Centenary of the Second Battle of the Aisne: from "Poilu" French foot soldier to FELIN
One hundred years ago saw the beginning of the awful Second Battle of the Aisne, an infamous episode of the Word War I. This centenary provides an opportunity to take a look back at the development of the French foot soldier since the early 20th century. From the brightly-colored uniform of 1914 to today's FELIN (Fantassin à Equipements et Liaisons INtégrés) the state-of-the-art integrated equipment suite developed by Safran Electronics & Defense. Follow the guide.
Equipment of the french foot soldier during World War I
Before World War I, and during the first few months of the war, French foot soldiers wore a very bright blue and red uniform. The constraints of trench warfare highlighted the need for more discrete attire, thereby marking the birth of the concept of camouflage. From 1915 onwards, the French Army adopted a "Blue Horizon" uniform – a color which enabled foot soldier to blend into their surroundings more effectively.
Current equipment of the french foot soldier
Today, the FELIN combat system has taken the concept of discretion to a whole new level, enabling soldiers to adapt their equipment to their mission, thereby making it more mobile and effective. Using the same combat jacket, it is possible to transform it into four distinct fabric configurations while retaining its ballistic protection and electronic features.
What was the equipment of the "Poilu" made of?
When weighed, the equipment carried by French soldiers in 1914-1918 was some of the heaviest – almost 30 kg. The uniform and gear worn by the "Poilu" French foot soldier was made out of a lot of rigid and rather impractical materials: steel, leather, velour, and so on. A strap system was, however, introduced, enabling soldiers to spread what they were carrying more effectively.
What innovations does the FELIN system offer?
Nowadays, the FELIN system combines light, resistant and flexible materials with a modular structure which can be adapted to each type of mission. The overall aim is to facilitate movements for the soldier while ensuring payload capacity and maximum security, thanks in particular to a ballistic protection jacket and a ballistic protection for joints (shoulders, neck, knees, hands).
Another characteristic innovation of the FELIN system lies in the treatment of the fabric used for the uniform: breathable, fire-resistant, waterproofed and providing protection against pests such as mosquitos and ticks.
From the cap to the first helmet...
World War I marked the disappearance of the flat-topped French military cap and the appearance of the helmet, thereby limiting head injuries. However, the Adrian helmet used back then was made out of very heavy steel which shone in the sun which was not very discrete!
What about today?
The current FELIN system, on the other hand, provides French soldiers with headgear made out of layers of composite fabrics, providing maximum protection for soldiers. This headgear is equipped with a day imager and a night imager. This equipment is used to send the images captured to screens which the soldier has on them and to the command center. A bone conduction headset also enables the soldier to keep in permanent contact with the rest of their unit.donne la possiblité au soldat de rester en contact permanent avec le reste de son unité.
Integrated technology & weapon systems
The tactical jacket of the FELIN system is fitted with an electronic portable platform which enables the soldier to share data in real time with the rest of their unit. Indeed, their individual radio can be used to send or receive GPS coordinates, images sent by the various sight systems, and, of course, voice transmission.
Furthermore, there are several individual energy sources to power the system, such as rechargeable batteries which provide 24 hours of power as well as a computer controlling equipment power.
Lastly, the Lebel rifle used by French soldiers for almost 50 years was replaced by three weapon systems made compatible with all of the features of the FELIN: assault rifle FAMAS, MINIMI machine gun as well as the FRF2 precision rifle. All of these recent weapons have been fitted by Safran Electronics & Defense with day and night vision which have improved the terminal effectiveness of foot soldiers' weapons.