanon and Afghanistan for its high level of protection and mobility as well as its power and accuracy.
The Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) version of this vehicle carries 11 warfighters, weighs 30 tons, reaches nearly 65 miles per hour, and carries a 25mm turret. It can be airlifted into a warzone and is designed to provide a high level of protection from land mines, IEDs, average caliber rounds and shrapnel.
Future fighter gear
As of early May this year, 22,588 soldiers in the French Army Infantry Regiment have donned the latest future fighter system known as FELIN, meaning one seventh of the infantry has been upgraded.
So what does this system entail? Upgrades include improved day and night vision goggles, battle dress, body armor, communications and weapons.
For example, the firing range of the FAMAS rifle has gone from about 1,000 feet to about 1,600 meaning a 70 percent improvement during the day. At night the advances are even better, a 160 percent improvement. FELIN is the product of a network of 25 of the top French and European high tech defense companies.
Special Forces 4x4
Designed for paratroopers and mountain, artillery and observation units, the PVP includes a high level of ballistic protection and mobility.
This 4x4 weighs in at 5.3 tons, can carry four soldiers and is comes with a 7.62 mm turret machine gun that can be swapped out for a remotely controlled weapon system.
Sling transport by helicopter is one option to get the vehicle rapidly where you need it, or alternatively a C-130 or C-160.
Under President Sarkozy’s leadership, France became a real player in NATO operations, and the strong showing French defense made at Eurosatory suggests that at least some quarters under the new President are determined to be at the forefront of defense.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has travelled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie
Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book "Future Weapons: Access Granted" covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.