Posted on 01 October 2012 by admin
WHEN REPLACING MEANS OUTRIGHT CHANGE
When the venerable Jeep (or rather its Ford-made Mutt evolution) had to be replaced in the mid- 1980s, the US Army opted for the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle developed by AM General. While it was larger, more capable and more powerful it remained just that: a general (or multiple) purpose four-wheel driven vehicle. However, come the ex-Yugoslavia war with its mines and snipers, and all sorts of protections, notably from O’Gara-Hess and Eisenhardt at the time, had to be added. Then came the second Iraq conflict and the Afghan War with their roadside bombs – and more armour had to be added to enable the vehicle to perform missions for which it was originally not designed. Nearly 30 years on, something different is needed.
Paolo Valpolini, inputs from Eric H. Biass
The HMMWV (usually called Hummer or Humvee) replacement programme remains at the top of the light armoured vehicle programmes in terms of numbers involved. The programme is continuously evolving, the three competing teams that won the contract for the Technology Development phase (BAE Systems with Navistar, Lockheed Martin with BAE Systems Mobility and Protection Systems, and General Tactical Vehicles formed by General Dynamics Land Systems and AM General) having submitted their prototypes in mid-2011.
When the JLTV Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase (EMD) was announced, and by the time the request for proposals deadline was reached on 27 March 2012 (extended from the original 26 January), a number of companies had announced their participation to the bid. All this worked in favour of the Army and US Marine Corps who wanted to see the average price tag of the basic vehicle drop by 10 to 20 per cent from an initial cost of about $300,000 a throw. Coming to the rescue of this cost-reduction plan is a review of services’ requirements: following the threat of programme termination proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee in September 2011 the US Army and the US Marine Corps relaxed their transportability requirements enabling to both reset the goal unit cost between $220,000 and $270,000 (with an add-on armour B-kit priced at $50,000 maximum) and cut the EMD phase down from 48 to 32 months.
The Army stated that it intends to procure “at least” 20,000 JLTVs, with options for more, starting in 2015, while the Marine Corps might defer acquisition until the late 2020s. The Corps plans to acquire some 5,500 vehicles, split between 4,650 CTVs and 850 CSVs.
The Navy as well as US Special Operations Command might join the meal, the Navy having a potential requirement for 400-500 CTVs and 150-200 CSVs, although Special Ops have not specified any numbers. This might affect the cost reduction process and again pose a threat to the JLTV programme’s future.
The JLTV’s competing programme has long been the recapitalisation of the Humvee fleet itself, although a number of studies indicated that a recapped Humvee (as the HMMWV is better known) might not be cost effective. The chances that the Modernization Expanded Capability Vehicle (MECV) programme – the HMMWV recap in official language – will ever see the light of day now seems nil following the announcement of its termination by the Department of Defense on 26 January 2012 as it was determined to exceed existing requirements.
Major requirement changes included the Army’s decision to have the same protection level as the M-ATV. Moreover the cancellation of Category B boiled down the number of JLTV variants to two, namely the Combat Tactical Vehicle (CTV) that can transport four passengers and carry 3,500 pounds (1,587 kg) and the Combat Support Vehicle able to transport two passengers and 5,100 pounds (2,313 kg) of payload. In mid-March 2012 six competitors lined up for the bid: these were AM General, BAE Systems, General Tactical Vehicles, Lockheed Martin, Navistar and Oshkosh. A decision on the shortlist was expected by late June 2012, but this slipped to the right until 23 August (see box herewith).
General Tactical Vehicles:Following the Army requirements review the
General Tactical Vehicles team (which comprises AM General and General Dynamics Land Systems) discussed the range of possibilities in order to ensure maximum flexibility and preserve the GTV team; a decision was taken to allow each company to compete with individual bids as well as to maintain a common GTV proposal. AM General decided to run on its own leveraging work carried out on automotive components such as engines, suspensions and transmissions for the Humvee recapitalisation programme and the JLTV EMD phase programme, as well as on armour solutions related to both such programmes.
The right mix of developmental and existing items gave birth to the Blast-Resistant Vehicle-Off-road, BRV-O in short, but colloquially known as “Bravo”. As with the others, not much has been unveiled about the BRV-O. While AM General naturally says that the prototypes built and tested meet 100 per cent of the JLTV requirement, the only detail that emerged concerned the powerhouse which is a 3.2-litre turbocharged diesel Optimizer with 300 hp on tap – in other words the same used on the prototypes of the previous JLTV phase. AM General, which based the vehicle on the crew-capsule concept, is co-operating with some of the best armour specialists, while automotive components such as self-levelling suspensions and transmission are well-proven devices already in production, which lowers both risks and costs.
GDLS, for its part, decided not to bid on its own but to take part in the competition within the GTV team, proposing together with AM General the Eagle of Swiss origin, thus bringing a military off-the-shelf product in the run. Although modified to cope with some of the US requirements the vehicle, which should be based on the latest Eagle versions (themselves based not on the Humvee but on the Duro chassis – originally a Swiss design from Bucher-Guyer).
Lockheed Martin team: The team remained unchanged following the end of the TD phase, the other members being BAE Systems Mobility and Protection Systems (responsible for the V-hull can and blast mitigation devices), Alcoa Defense (weight-saving aluminium components) and JWF Defense. As we know, the original JLTV proposal had to be readjusted due to requirement changes, but it had acquired quite a bit of experience, including over 257,000 km of on-road testing. Improvements over the previous models regarded reliability, endurance, and weight saving especially, something that Lockheed Martin places amongst the most important features.
Actually, for the firm the JLTV is not a mere truck, but a complete system that includes training, simulation and life cycle maintenance. The company regards this experience as a plus in the proposal phase. Lockheed Martin is also offering its solution to the British Army MRV-P (Multi Role Vehicle – Protected) currently in the concept phase. Although some roles might be fulfilled by vehicles already in service or on order under UORs, Lockheed Martin considers that there is still a requirement for further protected utility vehicles. The company is convinced that the new JLTV price would fit the British programme scheme to the extent of actually taking an American-standard JLTV to Britain.
BAE and Northrop Grumman: BAE Systems maintained its Valanx proposal, although the vehicle was the subject of major modifications to enable it to cope with the new requirements. Another major change was the addition of Northrop Grumman to the team, which initially included only Meritor Defense, responsible for the suspensions. Northrop Grumman will be responsible for the integration of command and control hardware and software, computers and communications equipment. The first major change took place in the propulsion system, the earlier 340 hp Cummins 6.0L V8 diesel having been replaced by a Ford 6.7-litre turbocharged Power Stroke diesel kicking an estimated 400 hp.
BAE Systems carried out a comprehensive redesign work to lower the weight to the new limits imposed by the services, keeping a margin to allow for various equipment additions. As for mobility, the new Valanx should retain the ProTec Series 30 High Mobility independent suspensions developed by Meritor Defense, which feature a double control arm with airbag semi-active dampers providing adjustable 178 to 610mm ground clearance.
Navistar: This company proposed a variant of its Saratoga. The base vehicle has a gross vehicle weight slightly lower than 10 tonnes with a payload capacity that exceeds JLTV requirements as it can carry 7,200 pounds (3,265 kg) with a crew of four plus the gunner. The vehicle is powered by a MaxxForce D6.0 V8 turbo inter-cooler squashing 325 hp out to a six-speed automatic transmission endowed with a two-speed transfer case. The vehicle has fully independent air spring suspensions with variable ride height control to allow overall height to be reduced from the operational 2.97 metres to 1.93 for air transport (the vehicle is 10.36 metres long and 2.59 metres wide).
According to company sources the baseline Saratoga fulfils 85 per cent of the JLTV requirements. The remaining 15 per cent are obtained through minor design changes that alter the weight, and the adoption of a digital architecture meeting the American programme requirements.
Oshkosh: This is one of the companies that did not receive a JLTV Technology and Development contract in 2008. The L-ATV (for Light combat tactical All Terrain Vehicle) developed at the time to meet American requirement, leverages experience garnered by the company with its M-ATV (the Mrap-All Terrain vehicle that represented the evolution of the Mrap concept when mobility concerns started to emerge). The Oshkosh solution is based on a lighter vehicle equipped with the TAK-4 independent suspensions. That solution is further enhanced on the latest evolution of the L-ATV (which makes it Generation Six) thanks to the adoption of the Oshkosh TAK-4i intelligent independent suspension system that provides a 508 mm wheel travel and thereby improved off-road mobility.
The underbelly is free of major components such as transmission or transfer case that might become a threat in case of explosion and makes much use of the evolving protection kits adopted on M-ATVs to provide Mrap-level protection to the crew. Although current requirements do not include a hybrid propulsion system, Oshkosh developed the ProPulse diesel-electric powertrain that allows it to churn out 70 kW of “exportable power”. The L-ATV was developed in six phases with first prototypes dealing with advanced independent suspensions and crew capsule development, a second-generation adding TAK-4i suspensions and a third-generation (taking part in the 2010 edition of the Baja 1000 and completing it) putting the ProPulse system to test.
The 4th generation prototype featured an advanced crew protection system and was used in resistance tests. The fifth adopted a modular design for easy adoption of emerging technologies and threat mitigation systems while the sixth generation is the one currently proposed for the JLTV programme with over 40,000 km of experience in the wheels.
As part of the Phase 2 of the Scorpion programme (Synergie du Contact Renforcé par la Polyvalence et l’Infovalorisation) that will bring the French Armée de Terre into a new era, is a light vehicle with peculiar mobility and firepower characteristics known as the VBAE (for Véhicule Blindé d’Aide à l’Engagement). This will not only cover the scout mission needs of heavier vehicles such as the Leclerc main battle tank, but also provide means for cavalry-type missions such as screening, flanking and so on, missions that require both a high level of mobility and sufficient firepower. The role of this new vehicle thus well exceeds that of the VBL (Véhicule Blindé Léger) introduced by Panhard over 25 years ago and which currently provides the “eyes” to French Army armoured formations. Based in Marolles (south of Paris), the firm which incidentally became Panhard General Defense in 2006, unveiled its proposal for the VBAE programme at the last Eurosatory exhibition and named it the Crab (Combat Reconnaissance Armoured Buggy).
Panhard Crab: In its initial version the Crab will have a three-man crew, the same as the VBL, but similarities end here. First of all its combat weight is nearly thrice that of the original VBL’s, which was set at three tonnes for air-transportability purposes. In the configuration shown at Eurosatory the Crab tipped the scales at 8.5 tonnes, but the automotive components could cope with an inflation to 10 tonnes without impairing mobility (that is a lesson learned from the VBL where the increased combat weight had reduced the original vehicle’s mobility). Mobility is an integral part of the Crab global survivability, which also combines protection and stealthiness.
One of the key elements of mobility is power-to-weight ratio. Currently Panhard is considering two different engines for its Crab, both ensuring a minimum of 35 hp/t for an 8.5 tonne combat weight, which means an output of about 300 hp. Horses can be increased when needed thanks to a 400-Amp starter-alternator that can not only provide an additional shove when needed, but also enable the Crab to silently creep over short distances using the electric energy stored in its batteries (two solar cell panels are installed on the two sides on the rear of the vehicle to assist recharging the batteries in daylight). The Crab’s stealthiness is further increased by the reduced shape of the vehicle, its height being a mere 1.8 metres over the roof. The cabin shape has also been engineered to minimise radar reflection, with angled surfaces contributing to both a lower RCS and a higher protection against ballistic threat.
Turning back to mobility, the Crab has a permanent 4×4 drive, but while both its axles steer they can do so either in opposition to generate a turning circle of less than 10 metres, or in unison, hence heading in the lateral same direction (albeit at a limited angle), to enable the vehicle to “drift” sideways like a crab! Moreover a rear-looking camera and a two-ratio reverse gearbox enable the Panhard vehicle to quickly back away in yet another configuration where only the rear wheels are allowed to steer. As for suspensions, these are derived from those adopted by the Panhard VBR 4×4, which features independent oleo-pneumatic suspensions and adjustable ground clearance (standard ground clearance being set at 450 mm). A noteworthy point is that the Crab adopts tyres of similar dimensions as those of the VBR.
The Crab is built around a citadel hosting the three-man crew, with access through two vertical clamshell doors – the lower clam embedding a step to facilitate ingress and egress given the Crab floor height. Panhard proposes its new vehicle with ballistic protection of between Level 2 and Level 4 to meet customer needs. As for mine protection the company has tested underbelly armour solutions up to Level 3a, although the vehicle has some growth potential also in that field. It is to note that the underbelly does not have the typical deep “V” shape: in the middle the bottom is flat while only the sides are rising, maximum protection being obtained thanks to a triple floor that absorbs most of the energy. Wings (fenders in American) are made of light material, which in the event of a mine detonation will vent out most of the energy and thereby reduce the height at which the Crab would be heaved by the explosion and conversely reduce the subsequent “landing thump”. Energy absorption seats further reduce injury risk for the crew, but nevertheless ensure maximum ergonomics when the Crab moves at high speed over rough terrain.
The driver faces three multifunction colour screens, while commander and gunner have two. To ensure maximum situational awareness the Crab is equipped with a six-camera 360° vision system. The front windscreen is made of three elements and is angled to ensure optimal upward direct visibility, a vital necessity in urban terrain. Thales purposely developed for the Crab an innovative vetronic system (systronic) known as the Vsys-net that improves the overall system performance in terms of mobility, observation, protection and firepower. Based on an open and modular non-proprietary architecture it allows easy interfacing with electronic systems of various origins. The Crab systronic includes a battlefield management system and a radio system that allows its integration into the Scorpion digitised scenario. The Vsys-net allows full re-rolling of the three combat positions in order to optimise the workload in the various moments of the mission. Although the commander maintains his prerogative, the hunter-killer function can be redistributed to all three positions. The intercom can also be used by a dismounted crew-member (standard range is around 300 metres but a one-kilometre option can be installed on customer demand). The Vsys-net allows to distribute all imagery produced by weapons, on-board sensors and local situational awareness systems to each crew station, while image processing for alert and analysis is also integrated. An ultra-compact inertial and GPS location system provides high accurate geo-location as well as the link to a target designation system, while the availability of terrain profiles increases mobility.
Turning now to its armament, the Crab can host a variety of remotely controlled turrets equipped with weapons up to 30 mm in calibre. The version shown at Eurosatory was equipped with a Cockerill Maintenance & Ingénierie turret armed with a 25mm Bushmaster M242, the overall mount weighing around 800 kg. Although lighter than most Mrap-type vehicles currently in service, the Crab can withstand such a 40 kN recoil level weapon because of its very low centre of gravity, wheras Mraps are limited by their top-heavy configuration that makes them rather unstable. The CMI weapon station has been purposely adapted to the Crab to optimise turret/chassis coupling and has been equipped with a hatch that allows the vehicle commander to have a direct view of the surroundings, which is a French Army requirement. The turret features a stabilised panoramic sight with a 60° elevation (the cannon’s elevation range is –10°/+45°). A dual feed system allows to use two types of ammunition, the overall number being 150 rounds. An open bottom allows reloading and maintenance operation to be carried out from under armour for maximum crew safety. Guided missiles are another armament choice for the Crab, as well as lighter turrets that include smaller calibre weapons and target designation systems. Due to its low shape and limited dimensions, precise figures were not provided but by rule of thumb the Crab is 5 metres long and 2.5 metres wide. It can be loaded onto a C-130H, a C-130J will take two and a A-400M three, meaning that the latter is able to land a ready-to-operate platoon.
According to company sources the Crab positively impressed the French Army Staff as well as the General Armaments Direction when the vehicle was illustrated to the officials. Its dimensions perfectly match the Army’s requirements, although these are still in the definition stage, a beyond line-of-sight role being envisaged for the VBAE.
When developing the Crab Panhard General Defense did not exclusively eye the domestic market; according to the company there is a market for light vehicles equipped with medium armament since that niche is currently devoid of competitors. Systems such as the Panhard AML and Sagaie or the Engesa Cascavel, as well as light tracked vehicles like the Scorpion do not have successors, therefore their missions could well be taken over by the Crab equipped with adequate weapon systems. Africa, Latin America and the Middle East are the geographical areas where such systems are still currently in service and where the new Panhard vehicle might find its new customers. Besides the technical aspects that make it a considerably flexible system, the Crab features another important marketing plus – its price. A price-oriented rather than a capability-oriented design was followed by Panhard engineers, the company being well aware that Western armies budgets are shrinking while in the rest of the world it often has to compete against wares coming from less developed countries, thus with lower prices. Obviously Panhard is not revealing its figures (the Crab is not yet industrialised anyhow), but it is clear that its aim is to maintain it at more than competitive levels. When the Crab will be available depends very much on when the first customer will materialise, the French Army VBAE programme being still quite away although things might change in relatively short time.
VBL: Panhard, nevertheless, is still actively marketing its VBL which has now entered Mark2 status. To improve the protection and firepower of its VBL, the French Army adopted add-on armour and a remotely controlled weapon station that sent the scale tipping close to the vehicle’s five-tonne limit. The Mark 2, with its 130 hp Steyr engine, has been adopted by Kuwait and is the current production standard vehicle. As for the Petit Véhicule Protégé (PVP), the French DGA delivered the 993rd production vehicle out of the 1,133 ordered by the services, meaning that the total number of delivered PVP Mk3 has now well exceeded the 1,000 mark.
Renault Sherpa: The other major French producer of light armoured vehicles is Renault Truck Defence, whose Sherpa chalked up orders for over 150 units, with deliveries now well underway. The vehicle has been sold in several configurations. The Sherpa APC, the personnel carrier version that can accommodate up to 10, was acquired by Qatar, India and by an undisclosed central-European nation, while the carrier version has been delivered to Namsa as well as to France, which is using it as the platform for its Syracuse Satcom mobile station. Egypt is also a Sherpa user and operates both the Station Wagon and the Sherpa Light Scout versions, the latter equipped with a remotely controlled weapon station from Pro Optica of Rumania. This stabilised system can be armed with machine guns from 5.56 to 12.7 mm and was shown for the first time on board an Egyptian vehicle last June at Eurosatory.
Renault Trucks Defense worked on the protection of its Sherpas which can now be up-armoured to Level 3 ballistic protection and Level 2a/b anti-mine protection. In addition, the Scout version underbelly protection can be raised to Level 3a/2b. A relatively new challenge with current armoured vehicles is their capacity to integrate new electronic systems with minimal effort; to this end Renault Trucks Defense leveraged the experience acquired by the Volvo Group on the civilian market. Its new “Battlenet Inside” vetronic solution is a derivative of a cots system available at Volvo that is hardened and militarised according to customers needs. The open architecture vetronic system proposed to customers allows vehicles like the Sherpa to be easily equipped with weapon stations, jammers, shot detection systems, battle management systems, etc. Another possible option is the adoption of active protection systems: the company exhibited in Paris a Sherpa Light Scout equipped with the Bright Arrow combined soft- and hard-kill system developed and produced by the Israeli Military Industries, that includes both an electro-optical directional jammer that “dazzles” antitank missile guidance systems as well as blast-interceptor rounds able to neutralise RPGs and missiles. Renault anticipates a steady increase in Sherpa sales in the military and paramilitary world and believes it can score enough sales by the end of 2012.
A programme that might have a considerable impact on the Sherpa is the French Army VLTP (Véhicule Léger Tactique Polyvalent or Light Tactical Multirole Vehicle). This include the P4 replacement with unarmoured utility vehicles, a five tonner with ballistic protection Level 2 and antimine protection Level 2a/1b, a 7.5 tonner with Level 2 ballistic and Level 2a/2b antimine protection, and a 10-tonne gross weight light truck with a 3-tonne payload, but low protection. A discussion is currently underway amongst users to merge their 5 and 7.5 tonner requirements in favour of the latter to yield a family of vehicles with a much higher payload. In terms of numbers, the current split is estimated at over 2,000 five-tonners and 300 to 500 7.5 tonners with 100 of these earmarked as ambulances. For both categories the bid should take place in 2014 with deliveries between 2016 and 2025, but the programme may slip to the right to give priority to combat vehicles that are part of the Scorpion programme. Renault Trucks Defence believes that its Sherpa is very well positioned for the VLTP requirement in the protected 7.5-tonne segment.
Acmat VLRA2: Renault’s sister-company Acmat Defense developed a protected vehicle based on the VLRA2 high mobility truck chassis, the Bastion. Recently the company launched the latest version of this vehicle called Bastion Extreme Mobility. While the standard version was based on live axles the new one features independent suspensions while a 320 hp engine replaced the original 215 hp set of pistons. Ballistic protection varies from Level 1 to Level 3, payload being reduced accordingly from three tonnes to 2.5 tonnes (Level 2) to 1.5 tonnes, while anti-mine protection can reach Level 2a/2b. The Bastion EM has a crew of two and carries eight dismounts who can use their individual weapons from inside the vehicle and can be equipped with an open cupola armed with a machine gun. The Bastion is transportable by aircraft as small as the C.160 Transall.
While all questions about Russia are turned down by Iveco DV, which only confirms the delivery of around 50 LMV derivatives (see introductory picture on opening page), the company leaves all other speculations to open sources that get their information from Moscow, since apparently the development of a local joint venture and production plant are still under discussion. The LMV production however, is in full swing at the Bolzano Iveco DV plant (Bolzano and Vittorio Veneto production sites rolling out around 500 vehicles per year).
Iveco LMV/Lince: Although the LMV has been widely exported to Belgium, Britain, Spain, Norway, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and recently Austria and Russia, at least four of these nations are using the vehicle in Afghanistan, including the main customer – the Italian Army to whom it is known as the Lince (lynx in Italian). Iveco delivered all 1,400 vehicles originally ordered, these being the basic LMV version and the Lince-1 improved version. The Italian Army has signed a follow-on contract for 478 units to improve Lince 1A standard. To make the structure lighter, but tough enough to withstand a remotely controlled weapon station, the lateral structure has been reinforced and now bears a monolithic roof, which enables the car to withstand a 7 g acceleration when falling on its roof sans the roll-over bar installed in previous models. All vehicles are outfitted for the Hitrole light turret, (81 of these were acquired by the Italian Army and installed on adapted Lince 1 vehicles). The first Lince 1 equipped with the Oto Melara turret were delivered in late June 2012 and the first 20 were deployed to Afghanistan in early August. The lack of roll-over bar, coupled to roughly 40mm extra headroom increases the available space inside the cabin. A beefed up suspension was adopted, to with the higher centre of gravity resulting from the increased height and the weapon station, while on-board power generation has been doped to produce 240 Ah. Also included is an emergency exit hatch over the vehicle commander’s seat, to allow the driver and commander to exit in case doors are blocked, but the back of the front seats can now be reclined to allow passage between the front and rear sections of the crew compartment. Protection against roadside bombs has been further enhanced, with side doors now featuring three hinges instead of two. Deliveries of the 7.1-tonne gross weight Lince 1A started in 2012.
A further evolution of the LMV is anticipated though no details have been disclosed by Iveco DV to date. While the intention is not to stretch the LMV to MRAP levels, protection and payload would be areas for improvement while preserving high mobility and state-of-the-art automotive technologies. Modularity will be maintained, the LMV being already developed in different configurations such as Special Forces, 81 mm mortar carrier, patrol, and ambulance, the latter on a long wheelbase chassis. That chassis might also be used for a recce car using the current standard protected crew cell, though a long cabin vehicle, trading volume for payload, could be envisaged. Iveco is developing an Istar version of the vehicle for the Italian Army: a first batch of eight such vehicles is planned, the ideal solution would involve the short wheelbase chassis, although volume considerations might require a long wheelbase with standard crew cell. The vehicle should be customised according to the mission with mission-oriented modules, with a major effort on electromagnetic shielding given that electronic warfare will be one of the vehicle’s major roles. The Czech Army CBRN vehicle will adopt the long wheelbase; it will feature a short cabin, seating two-plus-one, the flatbed being used to install a specific CBRN module developed in the Czech Republic. The current Special Forces version was developed on a short wheelbase chassis; however a further development could lead to a long wheelbase vehicle with a short cab and a flatbed.
The LMV/Lince remains one of the European best-sellers in its category. In addition to the Italian Army, Norway is still showing interest in new versions, as do many other customers, by the way. In the Netherlands, for instance, there is a light utility vehicles replacement programme. The original requirement called for some 1,000 to 1,200 vehicles, but it is not clear if the type of vehicle needed might change, evolving from a non-protected vehicle plus armour kit to a vehicle with some protection plus add-on armour. Iveco DV is also keen to enlarge its product line by developing other variants for specific applications and export markets.
Mercedes-Benz LAPV 6.1: At Eurosatory In 2010 Mercedes Benz exhibited two prototypes of its Light Armoured Patrol Vehicle (LAPV), the LAPV 6.X and the LAPV 7.X in addition to the LAPV 5.4 that has been acquired by the German Bundeswehr (where it is known as Enok) to fulfil the GFF1Geschützte Führungs und Funktionsfahrzeuge or Armoured Command-and-Control Vehicles) requirement. The first order involved 45 LAPV 5.4 of which a number have been deployed to Afghanistan since February 2011. Following the initial assessment by the troops in July 2011 a further order for 76 more, all in Military Police guise, was placed, with completion of deliveries by late 2013. With such experience behind its belt, Mercedes Benz introduced the LAPV 6.1 boasting better protection and higher payload capacity.
It maintains the same dimensions as the 5.4 with the exception of the height, which is higher due the ground clearance that was increased from 223 to 412 mm. This improves protection against mines, the Enok having a floor concept designed to withstand Level 1 threats with optional upgrade to near Level 2a, while the floor of the 6.1 is designed for a Level 2a protection. Improved energy absorbing seats and harness also contribute to a greater crew safety of explosion. As a side boon, the increased clearance gives a deeper fording capacity (from 600 to 800 mm) while ramp attack angle increases from 24° to 40°. Ballistic protection remains at Level 2 and an optional Level 1 bonnet is available to protect the engine. The drivetrain is based on that of 300 CDI model, with a reinforced chassis and stronger portal axles, to bear the higher 1.3-tonne payload limit (instead of 1.07 tonnes).
New Eagle: A Bundeswehr progamme that still has to be completed is the GFF2, namely the 7.5 tonne class and more protected command and control vehicle (and which still falls in the light armoured vehicles category examined here). Some initial batches of General Dynamics Eagle IVs were acquired through urgent operation requirement procedures, but for new acquisitions the New Eagle has to run against the KMW/Rheinmetall Armoured Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV).
Both vehicles were qualified by the BWB in late 2011 and a decision should have already been made. However, European law obliged Germany to issue a European-wide tender. Downselection is expected in the near future, which will prelude to a further round of testing before selection, which will then lead to a contract negotiation, for final approval by Parliament.
AMPV: The available time was used by the KMW/Rheinmetall consortium to further hone the vehicle’s payload capacity and protection, especially against mines and roadside bombs. In the build process KMW is responsible for the armour plates while Rheinmetall handles the monocoque construction. The gross weight increase from 9.3 to 10 tonnes results from a 700 kg increase evenly split between protection and payload capacity. Four AMPVs have been produced, one having been sold to the German Army for internal tests while three have been used for company testing.
Latest internal improvements include new seats that have been specifically designed with removable cushions on the higher part of the backrest to offer optimal seating for personnel wearing the Gladius (the name adopted last June for the IdZ-2 soldier system). A screen has been added to the dashboard to give the driver a view from the rear-facing camera. With KMW and Rheinmetall focussing on the GFF2 version, other versions of the AMPV are on the backburner for the time being. At Eurosatory 2012 the vehicle was exhibited with a Rheinmetall Istar system. Rheinmetall of course eyes the export market, but is well aware that the very high protection level of the AMPV (namely Level 3A/2B against mines) has a cost and that this might be a problem for certain countries. European armies are awaiting the German decision, but given the fact that the KMW/Rheinmetall consortium has already developed the industrialisation process, first production items could roll out of the assembly line in late 2013.
MRV-P: With the MRV-P moving ahead the Ministry of Defence having started contract award procedures for the first phase of the programme (covering pre-concept demonstration), numerous companies are already standing in line. The MRV-P succeeds to the defunct Operational Utility Vehicle System programme and should include vehicles aimed at support roles.
A tentative date for entry into service is given as around 2018 and the two companies that met the LLPV requirements are of course among the current contenders.
Ocelot-Foxhound: Deployed to Afghanistan in early June 2012 the Ocelot, developed by Force Protection Europe (now part of General Dynamics Land Systems) and known in the British Army as Foxhound, was delivered in 18 months rather than the originally scheduled three years as it was purchased under a hybrid UOR programme. Over 60 Foxhounds have already been produced. Those already sent to Afghanistan are at the so-called TES (Theatre Entry Standard) and are equipped with air conditioning, C-IED jammers, GS navigation, Thales UK Ilsa 360° situational awareness system with cameras located in front right and rear left corners, Saab Barracuda thermal cover, Bowman radios and 7.62 mm machine guns.
Following the arrival of the vehicle, an intensive training course was organised at Camp Bastion before using it in operation. Initially the Foxhound will be used for force protection on the ground replacing more vulnerable vehicles and those that were removed from Helmand province, its compact size and high protection level making it ideal for urban operations. The Ministry of Defence placed an initial order for 200 Foxhounds in November 2010 and 100 more were requested in June last year. Final deliveries are expected in mid-2013. A further boost came in late August when Minister of Defence Peter Luff announced that Britain would be ordering 25 more foxhounds to the tune of £30 million ($47.6 million).
In the meantime GDLS/FPE is working on improvements to address new requirements, while numerous markets are opening up for the 7.5 t vehicle currently available in three variants, namely command/patrol with two plus four seats, reconnaissance (two plus two) and utility (two). In addition to further British requirements, the company is busy answering requests in various regions, mostly in the Far East and Middle East but also in Northern Africa and South America. The roadside bomb problem is getting worse in several places and no longer rests solely with the armed forces but now also falls to paramilitary and homeland security organisations as well.
SPV400: The second survivor of the LPPV testing phase, the Supacat SPV400, has been fully developed and is currently a wholly different vehicle from the one that was assessed by the United Kingdom. The seventh prototype, very close to production configuration, is currently being used for reliability and maintenance trials, the vehicle having shown a 96 per cent reliability according to Supacat. The development phase, which involved over 21,000 km trials, led Supacat to adopt numerous design alterations. The main one was the adoption of a different suspension geometry, a lot of time having been invested to fine-tune air springs to obtain the right ride. The locking differential system now allows a limited slip on the front axle while rear axle differentials are locked, as this combination proved to yield the best mobility. The braking and cooling systems have also been improved, while the central tire inflation system is now fully developed.
Supacat also worked on the interior, which is now much cleaner than in the original prototypes. The on-board electronic has been reviewed, and a glass cockpit based on colour displays shows not only the typical data needed for operating the vehicle, but also technical data. The SVP400 is attracting interest from Middle East, Far East and European nations. Supacat is developing modularity to meet for both British and foreign programmes.
Vamtac: In the late 1990s Spanish URO Vehículos Especiales S.A. developed a Humvee-like set of wheels known as the Vamtac (Vehículo de Alta Movilidad Táctico). It soon became evident that an armoured version of that utility vehicle had to be produced for the Spanish forces who were increasingly being involved in operations. This led URO to first improve the chassis and automotive components (such as the engine), then to develop a series of add-on armour kits with increasing protection levels. Currently the Vamtac S3 is available in three different armoured versions, known as BN 1.6, BN 2 and BN 3. All three have different gross weights of, respectively, 6.3, 8 and 8.5 tonnes, with corresponding payloads of 1.2, 1.9 and 1.4 tonnes. The BN 3 can be armoured at Level 3+ ballistic while its protection against mines is up to Level 3a/2b, while the BN 2 is protected respectively at Level 2 and Level 2a, the BN 1.6 being at Level 1. The BN 1.6, incidentally, has a 188 hp engine while the other two have 218 hp under the loud pedal. Since June 2012 the BN 2 and BN 3 can also be had with 274 hp on tap. A new suspension was recently developed to bear a nine-tonne gross weight.
While the main customer of the Vamtac is Spain, the vehicle has been widely exported to other countries, the second largest customer being Morocco with over 1,000 vehicles. Other nations that have acquired the Spanish vehicle are Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Malaysia, Portugal and Rumania.
Eagle: Although now part of General Dynamics European Land Systems portfolio, it is difficult not to consider the Eagle a Swiss product. The early models developed by Mowag in Kreutzlingen on the shores of lake Constance were based on the Humvee chassis and had a gross weight of 5.1 tonnes. Various improvement ensued, notably in the engine department to cope with additional armoured protection weights. A major change occurred with the Eagle IV, which in fact had radically different underpinnings and was even “Swisser” since it was based on the Swiss 4 x 4 Duro troop transport designed by Bucher-Guyer for the Swiss Army. This change of chassis was required because of the escalating weight imposed on the scout vehicle that finally emerged as one of the most highly protected vehicles in the light category.
Eagle IV 6×6: The latest addition to the family, announced two years ago and unveiled at Eurosatory 2012, is the 6×6 version of the GDELS vehicle. In spite of a gross weight of 15 tonnes it is among those systems that still find their place in this Compendium mostly because they are derivatives of a lighter version. Comparing the 4×4 and 6×6 versions in the crew cab configuration, which provides a 6 m3 protected volume hosting up to six people, curb weight increases from 7 to only 7.8 tonnes while the payload allowance is more than doubled, from 3 to 7.2 tonnes. Both configurations are proposed with two powerpack options, the standard one being the 245hp Cummins ISB6.7 E3 245 Common Rail diesel engine, which gives the Eagle 4×4 a power to weight ratio of nearly 25 hp/t; however to provide the Eagle 6×6 with sufficient mobility the adoption of the ISB6.7 E3 285 with a 285 to 300 hp output is recommended (the latter engine’s varying outputs result from different electronic settings). While the turning circle diameter wall to wall is 18 metres, the third axle steering option reduces this to 16 metres. The two versions maintain a 70 per cent commonality that reduces the logistic footprint should a service adopt both. The De Dion axles allow to keep all wheels on the ground ensuring maximum off-road mobility.
The stretched version of the Eagle sees its overall length increased from 5.4 to 6.99 metres compared to the 4×4, has a wheelbase of 3.83 metres between the first and second axle while 1.3 metres separate the hub centres of the second and third axles. It is proposed in four different versions, namely the above-mentioned crew cab, the armoured personnel carrier, the ambulance and the utility car. All have the same grow weight of 15 tonnes, though payload, protected volume and height vary according to the type. Width remains the same as the Eagle 4×4’s at 2.28 metres. The APC can transport a two-man crew plus 10 dismounts in the protected 11 m3 rear cabin the roof of which is raised by 20 centimetres compared to the crew cabin. This of course increases the curb weight to 10 tonnes which in turn reduces payload allowance to 5 tonnes. The ambulance version has a similar layout but the rear roof height is raised by a further 20 centimetres giving a protected volume of 12.5 m3. Curb weight likewise increases to 10.5 t for a payload capacity of 4.5 tonnes. The vehicle can carry two stretched casualties and two medical assistants, plus the two-man crew in the front cab. The greater payload is obtained with the utility vehicle, which features a two-man crew cabin and a flatbed able to receive 7.5 tonnes of cargo. In its presentation at Eurosatory GDELS showed a recovery variant based on the utility vehicle. Protection levels were not announced, although these might be in the high tier of the weight category, payload margins allowing for further amenities such as bar-armour. In June 2012 a single prototype had been thoroughly tested and was available for customers demonstration, while a second one was under construction. The company looked at Germany and France as first potential customers, though marketing efforts were obviously also aimed at other parts of the world.
In Turkey Otokar is still expanding its range of Hummer chassis’d Cobra. The latest iteration is the Cobra 2.5, which aims at improving both protection and payload capacity. As is the case with many other light armoured vehicles, its continuous development drove it over the 10-tonne limit, the gross weight of the 2.5 version being estimated at anything between 6.3 and 11.3 tonnes depending on protection levels required by the customer.
Cobra 2.5: The new variant can be immediately identified as it has two side doors compared to the standard vehicle that features only one, though both variants have a rear door. Another distinguishing feature results from the need to protect the vehicle against mines and roadside bombs: the wheels have thus been moved well outside the crew cell while the front section is allowed to be shorn off by a blast to reduce the energy absorbed by the cell. The prototype exhibited at AUSA 2011 showed a considerable armour package and was equipped with what looked like an Objective Gunner Protection Kit (O-GPK) turret. The increased gross weight required the adoption of a more muscular 6.5-litre diesel engine. The prototype shown also acted as a demonstrator, as AM General and Otokar would tailor the vehicle to customers’ needs. Depending on the customer the Cobra 2.5 could be produced either in Turkey or in America. Otokar has recently signed an MoU with Kazakhstan Engineering for the production of an undisclosed number of Cobras under license. Kazakhstan is one of the export customers of the Cobra along with Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Georgia, Maldives, Nigeria, Philippines, Slovenia and the United Arab Emirates.
Wolf: Able to accommodate a crew of three plus six dismounts, the Hatehof Wolf is a well proven vehicle and is based on one of the latest Ford chassis with a weight limit of 8.7 tonnes. In addition to the Israel Defence Forces it is in service with around ten other customers, including the United Nations, Romania, Turkey, Bolivia and possibly Peru. Its design is frozen and no upgrades are forecast for this combat-proven vehicle.
Hatehof, however, is looking well beyond the current model and is developing the Wolf 2. In spite of the vehicle being its late development phase, Hatehof does not air out many details, except that its aim is to improve protection while maintaining a weight close to that of the current Wolf and maintain a competitive price by using the same automotive components. Hatehof intends to continue marketing the Wolf alongside the Wolf 2.
Hawkei: The perspectives of the innovative Thales Australia Hawkei 4×4 Light Protected Mobility Vehicle brightened in December 2011 when the Australian Defence Minister announced its downselection for the Land 121 Phase 4 programme, favouring the type against the (then) Force Protection Europe Ocelot. According to the company the winning factor of the Hawkei is that the latter manages to squeeze in the same survivability capacity as the 15-tonne Bushmaster, but in a 10-tonne package (the Bushmaster was adopted by Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom).
The Hawkei is based on a steel hull with a front subframe carrying the engine and gearbox and a rear subframe, a configuration that allows a rapid evolution of the vehicle. The add-on ceramic armour kit developed by Plasan Sasa can be quickly installed – in less than 30 minutes with a workforce of only two. The Hawkei can be easily transported under a sling by a CH-47, its under 7-tonne curb weight (sans appliqué armour) being well within the limits of that helicopter. First exhibited in Europe at Eurosatory 2012 (the one exhibited in 2010 was a mock-up), the Hawkei incorporates a Thales Vehicle Electronic Architecture (VEA). This allows plug-and-play installation of BMS, situational awareness and other systems such as sensors for quick customisation, upgrading or re-rolling. The Hawkei was also equipped with Thales’s Sotas vehicle communications system, Sophie optronics, MBITR radios, as well as Rockwell Collins’ Polaris GPS. All information was consolidated on a single screen, each crew member having one screen.
Prototypes built thus far have been used in the development phase, have covered over 40,000 km and been submitted to more than 10 blast tests to prove the crew cell protection level against mines and roadside bombs, although these levels remain classified.
In early June 2012 the Australian Ministry of Defence awarded a US$37 million contract to Thales to cover Stage 2 of the programme which includes assembly of six prototypes to be used for further testing. The first vehicle should be delivered by year end. Following the successful completion of these trials a final acquisition approval is expected in 2015 followed by initial production in 2016. Current requirement stands at 1,300 Hawkeis, 700 in patrol vehicle guise with a four-door cab and six seats, and 600 utility vehicles with a two-door cab, three seats and a greater payload capacity. The contract value should be about US$1.5 billion. Due to its decision to adopt the Hawkei, Australia is not funding the programme engineering and manufacturing development phase of the American JLTV, although it is still monitoring its progress, as it could be used as a back-up solution in the unlikely event of a Hawkei programme meltdown.
Thales Australia is promoting its vehicle abroad and is ready to tailor it to customer desires. Other variants of the vehicle might be designed beyond the planned command, reconnaissance, liaison and utility variants. The vehicle’s power and electronic architecture give it the flexibility to be used as a weapon or missile carrier, for example. An electronic warfare variant might also be envisaged.
The South African branch of BAE Systems, Land Systems OMC, is still working on its RG32M to give it increased payload capacity and protection level. Currently the main customer for the 4×4 light armoured vehicle is Sweden, which ordered 200 in two batches in 2005 and 2007, adding a third batch of 60 Series 3 vehicles in 2008 and yet a further order for 110 Series 4 in early 2012. The Swedish Army needs the vehicle for a wide spectrum of roles such as command, liaison, scout and patrol.
The Scandinavian success of the RG32M has definitely not reached the bump stops. Finland has ordered 25 further vehicles in June 2012 as a follow-on order for 22 in January 2011, 10 in June 2010, 16 in May 2010 and six in February 2006. The first Series 3 appeared as part of the last of the May 2010 orders and all subsequent vehicles are to that standard. Currently BAE Systems LS OMC has delivered ten of the 2011 order. The last vehicles should be handed over to Finland by mid-2013.
Compared to the standard vehicle, the RG32M Series 3 has new suspensions to bear a payload increase from one to three tonnes over a curb weight of 6.5, meaning that gross weight jumps from 7.5 to 9.5 tonnes.
The third nation to have opted for the RG32, in Light Tactical Vehicle guise, is Ireland, which has received all it.