In the previous post, I described the somewhat varied wheeled vehicle fleet and some background to some of the decisions that have resulted in the current situation.
It is also worth referring to the post on ISTAR vehicles for a listing of the weight and size breakpoints because although they might be less relevant to logistics vehicles they are still important.
These were based on limits imposed by intermodal and air transport, bridge and trackway classification and other factors that impose restrictions on both strategic and tactical mobility.
I also looked at a few other issues, again, worth repeating
Threats and Protection
We need to fully accept that the IED cat is well and truly out of the bag, in any operation, it is likely to feature even though we might characterise it as a weapon that is more prevalent in long term insurgencies its effectiveness against ‘western’ casualty averse nations must surely have been noted by every potential opponent.
That said, we must also recognise the universal truth that mobility, both strategic and tactical, has significant military value.
This is a fundamentally difficult issue to balance, politicians and the media will demand protection, protection and protection but this might often be detrimental to military objectives, thus prolonging the conflict and creating more casualties in the long term.
We can create a dedicated fleet of vehicles for fast-moving operations where mobility ranks higher than mobility or we can try and incorporate elements of IED protection in all planned vehicles.
I think we need to rediscover the art of manoeuvre and exploiting all forms of terrain but this does not mean protection should be all of a sudden forgotten about post-2015.
If our future is the baking hot plains of North Africa then we might have to think about mobility requirements in a different way than if we see the Arctic Circle as a likely operational area. In making vehicles fit for all environments we inevitably add cost and complexity, whilst all vehicles are tested to various defence standards we do create distinctions. The C Vehicle PFI is supplying a number of wheeled loaders; only a small number will be fully winterised for example.
It’s expensive and complicated but the truth is, we need to prepare for a wide range of operating environments.
Defence Planning Assumptions
The Army has for some time employed the Whole Fleet Management concept for vehicle management. Units no longer hold their full establishment of vehicles and draw from a central pool for training and operations, whilst holding a small number for ongoing use in the unit. This central pool of vehicles is theoretically held at theatre entry standard and stored in humidity-controlled storage locations.
The problem we seem to have is with the former, not the latter.
The concept is well proven, it’s sensible, it delivers savings and allows us to maximise the vehicle fleet. However, where we have problems is keeping vehicles at a single standard, financial constraints mean that in reality, we have a very small ‘golden fleet’ of vehicles that are deployed on operations and equipped with all the latest enhancements whilst the balance seem to be at various stages of modification. Equipment like ECM and radios are also managed separately to the vehicles.
Of course, it saves money and is entirely understandable but it can create problems with personnel being unfamiliar with the equipment.
If we can consolidate on equipment types we should strive to hold a completely homogeneous fleet.
When we look at the SDSR planning assumptions the highest level of deployed force will be 3 Brigades worth with support. It might be argued that quantities of vehicles should be based on this figure plus enough for training and to support a short, small scale operation.
The Legacy Fleet
In the following proposal, I am going to completely ignore the legacy vehicle fleet and take a clean sheet approach. It’s completely unrealistic of course and in sharp contrast to the previous post but fun nevertheless!
Some of those existing vehicles will find their way into the proposal purely because it makes sense to do so but in general, I want to look at the issue afresh.
I am also going to look at the issue of payloads, separated from the means of their transport.
We need to extract maximum flexibility and cost-effectiveness from a wheeled vehicle fleet and the modular concepts show a great deal of potential to deliver against these requirements.
Instead of having a truck permanently fitted with a tipper body why not have the tipper section demountable?
With the former, if the vehicle breaks down or is VOR (Vehicle Off-Road) for any reason then the tipper functionality is also denied to the military commander. By having these two completely separated when that same vehicle is off the road because its brakes need changing, we can maintain the availability of the bit that counts, the tipper body, by simply transferring it to another vehicle.
These other vehicles can be military, or in extremis, civilian.
It is not the availability of the truck that is important but the availability of the tipper.
We can extend this concept beyond the conventional containerised solutions that are in widespread use to more complex systems like weapons or combat engineering.
This will of course mean yet more writing on containers and hook lifts so be prepared!
The Future of the British Army Series…