The Future of the British Army 11 – Wheels (A Less than Sensible Future Part 2)

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With enduring operations in a high threat IED environment, we seem to have lost the enthusiasm for highly mobile vehicles. In the context of these operational environments, it is entirely legitimate to use heavily protected patrol vehicles but some operations will demand ultra mobility, over extremely soft ground, high angles and even across water features.

Mobility is also described by the means of transport to the area of operations; this may mean helicopter transport or even airdropping. Air despatch of vehicles is a capability area few possess and although it might be considered rather niche it is still something we should maintain.

In general, to deliver against this requirement means a lightweight vehicle which equally, generally means low levels of protection. It’s a trade we must accept and realise that in non-enduring operations this trade is a reasonable one.

If we look at typical helicopter payloads a number of breakpoints appear, typically an ultra-portable vehicle should be sub 5 tonnes to enable lift by Merlin and sub 10 tonnes to be lifted by Chinook compatible. In the previous posts, I made a case for a post-Chinook world where the CH53Kor European Heavy Lift helicopter would be in service, a payload of 15 tonnes would therefore be appropriate and air despatch using a Type V Airdrop Platform still possible. We might class this heavier breakpoint as too heavy for the ultra-lightweight category though so for the sake of this section, anything beneath 5 tonnes might be classed as ultra-lightweight.

Motorcycles

Although many have been disposed the Harley MT350 is still a reliable and useful vehicle, however, they are showing their age and will need to be replaced at some stage.

The specialist US manufacturer Christini has recently supplied a number of their innovative 2 wheel drive motorcycles to the 82nd Airborne Division.

More impressive videos here

Although the Christini motorcycles are relatively new and Yamaha have also recently developed their 2TRAC system there is a manufacturer of 2 wheel drive motorcycles that have been in existence for some time.

The Rokon Ranger is a rather unconventional looking motorcycle but with serious off-road credentials. Its 2 wheel drive system provides the tractive force to negotiate difficult terrain and the large ‘optional extras’ list provides flexibility and versatility.

It’s pretty cheap as well

There are plenty of videos on YouTube but my favourite is this one

For certain airdrop niche type applications, we could also purchase a handful of Di Blasimotorcycles, painted green of course, click here for a video

If you don’t fancy that then the ultimate might be one of these, from Poss Industries

OK, only joking on the Di Blasi bikes.

Lightweight personnel transport does not necessarily mean 4 wheels, at these weights they can be easily air-dropped or carried many to a helicopter and whilst tabbing might seem rather warry to some there is no doubt a motorcycle is still a valuable vehicle for certain applications.

Quad Bikes

In Afghanistan quads have proven enormously useful for running replens, casualty evacuation, transferring stores to and from helicopter landing sites and a million other odd jobs. Recently introduced lightweight gap crossing equipment and trailers that use the same tires have also extended their usefulness.

These are useful pieces of equipment that should be absorbed by the main equipment programme although it may be preferable to start from scratch given the likely wear and tear on those in theatre.

We have paid for the development work of the Resolve/Roush DRV that uses diesel or JP8 and is useful at high altitudes. The recent UOR for quad bikes was fulfilled by Roush, taking the standard Yamaha units and adding a NATO towing hitch, winch, run-flat sealant for the tyres, IR lighting and other minor modifications.

Light Strike Vehicles and Logistics Platforms

I have always thought the Hollywood style light strike vehicles were never that useful and tended to divert attention away from vehicles with more utility and relevance but that doesn’t stop manufacturers from constantly pushing them out.

A small step up from the Quad Bike is the 4 or 6 wheel light all-terrain vehicles that usually offer a payload uplift and more space. The Army has tried a number of these and has in service in very small numbers the Roush LAS100RE , page 17 of this document.

The LAS100RE is an incredible piece of equipment, air portable by Lynx, very lightweight, diesel engine and a 1.3-tonne payload. It can be easily carried internally aboard a Chinook or Merlin and an A400 could carry about half a million of them!

The MoD paid Roush Technologies £3.5million to develop and bring it into service in the latter half of 2005, rumoured to be with special forces. With ECM protection, a standard NATO compliant electrical system and an engine that can use diesel, JP8, JP5 and B20 biodiesel the LAS100Re is a fully militarized vehicle, not an adaptation of a civilian type. The project was known as ‘Harewood’ and one of the key requirements was that it was able to be underslung by a Lynx or internally carried by a Chinook.  Although relatively low speed its off-road performance is said to be excellent.

Towards the end of 2008, Roush launched a two-seat model (image above) that was significantly faster yet retained the same mobility, weighing only 750Kg it has a payload of 1,450kg.

Roush also helped to develop the Light Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle (LTATV) in conjunction with their US parent. The base vehicle seems to be the ATV Corporation Prowler II Side by Side. Quite what the relationship between Roush UK, Roush UK and ATV is not known, perhaps Roush licence build the vehicle with UK specific requirements or different engines. Using the same diesel engine common to its diesel quad bike, payload performance is inevitably not as high as the LAS100, rack capacities are 136 kg on the front and 272 kg for the rear. The unit also offers a towing capability of 680 kg. The LTATV is designed to carry a forward-facing crew of two, plus an optional rear-facing crew member position if required. Rollover protection to SAE J2194 ROPS standard is fitted, including fold-down pins for air-portability. The vehicle also includes three light machine gun mounts, all-terrain tyres with run-flat systems, a 4000lb synthetic winch rope and both white and IR driving lights.

Why the LTATV or LAS 100RE were not deemed suitable to fulfil the Springer UOR is not certain, commercial, technical or other factors may have come into play, perhaps Roush didn’t even bid but interestingly, the product remains on the Revolve website. The requirement was urgent, so perhaps the Springer was the only option available in a short space of time.

The contract for Springer was awarded to a UK company, Enhanced Protection Systems Ltd of Leicester, a company better known not for vehicles but ballistic protection. In this June 2009 article the EPS Business Development Director (John Stoddart) details the history of the requirement. The article describes how EPS is better known for ballistic protection rather than automotive integration and the business development director has a background in procurement.

The company’s Business Development Director, John Stoddart, who had just returned from a specialist training area in the Southwest where he had been involved in a driver instructor programme. As a former soldier with 35 years under his belt, first as an infantryman and then commissioned REME, who served out the closing years of his armed forces career in Defence Procurement, there can be few better qualified than Stoddart to carry out this urgent operational requirement through from drawing board to frontline deployment

In what was an unfortunate turn of phrase, Dr Andrew Tyler (Chief Operating Officer for the MoD’s Defence Equipment & Support) stated

The Springer dune buggy will be an added capability for the troops

Springer is designated the Light Role Load Carriage Platform and is based on the Israeli designed, US manufactured 4×2 Tomcar. Whilst billed as a logistic donkey the company also believes there is potential for other roles and has developed a patrol variant, the Terrier.

The article goes on to state

EPS, which is primarily known for its supply of ballistic protection to the UK MoD but is also a key supplier in the UAV scene had doubled its workforce to cope and subcontracted out some of the work. In its current configuration Springer is fitted with a 1400cc Lombardini diesel engine although larger options are available.

Taking a quote from the MoD’s website

Lack of armour is a benefit. Armour would be paid for with impaired versatility. In any case, Springer’s main purpose is to carry casualties and cargo between relatively safe helipads and base facilities.

So that confirms the requirement is to shuttle between an HLS and FOB, via a relatively safe lane and that high levels of mine protection, for example, is not a key requirement. Self evidently, some degree of ballistic protection is required, as is the ability to self-load a tonne.

One might be forgiven for wondering if the ability to moves pallets of ammunition, food, water and other materials from one location to another is not something that is fundamental to air assault operations and might have been thought about before.

Of course, it had.

Entering service in 1988 after a series of trials a year or so before, the All Terrain Mobility Platform from Supacat is designed for just that, clearing landing sites and shuttling equipment short distances in difficult terrain.

As is common with anything to do with Supacat, its history is complex.

Supacat designed the ATMP but were not able to manufacture in quantity so entered into production sharing contracts (the same as with the Jackal) and in the early eighties, the ATMP was accepted into British Army service, manufactured by Fairey Engineering.

In 1995, an agreement was made between Alvis (now BAe) and Supacat in which Supacat would retain design and production rights for civilian markets but Alvis would be responsible for military markets. In 2005, Supacat regained sole marketing rights.

In 1996 the MoD purchased a further 86 ATMP’s and 84 SLLPT trailers for approximately £4 million after 10 organisations were invited to tender, these included Aircraft Maintenance Support Services, Alvis Vehicles,  BI Engineering, Clarke Chapman Manufacturing Services, Glover Webb, Hawtel Whiting, Penman Engineering, Ricardo Special Vehicles, Steyr-Daimler-Puch and Stewart & Stevenson Services.

Specifications for the Mark 3 include a 1,000kg payload increasable to 1,600kg with reduced performance, a weight of 1.6 to 1.8 tonnes, limited amphibious capability, a top speed of 65kph and a permanent 6 wheel drive (the Springer is a 4×2). Although open-topped, it can be equipped with a number of hard or soft cabs, winches and even a track kit to improve mobility even more. In addition to clearing landing sites the ATMP can be used for a wide variety of tasks, everything from vehicle recovery, ambulance and radio rebroadcast. Live firing trials were even completed with a mounted Milan anti-tank weapon.

Its winch can be used for self loading pallets using a ramp, the same as with the Springer but interestingly a number of dedicated trailers were designed to enable rapid loading and unloading. The FLPT (Fork Lift Pallet Trailer) and SLLPT (Self Loading Lightweight Pallet Trailer)

These trailers answered the question of how to rapidly collect ammunition and stores pallets from a landing site. There are a number of variations but the basic trailer has an electro hydraulic tipping mechanism and forks. The driver simply tilts the trailer in the down position, reverses onto the pallet, tilts the trailer back up and drives away. The whole process is very quick, simple and can be carried out without getting out of the vehicle. Maximum payload for the ‘flipit’ trailer is 1,400kg and can be converted to carry three stretchers. The trailer is fitted with demountable corner posts to which are fitted `ratchet straps’. These form sides for loose loads such as boxes from a part used pallet. Conversion takes only a few moments and the ‘kit’ is carried on the trailer.

An air mobile crane has also been developed which allows the ATMP to self load up to 1 tonne at 2 metres reach. Because traction is high the ATMP was also designed to tow the 105mm Light Gun and ammunition trailer. The total carried and towed payload is in excess of 3,500kg. There is also an Air portable Fuel Container.

Air portability was a key requirement; they can be parachute dropped on medium stressed platforms, carried by helicopter as a sling load or netted load and are internally transportable in a Chinook. Given the length of time the ATMP has been in service, all necessary Joint Air Transport Establishment (JATE) clearances have been approved including various combinations of slinging and air drop with different aircraft, including the Westland Blackhawk. Whilst the Springer can be carried as a netted under-slung load, it does not have the necessary recognised and approved tie down locations for internal Chinook carriage or air drop. The Chinook has been cleared to carry 2 ATMP’s internally without lowering the roll cage or 4 as a single under slung load. Multiple stacking options also exist for carriage in larger aircraft.

In short, the ATMP and air portability/air operations go hand in hand.

As of October 2009 the Mark 4 was said to be in development that would incorporate the usual raft of improvements including a Euro emissions compliant engine.

What are we doing with these superb vehicles, that have given such stirling service and are still available from the manufacturer.

Flogging them off cheap of course, via the usual disposal routes here and here

They were withdrawn in Herrick 10 to be replaced with the Springer. Rumour control has it that they are suffering extremely poor serviceability levels, have nowhere near the load carrying capacity as quoted, cannot be carried internally in a Chinook and are not as versatile as the ATMP. Now of course, these are only rumours but interesting nonetheless.

Remember, the Springers were only £7 million!

The MoD has previously used LSV, the DML manufactured Wessex Saker was trialled about 15 years ago but didn’t enter service in any numbers beyond those used by ‘those with a big tache’ and had a payload of 700kg including mounted weapons. There was also a similar vehicle called the Longline Light Strike Vehicle.

A quick cast around the internet reveals many competitors including the rather impressive hybrid powered ST Kinetics Spider Light Strike Vehicle.

They even have a version with the 120mm Super Rapid mortar!

EPS are also promoting the Dingo and Whippet

Land Rover Class

Despite various Land Rover variations that have pushed the weight up and up we should also not forget the lightweight, cut down versions that used to be very popular around Hereford and Aldershot.

Entering the frame this week was the Supacat Wildcat that is derived from the QT Services Wildcat

At a quarter of a million pounds (about half that of a Jackal) the Wildcat weighs in at a mere 2.5 tonnes and in the demonstrator in equipped with a lightweight remote weapon station from Thales.

Just for fun, have a look at the Fast Track amphibian vehicle, videos here

And, not forgetting Gibbs Technology

A Few Suggestions

As the per the introduction I think we need to retain the mobility advantage even if we have to accept a compromise in protection, applying the right piece of equipment to the right operational requirement.

When it comes to the larger end of the weight spectrum the choices become more interesting, assuming such a lightweight, potentially amphibious logistics carrier requirement remains extant.

Do we continue with the Springer and bring it fully into the main equipment plan, replacing the ATMP, or, do we invest in the ATMP3 or another platform for example?

Is there a need for those very Gucci light strike platforms as typified by the ST Kinetics Spider or Supacat Wildcat?

Motorcycle and quads/trailers definitely need to remain within the main equipment programme and the diesel powered and 2 wheel drive options seem to be reasonable, low risk routes to capability improvements.

The Roush LAS100RE development has been bought and paid for and would seem to provide an ideal ultra lightweight air portable/air droppable logistics mule that can be used for variety of applications, again, we should note that this is a British design and obtain them in quantity for light role units.

I also think there is still a need for a very lightweight stores carrier although I remain unconvinced by the fast strike vehicles beyond niche special-forces applications. Equipment weights remain high and driven by increasing protection and power requirements for ISTAR and communications equipment.

The light role units, especially those that need helicopter mobility, could retain their ability to rapidly move across short distances whilst carrying the ever increasing weight.

The future is not necessarily all about hot and dry places with excellent ground conditions so the ability to traverse soft terrain, marshes, snow and waterways remains.

It would be good to see a development of the ATMP, a new build and with evolutionary features, it’s all terrain capabilities remain impeccable and a higher powered and Euro emissions compliant engine would only improve this. They are extremely mobile, easily carried by a range of in service equipment and even stackable using a standard forklift!

The same modern materials as used in the LAS100RE could also be used and the range of useful ‘optional extras’ like the fuel system, hydraulic job and pallet trailer. The seating arrangements would normally be changed in favour of a harness and blast resistant arrangement but rapid ingress and egress of the simple bench seating has a lot to commend it although the position might be centred and some degree of blast protection provided.

Add on armour kits should be developed but we would have to be realistic about the degree of protection possible. In addition to the stores carriage and 105mm light gun limber role a simple weapons mount would enable light role forces to enjoy a measure of fire support from Heavy Machine Gun, Grenade Machine Gun or similar weapons.

A small tipper body or lightweight excavation arm option would also provide some degree of combat engineering capability for light role units.

Longer term technology insertion programmes might see hybrid drives but the true genius of the ATMP is its relative simplicity, this must remain.

The ability to traverse water obstacles is also an essential (in my opinion) and any ATMP3 development should consider this a baseline requirement. Another development on the ATMP flight path might be a tracked variant or an ability to use add-on tracks.

There are many other manufacturers of similar vehicles; Havel, Hydrotrax, Argo, Alligo,Shangyu,Max ATV and Land Tamer (the donor vehicle for the Lockheed Martin Squad Mission Support System and Nitek Minestalker)

None of this is technologically challenging, unless of course we want to turn a vehicle costing tens of thousands of pounds into an unmanned one costing hundreds of thousands. The SMSS is an interesting development, designed to provide light logistic support for infantry patrols but I think it is very expensive for the capability it provides, even though personnel are expensive. The US have just cancelled the larger FCS MULE programme

To sum up, bikes, quads and ultra lightweight stores carriers, yes.

And, a new development ATMP for light role forces.

The Future of the British Army Series…

The Future of the British Army 01 – Scene Setting

The Future of the British Army 02 – Tasks and Capabilities

The Future of the British Army 03 – Rank and Size

The Future of the British Army 04 – Structures

The Future of the British Army 05 – Heavy Metal

The Future of the British Army 06 – ISTAR and Formation Reconnaissance (01)

The Future of the British Army 07 – ISTAR and Formation Reconnaissance (02) A Sensible Future

The Future of the British Army 08 – ISTAR and Formation Reconnaissance (03) A Not So Sensible Future

The Future of the British Army 09 – Wheels (A Sensible Solution)

The Future of the British Army 10 – Wheels (A Less than Sensible Future Part 1)

Supporting Articles

The Need to Rethink FRES

A Brief History of FRES

Medium Armour – what is it, and what does it mean for the post 2020 force structure?

FRES UV – A Modest Proposal

A Lightweight Supplement to a Medium Weight FRES 

Future Army Vehicles

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