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The military truck - into the next generation; military trucks get old but refuse to wear out.

The Military Truck - Into the Next Generation

Military Trucks Get Old But Refuse to Wear Out

In an era characterised by the increasing cost and complexity of military equipment, programmes for the upgrade of logistic transport have often been unable to command more than a low priority. The military truck accumulates less mileage than its commercial counterpart and certainly under peacetime conditions operates well within its payload limits. Thus it is hardly surprising that whenever there are pressures on defence budgets, programmes for their replacement are postponed on the grounds that there is no reason why they cannot be run on <<for a few more years>>.

Inevitably such decisions involve an element of trade-off. Older vehicles cost more to maintain, and worldwide changes in the auto industry have compelled some major manufacturers either to withdraw completely from the military vehicle market or at least to restructure their businesses. Bedford and AM General have pulled out of truckbuilding, VW has sold its Iltis product to the Canadian Bombardier concern, and under Paccar ownership Foden is no longer producing the spares necessary to support the large fleet of load carriers and artillery tractors that it supplied to the British army during its years as an independent business. It is widely believed that the structural changes in the industry are by no means complete and that more manufacturers are likely to go out of business in the early 1990s.

Many of the vehicles no longer in production are "military specials" which left the drawing board in times when it was necessary to develop special designs to meet military requirements for reliability. The "premium truck" technology which characterises today's civilian truck markets reflects commercial transport operators' concern to acquire fleets of vehicles which have the favourable operating cost characteristics associated with longer periods between routine maintenance and a higher mean time between failures. Thus the military operator is usually able to obtain a vehicle capable of meeting his requirements "off-the-shelf".

The British 4-tonner

Buying off-the-shelf does not imply that the user does not get all that he wants in a truck. The recent competition to select a new four-tonne truck for the British Army provides an excellent example of how a procurement can be managed to secure the maximum "commercial" benefit for the procurement authority without prejudicing the standards of reliability and maintainability sought by the eventual user.

The contract was awarded to Leyland DAF after a closely fought competition against Volvo and AWD. Technically, the Leyland DAF bid was of particular interest as it had taken as its starting point test data accumulated running its Comet export commercial vehicle on trials in harsh operating conditions on African roads. There-after it made extensive use of computer aided design and Finite Element Analysis techniques to evaluate components and subsystems prior to entering the prototype stage. Thus the vehicle "came off the drawing board" at a much later stage in the development programme than the procurement agency expected, but with a greater degree of confidence than would have been possible in traditional design processes.

The other point of particular interest in the 4-tonner procurement was Leyland DAF's recognition that the vehicles it would be supplying under the contract would still be in service at the end of the century. Thus it sought to incorporate features in the specification that might be increasingly sought by military users in the years ahead but which were not mandatory within the terms of the British requirement. Permanent four-wheel drive was one such feature. As far as the British Army was concerned such a system was a "bonus", but there are unquestionably other users who see it as essential and therefore Leyland DAF not only decided to offer it as a standard feature but did so within a specification which remained first and foremost "off-the-shelf".

Likewise Leyland DAF opted for a high-specification cab which it considered to be more "user-friendly". Traditionally the military truck cab has been an austere workplace with what are by today's standards unacceptably high vibration and noise levels and indeed some manufacturers consider that military requirements for flame/flash protection mean that it can never be entirely comparable with that customarily fitted to the commercial premium truck. However, Leyland DAF made what seems to be a most effective compromise to provide a comfortable-and at the same time essentially soldier-proof - cab that will be not become outdated during the 1990s. It may well be that military truck designers and users alike will have to pay more attention to ergonomics as drivers become used to essentially user-friendly non-military vehicles.

The military driver may be required to drive for long periods under conditions of considerable operating stress. A working environment that differs significantly from the norm might mean that he is only able to function sub-optimally. It is perhaps worth noting that one of the factors which prompted the US Army to select automatic transmission for its HMMWV Hummer tactical trucks was that the average US Army driver was unfamiliar with manual gearshifts and had to be retaught to drive on military trucks.

Another key requirement of the trucks that are about to enter service may be "stretch" as they will still be required to remain in service for much longer periods than their predecessors. Mid-life updates are not a feature of the commercial truck market. However, the military vehicle may be expected to remain in service with its first owner long after the advent of new technology which would have encouraged his commercial counterpart to buy a new truck. The military user may therefore be looking for a design which can accept more powerful engines or alternative transmission systems. AWD's contender for the British 4-tonner competition, for example, has room to accommodate an automatic transmission should users require it as either a new-build or retrofit item. It has also been offered with a 170+bhp engine rather than with the 142 bhp unit offered to the British forces, as other armies believe the high rating to be more appropriate to their needs.

Tactical Payloads

Selection of next generation trucks will reflect the evolving nature of both tactical and logistic payloads. Tactical payloads are becoming more specialised and will increasingly take the vehicle builder into areas that are far removed from the simple weapon mounting or FFR preparation for the communications role.

The market for military vehicles is unpredictable, and vulnerable to budgetary pressures. However, the harsh reality is that many light tactical vehicles - even within NATO - are obsolete in terms of carrying capacity, mechanical components (not the least of the problems being their petrol engines), and suitability as platforms for sophisticated equipment.

Today's sophisticated communications and [C.sub.3]I systems are often "packaged" in high integrity containerised shelters designed to minimise the effects of electromagnetic and other emissions that could degrade their efficiency. Since the standard S250 equipment shelter, which with full RFI integrity might have a gross weight of around 1.25 tonnes is amongst the lightest available, there is trend towards the use of 1.5-2 tonne vehicles for use in forward areas where the 4 x 4 1-tonne light utility might have formerly been the customary means of transport.

Hitherto the 2-tonne category has been dominated by the Daimler-Benz Unimog and Steyr Pinzgauer products. Both are still very much in contention but the increased level of interest has attracted a number of notable newcomers and the expectation is that vehicles like the Iveco Fiat 40-10WM and the Renault Vehicules Industriels TRM2000 - both of which have a high proportion of "off-the-shelf" components and have already won major contracts - will be to the fore.

The manufacturers of the light utilities have responded by offering their products for a wider range of tasks in the up to one tonne category. More than 27 000 Mercedes-Benz G-wagens and Peugeot and ELBO (Greece) licence-built versions have been ordered by military and paramilitary customers since 1980.

Meanwhile UK-based Land Rover has suffered from the incursion of Japanese products led by the Toyota Land Cruiser into its traditional markets, and badly botched its entry into the bidding for a 2-tonner for the British Army. It is probably not unfair to say that in mid-1988 Land Rover's military fortunes seemed to be at their lowest point in the company's 40-years history. However, it has recently won a major contract to supply 214 of its 127-inch Wheelbase vehicles to the Royal Air Force to serve as tractor units for Rapier missiles and is now developing vehicles for a variety of emerging tactical and forward support roles. These include a collaborative venture with Euromissile to offer a complete vehicle-mounted HOT missile system, and a special installation to generate high pressure pure air for recharging the cooling bottles of thermal imaging equipment.

Land Rover developed the cooling air supply system in conjunction with Hymatic Engineering, a subsidiary of the FR Group. Industry sources expect that there will be more such collaborations between vehicle builders and equipment manufacturers to meet growing demands for special support vehicles in the up to 1-tonne category. There is already a need for support and launcher vehicles for RPVs, and there have also been experimental installations of elevating mast reconnaissance sensors systems on Land Rover type vehicles. It may be that other manufacturers will follow Peugeot's example and offer armoured versions of their standard utilities. The CBHCp version of the Peugeot P4 (the licence-built G-wagen) is a relatively heavy vehicle with a gross weight in the region of 5 000 kg but since it can carry a 1 000 kg payload it seems certain to attract continuing interest as protected forward area transport for battlefield surveillance radar and electronic warfare equipment.

Arguably the US Army's Hummer HMMWV is the ideal platform for such equipment. Its designers and manufacturers have always stressed that despite its bulk - it has a gross weight of nearly 4 tonnes - the Hummer is a genuine Jeep-successor with fording and ground clearance capabilities and a degree of versatility that set it apart from its commercial-derived competitors. Certainly its ability to carry the Gichner S-710/M shelter and a range of weapons systems extending from .50 calibre machine-guns to the RED-T 25 mm Chain Gun installation and the 8-missile Pedestal Mounted Stinger make it one of the most versatile vehicles of its type. It may be that such European manufacturers as UMM (Portugal), SOVAMAG (France), Heuliez (France) and Auverland (France) could seek collaborative arrangements with weapons and electronic systems manufacturers to enable them to offer their one-tonne capacity vehicles in similar roles.

The All-Terrain Vehicle

The All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) has historically been rather more of a good idea than a good investment. The British Army's recent order for 40 Supacat vehicles to support its airborne forces generated a great deal of short-lived activity but although there have been suggestions that ATVs could be used as agile platforms for mobile smoke generating or NBC decontamination equipment there is still no sign of major orders for them in either role. Many observers consider that there are genuine requirements for such equipment but that if and when orders are placed the equipment manufacturers will be the prime contractors and will establish collaborative arrangements with platform builders of their own choice.

Generally, ATVs have austere specifications, are suitable for only limited periods of occupancy and suffer from limited top speed. There may be a growing demand for highly agile fast weapon carriers capable of working over the worst terrain. This category includes the Dune-Buggy type of vehicle as adapted to military roles by Engesa (EE-VA)R, the Teledyne 115 bhp turbodiesel Light Forces Vehicle and in particular the TPC RAMP - a 1-tonne, 6-passenger multipurpose ATV with a 480 km cross-country range. All have higher on and off-high-way speeds than the logistic ATV.

Logistics roles

Logistic load carriers are probably one of the most "expendable" items in the military budget. As discussed earlier in this article they can be "run on" for long periods but as with light tactical vehicles, many users have now reached the point at which they must soon make replacement decisions.

Previous ARMADA International articles on this subject have discussed the pressures for the use of DROPS (Great Britain), PLS (United States) and VTL (France) logistic load handling systems to simplify the handling of heavy (15-16 tonnes) palletised unit loads of combat supplies. Although there have been a number of relatively small-scale programmes for the movement of bridging equipment and some other categories of stores, the French VTL programme is probably the most advanced in terms of scale. Great Britain has finally placed the order for the Leyland DAF medium mobility load carriers which it will require for the DROPS programme. However, at the time of writing the contract for the Foden vehicles, required to provide the forward element of the system, is bedevilled by technical problems which some industry sources attribute to there having been inadequate funding in the early stages of the project.

The problems with DROPS emphasis that there is no point in an army having the latest in handling equipment unless it has the right vehicles on which to mount it. AWD, the company which took over Bedford from General Motors believes that true increases in mobility, on the scale necessary to enhance capabilities rather than to simply keep pace with demand, can only be achieved by the introduction of new technology.

AWD believes that its Multidrive system, in which a load carrier's rear bogie is both powered and steered on both axles adds an entirely new dimension to military transportation in terms of both mobility and manoeuvrability. In slightly more than one year since the Multidrive system was first introduced, AWD has unveiled its plans for extending its use across the entire spectrum of carrying capacities and the indications are that it has made rapid headway in convincing potential users of its advantages.

However, there are other technological improvements "in the pipeline" which could have a profound effect on military vehicle procurement plans. Not the least is the prospect of the progressive imposition of emission regulations on truck exhausts which insofar as at least the United States are concerned will require the widespread use of electronic engine management systems. The likely timescale could mean that a whole series of electronic subsystems will be incorporated in trucks from 1994 onwards. At this stage Detroit Diesel leads the field with the introduction of electronically controlled engines in the United States, although Cummins is said to be moving towards the introduction of such a system and Lucas CAV has recently begun production an electronically controlled injectors system for another major manufacturer (Caterpillar?). In Europe Scania markets a Bosch-designed system for some of its heavy trucks.

The outcome of the introduction of onboard electronics is seen by some leading manufacturers as likely to lead to the progressive introduction of further electronics including onboard diagnostics, system for the integrated management of engine and gearbox, and automated braking.

With the United States about to acquire a family of Medium Tactical Trucks, Great Britain having just selected a new 4-tonner and France and others in the midst of programmes to upgrade transport assets there seems to be little likelihood of major fleets of mainstream load carriers reflecting "the state of the art" in vehicle technology. However, there are other vehicles - tank transporters, artillery tractors, bridging carriers, and some forward area logistic load carriers-which have stringent performance requirements and which could benefit from the application of advanced transmission technology and engine management techniques. The impression persists that the military user "missed out" on premium truck technology, and the hope must be that the procurement agencies will be quicker to evaluate the latest developments and embody them in the vehicles that are still on the drawing board.

PHOTO : AWD, which took over Bedford from General Motors, has developed the TT 6 x 6 Tank

PHOTO : Transporter tractive unit which is rated for a gross combination of 120 tonnes.

PHOTO : The cabin of the MAN 6 x 6 cargo truck accommodates three men including the driver and is

PHOTO : designed in such a way as to provide easy access to the engine.

PHOTO : The Steyr-Daimler-Puch 4 x 4 vehicle has been dominating the 2-tonne category for a number

PHOTO : of years. It has a maximum speed of 100 km/h and can climb 45 [degrees] slopes.

PHOTO : The Peugeot P4 exists in a CBHCp version - a relatively heavy vehicle with a gross weight

PHOTO : of about 5 tonnes. Its 1-tonne capacity makes it an attractive vehicle.

PHOTO : Renault Vehicules Industriels' range of TRM trucks, like the TRM2000 featured here, uses a

PHOTO : high portion of "off-the-shelf" components of civilian origin.

PHOTO : From the U 600 L all the way up to the U 1700 L, Daimler-Benz has developed a superb range

PHOTO : of Unimogs to suit all payload capacity needs from 1260 kg to 5000 kg.

PHOTO : In France, ACMAT (Ateliers de Construction Mecanique de l'Atlantique) produces 4 x 4,

PHOTO : 6 and 8 x 8 trucks with tonnages ranging from 1.5 tonnes to 8 tonnes.

PHOTO : Like a number of other truck manufacturers, Leyland DAF now produces military trucks with

PHOTO : cabins offering a comfort similar to that of their civilian counterparts.

PHOTO : With 211 kW, locking differentials on all axles, an automatic gearbox mated to a hydraulic

PHOTO : converter, there must be few places the Scania SBATIII cannot reach.

PHOTO : Steyr produces a comprehensive range of trucks based on its medium category 12 M 18 and

PHOTO : heavyweight 17 M 28 and 24 M 31s. Above is an Austrian Army 12 M 18.
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Author:Reed, John
Publication:Armada International
Date:Oct 1, 1989
Previous Article:Low-level naval and ground-based air defense systems.
Next Article:Genesis and development of the Italo/Brazilian AMX; a new star is born in the strike aircraft firmament.

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