Section transport and Load Carrying (Moving Forward)
It would be easy to bemoan the lost opportunities but if the British Army is to move forward, it must look forward.
This means first asking whether we need a specialist air manoeuvre vehicle or could we make do with the existing motley collection of Pinzgauer, Land Rover, Duro and quad bikes? The answer to this question is obviously, do we see a likelihood of mounting an air manoeuvre operation that would require the services of such a vehicle, or vehicles?
Although I looked briefly at this in Part 1, will expand the argument slightly below.
It is a matter of debate, but I think there is an enduring need for the ability to employ air manoeuvre for military effect; that includes parachutes, helicopters and tactical transport aircraft. There are many flavours, it could be a parachute assault launched from the UK, helicopter operations as part of a longer campaign, or simply deploying quickly to a location using C17 and A400M’s.
A couple of interesting videos to ponder, the first, air manoeuvre in Kosovo, elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade flying in via Chinook, the second, elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade in Afghanistan, not using helicopters.
It should also be noted that a large battlegroup scale air manoeuvre operation was carried out as part of the initial stages of OP MOSHTARAK, by 1 Royal Welsh, no elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade were present.
And no air delivered vehicles either.
It should therefore be clear, that air manoeuvre operates on a spectrum, and that not all points on that spectrum require vehicles.
The HERRICK Campaign Study makes it clear that the Army should seek to preserve air manoeuvre skills and experience outside 16 Air Assault brigade.
This, therefore, may well have implications for light vehicles in general.
Am also of the opinion that there exists an opportunity for combing the 16th Air Assault Brigade and 3 Commando brigade, forming a single oversize rapid reaction brigade, but that is for another post. Regardless of any future decisions on this, the vehicles used by both are likely to have some common elements.
The existing vehicle fleet is rather ‘eclectic’, not getting any younger, and has a number of supportability challenges in the medium to long term. The last Land Rover Defender rolled off the production line only last week and Pinzgauer no longer manufactured either. The new Defender that will be launched in 2018 is as yet, an unknown quantity. Duro is still listed on the General Dynamics website but I don’t think there have been any sales of significance for over three years. The Supacat Jackal, Coyote and Extenda, at least, seem to have a reasonable level of supportability and sustainability.
At some point, the British Army is going to have to face up to the implications of replacing its Land Rover Defender fleet. This, and the future Multi Role Vehicle (MRV) requirement may also have some bearing on any lightweight vehicle. The recent release of tender documents indicates that MRV-P will be required to be carried by A400M and C17, but surprisingly;
There is no requirement to transport under slung by rotary wing aircraft.
Despite this, it will be used to support early entry forces;
Multi Role Vehicle — Protected (MRV-P)
Troop Carrying Vehicle (TCV) and Future Protected Battlefield Ambulance (FPBFA) are intended to be based on a common base platform with sufficient flexibility to satisfy a number of roles. The TCV and FPBFA variants will support the rapidly deployable forces (i.e. first-in, airborne or amphibious capability) as well as the regular armed forces. TCV and FPBFA must therefore provide protected mobility against real world scenarios encountered by military forces conducting Global Operations.
So, as can be imagined, there are many moving pieces on the table and things to consider for an air-portable section vehicle.
There is also the issue of the ‘soldiers load’.
With Project PAYNE and various research activities ongoing that are looking at lightening the weights carried by dismounted personnel one of the options on the table is to take a wider view and consider load carrying portee type vehicles as a means of improving endurance and mobility. Even if they are only used for moving ammunition, water and batteries, it might have a significant effect.
For the purposes of this article, am going to assume that there exists a requirement for some form of vehicle that can transport men and material and that this vehicle, must be transportable by helicopters and able to be parachuted, in addition to being transported by tactical aircraft, even if these may be less common applications than the portee mule type vehicle for dismounted infantry in marginal terrain.
We might immediately think that lightweight vehicles are great for zooming around the desert, shooting up columns of enemy vehicles, but in general, the reality is more mundane; the transport of people, ammunition, food, water and batteries.
i.e. a logistics vehicle, not a fighting vehicle.
That is not to say of course, that for some applications, a lightweight vehicle cannot be used as a fighting vehicle, or a fire support vehicle, the Land Rover WMIK, Jackal or even CVR(T), being perfect examples.
Despite this, providing heavy weapons with a mobile platform, would have some benefit, but it is not the focus of this post.
The main application, therefore, for lightweight all-terrain vehicles is to enhance mobility for light infantry and other specialist users. Any equipment used in air assault, whether using helicopters or parachute, is sensitive to weight, so it is for this role that they tend to find most use.
For the UK, the most likely users would be elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3 Commando Brigade, joined by various specialist and special-forces. In Army 2020 and Joint Force 2025, the Light Cavalry Regiment’s of the Adaptable Force will also provide some capability for air manoeuvre with the R-WMIK’s.
With the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) now firmly established with the Merlin helicopter and the Prince of Wales aircraft carrier planned to incorporate improved facilities for amphibious operations, it seems obvious that the Royal Marines are going to be increasingly focussed on air manoeuvre from the sea.
The existing vehicles for these light forces includes various configurations of Quad Bikes, Land Rover, Supacat Jackal, Duro and Pinzgauer, together with heavier tracked vehicles like BV206 and Viking.
Being able to move personnel and light stores quickly across larger distance than by foot, provides an obvious tactical advantage and for niche applications, like helicopter landing site stores transfer or expeditionary airfield survey, their value is again, significant.
For special-forces use, the best ultra-lightweight vehicle may well be whatever can be stolen or obtained locally, the ability to blend in being vitally important. In other situations, a large truck might be the preferred option, or vehicles like the Jackal.
Because the vehicles will need to be transported to their point of use, and that means of transport is most likely to be parachute, aircraft or helicopter, there are a number of break points to consider regarding vehicle weight, both loaded and unloaded, and dimensions.
Helicopter external loads are a complex and potentially dangerous business.
For external load carriage, helicopter clearance (which may be less than hook capacity), hook configuration and safe working load, centre of gravity and weight of the underslung load equipment also have to be factored in. Other limitations might include the required range and operating altitude of the particular operation. The maximum approved weight is likely only to be practical in the most favourable conditions, some margin is therefore desirable.
With the exception of Chinook, all UK helicopters operate with a single cargo hook, the Chinook has three. A single hook suspension is simple and quick to hook up but as the load is free to twist and swing, helicopter speeds will usually have to be reduced. Using two hooks, the loads freedom of movement is dramatically reduced and likewise, speed restrictions.
Wildcat; although not considered to be a cargo hauler it is equipped with a Drallim Semi Automatic Cargo Release Unit (SACRU) No 2 Mark 1 cargo hook with a design load of 1,497kg, but is only cleared for 1,000kg.
Puma Mk2; has a SACRU Number 1 Mk3 with a safe working load of 2,724kg, but is only cleared for 2,250kg
Merlin HC3; has a Talon SACRU with a safe working load of 5,443 kg, but is only cleared to 4,100kg
Chinook; the centre hook has a safe working load of 11,300kg and the helicopter is cleared for the same.
Strops, slings, spreader bars, nets and other equipment falls into the general term of Helicopter Underslung Load Equipment, or HUSLE. Taken together, these can weigh up to several hundred kilograms.
Given the UK will likely increasingly work in coalition operations, the capacities and dimensions of allied and contractor operated helicopters should also factor into decision making, although with a lower priority.
Blackhawk UH-60M; 4,082kg
Mil 8; 3,000 kg
V-22 Osprey; the single hook is rated at 4,536kg although with a two hook system, this is increased to 6,804kg
K-MAX; 2,700 kg
Considering these, a number of weight categories can be defined;
Category 1; sub 800kg, for Wildcat, Puma and Mil 8
Category 2; sub 3,000kg for Merlin, Blackhawk, NH90 and V22
Category 3; sub 8,000kg for Chinook and CH53
These categories take into account the possible weight of underslung load equipment and aircraft margins. They can also be used in multiples, three Category 1’s comfortably fit within the weight envelope of a Category 2, and two Category 2 within the envelope of a Category 3
This firmly sets the weight limiting factor of helicopter lift, not air despatch or in service tactical aircraft transport, both of which can easily manage larger weights than 8-10 tonnes.
Schemes would need to be developed to enable all to be underslung, preferably in multiples if the total weight permits. For example, a transport frame for four Category 1 vehicles, fully loaded, should be permissible for a Chinook. By using a frame, rigging and de-rigging time could be minimised, the frame itself treated as a disposable store. This would also allow two point slinging, thus reducing aircraft speed limitations.
Likewise for two Category 2 vehicles, two vehicles and two trailers would be within the payload limitation of a Chinook and whilst conventional rigging should be possible, a drive on – drive off frame would greatly reduce time taken to deploy.
There is already a JATE approved lifting frame for smaller items like generators.
Although sling loading in an acceptable means of load carriage it imposes many limitations on speed, manoeuvrability and safety, internal carriage on the other hand, consumes valuable internal capacity for personnel but negates many of the disadvantages of sling loading. Any vehicle inside a helicopter is also likely to be a very tight fit, safety, especially following a forced landing emergency egress, a concern.
The US DoD has devoted a great deal of time and money fielding light vehicles that are internally carried in the V22 and Chinook, the M161 Internally Transportable Vehicle and M1162 for the Expeditionary Fire Support System (EFSS), for example, commonly called the Growler The Growler was subject to a great deal of controversy and reportedly, will be replaced, as the US Army Ultra-Light Combat Vehicle progresses (more on this later) Germany built the Wiesel and Mungo vehicle families to be internally carried in their CH-53’s and the Supacat Extenda is also specifically designed for internal carriage in a Chinook.
The primary limitation for internal carriage is the dimension of the cargo hold, for Puma and Wildcat, the only option is sling loading, but for Chinook and Merlin, internal carriage would be a valuable attribute. Seat arrangements, ramp dimensions and cargo floor equipment may impinge on the maximum allowable dimensions, so these are approximate.
Merlin; Length 6.5m, Width 2.0m, Height 1.8m
Chinook; Length 6.7m, Width 2.1m, Height 1.9m
Again, we might consider allied and contractor operated equipment
NH90; Length 4.8m, Width 1.7m, Height 1.5m
Mil 8; Length 5.3m, Width 2.3m, Height 1.8m
CH-53K; Length 9.1m, Width 2.7m, Height 1.9m
V-22; Length 7.4m, Width 1.8m, Height 1.8m
For Merlin and Chinook, the two key constraining dimensions are width and height, 2m and 1.8m respectively. This would also enable internal stowage in a CH-53K but not V-22, a trade off that should be acceptable, although 1.8m width would be desirable given the potential for joint working with the USMC and SOCOM. Going down to 1.7m for NH90 carriage would also be desirable, but again, a balance between interoperability with allies and capabilities.
The maximum width and height for Category 1 and 2 vehicles is therefore;
Category 1; 2m width, 1.8m high
Category 2; 2m width, 1.8m high
Simply put, both should be able to be carried internally on a Chinook and Merlin (and CH-53K and Mil 8/17) but not NH90 and V-22.
For the Category 3 vehicle, internal carriage is desirable but not essential, limiting the dimensions may impose too many limitations on payload and utility. This does not mean dimensions can be unconstrained however. The vehicle should still be air transportable and air droppable.
The UK has been slowly reintroducing the vehicle air despatch capability and with the retention of some C-130 Hercules and longer term full introduction of the A400M Atlas the ability to deliver vehicles by parachute drop, or air despatch, should achieve a significant improvement.
For the lighter vehicles, a disposable platform could be used but for the heavier, an air drop platform will be needed. Heavy Drop is a catch all term for heavy loads such as vehicles, artillery guns, small boats and ammunition pallets.
The main piece of equipment used for heavy dropping (apart from the parachute deployment system and parachute(s)) is a pre stressed platform. The 8 tonne payload Medium Stressed Platform remains in service but as it is not compatible with the Dash 4a Cargo Handling System from AAR Corp it is difficult to see it remaining so. The current market leader for heavy drop platforms if the Type V from Capewell, available in a number of configurations and dimensions. It was developed to replace the A/E 29H-1 (LAPES) and the Type II (LVAD) airdrop platform. It comes in a variety of sizes and capacities from 8ft long to 32ft and can carry up to 19 tonnes although ramp limits might limit the payload (16 tonne single load, 25 tonnes multiple load on the A400M for example).
Capewell also make a smaller platform called the Multi Drop Platform that can carry a 1.36 tonne payload. Others include the Zodiac DRAS platform and the Aeronet PD8/PD9 platforms, the latter of which was recently used by the French in their operations in Mali.
All three vehicle categories must be air droppable, so the Type V platform width should be the constraining width dimension, 2.7m
Next to consider is height.
This brings us on to a question of which transport aircraft and the vexed question of Hercules support, possibly even KC-390, C-27 and C235/295.
KC-390 has a minimum cargo hold height of 2.9m, C-27J 2.7m, C-130 2.7m, C295 1.9m and A400M 3.8m.
As mentioned above, the UK will retain a small number of Hercules in the short to medium term but whether this will eventually lead to a new buy of C130 is not clear. The Hercules is also the principle tactical transport aircraft of many of our allies, so taken together, it would make sense to retain C-130 transportability as the minimum baseline for the vehicle. Setting the baseline as A400M would allow the vehicle to carry much more but in the interests of interoperability with allies, C-130 it is.
Demountable and folding fixtures, or suspension lowering, may be used to facilitate height reduction.
The generally accepted limit for heavy drop using a Type V platform is approximately 2.6m, this is also the same limit for UK rail flat bed wagons.
2.4m wide would be desirable, because then the vehicles would fit inside a standard ISO container, whilst this may not be an a large issue for air portability, it is for other intermodal transport.
Putting these various factors together provides a high level set of weight and dimension limits.
|Category 1||Not specified||2.0m||1.8m||800kg|
|Category 2||Not specified||2.0m||1.8m||3,000kg|
|Category 3||Not specified||2.4m||2.6m||8,000kg|
Terrain and Mobility
Suffice it to say, an ultra-lightweight vehicle must be capable of exploiting a range of difficult terrain; snow, swamp, desert, forests, urban and potentially, water courses, High Mobility or at the least Improved Medium Mobility.
A vehicle for use in deep snow is likely to be completely different to one which is for desert, the attraction of a universal vehicle is strong, but in practice, very difficult to achieve without compromise.
Higher speeds will need a suspension, which means weight, therefore, speed may be traded for weight within the design, especially for the lower weight designs. Height adjustable suspension can also be used to lower the vehicle to enable internal carriage.
Whether the vehicle will need an amphibious capability would be open for discussion, but there is no doubt it would be desirable.
Every single kilogram devoted to protection means the vehicle would be less effective in its logistics role. Given the focus for these vehicles on logistics, the lack of protection may be an acceptable compromise. Modular appliqué armour is a sensible and accepted means of improving protection and could be used.
Protection against IED’s and mines is a hot topic, subject to judgements on risk and possible future operating environments. The height restrictions of internal carriage also push against hull shaping by virtue of simple geometry.
For the lighter vehicles, I think there has to be a recognition that significant protection may not be possible.
Power and Fuel
If we can, we should avoid petrol/gasoline, no one likes it, it cases logistics problems and as we all know, is highly flammable.
Diesel engines are increasingly available in smaller sizes and there should be no reason why they cannot be specified for most of these vehicles. Diesel motorcycles are less common and it may make more sense to simply use what is available on the open market rather than develop diesel engines for two wheeled vehicles.
Another interesting option that is becoming increasingly common is a hybrid engine, one that uses fossil fuel and batteries, or even fuel cells. Battery technology is advancing at a rapid rate, driven by the electric vehicle industry (sorry about the pun!)
Using electric power also provides the capability to dramatically reduce the noise signature, an important tactical advantage even if only for short periods. A lack of an air breathing engine also means it can be used for fording without additional modification.
In 2011, Land Rover South Africa teamed up with Barker Performance to create an electric Land Rover Defender. In place of the usual internal combustion engine is a 300 volt, 27kWh Lithium-ion battery pack, providing power to a 94 bhp electric motor, in place of the gearbox. It provides 330 Nm of torque at zero revs and a limited top speed of 70 mph, despite being 100kg heavier than the comparable vehicle. The vehicle was produced with safari in mind, so the usual loud-ish diesel engine wouldn’t scare the wildlife; although by all accounts the whine of the electric motor is still audible. In this configuration, the transfer case and both axles must remain to distribute the drive meaning the noise reduction may not be as much as hoped.
Using a direct drive would provide much greater noise reduction but the challenge is to get the system to work efficiently, without gears, at low rotational speed and high torque loads. There is a great deal of research effort into this area currently.
Emke Engineering in the Netherlands produce a conversion kit for the Defender.
Land Rover, and it must be said, many other manufacturers, were/are working on off road electric power. The example below is the result of a 2013 collaborative project between Jaguar Land Rover and RDM Group, the Eden Project Electric Defender.
This was powered by a 300-volt lithium-ion battery driving a 70kw electric motor capable of 243lb-ft of torque. Maximum range was 50 miles, with a 12.5 mile reserve, and a recharge time of 10 hours. Low speed use was 8 hours. Regenerative braking also charged the batteries.
The limited range reveals the main problem for an all-electric vehicle, power density/storage.
Batteries are heavy and simply do not store the same amount of energy as fossil fuels. Spare energy cannot be carried in the form of a Jerrycan without a significant weight penalty and time to recharge is measured in hours, unlike filling a fuel tank.
Load Handling and Payloads
Because the Category 1 vehicle needs to be no heavier than 800kg, it is unlikely to be slung load in a loaded configuration, but assuming that another similar aircraft e.g. Wildcat, could be used to move the payload, this could be loaded on the ground. A two aircraft sortie could then deliver an 800kg vehicle and 800kg worth of payload to the same place with the same fuel load.
The 800kg payload would likely be ammunition and other boxes and containers secured with a cargo net or ratchet straps, loaded and unloaded by hand. Given potential operating use, a convenient fork lift truck might not be readily available but there is no reason why the STANAG 2828 compliant and Euro pallets could not be loaded. Stretcher posts and simple bench type seating must also be available, as should an ability to mount a shelter.
The Category 2 vehicle should be ‘pallet oriented’ and as such, the load bed and carrying capacities must be closely aligned with the weights and dimensions of standard pallets and unit load devices. The four most common EURO pallets are;
EUR 1 800 mm × 1,200 mm
EUR 2 1,200 mm × 1,000 mm
EUR 3 1,000 mm × 1,200 mm
EUR 6 800 mm × 600 mm
Euro boxes are dimensionally compatible with these and the NATO standard ammunition pallet is a wingless wooden construction type, 1,200mm x 1,000m (EUR 2), weighing a maximum of 1.814 tonnes. A NATO pallet is allowed to be 1.6m high.
Various other types of pallet can also be used, collapsible, box and post for example.
Ideally, it would be capable of self-loading a single NATO ammunition pallet (1.8 tonnes) and towing another. It should also be able to tow the 105mm Light Gun and other in service lightweight trailers.
With potential adoption of the JMIC/JMID concept, any system must also be sufficiently flexible to allow carriage of these pallet containers. A number of palletised systems, such as the Cube from Dytecna, could also be used, although the footprint is slightly larger than a EUR2 pallet.
For the Category 3 vehicle, payloads will be multiple pallets and various special lightweight shelters (command, signals, medical, CBRN, air defence, EOD etc). It may also be used to tow the Light Gun, bridging equipment trailers and refuelling equipment.
With a maximum width of 2.4m, the Category 3 vehicle would be able to carry two pallets or JMIC’s side by side on its load bed, but it would be very tight, unless they were oriented short side widthways.
The 410kg HIAB XS 022 CLX can lift a NATO ammunition pallet at 1.8 tonnes to 1.4m outreach, enough to lift it directly from a cargo vehicle load bed, a DROPS rack on the ground or even an air drop pallet. At lower weights longer outreach distance is available, 550kg at 4.6m for example. A number of accessory attachment are also available to extend the utility of the basic lifting device such as rotators, buckets, weighing systems and pallet forks.
Smaller devices are available and some can be manually or electrically powered, eliminating hydraulics as a trade-off for lower performance.
You will note that none of the payloads would generally include 20ft ISO containers, instead, specialist lightweight containers, but we might look at container handling systems as a way of improving the handling of multiple pallets or JMIC’s.
A single JMIC is just over a metre tall so stacking one on top of each other may exceed the 2.7m height limit when carried on a vehicle or trailer but single high stacking, using a demountable platform, would allow pallets to be moved quickly.
The Joint Modular Intermodal Platform (JMIP) is an intermodal platform (or rack) with integral locking fittings that allows JMIC’s to be secured without any form of strapping.
A JMIP would be too large and too heavy for the Category 3 vehicle.
Demountable systems have conventionally only been used on larger vehicles but the technology has moved on and the benefits of DROPS like systems are now available on smaller vehicles. Although the general approach of air manoeuvre forces is to fight light is sound, being able to move multiple pallets at a time has obvious advantages.
Combining this type of hook-lift technology with a half-length JMIP would allow a 2x2x1 assembly to be loaded, moved and unloaded as one. The 2x2x1 assembly would also fit on a single 463L air transport pallet for ease for movement through the supply chain.
Again, HIAB make a range of suitable devices, the lightest only lifts 2 tonnes. If the 4 NATO ammunition pallet payload is taken as an absolute maximum, and a maximum that would exceed the Category 3 helicopter lift weight, the hook-lift system would need an 8 tonne capacity.
The HIAB X8RS has a lifting capacity of 8 tonnes and weighs a tonne itself. It requires a hydraulic feed and would add to the vehicles overall height.
Four ammunition pallets is certainly aspirational, it may be more appropriate to accept a lower limit of 2, this would also likely result in a fully loaded vehicle within the sling load weight limit. It would also allow a smaller hook-lift system to be used, similar to the approach taken by OVIKS with their Chameleon vehicle concept.
Quarter, third and half length containers (Quadcon, Tricon, Bicon) such as the 8ft CTX Containex, can also be used where it makes sense to do so.
A hooklift does not add a great deal of weight but it does increase the height, raising the centre of gravity. An alternative is a skip loader as used by the German KMW Mungo, so used because the height is critical by virtue of CH-53 internal carriage.
Pallet trailers can be used to lift and towing without the use of external MHE.
Manufacturers include EHS and Lift n Go
We could just ask Universal Engineering to build some more FLPT’s, or at least whoever purchased their assets from receivership.
The goal of these solutions is to avoid the need to transport telehandlers, which might not be a bad idea when taken in the round.
In use by 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3 Commando Brigade are a collection of vehicles. Given the fluid nature of the vehicle fleet and nature of operations there is less of a fixed fleet for a given unit but this is only an approximate guide.
Quad Bikes; as described in the previous section, weigh 460kg fully laden
Land Rover; numerous models and revisions of the venerable vehicle, short and long wheelbase, winterised/waterproof and not, fitted for radio and general service and with different engines, the basic types are below. Payload is approximately 600kg and the short (Truck Utility Light (Higher Specification) – TUL(HS)) and long wheel base Truck Utility Medium (Higher Specification) TUM(HS)) variants weigh 2.7 tonnes fully laden. The ambulance (Ambulance Battlefield (Higher Specification)) is slightly heavier, approximately 3 tonnes fully laden. The Truck Utility Medium (Higher Specification) TUM(HS) Revised Weapons Mounted Installation kit (R-WMIK), weighs approximately 3.8 tonnes fully laden
Pinzgauer; again various combinations of hard and soft tops, maximum payload is approximately 1.4 tonnes, 2 tonnes for the three axle. Truck Utility Medium (Heavy Duty), two axle, approximately 4 tonnes fully laden. These are also used to tow the L118 Light Gun, when lifted together, weighs approximately 5 tonnes with a maximum of 6 tonnes if more ammunition is carried. Pinzgauer 6×6 TUM (Heavy Duty), three axle, approximately 5 tonnes fully laden
Trailers; There are also a wide range of trailers, the 600kg Lightweight General Service (1 tonne payload) for example, and a number of specialist trailers like generators and communications equipment, to name but two examples, there is even a psyops trailer!
DAF 4 Tonne; Despite the wider introduction of the MAN Support Vehicle, a number of Leyland DAF 4 tonne vehicles are retained e.g. Truck Air Portable Fuel Dispensing Vehicle, approximately 8 tonnes fully laden
Duro; the Bucher (now General Dynamics) Duro is used for satellite communications equipment carriage. The base vehicle weighs approximately 4 tonnes. The bearer modules also a similar weight.
BV206; the older BV206 (Carrier, Full Tracked, Articulated) is still in service with 3CDO although there have been some indications of an interest in its replacement, weighs approximately 7 tonnes fully laden
Jackal and Coyote; approximately 6 tonnes and 7 tonnes respectively. The three axle Extenda is slightly lighter than Coyote, at 6.6 tonnes.
Also shown in the images below, a standard Toyota pickup truck.
I have excluded Panther, the heavy protected mobility and MAN Support Vehicles. Also excluded is the Royal Marines Viking vehicle, the various versions weigh between 9 and 13 tonnes, although they can be split for sling loading.
For Category 1, the only thing we have in the cupboard is a quad bike, they both fit within a Chinook and Merlin and can be sling loaded with a Wildcat, but as we know from the previous post, not particularly high load carrying capacity.
For Category 2, a Land Rover can be carried inside a Merlin (with no roll cage and the windscreen folded) and Chinook, again, it is payload constrained.
For Category 3, the field widens considerably. Jackal and Coyote are superlative vehicles with a great track record, but they are hardly load haulers, even Coyote. We would be silly to get rid of them though. For the logistics role, the Pinzgauers fit the bill, they are mobile, able to be sling loaded, and fit within the C-130 limits, but as discussed above, are old, and need extensive work to keep them in service (Ricardo have proposed a series of life extension enhancements). By folding the top half, the BV206 can also fit inside a Chinook. Duro is an interesting vehicle, but its mobility is not as good as Pinzgauer. Ironically, the old Leyland DAF 4 Tonne trucks are mobile, have a good payload and fit inside a C-130. The MAN SV HX60 6 Tonne Truck can carry four NATO pallets but is marginal for C-130 carriage, both, without anything on the load bed higher than the cab.
As can be seen, it is not all doom and gloom, but I think we can do better.
Facing a number of similar dilemmas, US forces have also begun to examine the trade-off between mobility, protection and payload for rapidly deployed forces, especially risk factors. The debate in the USA does seem to be moving in the direction that allows some trading off of protection for mobility and capacity, at least for light role forces.
Their requirements first emerged as the Ultra-Light Combat Vehicle but in March 2015, changed to the Ground Manoeuvre Vehicle. Confusingly, Special Operations Command (SOCOM), also had a very similar requirement called Ground Manoeuvre Vehicle 1.1. SOCOM awarded the contract to General Dynamics Flyer 72
Clearly, the SOCOM vehicle is a raiding and fire support vehicle, not unlike the Jackal. It is designed to be sling load and carried inside a Chinook and has a high top speed, if the ground supports it. GD also have a slimmer version for V-22 internal carriage and have proposed a heavier version for the Army’s emerging Lightweight Reconnaissance Vehicle (LRV) requirement.
The US Army’s GMV takes a much different approach; it is designed to be slung load from a UH-60M Blackhawk and focus on load carriage only. Recognising the lethality of modern air defence systems it will allow airborne forces to land outside of their range and move to the objective on land. Actual requirements will begin to emerge soon but it will be interesting to see how close it comes to the proposed Category 2 vehicle.
Polaris have proposed their MZR-4, a vehicle also recently ordered by SOCOM
The US Army have conducted trials with the Flyer, Boeing Phantom Badger, Polaris DAGOR, Hendrick Dynamics Commando Jeep, Vyper Adamas Viper, and a version of the Jackal from Lockheed Martin called the High Versatility Tactical Vehicle (hard to see how this would satisfy the Blackhawk requirement)
The tactic of offset dropping is challenging, it places a higher fuel requirement on the ground leg and requires much longer ranged communications. Fire support and artillery will also be difficult.
They are only marketing videos, but you can tell a lot from them. All I see is lots of hard firm dry ground, lots of exciting high speed driving, and no pallets or trailers to be seen.
Nothing wrong with racehorses, but you also need cart horses.
Samples and Examples
This is a sampling of possible alternatives to the current situation.
This is the ultra-lightweight category, no more than 800kg so it can be easily sling loaded by a Wildcat, and internally carried inside a Merlin and Chinook. This may also find some utility with Royal Navy surface combat vessels, it should be small enough to stow easily and provide a valuable uplift in mobility ashore.
The first and obvious answer is to simply purchase some Roush/Resolve LAS 100RE, and not get rid of them this time. The LAS 100RE is a military vehicle, multi fuel and has all the attributes required of Category 1.
There are alternatives however, mostly from the agriculture and outdoor management industries; John Deere, Kawasaki, Polaris, Can Am, Yamaha and Arctic Cat for example. Finding one with the specific payload and weight range is not that easy but the John Deere HPX for example, has a 600kg payload with an empty weight of 700kg. In common with all these side by side ATV’s, the load bed is not particularly large. The larger XUV 855D has a diesel engine, weight of 770kg, payload of 635kg and towing capacity of 680kg. A number of the 3 axle variants have been used by various forces in Afghanistan.
JCB produce the Military Workmax all-terrain vehicle which has a payload of 600kg with an unladen weight of 900kg, which would be pushing the Category 1 weight limit slightly.
Purchasing a larger engine quad bike and using a larger trailer could also satisfy the requirement.
Again, there is a common sense solution staring us in the face.
At the Land Forces 2014 exhibition in Australia, Supacat showed off their concept for a new and improved Supacat, the Mk IV.
Commenting on the updated design, Michael Halloran, MD of Supacat Pty Ltd, the Australian subsidiary of Supacat, said:
When we looked around the market, we found that there is nothing that combines the payload, mobility and robustness of the ATMP, so in developing this concept vehicle we decided to look at maintaining the fundamental strengths of the platform while updating the human interface and the automotive and communication systems.
All Terrain Vehicles have even developed an improved amphibious capability for it.
So there you go, the replacement for the fantastically flexible and all round brilliant ATMP is in fact, another ATMP.
It meets all the requirements after all.
Perhaps the closest to the ATMP is the South African Gecko, now owned and produced by LMT Holdings. It weighs 1.2 tonnes and can carry 900kg and pull a 1 tonne trailer.
The KMW Mungo 2 is a curious vehicle, although it experienced problems in Afghanistan where it was withdrawn not long after being deployed, it seems to be a versatile design. With some preparation, it can be carried inside a Chinook and falls within the 4 tonne payload limit for Category 2. The skip loading system from Meier Ratio can lift 1.8 tonne pallets and it has been produced in a number of variants including NBC Recce and an extended high capacity version.
It is worthy of consideration.
If we can get over the embarrassment of using a vehicle normally used for mowing grass and carrying grapes, the mountain agriculture industry has a number of manufacturers with relevant products, some of the product capacities are impressive.
The Unitrac 72 from Lindner, with a folding cab, could be internally carried by a Merlin or Chinook, weighs just under 3 tonnes empty and yet can have a maximum payload of over 4.5 tonnes, base price is eight five thousand Euros. It also has a number of hydraulic tool attachment points, four wheel steering, Perkins diesel engine and can have a tipper body fitted. There are four different wheelbase length and with a total maximum weight of around 8 tonnes, a single vehicle may well be used for both Category 2 and 3 roles. Although they are no ‘mud pluggers’ like the ATMP clearly is, with suitable tires, their off road performance is still respectable.
The Grillo P600 AWD weighs 1.8 tonnes and can carry 1.8 tonnes, at 1.5m wide, it can be carried inside a Chinook or Merlin, as long as the cab was foldable. In fact, a Chinook could carry two. Caron make a wide variety of rigid and articulated load carriers, the EVO 4 (like those above), with a folding cab can be internally carried inside a Merlin and Chinook, it weighs 1.7 tonnes with a maximum payload of 2 tonnes.
Buying into the US GMV programme may well achieve some interoperability but as briefly mentioned above, the current proposed vehicles look to be focussed on dry ground and high speed personnel transport.
Filling a Pinzgauer shaped shoe is a tough job, simple, reliable and highly mobile they have served in numerous conflicts with great distinction.
The best option may actually be to refurbish them with modern automotive components and engines. Ricardo have proposed a number of solutions that replaces the engine and transmission with an Iveco engine and DC722 transmission, upgrades the electric system and increases payload to 1.5 tonnes whilst adding basic mine and ballistic protection.
The General Dynamics Duro is available in 2 and 2 axle versions, fits within the Category 3 limits and in some parts, is already in the supply chain.
Civilian or civilian derived designs are readily available from numerous manufacturers.
Ibex make 4×4 and 6×6 vehicles with double, single and crew cab configurations. AEBI, the VT450 Vario, and Reform, a range of vehicles that would suit, like the Multi T10. The Iveco Daily 4×4 would provide a good alternative at very low cost.
The next would be from Oberaigner, an Austrian engineering and automotive production ﬁrm who provide the all-wheel drive know how for Mercedes. Their 6×6 Sprinter has the loading height of a standard Sprinter but with it’s twin rear axle the maximum weight is 7000kg. This gives a payload of the best part of 4 tonnes.
When extreme high mobility is required, tracked systems are preferred. The Viking, Bronco and BV206 are all well-known vehicles but none can be internally carried in a Chinook, except the BV206, and only after much preparation. The BV206 payload in comparison with its size is also no longer class leading.
The British company Loglogic make a range of compact tracked all-terrain vehicles, some of which are actually used by the MoD on range management duties. The Softrack is slightly too wide for internal carriage but with narrower tracks and a collapsible roll cage/cab would fit easily. It weighs 2.2 tonnes and can carry 2 tonnes. The Larger Softrak 120 weighs 2.9 tonnes and can carry 2.4 tonnes.
Alltrack and Track Industries, both from Canada, produce a range of tracked high mobility work vehicles. The Track Industries HT 40S weighs 5.4 tonnes and can carry a 1.8 tonnes payload, enough for a single NATO ammunition pallet, although this would not be sling load carried by a Merlin. The larger HT 60WB weighs 9 tonnes, but has a 4.1 tonnes payload.
The Alltrack AT 20HD is only 1.5m wide and weighs 2.1 tonnes but can carry a 1.1 tonne payload. The larger AT-50HD weighs 3.8 tonnes and can carry a payload of 3.2 tonnes, two NATO ammunition pallets in a basic vehicle that can be sling loaded by a Merlin (or two with a Chinook) and carried internally in either. The largest model, the AT-150HD can carry a 15 tonnes payload in a footprint no longer than a BV206, it can also be internally carried inside a C-130 Hercules without preparation. These are excellent machines.
All three manufacturers eschew the articulation and twin cab approach taken with the Viking and BV206.
With an emphasis on amphibious capability, the 2.6 tonnes Hydratek D24488B can carry a 1.4 tonne payload. Gibbs now make an amphibious ATV.
What characterises all these designs is a complete lack of protection, instead, they focus on mobility and payload, as might be expected for civilian equipment.
As discussed in the requirements section, and reinforced with details of the US GMV programme, this lack of protection, even in today’s operating environment, may be acceptable for early entry rapid reaction forces. It is not acceptable for the rest of the Army, or if those same rapid reaction forces are part of a wider stabilisation or security operations.
It is an almost impossible situation.
The raison d’être of airborne forces is to strike fast, hold, and wait for the big boys or get the fu*k out od dodge double quick. Hanging around for the enemy to channelise you into high risk IED locations is the exact opposite of what they should be doing.
If we can accept this rationale, any of the solutions above would be perfectly acceptable.
If not, we have to think about the P word, and accept lower mobility or payloads, it is really that simple. The contemporary operating environment also includes the contemporary risk and litigation environment, where the MoD has a duty of care to its personnel.
It does seem that some of the existing Pinzgauers and Land Rovers will be replaced with the Multi Role Protected vehicle (Protected), but not all. This, with statement that helicopter transportability is explicitly not required, seems an opportunity lost, and a de-facto statement that air manoeuvre doesn’t involve vehicles and helicopters anymore.
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. 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. 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.
It is interesting to track the changes in the programme so far, the last time it was announced, the tender notes specified a maximum unit price of £250k, weights between 5 and 15 tonnes, modular construction, payload of 2.5 tonnes and a quantity of at least 800, likely to grow to in excess of 7,800.
It was also explicit that;
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.
Compare and contrast with the most recent notice, a maximum of 300 ambulance and 300 troop carrying variants over 25 years, up to £200m for the first 230 vehicles, and, an about turn on the rapidly deployed forces requirement;
The TCV and FPBFA variants will support the rapidly deployable forces (i.e. first-in, airborne or amphibious capability) as well as the regular armed forces.
Like OUVS before it, the programme seems confused.
At least the recovery requirement is stable, although, oddly, it was advertised separately. The Light Protected Mobility Recovery variant is similar to the Troop Carrying and Battlefield Ambulance, but able to tow 10 tonnes, and lift 4.
This kind of vehicle, medium mobility and low-medium protection are, frankly, ten a penny. The MoD insists it will be a MOTS vehicle, what are the choices.
There are all manner of outside bets such as the SVOS Vega from the Czech Republic, Streit Scorpion, Otokar Cobra II, NIMR N35 (formerly RG-35), LMT 14, Gamma Technical Komondor (this also comes in a 6×6 version) DCD Mountain Lion and Textron Commando.
Of these, the SVOS Vega and Komondor look interesting designs and whilst some may fall outside of the stated size requirements, slightly, it provides a good overview of the kind of vehicles in mind.
Oshkosh have taken their M-ATV range and stretched it, the Oshkosh M-ATV Extended Wheelbase comes in a number of variants including, for MRV-P purposes, 6 seat personnel carrier and ambulance.
Close to home, the Renault Sherpa line does not have an ambulance version but this is unlikely to be difficult to produce. The ACMAT Bastion would also fall within the general requirement set, and does have an ambulance variant already available. Staying with a French theme, the Nexter ARAVIS would also be an option.
Of these, the Dingo 2 is arguably the most suitable and mature option, based on the Unimog chassis and in a multitude of variants including EOD, Command, Repair, PsyOps, Cargo, Patrol, NBC Recce, Recce/Surveillance, Ambulance and Recovery. There is also a 3 axle version and an increased payload version called the HD
Already in service with the British Army is small numbers is the Thales (Australia) Bushmaster, a vehicle designed from scratch for IED protection. The Bushmaster is very capable vehicle with an excellent reputation. The Australian Army also uses 4×4 and 6×6 G-Wagons.
I would imagine Navistar and Iveco will be making a case for a run on purchase of the MXT (Husky) and LMV (Panther) respectively, perhaps enlarged versions. Supacat are said to be preparing their SPV400. General Dynamics have disclosed plans for a cheaper, less well protected version of the Ocelot/Foxhound design, including a stretch version, the existing version could not accommodate the 6 personnel in the requirement.
With current designs, they tend to put much less emphasise on mobility in wet and muddy conditions, favouring deserts, not surprisingly.
The 6×6 TMV and Overlord/Crossway vehicles certainly look interesting and capable.
By insisting that MRV-P is MOTS and has to cover the conventional and early entry roles, I think we are missing an opportunity, painting the British Army into a corner with yet another short-term piecemeal procurement with little ambition that offers no support to British industry.
With a little more ambition and vision, things could be different.
Look back through the history, especially at vehicles like the Esarco and Multidrive FCV, the UK certainly has the design heritage. Today, the UK automotive industry is world leading. Modern vetronics, hybrid electric power, protection and integration manufacturers are there, Penman, Morgan Composites, Ricardo, QinetiQ, MIRA, Supacat, Ovik, TMV, all there. By building in a requirement for scalable protection, a new design could also serve as the base model for a truly universal vehicle, one that could serve as a replacement for Defender, Pinzgauer, Duro, Husky, Panther and Mastiff. A single chassis/skateboard (like the TMV and Foxhound) could have for example, a low or high protection cab fitted, depending on requirements, and a modular load bed.
I admit there may be some degree of romanticism here, but for the UK, a nation with both a great heritage AND current industrial and design capacity, do we really need to settle for a warmed over Unimog?
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