As we mentioned in the previous post the UK armed forces now have a plethora of vehicles and for the long term a serious amount of consolidation needs to happen, in the short term the existing vehicles should be retained.
Phil looked at the issue in a previous post delving into the history of the Operational Utility Vehicle System programme to replace the Land Rover, RB44 and Pinzgauer.
Bringing this up to date any revised OUVS should seek to replace the Land Rover, Panther, Pinzgauer, Duro, Jackal, Coyote, Husky class of vehicles.
Phil makes the point that the OUVS programme is the single most important programme for the British Army because the vehicles will be so widespread and I tend to agree with him.
The UK is not the only nation that is in this position. Many of our allies and in fact most western nations have or are about to start very similar programmes; the US/Australian JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) and the German AMPV and even more futuristic GEFAS are just a few examples. All have recognised whilst the Land Rover, G Wagon and HMMWV have their benefits the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have exposed weaknesses that need to be urgently addressed. In the short term these weaknesses have been addressed with the US M-ATV and UK LPPV programmes.
Although JLTV has an entirely sensible set of specification there is a nagging doubt that it is overly complex, too large and likely to be extremely expensive. The family is divided into three payload categories (a, b and c) that range from 1,600kg to 2,300kg although some of the larger payloads will be accommodated in trailers and roles include general purpose mobility with a 4 person capacity, command, ambulance, logistics, infantry carrier and close combat weapons carrier. Protection is adjustable using the A and B kit with maximum protection at STANAG 4569 4a for blast (10kg HE) and STANAG 4569 4 against kinetic energy weapons (14.55mm AP)
The German GEFAS/AMV2 vehicles are also seeking to meet a similar requirement to the JLTV and OUVS, drawing on experience from the Boxer and Fennek vehicles. GEFAS is an interesting concept because it uses the now familiar modular payload and crew system and is available in a number of configurations. GEFAS uses hybrid-electric “drive by wire” system, replacing conventional steering, braking and drive train. The electric drive function control developed by Renk company regulates the vehicle’s driving dynamics. The vehicle uses separate drives for each axle, ensuring residual mobility even when one of the axels is damaged.
GEFAS is no doubt the most innovative and forward thinking although it is not likely to progress to production.
It is not clear where the OUVS programme is going because Afghanistan is absorbing not only all the money but also the intellectual capacity in the MoD, quite rightly the it is focussing on providing vehicles for the here and now.
Where does this leave the Light Protected patrol Vehicle UOR?
Of course we should proceed to get something into service that provides a survivable alternative to land Rover Snatch but beyond that we have to stop and take stock.
Whilst these examples might not exactly suit UK requirements or support UK industry in any way the decision on whether to buy off the shelf, buy into another programme or develop our own has to be made. Post Afghanistan, the vehicles will be in a poor shape and OUVS or something similar needs to be back on the agenda.
If we are replacing such a large number of vehicles and in order to achieve some economies of scale, maximise standardisation to reduce logistics overhead, get exactly what we need and take advantage of export potential it would seem sensible to go our own way.
Whilst JLTV and GEFAS might seem innovative designs the UK is not without its own areas of innovation. As we stated in the previous post on vehicles the UK is a hotbed of automotive design innovation across both the military and civilian space but it simply needs to be galvanised. Taking a quick look across some of the current military vehicle designs and proposals from UK manufacturers/designers it is abundantly clear we are more than capable of meeting our own needs.
Modular armour as found on the Puma German infantry combat vehicle shows that protection can be adjusted quite simply, in the field. The Artec Boxer also has modularity with its mission modules, as does the Ocelot LPPV designed by Force protection Europe and Ricardo.
The Supacat HMT Extenda even provides the ability to increase load carrying capacity with a simple bolt on set of wheels and the HMT/Jackal family has legendary mobility.
The Ocelot uses an under body ‘skateboard’ assembly to carry all the running gear with bodies simply sliding onto it and the TMV 6×6 also takes a similar approach to chassis design although it is not certain if the payload system is fully modular.
The Universal Engineering Ranger looks like an extremely well protected yet light weight vehicle that is perhaps on the large side for this requirement but shows how a clean sheet of paper approach can yield extremely interesting and capable vehicles.
To move forward we have to accept that the days of the Land Rover being synonymous with the British Army are over. It is simply not survivable enough on the future non linear battlefield. If we need a lightweight 4×4 for nipping to the ranges then we should be buying cheaper ‘white fleet’ alternatives like the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux or similar.
Once we have accepted this then looking at a future OUVS concept becomes much easier!
To take advantage of the deep well of UK automotive innovation I think we should split out the design and manufacture of the vehicle and take take the unusual step of funding a series of demonstrators and design concept vehicles from a wide number of design teams. There are literally hundreds of alternatives from many manufacturers and nations and part of the this development phase should be a comprehensive market assessment with a view to taking the best features and incorporating them into a base design concept whose manufacture can be tendered to any number of organisations under licence from the MoD.
Splitting the intellectual property between a composite design house and the MoD, with manufacturing a completely separate activity would be an unusual approach but one which would maximise design innovation and drive down manufacturing costs.
What specification would we need for a light/medium weight vehicle family that can replace the Land Rover, Duro, Jackal, Coyote, Panther, Husky and Pinzgauer?
Configuration – 4×4 and 6×6. The TMV and EVA place the driver position above the wheels that conventional wisdom says is bad from a blast survivability perspective, but if the driver and passenger can be accommodated in tandem, rather than side by side, a deep V shaped capsule might mitigate this.
Weight – Light weight is an obvious requirement but even the 6×6 version should be sub 10 tonnes so that it can be liftable by Chinook. This may be a difficult requirement to meet but the vehicle family is likely to be the backbone of the light role units so air portability is a key requirement and one that should not be sacrificed for protection. Additional protection may be added that will increase the weight but that would be a tactical decision.
Mobility – as per the LPPV road and off road mobility will need to be well developed, small turning circles, good approach and departure angles and a high tip over angle are necessities. We do however, have to be realistic about what can be achieved in a wheeled vehicle taking into account the protection requirement.
Survivability – Taking lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan the design should incorporate everything from shaped hulls, blast attenuating seats and self sealing fuel tanks. A key innovation should be tuneable protection, the cab modularity might be able to satisfy this requirement to some extent but as a minimum for an enclosed cab the blast protection should be STANAG 4569 Level 3 with greater levels available and Level 1 for artillery and kinetic. It may be desirable to have an open cab configuration so KE and artillery protection might be sacrificed but bast protection should be common.
Trying to defeat the latest RPG’s is likely to add too much weight and/or cost and complexity so we must be realistic about what can be achieved beyond lightweight composite armour
Logistics – Ease of maintenance and reliability must be considered from first principles, everything from engine swaps to changing fluids should be considered and any design proposals passed in front of a REME VM for consideration!
We should take a strict approach to component commonality in order to drive down maintenance and logistics overheads.
Power – Enough power generation and distribution capability for communications, weapon stations, sensors and ECM equipment
Modularity – The modular payload of the Ocelot or Boxer is a feature that has yet to be fully appreciated but the undoubted utility should be a key feature of the new design. Payload options may be a standard personnel carrier, open top weapons platform (WMIK style), flatbed cargo, ambulance or any other variation. The 6×6 version is likely to have a greater range of payload modules as per the 6×6 Pinzgauer or Duro trucks currently in service, everything from communications equipment to diver support to a platform for the common anti air modular missile and everything else in between. The modular payload design would provide a great deal of flexibility.
Load System – Fitting some of the 6×6 versions with a hook lift or DROPS type system would significantly improve utility. We should not be afraid of looking to the civilian marketplace for logistics innovation; the Stellar Industries Light Duty Hooklift system, for example, provides DROPS like capability in lightweight vehicles. Whether this is used for dropping off a mixed pallet of ammunition/food/water or a complete radio enclosure it would provide a new capability with hundreds of applications.
This is a video of a typical small hooklift system
I have deliberately left off a requirement for propulsion type. If the design phase could demonstrate reliable and cost effective hybrid electrical propulsion using in hub motors then why not but this should not form a central part of the specification because we have to avoid over complication and reaching too far into the future. Innovate with design and application, not unproven technology.
So at the risk of repeating myself, the UK has the skills to produce an innovative vehicle family that does exactly what we need and could be a significant export earner, if only we can harness the talent and direct it with enough funding and political willpower.
We should avoid taking the cheap and safe option.