Active Suspension for Armoured Vehicles

BAE have a news story doing the rounds today (H/T Sol) about incorporating their active damping suspension system into the CV90 armoured infantry fighting vehicle and how this is a first for any armoured vehicle.

The reporting focusses on the benefits of F1 motorsport inspired active suspension in keeping the platform stable during high speed rough terrain travel and how this will translate into improved situational awareness and reduced fatigue for the crew whilst reducing maintenance costs. The top speed is said to increase by 35% vehicle pitch reduced by 40%.

All good stuff as they say, but is it really a first?

I suppose we should think about the many different forms of active suspension but the general term is taken to mean prediction of terrain and control of suspension components to improve ride based on this prediction.

In the early 1970’s the Military Vehicle Engineering Establishment (MVEE) started research work into active suspension systems at about the same time it was working on the hydrogas suspension system for the Challenger Main Battle Tank and built the Suspension Research Vehicle (SRV) based on a CVR(T). Initial work made use of Citroen gas springs and an early electronic controller. Lucas supported the project with a different active controller but the overall system was too complex to be adopted.

It is perhaps fair to say the materials, electronic and computing systems available limited actual performance.

In 1980, MVEE looked again, this time with Lotus, also using a CVR(T). The trials Scorpion made use of a digital controller which provided much improved reliability and performance than the MVEE and Lucas units trialled a decade or so earlier. Other projects in conjunction with Horstman developed a greater understanding of utilising hydrogas suspension in smaller armoured vehicles resulting an an unusual vehicle called the Sprung Idler Test vehicle (SITV) that was a CVR(T) Striker in a reverse configuration with rear mounted engine and drive sprocket. The next phase of these two projects was to develop an active terrain prediction system linked to the suspension.

Sadly, like much of the promising research work at this time, taken no further.

TRACER was a joint USA/UK project for a scout/reconnaissance vehicle that would have replaced Bradley M3’s, M1114 HMWWV’s and CVR(T)’s in service with the respective nations. Active suspension was proposed for both the LANCER and SIKA competing consortia but as we know, the project was cancelled in favour of FRES for the UK and FCS  for the USA.

LANCER TRACER with sensor mast
LANCER TRACER with sensor mast

The LANCER TRACER vehicle made a brief appearance in the UK in 2005 to demonstrate the joint Horstman/L3 Electronically Controlled Active Suspension System (ECASS) that provided significant improvement in rollover protection and offroad capability. ECASS was a significant development that smoothed bumps and controlled roll at speed. Suspension actuators acted as both motors and generators compensating by adding or removing energy. Energy storage was handled by a combined battery/capacitor unit that also had the beneficial side effect of reducing the heat build up normally associated with conventional shock absorbers and springs.

Fiendishly cunning stuff

[tabs] [tab title = “ECASS Picture 1”]

Electronically Controlled Active Suspension System (ECASS)

[/tab] [tab title = “ECASS Picture 2”]

Electronically Controlled Active Suspension System (ECASS)

[/tab] [/tabs]

Reportedly, ECASS went like a greased weasel, but the technology was not adopted in any UK or US production armoured vehicle although the US Marine Corps did test it with a HMMWV as the video below (I think) shows

A 2009 Frontline Defense article covered the USMC trials, click here to read.

The Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) Tgb30 tactical vehicle programme also showed some interest in ECASS.

Anyone speak Swedish?

It was probably technology maturity and an aversion to risk that saw the system fail to achieve production status but Horstman persisted and in 2013 purchased the suspension and vetronics assets and intellectual property of L3 in Canada.

Horstman Systems Inc. a wholly owned subsidiary of HW Machinery Limited, a UK Corporation is pleased to announce it has purchased the assets and intellectual property of the Suspension and Vetronics product line from L-3 Communications Electronic Systems Inc. in Toronto, Ontario Canada. The acquisition includes the Intellectual Property together with the engineering and design team for the Suspension and Vetronics Product line. HW Machinery, is the owner of Horstman Inc (US) and Horstman Defence Systems Limited ( UK) which is a world leader in military and specialty vehicle suspension systems.

With the confirmation of the Canadian Controlled Goods registration; the newly formed company, Horstman Systems Inc. located in Toronto will become the Center of Excellence for the acquired suspension product line which includes Scalable Suspension, Electronically Controlled Active Suspension (ECASS) and other technologies. This business will be integrated into Horstman’s expanding organization which is a global leader in advanced suspension and other automotive solutions for military and specialty vehicles.

Hostman is another one of those UK defence manufacturers that no one has ever heard of but make absolutely world class products in widespread use.

BAE offered a semi active suspension system as part of their FRES SV bid but they lost to General Dynamics with their ASCOD development for the subsequent SV Scout requirement.

The video below was uploaded to YouTube in 2010

And this one seems to be floating around with the story

Call me a cynic, but they look awfully similar.

No news on whether any of the existing CV90 users will upgrade either.

It is interesting that BAE mention the F1 provenance of their new CV90 system, I wonder if it is connected to the Horstman/L3 system or something completely new?

Click here to read about the fully active Horstman system.

The links between motorsport and armoured vehicle manufacturers is not new, as we know from the MVEE Lotus work in the eighties, but Lord Drayson when he was in charge at DE&S created a programme of collaboration that resulted in a number of important upgrades for existing vehicles, the Warrior carbon fibre disc brakes fitted as part of the TES(H) upgrades for example.

It is a complex subject but I think this also shows that sometimes, an idea comes before its time, but eventually gets there one way or the other.

Am also left wondering if with the size of the European CV90 user base whether future upgrades to this platform will be comparatively cheaper than the UK specific General Dynamics SV Scout fleet?

To the question of ‘is it the first vehicle to be fitted with active suspension’

I guess I would reply with;

What do you mean by active?

:)

 

 

 

 

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S O
S O
April 28, 2015 2:31 pm

Jane’s Armour and Artillery Upgrades 2002/2003 tells about a Lotus Engineering active suspension system:
Early 1993 the company disclosed it had a contract to equip a M1026 HMMWV with its system (through GDLS). Lots of tests at TACOM in 1993.

Asserted advantages
+ faster and safer manoeuvring
+ more stable platform
+ increases obstacle crossing
+ balances vehicle in load configurations
+ reduces tyre and brake wear
+ increases traction

Lotus Engineering had by 2002 built more than 50 active suspension prototype vehicles, including Formula One cars.
—————-
Rolf Hilmes wriote in his book “Kampfpanzer” about the German R&D:
2005 a DINGO 2 was equipped with ana ctive suspension system or elements thereof and tested in 2006. A Wiesel 2 was modified and tested in 2006 as well.

Advantages according to Hilmes:
+ minimal fluctuation of wheel forces and thus increased safety
+ reduced accelerations for upper part of vehicle (reduced wear)
+ avoiding resonance effects
+ can be used to adjust ground clearance at slow speed
+ less stress for the crew
+ less stress for transported wounded personnel
+ less roll over risks
+ better stabilization of the hull, thus more accurate shooting on the move
+ possibly helps with managing recoil

disadvatages:
– complexity, cost
– up to 100 kW peak power requirement for single actuators
– difficulties with short available reaction times
– flammable hydraulic fluids in most ASS

paul g
April 28, 2015 5:49 pm

Doesn’t the K2 black panther (and therefore the Turkish atlay) have full active suspension, the videos show the tank rising, falling and leaning left and right to demonstrate it.

S O
S O
April 28, 2015 6:20 pm

A hydropneumatic suspension isn’t necessarily active. Active suspension means the force that pushes the wheel down varies according to changes in the level of the terrain.

Chris
Chris
April 28, 2015 6:22 pm

I must admit I veer away from the reactive suspension systems. If you have a flash car or a luxury coach and its all-active suspension fails, you wait at the kerbside until the repair wagon comes. An annoyance. If your combat vehicle is in the middle of a heated exchange and the all-active suspension fails, your mates will mourn your passing. These systems are just too complex, with too many sensors, too many ECUs, too many connectors. And no back-up.

There are what might be termed semi-active systems, such as that fitted to Supacat HMT, Jackal etc, in which before setting off the suspension adjusts the pressure in the airbag units, thereafter the valves are shut off and the system is essentially passive. Oh and the airbags are quite well shrouded.

Then their are variable rate dampers, some as in older Citroen models having a solenoid enabled oil bypass route that made the dampers stiffer or looser but as an either/or switch, others using fancy fluid that has variable viscosity when influenced by external control fields. These can be benign when systems fail, so not an absolute no-no.

But at the most basic, there are simple old fashioned metal springs. I like these. They don’t rely on flaky electronics or sensors. They don’t care if the electrics are working. They can break, but would tend to do so one at a time not all together as with the full active system. Personally I think a well designed spring/damper set-up should work adequately in fighting vehicles.

Clearly some like BAE find a soft/stiff active damper system an advantage; maybe possibly. But an active pump-up pump-down suspension? Not for me. I had a Xantia a long time ago and one morning it popped a hydraulic line and both failed to get me to work and turned the tarmac drive into black porridge. It was not old, it had been well maintained, but still the total failure. That’s not what an AFV needs.

In my opinion.

as
as
April 28, 2015 7:13 pm

Challenger 2 suspension is a gas based (no oil) Hydropneumatic suspension.
http://www.horstman.co.uk/products/hydrogas_suspension/index.html
I have never heard of any reliability issues.

Chris
Chris
April 28, 2015 7:31 pm

as – I believe this is a sealed high pressure nitrogen bottle pushing against a piston, therefore not active. Indeed if you look at the size of the gas vessel and consider each roadwheel carries about 6t, there is an awful lot of pressure within. The gas bottle then acts much as a steel spring would do; no external connections, no ECU interfering with operation. Just the way it should be.

monkey
monkey
April 28, 2015 7:36 pm


On like / dislike active suspension should we be secretly pleased the new T-14 , T-15 have active suspension? The Russians in the past have generally introduced tech that they feel is cost effective and reliable , have they dropped a b*ll*ck or after gestation period as long as FRES have they go it right . Lets hope not ;-)
I am with you on keeping things as simple as possible especially in harsh environments and liable to be seriously over taxed by some moron abusing the machinery. I am given to understand that existing , well proven systems even in training exercises are liable to regular stoppages let alone combat conditions and having a tank that could give you a wonderfully smooth ride while it lights up a Leo2 is more likely to be sat stuck in a field waiting for recovery or more likely its crew running for cover as said Leo2 gets a bead on it.

as
as
April 28, 2015 7:57 pm

The Russians used a air based system on there BMD-3 & 4 airborne vehicles. BMD-1&2 using a hybrid system just to jack a conventional system up and down. BMD-3 & 4 is not active but the driver can adjust the ride height depending on how and where the vehicle is being driven,

Slightly Agricultural
Slightly Agricultural
April 28, 2015 9:02 pm

“Am also left wondering if with the size of the European CV90 user base whether future upgrades to this platform will be comparatively cheaper than the UK specific General Dynamics SV Scout fleet?”

Be thinking this myself for a while. I reckon we missed a trick when we decided not to join the Scandanavian CV90 party. The user group is certainly a bunch we got on with better and more frequently than Spain and Austria!

I understand the reasoning behind not giving BAE a total monopoly, but shared platforms and costs looks to be the way forward. Could be argued that Leopard 2 is in a much healthier place than Chally 2 as a case in point…

Peter Ek
Peter Ek
April 28, 2015 9:45 pm

I speak Swedish. Any particular bit you want translated?

Observer
Observer
April 29, 2015 11:37 am

Ug, Solomon.

If active suspension fails, it might not be that bad. All it might mean is that you get a bumpier ride. I do agree with the KISS principle though, enough things break out in the field as it is.

Donald of Tokyo
Donald of Tokyo
April 29, 2015 12:11 pm

Dear ALL

Although this is NOT active suspension (if you define it as “actively compensating the road bumps”), in Japan there is a rumor that type-10 tanks and the MCVs have some semi-active feed back in there suspensions to reduce the recoil of the shots.

Type-10 tank shooting 120 mm round. I suspect this may not be APFSDS shoot but HEAT-MP. Anyway the recoil looks very much diminished. The tank is 44t in weight, very compact.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aUSe86tZPI

Mobile Combat Vehicle (A super-Chentauro of Japan), not yet accepted into service. Movies from trial vehicles. See at 1:44 shooting 105 mm round (the other part is boring). It DOES look very small recoil.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
May 1, 2015 7:21 am

Donald’s second link comes up automatically once the first has stopped playing.

It should definitely be repeated to the “Big guns on medium-weights”

Donald, do your sources tell what the full-config weight will be?

Donald of Tokyo
Donald of Tokyo
May 2, 2015 12:28 am

Dear ArmChairCivvy

Sorry for any inconvenience ….

The full config weight of the MCV is reported to be 26t. Since this is “trial vehicle”, there is no official number (In case of Type-10 tank, already commissioned equipment, 44t is the official number). But, official requirement is to be able to “be flown”. Every source says it means it is loadable to the new C-2 transport, with maximum load of 30t.

cheers

Secundius
Secundius
May 6, 2015 4:31 am

For the CV90, I think the L70B 40x364mmR Bofor’s gun would have been a better option. As for the MVC of the Japanese JSDF-Army. The South African Rooikat turret with the Oto Melara 76.2x636mmR/52/62-caliber Naval Artillery Gun, Short would have been a better choice. That way it can fire the Naval Oto Melara Ammunition and the Volcano bleed-base Naval Round as well. A Hyper-Velocity Naval Gun will win out over the L70 105x607mmR/617mmR/52-caliber gun tube anyday. In both Stopping Power and Gun Range…

mr.fred
mr.fred
May 6, 2015 6:21 am

Secundius,
In what way is 1100m/s from a “Hyper-velocity Naval Gun” better than 1400m/s from a 105mm?

Secundius
Secundius
May 11, 2015 3:52 am
Reply to  mr.fred

The L7/L7A1/L7A3/M68/M68A1E4/KM68A1/Type74/Type79/Type81/Type83 FM K.3 Modelo IL/GT-7, 4.133-inch (105x607mmR/617mmR) Gun Tube is a Flat Trajectory Gun. Effective Range ~1,000-meters with a Maximum Range ~2,000-meters. Fires. HESH @ 737m/s., HE & HEAT @ 1,174m/s. and Practice, Canister, APFSDS, APERS-T & APDS @ 1,475m/s.

The Oto Melara, 3-inch (76.2x636mmR) Artillery Gun Tube/Howitzer is a Ballistic Trajectory High-Elevation Gun. Effetive Range ~6,700-meters minimum with a maximum (using Vulcano) ~16,750-meters and Maximum Range 13,400-meters with a maximum (using Vulcano) ~33,500-meters. Fires HE, MOM, PPF, SAPOM and SAPOMER @ 760m/s. And Vulcano (Dart) @ 1,000-m/s…

mr.fred
mr.fred
May 11, 2015 6:24 am

Well that’s a lovely set of numbers you’ve got there.
Did you know that the CMI group 105mm CT-CV mount permits the use of what is very similar (and uses the same ammunition) to the L7, as an indirect fire weapon with a range of 10km with dumb HE? How does this compare unfavourably with your figure of 6.7km for a similar round?
Additionally how is the Vulcano Dart travelling at 1100m/s harder hitting than an APFSDS round travelling at over 1400m/s
In the indirect fire role the Vulcano round has advantages, but on the other hand it’s calibre agnostic and just needs the appropriate sabot. For a direct fire vehicle, I don’t see where the advantage lies.

Secundius
Secundius
May 11, 2015 1:08 pm
Reply to  mr.fred

@ mr. fred.

Do you actually Know the Difference between a Flat Trajectory of a Tank Gun Tube and the Ballistic Trajectory of a Naval Artilley Gun Tube. Personally, I suspect Not

mr.fred
mr.fred
May 11, 2015 5:44 pm

Secundius,
Since both trajectories are ballistic I wonder what you are getting at. Might I enquire as to what your first language is? It may help me understand your English.
If I can point a tank gun high enough I can use it as artillery.
Going back to your post number 16, on the 6th of May, you state that the 76.2mm Oto Melara gun is harder hitting and longer ranged than a 105mm L7 equivalent.
Given that the L7 fires both full-bore and sub-calibre projectiles faster than the 76.2mm gun and, provided that the elevation capacity is available, will fire heavier full-bore shells further*, I don’t see how that is in any way true.
The only advantage in range the smaller, less power Oto Melara gun has is due entirely to the Vulcano shell. Which could be adapted quite easily to the 105mm gun, if that’s what you wanted.

Secundius
Secundius
May 11, 2015 11:20 pm

@ mr.fred.

The 105mm L7 is a Lousy Support Gun Sir, You can’t Elevate the gun high enough to get any range out of the system. While the Oto Melara is a Rapid-Fire High-Angle Naval Artillery Gun. And with Smart Munitions it make for a Deadly Encounter. I’m NOT aware of any Smart Munitions for the 105 L7, are you Sir…

Secundius
Secundius
May 12, 2015 5:55 am

@ mr.fred.

Name one country that uses the L7 105mm Tank Gun Tube, that has a Bleed-Based Smart Munitions Round for the Gun, I can’t think of any…

mr.fred
mr.fred
May 12, 2015 6:40 am

Secundius,
Elevation range is down to the mount, not the gun. As previously noted, CMI Group have a gun very similar to the L7 in a mount that allows elevation up to 42 degrees and as a result a range of 10km with full bore shells. The L7 and guns like it can be longer ranged and are harder hitting, especially for a direct-fire support vehicle like the Japanese MCV. If you want long range guided capability, there are the Falarick and Lahat gun-launched missiles, both designed to work with 105mm guns and good for 5 to 8km.

If you actually wanted an artillery vehicle then you could fit a dedicated artillery piece like the South African G7, which does have base-bleed projectiles, but that would be a different vehicle with a different role.

Obsvr
Obsvr
May 12, 2015 8:50 am

Range is a wonderful thing, but to be useful it has to be usable. As a rule of thumb, direct fire beyond about 6km range give or take a bit, is not a practical proposition in most circumstances. Hence indirect fire. This requires suitable target acquisition, fire control and sighting arrangements. A different business altogether, and for about the last 110 years is what field artillery does.

Secundius
Secundius
May 12, 2015 12:58 pm
Reply to  mr.fred

@ mr.fred.

I’m starting to wonder about you, Sir. The Martlett 2, that South Africa has ordered from Sweden is STILL under development. And hasn’t even been Field Tested yet. In Experimental Tests, it a “DUMB” Long-Range Ballistic Penetration Dart with a range of ~6,700-meters. As “Obsvr”, rightly put it, it’s an Indirect Fire Support System without a Guidance System other than Gravity. Esscentually a “One Talent Ballistia”…

mr.fred
mr.fred
May 12, 2015 6:07 pm

Secundius,
What the heck are you on about? I think that you might be saying that the G7 doesn’t have a GUIDED base-bleed projectile, but I’m not sure.
I still don’t know why:
1) You think a direct fire vehicle would be better suited to have an artillery piece more commonly mounted on ships
2) you think that said weapon ‘hits harder’ than a heavier projectile travelling faster
3) what role you think a vehicle armed with this gun would fulfil.

Secundius
Secundius
May 13, 2015 3:46 am

@ mr.fred.

I stand corrected and apologize to you “mr.fred”. But, the Falarick 105/120 are gun launched with a range ~5,000-meters. Unfortunately as of 13 March 2015, neither system is deployed with ANY Army or Government. Both South Korea and Belgium are interested, but that’s far a it goes. The Lahat, is not a Gun-Launched system. It’s Rail-launched, much like the Brimstone and is Israeli made…

mr.fred
mr.fred
May 13, 2015 6:29 am

Secundius,
Might I direct you to the IAI website, specifically the brochure for the LAHAT missile, which clearly notes its suitability for gun launch from 105 and 120mm tank guns.
http://www.iai.co.il/Sip_Storage//FILES/5/41075.pdf

Any chance you could explain your recommendation, possibly referencing questions 1 to 3 above?

Secundius
Secundius
May 14, 2015 5:01 pm
Reply to  mr.fred

@ mr.fred.

Suitability doesn’t convert to Deployment. The question WAS Deployment or in Service. Not what Might Be or Could Be, IT MEANS WHAT “IS”…

mr.fred
mr.fred
May 14, 2015 7:02 pm

Secundius,
Well, no-one uses that naval artillery piece on a land platform, so why discount what is available but not in service? In any case, it probably is in service with the IDF, in tanks, as that is what it was designed for.
So, any chance of you explaining why you recommend the 76.2mm naval gun for a land vehicle? You can use questions 1 to 3 above as a guide if you like.

Secundius
Secundius
May 15, 2015 2:33 pm
Reply to  mr.fred

@ mr.fred.

Are you sure about that? The South African Rooikat uses a Oto Melara 76.2x636mmR/52-calliber (Short, not the 62-caliber standard gun barrel) Naval Artillery Gun as a Tank Destroyer Gun System. Ammunition is Oto Melara Naval Munitions…

mr.fred
mr.fred
May 15, 2015 4:02 pm

Secundius,
Chambered for the same round, but not the same gun. Is it fitted for firing the same smart shells the naval gun is?
I’m still waiting for your concept of operations for the naval gun, or even the South African gun, and why it’s better than a 105mm?

secundius
May 16, 2015 1:13 am

@ mr.fred.

What did you think the Oto Melara 3-inch (76.2x636mmR/52-caliber) Tank Destroyer Gun Tube was. It’s a 62-caliber Naval Deck Artillery Gun, cut Short too a 52-caliber Tank Destroyer Gun Tube Length. It fires the exact same ammunition as the Naval Gun System. The only other Gun System that can make that claim is the BAE/Rheinmetall GmbH. 6-1-inch (155mm/52-caliber Navalized Field Howitzer (British L118/ US. M777)…

mr.fred
mr.fred
May 17, 2015 7:04 pm

Secundius,
Other than the South African gun I wasn’t aware of any land use. Wiki says this:
“Most of the basic ammunition types offered for the Oto Melara 76mm can also be fired from the South African Rooikat armoured car with slight modification to the percussion primers. This is the only land-based vehicle system capable of deploying the same ammunition as its naval counterpart.[10]”
Note “basic ammunition types.”

For you proposal, do you want something like this?
http://www.military-today.com/artillery/draco.htm
If so, why. If not, what is it that you think you can gain from a 76mm gun.

secundius
May 18, 2015 3:16 am

The BIGGEST Nighmare of World War II, was Supplying Who with What Ammunition. If you can Supply Both the Naval Elements and Land Based Troop Elements with the Same Ammunition. You Quantify and Simplify your Logistics Nightmare and Headaches. The German’s in WW2, standard ammunition from Pistol, to Rifle too Machine Gun. Was either the 9x19mm Parabellum or the 7.92x57mm Mauser, which could also be used in the British .303…

mr.fred
mr.fred
May 18, 2015 6:28 am

Secundius,
So it’s ammunition commonality, not target effect or range that is driving it?

secundius
May 18, 2015 3:00 pm
Reply to  mr.fred

@ mr.fred.

Right NOW it’s just “Baby Steps”, but in ten-years or so, YES. I think the biggest Hurdle is Commonality of Operation Systems, that keeps getting in the way. Once that Hurdle is Jumped, Well? It’s only matter of time before Rail-Guns will be Field Deployable. Right now it’s a matter of Weight and Power…

mr.fred
mr.fred
May 18, 2015 5:33 pm

I would think that the greatest hurdle facing commonality is the different requirements across different services that would probably lead to different projectiles even if the propellant is the same.

secundius
May 18, 2015 7:11 pm

Unlike the Warsaw Pact, which was founded 15 May 1955. Their Standardization started RIGHT THEN AND THEIR, by order of Moscow.

NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was founded 4 April 1949. And yet the first standardize Bullet, the 7.62x51mm/NATO was adopted until 1959. The 5.56x45mm/NATO in 1977, the 76.2x636mmR in 1985, the 127x836mmR in 1971 by all places Italy. It was until ~1995, when things started to really change. But as I said before “Baby Steps”.