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Bon (con)voyage: since the first post-Cold War operations, escorting convoys has become a routine for the military. However, because units are now spread over much wider areas compared to conventional operations, along with the lack of well-defined battle lines, means that all logistics convoys move in unsafe surroundings. This would be bad enough if one did not have to include refugee and humanitarian convoys.

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The need to minimise damage to local road systems and keep up with convoys composed of wheeled vehicles--mostly trucks--means that escort detachments themselves need to be 'on wheels'. Initially, all armies deployed legacy vehicles, mostly wheeled armoured personnel carriers, but they quickly proved unsuited for the new role. Numerous vehicles have been developed since, with their protection increasing in tune with the threat (well, almost), which has grown to include so-called Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) that are triggered in various ways.

Good situational awareness is thus needed if one is to properly react to sudden threats, but so are vehicles with adequate mobility, as more often than not road systems available in many theatres set limitations to vehicle dimensions and weight. These considerations brought about the development of numerous light to medium wheeled vehicles that are heavily armoured and usually equipped with remotely controlled turrets armed with light machine guns or automatic grenade launchers. Many of those systems saw the light of day well before US troops encountered problems with Humvees following the 2003 Iraqi conflict. The up-armouring of these vehicles with all available means, carried out at unit level, illustrated the need for new highly-protected vehicles.

Textron Marine & Land's Cadillac Gage M1117 Armored Security Vehicles also engaged in convoy escort duties while in service with US Army Military Police. The initial acquisition of mine-resistant vehicles evolved into the Mrap (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected) programme (see variant and details in 'Command on Light Wheels' in this issue). Used for patrol as well as for convoy escort by US forces, the requirement for this type grew to some 17,700 vehicles, making the United States the market of reference for this type. The intended number was of over 20,000, however, a new programme known as Mrap 2 has been launched, US forces looking for vehicles better protected against roadside bombs using explosively formed penetrators (EFP). This report will first examine the latest developments in the field of vehicles and will then turn to defensive weapon systems. Unavoidably, given recent requirements on protection, a number of new basic platforms are similar to those discussed in an article on command vehicles in this same issue.

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Platforms

Starting from Category (Cat) 3 the most widely used Mrap is the Force Protection Buffalo, which has become the vehicle of reference. It has been acquired by numerous other countries such as Britain, Canada, France and Italy. Built on a truck chassis, the Buffalo is equipped with a telescopic arm that allows the operator inside the cabin to clear the road of suspect items which might hide mines or bombs, a vital role when opening the way to a convoy. Although protection levels remain classified the Buffalo structure and its deep V-shaped hull, together with a good half-metre ground clearance in the centre of the vehicle provide optimal protection against mines and roadside bombs. Force Protection also furnishes the Cougar in 4 x 4 and 6 x 6 versions, which addresses respectively the Cat 1 and Cat 2 requirements. A new armour kit has been developed to upgrade Cougar vehicles and was recently ordered by the US Marine Corps. Cougars are also in line with Britain, Canada, France, Italy and Iraq, while Poland has acquired some vehicles but awaits a decision on the acquisition of a new protected vehicle.

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BAE Systems has a road mine-clearing vehicle up its sleeve, based on the RG-33L Cat 2 vehicle which is also offered in other versions. BAE Systems' Mrap range in Cat 1 includes the RG-33 standard version, the RG-32M as well as the RG-31 Mk 5, the latter being produced under license by General Dynamics LS Canada. The RG-31 was the first mine-protected vehicle acquired in 2003 by the US Army, well before the Mrap programme was established, and is a derivative of the Nyala built by South African Reumech (now part of BAE Systems), which could withstand two TM57 detonations under the wheel and one under the floor. The RG-31 was also procured by Canada and Spain. The latest version, the RG-31 Mk 6, has a wider hull, increased protection against explosives and weight increased to 17 tonnes.

The company that supplied the greatest number of vehicles within the Mrap programme is Navistar (formerly International Military and Government), having received orders for over 6000 Maxxpros and derivatives--the last being in December for the US Marine Corps worth $ 362.3 million for 400 vehicles. As the Maxxpro is a Cat 1 vehicle, the Maxxpro XL, with its longer wheelbase and higher payload, is in Cat 2. Both models have been developed in the Maxxpro Plus version with a 375-hp engine, a weight of 24 tonnes and an improved armour package better suited to counter explosively-formed penetrators. Another version has been developed, known as Maxxpro Dash, which retains the protection of the Maxxpro but is smaller, lighter and specifically optimised for operations in Afghanistan.

One of the first new-generation light armoured vehicles suited for convoy escort roles was probably the French VBL developed by Panhard in the late 1980s, which, although born during the Cold War period, proved to be an effective vehicle in many conflicts to the extent that over 2300 have been produced. The more recent VBL NG (New Generation) features improved armour.

Along the lines of the VBL numerous other vehicles were developed in the late 1990s, when mines became a considerable threat: among these is the Iveco Defence Vehicles Light Multirole Vehicle (LMV), which is based on a protected crew cell attached to the centre of a chassis with mechanicals attached at either ends, away from the crew cell itself ensuring maximum safety in case of a detonation under the wheel. Adopted by many nations, Britain, Italy, Belgium, Norway, Spain, the Czech Republic and Croatia. Standard ballistic protection is Level 2-3 according to Stanag 4569 and mine protection is Level 2A, although a further increase in protection is forecast for the near future. A longer wheelbase version has been developed and was adopted by Italy in the ambulance version.

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Also suitable for convoy protection missions is the Eagle IV, thanks to its good mobility and protection afforded by the Duro chassis it is based upon, which enables it to carry a powerful roof-mounted weapon (see 'Command on Light Wheels' story in this issue).

Prior to the Eagle, German soldiers used the Dingo protected vehicle for patrols and escort duties. The Dingo was developed by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) on a Unimog truck chassis and provides maximum protection against mines. The following Dingo 2, based on the Unimog 5000 chassis, is available in two wheelbase variants and has been adopted by Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Luxembourg.

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Thales Australia developed the Bushmaster based on Australian Army requirements. The standard ballistic protection is Level 1 according to Stanag 4569, although it can be increased up to Level 3 and to Level 5 for artillery fragment protection; standard mine protection is Level 3 while the V-shaped monocoque hull provides protection against roadside bombs. Some 443 Bushmaster are in service with Australia, while the Netherlands acquired 48 such vehicles for its contingent in Afghanistan as an emergency purchase.

In order to expand their portfolios Iveco DV and KMW are developing a family of vehicles based on the Iveco Trakker chassis. KMW started developing the 6 x 6 version which was unveiled at last Eurosatory and aims at the GFF Class 4 requirement, while Iveco DV started with the 4 x 4 which aims at Italian Army needs, the roll-out of the prototype being planned for spring 2009.

Another new entry at Eurosatory was Nexter Aravis, which underbelly has been kept under strict protection as its declared protection levels--Level 4 for ballistic and Level 4A/4B for mines--are definitely the highest in the twelve-tonne category. Based on the Unimog 5000 chassis, it adopts the company's Safepro crew citadel ballistic protection featuring a spall liner and modular applique armour which provides 'protection against heavy IED attacks'; the vehicle is protected against TNT charges or 155mm artillery grenades detonated alongside, although the distance has not been declared. In the aftermath of Eurosatory the Aravis was involved in extensive trials in the United Arab Emirates totalling over 1700 km in four days in temperatures exceeding 50[degrees] C.

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KMW and Rheinmetall are co-operating on the Armoured Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) family of vehicles. Two versions are planned, one with a longer wheelbase, with two variants each, one patrol/escort vehicle and one weapon carrier. The first to be developed is Version 2, the patrol vehicle which aims at the GFF Class 2 German Army requirement, protection of which is said to be 'heavy against mines and medium against IEDs', while ballistic protection is against small arms. The prototype will be available around mid-2009 for company trials, with army trials planned for 2010 and production for 2011. The smaller Version 1, planned to enter the developmental phase in 2011, will answer the German GFF Class 1 requirements and feature medium mine and roadside bomb protection. A lighter airmobile version based on the GFF 1 version is also planned for transportation by CH-53 helicopter.

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Rheinmetall is developing the technological demonstrator of a modular vehicle concept known as the Gefas (Geschtitztes Fahrzeug System). Here modularity is pushed to the extreme, the vehicle consisting of detachable modules--power (thermal engine plus generator), axle-cum-motor and protected crew modules--that can be arranged in any configuration. Devoid of mechanical engine-to-axle drive shafts, these plug-and-drive modules can be moved about to form 4 x 4,6 x 6 or even 8 x 8 vehicles. Ballistic protection is level 4, with Level 3 on the roof, Level 4 against artillery shells and Level 4B against mines (which means TMRP7 mine under belly). Rheinmetall is in the process of completing the technological demonstrator, which should soon start trials.

Renault Trucks Defence has developed an Mrap vehicle based on a truck chassis, the protection level of which has not been unveiled. Its high-wheel buggy travel ensures maximum off-road performances. In 2006 Rafael proposed a vehicle named Golan, based on a V-shaped armoured monocoque structure which allowed to dedicate 50% of the vehicle's weight to protection. This highly protected 15-tonne vehicle is no longer on the market, but the hybrid armour package developed for the Golan is available. Known as Aspro-H, it is, according to Rafael, able to defeat RPGs, IEDs, EFPs as well as AP ammo from heavy machine guns, and is now used on many protected vehicles, among them the Maxxpro. Many other companies, such as Israel's Plasan and Germany's IBD Deisenroth are active in the development of new armour solutions for light armoured vehicles which find roles as convoy escorts. Both companies developed passive armour solutions, while the latter has also developed the ADS active system, which seems particularly suitable for escort applications.

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Firepower

The other important element in a convoy escort vehicle is firepower. To reduce risks to the crews, overhead weapon stations are becoming increasingly popular in spite of limiting factors such as weight and cost. Weapons adopted are normally medium to heavy machine guns, in the 7.62 and 12.7-mm calibre range, as well as 40 mm automatic grenade launchers.

One of the bestsellers in this field is the Protector Remote Weapon Station developed by Kongsberg in Norway. Designed for small and medium calibre weapons, the first member of the family was the NM221 that allows the user to reload ammunition from under armour.

With a view to reducing weight the M151 Protector was developed with an external ammo box. The current model is fully stabilised and has a day/night sight with a dual field-of-view thermal imager and a colour daylight camera with a 45[degrees] field-of-view in surveillance mode and a x30 zoom for long-distance firing. The detached line-of-sight allows to maintain direct view independently of the ballistic solution, which is an important feature when a grenade launcher is mounted. To improve accuracy a laser rangefinder can be installed. In 2007 it was chosen as the US Army Commonly Remotely Operated Weapon Station (Crows II) in a configuration that compared to the M151 minus the smoke grenade launchers. To better fit the needs of smaller vehicles Kongsberg developed the Protector Lite, which can be armed only with 7.62 and 5.56 mm machine guns; the increased elevation improves efficiency for operations in urban areas and in mountainous terrain, such as is encountered in Afghanistan. In its various guises, the Protector turret has also been acquired by Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Great Britain, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland and France.

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Germany chose the KMW FLW turrets, which is produced in two versions, the 100 (light) and 200 (heavy). These are being installed on the Eagle IV recently acquired by the Bundeswehr. Standard optronics include a CCD colour camera with zoom function and an uncooled thermal imager, but a cooled system with dual field of view as well as a laser rangefinder are proposed as optional extras, together with sniper detection modules to shorten reaction times. This type of optronic suite is exemplified by FN Herstal's Arrows 300 and LRWS; a noteworthy point concerning the latter is that it was developed for medium and light machine guns, which provides for very high elevation angles that allow one to 'spray' enemy positions even in narrow urban areas or along twisty mountain roads.

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The same approach was adopted by Oto Melara with the Hitrole Light, which when armed with smaller calibre machine guns, can also reach 80[degrees] in elevation. This turret is equipped with an automatic target tracker. At Eurosatory 2008 Rheinmetall Canada introduced its medium-weight Nanuk and lightweight Amarok turrets, the former having been installed on the LAV III deployed by Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

Surprisingly the lighter version has not been designed to offer greater elevation, a limitation that is also found in the turrets of Israeli origin such as the Elbit ORCWS 7.62 and the Rafael Samson Junior: with their +60[degrees] they do not rank amongst the highest elevating systems, which sounds strange following to the frequent involvement of Tsahal units in urban warfare situations. Quite the opposite, the PanhardSagem Wasp turret can reach the absolute maximum, +90[degrees] in elevation, and also offers a remote firing function and a helmet-mounted display.

The tables included throughout this report provide a good overview of the vehicles and weapon systems currently available to protect convoys.
A Selection of Convoy Protection Vehicles--1

Company Nation Vehicle Type GVW
 [tonne]

Force Protection USA Buffalo 4x4 36.3
Navistar USA Maxxpro 4x4 14.29
Navistar USA Maxxpro XL 4x4 18.6
BAE Systems/OMC RG-33 4x4 17.20-23.60
BAE Systems/OMC RG-33L 6x6 26.3-33.1
BAE Systems/OMC RG-32M 4x4 7.5
BAE Systems/ RG-31 Mk5 4x4 14.2
GDLS Canada
Force Protection USA Cougar 4x4 17.25
Force Protection USA Cougar 6x6 23.59
Textron USA ASV M1117 4x4 13.4

Company Payload Pax Engine Speed
 [tonne] [Hp] [Max km/h]

Force Protection 15.73 6 400 88.50
Navistar 1.66 6 330
Navistar 5.06 12 330
BAE Systems/OMC 3.76 8 400 107
BAE Systems/OMC 8.75 14 400 107
BAE Systems/OMC 1.2 5-7 184 110
BAE Systems/ 3.7 8 275 112
GDLS Canada
Force Protection 2.72 6 330 88.5
Force Protection 5.90 10 330 88.5
Textron 1.5 10 260 100

Company Length Width Height
 [metre] [metre] [metre]

Force Protection 8.20 2.59 3.96
Navistar 6.45 2.51 3.05
Navistar 7.16 2.51 3.05
BAE Systems/OMC 6.73 2.44 3.45
BAE Systems/OMC 8.59 2.44 3.45
BAE Systems/OMC 5.30 2.14 2.18
BAE Systems/ 6.60 2.48 2.72
GDLS Canada
Force Protection 5.92 2.74 2.64
Force Protection 7.09 2.74 2.64
Textron 6.07 2.56 2.59

A Selection of Convoy Protection Vehicles--2

Company Nation Vehicle Type GVW
 [tonne]

Thales Australia Australia Bushmaster 4x4 15
KMW Germany Dingo 2 4x4 12.5
KMW/Iveco DV Germany GFF 4 6x6 25
KMW/ Germany AMPV 4x4 6.50-
Rheinmetall K1.1/K1.2 7.80
Rheinmetall Germany Gefas 4x4 17.5
Iveco DV Italy LMV 4x4 7.00
Iveco DV/KMW Italy MPV 4x4 18
MOWAG Switzerland Eagle IV 4x4 8.50
Nexter France Aravis 4x4 12.50
Panhard France VBL NG 4x4 5.10
Renault Trucks France Mrap 6x6 22
Arzamas Russia Tigr SPM-2 4x4 9.50

Company Payload Pax Engine Speed
 tonne] [Hp] [Max km/h]

Thales Australia 2.60 9 330 100
KMW 2.50 8 220 100
KMW/Iveco DV 4.0 10 450 100
KMW/ 1.50- 4 217- 110
Rheinmetall 2.50 300
Rheinmetall 1.50 2-6 557 100
Iveco DV 2.30 4-5 190 130
Iveco DV/KMW 3.50 10 400 90
MOWAG 2.90 4-5 250 110
Nexter 8 218 100
Panhard 1.00 3 130 110
Renault Trucks 6.70 12 320 90
Arzamas 1.20 2+7 205 140

Company Length Width Height
 [metre] [metre] [metre]

Thales Australia 7.18 2.40 2.65
KMW 6.08 3.85 2.55
KMW/Iveco DV 7.60 2.54 3.08
KMW/ 4.70- 1.90- 1.90-
Rheinmetall 4.90 2.20 2.10
Rheinmetall 7.83 2.55 2.40
Iveco DV 4.79 2.20 2.05
Iveco DV/KMW 6.90 2.53 3.05
MOWAG 5.36 2.16 2.30
Nexter 6.00 2.50 2.50
Panhard 3.96 2.02 1.74
Renault Trucks 8.50 2.50 3.00
Arzamas 5.70 2.20 2.30

A Selection of Overhead Weapon Stations--1

Company Nation Model Weapons

Kongsberg Norway Protector M151 MG 12.7 mm / AGL 40 mm
 MG 7.62mm / MG5.56mm
Kongsberg Norway Protector Crows M2 12.7 mm / M240 7.62 mm
 M249 5.56 mm
Kongsberg Norway Protector Lite M240 7.62 mm / M249 5.56 mm
KMW Germany FLW 200 AGL 40 mm / MG 12.7 mm#
 MG 7.62 mm# / MG 5.56 mm#
KMW Germany FLW 100 MG 7.62 mm / MG 5.56 mm#
FN Herstal Belgium Arrows 300 MG 12.7 mm / MG 7.62 mm
FN Herstal Belgium LRWS MG 7.62 mm / MG 5.56 mm
Rafael Israel Mini-Samson M2 12.7 mm / AGL 40 mm
 MG 7.62 mm / MG 5.56 mm

Company Weight [kg] Azimuth Elevation

Kongsberg 127 n x 360[degrees] -20[degrees]/+60[degrees]
Kongsberg 172 * n x 360[degrees] -20[degrees]/+60[degrees]
Kongsberg 74 * n x 360[degrees] -20[degrees]/+75[degrees]
KMW 150 * n x 360[degrees] -15[degrees]/+70[degrees]
KMW 80 * n x 360[degrees] -15[degrees]/+70[degrees]
FN Herstal 245-285 ** n x 360[degrees] -20[degrees]/+55[degrees]
FN Herstal 80-90 ** n x 360[degrees] -60[degrees]/+80[degrees]
Rafael 160- * n x 360[degrees] -20[degrees]/+60[degrees]
 188

A Selection of Overhead Weapon Stations--2

Company Nation Model Weapons

Rafael Israel Samson Jr MG 7.62 mm / MG 5.56 mm
Elbit Systems Israel ORCWS 7.62 MG 7.62 mm / MG 5.56 mm
Rheinmetall Canada Nanuk M2 12.7 mm / AGL 40 mm
 MG 7.62 mm / MG 5.56 mm
Rheinmetall Canada Amarok MG 7.62 mm / MG 5.56 mm
Oto Melara Italy Hitrole Light MG 12.7 mm / AGL 40 mm
Oto Melara Italy Hitrole Light MG 5.56 mm / MG 7.62 mm
Panhard-Sagem France Wasp MG 5.56 mm / MG 7.62 mm

Company Weight [kg] Azimuth

Rafael 80-100 * n x 360[degrees]
Elbit Systems < 95 * n x 360[degrees]
Rheinmetall 225 ** n x 360[degrees]

Rheinmetall 100 ** n x 360[degrees]
Oto Melara 140-145 ** n x 360[degrees]
Oto Melara <100-100 ** n x 360[degrees]
Panhard-Sagem <60 ** n x 360[degrees]

Company Elevation

Rafael -20[degrees]/+60[degrees]
Elbit Systems -20[degrees]/+60[degrees]
Rheinmetall -20[degrees]/+60[degrees]

Rheinmetall -20[degrees]/+60[degrees]
Oto Melara -20[degrees]/+60[degrees]
Oto Melara -20[degrees]/+80[degrees]
Panhard-Sagem -40[degrees]/+90[degrees]

* excluding weapon and ammo ** including weapon and ammo # optional
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Title Annotation:Vehicles: armoured
Author:Alpo, Paul V.
Publication:Armada International
Date:Apr 1, 2009
Words:3395
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