Despite a proliferation of large procurement contracts across the Middle East in relation to Main Battle Tank (MBT), Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), it is important for the security forces of the Middle East to maintain up-to-date concepts of operation, tactics, techniques and procedures in the dismounted environment. Ongoing operations to clear northern Iraq and Syria of so-called Islamic State (IS) militants are providing a unique perspective into dismounted soldier technology used by Special Operations Forces (SOF) and conventional ground forces tasked with Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT).
However, collaboration between indigenous units such as the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Force (ISOF) Brigade, Kurdish Peshmerga components and Train, Advise and Assist teams from the international SOF community, clearly illustrates how some Middle East countries are still lacking the most mature technology required to clear large urban and subterranean environments, as is the case with ongoing missions in the Iraqi City of Mosul.
The market features a series of dismounted soldier technologies ranging from combat helmets and body armour, through to C4ISTAR (Command & Control; Communications; Computers; Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) equipment, all of which remain relevant to fighting in built up areas.
ISOF assault teams are equipped with high-cut combat helmets including mount for the attachment of night vision devices; plate carriers and load carriage equipment; 5.56mm x 45mm M4 carbines sometimes with integrated under slung grenade launchers; EOTech red-dot and Elcan optical gun sights; L-3 Warrior laser designators; and handheld tactical radios, complete with Peltor headsets providing hearing protection.
Having been equipped with a new fleet of signature black M-ATVs from Oshkosh Defence, operators are lacking Dismounted Soldier Awareness (DSA) and Blue Force Tracking (BFT) technology ideal to reduce the chances of Blue-on-Blue engagements during MOUT missions.
Technology solutions include Ultra Electronics"s TerraComm Tactical Underground Communication System which provides assaulting teams with bi-directional "through-earth" voice communications, ideally suited to subterranean operations. Waveforms also allow for communication with surface-based teams providing perimeter security.
Elsewhere, original equipment manufacturers including Harris Corporation, continue to pursue MANET opportunities across the Middle East with the provision of Software Defined Radios.
Despite the high tempo of operations against IS in northern Iraq and Syria, indigenous security forces continue to be concurrently trained by coalition partners, incorporated into the "Train, Advise and Assist" operations being conducted by the international SOF community. On 17th November, German defence giant, Rheinmetall Simulation and Training announced a EUR10 million deal to enhance a live fire training complex at an undisclosed facility in the Middle East.
The contract, which will centre around the upgrade of a Mobile Combat Training Centre designed to enhance the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) of dismounted troops, will feature both software and hardware improvements. This includes the integration of laser engagement simulation technology capable of being operated from small arms and larger support weapon systems as well as tactical ground vehicles.
As current operations illustrate, the international coalition continues to make steady progress against IS in northern Iraq. However, only the integration of upgraded training protocols and necessary communications systems required conducting complex MOUT and subterranean operations, will allow armed forces of the Middle East as well as coalition partners be fully capable of conducting clearance operations through huge swathes of built up areas in a more efficient manner.