Bundeswehr Purchases 2,460 IdZ-ES Future Soldier Systems from Rheinmetall

In the development and testing phases since at least 2004, the German Ministry of Defense has purchased enough IdZ-ES (Infanterist der Zukunft-Infantryman of the future, also know as Gladius) Future Soldier Systems to outfit 68 platoons of mechanized infantry/2,460 soldiers, or roughly a reinforced regiment with the systems.The Gladius system is a wearable, integrated fighting system that allows individual soldiers greater opportunities on the battlefield to communicate, coordinate, and fight more efficiently. Unit leaders receive versions that allow better command and control via the ability to monitor friendly forces in real time. It runs off of a central battery pack mounted to the back of the load bearing equipment and is fitted around ballistic armor and even NBC requirements. Included with this suite are LAM devices and thermal optics for the G36 service rifle, in addition to a push to talk button mounted on the rifle itself so soldiers can stay on target or not give away their status of communicating to the enemy while on operations. UAV integration is also a key component, allowing commanders to view UAV feeds in real time. Central to the entire system is the ability to be “tethered” to the sectioned “home base” armored personnel carrier.

From Shepard Media

The battery-powered core computer, worn on the soldier’s back and known as the ‘electronic backbone’, controls all the devices and sensors carried by the soldier through various interfaces. Its principal functions include power supply management, access control and monitoring, the soldier information system for map and situation display, navigation, reporting, exchange of reconnaissance and target data, processing sensor data, operator interfaces and visualisation as well as system configuration.

Through a manually operated control and display unit known as the BAG, the soldier can control the Soldier Command System and communication. All relevant data of the current situation, the position of friendly forces, mission and system status is displayed either on the BAG or on the OLED helmet display.

These “Future Soldier” systems have existed in prototype form since the 1990s, with many European and U.S programs testing the feasibility of them. This particular contract is especially important because of the size of purchase with 68 platoons having the ability to be outfitted. Ideally, and in a perfect world, these devices should be able to turn the battlefield in an infantryman’s favor by “clearing” the inevitable fog of war as much as possible. In reality, they remain untested on a mass scale. Several news reports have indicated that the systems were in use by the German infantry in Afghanistan, specifically the 23rd Mountain Infantry Brigade in 2013. However it must be stated that the German ISAF contingent has never been more than a reinforced regiment in comparable size. At that, the majority of German troops are support personnel who most having not left the wire, wouldn’t have been issued the IdZ-ES system to begin with. Thus, even if the systems were in active usage by infantry troops in combat, the amount would have been very small, and most likely not enough to gain real insight and feedback on.

The other issue with all of these “Future Soldier Systems” is that they appear to be a holdover from the 1990s, an era of relative peace within NATO. The systems are an ideal answer to a textbook war, fighting from mechanized vehicles against conventional armies across the plains of Europe. When in fact, the majority of warfare that NATO will most likely encounter, such as it already has in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, is an asymmetrical fight, against an insurgent enemy that doesn’t have convenient vehicles to “tag” as red icons on a heads up display. I think there are some components of the IdZ-ES system that could be very useful in this fight, such as the UAV integration and the universal communications packages. But the trade-off has to be worth it in terms of weight and reliability of the technology. Adopting these as full systems might not be the best solution as compared to working slowly with certain components of them.

The end question should be if this truly makes an Infantryman more lethal as a team on the battlefield. The Marine Corps thinks that suppressing small arms is one of the answers. Which goes to show, why have a detailed communications system to overcome the inevitable confusion of battle, when you can lessen that same confusion by simply reducing its volume? As an example.


Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at miles@tfb.tv


  • Independent George

    Why isn’t Rheinmetall a heavy metal band? Talk about your missed opportunities.

  • chris

    “68 platoons of mechanized infantry/2,460 soldiers, or roughly a reinforced regiment”
    A German mech inf/PzGren companie has 3 platoons so 68 platoons would be 22 companies. So what kind of a freakish regiment are you talking about?
    Buy the way

  • chris

    Miles waht is it with your formation sizes?
    Yes there have not been a lot of comabt troops but “However it must be stated that the German ISAF contingent has never been more than a reinforced regiment in comparable size”
    Maybe if you call a Brigade Combat Team regiment size.
    Your link ist on Resolute Support the follow on mission to ISAF.

  • john huscio

    “When in fact, the majority of warfare that NATO will most likely encounter, such as it already has in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, is an asymmetrical fight, against an insurgent enemy that doesn’t have convenient vehicles to “tag” as red icons on a heads up display”

    With russia, china and the norks making various noises, i wouldnt discount a conventional conflict or equipment optimized to fight it.

    • Yenokh Yagoda

      A war with Russia is like being screwed by a bear. You keep going, until the bear wants to stop. So, go ahead.

      It is America which has been making noises, starting wars it couldn’t finish, wrecking 5 countries since the collaps of the SU, and for one reason: to postpone its own collaps, because Uncle Sam is a bankrupt.

      There is nothing else that Uncle Sam can do now except to rob someone. To expropriate new territories and resources. So, he has to start wars, initiate coups, finance insurgents, announce sanctions to prolong his parasitic life.

      • john huscio

        Spotted the troll.

      • ProudAmerican

        I am reluctant to agree with someone who adopts the name of an infamous tribal monster, but facts are facts… facts so accurate that I am surprised you have so far escaped the thought commissars. Typically anything but drooling jingoism is deemed “politics, not guns.”

        • Yenokh Yagoda

          This name protects me.

          Now, as the great Burroughs once said, “The junk merchant doesn’t sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve his merchandise. He degrades the client.

          And this of course makes another quote come to mind. “Ignorance is strenght”.

          Alas, but once a great culture is now rolling down the hill and that’s how it is.

    • Paul Rain

      North Korea: Make a version for B52 crewmen, and maybe it might be useful.

      China: Conflict would be naval, or in some sweaty jungle somewhere, probably with proxy forces. Yeah, nah.

      Russia: Have you got the message yet that at least for the next 3 years, the US is not going to be encouraging countries like Georgia and Ukraine to start conflicts with the Russian colonies that the Soviet Union deposited in its vassal states? And if not, why do you think that a problem (the existence of large populations of Russians outside Великороссия) that can only be solved by brutal assimilation policies or genocide, is somehow going to be solved by silly d__kwaving about war with a country with many, many nuclear weapons?

      Perhaps you believe that Einstein was a fraud and nuclear weapons aren’t real. It seems to be a popular position among the deranged.

      • int19h

        Well, the US just passed a fresh new sanctions bill against Russia. And it mentions Ukraine like several dozen times. So…

        • Yenokh Yagoda

          Ukraine, Crimea and Donbass is nothing but an excuse used to explain the actions of the Uncle Sam so that it might look not too outrageous for the ignorant masses. The sanctions are needed to limit Russia’s access to the European markets and to make the European partners of Russia stop their business affairs and turn to the Uncle Sam instead, to let him make profit and get the Russia’s piece of the pie, because he’s a bankrupt.

        • Blue Centurion

          So yeah? Sanctions needed for Russian interference in our elections AND for invading a state…the first seizure of sovereign territory since 1945. If that doesn’t worry Europe or the rest of the world nothing will.

          • Yenokh Yagoda

            The first seizure of sovereign territories since 1945? No son.

            First of all Russia used Kosovo precedent to return Crimea. And second, read about the annexation of the Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in 1967 by Israel.

          • CavScout

            If you think they influenced our elections in any wrongful way… then you’re beyond help. Also, China pulls hard for the Dems.

  • Jeremy

    A common theme to all these Future Soldier Systems seems to be the giant freaking scopes on their weapons, and that can’t be conducive to effective room to room fighting, methinks.

    • Some Guy

      The scope in the image is a lot bigger than in real life. The real ones are maybe a bit bigger than your standard military red dot.

    • Some Guy

      The picture makes them look really big, but in reality they are maybe a bit bigger than a ACOG.

  • John

    >against an insurgent enemy that doesn’t have convenient vehicles to “tag” as red icons on a heads up display.

    Like a Toyota pickup, perhaps? Or someone’s Honda Civic?

    These things might be more useful if they’re used in an asymmetrical way. Like law enforcement would. And that scares me a bit.

    • Dan

      The honda civic will tag itself with a park bench on the truck and green neon/L.E.D.s underneath

  • CommonSense23

    Well looks like the chest mounted display is already a decade out of date. With the widespread adoption of commercial phones that are being currently used.
    And how someone thinks a widespread communications systems that pushes info to the lowest level is anywhere close to the same thing as issuing suppressors blows my mind.

  • Yenokh Yagoda

    That’s the older data in the chart. The Germans are smart. It is crucial to get rid of the debt before the crisis begins.

  • Yenokh Yagoda

    You should send a resume to the Pentagon. You have a talent of a great strategist.

    But I also suggest reading about the WW2 and how Russia handled its industrial complex during the war. Also, I suggest reading about the Yars and Topol-M missiles, and the Yellowstone volcanic plato, and the disaster that happened in the US when the Katrina hurricane wrecked just one and not so important town, such as New Orleans. Read the “Economic effects of Hurricane Katrina” article. For the start.

    Later I suggest reading the “List of wars involving Russia”.

    • HobgoblinTruth

      “But I also suggest reading about the WW2 and how Russia handled its industrial complex during the war”

      Modern weapons cannot be manufactured in a week, and this time Russians wouldn’t be getting anything from the west.

      ” Also, I suggest reading about the Yars and Topol-M missiles”

      I suggest that you read about Minuteman III missile and of course Trident. You think Russia is only country with nuclear weapons? And btw.. fact that you bring up “Muh nuclear weapons” because you know that Russia is like North Korea ver 2.0.

      ” the disaster that happened in the US when the Katrina hurricane wrecked just one and not so important town, such as New Orleans”

      Most cities and villages outside Moscow are in same condition as New Orleans was after the hurricane… what your excuse? lol.

      “Later I suggest reading the “List of wars involving Russia”.”

      I suggest that you get out of the vest and move back to Russia… I bet you won’t do that because west is better.

    • Blue Centurion

      Blah, Blah Blah, no one matched USA output during WW2. And we will accept your “Thanks” for all of the lend lease equipment that saved your ass. Oh, Topol-M? are you that much of a fool to believe that we wouldn’t shoot back? You’d be better served heading back to your village and helping with the inside plumbing. Those outhouses stank!

      • Yenokh Yagoda

        You are expecting thanks for the Lend-Lease? You think it saved Russia? Interesting.

        The Lend-Lease was a substantial aid to Russia but at the same time Russia fought more than other nations of the Allies. Yet Russia got much less help than some other allies. For example Britain got $31.4 billion worth of supplies and the SU got $11.3 billion and that was not Britain fighting the hardest battles and winning that war.

        Also Russia paid off the Lend-Lease debt in full. So it owes no thanks to the United States. And speaking of “help” please remember this,


    • john huscio

      Just to be clear, i don’t give a rats ass about russia either way. Putting aside NATO, I do think its cute that you think you country could wage sustained conventional warfare against the US and think Russia could ever have a remote chance of victory.

      • Yenokh Yagoda

        Russia has nukes kid.

  • Jean Luc

    Sounds good… Doesn’t work! The optics are great, you can shoot at night up to 400m, very accurately. But all that gear it is heavy, around 20 kg, and all those cables makes moving (in a forest, getting in and out armoured vehicles) very difficult. The technology is not there yet

  • Repoman3737

    I see the biggest problem with tech like this is when the enemy gets one off a dead or captured soldier they now have access to your intel. If they manage to put it on and work it they can walk around looking like a friendly on the screen but be taking people out from behind the lines.. it will also show them the locations of all the battlefield assets. There is also the issue of the batteries just exploding like the samsung ones last year and that taking the soldiers out of the fight from tech going down or injury from battery explosion.

  • Budi Utomo

    Very nice. Interesting to see Rheinmetall entering the Ratnik dominated market. Should be excellent.
    I liked the evaluation by a combat Marine- it is exactly pertinent and cogent to the argument- and he is indeed correct all these systems were intended for set-piece (alias symmetrical) conventional forces warfare. The issue of Ukraine-Donbass-Krim (hope I keep the Russians happy), Syria is that these conflicts with “non-state actors” will be the most common future warfare situation.