I have covered the Army’s C Vehicles in a number of posts over the years so this is a collation and refresh of those numerous posts.
So what is a C Vehicle?
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 not primarily designed for combat such as trucks, usually called the Green Fleet
- 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.
Although C Vehicles are generally speaking clustered around engineering plant it also includes a number of truck based equipment like tippers and specialist vehicles like bore drilling rigs.
The definition is
A wheeled or tracked item of earth moving equipment, either self propelled or towed; all self mobile, self steering, purpose-made cranes, cable laying ploughs; all industrial and agricultural tractors and rough terrain fork lift tractors, excluding warehouse tractors.
The terms Engineer Construction Plant (ECP) and Mechanical Handling Equipment (MHE) are also used extensively to describe C Vehicles and equipment.
The ALC C Vehicle PFI
Before the PFI, all the engineering plant was owned by individual units.
This resulted in much of the plant and equipment being extremely underutilised and it is, self-evidently, not cheap kit. With TA Royal Engineer Field Support (Plant Troops) and Plant Squadrons this was particularly acute and the number of manufacturers across the whole fleet was also an issue. Instead of taking all or most equipment from one or two large manufacturers the Army obtained piecemeal, a loader from Volvo here, a digger from CAT there and almost everything in between. The roll call of manufacturers was impressively long; Terex, Caterpillar, Volvo, Coles, Hydrema, Muir Hill and many more.
This disparate fleet led to an overly complex maintenance and logistics support system which hugely increased through life cost. With the constant change in requirements the amount of equipment being disposed of (and often bought back in another guise) was also significant and there was no overall defining strategy for small plant, large plant and other specialist equipment.
The objectives of the C Vehicle PFI were therefore to address these issues of fleet commonality and cost, attempting to do more with less.
Instead of equipment being dispersed it would be centralised in a small number of key locations with the users booking equipment when they needed it, much like an internal hire system.
The winner of the PFI would operate a helpdesk and respond to vehicle and equipment requests by delivering it/they to the unit within agreed Service Level Agreements. After use, the unit would arrange with ALC to recover it back to the central location so that it could be used by others.
Units would be responsible for first line maintenance but second line maintenance would be done by the provider, yet another cost reduction as personnel, facilities and spares could be consolidated. Instead of equipment sitting in units and unused for large periods of time it would be out and about, being used by any number of units and therefore increasing utilisation rates, ultimately lowering costs. Increasing the utilisation rate using Whole Fleet Management techniques would also allow the total inventory size to be reduced, again, driving down cost.
All legacy equipment would be transferred to the provider and as part of a longer term strategy would eventually be replaced by equipment from as fewer number of manufacturers as possible under the Equipment Replacement and Refurbishment Programme (ERRP)
All sensible stuff
In addition to Royal Engineers plant some Royal Logistic Corps equipment was also included in the requirement.
The 15 year deal was valued at approximately £600million.
Adam Ingram (Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence; East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, Labour)
I am pleased to announce that the Amey Lex consortium has been awarded a contract to provide the armed forces with a new generation of heavy plant equipment, logistic support and construction machines, collectively known as C vehicles, under a private finance initiative deal. The contract is valued at over £600 million for the 15-year period.
The C vehicles will be used for earthmoving, digging, dozing, lifting and for transporting combat supplies around the battlefield. The great utility of this equipment has been seen on recent operations, building and maintaining the infrastructure for our troops.
Sourcing the equipment through a PFI deal will provide a more rapid fleet turnover, especially in the early years of the contract, which will allow changes in technology and fleet management processes to be introduced quickly, reducing the maintenance and supply burden thereby benefiting front-line troops.
The best elements of commercial practice will be used to support maintenance and repair, providing the opportunity to reduce spares holdings and to adopt a strategic pooling approach to the provision of the capability.
The original price (of course) increased with the final Approved Cost being £714 million.
On contract commencement and as part of the agreement, ALC ‘purchased’ the MoD’s legacy equipment although it was rumoured at the time that acceptance criteria were so stringent the MoD had to spend considerable sums getting equipment ready for the handover and for the same costs it could have bought new.
The initial equipment fleet numbered over 3,800 items, at 380 locations and in 150 equipment types.
This was reduced to less than 2,000 items at 15 locations in the UK, Germany and Cyprus with the main Capability Service Centre at Bicester in Oxfordshire. ALC also provide equipment support contractors or Field Service Representatives into theatre under the Contractors Deployed on Operations (CONDO) regulations as defined by JSP 567 and training is a significant part of the service provision.
The reduction in spares has been significant; between the Truck Mounted Loader, Medium Dump Truck, Self Loading Dump Truck, Well Driller and Volumetric Mixer, against the existing equipment, there was a reduction in the spares span of over 2,500 items, a reduction in training of 50%, specialist tool sets and technical publications by over 80%.
Equipment is purchased on a Whole Life Cost basis which contributes to cost reduction outputs, these being included in the terms of contract where ALC have to meet 144 separate requirements. Some of the lesser used equipment is maintained in humidity controlled storage, the armoured wheeled loaders used for airfield damage repair and removing burning vehicles in riotous situations for example.
Some of the very specialist equipment such as rock crushing plant had been used so infrequently it was woefully out of date and more or less derelict, for these types of equipment the legacy fleet was simply disposed of and hire arrangements with civil hire equipment providers used instead.
For Afghanistan a number of UOR’s were implemented using ALC as the fulfilment partner, a testament to its capability to deliver and the contract has been used to include the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy where equipment is common, the Rough Terrain Fork Lift (RTFL) for example, where PDM Training recently delivered a course on board HMS Ocean.
The In Theatre Support is interesting because commercial reality met aspirational planning. The original plan was to have ALC establish an in theatre equipment pool at Bastion, much like they do in the UK and Germany and manage it from there. Because spares, and therefore contracted availability SLA’s, could only be provided through the MoD supply chain ALC were obviously somewhat reluctant to sign on. In the UK and Germany they have control over their own logistics and can therefore underpin the SLA’s but when spare parts are stuck on a truck in Pakistan or bumped off an aircraft because of a higher priority load then they cannot be held responsible for meeting agreed SLA’s.
The solution was to enter into an arrangement that saw them provide a number of contractor man hours (6 people in total) under the direction of the military chain of command.
The next section will cover the span of equipment but rather than list all the legacy equipment that is either due to be or already has been replaced I am going to describe some of the newer equipment, or older equipment that is likely to stay in service.
Much of the descriptions are lifted from the ALC equipment datasheets with additional commentary where relevant. All the equipment can be viewed on the ALC website, click here
Equipment – Drilling Rigs
There are three drilling items; the Truck Mounted Well Driller, Drill Rotary EOD and Drill Utility.
FIVE Dando Watertec 12.8 rigs have replaced the 3 Edeco Truck Mounted Drill’s and 3 Truck Mounted Site Investigation Drill’s previously in service.
The video below shows a Dando 12.8 on a self-propelled tracked chassis but the basic operation and configuration is the same as that for the Royal Engineer version.
The fleet was trialed in Afghanistan, the other 4 units were subsequently modified following a number of lessons learned from this initial deployment.
Officially called the Truck Mounted Well Driller (TMWD) they can drill a 300mm diameter borehole to a depth of 300m or deeper with a narrower borehole diameter and are A400 and C17 air portable, air carriage being one of the major modifications to the off the shelf equipment.
From the ALC description;
The drilling system incorporates various, state of the art integrated units including a mud pump, water/foam pump, a Mosa Electrical Welder/Generator, CAT Hydraulic Power Pack. The drilling rig is also designed to work in conjunction with a drilling mud recycling system called a Mud Puppy, which is transported on a support vehicle
Also available is the Comacchio MC450, designated the ‘Drill Rotary EOD’, it is designed for soil investigations, core drilling and water well drilling where it can be used in rotary or percussive modes. Where unexploded munitions are deeply buried this drill is used for investigation and core drilling around the site.
There are FIVE of these as well.
These have replaced the two Howden T30 drills.
FIVE ‘Drill Utility (With Trailer) JKS Boyles QD22 Drill Utility’ can be used for augering through a variety of soil types to 30m to provide samples and it replaces three models from Dando, M-Trak and Howden Skidster. The rig is the MC205 Crawler Mounted variant from Commachio, essentially, smaller version of the MC450
Read more on military water supply here
Equipment – Volumetric Mixing
Instead of traditional concrete mixers the Nurock Volumetric system was mounted on SIX Trakker 6×6 trucks in a contract worth £600,000.
From the Nurock website
The use of volumetric proportioning and continuous mixing is well proven and has many advantages over traditional drum type mixers that rely on batching plants.
The volumetric mixer is essentially a mobile batching plant. It carries all the ingredients of concrete in a number of hoppers which feed into a continuous mixer.
This method allows the operator to mix any amount of fresh concrete on site, to any mix design, with no waste. The mix design can also be changed instantly, producing different types of concrete from the same load.
Another major advantage is that multiple deliveries can be made from one load, making small deliveries profitable. Road traffic is also reduced compared to traditional ready mix resulting in environmental benefits and can reduce congestion charges.
Many contractors prefer volumetric concrete because a fresh mix provides improved workability. As mixing takes place on site there is no hydration or segregation during transit. This is particularly beneficial in hot climates or for deliveries to remote locations.
More British ingenuity and innovation.
These were originally intended for airfield damage repair where the precise and on demand mixing capability is well suited to rapid runway repair but they are also used in general construction.
Equipment – Trucks
- Truck Mounted Loader
- Medium Dump Truck
- Self Loading Dump Truck
Truck Mounted Loader
THIRTY THREE Truck Mounted Loaders were supplied, fitted with a Mackworth flatbed with twistlocks for securing 20ft ISO containers (mmmm) and a 5.3 tonne capacity TL C2 40 2E/A2 Terex Atlas lifting crane.
Because the lifting arm is mounted at the back of the load bed and has a long reach and high load capacity it can fulfil many of the traditional roles of the Grove Coles cranes such as lifting containers, loading MGB pallets onto their trailers and splitting BR90 panels for inspection and build.
Medium Dump Truck
SIXTY ONE Medium Dump Trucks which has a slightly longer wheelbase (3.82m) than the other variants have been obtained and they are fitted with a Thompson tipping body, TWO will also be provided in a winterised/waterproof variant. Offroad payload is 16 tonnes and on road, 10 tonnes.
Iveco Medium Dump Trucks will replace the Foden 6×6 dump trucks.
Self-Loading Dump Truck
SEVENTY ONE Self Loading Dump Truck are fitted with an Atlas Terex TLC105.2/A1 hydraulic lifting crane with digging bucket and Thompson tipping body made using Hardox steel from MTL
The bucket can carry 350L of material and the vehicle will be used for a wide variety of combat engineering construction tasks, replacing the well used Volvo FL12 Self Loading Dump Trucks.
In addition to lifting loose materials such as sand, gravel or hardcore using the bucket, the crane can also be used to engineer stores, pallets or any general materials up to 2.6 tonnes at 4.1m reach. A lower weight can be lifted out to a longer reach if needed.
Equipment – Engineer Construction Equipment
Medium Motorised Grader
THIRTY FOUR Volvo G930 Motor Graders were delivered in 2007 and designated the Medium Motorised Grader, replacing the existing Aveling Barford ASG113’s.
They are used to level and maintain areas, construct routes and ditches, maintain embankments, clear runways and in the route denial role.
After trials in 2009 Volvo were awarded a contract for TWENTY THREE EC210C’s (twenty one tonnes) and TWENTY EIGHT EW180C’s (eighteen tonnes) excavators to be called the Excavator Crawler Medium and Excavator Wheeled Medium respectively. The EC210C’s will replace the Caterpillar 320B and the EW180C’s will replace the Caterpillar M318’s.
The complete batch of EC210C’s and EW180C’s will be built at Volvo’s excavator manufacturing facility located at Konz, Germany during the last quarter of 2010 with deliveries and commissioning taking place by the end of Q1 2011. The machines are being supplied with Geith quick fits, black-out lighting capability and other minor modifications specifically for military use. The wheeled machines are also being supplied with an on-board compressor for tyre inflation.
The smallest of the excavators is the Excavator Towed Ultralight, replacing the JCB 801.4 the new model (JCB 801.8) will be obtained in a quantity of THIRTEEN
TWELVE Bomag BW 177DH single drum vibratory rollers have replaced the Puma 6T roller, click here for a brochure.
TWENTY EIGHT Roller Motorised Smooth Drum SPT Tandem Vib DSL Wacker RD27-100 will replace the existing Benford TV 1200’s
SIX Roller Vibratory Single Drum SP Rd Mob 12t from Bomag will replace the existing Hamm 2410SD’s
Wheeled Loaders and Tractors
Medium and Light Wheeled Tractors are used for a variety engineering roles; earth moving, excavating, mechanical handling trenching, dozing, grading and digging.
The TWENTY TWO Medium Wheeled Tractor Winterised/Waterproof is a JCB 436 EHT that can operate at a fording depth of 1.5m with an additional splash height of 0.5m. It is also modified to be able to operate in -46 degree Celsius temperatures and can be fitted with the Class 30 Trackway Dispenser and a number of other attachments.
The Medium Wheeled Tractor has also replaced the Case 721 CXT’s and Volvo 4400’s.
ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY THREE JCB 4CX ‘Tractor Wheeled Light Standard / Air Portable’ and an additional FIVE winterised variants have been introduced.
TWENTY ONE JCB 3CX ‘Light Wheeled Tractor All Arms’ have been introduced, replacing the JCB 3CX 4×4 Sitemaster.
The role of the LWT(AA) is primarily to provide Royal Logistic Corps (RLC), Infantry and Royal Artillery units with a versatile mechanical aid, with high output, capable of undertaking a wide variety of field defence tasks, handling defence stores and combat supplies. It is deployable to and between sites, capable of keeping up with supported units, and is both road-mobile and deployable on the In-Service plant trailer or Light Equipment Transporter. Additionally when used in Royal Engineer (RE) Units the equipment can be called on to fit and operate the Harrier Pin Extractor.
The Medium Wheeled Tractor (Protected) is a specially adapted Case 721 CXT designed for clearing burning vehicles and barricades in riot situations and these have been retained with a mid-life upgrade completed in 2008.
The Caterpillar 970G Loader is used for airfield damage repair where its additional protection is vital in an environment where there may be small cluster munitions and these may be retained in small quantities.
Replacing the Benford 3000 Ultra Light 3Tonne dumpers will be Dumper Ultra Light’s which are based on the Terex TA3 3 tonne dumper. The DUL will also be certified for Chinook under-slung carriage and can, if needed, serve as a lightweight cargo mover.
Although the new Caterpillar D5N’s have a smaller blade than those they have replaced (Medium Crawler Tractor and Heavy Crawler Tractor, the Cat D6 and Liebherr PR 742B), the faster cycle time and greater reliability means they should complete the task sooner and greater strategic mobility (a greater variety of in service equipment can carry it) is an added bonus.
At just over 12.5 tonnes it could be carried on any of the equipment transports or even a DROPS’s type vehicle and THIRTY FIVE have been obtained.
Deployable Universal Combat Earthmover (DEUCE)
The DEUCE is an interesting vehicle, probably worthy of a post all of its own. Originally known (in US service) as the Caterpillar 30/30 Engineer Support Tractor) its history goes back to the early nineties when the prevailing military trend was rapid reaction. The US Army defined a requirement for an air portable earthmover to replace the Cat D5 that could not only be transported by C130 and air dropped but also, when deployed, move around an extended area without a transporter, transporters and trailers being somewhat difficult to air drop.
Caterpillar had been chipping away at the military with a Caterpillar Challenger derived product since the late eighties; their persistence and putting their own money where their mouth is paid off and by the end of the decade they had started to come into service with US forces. Only one 30-30 was ever produced, the prototype for the DEUCE, more history here.
As you can see from the pictures below, the DEUCE uses a continuous reinforced rubber band track from Camoplast.
Operators manual is here
And a quick video…
The MoD purchased 15 for testing/development and use with 39 Engineer Regiment Royal Engineers, the air support regiment and 9 Squadron RE.
They were used in Afghanistan during the very early stages, Camp Souter in Kabul for example.
Equipment – Small Plant and Miscellaneous
There are many new types of small engineering plat including;
TWENTY ONE ‘Mixing Machine Set 25Ltr Trolley Mounted (SCAB)’ used for mixing small batches of quick setting epoxy resins, adhesives and cement primarily used for airfield damage repair
TWENTY ‘Compactor Plate DSL Wacker DPU2540H’
FIVE ‘Compactor Plate Pedal Remote Control DSL Wacker DPU7060SC’, these are fitted with a narrow plate to allow compaction in the bottom of trenches
TWENTY TWO ‘Concrete Mixer 100 Litre DSL BELLE Premier 100XT’
TWO ‘Masonry Abrasive Disc Saw Wacker DFS1350H’
TWO ‘Melter Pourer Jointing Material Jacket Farvis Jointing Machine LPG C/W Oil’
EIGHT ‘Pressurised Water Distributor’
EIGHTEEN ‘Vibrator Concrete Internal Mechanical DSL Belle BGA’
FIVE ‘Elevating Platform (Trailer Mounted) Aerial Kwiklift K17 TC32’ to allow safe working at height
TWO Xcalibre Neptune D20-600 Core Drilling Machine
Equipment – Material Handling
These are the most numerous of C Vehicle equipment and have a broad span of users replacing the Volvo 4440’s and JCB 410’s (both of which are not telehandlers but converted loaders). The requirement for loading and unloading ISO containers dictated some of the size and mobility specifications.
There are two models, the Telehandler 2,400Kg which is a JCB 524-50 and the higher capacity JCB 541-70 called the Telehandler 4,000Kg.
Each has a number of variants with the smaller version coming in standard (ONE HUNDRED and FIFTY), standard with sideshift (ONE HUNDRED and FIFTY), winterised (FIFTEEN) and winterised with sideshift (FOURTEEN)
The larger version has two variants, standard with sideshift (EIGHTY FIVE) and winterised (SIX)
Equipment – Cranes
The venerable Grove Coles cranes were becoming increasingly difficult to obtain spares for and after technical and user trials in 2007 they were replaced (in 2008 and 2009) with FIFTY NINE Terex AC35’s and SIX AC55-1’s.
Because there is a much greater number of lifting devices available elsewhere in the vehicle fleet, RTCH, DROPS and the Iveco Trakker Truck Mounted Lifter (TML) there is a much lower requirement for specialist devices like cranes which are generally much more expensive.
The AC35 has a 35 tonne lifting capacity and 33m boom length.
When the AC55 was specified the requirement to lift the new Army Work Boat MK4 (click here to view) was not included so when introduced it was unable to do so at the required span, a bit of a problem. However, with some software and other modifications Terex were able to accommodate this new requirement.
Equipment – Urgent Operational Requirements
A number of UOR’s have been delivered through the ALC C Vehicle arrangements although they are outside of the contract;
- Multi Terrain Loader – Protected
- Medium Wheeled Tractor – Protected
- Light Wheeled Tractor – Protected
- Self Loading Dump Truck – Protected
There is also an on-going improvement programme for these vehicles.
Multi Terrain Loader – Protected
Based on the Caterpillar 257B the protected variant also comes with a wide number of attachments such as a fork lift, auger, hammer and backhoe
Medium Wheeled Tractor – Protected
Based on the Caterpillar 938G the protected variant has had a significant redesign to provide sufficient levels of operator protection.
Light Wheeled Tractor – Protected
Based on the Caterpillar 434E the protected variant has also had a significant redesign to improve protection levels.
Self-Loading Dump Truck – Protected
In 2010, ALC contracted with Thompson’s to supply a tipping body for a protected 8×8 version of the Iveco Trakker to be called the Self Loading Dump Trucks (protected) or SLDT(P), with TWENTY FOUR being ordered in total. The protected cab was already developed for another customer (Germany I think) so was an off the shelf item but BOWMAN, ECM and the additional bar armour added considerably to the cost of the standard unit.
Iveco have also demonstrated a Trakker fitted with the EPLS system for handling containers and Class 30/70 Trackway handling equipment.
Issues and the Future
The driving force behind the C Vehicle PFI was cost reduction.
The vehicle (no pun intended) for this was relatively simple;
- Reduce diversity in the fleet by consolidating on fewer equipment types from fewer manufacturers
- Reduce fleet quantity by improving utilisation rates and matching fleet size to predicted usage
The general problem with PFI’s is that unless flexibility is built into the core of the contract they have difficulties reacting to change, especially in the underlying predictions on demand.
The C Vehicle PFI faces a number of challenges between now and 2020 when it expires.
Although ALC have massively reduced fleet diversity the pressures of operations have had a few unintended consequences. Money has been spent outside the contract delivering vehicles such as the Caterpillar protected wheeled tractors that have a great deal of similarity, in terms of basic functionality, with the JCB wheeled tractors in the new core fleet.
Delivering a protected version of the Alvis Unipower BR90 and the money expended on them means they are unlikely to be replaced any time soon, even though one might argue that there now exists a large number of surplus to requirements MAN Support Vehicles. The Iveco Trakker decision has no doubt reduced diversity across the C Vehicle fleet but we have a massive MAN Support Vehicle fleet, arguably too large in terms of the Army 2020 context.
I suspect the decision to specify the Iveco truck instead of the MAN SX/HX range was a result of cost and availability issues so entirely understandable but the end result is two fleets of trucks, plus a third, the Unipowers. One might argue that the Unipowers are such few in number and the Iveco’s are maintained as part of a commercially provided fleet and that is true.
However, on operations these issues become hugely problematical.
If one has two basic truck types in Afghanistan, no matter what the contract arrangements, two sets of spare windscreens, indicator arms or fuel pumps have to be shipped to theatre. The tremendous logistical challenges that Afghanistan and deployed operation in general exhibit means the impact of this, either in operational or cost terms, should not be underestimated. Any vehicle has thousands of parts that can all go wrong and if any form of vehicle availability is to be maintained, spares are needed at the point of use
In Afghanistan now, the British Army has to operate, maintain, provide spares and logistics at the end of a very long supply chain, deliver training, install BOWMAN, protection and ECM for;
- Iveco Trakkers, various
- MAN Support Vehicles, various
- Alvis Unipower BR90 Bridging Vehicles
- Oshkosh MTVR wheeled tankers
- Oshkosh Heavy Equipment Transporters
- Foden DROPS
- Potentially, a few legacy vehicles like the Volvo FL12 SLDT’s
Some of these have nothing to do with the C Vehicle PFI and many are supported by contractors but the simple fact remains they are in theatre and need supporting so the more types we have the more it costs and the more personnel it needs.
As we draw down from Afghanistan it is unlikely that any transfer of the specialist equipment on the Trakkers and BR90 vehicles to the MAN SV fleet will happen, however sensible it would seem.
The second issue the contract faces is that of matching fleet size to need and location.
In 2005 was a complete move from Germany and a 20% reduction in Army strength (30% in the Corps of Royal Engineers) envisaged or factored into the contract?
I don’t know the answer but moving to Army 2020 will no doubt require a large degree of flexibility from ALC and possibly open MoD wallet.
Finally, as the contractual arrangements and risk balancing in Afghanistan have shown, the original concept of operating in theatre has had to be modified to reflect the reality of deployed supply chain issues meeting contractual SLA’s.
Reports on the ALC C Vehicle PFI have been extremely positive once the initial teething issues were resolved so this could be characterised as a PFI success.
The C Vehicle PFI with ALC has a few years left to run (out to 2020) and with the greater emphasis on contractors in the Total Support Force concept embedded in Army 2020 it is difficult to see any change to the structure, we might find the contract re-tendered but going back to plant and equipment being held by units seems a remote possibility.
None of the issues that face the C Vehicle PFI are insurmountable and ALC have shown a commendably flexible approach combined with very competent delivery capability.
It will be interesting to see how they are resolved.