Military Pallets, Boxes and Containers – Part 9 Trucks and Trailers

Mobile Electronics Unit

When I wrote about the issues and range of potential solutions for pallets and containers in the previous post I came to the conclusion that barring some major investment in a metric JMIDS like capability across the three services and the joint supply chain the best we could hope for is a greater use of sub 20 foot containers for unit loads and container inserts for unit stores. The impact would potentially be relatively minor because the mechanical handling equipment already in service for pallets handling can mostly be utilised for these smaller containers, within certain constraints.

The logical next step is to examine the means to move those boxes, pallets and containers; trucks and trailers.

An Eclectic Mix of Vehicles

To describe the logistics vehicles in service (or recently left) within the confines of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as an eclectic mix is the charitable thing to do. Less charitable types might describe the fleet as a dogs breakfast resulting from a series of incoherent, illogical and short term service-centric decisions.

Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan required the purchase of a number of vehicles under the UOR process because simply put, the existing fleet was inadequate for the conditions and threats encountered. As operations ceased the decision was made to bring all the UOR vehicles into the core fleet as a transition to Future Force 2020 in which it was envisaged that the fleet would get back into a more stable steady state.

SDSR 2010 also mandated a return to the UK from Germany and overall force reduction size which has contributed to the problem of trying to hit the moving target that is fleet coherence.

It is easy to be critical of the current situation but that must be tempered with the obvious need to deliver suitable vehicles to theatre; the Urgent Operational Requirement fulfilment process cannot, and should not, put the long term situation at the top of the decision process.

To try and understand how the future might be structured the current must be described.

Multi Role Tactical Support

These vehicles are not all strictly speaking classed as operational support of multi-role but it is convenient to lump them together. I have also excluded the many flavours of the Land Rover because they are not primarily used for the movement of unit stores but have included the Pingauer, because they do and also provide the base platform for a number of specialist conversions that have relevance. Panther is also included because it falls within the MRV(P) programme that will be discussed below. Likewise Fuchs, nominally an ‘armoured vehicle’ but potentially replaced with MRV(P)

Pinzgauer 4x4
Pinzgauer 4×4
Pinzgauer 6x6
Pinzgauer 6×6
Tellar (Duro base vehicle)
Tellar (Duro base vehicle)
Fuchs NBC Reconnaissance vehicle (Image Credit - Plain Military)
Fuchs NBC Reconnaissance vehicle (Image Credit – Plain Military)
Husky is a new protected support vehicle, providing commanders with a highly mobile and flexible load carrying vehicle. This has been designed for a range of Afghanistan missions, including transporting food, water and ammunition, and acting as a command vehicle at headquarters. Some vehicles will be fitted out as protected ambulances. Equipped with a machine gun, Husky will join its sister vehicles Wolfhound and Coyote as part of the £350m Tactical Support Vehicle programme.
Husky is a new protected support vehicle, providing commanders with a highly mobile and flexible load carrying vehicle.
This has been designed for a range of Afghanistan missions, including transporting food, water and ammunition, and acting as a command vehicle at headquarters. Some vehicles will be fitted out as protected ambulances. Equipped with a machine gun, Husky will join its sister vehicles Wolfhound and Coyote as part of the £350m Tactical Support Vehicle programme.
Jackal Armoured Vehicle
Coyote Tactical Support Vehicle (TSV)
Coyote Tactical Support Vehicle (TSV)
Wolfhound Dog Pod (Image Credit - Plain Military)
Wolfhound Dog Pod (Image Credit – Plain Military)
A British Ridgeback vechile drives into a camp in Kabul.
A British Ridgeback vechile drives into a camp in Kabul.

Most of these are UOR’s, the exceptions being Pinzgauer, Fuchs and Panther and some have sub variants such as Husky ambulance and recovery (from Boniface Engineering). The background for these vehicles is widely known so I am not going to go into much detail.

Non Articulated Cargo

The Army has four types of basic cargo truck in service, not including the Leyland and Foden DROPS which are practically out of service now.

There are also a collection of specialist vehicles used mostly by the RAF.

MAN Support Vehicle

The £1.3 billion Support Vehicles (SV) contract was to replace DAF 4 tonners and Bedford TM 8 and 14 tonne trucks plus assorted vehicles based on these chassis like the old Bedford TM UBRE POD’s and Foden recovery vehicles. The original contract was for 4,815 cargo trucks, 314 recovery vehicles and 69 Andover recovery trailers but following a decision not to upgrade the existing Leyland DAF 4 tonne vehicles an option for an additional 2,077 vehicles was exercised. As part of this revision, the number of recovery vehicles was reduced to 269.

Type Axles Name Qty
HX60 2 Cargo (Light) Medium Mobility GS 3394
HX60 2 Cargo (Light) Medium Mobility Cargo 958
HX60 2 Cargo (Light) Medium Mobility GS CALM 84
HX60 2 Cargo (Light) Medium Mobility Cargo CALM 209
HX60 2 Cargo (Light) Medium Mobility GS tail lift 28
HX58 3 Cargo (Medium) Medium Mobility GS 264
HX58 3 Cargo (Medium) Medium Mobility Cargo 63
HX58 3 Cargo (Medium) Medium Mobility GS CALM 3
HX58 3 Cargo (Medium) Medium Mobility Cargo CALM 46
HX58 3 Unit Support Tanker Medium Mobility 230
HX77 4 Cargo (Heavy) Medium Mobility GS 464
HX77 4 Cargo (Heavy) Medium Mobility Cargo 328
HX77 4 Cargo (Heavy) Medium Mobility GS CALM 12
HX77 4 Cargo (Heavy) Medium Mobility Cargo CALM 119
SX44 3 Cargo (Medium) Improved Medium Mobility GS 41
SX44 3 Cargo (Medium) Improved Medium Mobility Cargo 59
SX44 3 Cargo (Medium) Improved Medium Mobility Cargo CALM 5
SX44 3 Unit Support Tanker Improved Medium Mobility 81
SX45 4 Recovery Vehicle (Heavy) Improved Medium Mobility 288
Recovery Trailer AT DBT30 69
TOTAL Excluding Trailers 6,676

These quantities have been revised up following a decision to mount the FALCON communications on SV and additional EPLS conversions from the original HX77’s.

MAN Military Trucks (now Rheinmetall) produce two variants;

HX is the lower mobility variant, classed as Medium Mobility, with conventional leaf spring suspension and tipmatic gearbox. The 2 axle variant has a 326bhp engine and the 3 and 4 axle variants each have the same 440bhp engine as the SX.

  • Medium Mobility – HX60, 4×4
  • Medium Mobility – HX61, 6×6
  • Medium Mobility – HX58, 6×6
  • Medium Mobility – HX80, 6×6 tractor
  • Medium Mobility – HX81, 8×8 tractor
  • Medium Mobility – HX77, 8×8

SX has a stiffer chassis, full automatic gearbox, coil spring suspension and 440bhp diesel engine so has much greater mobility, classed as Medium Mobility

  • Improved Medium Mobility – SX44, 6×6
  • Improved Medium Mobility – SX45, 8×8

As can be seen from the table above, the Improved Medium Mobility was ordered in relatively small numbers, most being the specialist Recovery and Unit Support Tanker variants.

MAN SV HX60 - 01


MAN SV HX58 - 01

MAN HX77 - 03

MAN SV Unit Support Tanker (UST)
MAN SV Unit Support Tanker (UST)


SV Recovey Trailer (Plain Military)

Support Vehicle Recovery Trailer

There has been some movement on final delivery quantities since then and inevitably, the fleet size will fluctuate due to combat or non combat related damage. In the original contract a number of appliqué protection kits were purchased but these were called the Riotous Assembly Protection (RAP) kit so one can imagine the actual level of protection. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have of course influenced the programme; in 2008 Project Fortress was let to provide a protected cab, weapons mount, run-flat tires, BOWMAN twin fit, wire cutters, ECM and night driving aids for 324 vehicles.

As a follow on, 324 vehicles (including 211 FORTRESS vehicles) were upgraded to the more advanced Theatre Entry Standard. The weapons mounts were provided by ISTEC Services. All the SV load beds were supplied by Marshall.

MAN SV HX60 Project Fortress trials Vehicle
MAN SV HX60 Project Fortress trials Vehicle
ISTEC Weapons Mount for MAN SV
ISTEC Weapons Mount for MAN SV
Marshall loadbed for MAN SV Truck
Marshall loadbed for MAN SV Truck

For operations in Afghanistan, where artillery ammunition expenditure rates were relatively low and operations conducted from fixed locations the traditional role of the DROPS fleet was not required, supplying forward operating bases and general cargo movement was. With much greater use of ISO containers the MoD diverted about 90 HX77 SV’s from the core programme to be converted under an Urgent Operational Requirement called the Enhanced Palletized Load System or EPLS. Some of these have also been used for the REBS bridging system UOR and an additional 87 EPLS obtained.

EPLS can lift ISO containers without first placing them on a flatrack but in most other respects, EPLS is broadly similar to DROPS. The H Frame or Container Handling system uses ISO locks and can lift 8’0″, 8’6″ and 9’0″ containers with an optional kit for 4’0″ and 3’3″ half height containers. EPLS has been a great success in Afghanistan and will now be bought into the core fleet.

EPLS and 20ft ISO Container on DROPS Flatrack (Image Credit Plain Military)
EPLS and 20ft ISO Container on DROPS Flatrack (Image Credit Plain Military)


Rapidly Emplaced Bridging System (REBS) (Image Credit - Plain Military)
Rapidly Emplaced Bridging System (REBS) (Image Credit – Plain Military)

The final contract was for  7,216 vehicles  with additional purchases of 107 HX60 for the FALCON communications carrier, 87 HX77 EPLS (not the conversions) under a UOR contract for Operations in Afghanistan and five SX45 for the Land Environment Air Picture Provision (LEAPP). The MoD transferred four HX77 EPLS to New Zealand.

Leyland DAF 4 Tonne General Service

The original plan was to replace the Leyland DAF 4 tonne trucks with MAN SV but a number of specialised variants remain given the saga of the MAN SV’s towing some of the older trailers including FEPS and the Light Gun it looks like a number of the General Service vehicles will also remain, with minor modifications. A dedicated High Mobility Support Vehicle Trailer has been obtained from Universal Engineering.

DAF 4 Ton Truck
DAF 4 Ton Truck.
Leyland DAf 4 Tonne Air Portable Tactical Aircraft Refueller (Image Credit: Plain Military)
Leyland DAf 4 Tonne Air Portable Tactical Aircraft Refueller (Image Credit: Plain Military)
Leyland DAf 4 Tonne Air Portable Fuel Dispensing Vehicle (Image Credit: Plain Military)
Leyland DAf 4 Tonne Air Portable Fuel Dispensing Vehicle (Image Credit: Plain Military)


Iveco Trakker

The ALC C Vehicle PFI includes a number of Iveco Trakker vehicles;

6 Truck Mounted Volumetric Mixers fitted with Nurock Volumetric systems for precision on demand supply of various types of concrete and cements. This is especially suited for airfield damage repair where the high strength requirements call for precise mixing.

33 Truck Mounted Loaders were supplied, fitted with a Mackworth flatbed with twistlocks for securing 20ft ISO containers 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.

61 Medium Dump Trucks which have a slightly longer wheelbase (3.82m) than the other variants and are fitted with a Thompson tipping body, 2 are also be provided in a winterised/waterproof variant. Off road payload is 16 tonnes and on road, 10 tonnes.

71 Self Loading Dump Trucks 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 for 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.

In 2010, ALC contracted with Thompson and Bozeat Industrial Engineering to supply a tipping body for a protected 4 axle version of the Iveco Trakker to be called the Self Loading Dump Trucks (protected) or SLDT(P), with 24 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.

The final two Iveco Trakker variants are for well drilling, the Drill Rig and Flush Capping System

SITE EQUIPMENT - Truck Mounted Volumetric Mixer
SITE EQUIPMENT – Truck Mounted Volumetric Mixer
CRANE - Truck Mounted Loader 6T Terex Atlas
CRANE – Truck Mounted Loader 6T Terex Atlas
DUMP TRUCK - Dump Truck Med 6x6 Trakker AD380T 45W
DUMP TRUCK – Dump Truck Med 6×6 Trakker AD380T 45W
DUMP TRUCK - Dump Truck Self Loading Iveco Trakker
DUMP TRUCK – Dump Truck Self Loading Iveco Trakker
Self Loading Dump Truck Protected (SLDTP)
Self Loading Dump Truck Protected (SLDTP)
Dando Watertec 12.8 Truck Mounted Well Driller (TMWD)
Dando Watertec 12.8 Truck Mounted Well Driller (TMWD)

Alvis Unipower

Although not strictly a cargo vehicle the Alvis Unipower was bid as part of the HET competition but after losing to Oshkosh their new owner, BAE, no longer market the vehicle. The Army eventually took delivery of 190 Unipower 8×8 vehicles in three variants for use with the BR90 bridging system.

The C Vehicle PFI comes to the end of its term in 2020 and BR90 is currently undergoing a Capability Sustainment Assessment. The 140 or so Unipowers left (Tank Bridge Transporter, ABLE and BV) may possibly be withdrawn and the bridging components transferred to another vehicle. Malaysia is a BR90 user and uses a MAN base vehicle.

Alvis Unipower Tank Bridge Transporter
Alvis Unipower Tank Bridge Transporter (Image Credit: Tony @Plain Military)
BR90 Automotive Bridge Laying Equipment (ABLE) Bridging Vehicle
BR90 Automotive Bridge Laying Equipment (ABLE) Bridging Vehicle
BR90 Automotive Bridge Laying Equipment (ABLE)
BR90 Automotive Bridge Laying Equipment (ABLE)

BR90 - Malaysia 02


Mostly for use on main operating bases or training areas although the RAF green fleet refuellers are meant for tactical deployments. The older ones are a mix of Dennis, Bedford’s and Scammels but the newer types are MAN TGS’s

RAF MAN Fuel Tanker
RAF MAN Fuel Tanker
RAF Mercedes Snow Plough
RAF Mercedes Snow Plough

RAF Snow Clearance

RAF MAN Aircraft Refueller
RAF MAN Aircraft Refueller
Mobile Electronics Unit
Mobile Electronics Unit

Articulated Bulk

Articulated vehicles are used for bulk cargo, fluids and vehicle transport.

Close Support Tanker (CST)

The Oshkosh MTVR derived tractor unit has all wheel drive and rear wheel steering providing excellent mobility for such a large vehicle. Three trailers are in service,;

200 Close Support Tanker (CST) with 20,000 L (5280 gal) capacity

57 Close Support Tanker For Water (CSTW) with 18,000 L (4755 gal)  capacity

82 Tactical Aircraft Refueller (TAR) with 15,000 L (3960 gal) capacity

The tanker trailers are provided by Magyar in France and for the refuellers, the pumping and metering equipment by Alfons Haar in Germany.

Close Support Tanker (CST) (Image Credit - Plain Military)
Close Support Tanker (CST) (Image Credit – Plain Military)
Close Support Tanker
Close Support Tanker
Oshkosh Tactical Aircraft Refueller
Oshkosh Tactical Aircraft Refueller

Heavy Equipment Tractor (HET)

Like the Iveco Trakkers, the Oshkosh 1070F (Euro III compliant) Heavy Equipment Tractors (HET) are provided through a PFI, Fastrax, a KBR company. Starting in 2001 the 22.5 year £290m PFI provides 96 HET’s and trailers (89 King GTS 110/7 trailers and 3 Tru-Hitch recovery systems) with the drivers through FTX Logistics based in Bulford and Fallingbostel. The drivers operators are sponsored reserves.

The King Trailers are recognisable by the perforated plates on the side that flip down to support very wide vehicles like main battle tanks and the four thousand wheels!. In order to comply with relevant European legislation the width is limited to 2.9m to allow it to be unescorted and each axle is limited to 10 tonnes. The King trailers experienced mobility problems in Afghanistan due to the poor road conditions and in 2009 the MoD purchased 20 two axle trailers with a maximum payload of 45 tonnes from Broshuis in the Netherlands.

Challenger HET
Oshkosh Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET)

King GTS 100 Trailer
King GTS 100 Trailer
Broshuis Improved Mobility Trailer
Broshuis Improved Mobility Trailer

Light Equipment Tractor

The Seddon Atkinson Strato has been out of service in the Army Light Equipment Tractor role since 2012 and the Future Light Equipment Tractor programme cancelled but the interim solution has involved a handful of the MTVR tanker tractor units being used in the role with Broshuis trailers; the Interim Light Equipment Tractor. 60 three axle semi trailers were obtained in 2005 and a further 39 in 2006.

ILET (Plain Military)
ILET (Plain Military)
Broshuis I-LET Trailer
Broshuis I-LET Trailer

Also in service with the MoD and RAF are a number of other tractor/trailer combinations. For nuclear weapon transport and RAF movement.

Nuclear Weapons Prime Mover (Image Credit - Plain Military)
Nuclear Weapons Prime Mover (Image Credit – Plain Military)
Royal Air Force Seddon Atkinson Tractor Unit
Royal Air Force Seddon Atkinson Tractor Unit
RAF Volvo FH12 Tractor
RAF Volvo FH12 Tractor
RAF MAN TGA Truck2 MT Squadron
RAF MAN TGA Truck 2 MT Squadron

Replacement Programmes

Status and Issues

‘Ruthless Commonality’ is an enduring hobby horse at TD tower not because of reasons of neatness but simply because of cost.

It is obvious that the more individual types of equipment there are in service the proportional cost to support them will be greater. No organisation can afford this and the British forces are no different to any other organisation. Whether commonality should exist at system or sub system level is an interesting debate but I think we can all agree, some sort of commonality is a Good Thing™

In the list above there are Iveco, Cummins, Caterpillar, Steyr, MAN, Mercedes, MaxxForce, Detroit, Mercedes Benz and DAF engines. At this subsystem level there will be little or no commonality and a closer look at the power ratings reveals different manufacturers engines of comparable output sitting in the logistics and support vehicle space. In the 320 to 330 BHP range, the Husky, Mastiff/Wolfhound and MAN Support vehicles all use different engines, between 400 and 450 BHP there are Cummins, Detroit, Man and Iveco engines powering the Unipower, HET, CST, MAN SV and Trakker vehicles.

Now consider things like wheels and tires, lamp clusters, power steering components, transmission parts and switchgear; all things that break and wear down. For each of these there is a NATO Stock number, an entry into a parts ordering system, a technical description and detailed procedures for changing them and not forgetting a stock holding or call off contract with suppliers.

Each vehicle will also need a range of operating training courses at DST Leconfield or maintenance courses at REME training schools, those courses will have instructors and require training vehicles, those instructors will need salaries and pensions and the course administration will need another group of people. Expensive service personnel will also have to attend those courses.

Vehicles will have support contracts managed by personnel in DE&S Abbey Wood, more salaries and pensions.

All this matters because duplication and overlap creates inefficiency, inefficiency adds unnecessary cost and unnecessary cost means a reduction in combat capability, it really is that simple.

Put the same vehicles into a deployed operation and the problems are amplified, amplified for a couple of reasons.

In a modern operational risk environment to days of soft skinned vehicles are pretty much gone so each type will have a home and away specification. Look at what was required for Theatre Entry Specification for any of the logistics vehicles, ECM, BOWMAN, armour, weapons mounts, night vision capability, situational awareness additions and wire cutters for example. Instead of doing the design/certification work once and reaping the economy of scale benefits on longer production runs there were/are numerous and very expensive design programmes and boutique vehicle modifications to small fleets because of a simple lack of commonality.

Self Loading Dump Truck Protected (SLDTP)
Self Loading Dump Truck Protected (SLDTP)
Oshkosh Heavy Equipment Tractor (HET)
Oshkosh Heavy Equipment Tractor (HET)
BR90 Automotive Bridge Laying Equipment Afghanistan TES 01
BR90 Automotive Bridge Laying Equipment Afghanistan TES
Close Support Tanker
Close Support Tanker

Some of these vehicles might be managed under a PFI but on operations, it is the joint supply chain that must accommodate vehicle spares diversity, a MAN brake light, an Iveco Trakker brake light and, well, I think you get the picture!

The elimination or reduction of duplication at component, sub system and system level must therefore be a key aspect of future vehicle programmes.
This is of course, all common sense and the Army is just as aware of the need to reduce duplication in order to reduce cost as anyone else but after doing the hard yards in Iraq and Afghanistan the diverse vehicle fleet cannot be consolidated overnight, it is not economically feasible to do so and also, the Army has to be ready for operations. It does not get a post Afghanistan grace period in which it can relax and sort its vehicles out.

There are multiple overlapping Out of Service Dates (OSD) to factor in to future programmes and the two key PFI’s (HET and C vehicle) will also conclude in the next decade. First out will be the C Vehicle fleet in 2010 then Wolfhound and Mastiff, in 2024, by 2025 the articulated tractors from Oshkosh will be out of service, 2027 will see Husky gone and 2030, the end of Jackal/Coyote, RWMIK, Land Rover and Pinzgauer. By 2034 the MAN Support Vehicles will be with Withams and inexplicably, Panther will soldier on until 2037.

These OSD’s are sourced from a presentation given by the head of Operational Support Programmes earlier this year, it also stated that the OSD for Foxhound was 2024. I can only assume this is a mistake, maybe the Panther (Less Protection than a Crisp Packet) OSD is 2024 and Foxhound is 2037?

Regardless, most of these OSD’s are relatively far into the future.

The responsibility for operational support vehicle replacement resides in the Operational Support Programme which includes both Operational Support Vehicles Programme (OSVP) and Protected Mobility Platforms (PMP).

The diagram below gives a good overview of current and future fleets.

Current and Future Vehicles
Current and Future Vehicles

There are three major programmes in flight;

  • Multi Role Vehicle (Protected)
  • Future Non Articulated Bulk Capability provided by the Common Articulated Vehicle (CAV)
  • Future Common Articulated Bulk Capability, provided by the Non Articulated Vehicle (NAV)

All of these are intended to come into service on or around 2020, the inference being no changes to the fleet before then. Each of them also has a non too distinguished pedigree of failed predecessors, OUVS, F-LET and HLDC for example.

We might also speculate on the commercial model used for the programmes, although C Vehicle and HET PFI’s have worked pretty well I think the PFI concept is damaged goods and it would be a brave man to bet on continuance in the same format.

What is not shown on the diagram, sadly, is the C Vehicle fleet and Unipower BR90 fleet, which is either a simple omission or an opportunity lost to the lack of joined up thinking that got us in this position in the first place. It is also an Army only affair, the RAF’s MT fleet is not shown, although again, that might be a simple omission, hope so.

The Mastiff family is also undergoing a number of conversions and updates to align with Army 2020.

  • Mastiff Troop Carrying Variant (MAS TCV) to Mastiff Enhanced Communications Variant (MAS ECV) Conversion
  • Ridgback Troop Carrying Variant (RBK TCV) to Ridgback Command Variant (RBK CV) Conversion
  • Wolfhound Explosive Ordinance Disposal (WHD EOD) variant to Wolfhound Military Working Dog (WHD MWD) variant Conversion
  • Mastiff 1 to Mastiff 2 Conversion

Influences and Requirements

The requirements for the future programmes described above must be defined with reference to the contemporary operating environment, where and how the vehicles will operate, the range of enemy threats that must be mitigated and a range of other issues.

Although the Army in its current ‘return to contingency’ mode is seen driving non TES Challenger on Polish exercise areas this is an illusion. It is the smallest of remote possibilities that the British Army will ever deploy again into a combat environment at any kind of scale without the full ‘up armoured’ TES versions of its vehicle fleet. The contemporary operating environment also includes the contemporary risk and litigation environment, where the MoD has a duty of care to its personnel. Put the two and two together.

Pick any combination of asymmetric warfare, three block war, the nine domain challenges or ambiguous combat operations and the logistic vehicle answer is always the same, soft skinned vehicles are yesterdays news. It is a brave (or foolish) man that predicts the future conflicts the British Armed forces will be involved with but I think it would be reasonable to say the IED, RPG and AK will figure largely.  In looking at the MRV(P) requirements I think there might be some element of wishing for the future to be somewhat different to what it is likely to be.

The demand for precision indirect fire and its resulting systems could also result in a complete reversal of one of the underlying driver for logistics vehicles, artillery. In the post on pallets I described how DROPS (concept and quantity) was born from a requirement to keep the AS90 self propelled guns  of the Royal Artillery fed with a constant stream of ammunition in order to blunt the advancing Warsaw Pact forces in Germany. Only 32 AS90’s were deployed to Iraq in 2003 and none to Afghanistan. SDSR 2010 signalled a reduction of the AS90 fleet to 89. It should be obvious that with GMLRS and an overall reduction in force size, the demand for a DROPS fleet to support the Royal Artillery is significantly smaller. Am not ignoring or downplaying the artillery demand on the supply chain but placing it in context.

Many of the Army’s smaller logistic vehicles are deliberately constrained by C130 carriage. There is not much point having an air assault brigade if it not air mobile of course, whether this means Chinook sling loading, parachute delivery or simply flying in the back of an aircraft is another debate but what is certain is the C130 is going out of service. A few may hang on and money is currently being spent on the Block 7 software/hardware update with a lead in to 8.1 in 2019 but the venerable Hercules is on borrowed time. Which for many vehicles is a good thing because the larger A400M can now accommodate a C130 transportable vehicle with TES type modifications, unlike the C130, which in many cases cannot. The A400M is going to be the backbone of the UK tactical air transport fleet, we should be thinking about this for vehicle design and stop worrying about C130 carriage.

For 3 Commando Brigade the issue is less about air transportability and more about water and winterising, compatibility with ships and fitting on landing craft although in the current Ship to Objective Manoeuvre and Operational Mobility from the Sea context we might also need to consider what the wheezy Merlin HC4’s will be able to carry.

Personally, I think if 3 CDO and 16 AAB had any shred of self preservation instinct they would be talking to each other about merging and creating a single oversize and heavier brigade structure that still retained rapidity of response and high mobility courtesy of Messer’s Chinook, A400M and LCVP Mk10, but like whether air mobility means parachutes or helicopters, that argument is for another post!

SV Scout and its family will present the Army with another logistic challenge. DROPS could carry, and has carried on many operations, a pair of CVR(T). The articulated light and heavy equipment transporter fleet could comfortably carry two, without breaking the merest hint of a sweat. They could also be stuffed into containers and easily carried on the majority of civilian trucks. CVR(T)’s replacement, the SV Scout will not be able to be carried on any of the DROPS type vehicles, it is simply too heavy. Instead, it will require the same class of vehicle currently used for Challenger, Warrior and some of the heavy plant; the Oshkosh Heavy Equipment Transporter. Apart from these being provided by a soon to terminate PFI, there are only a small number of these exotic beasts, less than a hundred total in the fleet. Without augmentation moving an armoured division from the Port of Disembarkation (POD) to its area of operations is going to be a rather ponderous affair.

Although 20ft ISO containers were quite common in Afghanistan a manoeuvre focused operation may not use containers to the same extent with a reversion to a ‘pallet economy’ more likely.

For the smaller vehicles the payload will likely be no more than a pallet or two but there are issues of protection and mobility to consider also. Afghanistan and Iraq focussed one the need for protection as vehicles, by virtue of the operating environment, could not utilise their mobility to avoid repetitive use of established roads and crossing points. In a faster flowing operation with greater potential freedom of movement the dial would need to be swung back in favour of mobility and away from protection.

Organisational change with the resultant transition to ‘Contingency Operations’, the prevailing strategic landscape and wider MoD ‘transformation’, especially within DE&S will also influence equipment decisions.

The Army has also, as a matter of coincidence, ended up with an oversize MAN SV fleet, it being originally scaled for an Army size much greater than exists now, or is likely to exist in the future, could some of these be used for a replacement for the tanker fleet, using ISO Tank Containers instead, reducing the need for specialist vehicles?

Specialist vehicles like tankers deliver that 100% of capability but if a tanker truck has a major problem with its brakes it will be classed as Vehicle off Road or VOR. There are much fewer tankers available in the fleet so it will have a disproportionate impact on operations. If the ‘tanker’ part of the overall package were demountable, using a tank container for example, it could be transferred to another vehicle with little effort and the valuable capability it imparts, made available in short order.

Demountable payloads, and this applies across many domains, provide flexibility and resilience.

Finally, there is the elephant in the room, funding.

The Army is seen by many as the SDSR 2015 cash cow that can be remorselessly beaten like a Mexican piñata until the money for F35, Carrier Strike,  Typhoon, Type 26, complex weapons and Vanguard replacement comes tumbling out. We keep hearing how Afghanistan was the last hurrah for the British Army and the future is more Libya style operations characterised by remote control meddling from sea and air with SF only ground forces. The mood music is crystal clear, the Army is last in line for investment unless a) it cuts numbers again or b), President Putin starts driving his tanks into Poland.

So not only does the Army face significant technical, organisational and doctrinal change it also has to face the reality of being on the budgetary down slope for the next several years. Does it trade away personnel numbers for better equipment or does it do the opposite and rely on UOR funding to plug obvious gaps during the next major operation?

Both options have inherent risk.

Operational Support Programmes

The Army is of course fully aware of the issues with having a post Afghanistan vehicle mix that is both unnecessarily diverse and not optimised for its view of the contemporary environment. It has a number of vehicle programmes in various early stages that will address the issues at hand.

The existing protected mobility fleet is being retained in core to provide space for these programmes to be realised; Multi Role Vehicle (Protected), Utility Vehicle (no longer called FRES), Common Articulated Vehicle and Non Articulated Vehicle. A number of smaller programmes also exist such as a protected ambulance and light role recovery vehicle but I have not included them here, or UV.

This request was published in December 2013;

The Operational Support Programme (OSP) is to deliver four new vehicle projects on behalf of Capability Director Combat Service Support (CD CSS) and Capability Director Medical (CD Med):

Multi Role Vehicle – Protected (MRV-P) is a Cat A project intended to meet the requirement for a protected deployable platform employed by all Force Elements, at all scales of effort, in a wide range of environments, and on all parts of the battlefield except for the direct fire zone. The MRV-P should bring commonality to the fleet and reduce the logistic footprint for utility vehicles by 2020.

Non-Articulated Vehicle – Protected (NAV-P) is a Cat B project to meet the requirement for a protectable Palletised Load System (PLS). This would replace the ageing and unprotected DROPS fleet, enabling logistic support by a protected fleet to concurrent operations from 2020.

Light Weight (Air Portable) Recover (LW(AP)RC) is a Cat D project to meet the requirement for a recovery capability that is air portable and that can wade ashore with Commando Forces to provide intimate support to Very High Readiness (VHR) forces by 2016

Future Protected Battle Field Ambulance (FPBFA) is a Cat C project to meet the requirement for a Protected Mobility (PM) battlefield multi role ambulance. This will enable in-theatre protected movement of casualties, whilst delivering expected clinical care by 2020.

The OSP Programme Management Office (OSP PgMO) in the DE&S at Abbey Wood is conducting a Market Survey to inform Concept Phase.

These are the Army programmes, clearly commonality is front and centre, at least for the vehicles in scope. It would make sense if BR90 and C Vehicles formed part of the requirement and maybe we can be hopeful about the other services.

I do get that sinking feeling though, are we missing an opportunity to be more ambitious?

Multi Role Vehicle (Protected)

The MRV(P) is a Category A programme that is intended to replace a number of vehicles and is the latest incarnation of the 2003 Operational Utility Vehicle System (OUVS) programme that was cancelled a few years ago.

‘Salvador’ wrote a very good article on OUVS in 2009, click here to read.

One MRV(P) variant will be for the carriage of unit stores, which may be palletised or contained within a Quadcon for example. MRV(P) will have a palletised load system, brilliant.

In April this year the MoD released this request

Specialist and Logistic Project Team (SLV PT) in conjunction with a yet to be selected vehicle trials and demonstration authority will be running a multi role vehicle – protected (MRV-P) pre-concept study; It is planned to hold the study the week after the defence vehicle demonstration which is being held on 20th & 21.6.2012. Designed to determine the quantity of platforms that conform to the high level requirement and fall within the desirable Unit Price Cost (UPC) of 250 000 GBP, the study will look at a number of vehicles in the 5 to 15 tonne range that are modular to may be considered as being able to form the base vehicle for and other programmes such as future protected battlefield multi-role ambulance.


The MRV (P) programme is currently at the pre-concept phase and has evolved from the operational utility vehicle system (OUVS), with significant changes in the total numbers and protection level. The vision is for one variant to fulfil all roles, using plug-and-play communications and flexible seating layouts. MRV(P) is not seen as appropriate for providing utility vehicle support to rapidly deployable forces (i.e. first-in, airborne or amphibious), where a lighter, more agile, capability is required. There are currently no KURs or URD for MRV (P), so a clear high-level requirement is needed.

The roles expected of the capability include:

Command and communications post vehicle,

Command and liaison vehicle,

General purpose vehicle – cargo,

General purpose vehicle – pax,

Light gun towing vehicle.


The study within this pre-concept phase is to assist in de-risking the MRV (P) Concept Phase by indicating the general ability of the market to meet endorsed MRV-(P) 3OAs. The study is to be completed by an independent vehicle trials and demonstration authority. Prior to the authority being selected all interested manufacturers should express their interest to Lt Col Licence SLV PT. Once the trials and vehicle demonstration authority is selected, the authority will engage directly with OEMs in order to secure platforms for trial. It must be noted that this study is not for down-selection purposes, but a practical method to conduct a market survey on a wide selection of available candidate Military/Commercial Off the Shelf (MOTS/COTS) vehicle platforms.


Base platform. The base platform must fall within the 250 000 GBP UPC, it must be of a modular design capable of fulfilling the requirement for a ‘family’ of platforms and although there must be capacity for growth, must contain the following minimum requirement:

Number of crew ? 6 (Pax) Dvr, Comd, Gnr + 3 (pax carrying platform)

Payload capacity > 2 500kg (Cargo) + Crew of 3 To allow for the appropriate crew, pax, Bowman, ECM, cargo preponderance requirements for towing and up to 20 % growth.

Unladen mass <14 000kg <10 000kg if transport by C130.

Turning circle < 18m Land Rover = 14m

Width < 2.5m Medium Mobility

Power to weight ratio > 20 hp/t at the wheels Medium Mobility

Ground pressure < 450Kpa Medium mobility

Ground clearance > 240mm Medium Mobility

Ballistic threshold protection (Stanag 4569) ? level 2 Objective level 3

Blast threshold protection (Stanag 4569) ? level 2a/2b Objective level 3a/3b

Growth Potential

The platform design must incorporate adaptable vehicle architecture to allow the following capabilities to be integrated into the platform:

Open architecture communication information system,

Generic vehicle architecture level 2,

Fitted for electronic counter measures,

Fitted for bowman,

Fitting of protect weapon system.

Estimated cost excluding VAT: 250 000 GBP

This has a number of interesting points, the low cost mainly.

The diagram below explains the variants, although omitting the gun tractor.

MRV(P) Variants
MRV(P) Variants

Looking at quantities and timelines, two diagrams lifted from a May 2014 presentation given by the Head of Operational Support Programmes.

MRV(P) Indicative Strategy
MRV(P) Indicative Strategy
MRV(P) Numbers
MRV(P) Numbers
MRV-P timeline
MRV-P timeline

A few thoughts…

Am I the only one that thinks a Panther (less protection than a crisp packet) OSD of 2037 whilst the shiny new £800k Foxhound will be at Withams in 2024 looks odd, perhaps it is an RAF thing, or a mistake, or both.

MRV(P) will be in service for quite a few years before the other types fall away but it should be noted that the initial requirement is for 800 only with the dangling carrot of another 4,000, maybe, perhaps.

A single order of 4,800 vehicles might attract a unit price of £250k but less sure about one for 800, which as per every other single defence programme will be reduced. Manufacturers are not going to be giving volume discounts where the volume commitment is ‘maybe’

MRV(P) is not intended to replace the Land Rover (except RWMIK) and Pinzgauer vehicles that are used by light role forces but will replace Jackal and Coyote, you guessed it, used by light role forces.

It is good to see Generic Vehicle Architecture still in the mix for future vehicles.

I would imagine Navistar and Iveco will be making a case for a run on purchase of the MXT (Husky) and LMV (Panther) respectively. Supacat are said to be preparing their SPV400 and many others, this kind of vehicle sits inside a saturated market space, there are numerous off the shelf solutions available.

The General Dynamics (Mowag) Eagle, Thales Hawkei, the larger Thales Bushmaster and Renault Sherpa also look like interesting contenders. All have the crew cab, personnel carrier and cargo flatbed variants available.

Sherpa Light APC

Renault Sherpa Light APC
Renault Sherpa Light APC

Sherpa Light Station Wagon

Renault Sherpa Station Wagon
Renault Sherpa Station Wagon

Sherpa Light Carrier

Sherpa Light Carrier
Sherpa Light Carrier

I quite like Thales Australia products, especially the larger Bushmaster which could replace Mastiff, this is of course unlikely because that would step on the toes of UV. Bushmaster is available in all the variants in the MRV-P requirement, in addition to Ambulance, ISTAR, EOD and Pioneer and , it is also not from the pre IED generation like Eagle and Sherpa.

Thales Bushmaster
Thales Bushmaster
Thales Bushmater IED Strike
Thales Bushmater IED Strike
Thales Bushmaster ISTAR
Thales Bushmaster ISTAR
Thales Bushmaster Pickup
Thales Bushmaster Pickup
Thales Hawkei
Thales Hawkei
Thales Hawkei Pickup
Thales Hawkei Pickup

Foxhound out of service date not withstanding the General Dynamics Ocelot/Foxhound platform must surely be in the running, especially in the less expensive (non composite) version.

Ocelot S Logistics
Ocelot S Logistics
Ocelot S - Stretch
Ocelot S – Stretch
Ocelot S - Ambulance
Ocelot S – Ambulance

The KMW Dingo family should also be a contender, this is a very well developed vehicle with many 4×4 and 6×6 variants, all right off that shelf; Patrol, NBC Recce, ISTAR, Ambulance, Recovery, EOD, Repair, Command Post, PsyOps

Dingo Patrol
Dingo Patrol
Dingo Recovery
Dingo Recovery

Dingo Pickup

Dingo 2 Recce
Dingo 2 NBC Recce

If commonality with the Jackal/Foxhound platform is not required then it would be good to see the smaller UK manufacturers get a look in like Penman/Creation, Universal Engineering, Oviks, Morgan Composites or TMV.

Creation Zephyr
Creation Zephyr
Oviks Crossway 6x6
Oviks Crossway 6×6
TMV 6x6
TMV 6×6

Cast your mind back to OUVS and there was a Small and Large, MRV-P does seem to include a stretched variant although not for stores carriage but personnel and I think it would provide greater clarity if two sizes were specified. Like OUVS, MRV-P has great potential to standardise across a very diverse fleet, certainly in more than the initial 4 or 5 variants would suggest.

Perhaps the Army is reticent to create a programme with as much ambition as OUVS and is taking a more conservative path to make sure it gets into service.

I am also doubtful about replacing the highly mobile Jackal/Coyote with a lower mobility vehicle, the Army is trading down on mobility and protection in order to get MRV(P) at a relatively low cost, I fear some of the hard won recent lessons are being discounted because MRV(P) is fashioned around how the Army now sees itself.

Non Articulated Vehicle (Protected)

The Heavy Load Distribution Capability (HLDC) has changed into the Non Articulated Vehicle (Protected) seems to be a straight replacement for the existing DROPS fleet which is now more or less out of service. What isn’t clear is whether this will be Medium Mobility (Leyland) or Improved Medium Mobility (Foden)

The slit chart from the same presentation mentioned above shows a number of options including converting an additional batch of 15 tonne SV to EPLS.

Non Articulated Vehicle (NAV)
Non Articulated Vehicle (NAV)

A requirement of 1,349 vehicles does seem rather high given the likely operational context, it was reported earlier in the year that an additional purchase of 350 EPLS vehicles combined with the existing MAN SV UOR EPLS fleet and a life extension for the DROPS fleet would get to this number but the DROPS fleet was withdrawn last month, the RLC HQ confirming;

The DROPS vehicle has been the workhorse of the Army for 25 years. At the end of this month we say farewell to the last of our DROPS……whilst eagerly waiting for them to be replaced by the latest 15T MAN Support Vehicle. Sad to see a great truck go, but always better to see a greater one arrive

This would seem to point to ‘new vehicles’ from MAN, rather than simply using the existing 170 odd EPLS. It would be good if those new vehicles were from the SX range, the improved medium mobility version equivalent to the FODEN DROPS but it appears that they will be lower mobility HX77 drawn from the existing fleet. The EPLS fleet will therefore appear to number approximately 350, all of them taken from the core HX77 fleet and equivalent in mobility terms to the Leyland DROPS, not the Foden DROPS. I have also seen a number of comments regarding lower ‘sturdiness’ and slower loading speeds compared to the much loved Foden. It has also been reported that the programme will include 130 trailers . Much of this is third hand reporting so to be honest, I am not confident that this is the current position.

An SX would also be the obvious choice to replace the Unipower vehicles used for the Royal Engineers BR90 bridging system. A shame, as the Unipower remains an excellent vehicle but they must be getting more difficult to support by now and this isn’t going to improve. The Malaysians use a MAN base vehicle for their BR90 equipment so it does not seem an insurmountable challenge.

Another issue that should really be considered as part of the NAV programme, but doesn’t seem to be, is what happens  when the C Vehicle PFI concludes in 2020. This includes a number of Iveco Trakker AD380T45W vehicles used in the Truck Mounter Loader, Volumetric Mixer, Tipper, Self Loading Dump Truck, Well Drilling and Flush Capping roles.

Will the PFI be extended, an alternative commercial arrangement defined or the entire capability bought back in house. Who knows what option will be taken but if we are thinking about commonality and reduction of types it must make sense to migrate the equipment onto MAN SV chassis.

Iveco Trakker Protected EPLS
Iveco Trakker Protected EPLS

The MoD only ‘own’ the Self Loading Dump Trucks (Protected), enlarging the Iveco fleet does not make a great deal of commonality sense, despite Iveco pushing their case.

Common Articulated Vehicle (CAV)

Is it possible to bring into service an articulated vehicle that is capable pulling both the gooseneck King trailer and the more conventional Broshuis/Tanker types, the same vehicle that can be used for peacetime and overseas operations and used in both the light, heavy and tanker roles

No news on quantities because I think this is relatively early in the planning stages but the decision might come down to a question of sticking with Oshkosh or not. For non operational peacetime tasking I could see a joint Army/RAF function emerging with a mix of White Fleet on unmodified civilian tractor units, civilian contractors and a small number of military owned units to ensure availability. It would be good to see these using the same vehicle.

For operational use, we might replace the water and fuel trailers with container based units such as the WEW Fuel Dispensing racks and similar. I am going to explore this option in the next post but it would not be a simple swap. Replacing the Oshkosh Het and MTVR tractor units with a single MAN unit might also be possible.

The MAN HX81 is a relatively new addition to the HS/SX family now in service with the Bundeswehr, the second video shows the Goldhofer MPA trailer. The Bundeswehr has three Doll trailers in service, 30 tonnes, 50 tonnes and 70 tonnes.

MAN HX81 6

MAN HX81 7

MAN Hx81 4

MAN Hx81 3

MAN HX81 2

MAN HX81 1

The engine is more powerful than the existing SV fleet but it would have a great deal of commonality.

Given the size of the MAN SV fleet it does seem to be somewhat of a no brainer to at least consider the HX81 as a replacement for the HET and CST, think of the logistics savings.

And that is why I shall leave this post, a question about logistics commonality.

In the next part of the series, a few more thoughts on trucks and trailers.

The rest of the series…

Part 1 – Introduction and General Principles

Part 2 – Pallets

Part 3 – Containers and Flatracks

Part 4 – Container and Flatrack Handling

Part 5 – Boxes

Part 6 – Air Transport Pallets and Containers

Part 7 – Air Despatch

Part 8 – Issues and Solutions for Pallets, Containers and Boxes

Part 9 – Trucks and Trailers

Part 10 – More Thoughts  on Trucks and Trailers

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