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Armouring trucks for combat: add-on armour is a necessity for combat service support vehicles to operate on the modern asymmetric battlefield.

After the collapse of Saddam Hussein's army in 2003 Iraqi insurgents were quick to realise that the Achilles heel of US-led coalition forces is the ten of thousands of soft-skin combat service support vehicles necessary to bring essential items into Iraq for distribution to forward-deployed units. Improvised explosive devices, usually built using artillery shells or land mines, are the weapons-of-choice for insurgents, as they can be detonated independently or used to initiate an ambush by insurgents armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

The United States, other Nato nations and their allies had developed add-on armour kits to protect soft-skin vehicles deployed on peace support operations in Former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, but these were acquired in comparatively small numbers. As casualties to troops and vehicles mounted in Iraq, the US Department of Defense launched a crash programme to provide armour protection kits and a self-defence capability for the soft-skin tactical wheeled vehicles in Iraq. Only 10% of the medium tactical wheeled vehicles and about 15% of the heavy variety in Iraq had armour protection fitted in December 2004. Officials subsequently made a commitment that no vehicles would leave base areas without armour fitted. Armour solutions were improvised in theatre, as manufacturers increased production of existing armour kits and developed new designs for vehicles that previously had not been fitted with armour. The Central Command operates four armour installation sites in Iraq in addition to facilities in Kuwait. Dispersing the sites reduces the expense and time of moving vehicles to a central location. By late 2006 only one of these was manned entirely by military teams, with civilian contractors operating at the other sites alongside military personnel. Armour installation is a four-step process that begins with stripping areas of the vehicle, then adding heat and air conditioning, reinforcing the frame and finally installing the armour. Besides trucks and Humvees, kits have also been developed for engineering equipment such as bulldozers, rollers and graders.

The fitting of add-on armour has significant cost implications beyond initial acquisition and installation. The weight of armour reduces a vehicle's load capacity, thus requiring either more vehicles in theatre or more trips to be made. With armour fitted the Humvees, the lightest member of the tactical wheeled vehicle fleet, is no longer able to carry the standard shelter, which must now be mounted on a trailer or carried by a larger vehicle. As a rule, militaries operate fleets that combine militarised versions of commercial trucks and purpose-built military designs; it is generally much more difficult to fit add-on armour to commercial designs than to military designs. The additional weight also exacerbates the increased operational tempo, which is significantly reducing the life expectancy of the American fleet. The combined costs of up-armouring, rebuilding (Reset), upgrading (Recap) and the acquisition of new vehicles has resulted in the Department of Defense increasing its expenditure on tactical wheeled vehicles from an average of about $ one billion annually from between 2000 and 2004 to about $ three billion in subsequent years.

The US Army is placing priority on five key areas in new designs: mobility, fuel efficiency, electronics (such as drive vision and movement tracking systems), cargo handling and crew survivability. The Long-Term Armor Strategy requires that every new vehicle be 'fitted for but not with' B-Kit armour, which can be easily added in the field to supplement the integrated armour protection (A-Kit) fitted, during the manufacture process, to areas that would be difficult to reach in the field. The A/B armour concept was pioneered by the latest variants of the AM General Humvees, the two-seat Ml151 Armament Carrier and the four-seat M1152 Troop/Cargo/Shelter Carrier, which the army began fielding in mid-2005. Light Tactical Vehicles (LTV) represent about 50% of the US Army's Wheeled Tactical Vehicle fleet with about 120,000 Humvees, 9000 Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicles and limited numbers of Small Unit Support Vehicles in service. International Military and Government, a subsidiary of International Truck and Engine, and Lockheed Martin are developing competing designs for the Future Tactical Truck System Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration, which is expected to lead to a Humvee replacement (light utility vehicles will be the subject of an article in a future issue of Armada International).

The army has more than 85,000 Medium Tactical Vehicles, about 40% of its total soft-skin tactical wheeled fleet, of which more than 20,000 are Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle (FMTV) variants with production scheduled to continue well into the next decade. Stewart & Stevenson Tactical Vehicle Systems, manufacturer of the FMTV, developed the Low Signature Armored Cab (Lsac) as a replacement unit for the vehicle's commercially-derived cab and has delivered more than 2100 units. The FMTV's standard cab can be replaced by an Lsac in eight hours. The company claims the Lsac provides 50% greater protection and weighs 40% less than available applique kits. Stewart & Stevenson is also producing the lighter Lasc-H for installation on FMTV chassis that will be used to carry the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and its resupply vehicle. The company unveiled an armoured 4 x 4 FMTV utility variant in 2006. Based on the chassis of the M1078 Light Medium Tactical Vehicle, it features a new bonnet, behind which an Lsac is fitted. Positioning the cab further behind the front axle improves survivability should the vehicle strike a mine. The platform at the rear of the vehicle can carry either a three-tonne payload or the standard shelter, which can no longer be mounted on the Humvee.

Given the growing emphasis on armouring soft-skin tactical wheeled vehicles it is no surprise that Armor Holdings, which supplied armour components to Stewart & Stevenson, acquired the truck manufacturer in mid-2006 and integrated the company into its Aerospace & Defense Group.

Ceradyne, which specialises in the development and production of advanced ceramic materials, formed its Vehicle Armor Systems Division to develop and manufacture armour solutions for military customers.

DRS Technologies is producing 1862 FMTV appliqu6 armour kits under $ 54.3 million worth of contracts awarded since 2003. DRS and Israeli armour material manufacturer Plasan Sasa signed a teaming agreement in early 2006 to market tactical vehicle armour solutions aimed at both Recap and Ltas requirements. The Israeli company uses four major ballistic technologies to develop solutions for both combat and support vehicles: metal composite armour systems, composite ceramic armour, next-generation ceramic Smart (Super Multi-Hit Armour Technology) ceramic armour and high performance polyethylene armour.

In 2003 Armor Holdings subcontracted Plasan Sasa to develop armour protection kits for the cab and rear compartment of the Oshkosh 6 x 6 Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR). Oshkosh has delivered more than 8200 MTVRs to the US Marine Corps since December 1998. The seven-tonne vehicle is used extensively to provide tactical mobility and logistics support for marines in operational theatres. In 2004 and 2005 the US Marine Corps ordered 1850 armoured cab and 925 troop carrier kits. The armour kits are installed at Camp AI Taqquaddum in Iraq but from mid-2007 Oshkosh plans to begin installing A Kits on MTVRs on the assembly line in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. At the AUSA Annual Meeting & Exposition 2006 in mid-October in Washington, DC Plasan Sasa displayed its new Reduced-Height Armored Cabin for the MTVR which simplifies its loading on aircraft and ships.

The Logistics Vehicle System Replacement (LVSR) will be the first new vehicle designed for the US Marine Corps to incorporate the A/B armour solution. Following the award of an estimated $ 740.2 million contract in May 2006, Oshkosh will produce 1350 cargo variants, 150 wrecker variants and 400 fifth-wheel variants over six years. Oshkosh and American Truck Company (ATC) each received a contract in March 2004 to deliver three prototype vehicles by March 2005 for a 19,312-km accelerated performance and operational test. The LVSR will have an off-road payload capacity of 12.5 tonnes and a 22.5-tonne on-road capability.

The US Army's Heavy Tactical Vehicle fleet comprises about 10% of the tactical wheeled vehicle total with some 25,000 vehicles in service. Oshkosh produces the Heavy Expanded-Mobililty Tactical Truck (Hemtt), the Palletized Load System (PLS) and Heavy Equipment Transporter System (Hets), while Freightliner produces the M915 series Line-Haul Tractors. As all of these vehicles are used extensively in Iraq add-on armour kits have been developed for each of them. For example, Armor Holdings has produced more than 3600 protection kits for the Hemtt and Simula Aerospace and Defense Group has supplied M915 protection kits. As production of the Hemtt, PLS and M915 tractors is planned to continue into the next decade the A/B strategy will be adopted for new vehicles.

Protection for Gunners

Many tactical wheeled vehicles were designed with a top hatch where a machine gun can be mounted to provide a basic self-defence capability, and most armoured cab kits incorporate these features. The cost of fitting a remote control weapon station to all tactical wheeled vehicles is prohibitive but nevertheless American and other forces are taking measures to provide protection for gunners. The US Army and US Marine Corps initially fitted square frontal 'cav' shields, sometimes with 'barrel' armour to provide better protection, that were developed to protect M113 armoured personnel carrier gunners during the Vietnam War. However, the metal shields severely restricted the gunner's field of view. To overcome this limitation BAE Systems developed the Transparent Armored Gun Shield (Tags) for installation on combat vehicles, such as the M2/M3 Bradley and M1 Abrams, and also combat support vehicles.

In September 2005 the US Marine Corps purchased more than 1900 kits, under the designation Marine Corps Transparent Armored Gun Shield (MCTags), many of which are shipped to Iraq for installation by unit mechanics as soon as they are produced. <<The advantage of these turrets is the protection it provides the gunner,>> said US Marine Corps Master Sergeant Adam Lyttle, motor transport chief for the 5th Marine Regiment, which received the kits in early 2006. <<The most noticeable change is the ballistic glass. They also have higher turrets and they traverse a lot easier. The gunner can stay higher on the guns now. Their field of view is a whole lot better. The gunner plays a major part on all convoys.>> In October 2006 the company received a $ 40.7 million follow-on contract to deliver 1964 MCTags kits and spares by July 2007. Of these, 1864 kits will be installed on Humvees, 95 on the MTVRs and five on the M88 tracked armoured recovery vehicle.

Both the US Army and the US Marine Corps use the Gunner's Protection Kit developed and produced by DRS Radian Land Systems Division. The kit is made of composite armour panels, ballistic glass and aluminium and steel bracket and weighs approximately 181 kg. Single vision blocks are mounted on either side of the weapon as well as on the sides of the unit. The composite and ceramic armour materials are produced by Composhield.

Few of America's allies can afford the expensive A/B solution that the US has adopted under Ltas. The Canadian Army's project to acquire a new medium WTV fleet is typical of the strategy being implemented by US allies. The C$ 1.2 billion project, announced on 27 June 2006, involves the acquisition of 2300 trucks:

* 1500 five-tonne Medium-Size Logistics Trucks

* 800 commercial vehicles adapted for military use

* 1000 mission kits such as kitchens, offices and medical stations

* 300 armour protection kits.

The military pattern vehicles will be used for overseas missions and the commercial pattern vehicles restricted to training and administrative support functions in Canada. As it would be difficult to fit amour on the army's fleet of 20-year old Medium Logistics Vehicle Wheeled trucks (based on the old US M35/M36 design) and still carry a significant payload the army is placing a greater reliance on its 12,000-kg Heavy Logistics Vehicle Wheeled (a locally produced version of the Steyr 24 M) trucks in Afghanistan. To replace these vehicles in Afghanistan Canada has launched a C$ 150 million project to acquire about 100 trucks with a capacity of at least 16 tonnes, with an option for up to 50 vehicles, that incorporate a high level of protection against mines and improvised explosive devices and a protected weapon station.

The Oshkosh MTVR is the prime mover for the British Army's newly delivered fleet of wheeled tankers. Plasan Sasa and its British partner Permali provided a number of applique armour kits for these vehicles, which are now deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. The two companies are also teamed to provide add on armour kits for the British Army's Bedford and Daf four-tonne vehicles. Under earlier urgent operational requirements NP Aerospace supplied add-on armour kits for the British Army's eight- and 14-tonne Bedford trucks, Leyland and Foden Demountable Rack Off-loading Pick-up Systems, Foden Multidrive tankers and Foden recovery vehicles.

Later in 2007 MAN is scheduled to deliver the first of almost 8000 cargo trucks, 314 recovery vehicles and 69 recovery trailers ordered under the British Army's 1.25 billion [pounds sterling] Support Vehicle project. Vehicles will be "fitted for but not with' add-on armour kits which are being supplied by Austria's Ressenig. MAN offers two levels of protection for its vehicles. The installation of an Adaptive Protection Kit transforms the standard cabins of its HX and SX series vehicles into Modular Armoured Cabins. The kit weighs approximately 1300 kg and can be fitted in less than twelve hours to provide protection against Level 2 ballistic threats and Level 1 mine threats. MAN teamed with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) to develop the Integrated Armour Cab (IAC), which is fitted during the manufacturing phase to the 8 x 8 SX 45 Multi 2 Extreme Mobility Truck System to provide Level 3 ballistic and Level 3b mine blast protection. At the customer's request a remote control weapon station can be fitted to the IAC. Vehicles fitted with the IAC have been bought by Austria, Denmark, Germany and Norway.

KMW has also developed cab protection kits for the Germany Army's Iveco Defence Vehicles Division Trakker 8 x 8 fuel tankers, and the two companies are developing a modular cab for other Trakker models. Iveco, is delivering 400 M250.40WM 6 x 6 medium trucks fitted with land mine protection in the cabin and 350 add-on armour kits to the Belgian Army. Similarly, all of the 555 4 Series trucks being built by Scania for the Netherlands armed forces are 'fitted for but not with' protection kits; the contract included 262 applique protection kits.

Germany's Mercedes-Benz has developed an armoured cab for its militarised Actros heavyweight range of trucks that are available in two-, three- and four-axle configurations which are being evaluated by the Bundeswehr; this provides protection against 7.62 mm small arms fire and eight-kg anti-tank mines. The company has also adopted an A/B armour approach for its S2000 family of 4 x 4s and 6 x 6s with a seven-mm steel cab floor incorporated as standard to provide mine protection.

The 4 x 4 model can carry a payload of four to six tonnes while the 6 x 6 can carry seven to ten.

The Bundeswehr awarded Eads a contract in November 2006 to provide twelve TransProtec protected personal transport systems to join three units bought under an immediate requirement programme. Using a load-handling system the TransProtec module, which provides a high level of protection for up to 18 personnel, can be quickly mounted on the MAN Multi A3 FSA vehicle to move troops on non-tactical missions.

At Eurosatory 2006 Renault Trucks Defense (a subsidiary of Volvo) displayed new light members of its Sherpa tactical truck range along with the armour solutions offered for their protection. Both the Sherpa 2 (four-seat cab and four-tonne payload) and Sherpa 3 (two-seat cab and a 3.5-tonne payload) 4 x 4 vehicles can be fitted with add-on armour whereas the Sherpa 3A is a purpose-built armoured vehicle with a four-seat cab and a three-tonne payload. Nexter is the launch customer for the 6 x 6 Sherpa 5 to serve as the chassis for its Caesar 155 mm 6 x 6 self-propelled howitzer; these vehicles will be fitted with armoured cabs. An armoured and air transportable cab is also available for the improved Sherpa 10.

Sisu Defence presented its new E 15 T 10 x 10 off-road military vehicle at Eurosatory 2006 fitted with a Finnish-made armoured, low-profile two-seat cabin and additional mine protection. Nine of these vehicles mounting the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Leguan bridge launching system have been bought by the Finnish Defence Force. The same cab is installed on the 80 8 x 8 ETP series trucks which Sisu is building for the Lithuanian Defence Forces. France's Armor Mobile Systems, a subsidiary of Armor Holdings, has developed an interchangeable system for other Sisu models that can be installed by two men within 16 hours.
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Title Annotation:Trucks: armour
Author:Kemp, Ian
Publication:Armada International
Date:Feb 1, 2007
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