TRACER, MRAV and Project Bushranger

Work ceased on FFLAV but its various studies informed the creation of two new programmes, TRACER and MRAV.

Although both started and finished at different times they are peers in that they both came from the failure of FFLAV to deliver anything tangible so it is appropriate to present them in parallel.

Bushranger, an Australian project to deliver a wheeled and armoured personnel carrier is also of interest to the overall medium weight capability.

TRACER, MRAV and Project Bushranger all endured into the 2000’s but saw their genesis in the nineties so should be viewed in parallel with FFLAV, operations in the Gulf/Balkans, Warrior and CVR(T) developments, VERDI/VERDI-2, the initial development of CV90 and ASCOD, protected mobility and the significant political and technological change of the time.

They are all connected.

Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement (TRACER)

Timeline

In 1992, Staff Target (Land) 4061, more commonly known as TRACER, Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement was to be the new CVR(T) replacement. TRACER envisaged an in-service date of 2004, by then, CVR(T) would have been in service thirty years and the design, over 40 years old (give or take)

When I say a CVR(T) replacement that is not strictly true, more like CVR(T) would leave service and TRACER would enter, the two vehicles being quite different. Going back to the origins of CVR(T) it had two main design drivers, reconnaissance in support of armoured battle groups in Germany and as a light air deployable armoured vehicle for all those troublesome post Empire flare ups.

Deployability ruled the design roost as evidenced by the width; CVR(T) was narrow enough to fit between rubber trees in the plantations of Malaya, for example. TRACER took a different view. The reconnaissance mission had primacy over deployability, although this was also an important consideration.

Initial feasibility study contracts were placed with three groups in 1994:

  • British Aerospace, Royal Ordnance, Alvis Vehicles and Computing Devices Corporation
  • GEC-Marconi and GKN Defence
  • Vickers Defence, Short Brothers, Siemens Plessey, General Dynamics, Continental Motors, Teledyne, Brown Engineering, Pilkington Optronics and Texas Instruments

GKN initially proposed their Recce Warrior and modifying Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank hulls were also considered:

The possibility of modifying a number of existing or proposed armoured vehicles, including the Challenger 2 main battle tank was also considered. As it was estimated that the platform itself would only account for around 20 per cent of the system cost, and there was a high risk of failure to meet the full requirement, this course was not assessed to be cost-effective.

Both would have meant C-130 transportability would have had to be compromised. British Aerospace then released an early concept image.

It is important to note that TRACER was placed in the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) tower) inside the MoD and, as we look back at what was happening with UAVs, we see that the Phoenix UAV system was then approaching a decision point.

In 1995, the MoD had considered cancelling Phoenix, it was by then six years late and estimated to cost double the approved contract value. It was originally planned to enter service in 1989 and although accepted by the British Army in 1994, not a single one had entered operational service a year later, with problems persisting with the data link, ground control station computer systems and recovery equipment. The project was not cancelled but the MoD gave GEC Marconi 12 months to sort out the many problems with Phoenix.

One of the main problems was caused by harsh landings damaging the sensor pod, a change from a frangible hump to a slow inflating airbag was the eventual solution. A post-Gulf War proposal to incorporate a more powerful engine that could cope with weather other than that found in Central Europe was rejected on cost grounds. Despite the 12month deadline imposed on GEC by the MoD in 1995,

Phoenix eventually came into service in December 1998.

It was also clear that despite the problems, Phoenix represented an opportunity to broaden its initial application in artillery support to a broader battlefield surveillance role, some investigation was also carried out to look at electronic warfare, laser designator and radio relay payloads.

Studies were seeking to balance the investment between land and air based systems for ISTAR roles but Phoenix was seen as in an integral part of the ISTAR effort and would be entirely complementary with TRACER.

From a Select Committee submission:

TRACER is the name given to the land-based component of the information, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance. ISTAR, capability required to meet the land commander’s critical information requirements. We are currently conducting a series of parallel studies into land-based and air-based manned and unmanned systems to help determine the optimum balance of investment into these complementary capabilities. No decisions have yet been made on the specification or numbers of each type of platform. The original requirement for Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement, TRACER, was a direct replacement for the ageing Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked), CVR(T), vehicles to provide a high-resolution real time information gathering capability at extended range in all conditions. Since then, however, the development of unmanned air vehicle, UAV, technology promises to deliver a significant portion of the required capability without the risk to life associated with deploying troops far forward into enemy territory. Operational analysis and military judgment show that manned reconnaissance is still required, however, and studies are currently planned into the sensors required to deliver the capability and the most appropriate platform, manned or unmanned, on which to deploy them.

In the same period, the US Army started looking at a replacement for its Bradley M3 in Cavalry squadrons, and the M1114 HMMWV ‘Humvee’ in scout platoons, in a programme called the Future Scout Cavalry System (FSCS). In early 1996, after Armor Caucus l, Major General Lon Maggart initiated a programme to examine various options for the US Army’s future mounted scouting needs. The studies concluded that a dedicated vehicle would offer the best solution.

The principal vehicles employed in a scout role suffered from several deficiencies, and none were purpose-built. The BFV had evolved as an infantry squad carrier to replace the Ml 13 Armored Personnel Carrier and lacked the low silhouette considered desirable for reconnaissance and surveillance operations. Both the HMMWV and the LAV-25 lacked sufficient mobility and protection against most forms of attack. None of these platforms appeared viable amid emerging threat technologies

Requirements included:

  • Mobility and speed in excess of other vehicles within the Maneuver Force
  • Transportability by C-130, C-141, C-5, and C-17
  • Helicopter transportability and parachute capability
  • Swim capability
  • Maximum crew of three
  • Full digital connectivity

During regular discussions between the British and US Army is was discovered that both were looking at similar requirements.

The TRACER and FSCS programmes were subsequently harmonised and a joint project created.

Both nations’ requirements would be met by a single vehicle, the Armoured Scout and Reconnaissance Vehicle (ASRV). It is important to note, for the avoidance of confusion that both programmes continued to be referred to, in their home nations, by their original titles: TRACER and FSCS. The intended end product of both programmes was the ASRV which, if successful, would be produced in both nations.

The Armoured Scout and Reconnaissance Vehicle was specified in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the US and UK in July 1998, the original Operational Requirements Document having been agreed in December 1997.

The headline requirement for the new vehicle required:

  • Ability to detect targets at 10+ km
  • Reduced visual, thermal, noise and electronic signature
  • Cross country speed of 60mph
  • 400-mile range
  • Ability to operate without resupply for 72 hours
  • C-130 transportability

Although a common vehicle was envisaged, the British Army had an additional requirement for their variant to be equipped with a long range anti-tank missile. This was intended to provide overwatch for vehicles deployed forward without protection from main battle tanks.

France and Germany both requested observer status on TRACER although neither had a comparable requirement.

An Invitation to Tender (ITT) was issued on the 09th July 1998

Contracts for an initial study phase were signed with two consortia, each composed of a mix of UK and US companies, in January 1999. The mix of UK and US companies was intended to facilitate an equal work share between the native industries of the two nations.

At this early stage, the UK and US had slightly different requirements but the project was still initiated amid hopes of a rapid introduction and reduction in costs.

TRACER was intended to not only provide intelligence but also:

  • Act as a deterrent,
  • Monitor opposing forces,
  • Help maintain freedom of movement,
  • Provide a credible offensive capability by directing direct and indirect fire onto enemy forces.

The two competing consortia for the Project Definition Phase were:

  • SIKA International (British Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Vickers Defence, Smiths Industries, Computing Devices Company, Pilkington Optronics, Shorts Missile Defence and General Dynamics)
  • LANCER (Marconi, Alvis, United Defence and Raytheon). Each would be required to produce detailed specifications, training requirements, production plans/costs and an integrated demonstrator vehicle.

Both had slightly different industrial strategies involving joint ventures or loose teaming arrangements but both governments were keen to main the competitive element whilst having an equitable mix of US and UK commercial opportunities.

The estimated UK requirement would be for 400 vehicles with the US taking 1,200, with a projected price estimate of $2.9m each.

The studies progressed well and planned to go through affordability review in early 2001, after which a number of subsequent options would be open for discussion, including completion and report in 2002.

Estimated cost at this point was £118 million at 1999 prices.

By the end of 1998, the MoD had spent £7.3 million on TRACER.

In February 2000, the estimated cost of the UK’s participation in TRACER was revised to £90 million, with costs split 3 ways between the UK, USA and competing consortia. An affordability review was planned for early 2001 after which a number other options were to be considered. Rumours surfaced that the US was about to terminate the programme and in the same month Mr Quentin Davies MP tabled a Parliamentary Question about the consequences of the US withdrawing. In response to the question, the estimated cost rose to £130 million, up from £118 million a couple of years before and £40m different from a parliamentary answer given only months before.

In April 2001, a statement to the House of Parliament revealed that the future of the US FSCS was in doubt, describing how the new Future Combat System (FCS) vision as envisioned by General Shinseki in 1999 would need funding and some programmes would be cut to make room for it, one of these was the follow-on engineering development phase of FSCS/TRACER.

At the DSEi show in London in September 2001, a SIKA representative said:

Rumours that the project had stalled completely and was about to be overtaken by FRES are grossly overdone, the project continues to meet its milestone development phases and we have already started cutting metal on the first prototype.

In October 2001, a statement was made to Parliament that in a joint US/UK decision, TRACER would come to a close at the end of the assessment phase in July 2002. The information gained would be used to inform FCS and FRES respectively, both programmes were to effectively absorb TRACER and FSCS:

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of the Tracer programme.

Dr. Moonie: The UK and the US have taken a joint decision to bring the Tracer programme to a close in July 2002 when the current assessment phase comes to an end. In keeping with the principles of Smart Acquisition, this illustrates our willingness to take the right decision early in a programme in response to changing priorities. The Tracer programme has successfully developed a pool of key technologies that can now be utilised in future programmes such as the Future Rapid Effects System which will play a key role in meeting the Land Commander’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance needs.

TRACER and FSCS were no more although that the development programme would see out its contracted funding and allow the consortia show the fruits of their considerable labours.

Total cost to the UK was confirmed at £131 million

With the US gone, the UK had a choice, it could well have stayed with the programme and comments about it being unaffordable without US participation are only partly true but before it had chance to complete, the UK was already in love with its own version of FCS, The Future Rapid Effects System (FRES).

TRACER technology demonstrations took place towards the end of the programme in June and July 2002 involving the prototype vehicles from each consortium, despite its cancellation.

And that was the end of TRACER.

Technology Demonstrators

Both vehicles were the culmination of a great deal of detailed analysis and study, make no mistake, both the US and UK put a great deal of time and effort into the TRACER/FSCS requirement before building the demonstrators.

The Combined Analysis Plan (CAP), for example, consisted 21 individual study areas and these were closely integrated with current thinking on unmanned aerial vehicles. This analysis extended to asking questions about UAV survivability and operability in poor weather, sensor fidelity in falling snow, the impacts of operating in hot and high environments, integration with stand-off weapons, the optimal height for the sensor mast, and of course, wheels or tracks.

The mobility analysis considered a variety of terrain using the CVR(T), Bradley, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), LAV III and MTVL vehicles for comparison. It concluded that strategic mobility was equal for both, that tracks favoured off road mobility and survivability, whilst wheels favoured tactical mobility on hard surfaces and fuel consumption (although only slightly). In favourable terrain, a wheeled vehicle performed better but as soon as the terrain became less favourable their speed advantage was lost and time spent navigating around unpassable terrain meant that it both spent more time exposed to enemy observation and fire, and less time doing its main job.

A tracked vehicle configuration was selected.

An elevating mast was assessed as providing significant survivability benefits.

The demonstrators were widely regarded as impressive vehicles and included many advanced concepts.

No technology stones were left unturned.

A hybrid electric drive system, band tracks from Soucy, and hydrogas suspension and a high power to weight ratio provided both high speeds and cross-country manoeuvrability, but also limited silent capability over short distances (6-10km). Lancer had a 600km range and 0-50kph time of ten seconds.

The ‘just off the drawing board’ 40mm Cased Telescopic Ammunition (CTA) cannon from CTAI provided the main armament, and the UK specific overwatch variant was armed with either Brimstone or Hellfire class anti-tank guided weapons. Four were carried in a turret that also had a 7.62mm automatic weapon for local defence.

Human factors were another area of significant research and modelling, especially when looking at the issues of unmanned turrets, a single crew pod and 3-man crews. The single crew pod allowed protection to be concentrated and thus, dimensions reduced and overall weight lowered. Workload reduction and ensuring the tidal wave of data from the extensive sensor systems did not overwhelm the crew to the point of ineffectiveness were considered. Duplication of workstation functionality allowed, in extremis, the vehicle commander to drive or driver to fire the weapon. The multi-function displays in the SIKA demonstrator were designed and built by BAE Avionics, a first at the time. An escape hatch and another escape route through to the rear of the vehicle were provided. Even surround sound technologies were used to present realistic external audio to the crew; that is how smart it was.

The most advanced part of the vehicle was the sensor system.

In addition to individually integrated periscopes for each of the crew and commander/gunner sights, the main sensor was mounted on a 5m elevating mast that allowed the vehicle to remain in dead ground or behind cover. The sensor package comprised laser rangefinder/designator, acoustic, thermal, day/night and radar, all fused by the combat management system, one cross-cuing from the other as needed. The Sika vehicle had the Wide Area Surveillance (WAS), Automatic Target Detection (ATD) and Aided Target Recognition (ATR) demonstrated on the VERDI-2 Warrior. It’s high-speed Firewire data bus made those on CVR(T) and the M3 look steam driven.

Semi disposable Micro Air Vehicles (MAV) were also allowed for although not integrated on the demonstrators.

Inertial Navigation, GPS, NBC protection, fire detection/suppression and various communication systems completed the package.

Both were less than 20 tonnes and approximately 6.5m long, 2.7m wide and w.8m high.

They were only technology demonstrators of course, and many of the technologies were nowhere near mature enough for deployment but they showed considerable promise and innovation.

TRACER provided a glimpse into the future but although the vehicles were reportedly very impressive, the impression I get from reading what sparse materials are available on the subject is that the massive leaps forward were probably too much for a single programme to sustain. Every aspect was a large advance; armour, propulsion, weapons, ergonomics and above all, the sensors and sensor fusion. FSCS was also criticised because it sought to reduce the overall personnel numbers in US Cavalry organisations, especially dismounted personnel, and it was feared that technology was driving doctrine, not the other way around, perhaps a fair criticism.

To illustrate the technology readiness issue, TRACER’s main gun, the 40mm CTAS, was not ready for a manufacturing contract until 2015, eleven years after the expected TRACER in service date.

LANCER Demonstrator

The composite image above shows the LANCER demonstrator at United Defense in the US, they produced the chassis and shipped it to the UK for the fitting of the sensor and turret systems.

SIKA Demonstrator

The SIKA demonstrator is shown below.

Multi Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV)

The Multi Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV) has a straight line relationship with Strike Brigades that everyone involved wants everyone else to ignore. If the reconnaissance element of FFLAV led to TRACER, the utility element led to MRAV, and both failed to deliver anything tangible for the UK.

After the cancellation of the Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV) programme, GKN proposed a merger with Vickers Defence but this was rebuffed and, eventually, GKN and Alvis merged instead.

In 1992, both Germany and France had wheeled armoured vehicle programmes in their early stages. France had Véhicule Blindé Modulaire (VBM) and Germany, Gepaanzerten Transport Kraft-fahrzeug (GTK).

The two nations agreed that a jointly designed vehicle would be able to satisfy both nation’s requirements. It would replace the French AMX-10RC, VAB and ERC-90 Sagaie and the German Spahpanzer Luchs, TPz1 Fuchs and M113. France and Germany were also set on the idea that the vehicle would equip the future Euro Corps.

At a meeting held in Bonn in December 1993 between the French Defence Minister, Francois Leotard and his German counterpart, Volker Ruhe, the establishment of a joint armaments agency was agreed. This was not a European agency but a French/German organisation to manage a specific number of joint programmes. From this would eventually spring forth OJAC or, as it was known in the French, Organisation conjointe de coopération en matière d’armement.

One of these projects was the VBM/GTK.

OJAC is now known as OCCAR, the Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation

At Eurosatory 94, vehicles from both France and Germany were on display that were claimed to meet the harmonised VBM/GTK requirement, the French Giat Vextra and German Daimler Benz EXF.

In the early eighties, Daimler Benz had carried out a number of trials with heavy wheeled vehicles. The Daimler Benz (EXperimental Fahrzeug) EXF, shown below with concrete test weight in place of a turret eventually developed into the 32 tonnes 8×8 Radkampfwagen 90.  The Radkampfwagen 90 was fitted with a Leopard turret and proved many of the concepts that would go on to be used in MRAV and Boxer.

In 1992 GIAT privately funded the Vextra technology demonstrator to explore the potential for heavy wheeled combat vehicles. It weighed 27 tonnes, was powered by a Scania diesel engine and could carry nine dismounted personnel or 6 tonnes of cargo.

The initial GIAT Vextra models were also fitted with a one-man 25mm cannon armed DRAGAR turret.

Quantities for the new design were thought to be in excess of 50,000 vehicles, perhaps optimistically.

Both the Vextra and EXF technology demonstrators were shown as examples of what this unified concept might look like, not necessarily proposals for it, although both were impressive vehicles in their own right. The baseline requirement called for a 25-tonne wheeled vehicle that could carry nine dismounted personnel and be capable of a road speed of 120kph (about 75mph). Centralised tire pressure would provide the equivalent mobility to tracked vehicles.

Also on display at Eurosatory 94 was a 6×6 mock-up called by some, the European Vehicle Armoured (EVA).

This was also intended to showcase what the end product might look like.

EVA combined elements from both the EXF and Vextra. It had a 500hp engine and Renk automatic transmission, could accommodate 9 passengers and 2 crew and weighed 22 tonnes in the 6×6 mock-up configuration. In addition to the mock-up, illustrations were also published that showed an 8×8 variant.

Despite the outward display of harmony, two vehicles, four national manufacturers and one requirement.

It was bound to end in tears.

The UK enters story in mid-1995 when after several preliminary discussions, it was offered membership of OJAC.

The UK also by then had an emergent requirement for a medium weight wheeled armoured personnel carrier, developing the concept from the earlier FFLAV project which considered a number of vehicles including the 6×6 Pegaso BMR from the Spanish company Santa Barbara Sistemas (now General Dynamics and manufacturer of Ajax)

In 1996, all three nations agreed to a joint project to develop a vehicle family called the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV). GIAT entered into an agreement with ARGE GTK, who had earlier also entered into an agreement with GKN.

The Organisation conjointe de coopération en matière d’armement (OJAC) then became Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation, or OCCAR, with the UK, France, Italy and Germany as founding members.

It was the original British and German intent that OCCAR would manage the MRAV programme through open competition but the French did not, A compromise solution was proposed by the German government, multi-national consortia with assured workshare in the manufacturing phase. At the end of the discussion it was decided OCCAR would not manage the MRAV competition as it wanted and so it was managed by the German defence procurement organisation, Bundesamt fur Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung (BWB) with the proviso that GIAT could join whichever consortia won, regardless of original membership.

The industrial landscape was quite diverse at the time but, understanding the implications of losing, all the European manufacturers formed consortia.

These would eventually coalesce into two competing teams.

Eurokonsortium: GKN, Krauss Maffei, MaK/Rheinmetall, Wegman and GIAT.

Unbeknown to Team International, Eurokonsortium also submitted a proposal for an 8×8 variant.

Team International: Vickers Defence Systems, Alvis, Henschel, Kuka and Panhard & Levassor

April 1998 saw the competition winner announced: Eurokonsortium.

A House of Lords announcement described the decision:

Lord Bassam of Brighton asked Her Majesty’s Government: What is the current position on the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle programme

Lord Gilbert: I am pleased to announce that, together with Germany and France, we intend to develop and produce a family of armoured utility vehicles to meet the requirements of all three nations. The UK needs these vehicles to replace FV430, Saxon and Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) utility vehicles. We plan to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for the joint programme, known in the UK as the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle, MRAV, covering development and initial production of a total of 600 vehicles. Subject to the completion of the national approvals processes in Germany and France and the negotiation of satisfactory contract terms and conditions, it is intended to place a contract with Eurokonsortium, a consortium including GKN Defence Ltd from the UK, Krauss-Maffei/Wegmann and MAK from Germany, and GIAT from France.

This programme will be managed within the quadrilateral Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation, known as OCCAR, and represents a major collaboration with our European allies. Collaboration will bring a number of benefits, including improved interoperability and financial savings, through sharing of development costs and economies of scale in production. The project also offers UK industry the opportunity to strengthen its links with the leading companies in the European armoured vehicles industry.

Team International threatened legal action because the original requirement called for a 6×6 design, and Eurokonsortium had submitted their winning 8×8 at a late stage. Team International eventually submitted their own 8×8 proposal but 5 months after the official closing date and their protest went nowhere.

The conclusion of the competition saw the losers rapidly converge, Alvis acquired the GKN Defence business in September 1998.

A July 1998 Parliamentary Question elicited this response form the Government:

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will make a statement on the progress of the MRAV project; (2) how many multi-role armoured vehicles he intends to purchase.

Mr. Spellar: Following the joint announcement with France and Germany on 22 April of our intention to proceed with collaborative development and initial production of the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle, MRAV, and of the selection of the trilateral consortium “Eurokonsortium” as the preferred bidder, we have set work in hand to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding between the three nations. Detailed contract negotiations with the consortium are also proceeding. The initial production order will include 200 vehicles for each nation. No decisions have been taken on the final numbers required.

In the same month, the New Labour government published the Strategic Defence Review which made clear there would be a European element to future defence acquisition:

Wherever possible, European governments should harmonise the requirements of their Armed Forces and pursue co-operative solutions. This not only avoids unnecessary duplication of development and production costs but makes sound operational sense. As part of their initiative, the Defence Ministers announced on 20 April that they would give high priority to resolving a number of governmental issues – for example relating to security and intellectual property rights – which could hinder restructuring and would sign a Letter of Intent setting out a timetable for this on 6 July. The creation of a multinational organisation, OCCAR (Organisme Conjointe de Co-operation en matière d’Armament), involving Britain, France, Germany and Italy to undertake common procurement also has an important part to play.

It also described the intent with MRAV.

The outcome of the Strategic Defence Review fully reflects the importance that the Government attaches to maintaining a strong and healthy British and European defence industry combined with a continuing commitment to competitive procurement. The Review’s forward equipment plans include a range of major European collaborative projects including Eurofighter, Horizon frigate, and the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV). We will be seeking to ensure that there are realistic European options to be considered for our longer term-requirements such as the replacement for the Tornado bomber and improved strategic air transport.

A year after the winner was announced a lead nation had yet to be appointed and there is no doubt the devil made work for idle hands. Differences emerged, with Germany aligning with the UK while France increasingly moved away from MRAV. They began to favour a wheeled Infantry Fighting Vehicle that would work closely with the LeClerc Main Battle Tank, armed with a medium calibre weapon, a role fulfilled by Warrior and the new Puma vehicle in German service.

France was also still smarting from the UK/German decision to insist that GIAT could only be part of one of the competing consortia despite agreements on manufacturing. Before MRAV, GIAT was not in a good place commercially and the French Government was keen on retaining its sovereign production capability.

France left the programme in 1999 to create the VBCI.

Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR) gained legal status in 2001 that allowed it to enter into contracts on behalf of member nations and it was decided that OCCAR should ‘inherit’ MRAV and manage it from there.

A joint venture company called ARTEC GmbH was formed, replacing Eurokonsortium, comprised of Alvis Vehicles Ltd, Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH.

On the 5th of November 1999, Alvis released details of the contract:

Alvis plc is pleased to announce that a contract was signed on 5 November between the German and UK MOD, and ARTEC GmbH for the development of the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV. Alvis is a shareholder in ARTEC, which is a joint venture company established to manage the MRAV programme. The value of the development contract is approximately £70m, and it contains a production option for an initial procurement of 600 vehicles.  The Alvis share of the development phase will be approximately £35m and its share of the initial production phase is expected to exceed £200m.

It went on to quote Nick Prest, Chairman and Chief Executive of Alvis said:

The launch of MRAV is an event of major importance for Alvis.   MRAV is the largest European Armoured Vehicle programme for the next 10 years and beyond, and it will secure and enhance the interests of our employees and shareholders into the long term. The collaboration with Krauss-Maffei and MaK, the leading land systems companies in Germany, provides an axis for further business development in Europe.

The contract covered the full development and a production option for the first 600 vehicles at a value of approximately €750m.

Baroness Symons, the defence procurement minister, described the announcement:

The MRAV programme strengthens the links between our nations and will provide a springboard for the development of a more cohesive and competitive European defence industry in this sector. The MRAV programme will provide the British army with a modern and flexible family of armoured utility vehicles that can operate in both high-intensity conflict and in rapid reaction peace support and humanitarian operations world-wide.

The base vehicle would use common components with national specific variants produced and assembled locally. Discussions also started with the Netherlands about joining the programme.

In February 2001, the Dutch company Stork PWV joined ARTEC to meet the Pantser Wiel Voertuig requirement, increasing the overall order value.

In 2002, Alvis acquired Vickers Defence Systems from Rolls Royce.

The vehicle was named Boxer in 2002.

During these early stages, there was still discussion about using both 6×6 and 8×8 variants although that would give way eventually to only the 8×8.

UK planning assumptions were for a number of variants; armoured personnel carrier, command vehicle, communications vehicle (CommV), mortar carrier (ATV), Anti-Tank Platoon (ATPV) and two configurations of Armoured Treatment and Evacuation Vehicle (ATEV) across a total order of 775 vehicles, replacing FV432, some CVR(T) and Saxon.

The initial ISD was defined as:

54 Armoured Personnel Carriers and 21 Command Vehicles fully operational in a Mechanised Infantry Battalion and Brigade Headquarters

MRAV was to be transportable by C-17 and the Future Large Aircraft (A400M), but not C-130.

A great deal of British design expertise went into MRAV and equally, the concept of operations.

A word on modularity…

MRAV is described as

A dismountable mission module atop an 8-wheel drive, 4-wheel steer drive module ensures maximum commonality, whilst allowing the flexibility to design and fit separate mission modules to meet the demands of the multi-role fleet

Modularity adds parasitic weight and tends to concentrate the load over the rear wheels but when analysing the pros and cons, it is often thought that swapping modules in the field is the main driver, but this is not the case.

Yes, a module can be swapped at first line repair, and this does have operational advantages, especially for bringing damaged modules back to service rapidly, but the largest benefit is one of industrial and development.

Given the nature of the industrial and manufacturing arrangements, where each nation developed and built their own modules, it makes perfect sense.

The highest value of any given vehicle will be its payload. The participating nations could develop their own modules, to their own specific requirements, test and manufacture them in full knowledge they will function across a logistically common multi-national fleet of base vehicles.

It was not to be though.

The UK withdrew from MRAV in July 2003 to pursue FRES citing the weight of MRAV as far too heavy for the medium weight rapidly deployed FRES concept.

Might be worth remembering this as you read on, MRAV, at 32 tonnes, was too heavy.

Announcing the decision on the 17th July 2003, Adam Ingram said;

Mr Adam Ingram (Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence; East Kilbride, Labour)

We regularly re-visit existing plans for capability enhancements to ensure they remain tailored to the security environment in which we need to operate. As such, we judge that the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV) is not ideally suited to the type of operations envisaged under the Strategic Defence Review New Chapter and other developing policy work.

This, coupled with recent operational experience in the Balkans, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Afghanistan and latterly Iraq, has demonstrated the need for rapid deployability in expeditionary operations.

MRAV is not considered able to meet this capability requirement which will be pursued through the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES). FRES will be a very significant component of the long-term transformation of the land battle through its contribution to network-enabled capability. We have written to the German and Dutch Governments to inform them of our decision to withdraw from the MRAV collaborative project.

Lord Bach, the Defence Procurement Minister, said;

The SDR (Strategic Defence Review) New Chapter, and our experience on recent overseas operations, have shown the need for lighter armoured vehicles that can be quickly sent by air to a trouble spot when a crisis breaks

Germany and the Netherlands were left as the ‘none too chuffed’ partners in the MRAV programme but they stayed the course and the first prototype was delivered in December 2003, shown below.

Boxer Prototype

The cost of the UK participation in MRAV was reported as £48 million in 2003 although this would rise in subsequent reporting, as it often does.

And that was the end of MRAV, at least for the UK.

Project Bushranger

One might think that the inclusion of an Australian project is out of place in this story but it is connected to the issue of protected mobility, which is connected to FRES, which is connected to Strike Brigades and the Medium Weight Capability, so bear with me!

The Australian Defence White Paper of 1987 stated a requirement for improved infantry mobility. Following on from this, the 1991 Force Structure Review defined a requirement for an Infantry Mobility Vehicle (IMV)

The 6th Royal Australian Regiment had investigated the use of Project Parentie 4×4 and 66 Land Rovers. The Parentie is based on a Land Rover 110 but has an Isuzu engine and many other changes, a uniquely Australian vehicle, especially the 6×6 version. Additional Project Parentie vehicles were designed and built by BAe Australia, between 1994 and 1998.

Land Project 116 – Project Bushranger, Phase 1, was a modified Parentie, designated the Interim Infantry Mobility Vehicle (IIMV).

The 1994 Australian Defence White Paper further emphasised the vehicle requirement.

5.57 New land force vehicles will be acquired to give greater mobility and better personnel protection. The fleet of Ml 13 tracked armoured vehicles will also undergo a limited modification program to overcome existing deficiencies and extend their life well into the next century. New light reconnaissance vehicles based on commercial standards will be acquired this decade, and a lightly armoured transport vehicle will be acquired to provide mobility to infantry brigades. The present fleet of trucks will be replaced early in the next decade. These projects will be managed to provide opportunities for Australian industry and reduce subsequent through-life costs, including adopting civil standards to the maximum extent practicable.

The Phase I Parentie was purchased in both 4×4 and 6×6 variants totalling 276 vehicles, produced by Australian Defence Industries (ADI).  Towards the end of the manufacturing phase, BAE Australia sold their interests to Tenix.

1994 also marked the start of Phase 2A, the search for a purpose built IIMV replacement, thirteen companies expressed an interest and five shortlisted:

  • ANI teamed with Reumech Austral to form a joint venture called Australian Specialised Vehicle Systems (ASVS) with a modified version of the Mamba known as Taipan.
  • Transfield Defence System teamed with Thyssen Henschel to offer the TM-170.
  • Perry Engineering teamed with Timony to offer a version of their MP44 APC.
  • Westrac teamed with TFM to offer the RG-12 Nyala
  • BAE Australia offered the Shorts Brothers developed Foxhound (no, not that one)

By the end of 1996, Transfield and Westrac withdrew, leaving BAE Australia, ANI and Perry Engineering.

The BAE Foxhound was based on the Shorts Brothers S600 Shorland vehicle, a departure from their normal Land Rover derived designs, instead, using the Unimog U2150L. With a maximum weight of 12.50 tonnes, the Foxhound could carry nine passengers. The ANI/Reumech (ASVS) Taipan was a derivative of the Mamba vehicle, also based on a Unimog U2150L chassis.

The original Perry Engineering concept was based on the Timony Technology MP44 vehicle that made extensive use of the automotive components from the Stewart and Stevenson Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle (FMTV). Of the three, it had the highest weight, at 14 tonnes, but the monocoque chassis, not a conventional truck chassis like the others, provided a number of protection benefits. There was also a growth path to a 6×6 variant, the MP66 (shown below in a later prototype)

Phase 2B was the Request for Tender process, Phase 3, manufacture and introduction to service.

BAE then withdrew, leaving just Perry Engineering and ASVS.

During the trials, Australian Defence Industries (ADI) purchased the rights to the Perry Engineering vehicle as proposed for Project Bushmaster and redesigned much of it (especially the hull) to ensure compliance with the ADI requirements. ADI claimed their vehicle could withstand a 19kg explosive charge under any wheel.

Neither of the vehicles actually met requirements, especially on reliability.

Trials were completed at the end of 1998 and in March 1999, the Australian Minister for Defence announced that the ADI Bushmaster was the winner. Initial quantities were to be 352 (352 for the Army and 18 for the RAAF) to be in service by 2002, although additional variants were planned.

A pair of early models were modified and sent to East Timor in 1999, serving as VIP transport vehicles. ADI were privatised in November 1999 with 50% each owned by Transfield (one of the original losing bidders) and Thomson CSF.

It would be unfair to characterise the Bushranger project as a total success, the winning vehicle took much longer to bring into service than planned and was certainly more expensive, this from an Australian tabloid:

The Australian Defence Force’s much anticipated Project Bushranger appears set, like Ned Kelly himself, for a gruesome ending. The project, to build more than 300 landmine-protected infantry vehicles, is massively over budget and ridiculously behind schedule. Our defence forces have run out of patience, giving the manufacturers until the end of the year to sort the mess out.

A 2004 Sydney Morning Herald story in 2004 summed up the situation:

The army’s new Bushmaster troop carrier sums up what can go wrong with defence purchases. The prototype vehicles were 10 times less reliable than the army wanted. But the army bought them anyway because the only alternative was 20 times less reliable. The original cost was supposed to be $170 million for 370 vehicles. In the end, taxpayers will get 299 vehicles for $329 million. And though taxpayers’ money has been used to develop the vehicles, the army has no patent over any part of the project and no royalty agreement with ADI if the company sells the vehicles overseas. Now that the wrinkles have been ironed out using taxpayer money, that looks likely.

However, by 2004/2005, the Australian Army had a workable and effective medium protected mobility vehicle, and one that has gone on to be exported well and obtained in larger numbers, including some to the British Army (although I have read that the Pandur 2 6×6 was the preferred option, which is amusing given that the BMR (a version of Pandur 1) was in the running for FFLAV.

 

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32 Comments on "TRACER, MRAV and Project Bushranger"

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ArmChairCivvy

Good stuff, as it is an excerpt from the middle of the flow, will leave general comments for later.

It feels like ISTAR and FireWire make an appearance before they existed, but could be just down to the fact that in the 90s I was too busy to be reading about defence at this sort of technical level.

Hohum

good stuff TD; this is coming along nicely.

I note that the TRACER narrative starts to get a bit closer to the truth about that programme than has been presented here (and elsewhere) previously.

It’s a project that has gotten away with little scrutiny because it was cancelled before the issues became apparent. there were two that were interlinked- firstly the ultimate cost was grossly out of proportion with the significance of the role. Compounding this problem was that the individual technologies and subsystems involved were at nowhere near the TRLs they were believed in some quarters to be. Had the programme been allowed to continue it would have turned into a clusterf**k of epic proportions.

Scout being a e metal box with a conventional diesel drive-train inst an example of technological conservatism but the result of lessons it took far too long to learn about the realities of technology maturity.

ArmChairCivvy

Let us note the following: Carter “was” an infanterist, as with the rise through the echelons you are “supposed to” forget your affliations – to be more exact, how your brain has been conditioned to work..

“Was” is of course about the theoretical thinking; in here we are trying to find out how the British Army is going to (try to) mix the Armoured Corps (the real tanks and cavalry, lately of the recce fame) and infantry… that, without, no one that I know of has, so far, won a war without?

Chris

Ref FFLAV and BMR – the alvis FFLAV offering included BMR600 but this was no Austrian; it was Santa Barbara Sistemas (later ENESA, later still GD) a Spanish company. THe same company that will be building Ajax and family.

Chris

Ref MRAV “contract covered the full development and a production option for the first 600 vehicles at a value of approximately €750” Brilliant! That’s about £1 each – put me down for a dozen!

I’m guessing it should read 750 *million* Euros?

Chris

Ref “Might be worth remembering this as you read on, MRAV was too heavy” – I think at the time MRAV was predicted to be a 33t GVW vehicle? Might be worth also including the MRAV GVW in that sentence as in “MRAV at 33t was too heavy” just in case readers think it was heading off towards MBT weights?

Chris

Ref “despite the offer from Rheinmetall” – offer? What offer was that then? None referenced in the text above?

Chris

General point on MRAV text – towards the end the timeline all gets a bit muddled – for example in 1999 there’s a Nick Prest press release referencing ARTEC, but the sentence describing the ARTEC consortium appears amongst stuff dated as 2001? All a bit jumbly to me.

Chris

Ref companies involved in Bushranger bidding – more confusion. BAe/Shorts, ANI/Reumech=ASVS, Perry/Timony, Transfield/ThyssenHenschel & Westrac/TFM were the starters, the last two dropped out leaving BAE, ADI & Perry. ANI the same as ADI? In the next paragraph ANI is back. Confusion as in ADI is referenced earlier than ANI and later than, so its not clear how these relate.

Chris

Ref TRACER feasibility study groupings – the three teams I recognise from my latter days at Alvis but immediately below them there is a line about an Alvis/GKN proposal? Until the merger Alvis & GKN were best of enemies business-wise; certainly in my experience there were no cooperative ventures between them. So. Was the offer of Recce Warrior a GEC/GKN team thing as part of the 1994 submission, or was it post 1998 when Alvis had merged/taken over with GKN Defence? Presumably before 1999 when Alvis GEC United Defense and Raytheon formed team Lancer. All these regroupings and reforming teams are making my head hurt…

ArmChairCivvy

RE In favourable terrain, a wheeled vehicle performed better but as soon as the terrain became less favourable their speed advantage was lost and time spent navigating around unpassable terrain meant that it both spent more time exposed to enemy observation and fire, and less time doing its main job
… could make for a good x-reference to “today”

The pictures following (immediately below) include the one where observation cones, from behind an obscuring feature, still “observe” something at the ground level
… is this one of those where the promises were one step ahead of reality?

ArmChairCivvy

The Nexter video on Vextra is so impressive that it “calls for” a comment on the orthodoxy in the mind set of the buyer:
– was available, then
– is going to be ordered about now
– a bit player, who was given two BTR-80s to play with and told: do better , “or else” we will buy some of these… has received 1400-2000 orders for theirs by now!

ArmChairCivvy

“Team International”” comes up in text before being intro’ed (as a term/ concept).

“would replace the French AMX-10RC, VAB and ERC-90 Sagaie ” may be a worthwhile mention that the prototype (only just) made it to the Bastille Day… this year – 2017!

ArmChairCivvy

A “funny” x-ref here could be:

Team International threatened legal action because the original requirement called for a 6×6 design, and Eurokonsortium had submitted their winning 8×8 at a late stage. ”

as AMV, originally was presented as 6×6, or 8×8… any way you want it
– but nobody has ordered a 6×6!

ArmChairCivvy

“benefits, including improved interoperability and financial savings, through sharing of development costs and economies of scale in production. The project also offers UK industry the opportunity to strengthen its links with the leading companies in the European armoured vehicles industry”
– talk about too many cooks in the kitchen!

And this would come back, to bite, once it became evident that the “integrators” of the industry actually came from America:
“the Defence Ministers announced on 20 April that they would give high priority to resolving a number of governmental issues – for example relating to security and intellectual property rights –…”

Even the language tells – ahead of what was going to happen – that the folks drawn onto ministerial seats (you know, you are meant to have enough knowledge to be able to execute the will or intent…the Executive Branch!) had no clue:
as governmental is used as a synonym for “Governance”
– is there something wrong with the folks that speak English as their mother tongue… they just do not know what the words actually mean? Or is it the education that makes them think that they do know… based on studying the literature a hundred years back?

ArmChairCivvy

I take it that this is all between friends?

As declared: the comments will be deleted as each installment (or all of it, in one go) will be released for wider circulation?

ArmChairCivvy

Team International, image 2 (LHR) would make a good companion for the similar Warrior image (earlier on in the story)
– the image RHS really contributes nothig

ArmChairCivvy

There we go; bring women into judging what AFVs should be able to do:
“Baroness Symons, the defence procurement minister,…

The statement says that they (the vehicles) will need to be able to serve tea and bring peace

Now, moving on from being too close to sexist [it was a statement of facts!]

54 Armoured Personnel Carriers and 21 Command Vehicles fully operational in a Mechanised Infantry Battalion and Brigade Headquarters
– so, in our en game the SEG will need that many of the base version and about half of the Command version, for them to be able to simulate a whole bde on “manoeuvres”

ArmChairCivvy

Boxer in this one
“UK planning assumptions were for a number of variants; armoured personnel carrier, command vehicle, communications vehicle (CommV), mortar carrier (ATV), Anti-Tank Platoon (ATPV) and two configurations of Armoured Treatment and Evacuation Vehicle (ATEV) across a total order of 775 vehicles, replacing FV432, some CVR(T) and Boxer.”
is out of place

ArmChairCivvy

and latterly Iraq, has demonstrated the need for rapid deployability in expeditionary operations

O yeah, you do a full scale exercise, one year head, in Oman. Replace, then , not only the boots that melt, but also the engine intake filters on Chally2’s so that they are not defeated by the fine sand – rather than by the enemy)

V rapid, indeed (also on the day… what; half a year? or thereabouts)

ArmChairCivvy

This

1994 also marked the start of Phase 2A, the search for a purpose built IIMV replacement, thirteen companies expressed an interest and five shortlisted; British Aerospace, ANI, Perry Engineering, Transfield Defence Systems and Westrac.

ANI teamed with Reumech Austral to form a joint venture (Australian Specialised Vehicle Systems) with a modified version of the Mamba known as Taipan. Transfield Defence System teamed with Thyssen Henschel to offer the TM-170. Perry Engineering teamed with Timony to offer a version of their MP44 APC. Westrac allied with TFM to offer the RG-12 Nyala and finally, BAE Australia offered the Shorts Brothers developed Foxhound (no, not that one)

By the end of 1996, Transfield and Westrac withdrew, leaving BAE Australia, ADI and Perry Engineering”

is too much detail

ArmChairCivvy

ArmChairCivvy

This

1994 also marked the start of Phase 2A, the search for a purpose built IIMV replacement, thirteen companies expressed an interest and five shortlisted; British Aerospace, ANI, Perry Engineering, Transfield Defence Systems and Westrac.

ANI teamed with Reumech Austral to form a joint venture (Australian Specialised Vehicle Systems) with a modified version of the Mamba known as Taipan. Transfield Defence System teamed with Thyssen Henschel to offer the TM-170. Perry Engineering teamed with Timony to offer a version of their MP44 APC. Westrac allied with TFM to offer the RG-12 Nyala and finally, BAE Australia offered the Shorts Brothers developed Foxhound (no, not that one)

By the end of 1996, Transfield and Westrac withdrew, leaving BAE Australia, ADI and Perry Engineering”

is too much detail

TehFinn

If you want affordable protected mobility with ability to swim Protolab has you covered. PMPV 6×6 Protected MultiPurpose Vehicle. Weight 14 tonnes, Stanag 1 ballistic as base and mine protection 4a/4b, can be armoured up to level 5 ballistic protection. Maximum GVW 24 tonnes on road and 20 tonnes off-road. 2+10 carrying capacity, the seats fold and pallets can be loaded. Price 500K€ for base model.

This vehicle is 85% solution for MRAV at probably 1/3 the price tag of a Boxer. Especially interesting is the possibility to mount level 5 ballistic protection on a 6×6. I think this vehicle has a lot of potential for a number of things and hopefully will see light of day soon enough. It has just recently finished deveploment and is waiting for orders. Upgrade protection to 5/4a/4b to move around infantry and 3/4a/4b for engineers and 1/4a/4b for all the rest.

ArmChairCivvy

You (TehF) are right; the utube thingy when Markku Alen takes it for a spin (or, really, climbing over cliffs) is quite amusing.

What I had missed
“Weight 14 tonnes, Stanag 1 ballistic as base and mine protection 4a/4b, can be armoured up to level 5 ballistic protection. Maximum GVW 24 tonnes on road and 20 tonnes off-road. ”
is that the fantastic own weight to payload ratio (10 tonnes difference) does not hold for serious x-country… and then you will need to factor in the protection levels, too.

So I would say “no” for infantry and “yes” for anything else. Now, about those Mastiffs and Ridgebacks that we have aplenty… not to mention the Huskies that are more pliable to role changes

ArmChairCivvy

OK, the Balkans to go
… put in some comments in advance

TehFinn

It seems this is supposed to be behind a password but one has access to here through the last comments part at bottom of the page.

ArmChairCivvy

… except that there is no draft text, to comment on.

The US Securities Commission made front running a crime!

ArmChairCivvy

I wasn’t egging people on, with advance comments
“… put in some comments in advance”

I was merely (much earlier on) pointing out that the complex Jugoslavia engagement set whole new stds for e.g. mine protection, even when folks were being sent in there to keep the peace (not for fighting).

TehFinn

Yes, the designer has stated that maximum off-road weight is 20 tonnes so you still got 6 tonnes of payload before that. An infantry squad with weapons, ammo/munitions and rucksacks might weigh about a tonne or so. Not sure if the vehicle is still amphibious at 24 tonnes as there is no info about that. Nevertheless interesting piece of engineering. As it is basically a truck with propellers and armor it would make good battle taxi and specialist platform. Reading some of the way old comments SO stated that wheels have advantage in mobility over tracks under 18 tonnes so this fits that description if it’s true. The amphibious part is something that really catches my eye. Having a maneuver element with amphibious vehicle has inherent advantage over the rest and can utilize approaches that wouldn’t be possible for non-amphibious vehicles. Deploying QRF wheeled battalions whose INF COYs use amphibious vehicles solely could traverse many rivers of Poland unhindered.

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