Category Archives: Advanced Soldier Technology and Systems

PenCott™ multi-terrain camouflage pattern as the US Army’s next-gen camo?

Showcasing PenCott’s multi-environment versatility, three colorways were submitted for clothing whilst a fourth colorway was specifically developed for individual and tactical equipment.


Experience in raq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere) has proven beyond any shadow of doubt that the currently issued Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) used on uniforms and personal equipment is significantly less effective in most terrains than other options, and also less effective than many other countries’ camouflage patterns.

So, in July of this year (2010) the US Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier (PEO-Soldier) issued a Request For Information (RFI) asking industry to submit camouflage patterns that the Army could consider for its next-generation “Family of Camouflage” – thereby effectively nailing the coffin lid shut on the “Universal Camouflage Pattern”.

The RFI specifically stipulated that patterns should have a common design geometry with adaptations colored for “woodland”, “desert” and “transitional” environments for clothing – with a fourth multi-terrain pattern adapted for use on web gear, rucksacks, armoured vests and other personal equipment.

Hyde Definition Ltd. recognised the issues with existing camouflage patterns several years ago, and first launched PenCott™ Multi-Environment Camouflage Pattern in late 2008.  The PenCott pattern uses complex, hybrid, digital-fractal geometry to more effectively disguise the wearer – the result being that the wearer disappears into the textures and background “noise” of the environment.

The requirements of the PEO-Soldier RFI therefore played directly to the core strengths of PenCott. In fact, Hyde had already researched, developed and released the required “woodland”, “desert” and “transitional” variations of the PenCott Multi-Environment Camouflage Pattern.

Read the full story here>

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Filed under Advanced Soldier Technology and Systems, Camouflage-IFF

Sonim Technologies XP1300 CORE rugged mobile phone

This is something which is sure to be of interest to those of you who spend a lot of time engaged in energetic pursuits in the great outdoors, and/or who work in noisy, harsh, wet or dirty environments.

The new Sonim XP1300 CORE mobile phone is the cornerstone of the company’s upcoming line of “ultra-rugged” phones and is the world’s first IP-68 rated GSM handset that’s fully submersible in 2 meters of water. It also comes equipped with a 2-inch high-resolution, scratch-resistant screen and a noise-cancelling microphone – making it ideal for use in tough environments.

Available worldwide at the beginning of November, the advanced features of the XP1300 CORE are a result of Sonim’s experience of shipping approximately half a million phones over the past four years into some of the world’s most demanding work environments.

The XP1300 is designed to withstand the most strenuous conditions, meeting US MIL-810G certification for salt, fog, humidity, transport shock, and thermal shock. The noise-cancelling microphone keeps calls clear in loud conditions and the larger, higher resolution display offers better visibility in bright sunlight.  Additionally, Sonim has added a fibreglass mix to the phone’s housing plus a Gorilla Glass(r) lens to give users the confidence to take this phone into situations where other phones would just be dead weight.

The XP1300 also boasts an alleged 18 hours of Talk Time and 800(!) hours of Standby Time in temperatures ranging from -20 C to +55 C.

The XP1300 Product Specifications include:

  • Tested and Proven Rugged: IP-68 Rating/MIL-810G Certified
  • IP-68 Submersible to 2 Meters for 30 Minutes: Protected against rain, fog and salt air
  • Impact Proof: Withstands 2 meter drops onto concrete
  • Screen Toughness: Gorilla Glass(r) lens for extreme shock and scratch resistance
  • Long Battery Life: Up to 18 hours of Talk Time and 800 hours of Standby
  • Noise Cancellation: Omni-directional microphone with noise cancellation
  • IP-68 Impervious to Dust and Micro-Particles: Non-porous casing blocks entry of micro-particles
  • Ready for Extreme Temperatures: Works in environments ranging from -20 C to +55 C
  • Tough Materials: Dual injected shell (hardened rubber, fibreglass mix)
  • Accessible Keypad: widely-spaced keys for ease of use, even when wearing gloves
  • Loud Audio: 23mm speaker, protected by a GORE cover
  • Multimedia Player: Video and MP3

The XP1300 CORE will be available worldwide at the beginning of November, and is backed by Sonim’s 3-year Compehensive Warranty. The US MRSP is $399.

For more information and product images visit

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Filed under Advanced Soldier Technology and Systems, Comms

Semi-Arid / Multi-Terrain Camouflage for 21st Century Conflicts

Eight and a half years of operations in Afghanistan has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the old-fashioned, Euro-centric Cold War approach of “woodland” and “desert” pattern camouflage uniforms is ineffective and inappropriate. 

Even the sophisticated new digital patterns like CADPAT and MARPAT have been hindered in their effectiveness by only being available in temperate woodland and desert variants.

A New Approach Needed

Soldiers (and particularly special operations troops who are always “the tip of the spear”) need camouflage uniforms that are optimised for operations in arid/semi-arid terrain.  The semi-arid regions of the world are defined as transition zones between arid and sub-humid belts. Semi-arid regions are also defined as areas where precipitation is less than potential evaporation and are characterised by high temperatures (30-45oC) in the hottest months.  (

World Map 1: Arid, Semi-arid and non-agricultural areas (WDR 2008)

Arid and semi-arid areas account for one third of the earth’s surface land area. ICRISAT (1998) estimates that semi-arid areas, especially within the tropics, cover most parts of the developing nations in the world including Latin America, most parts of sub-Saharan Africa, a large portion of Eastern and Southern Africa and parts of India and South East Asia.

And guess what, it is these parts of the world which also account for the vast majority of the world’s current conflicts.  The map below shows all current “hotspots” where armed conflict is claiming more than 1,000 lives per year – it speaks for itself. 

World Map 2: Ongoing conflicts 2009 (kermanshahi wikipedia project)

So, when we look beyond Afghanistan we have to also recognise the fact that most future operations are likely to take place in the arid and semi-arid regions of the world. Furthermore, the greatest likelihood is that such forces will be deployed on so-called “low intensity operations” – a term coined by British General Sir Frank Kitson – who saw active service during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, the Malayan Emergency and Northern Ireland. 

Perhaps nothing is more basic, all-pervasive, or significant to a soldier than the uniform he or she wears – and particularly if that’s a combat uniform that doesn’t seem to be up to the job it needs to do.  To illustrate the point, there is a great line in the film “A Bridge Too Far” when Colonel Frost and his men first secure a foothold on the bridge at Arnhem: there in the heart of an urban landscape Col. Frost turns to his O Group and – taking in their Denison smocks and scrim-covered helmets – says, “You know chaps, its just occurred to me that we’re wearing entirely the wrong camouflage.”  And he’s not the only one…

A Global Fashion Trend?

Multi-terrain camouflage schemes such as Crye Precision’s MultiCam and MTP patterns, Bulldog Equipment’s Mirage Camo, 5.11 Tactical’s Digi-Woodland, HyperStealth’s Fractical Omni pattern, Helikon Tex’s GromCamo, Digital Concealment Systems’ A-TACS pattern, and the soon-to-be-released PenCott-Badlands pattern from Hyde Definition are far from being just a ”fashion trend” – they’re an urgent operational necessity.

Crye Precision's MultiCam set the standard.

US Army camouflage assessment team: AOR II, UCP, Multicam, Desert Brush, UCP-Delta, Mirage. Photo courtesy PEO Soldier

Latvian soldiers wearing fully integrated multi-terrain digital camo.

"Digital Woodland" TDU from 5.11 Tactical

Mirage Camo from Bulldog Equipment has been used successfully in Iraq and Afghanistan

A-TACS camo ensemble from EO-TAC

GromCamo collection from Helikon-Tex

Sneak Peak – "PenCott-Badlands" pattern from Hyde Definition

 Whilst there’s no such thing as a truly “universal” camo pattern, troops should at least get one that works in more than one single type of terrain – and certainly one that works in the types of terrain they’re most likely to be deployed in.

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Filed under Advanced Soldier Technology and Systems, Camouflage-IFF, COIN / CT / CRW, Expeditionary Operations, Hotspots

UK forces’ light weaponry showcased at MOD HQ

The latest developments in the wide range of light weapons available to British troops operating in Afghanistan were put on display at the MOD’s Main Building in London last week.

The Memorial Courtyard of the MOD’s London headquarters was temporarily transformed into an arsenal as the Ministry’s Defence Equipment and Support section and their industry partners, who are responsible for the provision and management of the world-leading kit, showcased their wares

The spectrum of small arms currently in use by British forces which was on display included the hand-held Sig Sauer 9mm pistols, the latest Sharpshooter rifles, long-range sniper rifles, .50-calibre heavy machine guns, and some new weapons that are still undergoing trial.

Displayed alongside the weapons themselves was a range of the latest complementary accessories, including optical sights of varying magnification, image intensification (II) or ‘night vision’, and thermal imaging (TI) technology, and even a man-portable laser targeting system.


A selection of thermal imaging sights from British manufacturer Qioptiq. [Picture: Harland Quarrington, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

The equipment is procured for British troops by Defence Equipment and Support’s (DE&S’s) Light Weapons, Photographic and Batteries and Dismounted Soldier Systems Teams who are also responsible for the testing of, training on, and through-life servicing (including any required modifications) of, the kit.

Colonel Peter Warden, the Light Weapons, Photographic and Batteries Team Leader, said:

“Everyone takes interest in the UORs [Urgent Operational Requirements] and the new equipment coming in for specific purposes, but there’s a whole lot of other activity that goes on, on a daily basis, to maintain and look after and improve the fleet of weapons that we have.

“People don’t quite realise just how much kit we have to manage; and obviously the numbers are increasing all the time, along with the ramp-up in terms of what we’re doing on operations.”

Col Warden also explained how essential keeping up-to-date on weapons technology is:

“The small arms market across the world is constantly evolving, and we need to make sure we keep up with that, and we’re at the front foot,” he said.

“We’re well up-to-speed in terms of what technologies are coming along; the use of polymers, ceramics, the changes in the way we configure the weapons, and the adaptability we now have.”

No one piece of kit is as personal to a foot soldier as his or her service weapon; it is what defines them and will protect them during battle.


A range of small arms from Heckler & Koch on display. [Picture: Harland Quarrington, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

The DE&S teams recognise this, working closely with Service personnel to develop their weapons, and endlessly striving to make improvements, wherever possible, based on feedback received from the end users – the soldiers on the ground.

The main focus of the developments centres around the size, weight, range and accuracy of the weapons, but ergonomics and customisability – tailoring a weapon to the individual – is the direction that the teams are increasingly working towards.

The DE&S teams use weekly reports from Afghanistan and debrief sessions with recently-returned units to gauge the effectiveness of their efforts as well as any areas for improvement.

The new .50-calibre semi-automatic sniper rifle from Accuracy International was on display. [Picture: Harland Quarrington, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

Major Toby Barnes-Taylor, Chief of Staff of the Individual Capability Group, explained how feedback received from front line troops in Afghanistan today is directly influencing the evolution of their weapons:

“In the unique perversities of theatre, where you are going out for extended periods of time, the soldiers get tired. A man will happily operate for eight, 10, 12 hours, but when you ask him to do 18 to 24 without moving, things start to ache.

“We found that with the integration of the SA80 rifle with the helmet and body armour that is used in theatre, the soldiers, after many hours, found that their wrists started to ache chronically and they couldn’t get a stable fire position because of the normal foregrip.

“Therefore we went out and procured what is known as a Picatinny rail quad rail, which replaced the entire furniture at the front of the rifle, and, with a down-grip, looks like a gangster grip out of the 1940s movies, so that essentially totally alters the dynamic of how the soldier holds it and gives his arms greater chance to rest and therefore work better for longer.”

The team uses the latest Computer Assisted Design (CAD) packages and a dedicated Human Factors Interface Team to swiftly evaluate every proposal, ensuring any modifications are scientifically implemented to integrate with existing kit, and will have maximum benefit to the end user.


Staff got a chance to get their hands on the new Combat Shotgun from Beretta. [Picture: Harland Quarrington, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

Maj Barnes-Taylor says that his team’s dedication and professional ethos are mirrored in their business partners:

“Together with the MOD, the traditional Defence industrial partners, such as those we have here today, are utterly unified in their overall desire to support the man on the ground; so they are as keen as we are to find any solution to any issue that is raised.”

One of the weapons on display was the recently unveiled L129A1 Sharpshooter rifle, the first new infantry combat rifle to be issued to troops for more than 20 years.

L129A1 Sharpshooter Rifle under-going trials in Afghanistan.

Once again, its introduction, under a UOR, was a direct response to meet the requirements of battlefield commanders on the front line in Afghanistan:

“The standard rifle has an effective range of three to four hundred metres, and we now find that, because of the terrain and environment, and the Taliban, that the threats can stem from 20 feet [6 metres], all the way out to 900 metres plus, in the direct fire of a contact battle,” said Maj Barnes-Taylor.

The Sharpshooter’s considerable range takes it into the realm of sniper territory, but it requires far less training, being more similar to the standard service rifle than the highly-specialised weapons used by those in the sniper profession:

“The Sharpshooter rifle is designed for a generalist soldier who is a good shot, so it is designed far more for a man to be able to switch his weapon and use it without months of specialist training,” said Maj Barnes-Taylor.

“Therefore, we have to ensure that general soldiers, those who are not specially trained, who have not gone through the months of sniper schools, have a weapon that can defeat an enemy up to that range, and this weapon is designed specifically to do that.”

One of the best-established weapons on display was the formidable .50-calibre heavy machine gun.

 Usually mounted on a vehicle, such as a WMIK Land Rover or Jackal, the ‘50 Cal’ can knock holes through the thick compound walls found across Afghanistan with ease.

Phil Mouser, of Manroy Engineering Ltd, explained a major recent development to the ‘50 Cal’ – the quick-change barrel:

“In the old days we had a standard barrel, and it could take 10 minutes for a barrel change … the quick-change barrel cuts that 10 minutes down to just 10 seconds,” he said.

In the midst of a firefight, that sort of improvement could change the outcome of a battle, potentially saving the lives of British troops on the front line.

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Filed under Advanced Soldier Technology and Systems, Arms and Ammunition