The Future of the British Army 12 – Wheels (Options – Part 4 Utility & Tactical Support Vehicles)

Light Protected Patrol Vehicle (LPPV)

When we look at vehicles the Army categorises them three ways; A, B and C

  • A vehicles are the combat vehicles such as Challenger 2 or SV Scout
  • B vehicles are trucks and land rovers
  • C vehicles are engineering plant-like JCB’s

It’s a very sensible classification system but does get a bit grey around the edges sometimes, like most things. There are many other means of classification as well, weight or mobility for example

Another way to look at wheeled vehicles is what they do and this boils down to two broad areas, combat and logistics although yet again, a vehicle can do both.

It is this difficulty or ambiguity in classification that leads to different programmes that often overlap and work together to create incoherence. Small incremental acquisitions without an overarching strategy or any semblance of top-down commonality really do conspire to make things difficult for users and the maintenance/logistics system.

In this post, I am going to look at tactical support vehicles or B category that provides transportation out of the direct fire zone but certainly under threat from small arms and especially IED’s

The Current State

For all the usual short term expediency reasons we seem to have arrived at a vehicle fleet that if someone looked at from outside would conclude was created with an inverse relationship to commonality and common sense.

It’s difficult to pin the tail on the donkey of blame but we should question how we have arrived at a situation where we have so many different types doing very similar things, Pinzgauer 6×6 and Duro, Trakker and MAN SV for example.

We are where we are, decisions have been made in good faith and often for very good reasons but the net result is a mess.

As the Army draws down from Afghanistan it will also face the significant challenge of securing funding for the continuing use of UOR’s purchases or disposal of those that it no longer requires, assessing the state of the existing fleet, looking at wear and tear issues, maintaining availability for other operations and of course working out how the SDSR reductions can be reconciled with existing contracts and programmes.

Of all the MoD’s equipment challenges, the Army’s Support Vehicle fleet is arguably one of the most complex.

Despite all these challenges, I think there exists a window of opportunity for the Army to prepare, plan and implement a coherent programme for wheeled vehicles that will for the first time see it with a reasonably common fleet.

Whatever Happened to OUVS

The Operational Utility Vehicle System or OUVS programme is the ugly stepchild of FRES and has had as many twists and turns. First launched in 2003 it was to replace the Army’s Land Rovers, unloved RB44’s and much loved Pinzgauers, a significant number of vehicles that is/was the backbone of the Army’s vehicle fleet. The original programme requirement was for some 16,000 vehicles split between light and heavy subcategories with a maximum payload of 6 tonnes.

Various contenders were speculated as being ‘front runners’ and at one stage the G Wagon and Unimog seemed to be the duty rumour favourites, a clean sweep for Mercedes, aided no doubt by being a potential ‘single supplier’ for the whole programme with a huge internal supply and logistics infrastructure. Land Rover entered a 6×6 Defender (a version of that in service with the Australian Army) whilst simultaneously introducing their Extra Heavy Duty Defender that could accommodate a gross vehicle weight of 4.5 tonnes and a 300amp power system.

The MoD shortlisted 5 bidders per category but this limited innovation and failed to take note of the variable nature of operational reality that was driving tactical vehicle design at fast pace.

2009 was a busy year for OUVS…

Renault And Land Rover announced they would partner, the down-selected Renault Sherpa to be assembled at the Land Rover plant in Solihull. With Land Rover not making the cut, this was an obvious win for both parties, if only to lessen the political impact of selecting a French vehicle over the iconic British Land Rover, tough sell that one.

Lockheed Martin revealed their (Adaptive Vehicle Architecture) AVA-2 concept vehicle, based upon the Supacat HMT platform.  AVA-2 was an all-around improvement on the 2008 AVA-1 vehicle and targeted firmly at the OUVS programme.

A joint US/UK working party was formed to investigate synergies between OUVS and JLTV.

Towards the end of 2009 it was obvious that the programme would be delayed and the existing fleet of vehicles upgraded to extend their service life where appropriate.

The short listed vehicles included the Thales Copperhead, Renault Sherpa, Mowag/General Dynamics Eagle IV, Mowag/General Dynamics Duro IIIP, Mercedes G Wagon, Mercedes Unimog and a version of the Iveco LMV/Panther.

The Navistar MXT was also offered and a number of vehicles did not make the cut.

Despite earlier rumours of a Mercedes clean sweep the preferred option was later reported to be the Renault Sherpa.

Many questions were posed by OUVS, such as participation in international programmes like the US Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), what should be the focus on existing versus future threats and is an off the shelf solution more appropriate than a bespoke development.

It is no coincidence that many of these issues were being faced by FRES and the spectre of the IED meant that the original contenders would likely need considerable UOR’s to make them suitable for Afghanistan for example.

The omnishambles that was FRES also had an influence, the debacle with IP issues and Boxer appears to have shifted the political winds to adopting an off the shelf design, suggesting a completely bespoke design would have no doubt being rather limiting. The shortlisted vehicles appearing to be generally, off-shelf models and the more advanced concepts such as the JLTV and Rheinmetall GEFAS rejected.

With a cash crisis, confusion on requirements, a rapidly evolving operational picture and UOR’s taking up the urgent Afghanistan slack, clearly, a pause was needed and last year the programme was deferred until the aspirational date of 2012 when competition could recommence with a revised set of requirements, the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan under the belt and a fresh look at the rapidly changing market for light to medium logistics vehicles.

FRES also had an influence on the acquisition strategy for OUVS, rather than a single monolithic programme with fixed technical requirements a more open approach and a willingness to trade capabilities against cost and complexity have emerged, even though activity might be on hold. Much like FRES, growth potential and the flexibility to insert changing technology are now key decision criteria.

In early 2010 a Parliamentary Answer confirmed the delay;

The deferral of the Operational Utility Vehicle System (OUVS) competition will give the MOD the opportunity to consider the latest products from industry, including those from the companies that withdrew from the original OUVS competition. This will allow the MOD to determine the best method of delivering an operational utility vehicle capability for the future. During the period of the two year deferral, the Tactical Support Vehicles purchased as Urgent Operational Requirements will fulfil the OUVS role in Afghanistan. The Department will conduct a thorough review of the commercial and acquisition strategy for OUVS during 2010. This will consider production and delivery schedules, and the capability requirement informed by our operational experience.

So, those purchased as UOR’s for Afghanistan would continue to act as surrogates for the main programme until a revised approach was defined and funding secured.

2012 still looks like an aspirational target with little funding available.

Despite this, and acknowledging the urgent nature of some aspects of the replacement needs, I think this is a very smart decision.

It allows us to look at the market again, learn the lessons from FRES and the MoD’s dodgy acquisition strategies and apply those painfully earned scars to be directed to a coherent programme that is affordable and relevant to a very different world than when OUVS started.

The last thing we need is to hitch our wagon to yesterday’s models like the Iveco LMV or Renault Sherpa. Foxhound has allowed the MoD to regain some of its lost self-confidence and push for a bespoke design, we didn’t settle for the low risk option with the Light Protected Patrol Vehicle so why should we do the same with a new OUVS.

And make no mistake; we have the automotive excellence within this country to develop whatever is needed. Even outside the main defence contractors, organisations like Creation, Universal Engineering, TMK, Oviks, Supacat, Ricardo, JCB and Multidrive have demonstrated the ability to combine sound military engineering with creative design ideas.

Although Creation failed to qualify for the LPPV programme they have continued to evolve the vehicle and recently announced a large export order to Saudi Arabia, the FPE Ocelot is also a serious contender for a number of overseas programmes.

No More Defenders?

Many people still think that the Land Rover Defender, synonymous with the British Army for so long, no longer meets its needs, it has been some time since we bought any in quantity and the world moves on.

Land Rover has been moving to establish and confirm its luxury brand status and the viability of the Defender range has been in doubt.

In July 2011, Colin Green, Land Rover Managing Director suggested there was a chance that Defender might be withdrawn completely, with no replacement.

‘Another option [in replacing the current Defender] is that we abandon that section of the market. It’s our least preferred choice, because we have serviced that customer base for a long time, but there’s no point in servicing the customer and not the business. We have to make money and all three options are on the table’

A month after this statement though a concept image appeared for a replacement and more details about the process of replacement.

In 2015 a new version of the Defender will be introduced but one has to question whether we will ever see one of these in green. The simple ladder chassis of the defender will no doubt be replaced with a higher-performing but the arguably less flexible and adaptable system.

The projected end of service life for Wolf is 2012 and the 90/110 models were originally supposed to go out of service in 2002, a date which has obviously since passed and they are still very much here. There are also a huge number of specialist variants and modified Land Rovers, the study of which is no doubt someone’s life work (I once saw an article that claimed some 250 variants were bought into service for example) so despite the life-extension project the days of Land Rovers and the British Army seem to be numbered, although I expect the final parting of the ways will be some time off.

Much like the venerable Bedford 4 tonner was replaced by the DAF and MAN SV, perhaps it’s time to move on.

Trends and Issues

There are a number of trends that might inform our thinking on wheeled vehicles;

IED’s and Protection

It is important to recognise a few things about IED’s.

They are not new; the Army encountered all manner of IED’s in Northern Ireland and they have been used in conflicts for decades either as improvised devices or mines. What has changed is the West’s sensitivity to casualties, the speed and reach of modern media and the nature of their effectiveness because of those factors.

IED’s might be a tactical weapon but they have a strategic impact.

There is a school of thought that says we should not obsess about IED’s, realise that war and conflict is a risky business and return to lightweight manoeuvre forces, but they might not always have to drive a vehicle over a road with an IED underneath it.

This is a fundamentally difficult challenge and one we have discussed many times, increasing protection means increasing weight (even if not always proportional) and were road and bridge infrastructure is poor this creates mobility problems.

As this lack of mobility from increasing weight channels us into vulnerable points the likelihood of a successful attack increases.

If a fast-moving armoured thrust through the open country the effectiveness of the IED is of course limited, it is only in the messy stages of ‘nation building’ that the IED becomes useful to opposing forces as we are forced to occupy the same area on a continual basis. Without the force density or electronic means to provide 100% spatial security, there will always be opportunities for an enemy force to deploy an IED.

Hold on you might say, all that messy COIN/Nation Building stuff is a thing of the past, our overbearing desire to be somewhere, anywhere, other than Afghanistan and the latest emperor’s new clothes cut from the finest Libyan TNC cloth means these are a thing of the past.

If anyone had any doubt about the future they simply need to look at the similarities between the Tony Blair school of force for good with David Cameron’s grandstanding on the back of Libya.

Electrical Capacity

The old classification of General Service (GS0 and Fitted for Radio (FFR) is a bit old fashioned now. The most common type of GS vehicle never had a need for radios, ECM or to charge iPods but the days of the GS vehicle are over.

In theatre, every vehicle must be fitted with a range of communication, ECM and off-board generation equipment so this increases complexity and cost.

General Vehicle Architecture

One of the most significant evolutions in UK military vehicle design that most people have never heard of is called GVA.

The MoD and suppliers involved deserve a huge amount of credit for this, it’s not ground breaking, it’s not revolutionary but it is one of those common-sense ideas that one wonders why it has not been done many many years ago.

GVA works against off the shelf purchases because it imposes a common electrical and electronic infrastructure so whilst compliance will inevitably drive up development and purchase costs these will be far outweighed by the through-life cost savings.

It also means that in order to actually reap those benefits we have to get away from UOR vehicle purchases because by definition, the vast majority of UOR obtained vehicles will not have GVA.

It will deliver significant benefits over a long period.

Read more here

Foxhound has been designed to be compliant with GVA and whatever fulfils the OUVS requirement must equally do so.

Fuel Consumption

As weight increases, engines must inevitably also increase in power. This creates a serious issue from both a logistic support and cost perspective. Increasing fuel consumption will demand a greater investment in logistic capabilities for a given mission in comparison with a lighter set of vehicles and this is not to be underestimated as a concept.

As alternative energy and energy harvesting technology (regenerative braking and flywheel systems for example) is maturing at an extremely rapid pace in the commercial and automotive sports industries any design must be able to exploit these, perhaps not immediately but certainly on a growth trajectory.

Programmes

At the top end of the OUVS scale is the Support Vehicle fleet, the MAN SX and HX vehicles, replacing the Bedford and DAF 4, 8 and 14 ‘tonners’. The smallest of these is the 4×4 HX ‘6 tonner’, so this sets the obvious upper boundary for OUVS, more of the larger logistics vehicles later.

Various shades of 4x and 6×6 Pinzgauers, short wheel and long wheel base Land Rovers, Mowag Duros and one or two others still exist in considerable numbers.

The other obvious vehicle programme that has obvious synergy with OUVS is the Light Protected Patrol Vehicle, recently won by the Force Protection Europe Ocelot, called Foxhound in service. This is a UOR to replace the Land Rover Snatch and provide a compact patrol vehicle with the appropriate protection against small arms and IED’s but it will likely be introduced into the main equipment programme should it fulfil on its considerable promise.

The Panther Command and Liaison Vehicle from Iveco were purchased to replace some Land Rovers, FV420 series and CVR(T), in a role that was largely covered by the Ferret when it was in service, with only 60 being made available for Afghanistan after significant upgrading. The history of Panther is not a happy one and whilst it is not formally part of OUVS it would make sense to consider its replacement as part of a wider programme.

Finally, there is a range of UOR vehicles currently in service in Afghanistan called the Tactical Support Vehicle (TSV) fleet that comprises the well regarded Navistar MXT Husky, a flat-bed variant of Mastiff called Wolfhound and an extended Jackal called Coyote.

Although outside of the OUVS envelope we might also consider the Mastiff and Ridgeback as being in the vicinity.

A complex patchwork of existing and UOR vehicles, I think we can all agree.

There are three main future programmes, OUVS, Combined Articulated Vehicle Programme (CAVP) and Non-Articulated Vehicle Programme (NAVP) plus of course FRES Utility Variant and Light protected Patrol Vehicle (LPPV)

Can we achieve coherence and commonality across these disparate programmes?

For example, could the LPPV also provide a baseline for OUVS?

That must surely be the objective because if we look at them in isolation we could lose sight of the benefits of commonality.

What About the UOR’s

Another fly in the ointment or opportunity to be exploited (depending on your view) is the huge investment in tactical support and protected vehicles that have been obtained under various UOR’s over the last few years.

Mastiff, Jackal, Coyote, Foxhound, Vector, Husky and Wolfhound etc, are all in service. The nature of UOR means that often a full logistic package is not in place but the disadvantage of this diminishes with time. As the vehicles become embedded into maintenance and training streams then the difference between those existing arrangements, and a more formal logistic support package, gets less and less. Bringing selected vehicles into the main equipment programme might not actually be that much of a challenge or cost.

Those vehicles may be knackered or available in such low useable quantities that it becomes more economically advantageous to start again and the ad hoc nature of their purchase means most of them exist in a number of variants anyway.

Finally, they just might not meet longer-term requirements.

Opportunities definitely exist for simple and cost-effective measures to be taken in regards to formally bringing into service those UOR’s that are viable and coherent with the long term programme.

It’s difficult to make any clear statements about this because there are so many unknowns but some of the larger fleets like Mastiff, Jackal and Husky would be obvious contenders to build up.

Recent press reports have raised the prospect of gifting a number of these vehicles to the Afghan government, largely because of the high cost of transporting them home and uncertainty about the cost of bringing them into the main equipment programme. Whether the Afghan forces could make good use of these specialist vehicles is another issue, they might not actually want them either.

One can imagine the Treasury looking at this very closely; the public purse has shelled out a great deal of money on vehicles because the Army was fundamentally unprepared for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, tossing that investment aside in favour of more shiny toys is going to be a tough sell for the MoD, and rightly so.

We might argue that sunk costs and UOR money are irrelevant to future decision making but the MoD has a well-deserved reputation for financial incontinence, this is hardly going to improve on that is it?

Approach

There is a fundamental problem and it is cost.

Because there is simply no way that a simple unarmoured soft skin Land Rover vehicle can be inserted into Afghanistan it implies that the Army’s vehicle fleet must comprise wholly of protected vehicles, whether patrolling or simply carrying a pallet of ammunition.

If a basic Land Rover costs in the region of £50k and its ‘replacement’, the Foxhound, costs at least 10 times that it doesn’t need a mathematical genius to realise that a one for one replacement is a challenge.

There are three possible approaches;

1, Pretend Afghanistan never happened, after all, we will never undertake another COIN operation again, or so the prevailing whimsical fancy would have you believe. This means the Army can get back to the original OUVS vision with only a small percentage defined as ‘protected’ and the rest can be soft-skinned. This is the cheapest option and possibly the most likely but if history tells us anything about the armed conflict it is to expect the unexpected. The IED has created a paradigm shift (Bingo) and is not about to go away any time soon. Dreams of rapid manoeuvring, armoured thrusts into the enemy heartland and a spot of strategic raiding aren’t going to change that one little bit.

2, Try and create an expandable platform that is affordable for widespread adoption across the board but with a baseline of protection that can be improved for use in theatre. This is no doubt the manufacturers preferred option because it increases design complexity and keeps the numbers up. Development costs can be spread over a large production run and commonality across the whole of the services is assured.

3, Have two fleets, a fully hardened, fully protected fleet of vehicles available only in numbers to satisfy defence planning assumptions (single Division for short term and single Brigade for long term operations) and a second fleet of peacetime vehicles. This is far from ideal because of the obvious lack of commonality reasons but is still worth investigating as a concept.

We might also look at how whole fleet management can reduce the total numbers, if we base those numbers on an enduring operation at Brigade strength with notice to build up to Division strength then this defines the number break points, at least for theatre entry standard vehicles.

It is also an argument that a Divisional scale operation will be provided with some notice so this might colour our preferences.

Thoughts – Afghanistan Who?

Discounting the experience of Afghanistan seems to be the latest military fashion, but what about ‘a war’ we often hear. The simple fact is, Afghanistan and Iraq have changed the nature of a broad spectrum of our potential future operations, not all, but many.

We simply cannot discount the hard-won lessons so for the purpose of this discussion I am going to discount the ‘pretend it never happened’ option.

Thoughts – One Size Fits All

The single biggest problem with having a single homogenous fleet of vehicles that either sit at or near, a theatre entry specification with the associated protection and communication equipment, is, of course, cost.

Not only the capital cost but through life cost, increasing weight means everything from increasing tyre usage, fuel consumption or driver training requirements will` increase. A simple few days standard licences and Driver Light course will need to be a higher licence class and several week-long courses for example.

The advantage of this approach is complete commonality and a large, interchangeable fleet of vehicles whose development costs can be spread thinly.

There might be a compromise with the one size fits all approach.

If we can settle on a vehicle family that starts at a modest cost/weight/protection baseline with a pre-planned route to full theatre entry specifications some of the disadvantages of a single type might be mitigated.

However, there are implications.

There might be a temptation to extend the fit for but not with strategy across all the fleet resulting in inappropriate vehicles being pressed into service with inevitable consequences.

Spreading our jam too thinly just might result in a large fleet of mediocre vehicles that need constant UOR upgrades to be suitable and we end up with the same situation as today.

We might also be able to use a common design de specify certain components in lower grade vehicles along a sliding scale. So a level 1 vehicle would have the full complement of extras but a level 2 vehicle would look the same but have lesser quality components, reduced protection levels or other traded away specifications.

Thoughts – One for the week and one for Sunday Best

We already operate with a training and theatre/operational fleet of vehicles so this would not be anything new but the difference would be in types.

Perhaps even operated in a similar manner to the White Fleet, the OUVS non-ops fleet could consist of vehicles like Toyota Hilux pickup trucks or Ford F350’s

The Ford F350 is now in service with the Metropolitan Police Service for their tactical vehicle requirements and had been offered in the original OUVS programme. BATUS uses a range of GMC pick up trucks, some even equipped with BOWMAN.

The operational fleet could then comprise the very best equipment although obviously in smaller numbers.

Could a Toyota Hilux be an effective and economical surrogate for an operational vehicle on the range or around camp?

I think in most cases it could and we don’t have to be dogmatic; there would be grey areas where it makes more sense not to.

The more I think about this approach the more it appeals, whether the transition is done in one or as the soft skins Land Rovers and Pinzgauers get to their disposal points will of course be funding dependant but there are arguments for the ‘all in one go’ approach because it allows us to leverage economies of scale for the new vehicles and maximise disposal value for the old ones.

Designs – General

The first thing I would say about designs is that we should not be constrained by what is available off the shelf, the LPPV programme demonstrated how sensible trade-offs and a flexible approach to specifications can foster innovation and enable relatively quick and moderate cost solutions to come to the fore.

I do hope that the lessons of LPPV can be applied to whatever comes out of OUVS.

OUVS specified Large and Small variants with the original 16,000 vehicles reduced to less than 1,500 so the sweeping ambitions of the original programme seem to have been reduced to a more realistic level.

If we see the smallest MAN SV as having a payload of 6 tonnes it is not difficult to envisage OUVS (Large) coming in at around 4 tonnes payload and OUVS (Small) between 1 and 2 tonnes.

High mobility is an obvious key requirement, as are high levels of protection, especially against blast.

Strategic and tactical mobility considerations might include helicopter and aircraft portability, the ability to turn in close urban areas and growth for additional electronics or protection.

For example, it might be reasonable to expect the small category to be fully Chinook transportable and maybe even the large category without payload?

Designs – OUVS Small

Given that the FPE Ocelot/Foxhound is a modern design, is compliant with GVA and has been demonstrated with a flat load bed it would seem rather obvious to use this in the OUVS (Small) role, perhaps accepting some compromise against the original specification but because of the huge advantages of commonality with LPPV, worth accepting.

It might also be possible to fit the Foxhound with ambulance or command modules although I suspect these would be better suited to the larger variant.

Other variants might include a WMIK type open frame, equipped with pintle-mounted automatic weapons.

Foxhound is packed with innovative features, from a fully GVA compliant electrical and electronic system to a fully composite cab. The modular design, with payloads sitting on a protected and angled ‘skid’ lends itself to relatively easy adaption for other roles.

This of course assumes that the vehicle performs to the big expectations everyone has of it.

Most variants would come in well under the 10 tonne Chinook limit and its volume is not significantly greater than other comparable designs. As we transition to an A400 transport fleet the ability to fit within a C130 cargo hold envelop becomes less critical.

Foxhound has been obtained for a specific requirement, namely to replace the Snatch, but the design is obviously adaptable to other roles so the basic question remains, can it fulfil the OUVS Small requirement?

If the answer is yes, or as near as damn it, then surely it makes sense to avoid the time-wasting activity of competition and simply name it as the preferred option.

This will allow FPE to attract additional investment in order to manage increases in production volume and support whilst driving down unit costs by virtue of increasing quantities.

Designs – OUVS Large

To be consistent with being a slave to commonality, would a growth version of Foxhound be able to support a 3 to 4 tonnes payload and other OUVS requirements?

Maybe an extra set of wheels, extended ‘skid’ and the larger engine would provide for a single base design to fulfil both roles.

Although FPE is concentrating on getting the vehicle into theatre, a modest joint development in conjunction with other automotive design organisations and the MoD to explore growth potential would not be money wasted or fantastically expensive.

If Foxhound can grow to this level and meet other requirements for mobility and transportability for example, then this would seem to be obvious ‘common sense’ route.

If this proves not feasible then a new design may be the next best bet.

Following the same approach as with Foxhound should also be considered as being the optimal acquisition strategy.

The world is awash with lightweight truck derived protected logistics vehicle designs, any defence exhibition will have on display a wide range. I have a feeling that breaking the mould as we have done with Foxhound will reap significant export benefits and maybe our best route is an equally innovative design for the larger requirement (assuming a growth Foxhound is not it)

High mobility with a relatively heavy load of protection and payload would seem to point to a 6×6 wheeled design.

Those of us that are a little more mature may remember the Alvis Stalwart (probably for all the wrong reasons) but, as a bit of food for thought, are we coming full circle to the idea of a Stalwart for FF2020?

The Alvis Stalwart has an incredibly interesting background and even has its own dedicated blog and YouTube channel

Designed to provide logistic resupply for armoured and artillery units the FV620 Stalwart was derived from the Saracen armoured vehicle. A 6×6 design, it was fully amphibious with Dowty waterjets propelling it in the water up to 5 knots.

There is an Army urban myth that a fuel tanker version (UBRE) was stolen by a disgruntled soldier in Germany and driven all the way to the French coast, where he decided to take the direct route and ‘sail’ it to England across the English Channel. The story goes that he got halfway across and ran out of fuel (they were extremely thirsty) but was subsequently employed by Alvis as a test driver.

Most likely total nonsense given the general unreliability of the Stalwart, presence of armed border controls, quite horrendously massive fuel consumption and many other factors but what a story!

Here are a few cracking videos

Variants included a fuel tanker, artillery limber (FV623) and REME version, no doubt equipped with double bunk, fridge freezer and 4 ring stove!

If we look at the dimensions of the Stalwart; 6.4m long, 2.3m high and 2.6m wide it compares favourably with the Navistar Husky at 6.4m long, 2.3m high and 2.4m wide

Stalwart was largely replaced by Support Helicopters but many miss its go-anywhere abilities and the vulnerability, weather-based availability and high cost of helicopters are issues that have yet to be resolved, making a vehicular solution still attractive.

A Next-Generation Stalwart

Perhaps in looking at a next-generation Stalwart the first thing to do is decide what we don’t want.

Massive fuel consumption, complexity and all round general unreliability were the Stalwarts strong points!

However, a lot of these were due to the technology of the day, it was designed in the late fifties after all and automotive technology has moved on. Central to the design was its ability to swim and we might take a different view on this for a modern version.

Would we need it to be amphibious?

Perhaps in an ideal world with all things being equal the answer would be yes but the ability to swim adds a lot of complexity and likely cost.

So, maybe it’s not worth the penalty.

The general form factor would remain though and with a selection of modern components and careful design mine and ballistic protection could not be comparable with the latest vehicle types.

Why a new design instead of an off the shelf?

That’s a good question and the default would normally of course be to go to the shelf rather than the drawing board but perhaps the world is crying out for a new(ish) medium vehicle and this wouldn’t be fun if all we did was look at manufacturers catalogues and go, want that one!

There are a couple of designs that actually come close to a Stalwart.

The first is from the UK manufacturer Total Mobility Vehicles or TMV called the TMV 6x6M.

The TMV 6x6M is an interesting design that has many innovative features and is not a simple truck derived vehicle with an armoured cab stuck on top. Much like the Ocelot, it uses a single enclosed V-shaped tub chassis or ‘skid’ that is full armoured and designed to offer a great deal of protection to the fully encased drivetrain. Drawing on competitive automotive engineering designs this chassis design is fully modular and can be scaled up or down. Modularity extends to the crew pod and payload area so a simple composite crew pod could be specified to keep weight down or a heavier armoured or protected design deployed for use in higher threat areas.

Many variants could be produced beyond a simple load carrier such as protected mobility, recovery or ambulance, sitting between light tactical vehicles and smaller trucks.

The design is such that the major components are low down meaning it has a very low centre of gravity, especially when compared with some of the truck derived protected vehicles. A low centre of gravity is essential for off road mobility and with 6 wheel drive, 6 wheel steering and minimal front and rear overhang the TMV has excellent mobility.

Foxhound uses a 6 cylinder 3.2L Euro III emissions-compliant engine from Steyr Motors that develops 160 kilowatts of power. The TMV uses the Cummins 4 cylinder ISBe5 design that develops 147 kilowatts and despite the undoubted heritage of the Cummins B series engine picking one of the higher power Steyr models would provide both greater performance and component commonality.

This is an interesting video from L3 showing a TMV 6×6 and a few more of the TMV 6x6M showing some of the unique design features.

Another interesting design that might inform our Stalwart for the next generation is the QinetiQ Hybrid Electric Drive demonstrator, datasheets here and here

Maybe a mashup of the TMV and HED could produce a genuinely innovative design that like the Foxhound could have a great deal of export potential whilst meeting the requirement for a well-protected medium-weight wheeled base platform that can form the basis for a wide range of variants, much like the Pinzgauer or Duro that currently fit into this broad category.

Payloads

The UK armed forces have started embrace the ISO container form factor with some enthusiasm but we still have yet to look beyond the 20ft and into Bicons, Tricons and Quadcons, see my love fest for all things containers here

Whenever we look at developing a custom vehicle solution we should stop and ask if a demountable solution is viable.

They do not necessarily have to be mounted on DROP/PLS type vehicles, although that would be useful, but they can be used to convert any civilian truck to a militarily useful vehicle. There are hundreds of thousands of civilian trucks in all parts of the world and we should accept the notion of reuse.

A typical, ‘non-fighty’ example is the C Vehicle volumetric concrete mixer from Nurock on the Iveco Trakker 6×6 chassis. The US Army, who tend to have a better grasp of standardisation than anyone else, approached this problem by doing something we should do much more of, splitting payload and transport. The Oshkosh PLS system provides a number of engineering modules that can be loaded onto any PLS truck.

The Engineering Mission Modules include a bitumen sprayer, dump truck body, water tanker, modular fuel farm, forward repair systems and concrete mixer, all in a standard ISO flatrack DROP/PLS form factor. This means not only military PLS type vehicles can use them but with a suitable crane or side lifter, pretty much any truck that can take the weight.

This delivers real flexibility.

To deliver the same kind of functionality we need a number of different vehicles.

Am I alone in seeing the advantages of this approach?

Beyond the ability to reuse civilian vehicles the principal advantage of modular or demountable payloads is the flexibility they deliver, not as some might think by in theatre rapid re-rolling but mainly from an availability and maintainability perspective.

When we see a Duro carrying a Reacher satellite system it is not the vehicle that has value but what it carries.

However, in a non-demountable form, they are inextricably linked. Should a mechanical failure, accident or combat damage render the vehicle unserviceable then it is also the payload that is unserviceable?

Once a vehicle is VOR then so is its connected payload.

Rapidly demountable or modular payloads allow faster repair turnarounds or sensible decisions to be made about transferring higher value payloads to other vehicles that might be carrying a lower priority payload.

Other benefits might include a reduction in integration costs and training overheads.

Many payloads are essentially static when deployed but an equally valuable vehicle will also be tied up, immobile and useless. In some scenarios, the payload could be demounted and the vehicle deployed to other tasks, increasing utilisation and efficiency. Not all payloads need to be available to move at a moment’s notice.

Modules do not necessarily have to be conventional steel construction but the form factor and ISO twist locks should be standard wherever possible and beyond the usual, we should also look at weapon systems or other more complex payloads as being candidates for containerisation within the Bicon/Tricon/Quadcon form factor.

One of the challenges faced by vehicle designers of demountable systems is maximum vehicle height. In order to be ‘road legal’ and have sensible strategic mobility, there are a number of boundaries and air transport places other-dimensional limits on designs.

Demountable hooklift or slide lift systems impose a height penalty when compared with standard flatracks but designers are continually looking at new designs to reduce the problem, the HIAB/Multilift EPLS design on the MAN SV has a much lower profile than that it provided for the Scammel and Leyland DROPS. Conventional truck ladder chassis have clearance issues with hooklift systems but the unconventional design of something like the TMV described above may provide a welcome opportunity to reduce overall height when used with hooklift systems.

This then puts the possibility of a DROPS/EPLS concept onto the smaller OUVS class of vehicles with obvious benefits.

Another UK design house called OVIK has also developed the concept of using a hooklift system on a smaller military chassis, the commercial van (Iveco Daily) derived Cameleon.

I like this concept although not convinced by the base platform; this equipment is also available on a number of other smaller platforms like the BV206, for example.

If we decide on a modular system then it might be possible to share those modules between something like the Iveco for non-theatre use and something with a higher level of protection for use in theatre.

Summary

Whether we actually have the money to migrate away from the disparate vehicle mix we have and now and will inherit post-2015 is open to debate but OUVS is an important programme for both capability reasons but also for the obvious and logical reasons of logistic commonality.

So, any takers for OUVS Small being fulfilled by Foxhound, OUVS Large being fulfilled by a TMV 6×6 style vehicle possibly equipped with a PLS type system and HED style hybrid electric drive with a load of Toyota or Ford pickups for nipping down to the shops/taking the OC to an O Group/taking the energies down to the ranges?

Or, an alternative approach of using a modular payload concept and using 2 classes of vehicles but retaining the same payloads, a cheaper commercial design for lower threat areas and something purpose-designed with high levels of protection for use in combat operations.

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 (Options – Part 1 General)

The Future of the British Army 10 – Wheels (Options – Part 2 Options)

The Future of the British Army 11 – Wheels (Options – Part 3 Motorcycles, Quads and Ultralights)

The Future of the British Army 12 – Wheels (Options – Part 4 Utility & Tactical Support Vehicles)

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