Future Army Vehicles

The-FRES-Trials-of-Truth-Lineup-Boxer-Piranha-VBCI_2

A guest post from Salvador

As a follow-up to my post on the OUVS (Operational Utility Vehicle System) of September 2009

https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2009/09/ouvs-operational-utility-vehicle-system/

I think a round-up of what is happening in the arena of future army vehicles is now due.

I will start by apologising, for the rather unstructured and rambling nature of this post. I started it with good intentions. Intending to produce a very thorough and detailed article. However, I have been losing a battle with the available time and having spent 2 days or should I say nights I had only got halfway through what I headed up as a “Brief History”. Panic then began to sink in and I began to spend less and less time on each new section!

I have had to cut it back more and more. If it seems that whilst I had set off at a leisurely stroll I ended up doing a mad dash for the line, then that is exactly what had occurred!

I hope if nothing else it will stimulate vigorous debate!

A Summary of where we are

The MoD has had a plethora of programmes to provide replacements for the Army’s ageing combat vehicle fleet. May a recommend a read of the following RUSI article by Peter Flach, a very informative, though somewhat depressing read. http://www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/FlachRDSSummer2010.pdf .

First, there was FLAV then the Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles programme (FFLAV1), this was followed by the “Multi Base Armoured Vehicle2 programme” (New one to me), which apparently studied the problem in more detail. This eventually led to the establishment of two major AFV programmes to meet identified capability gaps in the first decade of this century:

These were the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV), which was designed to meet the utility vehicle requirement, and TRACER, which became the US/UK TRACER/Future Scout and Cavalry System, and was designed to meet the reconnaissance requirement.

For even more detail look at the UK’s AFV history, take a look at TDs mammoth post of March 2010:

https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2010/03/fres-scout-%E2%80%93-spot-the-difference/

and the follow-ups at

https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2011/07/the-future-of-the-british-army-08-%E2%80%93-istar-and-formation-reconnaissance-03-a-not-so-sensible-future/ ,

https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2011/06/the-future-of-the-british-army-06-%e2%80%93-istar-and-formation-reconnaissance-02-a-sensible-future/

Plus others from Jed and Monty

https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2011/06/the-need-to-rethink-fres-sv/

https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2011/06/medium-armour-%E2%80%93-what-is-it-and-what-does-it-mean-for-the-post-2020-force-structure/

FRES

As we now know, both the MRAV and US/UK TRACER were scrapped and replaced by Future Rapid Effect System (FRES). This in turn was subdivided into FRES Utility Variant (UV) and the FRES Specialist Vehicle (SV).

Utility Variant

This culminated in the now-famous “Trials of Truth” a 3-way “Drive-Off” between the VCBI, Boxer and Piranha IV/V.

General Dynamics United Kingdom Limited was selected by the UK Ministry of Defence as the provisional preferred bidder for the utility vehicle design (UVD) for the future rapid effect system (FRES).  However, in December 2008, this preferred bidder status was withdrawn, apparently, the UK MoD stating that the problem was due that a failure to achieve agreement on commercial conditions!! Peter Flach’s article adds more meat to why this programme failed, I encourage a thorough read.

Specialist Variant

The MoD then decided that the FRES UV was no longer the most critical vehicle programme and turned its attention to the FRES (SV).

This was in my view this was a very hasty process and the following two vehicles were, by MoD standards very quickly down-selected:

BAE LandSystems offering development of their CV90 series vehicle and General Dynamics with an ASCOD development

General Dynamics UK, won the competition. Well, when I say one, in the now, time-honoured, MoD tradition, a preliminary contract was awarded. This was for the development of 7 prototypes (apparently a contract value of £500m). I don’t want to spend too much time on this as this is not the thrust of the argument. However, it is worth mentioning the following:

  1. Why was the German PUMA not down-selected?  This is, without doubt, the most advanced AFV in the world today. It has been designed with all the lessons learned fromIraqandAfghanistan. It maintains or improves on the power to weight ratio of the previous (lighter AFV – Marder) by having a 1100HP MTU V10. I know it might have been expensive and would need to be made larger to accommodate a full section of 8 men. (If / when used as an APC that is), but should have been down selected in my view.
  1. The ASCOD SV is a paper design, so if bringing a vehicle into service quickly was so important, why not go for a vehicle that was already in production or one that the bidders had even produced a working version of (at la BAEs)!
  1. BAE actual working version of the CV90 in the FRES SV specification was I understand well-received, unlike GD, the failure, it seems, was to fail to state that enough of the vehicle would be made in the UK. An error that they rectified too late in the selection process…apparently?
  1. None of these vehicles is an obvious replacement for their intended use which is as a replacement for the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance Tracked (CVR(T) family of vehicles, which are physically very much smaller and 60% -75% lighter???

I believe that the government were teaching BAE a lesson for failures of Astute and Nimrod MRA4. Strange as more of the blame for the delays and cost increases in those programmes can be laid at the door of the MoD than the supplier!

OUVS

Whilst all this was going on, in the background was a programme called OUVS (Operational Utility Vehicle System) was ticking over.

First launched in 2003, the OUVS programme was the procurement programme that was intended to produce replacements for the RB44, Pinzgauer and Land-rover fleets.

It was stated by the MoD that these vehicles would “therefore, provide the “backbone” of the Army’s fighting vehicles, just as the current fleet have done so for decades”.   I am not going to go through this in detail, as that was the topic of my first (and only TD article). See here for details https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2009/09/ouvs-operational-utility-vehicle-system/

This, as is the norm with MoD projects was eventually cancelled. Again the Peter Flach article highlights the reasons for its demise.  In my view, this is one programme that was better of the dead. From the beginning, its focus was wrong. It was never going to field vehicles that were in any way protected. This requirement was simply omitted. It was to be a “like for like” replacement of the existing fleet and would not have produced the vehicles that the Army needed. This was born out by the subsequent ordering of the Tactical Support Vehicles, two of which at least were adequately protected (see below).

UORs

This is a whole topic in its own right and as I said I am rapidly running out of typing time (due to the impending shoulder op’) I will cut and paste bits from various articles I have been using for research. This section is from (The Impact of UORs on the UK Defence Industry by Chris Maughan Feb 2009)

Linky:http://www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/RDS_Maughan_Feb09.pdf

What is a UOR?

Obtaining a precise definition of what is, or isn’t, a UOR is not as straightforward as one might hope, as the MoD does not provide one on their website.

However, drawing upon work previously completed by the NAO,  the following definition can be presented:

UORs are used for the rapid procurement of capability in support of a current or imminent military operation to provide new capabilities or to enhance equipment the MoD has already invested in. UORs can be used to:

  • Procure operationally specific capabilities.
  • Procure equipment to fill previously unknown capability gaps.
  • Accelerate a programme already in train.
  • Patch a gap until an already-funded solution comes into service.
  • Fill a previously identified gap that has not been funded.

To qualify as a UOR, a capability must be able to be six months to enter service would be procured through the normal procurement process. For large-scale operations, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, most UORs are funded through an allocation from the Treasury Reserve. In those instances where the MoD has accelerated the procurement of equipment already provisioned in the defence budget, the Treasury allows the MoD to access the Reserve if required but then recovers the money in subsequent years. Post-operation, or within one year, whichever is shorter, UORs will either be disposed of (and the resultant revenues returned to the Treasury) or brought into the MoD’s core planning process if it is decided that they are still required.

Therefore, the acquisition of equipment under UOR will result in a significant accumulation of future costs that must be drawn down from the total MoD equipment programme budget, thus reducing the amount available for the ‘normal’ acquisition of future planned programmes in later years.

Examples of Recent UK UOR Procurements

Two examples of recent UOR procurements will now be examined: protected patrol vehicles and tactical support vehicles.

Protected Patrol Vehicles

The MoD has had to invest in the procurement of additional protection for the existing vehicle fleet as well as the provision of new protected patrol vehicles (PPV). The need for this incremental change of armour protection levels is recognised and well understood, as the Armed Forces have had to move swiftly from fighting a conventional opposition to a more asymmetric threat, where the challenges have moved from frontal ballistic protection and anti-mine, to the need to counter an all-round threat from improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades, shaped charges and very large mines. This emergent threat has required the provision of vehicles with greater all-around armour and a much better level of under-floor mine protection, together with the incorporation of a variety of electronic counter-measures. The initial MoD approach was to order a number of armoured variants of the Pinzgauer vehicle, the Vector Light PPV together with up-armouring improvements to other in-service armoured vehicles. However, when the threat level experienced in theatre continued to escalate, more heavily armoured patrol vehicles were sought. This has resulted in a series of orders being placed with Force Protection Inc., via a Foreign Military Sales contract with the United States Marine Corps, for 4×4 and 6×6 variants of their Cougar MRAP vehicle. These have been designated as Ridgeback and Mastiff respectively by the MoD.  However, before issue to the Armed Forces, each vehicle is subject to a significant additional work package in the UK that generally includes improved axles and suspensions, thermal imaging, improved armour, explosive attenuating seats, Bowman radios and electronic countermeasures.

The Force Protection Inc. vehicles purchased via UOR as PPV can be summarised as:

• Mastiff – 274 of this 6×6 24-tonne armoured vehicle, at an acquisition price of some $623k each.

• Ridgeback – 157 of this 4×4 18-tonne armoured vehicle at an acquisition price of some $600k each.

Additional to the basic vehicle acquisition prices above is the cost of the UK conversion. This work has been awarded to NP Aerospace, with an indicative value of £350k to £500k per vehicle.

The paucity of data actually released by the MoD makes it very difficult to ascertain if the NP Aerospace contract includes all material costs or if items such as Bowman radios and electronic countermeasures have been provided as GFM.  In any event, the minimum price for these UOR armoured vehicles is at least £700k each, and probably significantly more.

Tactical Support Vehicles

The MoD announced in October 2008 that the Tactical Support Vehicle (TSV) programme will buy over 400 new armoured support trucks (categorised as light, medium and heavy) to accompany existing patrols carrying essential supplies such as water and ammunition. On 19 November 2008 the Defence Secretary, John Hutton, revealed that the three preferred bidders for each category of the £350M TSV programme were:

Wolfhound TSV (Heavy)

Based on Cougar 6×6 flatbed made by Force Protection Inc., they will support and resupply Mastiffs in the highest threat areas. These vehicles will have the highest levels of mine blast protection and will be up-armoured and integrated with UK specific equipment such as communications systems and protection measures in a similar way to Mastiff.

Husky TSV (Medium)

Based on the International MXT-MVA made by Navistar Defence, they will carry out the support roles in areas where heavy vehicles, like Mastiff, cannot be used. Husky will come in three variants: utility, ambulance and command post.

Coyote TSV (Light)

Based on a 6×6 derivative of the Jackal designed by Supacat Ltd, Devon, they will support existing in-service high-mobility Jackals.

The numbers in each category, although subject to refinement as contracts are actually negotiated and placed, were indicated to be 95 Heavy, 260 Medium and 80 Light. As with the PPV,  the acquisition of equipment under UOR will result in a significant accumulation of future costs that must be drawn down from the total MoD equipment programme budget.

In addition to these vehicles over 200 Supacat “M-WMIK” vehicles (known as Jackal) were procured, “delivering awesome firepower coupled with exceptional agility, making it ideally suited to operations in Afghanistan”. According to the MoD website!

That was followed by further orders for 120 Jackal 2s and further order of 140 for the Jackal 2A, taking the total order for the Jackal to over 450

LPPV(Light Protected Patrol Vehicle)

The last UOR was for the vehicle to replace the much-maligned  “SNATCH” Land-Rover. The Snatch Land-Rover together with the Pinzgauer Vector (mentioned above), for me, illustrates more than anything else, that the Military Covenant was well and truly broken.  These vehicles are death traps and have been christened “Coffins on Wheels”. You can include the Jackal in there too, as far as I am concerned, especially when they are used in the wrong, as is often the case in the British Army.

It appears that there are no accurate figures for all the deaths in these vehicles and certainly not for serious injuries, as the MoD has only just started collecting those metrics! Suffice, to say the figures for the Snatch alone are in excess of 39, we can only guess at the total for all of these appalling vehicles.

Which leads nicely, to the LPPV, as I said I am running out of time with this post, so I won’t teach you all the “suck eggs” as we all know by now that the winner of the LPPV was the Force Protection Europe “Ocelot”. Which with the Army’s obsession with naming the vast majority of its new vehicles after our canine cousins, will be known as the “Foxhound”

This vehicle goes some way to restoring my faith in the MoD. This always seemed to be the best vehicle, well certainly the best of the two selected

I suspect this may have proved to be slightly too big for the LPPV although on paper it’s very similar.

The Ocelot / Foxhound, on the other hand, has four-wheel steering, the rear wheels being able to steer in the opposite direction to the front wheels, thus allowing the vehicle to make very tight turns. It has the additional benefit, in that it includes an automotive armoured spine system or ‘skateboard’, onto which various special-role pods are mounted. These pods are detachable and can be interchanged based on the needs of different missions such as patrol, fire support or protected logistics.  I understand that a 6×6 version is being considered.

Support Vehicle (SV)

I was intending to add an in-depth section on the SV (Support Vehicle) fleet, but I am now at a fast jogging pace and this will get a quick summary.

In my humble opinion, in basic terms, we bought the wrong version of the MAN trucks, neither of which is really man enough (see what I did there) for the job. Both the HX/SX vehicles are developments of civilian vehicles. The HX is the lower of the two specs, it is less sturdy and has a semi-automatic gearbox and simpler suspension, The SX is a more sophisticated range with a fully automatic gearbox and independent suspension.

The UK bought mainly HX versions.

There is an upgrade available (only to the SX I believe) called the IAC (Integrated Armoured Cab). This has been ordered for the German Army, but even this does not offer the level of protection that is really required when operating in situations like Iraq and Afghanistan

I have always thought that logistic vehicles should be protected as well as, if not better than combat vehicles, as they will always be a target and without adequate protection, they are a soft target and will result in unnecessary death and serious injury. The Germans, (as with most things military) have realised this, and along with the vast majority of their military vehicles are being replaced with a new and improved versions, that are better suited to modern asymmetrical type warfare. In the case of the logistics fleet, MAN and joined forces with Rheinmetall Landsystems to form a new company called RMMV, to take the design of armoured logistics vehicles to the next level. The first vehicle from this merged company is Wisent.

Doesn’t that seem to tick all the boxes? Looks like the dogs to me?

More detail here

Well, that’s the “Brief History” over with… As I keep saying I had big plans for this post but time has beaten me.

Current British Army combat Vehicles

For the official line take a look at this link:

In simple terms (according to Wiki) we have the following(some of the numbers do not seem right to me, for example, CR2 as far as I am aware was 387max, not 420, Jackal 1,2 and 2A total in excess of 450 etc.), but you get the overall view if what we have available today.

Name Origin Type Number Weight Class
Challenger UK MBT 387-420 H
FV107 Scimitar UK Recce

325

L
Warrior UK IFV

786

H
FV432/Bulldog UK APC

1487

L
CVR(T) the rest UK Recce

1200

L
Mastiff US/SA IFV/MRAP

256

H
Ridgeback US/SA IFV/MRAP

139

M
Wolfhound US/SA TSV

8

H
Fuchs Germany NBC

11

M
Viking Swe ATV(P)

126

M
Land Rover Wolf UK Patrol

12000

L
Land-rover Snatch (included in 12k total) UK PPV

577

L
Pinzgauers UK Utility lots L
Vector UK PPV

184

L
Jackal UK Tactical Support

460

L
Saxon UK APC

147

M
Panther Italy CLV/PPV

355

L
Husky USA TSV

86

M
Coyote UK TSV

70

M
Foxhound UK PPV

200

L

Excluding the SV fleet and the Pinzgauer (non Vector) the above table shows some 18,804 vehicles the very rough and ready split according to my classification of Heavy(H), Medium(M) and Light (L)., gives the following very very rough breakdown:

1,4758 or 80% Light

2,283 or 12% Medium

1,437 or 8% Heavy

Future Army Equipment

I will try and illustrate that I have put some thought into this, by showing that I took the details from the SDRS (Strategic Defence and Security Review) in terms of the planning assumptions and the size and nature of the Army MoD expects to deploy in those circumstances.

What I did then picked the vehicles that we know have already been earmarked for the future fleet, then add my personal favourites, which have been selected by considering the following factors:

Best of breed, Designed or made in the UK or Europe, include elements of standardisation across the fleet (i.e. same engine and/or gearbox in several vehicle types). Standardisation is one of my beef and the UOR process has just made a bad situation even worse.

SDSR

The SDSR stated that:

The new Defence Planning Assumptions envisage that the Armed Forces in the future will be sized and shaped to conduct:

  • an enduring stabilisation operation at around brigade level (up to 6,500 personnel) with maritime and air support as required, while also conducting:
  • one non-enduring complex intervention (up to 2,000 personnel), and
  • one non-enduring simple intervention (up to 1,000 personnel);

or alternatively:

  • three non-enduring operations if we were not already engaged in an enduring operation;

or:

  • for a limited time, and with sufficient warning, committing all our effort to a one-off intervention of up to three brigades, with maritime and air support (around 30,000, two-thirds of the force deployed to Iraq in 2003).

The Army structure was to be reduced and restructured:

“The Army is to be reduced to five multi-role brigades consisting of approximately 6,500 personnel. This is a reduction of one brigade on the current total of 6 deployable brigade formations.

The multi-role brigades will include the equipment necessary to undertake a wide range of capabilities across a variety of conflicts that could arise over the coming decades. Multi-role brigades will include reconnaissance forces to provide in depth information of enemy dispositions, heavy armour providing a combination of protection, mobility and firepower and infantry operating from a ‘range’ of protected vehicles. These brigades will be self supporting in that they will have their own artillery, engineer, communications, intelligence, logistics and medical assets.

In addition to these brigades 16 Air Assault Brigade, with supporting units, will provide a high readiness, light, short duration intervention formation that is organized and trained for parachute and air assault operations.

Using a ‘building block’ structure to allow greater choice in the size and composition of a deployed force it is anticipated that small groups from within the new multi-role brigades, such as an infantry battalion with a small number of vehicles and supporting arms, could be deployed quickly to evacuate British nationals such as was required in the Lebanon in 2006. At the other end of the scale – and with suitable warning – the brigade could be deployed as part of a larger formation suitable for full scale war”.

What it doesn’t say is if these multi-role brigades will be equipped to the same levels, as it talks about deploying 3 brigades in an Iraq 2003 scenario, then, in my view, this must mean at least 3 of the five brigades must be heavy/armoured, that leaves 2 brigades that could be configured as “medium forces” equipped with whatever FRES UV ends up being, plus 16 Air Assault in the light role.

This gives a force structure as follows

50% Heavy

30% Medium

20% Light

Compare this to my rough and ready analysis of the current force mix:

8% Heavy

12% Medium

80% Light

Now before you all start screaming at me, stating that I have skewed the figures by including all the utility vehicles. That was deliberate, as I firmly believe the place for unarmoured utility vehicles should be restricted to camp, training and essentially white fleet type uses. There is no place for such vehicles on the modern battlefield.

Rant over….

Just for a minute, whilst we ponder what the future British Army vehicles should look like, let’s have a look at what the Germans are already fielding.

As I said, I have run completely out of time so the fantasy fleet is simply a list and the legacy vehicles or roles that they replace. Roughly in order of size, they are:

Foxhound, to be produced in both 4×4 and 6×6 versions and role models produced to replace Land-rover, Wolf, WMIK, Snatch, Ambulance, Jackal, Coyote, Panther and Husky. It could possibly replace Ridgeback but will  quickly mention my views on MRAPs later

A new vehicle, combining the Supacat HMT and Foxhound technology, produced in large 6×6 and 8×8 configuration, to take the place of the 5t MAN SV trucks and provide enhanced load carrying capability for a new TSV type role and to provide protected high mobility transport for light artillery weapons (LIMAWS(G) and LIMAWS(R) and to provide a platform for any weapons or sensor, that does need the larger utility vehicles or a full-blown tracked AFV. A mine-resistant and ballistic version of the vehicle below:

This would replace the various Pinzgauer 6x6s and the current HMT ranges along with the ubiquitous 4 tonnes! As well have to provide new capability

Now, this is where it gets tricky, the Germans have potentially two or more vehicles in this role (the Grizzly and the new RMMV Wisent). It also falls into the capability that is currently provided by the likes of the Mastiff, Wolfhound and of course various MAN, Leyland and Foden trucks. It is also an area where the Ranger might have found a role. It is very similar to the Grizzly, though more of an MRAP.  However, I think the Ranger has missed the boat and my gut feel is something along the lines of the Wisent or indeed the Wisent (assuming it can be produced in a different version i.e.) is more the sort of vehicle we need. If money were no object then I would follow the German role and have the two vehicles performing this role, dependent on the operational circumstances.

FRES UV or the main vehicle for the Medium forces requirement. Not long ago I would have put the Swedish SEP as my preferred vehicle for this role. My views have changed and although I am still a fan of the SEP concept I think it is more suited to the lighter role (10-15tonnes). For this role, I think any of the 3 contenders that took part in the “Trials of Truth” fiasco, err! Sorry evaluation should be selected. My favourite is the BOXER, with the Piranha V a close second, but either would be fine. This of course would replace the FV432/Bulldog, the Saxon and all the other totally unsuitable vehicles that end up being used as make do fighting vehicles.

FRES SV, yes I know this has been won by ASCOD SV, but this is my fantasy fleet and I would have probably gone for the German PUMA, you have probably noticed that I am rather fond of the German military vehicles. It is true and if we simply copied the entire German fleet we could do much worse.  You are probably aware that the KMW and Rheinmetall have joined forces with SAIC and Boeing in a bid for the US Army’s ground combat vehicle programme (GCV). I understand the plan is to enlarge the hull to take 3+9, compared with the 3+6 in the standard version. My thoughts were, maybe we could tag on to the US programme and have ours with a CTA40 and configured for 3+8, the same vehicle just more room for storage. Failing that I would have selected the CV90 vehicle. This would replace the Warrior and a large chunk of the CVR(T) range, although I believe that there is still a requirement for a genuine LIGHT AFV for use by 16 Air Assault and the Royal Marines.

MBT and SP Artillery still have a vital role and any thoughts of removing them from the inventory would be a big mistake. At this stage, I don’t think we need new vehicles, although I prefer the PzH2000 to our AS90. The Challenger needs to have the upgrades that have been talked about for years, namely a new gun. I would like to see the Engine and gearbox replaced with new versions from the likes of MTU and Renk. I believe that additional armour and RCWS have already been added following the experience gained in Iraq.

There is a need for a vehicle or vehicles to replace the CVR(T) and Viking vehicles. William F Owen in his RUSI article stated:

“ Indications are that it is possible to design a 2+8 tracked APC that falls within the 20ft ISO footprint and weighs less than 15,000kg, with a capable armour fit, and possibly level 4a and 3b mine protection for the crew. Small AFVs such as this have a number of advantages that should be obvious to all concerned.  COTS wheeled APCs with this capability already exist.”

I would like to see the UK adopt a true replacement of the CVR(T) for the light forces. Maybe the SEP could be resurrected or maybe a Viking type vehicle that offers Foxhound levels of protection. The Wiesel is worth considering, I know it has looked at and dismissed but may be worth another look.

Finally, I would like to quickly suggest that rather than being scrapped or sold off the current vehicles particularly the Warrior and Bulldog should be passed over to the TA, in order that can provide a viable addition to the regulars and not just make up the numbers, that the regulars are short of. Again, the Germans do this their TA have had M113 and Fuchs for years. I would also like to stress that I am in favour of the idea of multi-role brigades and hope this means we follow the French example, where each brigade is equipped with its own artillery and even MBTs. If we are only going to have 6 brigades, then they must be fully equipped and “Utrinque Paratus” – “Ready For Anything”

Phew…. Finished!!!

[Hope the recuperation is going well Phil, TD]

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