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Safer 4 x 4 x necessity: the asymmetrical nature of current conflicts has sparked off a demand for a new generation of 4 x 4 armoured vehicles to protect troops from roadside explosive devices.


The need to provide better protection against hidden explosives and rocket-propelled grenades is the raison d'etre behind the American Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (Mrap) vehicle programme. In January 2007 the US Department of Defense launched the programme, with the US Marine Corps Systems Command as the lead agency, to field purpose-built armoured vehicles to replace uparmoured AM General High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles in Iraq. The 'Humvee' is arguably the most successful light utility vehicle ever fielded, but it was not designed as an armoured vehicle. Although add-on armour kits can provide a high level of protection against small arms fire and shell splinters they can never provide the same protection against rocket-propelled grenades and land mines as armoured vehicles that were specifically designed to survive such threats. Whereas 8 x 8 designs have become the most popular choice for dedicated armoured fighting vehicles that require both high levels of protection and off-road mobility, the asymmetric threat has spurred the demand for 4 x 4 armoured vehicles to replace the 'Jeeps' in a range of roles and to operate in urban areas.

In the aftermath of the American deployment to Somalia in 1993, when US troops were limited to unprotected Humvees because of the Pentagon's reluctance to deploy armoured vehicles on a 'peacekeeping' mission, the US Army Military Police Corps was the main proponent of the development of the M1114 Uparmoured Humvee. The cops also selected the Textron Marine & Land Systems 4 x 4 Guardian proposal to meet the requirement for Armored Security Vehicles. The M1117 Guardian features a modular ceramic composite applique armour hull which provides all-round protection against 7.62 mm ball ammunition while the four-person crew compartment, weapon station and ammunition storage areas are protected against 12.7 mm armour-piercing attack. The M1117 is fitted with a single-operator Textron turret armed with a Mk 19 40 mm automatic grenade launcher and an M2 12.7 mm heavy machine gun. The car can withstand a blast of up to five kg of TNT in the wheel wells and an overhead 155 mm blast at 15 metres. Following its designation as the Convoy Protection Platform for combat support and combat service support units, the army has increased the planned buy of 1987 M1117s through fiscal year 2013 (FY13) to 2559. More than 1040 ASVs have been deployed in combat missions. Under US Army contract Textron has supplied vehicles to the Iraqi Civil Intervention Force in a stretched configuration able to accommodate up to ten soldiers. In October 2006 the US Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (Tacom) awarded Textron a contract to produce 64 ASVs in the new M707 Armored Knight configuration for use by artillery Combat Observation and Lasing Teams (Colt). The total requirement is 345 vehicles.

The ASV was not selected for the Mrap project because its flat bottom design does not provide the sought-after level of protection against buried explosives. To address this issue Textron unveiled an upgraded 16-tonne M1117 variant at the winter meeting of the Association of the US Army in mid-February 2008 which features a V-shaped hull, raised chassis and lightweight ceramic armour. <<We took the last five years we've been in combat, [and] looked at what was working on the vehicle and what needs to be improved. We discovered enough stuff that we have created a new kind of vehicle from the same chassis,>> said David Treuting, Textron business development manager. Raised 61 cm off the ground, the chassis features an improved suspension and the same size wheels as are used on the US Army's Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks.

Mrap Trio

The Mraps are classified into three categories:

* Category I vehicles are Mine Resistant Utility Vehicles generally weighing between 7 and 15 tonnes, able to accommodate a crew of two and at least four passengers and are intended primarily for use in urban operations. These vehicles are 4 x 4 designs

* Category II Mraps, weighing between 15 and 25 tonnes, are designed to carry a two-person crew and up to eight passengers. Missions include explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), convoy escort and ambulance. Vehicles in this category are generally 6 x 6 designs

* Category III Mrap vehicles are specialist designs used for route clearance and explosive ordnance disposal missions. The only vehicle in this category is the Force Protection 6 x 6 Buffalo.


As no one contractor could meet the short timeline, which requires the production of more than 1200 vehicles per month, the US Marine Corps Systems Command, which is the lead agency for the joint Mrap project, has awarded contracts to seven of the nine companies which originally stated in early 2007 that they would submit vehicles for evaluation. According to the Department of Defense's FY09 budget request, presented to Congress in February 2008, the Mrap project will conclude with the acquisition of 15,374 Mraps bought with FY07 and FY08 funding.

Prior to the launch of the Mrap programme Force Protection (FPI) of Ladson, South Carolina, enjoyed a lead in the production of vehicles in this type. The company expanded its work force from twelve employees at the beginning of 2004 to more than 500 in less than three years. To satisfy increased demand FPI signed teaming agreements in November 2006 with General Dynamics Land Systems covering structure fabrication and with Armor Holdings' Aerospace & Defense Group (now part of BAE Systems) covering automotive integration and vehicle assembly. Its success is based on the Cougar H; a family of medium mine-protected vehicles designed by South African engineers who had discovered during South Africa's counter insurgency conflicts in the 1970s that a V-shaped hull was the optimum design for mitigating the effects of mine and other explosives blasts.


The Cougar can withstand the detonation of 13.6 kg of TNT equivalent under each wheel and 6.8 kg under the hull. The Department of Defense initially acquired Cougars to equip EOD teams and the US Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Task Force in Iraq. In May 2006 Tacom awarded BAE Systems an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity Foreign Military Sales contract potentially worth $ 445.4 million to provide up to 1050 Iraqi Light Armored Vehicles (ILavs) based on the 4 x 4 Cougar H. Deliveries to Iraq began only 90 days after contract award. However, to the surprise of many observers, FPI has only received contracts for 785 Category I Cougars.

The Category 1 MaxxPro and Category II MaxxPro XLs were designed by truck manufacturer Navistar's International Military and Government subsidiary in partnership with Israeli firm Plasan Sasa, which designed and manufactures the vehicle's armour. The design has been a big winner in the Mrap Category I with a fifth delivery order, worth $ 410 million, announced on 14 March 2008 for another 743 low-rate initial production Category I vehicles to add to the 4455 production examples already ordered. The company describes the design as a 'cab-on-chassis', which features a V-shaped hull bolted onto a commercial International WorkStar 7000 truck chassis powered by a 330-hp engine. The 16-tonne vehicle carries two crew and four passengers. The chassis for the vehicles are produced in Garland, Texas while the hulls are built in West Point, Mississippi. The 18-tonne MaxxPro XL, which carries a two-strong crew and up to ten passengers, is also a 4 x 4 design but only 16 production examples have so far been ordered. International had formally delivered its 1000th Mrap vehicle during a ceremony at West Point in January 2008.

The first fatality suffered in an Mrap was a US Army turret gunner who was riding in a MaxxPro vehicle that was struck by an estimated 600-lb IED on 19 January 2008. Although it is unclear whether the gunner was killed by the explosion or by the vehicle when it rolled over, Department of Defense officials stressed that the hull was not compromised and the three crewmembers inside survived, two with injuries and the other unharmed. Only a handful of Mraps are now fitted with the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (Crows) but this is expected to become more widespread as Kongsberg ramps up production of the Crows II.


The roots of the BAE Systems 4 x 4 RG-33 Category I Mrap and 6 x 6 RG-33L Category II Mrap, developed by BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa, can be traced back through the RG-31 design to the South African Mamba. Under the Mrap project the company is producing 290 RG-33 Category I vehicles, primarily for the US Special Operations Command (Socom), and 1445 Category II vehicles; a further three Socom, 51 6 x 6 ambulance and 393 Category II vehicles were ordered on 14 March 2008. The 14-tonne 4 x 4 RG-33 carries six personnel and features a flattened V-shaped hull that stops short of the engine compartment.

BAE Systems' acquisition of Armor Holdings has given the company the ownership of the Category I and II Caiman design, which is based on the BAE Systems Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle truck chassis. This is intended to simplify logistics and maintenance for the army. The-14 tonne vehicle carries a crew of two and four passengers. To add to the 1154 Category I Caimans already on order, on 14 March 2008 BAE Systems was awarded an IDIQ order for an additional 1024 'base Caiman Category I Mrap vehicles', worth $ 481.8 million. Aimed at defeating developing threats, this award fulfils the demand for vehicles with an enhanced protection configuration. The Joint Program Office anticipates ordering approximately $174 million worth of Engineering Change Proposals to achieve high levels of survivability with enhanced mobility. Spares and increased contractor logistic support associated with this award are also anticipated. This brings the total value of the Caiman program to $1.77 billion since the programme began in early 2007.


General Dynamics--Canada is partnered with BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa to provide the RG-31 Mk 5, which at nine tonnes is the lightest Category I Mrap vehicle, although it carries two crew members and ten passengers. US Marine Corps Syscom has order ten 4 x 4 Category I and 610 6 x 6 RG-31 Mk 5E Category II vehicles. Outside of the Mrap project the US Army has bought 148 RG-31 Mk 3s and 94 Mk 5s, while Socom has acquired 309 Mk 5s. The RG-31 is also in service with the Canadian Army (75 RG-31 Mk 3s fitted with the Kongsberg Protector M151 Remote Weapon Station), Colombia (4 RG-31 Nyalas), South Africa, Rwanda (six RG-31 Nyala), the United Nations (30 RG-31 Nyala) and the United Arab Emirates (76 RG-31 Mk 3As). Since 2006 BAE Systems has supplied 200 RG-32Ms to meet the Swedish Army's requirement for a mine-hardened patrol vehicle.


Oshkosh Truck, in partnership with Protected Vehicles (PVI), produced 100 Alpha Category 1 Mraps but was notified by US Marine Corps Syscom on 29 June 2007 that it would receive no further orders because of deficiencies in the vehicle that would require significant redesign. Oshkosh was hoping that its compact 13-tonne design, able to carry eight personnel, would be an advantage in urban areas.

PVI received its own Mrap contract to produce 60 Golan 4 x 4 Category II vehicles, a design developed in collaboration with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Israel with input from the Israeli Ministry of Defense. The Golan was initially developed to meet an Israel Defense Force requirement for a vehicle suited for urban operations with a high level of protection. Instead of an off-the-shelf chassis it links the axles and suspension directly to the armoured structure in a manner similar to tracked armoured personnel carriers. The monocoque V-shaped hull has a 'floating' floor panel to absorb the effects of blast. According to Rafael, the basic (maximum) protection level includes reactive modular armour tiles while the medium and light levels are based on passive modular armour to defeat small explosives and up to 12.7 mm AP bullets. The Golan can withstand the blast of a seven-kilo mine under the belly or a 14-kilo mine under the wheels. The 15-tonne vehicle carries a crew of two and up to ten passengers. It seems unlikely more orders will be received under the Mrap programme and Rafael has yet to receive a production order for the IDE

The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle

Whereas the Mrap project was launched to counter specific threats in Iraq the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is intended to replace the Humvee in US Army and Marine Corps service from early in the next decade and serve in all operational environments. The new modular vehicle is intended to provide many benefits compared to its predecessor including greater range, fuel economy, payload, reliability, ergonomics and digital connectivity. However, the defining characteristic will be survivability.


The army and marines co-hosted a three-day pre-proposal conference at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan, in mid-February to brief industry of the US government's acquisition strategy for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) programme. The conference came two weeks after the army's 5 February release of a Request for Proposal for the development of a JLTV Family of Vehicles. The JLTV family of vehicle will consist of three baseline variants characterised by payload all of which are expected to offer superior performance to the HMMWV. Payload Category A is the General Purpose Mobility vehicle which is to carry a 1590-kg payload including four personnel. Payload Category B vehicles will carry a 1850 to 2040-kg payload and be built in following 'sub-configurations': a six seat Infantry Carrier, Fire Team, a six-seat Reconnaissance vehicle, a four-seat Command & Control On The Move vehicle, a Heavy Guns Carrier that seats four and a gunner, a four-seat Close Combat Weapons Carrier, a two-seat Utility vehicle and an Ambulance which seats three and carries two litters. The Payload Category C JLTV will carry a 2313-kg payload and be produced in two sub-configurations: a two-seat Shelter Carrier/Utility/ Prime Mover and an Ambulance that seats three and carries four litters. The trailers for each category are to 'have similar payload and mobility as prime movers'.

The government convened an evaluation board in April to consider industry proposals, which is expected to lead to three contract awards based on 'best value' in July 2008. A System Development Demonstration (SDD) phase is planned to start in 2011 during which two contractors will complete the design and development of the JLTV family, and companion trailers and ultimately compete for the JLTV production contract.

The services expect several industry teams to compete for JLTV contracts along with companies whose partnering plans were not yet announced as this was being written. These include: Northrop Grumman and Oshkosh Corporation; General Tactical Vehicle, a joint venture between AM General and General Dynamics Land Systems; Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems; BAE Systems and Navistar; Boeing, Textron and SAIC; Textron and Millenworks; Force Protection and DRS; Blackwater; Raytheon: and L-3.


Force Protection unveiled the 4 x 4 Cheetah, the lightest member of its vehicle line up, at the October 2006 AUSA convention. With a gross vehicle weight of eight tonnes the Cheetah carries six personnel, all of whom are able to observe through large ballistic glass windows with an optional configuration to seat eight. Mine protection is comparable to the Cougar while the Cheetah can withstand the blast of a 23-kg of TNT equivalent at a distance of two metres. With a top speed of 137 km/h the Cheetah gets twice the fuel mileage of the 4 x 4 Cougar and is considerably more manoeuvrable in urban areas. The Cheetah could clearly serve as the basis of the proposal Force Protection in partnership with DRS Sustainment Systems intends to make for the JLTV project.


At the February 2008 AUSA meeting Lockheed Martin unveiled its second JLTV prototype, intended to meet the Payload Category C requirement, to join the original Combat Tactical Vehicle (named for the previous designation of the JLTV Payload Category B) that had completed more than 8000 km of testing by the end of February. Lockheed officials said the company has 'blown up' 13 hull designs before selecting the 'improved V-shaped' hull. The company plans to unveil its Payload Category A JLTV-A-GP prototype at the AUSA October symposium.

BAE Systems and Navistar also unveiled a JLTV prototype at the February AUSA meeting. Officials said the two companies have benefited from their combined experience producing more than 75% of the Mraps ordered to that point. Not surprisingly the eight-tonne vehicle featured a V-shaped hull. BAE Systems is also confident that this its position as 'hit avoidance' lead for the Manned Ground Vehicles portion of the army's Future Combat Systems project will be a significant advantage.

German Solutions

On 10 March 2008 Thales announced that it had been selected to supply 48 Krauss-Maffei Wegmann 4 x 4 Dingo 2s to meet the Luxembourg Army's Protected Recce Vehicle requirement. For protection the vehicle will be equipped with the Kongsberg Protector RWS, a laser detection system and smoke grenade launchers. An all-weather observation suite will be mounted on a telescopic mast. Luxembourg is the fifth customer for the Dingo 2. The Belgian Army became the launch customer for the Dingo 2 in December 2004 when it placed a 170 million [euro] order for 220 vehicles in three variants--command, ambulance, and radar command and control--with an option for another 132. The German Army has bought more than 200 Dingo 2s, the Austria Army 35 and the Czech Army received four vehicles early in 2008 for use in Afghanistan.

KMW built 147 4 x 4 Dingo 1 Allschutz-Transportfahrzeuge (All Protected Transport Vehicle), based on the Mercedes-Benz U-1550L Unimog chassis, for the German Army between 2000 and 2003. The more capable Dingo 2 is based on the longer Mercedes-Benz Unimog U-5000 series chassis enabling the 3.25-metre wheelbase version to carry a 3.5-tonne payload, including up to eight personnel, and the 3.85-metre variant four tonnes. The Dingo's slanted blast deflector floor protects passengers against land mines. The Dingo 2 has a top speed of more than 90 km/h, a range of 1000 km and can be carried by a C-130 Hercules aircraft and airlifted by a CH-53 helicopter.

The Dingo 2 is in competition with the Rheinmetall 6 x 6 Yak for the German Army's Geschutzte Fuhrungs- und Funktionsfahrzeuge (GFF, Armoured Command and Multipurpose Vehicle) Class Three requirement for a vehicle to weight no more than 13 tonnes. On the Dingo 2 GFF configuration the crew compartment is extended to the rear to increase the internal volume to carry up to nine passengers. Specialist variants are being considered for missions such as weapons carrier, forward observation, medical evacuation, flatbed logistics carrier and radar surveillance.

KMW's Grizzly is one of two 6 x 6 vehicles competing for the 25-tonne GFF Class Four category which is intended to carry a payload of more than 4.5 tonnes including ten personnel. KMW is also developing smaller 4 x 4 and larger 8 x 8 Grizzly models. The Grizzly driver's station and crew compartment form an integral 'safety cell' which is protected against ballistic threats, shell splinters, mines and roadside bombs. The Grizzly can reach a maximum speed of 90 km/h and has road range of more than 700 km.

Rheinmetall's Gefas (Geschutztes Fahrzeug System or Advanced Protective Vehicle System) vehicle is consists of crew, propulsion and axle modules which can be assembled to create 4 x 4, 6 x 6 and 8 x 8 vehicles ranging from 12.5 to 20 tonnes in weight. The V-shaped crew cell in each will seat six personnel. The recently rolled out prototype is in 4 x 4 configuration with an empty weigh of 12.5 tonnes and a gross vehicle weight of 17.5 tonnes. The Gefas will have a top speed of more than 80 kph and a range of 700 km. Rheinmetall believes that a Gefas, fitted with a remote-controlled weapon station, would make an ideal patrol or convoy escort vehicle.


Urban Wildcat

The Israel Military Industries 4 x 4 Wildcat, unveiled in 2006, has been designed to meet the need for a vehicle that combines high levels of protection and manoeuvrability yet appears less menacing than other AFV designs now being used in urban operations. The manufacturer has been lobbying the Israel Defense Force to procure the Wildcat. Based on a new 4 x 4 chassis developed by Tatra, the Czech subsidiary of Terex, the Wildcat features three levels of protection: the basic level protects against 7.62-mm AP attack; Level 2 protects against 14.5-ram AP; and Level 3 is intended to defeat RPGs and similar shoulder-launched weapons. The crew hull is one meter above ground level providing additional protection against mines. The Wildcat is claimed to provide better ballistic protection than the Stryker and equal protection to the M113 that IMI is upgrading for the Israel Defense Forces. The vehicle weighs 15 tonnes with Level 3 protection and is able to carry twelve soldiers.


Kamaz, together with Bauman Technical University and NII Stali have developed the APC-97 Vystrel (Shot) armoured vehicle based on the Kamaz-4326 4 x 4 chassis. The vehicle is also known as the Kamaz-43269.

The APC-97 hull, built by Kurganmashzavod, is made of welded rolled armour plate. The top frontal and side armoured plates provide protection against 12.7-mm bullets from a range of 300 metres. The armoured bottom is wedge-shaped to reduce anti-tank mine shock waves. The two 125-1itre fuel tanks are mounted outside the cabin, but protected by armour plates.

Side and rear doors as well as roof hatches enable all occupants to dismount from an adequate side to remain under the cover of the vehicle in the event of an ambush. The roof can accommodate a weapons turret (with typical weapons such as 2.7 or 14.5-mm machine guns, 30mm automatic gun, 30-mm automatic grenade launcher, Konkurs or Kornet anti-tank missile launchers).

The vehicle's high mobility is provided by a Euro 2-compliant Kamaz-740.10-20 eight-cylinder diesel engine mated to an electrically controlled gear box.

APC-97 Vystrel has been licensed for export delivery and has already raised strong interest from Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Iraq, Bangladesh and other Kamaz customer countries.

Not as heavily protected, but worthy of a few lines here due to its newness is the Gaz Tigr, a vehicle that draws on BTR experience. Made of welded steel plate providing protection against small arms bullets, mines and fragments of projectiles and improvised explosive devices, the hull rests on the chassis via rubber mountings. Gaz is free to export the vehicle if unarmed. Vehicles equipped with provisions for roof-mounted weapons, sale fall back under the Rosoboronexport fold. It can be powered by various Cummins engines driving an Allison 1000 Series automatic gearbox or a Gaz five-gear manual shifter.

Born in February

At the winter AUSA symposium in February 2008 Srats officials, supported by BAE Systems, revealed the Enhance Logistic Specialized Off Road Vehicle (Elsorv). The Elsorv can carry a one-tonne payload, including four personnel, off roads at speeds up to 160 km/h. Project officials stress the design is a niche capability intended for use in complex terrain where other armoured vehicles might not be suitable.

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Title Annotation:Vehicles: armoured
Author:Kemp, Ian; Biass, Eric H.
Publication:Armada International
Date:Jun 1, 2008
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