The Rheinmetall Group has been awarded an €84 million (US$112 million) contract to supply a further sixty of its Gladius "future soldier" systems to the German Federal Defense Force (Bundeswehr). The modular system, which provides soldiers with high-tech protective gear backed by a networked array of communication and navigation equipment, will be used by the next two contingents for of German troops headed for Afghanistan.

The system – originally known as "Infanterist Der Zukunft" or "Future Soldier" and now called "Gladius" (Latin for sword) – is aimed at full scale military action, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian relief in restricted areas. With a design focused on weight reduction, miniaturization and situational awareness, each system caters for ten-strong infantry squads with vehicles and basic stations operating in a network.

At the heart of the system is a core computer, radio, batteries and GPS module, to which a number of different components can be added.

The body armor component is designed for protection from detection, biological and chemical agents and extreme climatic conditions. It includes flame retardant equipment, a ventilation shirt and insulating layers to stabilize body temperature, and ballistic protection.

The helmet includes a digital magnetic compass, headset, night goggles, an infra-red receiver module and a built-in display with augmented reality system. The helmet display is designed to give the squad leader a comprehensive picture of the terrain and enemy positions and equipment.

Soldiers can also be equipped with a spotting scope, thermal imager, laser light module and a range of other reconnaissance and weapon accessories. Weapons listed for use with the system include a G36 assault rifle, AG36 grenade launcher, an MP7 sub-machine gun, a G82 rifle and an MG4 light machine gun.

The Commander’s system has an additional handheld VHF radio and portable control computer to prepare missions and receive data.

The Bundeswehr's procurement program began in 2012 with an initial order of thirty systems. Delivery of the follow-up order – which will equip for 600 soldiers – will begin in mid-2013.

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