New grounds--new gear: the AUSA meeting's dual-pronged theme of "The Army at War--and Transforming," was clearly evident in the wide-ranging vehicle programmes and technologies on display. The new venue provided unprecendented breathing space for what turned out to be a major focus on the FCS programme.
The fact that the Thunderbolt had been developed over a seven-month period and test fired in near secrecy raised more than a few eyebrows. Even more were raised by speculation that designs like Thunderbolt could represent a shortcut to long-range goals for the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) programme.
The latter, having received 'Milestone B' approval from the Department of Defense Acquisition Board in May 2003, began its System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase, which will involve the manufacture of prototypes. In terms of major design decisions--like the proverbial "Tracks Versus Wheels" --Boeing's Future Combat System Program Manager Dennis Muilenburg said that those types of decisions would be finalized during the Preliminary Design Review (PDR), now slated for the spring of 2005. Longer-range plans call for the programme to enter Initial Production late in 2008 with Initial Operational Capability currently scheduled for 2010 (Pro memoriam, the Future Combat System should eventually include eight different versions: Infantry Carrier Vehicle; Command and Control Vehicle; Mounted Combat System; Reconnaissance and Surveillance Vehicle; Non Line of Sight--Cannon; Non Line of Sight--Mortar; Maintenance & Recovery; and Medical Treatment/Evacuation.) Many of the vehicle on display went well beyond American requirements to highlight a growing number of international co-operative ventures and acquisition programmes.
American Truck Company (ATC) provided one example. As the self-described "United States' newest producer of heavy duty, off-road trucks," ATC was established in 2001 as a Limited Liability Company owned by three separate entities: Tatra, (Czech Republic), Terex (Westport, Connecticut) and Special Task Vehicles (McLean, Virginia).
ATC's trucks, are assembled in the Terex-Advance factory in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, around Tatra's 'central backbone' design with all-wheel independent suspension. Terex has owned 71 per cent of Tatra since Autumn 2003. ATC representatives highlighted the company's latest 6 x 6 High Mobility Truck which offers a high off-road payload of 12,590kg has been selected by the Israeli Defence Forces as their future Medium Tactical Truck. Over 300 will be produced to satisfy the IDF requirement with production slated to begin in early November 2003.
Oshkosh Truck Corporation also highlighted aspects of its own dual-pronged contributions--supporting the US Army at war while and fulfilling foreign armies' requirements. Recent export contract awards include Britain's Heavy Equipment Transporter (Het) and, more recently, the Wheeled Tanker. The Het programme was awarded to a consortium known as Fasttrax consisting of Oshkosh, Kellogg Brown & Root (a unit of Halliburton) and King Trailers and is aimed at providing a state-of-the-art Challenger II, armoured vehicle and self-propelled gun carrier.
The Wheeled Tanker contract, awarded in April 2003, involves the delivery of 348 Wheeled Tankers for the British Armed Forces. The new tanker fleet mix includes Tactical Aircraft Refuellers (15,000 litres), Close Support Tankers (20,000 litres), and Close Support Water Tankers (18,000 litres).
Stewart & Stevenson's current US Army support ranges from the use of the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FM TV) chassis for the combat-proven High Mobility Artillery Rocket System to the introduction of a new FMTV A1 ten-tonne Dump Truck.
The latter was designed in response to soldier recommendations for a more durable dump body and increased payload capacity while maintaining C-130 transportability. The design features a high-strength dump body, high-power, a dual piston lift mechanism, a high-strength frame and upgraded suspension components.
A Convenient Position
The Stewart & Stevenson the both also featured modified Mercedes-Benz G-Class military vehicle from DaimlerChrysler. Although no contract had yet been inked at the time of the show, a company employee noted that the vehicle's presence in the Stewart & Stevenson booth indicated that "final negotiations were underway" between the two companies for a marketing agreement that would allow Stewart & Stevenson to build and sell the vehicle to customers in the US Marine Corps and other services. Incidentally, about 100 Gs are already in service with the Marine Corps as [M1511] Interim Fast Attack Vehicles.
The company's long-term programme outlook was evident in its display of the Medium Tactical Truck Demonstrator (MTTD). Looking at first glance like a cross between a boat and a truck, the MTTD represents the 'state of the possible' in next generation medium tactical vehicle designs.
Under the umbrella sponsorship of the US National Automotive Center (NAC), the design incorporates the efforts and equipment of approximately two-dozen companies and government programme offices. Alternately described as a concept demonstrator and a technology demonstrator, it is derived from a conventionally powered FMTV truck that has been modified to enhance crew survivability and operational performance. Significant design features range from a new state of the art cab--armoured for mine blast protection--to an all-wheel-steer 6 x 6 chassis with adjustable height suspension and rear tilt bed allowing the direct removal of standard 463L pallets straight off a C-130 aircraft.
O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, for their part, displayed the remains of an up-armoured M114 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle that had been subjected to a 30 kg remote-controlled explosive device in Afghanistan.
Amazingly, all embarked special operations personnel survived the blast. Along with up-armouring a series of Hummers--M1109, M1097, M1114, and M1116-the company introduced a new Hummer Armored Demountable Kit (HarD-Kit) that can be installed on most M998A2 Hummer variants. The company also offers armouring options for HEMTTs, HMEEs (High Mobility Engineer Excavators) and Himars.
In fact, recent US combat experience with Himars was one of the weapons programmes that caught some limelight during AUSA. According to Rick Vallario, Lockheed Martin Program Director, Himars prototype launchers were deployed in Iraq where they fired numerous Army Tactical Missile System (Atacms) munitions "in both close and deep support missions".
The next step in the Himars programme involves the firing of both Atacms Penetrator and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System and possibly the Loitering Attack Munition.
Lockheed Martin had its display working hard--starring in it was the Mule (Multi-function Utility/Logistics Equipment vehicle (see the title picture by Johnny Keggler), which was selected by FCS Lead System Integrator Boeing to proceed with System Development and Demonstration (SDD) and ultimately into production in July of 2003.
The Mule will support the US Army's transformation to a lighter and more mobile fighting force through its unique mobility, which enables it to go practically anywhere.
The highly agile platform was designed specifically to meet the requirements of the dismounted Objective Force soldier. The vehicle sports a unique 6 x 6 independent articulated suspension coupled with in-hub motors powering each wheel.
The 2.5-tonne vehicle, designed for the Future Combat System, includes three variants: Transport, Air Assault and the Countermine version. A Lockheed Martin representative mentioned that 20 "...or so" prototypes are presently building.
William H. Peerenboom, independent heavy vehicle consultant and military historian, related that he saw "some very practical features in its inbred damage control, as it 'cuts out' damaged wheels".
Another hybrid of sorts is the Bell Helicopter Textron Quad Tiltrotor (QTR), which surprised all in wind tunnel tests (tail-less won higher marks) but is still searching for a home. In an advanced effort to fulfil an estimated 2010 requirement for a replacement for the Chinook, the QTR would be able to deliver cargo from airfields and port facilities directly to ground units, and do so whilst requiring less than one-half acre to land. The cargo space of a C-130 in a VTOL seems a Godsend, yet as of the AUSA meeting there was compound interest but few takers. Two variants, a 20-tonne VTOL and 30-tonne Stovl, are resting on the edge of the drawing boards.
Northrop Grumman announced the addition of Sikorsky to its Unmanned Combat Armed Rotorcraft (Ucar) team, on which BAE Systems, L3 Communications, Kaman, the Saber Group, Asta and NSI already sit (see Dull, Dirty and Dangerous in this issue). The system is growing under a $500 million programme being funded 50/50 by the US Army and Darpa. Phase II is a 15-month preliminary design phase, with a downselect occurring in Autumn 2004. Phase III will include a 1st flight by the end of 2006, with first units delivered to the US Army by FY2010. Price target is 20 to 40 per cent of a Comanche flyaway cost.
A Well-rounded Round
Israel Military Industries (IMI) had its 105 mm Antipersonnel / Anti-material (Apam) cartridge on show, mentioning that the round was sold to the Israel Defence Forces and is on target for use in the Future Combat System programme. The Apam is initially a tank round capable, as the company puts it, of defeating any APC armour and penetrating double-reinforced concrete bunker walls, with antipersonnel capabilities and High Explosive (HE) thrown in for any required anti-materiel work. The company is in the throes of producing a 120mm version, which should be out of development stage by 2005. The 120 mm will feature in-barrel programming, where the 105 is manually set.
Lockheed Martin presented an update to its Win-T (Warfighter Information Network-Tactical) system, mentioning that the second phase was set to begin. This second, and final, phase of the threeyear downselect period will find the teams (General Dynamics also competing) devising a prototype Win-T system for operational testing in preparation for a low-rate initial production contract award sometime in late 2005. Win-T is to be an all-IP JTRS compliant, broadband on-the-move network for sharing in-theatre communications. The largest obstacle is the mobile throughput--the capacity of data transfer available at with a terminal travelling at 45 mph--as the Win-T system currently offers 256 kbps but has a target of 4 Mbps.
The Little Engine that Can
Among the vehicle platforms and technologies being developed to meet the FCS timeline is the new Series 890 diesel engine developed by Detroit Diesel Corporation and MTU Friedrichshafen. The US Army's Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (Tacom) has placed an order for two of the new 890 diesels as an option to power the FCS platforms.
The 890 is a fourth-generation family of engines, of which the six-cylinder variant is being proposed for the FCS programme. The family consists of four to 16 cylinder versions with between 500 and 2000 hp at 4250 rpm. MTU has reduced the core engine weight and volume by 50 per cent from the Series 880, but the 890 retains the same capabilities. The engine features variable nozzle turbochargers, where turbofans open and close to adjust air flow, a 400 kW flywheel starter generator, which can provide the electrical requirements for the whole vehicle, not just the starter engine.
One unique feature of the Series 890 is that the oil pan, filter and other accessories theft normally protrude from the engine have been designed to live inside--thereby saving space and providing for easier maintenance access (note the oil filter seen through the acces panel). The Series 890 is but half the weight and size of other comparable engines.
MTU is also targeting the Fres and IBT programmes in Britain, most six-wheeled hybrid engine programmes in Germany and the Future tactical truck community in the United States after success with the Future Combat System. (Armada/JK)
Dingo--Made in USA
Textron Marine & Land joined Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) to announce the signing of a production license agreement that will make provisions for Cadillac Gage Textron to manufacture the German Dingo 2 in the United States.
Based on a DaimlerChrysler 4 x 4 Unimog chassis, the mine-protected Dingo 2 can carry up to eight fully equipped soldiers and is capable of speeds of up to 100 km/h. Textron will also be allowed to market and sell the Dingo 2 to selected foreign customers through the Foreign Military Sales programme or Direct Commercial Contracts. Although representatives from both companies declined to identify specific target customers, it is believed that future Israel Defence Forces Foreign Military Sales cases could be one possible outcome--an area which is on the German Government's defence export black list. (Armada/SG)
Hologram, not Hallucination
EOTech brought the newest version of its Holographic Diffraction Sight, which is in use with US Special Forces teams (3500 units), European teams (5000), in the Middle East (3000) and US Federal law enforcement groups (4000). The system works by a laser hologram, whereby a diode refracts the holographic image, which is recorded as a target plane in the sighting window (see photo). The unit is submersible to ten metres, operates between -60 and 100 F and maintains 'zero' after a three-metre drop. (Armada/JK)
A Very Dangerous Spider Indeed
ATK was displaying its upgraded Spider area control, (somewhat) unattended ground sensor, which is the product of a melding of an anti-personnel munition dispenser with Textron's Terrain Commander (Textron is partnering in development). Somewhat is mentioned above as the user deploys the pedestal-based Munition Control Unit with its trip wires and selection of munitions, the user then retires to a safe area up to 1500 metres away (even further when repeater modules are used) with the Remote Control Unit to read when a "wire is tripped. The user then decides whether or not to fire one of the munitions.
This sensor system was developed in response to the plethora of unexploded ordnance--read land mines--left over after a conflict that are triggered by non-combatants, sometimes many years later. The few design areas still to be ironed out are the fact that the radio link must be 100 per cent reliable, there must be a self destruct and/or neutralise feature and the system status, when retrieving unused munitions, must be failsafe and easily decipherable. At the time of the show ATK was halfway through the system's 33-month development stage. (Armada/JK)
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|Title Annotation:||Shows & Exhibitions|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2004|
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