An APC and IFV situation round-up.
Questions arise when some documents state that the Army will set aside $50 million to preserve the engineering base associated with the GCV, while another 100 million would be used in the Army's research and development centres involved. This should mean that the Army wants to draw on work so far achieved to launch a further programme, and returning to the drawing board to develop a new infantry fighting vehicle. An alternative solution would be to organise another round of tests with foreign-developed vehicles, of which some scored top marks during previous evaluations. Whatever happens, the Bradley will definitely celebrate its 40th in service anniversary in 2021.
Nevertheless, one should not forget that in mid-2013 the Congressional Budget Office issued four recommendations, of which two involve looking at foreign solutions for the Bradley replacement. The two recommended vehicles where the Israeli Namer, which had a considerable edge in terms of survivability over the GCV while saving $9 billion, and the German Puma, considered only slightly more survivable than the GCV but definitely more lethal. As a boon it is able to carry six infantrymen which means that five Pumas are required to replace four Bradleys and thereby potentially saving the taxpayer an estimated $14.8 billion. The more affordable option was a further round of Bradley upgrades that would be expected to make it as survivable and more lethal than the Ground Combat Vehicle, but saving $19.8 on the way. Reduced space, weight increase and lack of electrical power are the main problems to be solved, with lethality increase remaining on the wish list.
Solving those problems would allow the Bradley to turn 50 in the early 2030s, the cancellation of the GCV programme being the last on of the Congressional Budget Office's recommendations. And this not only because of the termination of successive replacement programmes: the decision of General Dynamics Land Systems not to compete in the US Army's Armoured Multi-Purpose Vehicle programme aimed at replacing M113s in the Army's Heavy Brigade Combat Teams leaves BAE Systems as the sole competitor, at least to our knowledge. GDLS is of course lobbying to get the requirement rewritten, which might delay what the Army considers a key programme.
How much politics will affect this issue is still to be seen. What is sure is that if BAE Systems remains the only competitor, this will bring in more Bradley-based vehicles into the Army's inventory as the company's proposal is based on the existing tracked vehicle which will be modified and developed in five different versions, quantities being indicated in parenthesis: General Purpose (522), Medical Evacuation (790), Medical Treatment (216), MortarCarrier (386) and Mission Command (993). How much synergies could be found between the Armoured Multi-Purpose Vehicle programme and a potential further Bradley upgrade is anybody's guess, but it would certainly make sense to carry out a parallel improvement in certain areas to further reduce non-recurrent R&D costs, though the acquisition of a new vehicle heavily based on foreign solutions also remains an viable option.
Another major programme on the western side of the Atlantic was cancelled on 20 December 2013: according to Canadian Defence and Army top brass the potential offered by an Upgraded LAV Ill being far superior than envisioned (including the investment in ISR capabilities, improvements in roadside bomb protection etc) makes the CCV project redundant. This is considerable blow to the three contenders, namely GDLS-Canada, BAE Systems and Nexter that were offering respectively their Piranha 5, the CV9035 MK Ill and the VBCI with the hope of grabbing the US$2 billion contract for 108 vehicles plus 30 more in option.
Such an introduction might sound like a requiem for IFVs andAPCs, but it is not quite the case as other programmes are still open on the Old Continent: while the cursor of the Danish replacement for M113s has indeed only slightly moved to the right, Poland is looking at a whole new family of vehicles, while Spain might resurrect its 8x8 programme (although probably with relatively limited numbers), Lithuania added itself to the wheeled IFV potential buyers by issuing an RfP to nine potential suppliers in late July 2014. Asia and the Middle East are also pretty active, while in the America the Marine Corps seems again interested in the Marines Personnel Carrier: The programme is now known as ACV Phase 1 Increment 1 (ACV 1.1) and its initial operational capability is forecast around 2020.
For the latter programme the new Piranha 3+ unveiled by General Dynamics European Land Systems at Eurosatory 2014 seems perfectly tailored to the Corps' requirements. The vehicle dimensions are increased not only to provide greater volume to the 13 military on board (internal volume increasing from 13.5 [m.sup.3] to 14 [m.sup.3]),but also to provide the required buoyancy. Length is stretched to 7.72 metres form 7.30 metres for the Piranha 3, while width and height are marginally increased, respectively from 2.72 to 2.78 metres and from 2.22 to 2.25 metres. Empty weight has increased from 13.4 to 16 tonnes while payload capacity increased from 9.2 to 11 tonnes, for a gross weight stepping from 22 to 25 tonnes (with growth potential of 27 tonnes). This required the adoption of a new engine to maintain a good power-to-weight ratio, the new Caterpillar C13 providing 520 hp compared to the earlier C9s 400 hp, resulting in an increase from 18.2 hp/t to 20.8 hp/t at standard gross weight. The new engine also wrenches out 2,300 Nm of torque instead of 1,600. The Piranha 3+ can be fitted with conventional suspensions or with hydro-pneumatic suspensions with height monitoring system at the higher weights. Fatter tyres are also offered, 395/85R20 being an option for replacing standard 365/85R20. As far as protection is concerned no levels were provided but it was made clear that the 3+ draws on Piranha 5 modular solutions and its survivability to blasts should be close to that. Better under-floor maintenance access is obtained: the driveline features commonalities both with the Striker and the Canadian LAV-Upgrade. Although the vehicle exhibited at Eurosatory was not equipped with propellers, the amphibious version will feature two propellers and two rudders, shutting louvers, seawater cooling system, trim van and snorkel, as well as bilge pumps. The prototype, which was rolled-out the week prior to the Paris exhibition, could carry a crew of three and nine dismounts--exactly as per Marine Corps' requirement--and was armed with a Kongsberg M151 Protector.
On 12 June GDELS demonstrated the Scout SV PMRS (Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support) to a British Ministry of Defence delegation, the future British Army vehicle being based on the Ascod 42 platform, which was then unveiled at DVD 2014. On 3 September 2014 General Dynamics UK was finally awarded the Scout SV contract to the tune of over 4 billion [euro] including 589 units and initial in-service support and training. Deliveries will take place between 2017 and 2020, the Scout SV being produced in different variants: those equipped with the Lockheed Martin turret armed with the 40 mm CTAI include reconnaissance and strike (198), joint fire controls (23), and ground based surveillance (24), the latter adding a radar sensor; the turretless version known as PMRS (Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support) includes armed personnel carried (59), command and control (112), formation reconnaissance over watch (34), engineer reconnaissance (51), engineer recovery (38) and engineer repair (50). All PMRS are to be equipped with a Kongsberg Protector.
At Eurosatory 2014 a new version of the Ascod chassis was unveiled, with a gross weight of 31 tonnes and a growth potential up to 35 tonnes. Its dimensions are very similar to the original (variations of a few centimetres only), with a slightly raised rear roof at the rear to increase the the infantry compartment volume. What changes more substantially is the curb weight, dropping from 27.8 tonnes to a mere 22 to bring a considerable increase in payload capacity, which rises from 2.2 to 9 tonnes at standard grow weight and from 3.2 to 13 tonnes at maximum admitted weight, although power on tap stays at 721 hp. Rubber tracks offer considerable weight saving compared with the steel variety, although the latter remain available. Re-design brought also a 20% increase in internal volume, now 12 [m.sup.3]. In terms of protection GDELS integrated a new mine protection solution that has been tested and certified in February 2014 by a Nato country with a four high-level blast test campaign; the new mine protection is based on a high-resistance hull bottom and includes innovative shock-attenuating devices both for personnel and equipment (no further details were forthcoming). The reduced curb weight results not only from the rubber track solution but also from the new ballistic protection which is based on ceramics and add-on panels that cover 98% of the vehicle (again, protection levels were not unveiled). With this new chassis the company intends to be more aggressive on the tracked vehicle market.
Still at at Eurosatory General Dynamics displayed the "LAV Demonstrator", a modernized LAV III fitted with a Kongsberg Protector armed with an ATK 30mm MK44 dual-feed cannon. The vehicle is a further evolution of the Canadian Army LAV 6.00 8x8 infantry fighting vehicle currently in production. Chassis protection is improved thanks to the adoption of the Double-V hull and of a bolt-on passive armour package. The vehicle looks slightly different, the engine compartment having been raised to house the 450 hp Caterpillar C9 coupled to the ZF 7HP902 automatic transmission, and the rear hull is slightly higher to yield more room to the dismounts. The driveline has been upgraded to cope with the higher output power. The Demonstrator has a curb weight of 28.6 tonnes and can accommodate a crew of three and seven dismounts. The vehicle is fitted with improved suspensions.
With VBCI deliveries to the French Army well underway, Nexter drew on lessons learned both in Afghanistan and Mali by its national customer and from its export campaigns with various potential customers in the Middle East, Canada and Denmark to name but a few. This resulted in the 8x8 APC displayed at Eurosatory. The improved driveline affords an increased GVW of 32 tons in turn allowing the adoption of 105mm gun turrets. Propulsion-wise the adoption of a powerpack concept allows full replacement in around one hour, nearly half of the time needed in the standard VBCI. Propulsion improvement also generated a 10% power increase to a 600 hp and a higher electric power generation of 570 A. Standard VBCIs are equipped with differential steering on the fourth axle to reduce turning diameter from 21 to 18 metres. A further reduction to 15-16 metres by virtue of a fourth differential steering axle is offered on option. Payload capacity received a considerable boost thanks to the curb weight reduction obtained by the adoption of a new protection package based on new technologies. These allowed to skim off round one tonne while keeping the full Level 4A/B protection against mines and roadside bombes. Ergonomics have also been improved with more internal space and comfort. New energy absorbing seats developed by Nexter Mechanics have been installed, and most of the equipment is now fastened to the vehicle to avoid items becoming secondary projectiles in case of explosion. Hydraulic jacks operating the ramp have been moved outside the compartment, while air conditioning distribution has been revised. The driver's comfort has been increased with more room at waist level, and episcopes have been moved from the hull to the hatch to allow a better vision when driving with the hatch open. A day/night driving vision enhancement system with a dedicated display is also installed. Onboard vetronics have also been improved and now feature full open architecture: an Ethernet network has been added to the existing Can Bus for on-board distribution of vehicle surround images (all displays are now of the same type to ensure full crew-sharing of images and info). Nexter considers the vehicle and the incremental evolutions implemented presented at Eurosatory as fully representative of the product currently offered to the customer. A first effect of the new standards reached by the VBCI will be the testing of the French 8x8 IFV by the British Army, which should start as these lines are read, as the service is looking at a utility vehicle following the cancellation of the Future Rapid Effect System Utility Vehicle. The new driveline will eventually be retrofitted to the French vehicles. Amongst improvements sought by the French Army are the Israeli Water Gen GEN-40V atmospheric water generator system and WTU water treatment unit that generates drinkable water from air conditioning (one of each have been ordered for tests in view of a full contract).
"Following the commitment of the President in favour of the defence budget, I am about to launch the Scorpion programme. First deliveries will take place in 2018 for the VBMR and in 2020 for the EBRC" These are the words of Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defence minister, at the opening of the Eurosatory 2014. The go-ahead for the VBMR will thus take place soon. The BMX01, the risk-reduction demonstrator developed by Renault Trucks Defense (RTD) following the June 2010 development contract (another contract filed to Nexter gave birth to the BMX-02) was first unveiled at the Paris exhibition and then demonstrated on the move the following week. As stated by the French Delegation Generale pour l'Armement the VBMR will be developed by a team that includes Nexter, Renault Trucks Defense (RTD) and Thales, respectively responsible for the armour, the automotive-vehicle architecture, and the vetronics. At 22 tonnes with a growth potential of two more, the BMX-01 has a 4.7tonne payload capacity and is based on an all welded monocoque with independent suspensions. Capable to accommodate up to 11 military in a single 14.7 [m.sup.3] compartment, it features a team commander's seat (which in the future will be able to turn 90[degrees] right) behind the driver, the vehicle's commander seat front right, while eight dismounts are seated on two rows of energy absorbing seats in the rear. Ingress and egress take place via the rear ramp, which features an emergency door with a vision block; a wider armoured window is available on each side at the rear, and the windshield is divided into two armoured glass blocks. Protection will be provided by armour kits up to Level 4. The BMX-01 demonstrator logged over 7,000 km on various types of terrain in several locations in France, and has already sustained ballistic tests. The vehicle is powered by an 400hp off-the-shelf Renault turbodiesel mated to a standard gearbox and has a central tyre inflation system.
According to RTD the BMX-01 represents around 80% of what the VBMR should technically be. The hull will be modified, the roof lowered by about 80 mm, length increased by around 200 mm towards the rear (but wheel base remains unchanged with 2,950 mm between the front axle and the second and 1,500 mm between the second and the third). The 2,500 mm width remains unchanged to comply with civilian road regulations. RTD is considering changing the powerpack in favour of a new 400-500 hp engine from the Group's new family of engines and thereby ensure full sustainability untilatleast 2030. With the VBMR the French Army will have a higher mobility and better protected vehicle compared to the VAB, even if it does not match up with the high-tier VBCI. A prototype is expected in 2016.
Remaining in the wheeled vehicles world, as promised at DSEI last year when it unveiled its new vehicle concept, Patria annouced gave it a name at Eurosatory: AMVXP, for Extra Payload, Extra Performance and Extra Protection. While it was not at the Paris show, a command post AMV was. The AMVs are still doing well on the international market. The AMV-based South African Badger infantry combat vehicle developed by Denel Land Systems are undergoing both technical and tactical test and evaluation. Production is expected to start in 2016, the first order covering 238 vehicles in five different variants. The AMV in its different international versions scored a further success last June when Poland ordered 34 Rosomak 8 x 8s, in the engineering reconnaissance variant. This new version is to be developed, and will feature a one-tonne crane and tools that will allow a basic-level engineering support on the field, a version with a four-tonne crane being available for a higher support level, 17 such vehicles having been ordered in October 2013.
First international public appearance also for the German Puma, developed and produced by PSM, the joint venture between KMW and Rheinmetall. The tracked IFV, that might raise again the American interest, carried out hot weather testing in the United Arab Emirates in the Fall of 2013 at temperatures that exceeding 50[degrees]C (one of the two vehicles used were at Eurosatory). All extreme weather tests have been concluded within contractual terms, final approval from the German procurement agency were expected in late July 2014, but a need to optimise radio and equipment storage have led to a further test round without, however, hindering deliveries to the German Army in late 2014. The first unit to receive the new IFV is Panzer grenadier bataillon 33. Full-rate production is expected to be reached as of 2015, peaking at 55 vehicles per year until the roll out of the last of the 350 operational vehicles by 2020 (eight driver training vehicles are part of the package). All German Pumas will be delivered to the German Army Armour School in Munster where a specific organisation has been formed. This will receive personnel from mechanised battalions, mate them with their new vehicles, train them to use the new Puma through a three-month course, and finally send them back to their unit as a complete package, each battalion including 44 Pumas. A noteworthy point is that the nine mechanised infantry battalions which are part of the 2011 German Army Structure will not receive the full complement of tracked vehicles, in accordance with the new German Army equipment policy, as this would mean to provide them with 396 combat vehicles plus some extra units for the school. Some last-minute changes might also occur: the Army asked to integrate the MG4 5.56 mm machine gun instead of the older 7.62 MG3, although a return to that larger calibre might occur, the H&K MG5 and the new 7.62 Rheinmetall new 7.62 mm machine gun being under consideration following lessons learned in Afghanistan. Moreover the current grenade launchers installed on the rear of the turret on both sides should be replaced by new 360[degrees] coverage systems. Currently developed by Rheinmetall, the new launcher will consist in a trainable turret with a round container with six 76 mm launchers in the inner circle and 18 high velocity 40 mm grenade launchers on the outer one affording lethal and less-than-lethal engagements at up to 400 metres.
Turning to the Boxer, the first three vehicles--all ambulances--were handed over to the Dutch Army in early July 2014. So far the Netherlands had only received the eight driver training vehicles. The ambulances are in fact the first operational Boxers delivered to the 13th Mechanised Brigade, the unit shifting from tracks to wheels. To show the Boxer flexibility and capacity KMW exhibited at Eurosatory a version of the vehicle fitted with the 155/52mm Artillery GunModule.
Thanks to Rheinmetall, Algeria is becoming the latest armoured vehicle producer: in late August 2014 the company received the green light from the German Government to build facilities there to produce the Fuchs. No more details are available due to a non-disclosure agreement, but what is clear is that this is the beginning of a new trend, Rheinmetall having created in early 2014 a joint venture with Ferrostaal, known as Rheinmetall International Engineering, active in engineering, procurement and contracting.
The CV90 is now in its Mk3 iteration, but new developments are already in the pipeline. Numerous countries are upgrading their vehicles or plan to do so. Norway has launched its upgrade programme, in which old chassis will see their turrets removed to become support variants (the Sting engineer vehicle, the Multic multirole vehicle that can itself be declined in four variants including logistic transport, VIP and 81 mm mortar carrier 16 of each having been ordered) and Stridle command posts of which 15 have been ordered. These chassis are being refurbished, retain the original automotive components, but their protection is increased and their vetronic becomes fully digitised. Mobility is increased due to the turret removal. New CV90 Mk3 chassis will be equipped with upgraded turrets, also fully digitised, "only the seats and the cannon remain from the original turret" a senior BAE Systems engineer told Armada. The new Mk3 electronic architecture is based on Ethernet, a Canbus remaining however active as a backup in case of Ethernet failure. The new Norwegian CV9030 features over 100 IP addresses. A further variant is the OPV, which retains the turret while adding a mast-mounted ISR package that includes a radar and an optronic suite, the dismounts being replaced by a less numerous recon group in charge of intelligence gathering. The Norwegian Army received the first of upgraded CV9030 IFVs on 25 February 2014, a combat engineer vehicle based on a refurbished Mk1 chassis having been rolled out on 22 August. Sweden is also in the process of upgrading its CV90s; the configuration is not yet frozen but it will certainly include life extension, an ergonomic review and the adoption of an improved BMS. Discussions are underway to finalise the package, a contract signature being expected for end 2014. Estonia is acquiring 44 CV9035s from the Netherlands. As for Denmark, an RfP for the M113 replacement was awaited in August-September 2014, in view of a contract award within the first half of 2015.
In terms of CV90 further evolutions, BAE Systems is working on the proof of concept of its Adaptiv visual system currently considered at TRL4, while the IR version is TRL-7 and should a customer materialise it could be delivered within a couple of years. The company is developing a tile that is able to adapt to both infrared and visible spectra to match the background landscape. The size of those tiles will depend on the minimum detection range required by the customer, and two options will be proposed, a lower cost system with preset patterns, and a Gucci system with cameras capable to catch the background image and a computer to tune the tiles to merge the vehicle in the captured background.
Hard kill and 360o surroundings vision are the other two fields of activity. The former sees BAE Systems already involved with a customer in the choice of an optimal solution. As for latter the aim is to get in due time a "transparent vehicle" in which the commander can see through the armour in any direction. A cheaper system will be adopted for dismounts in the rear compartment. Co-operation with Soucy continues, new rubber tracks used on the Armadillo demonstrator having survived 6,000 km without any problem. This, and active damping which will become standard on all new platforms, will mark a great step in increasing "comfort" not only for soldiers but also for the electronic equipment carried. All technology developments are being proposed for the PLO-1, the platform demonstrator introduced at MSPO 2013 with cross-airs on the Polish Army requirement for a light and medium tracked family of vehicles.
First shown at IDEX 2013, the Varan 6 x 6 developed by the Streit Group should reach the end of its development in late 2014 to enter mass production in 2015. The development of this vehicle and other military-related products is in line with the group production shift, Streit aiming at a 70% military and 30% commercial split for its 2014 revenues. The monocoque hull uses SSAB Armox 500T ballistic protection on its sides and top while the energy absorbing bottom is made with Armox 440T. Basic protection can be increased to full Level 4 with add-on ceramic armour and anti-mine bottom kit. The development of the automotive components is completed and the vehicle has undergone thorough testing at the Milbrook Technology Park in England, ballistic tests being expected within year end at the IABG test centre in Germany. The Varan can accommodate a two-man crew and six dismounts. The 6x6 APC is powered by a Cummins 400 hp diesel engine coupled to an Allison automatic five-speed transmission, the powerpack being located front right. Having vehicles ready for delivery being the Group's philosophy, 250 powerpack and axle kits have already been ordered, mass production being expected for 2015 as a few orders are close to be signed, target price for the baseline model being under one million dollars. At Eurosatory the Varan prototype was equipped with a Sarmat remotely controlled weapon station developed by State Kyiv Design Bureau "Luch" in the Ukraine, armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun and four antitank missiles.
The Sakal modernised infantry fighting vehicle was exhibited at the Excalibur Army stand for its first Eurosatory and international appearance. Based on the BMP-2, it features a 402hp Caterpillar engine (some 100 hp more than before) coupled to an improved automatic transmission. The engine is located on the right, with the driver on the left, commander and gunner seats being located behind the front section. The Sakal is equipped with an Evpu Turra 30 weapon station armed with a 30 mm 2A42 cannon and a 7.62 mm co-axial machine gun, with two 9M113 Konkurs missiles located on the right of the turret. The armament can however be replaced with weapon systems of Western origin of the same category. Ballistic protection is at Level 3, while antimine is at Level 1b/2a.
Caption: In the wake of Eurosatory Renault organised a demo day on a Gendarmerie training range, the first chance of seeing its BMX-01 being put through its paces. (Armada/Paolo Valpolini)
Caption: US Army Bradleys lined up in the desert. In total contrast with a number of new vehicles featured here, these vehicles will remain in service for long as their replacement is pushed on the right. (US Army)
Caption: Unveiled at the Paris exhibition, the Piranha 3+ seems to be developed to a US Marine Corps requirement originally known as Marines Personnel Carrier (Armada/P. Valpolini)
Caption: At Eurosatory 2014 GDLS Canada exhibited the latest iteration of its Light Assault Vehicle fitted with a Konsberg remotely controlledmedium-calibre turret. (Armada/Paolo Valpolini)
Caption: Field experience as well as comments and requirements from potential customers following tests have led Nexter to develop a prototype that incorporates all possible modifications now offered. (Armada/Paolo Valpolini)
Caption: Although not exhibited at Eurosatory, the new-generation 8x8 by Patria got its new name announced: AMVXP for extreme performances. (Patria)
Caption: The German Army will soon receive its new Puma fighting vehicles, which had their first participation in an international exhibition in Paris lastJune. (Armada/P. Valpolini)
Caption: Deliveries of the latest standard CV90 to Norway started in February 2014; the BAE Systems tracked infantry fighting vehicle has substantially evolved since its inception over 20 years ago- its name originally standing for Combat Vehicle forthe 1990s. (BAE Systems)
Caption: Streitis increasing its successes on the international market and its Varan 6x6 armoured personnel carrier is nearly ready for production. (Armada/Paolo Valpolini)
Caption: A consortium of Slovak enterprises led by Excalibur Army has developed the new BMP-based Sakal IFV. (Armada/Paolo Valpolini)
Japan's first appearance
Eurosatory 2014 marked the first appearance of the Japanese defence industry. No real vehicles were actually shown, the only armoured vehicle--an 8 x 8 from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was exhibited in model form, here photographed by the author. The vehicle would be about 8 metres long, 2.2 metres high, 2.98 metres width, and its curb weight 18 tonnes offering an 10-tonne payload capacity. In APC guise it can carry a total of 11 men and aversion with raised rear compartment for ambulance or command post applications is also available. Equipped with independent double wishbone and hydropneumatic suspensions, it runs on 395/85R20 rubber. Powered by a 535 hp MHI 4VA 4-cylinder diesel located front-left, it can reach over 100 km/h on road. Protection levels were not provided, the APC being equipped with all-round bar armour, the flanks of the troop compartment being apparently protected by reactive armour. Armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun for self-defence purposes, the vehicle's ample payload capacity would clearly enable it to carry medium or even heavy calibre turrets although the Japanese policy remains that of proposing non aggressive equipment on the market.
Please note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.
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|Title Annotation:||Armoured Vehicles|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2014|
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