Although it has been in the equipment programme for some time the Light Protected Patrol Vehicle (LPPV) has been in the news this week as Gordon Brown chose to announce something that had been announced several times before. Of course, this is par for the course for the Labour government, why say something one when one can say it again and again at every opportune moment.
Setting the scene for the announcement were charges of underfunding from the Chilcott Enquiry and sundry ‘ex somethings’ and the Inquest into the deaths of 4 service personnel in Afghanistan, in which the Snatch came in for yet more criticism.
What better time for some good news?
The announcement detailed the purchase of 200 vehicles to replace the Snatch Vixen, jumping immediately on the number the opposition and media jumped on the fact that the original tender documents called for a quantity of 400, more cuts in spending to beat the government with.
In fact, the tender actually stated ‘up to 400’
Responding to the accusations the MoD issued a rebuttal saying the first batch of 200 would be purchased as a UOR with additional follow on orders sometime after. It failed to mention how many would be in the follow on phase though, all very vague.
The issue of the Snatch Land Rover is one of the most shameful episodes in the MoD’s acquisition history because, unlike most disastrous programmes that just involve taxpayers cash, the Snatch debacle has cost many lives and even more limbs. It is a huge subject and would take many posts to even scratch the surface. Defence of the Realm has excellent coverage and whilst some of the conclusions drawn are incorrect the general thrust, the need to stop using vulnerable patrol vehicles in a theatre where the IED is the weapon of choice is one that is fundamentally correct.
The original tender documents were issued in February 2009, one might wonder, given the obvious urgency of the requirement why it has taken over a year to get even to this stage.
The need to replace the Snatch Vixen, which replaced the Snatch 2A was discussed even further before that. In a written statement, the then Secretary of State for Defence (John Hutton MP) stated there would be no public enquiry over the use of the Snatch Land Rover in British service.
We do not believe that there is a better vehicle than Snatch Vixen currently available anywhere in the world to fulfil the LPPV requirement. But we are also looking to the future and anticipating new threats, and we have begun a programme to develop the next generation of LPPV which will in due course take the place of Snatch Vixen.
The date of this statement is the 16th December 2008 and in it, there is mention of ‘new threats’
Does anyone know what new threats these might be, have the Taleban suddenly started deploying sharks with laser beams on their heads or is the principal source of coalition casualties still the Improvised Explosive Device, albeit with some modest improvements? The fundamental nature of the threat remains the same but in the same time period, the US has managed to field a number of iterations of their equivalent vehicle.
It is easy to be critical but any progress is good.
The LPPV is designed to replace the Snatch Vixen and likely the Land Rover WMIK, a similar-sized vehicle but with much greater protection, in service in 2011, at least two years from the decision not to hold a public enquiry into the Snatch.
The requirements from the tender are…
The LPPV will be a wheeled vehicle with an estimated gross vehicle weight of around 6 to 7 tonnes, capable of carrying up to 6 crew (2+4), integrated with a range of communication and electronic equipment providing protected mobility. LPPV will replace in-service light legacy platforms based on the Land Rover based SNATCH vehicle. Additionally, the platform may be used as the basis for the replacement to Land Rover WMIK.
The vehicle must provide the optimum levels of protection against a number of known and emerging threats of a varied nature including Ballistic, Blast, Mine and Fragmentation. As a guide the requirements for protection should be a minimum of level 2 ballistic and level 2 blast as detailed in STANAG 4569.
LPPVs are principally required for a wide range of patrol tasks and are normally expected to operate on roads and rough tracks and trails in urban, semi-urban and rural environments; they need to be sufficiently agile to provide high cross country mobility. To achieve the desired levels of urban manoeuvrability the vehicle will ideally have a width less than 2m and a turning circle less than 12m.
The weight and size mean it will be deployable by Chinook (externally slung) and other aircraft such as the C130 Hercules and A400.
STANAG 4569 Level 2 Blast protection means that at a similar weight it will be better protected than the Panther and hopefully, a great deal roomier, the Panther can carry only small soldiers and only if wearing only their underpants.
So who are the contenders?
There have been a number of potential contenders with 16 companies responding to the pre-qualification bid including the Team Z (Creation UK and Bacock) Zephyr, Universal Engineering Ranger 4×4 and the Rheinmetall Armoured Multi Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) but they have been down selected to two, the Supacat/NP Aerospace SPV and the Force Protection/Ricardo Ocelot. The down select should have been down to four but Babcock withdrew at the last minute, therefore disqualifying Team Z and the NP Aerospace Phoenix was not ready in time.
The MoD has decided to go with new and innovative vehicles that maximise protection and mobility rather than derivatives of existing vehicles like the Panhard PVP which would likely offer very little over and above the Snatch Vixen.
The Ocelot design clearly shows the V-shaped hull and the demountable crew pod is an innovative idea that has been a feature of many vehicle concepts from the SEP to the Boxer, although the notion of quickly whipping one out and replacing it with another type never seems to have been realised in practice. Force Protection and Ricardo have clearly started with a clean sheet; the Ocelot is not a derivative of a commercial chassis and has an armoured central spine or ‘skateboard’ design that enhances survivability. The challenging target of a 12m turning circle (achieved with 4 wheel steering) and weight of 7.5 tonnes are comparable with the Land Rover derivatives but it has a very low centre of gravity.
The Supacat SPV is available in 4×4 or 6×6 configurations and the 4×4 version (SPV400) is Supacat’s entry into the LPPV competition. Built on the proven Jackal platform the crew pod is designed by NP Aerospace and with many common components, the logistics burden should be lighter than with custom designs.
The design and capabilities of the contenders would leave many to wonder where it will leave the Husky and Panther vehicles, arguably similar but with less protection. If the UOR is absorbed into the main programme then where does it leave OUVS
The Ocelot looks the more purposeful design and has the advantage of starting from a clean sheet but no doubt all are competent designs that offer a step-change in protection from the Snatch.
Whichever is chosen they will be a welcome improvement, at long last, the Snatch can be retired.
Thanks to various people making comments there is some updated information in the post.