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Weight, protection, dimensions ... Today's mobility Paradigm.

During the Cold War, when the main battle tank was the Icing of the battlefield, a compromise had to be found between mobility, protection and firepower. In current missions, tanks have taken a more peripheral role, as less invasive and threatening vehicles were required, with light and wheeled cars becoming quite trendy. However, the threat quickly evolved to require putting the words 'weight and size' back into the equation of vehicle design, to the point of placing mobility into serious jeopardy, as these vehicles have to cope with road systems that are a far cry from western standards.

In the mid-1980s the AM General Humvee became the reference in the field of high-mobility utility vehicles, although its width proved to be a problem in western Germany staging areas normally setup among thick forests. Designed to operate behind the lines, the Humvee was certainly the vehicle with higher mobility as compared to the various utility 4 x 4s used by the other western armies, the Peugeot P4, the Mercedes G-Wagen, the VW Iltis and the Fiat Cam-pagnola to mention a few.

The Humvee was also the only one that was quickly given a certain degree of protection, following the first Gulf War of 1990-91 and the then-Yugoslav conflict. At that time, the only army operating a light vehicle conceived from scratch with armour in mind was France; this was the Panhard VBL (Vehicule Blinde Leger), which was mostly meant as a reconnaissance vehicle within Leclerc armoured regiments.

Operations in Somalia and in the Balkans, the latter scenario already showing a considerable threat from mines, lead to the development of light vehicles capable to withstand both ballistic and blast threats exemplified by the Mowag Eagle fielded in the late 1990s while Iveco DV started the development of its Light Multirole Vehicle (LMV). In 2003, in the aftermath of operation Iraqi Freedom, the increased number of attacks against soft-skinned vehicles sparked off a steady increase to Humvee up-armouring, with other nations also providing better-protected vehicles to their troops. However, if the ballistic threat could be met relatively easily, the increasing use of mines and improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs, by insurgents started to, again, steer vehicles development in a different direction.

The Mrap era had started--where Mrap stood for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected. Considerable ground clearance, V-shaped hulls and safe crew cells were the main characteristics of these vehicles. However, since their inception, the constantly increasing threats had a spiralling effect on their weight and volume, which gradually started to hamper their mobility. Most of these vehicles were designed to operate mainly on roads, and thus significantly lacked cross-country mobility. A diversification took place between vehicles mostly used for patrol duties and those employed by specialised engineer teams. In the American forces Mraps are currently subdivided into Category I (also dubbed Mine Resistant Utility Vehicles), Category II (used by Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams and thus dubbed JERRV for Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicle) and Category III (wholly dedicated to the EOD/IED road-clearing function). The US forces remain the largest purchaser for those vehicles, as they outnumber other nations forces combined in the two major current theatres of operations--Iraq and Afghanistan. It was mostly the latter scenario that commanded a major change in the Mrap design: operating in mountainous terrain, often off roads, requires independent suspensions, reduced weight and smaller dimensions.

United States

Two major programmes were launched in the United States. The M-ATV (alias Mrap-All Terrain Vehicle) aimed at acquiring highly protected vehicles with better mobility, and the JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle), which aims at becoming the Humvee's successor, although with much higher protection and performance. Upgrading programmes for existing Mraps, especially in terms of suspension were also launched. The first programme to come to fruition involves the M-ATV, the first contract of which, worth about one billion dollars, was awarded to Oshkosh Defense on 30 June 2009 and included the initial purchase of 2244 M-ATVs, basic issue items and logistic support. Recent forecasts indicate that the overall number of M-ATVs that might be ordered by the Department of Defense for Army and Marines could top the 10,000 mark.

Largely based on the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) truck platform, the Oshkosh M-ATV has a combat weight of 13.15 tonnes, carries four soldiers plus a gunner and features the company's Tak-4 independent suspension, its armour system being provided by Plasan North America (the American arm of the Israeli company); basic protection is Stanag Level 2 for the ballistic threat and 2B for mines, defence against roadside bombs being rather laconically stated as [much less than]exceptional[much greater than] by the company. By February 2010 Oshkosh secured six contracts for a total of 8079 vehicles to the tune of $ 4.15 billion, with other 'smaller' contracts covering spares, rear-mounted cameras, RPG and EFP protection kits (respectively 800 and 795) and C41 kits (initially mounted on the first vehicles delivered, they are now integrated in all vehicles being produced). Those contracts have a combined value of over $ 585 million.

Since last December Oshkosh has managed to ramp up production to 1000 vehicles per month, while the first M-ATVs left America on 29 September 2009 to reach Afghanistan in early October. The company plans to complete all deliveries by May 2012. Many other countries have expressed interest, but other contracts will be accepted only once all current national contracts are fulfilled. The M-ATV can be transported inside a C-130. It is not designed for helicopter transportability, this being the target for the JLTV. In late February Oshkosh unveiled two M-ATV variants: a two-man crew cabin utility vehicle to transport pallets or shelters, and an ambulance carrying two stretchers.

The other M-ATV competitors were:

* BAE Systems Global Tactical Vehicles, with a lighter derivative of the Caiman Light

* BAE Systems US Combat Systems with a derivative of the Valanx JLTV with heavier armour protection

* Force Protection and General Dynamics, under the Force Dynamics brand, proposing a version of the Cheetah

* Navistar with a derivative of the MXT/MVA. The latter also evolved in the Husky Tactical Support Vehicle, a seven-tonne vehicle adopted by the UK.

One of the latest developments in this category of vehicles is the BAE Systems RG Outrider, a V-shaped hull, light, mine-protected patrol vehicle derived from the RG32M, with a gross weight of 9.5 tonnes and a greater internal space (slightly wider and higher). It provides Level 2 ballistic and Level 2A/B mine protection levels with 'outstanding' roadside bomb protection, according to the company.

Another recent development in the light category is the Oshkosh Sandcat, a multi-role protected vehicle that uses a commercial chassis and a kitted hull. This can provide different levels of armour according to mission, up to Stanag Level 3+ for ballistic, Level 2a for mines and Level 4 for roadside bombs. Its gross weight is about 8.9 tonnes with a payload of 1.8 and it is powered by a 320-hp diesel engine. According to the company, the price range is one of the competitive elements of this vehicle. Oshkosh started deliveries to current customers, among which Bulgaria, Canada, Israel and Sweden--all having acquired only small numbers--while numerous other countries have expressed interest.

As for the JLTV family, the three teams to have obtained a contract for the 27-month technology demonstration phase are BAE-Navistar, General Tactical Vehicles and Lockheed Martin-BAE Systems. All three are currently composing their ad-hoc prototypes; these incorporate the design revisions following the testing of the first prototypes and subsequent preliminary and critical design reviews.

The idea is to obtain a family of vehicles with payloads ranging from 1.6 to 2.3 tonnes, able to provide roadside bomb protection and accept transportation by most US services rotary wing assets (externally by UH-60M and MV-22 Block C, and externally or internally by MH-47G, CH-47F, CH-53E and CH-53K), which means a maximum curb weight of four tonnes. However, some sceptical minds believe that the programme could well run into some of the problems that have caused the demise of the FCS vehicle family if weight limits and protection levels have to be maintained. How the industry will succeed in providing the military with such a vehicle will soon become evident; the government prototypes will undergo 20,000 miles of reliability and maintainability testing, while armour solutions will be put to test at Aberdeen Proving Grounds; each team having to supply a number of hulls for blast-testing. Combining lightweight and protection against RPG and roadside bombs is a feat that might command the adoption of active armour solutions, as some promise to cope with shaped charges and other kind of threats with limited weight penalties. Reactive armour and bar-armour are also being considered. US forces are planning to acquire large numbers of JLTVs-the targets are about 55,000 for the Army and 5500 for the Marines.

As for the upgrade of existing Mraps, Oshkosh is providing Tak-4 suspension kits for the retrofit of over 2400 legacy Mraps to improve their cross-country mobility. Numerous US Marine Corps Force Protection Cougars have been equipped with such suspension systems, while the Cougar ISS Cat is equipped from scratch with independent suspension. Such improvements are becoming an integral part of new Mrap contracts. On 16 February 2010 Navistar Defense was awarded a $ 752 million contract by the US Marine Corps for 1050 Enhanced International Maxxpro Dash Mraps. These will be equipped with DXM independent suspensions provided by Hendrickson Truck Suspension and Axletech International. One day later GDLS-Canada was awarded a $ 227.4 million contract, also by the Marines, for 250 RG-31 Mk 5Es. In February 2010 BAE Systems unveiled the MTV (Multi-Theater Vehicle) version of its Caiman 6 x 6 Mrap; it features a wider wheel base, a more robust Arvin Meritor independent suspension providing, amongst other features, a better lateral stability, and a tougher drivetrain to better cope with Afghanistan's harsh terrain. It is to note that with this vehicle BAE Systems steps up to a higher weight, 27.5 tonnes versus 16.8 for original version while pay-load capacity moves from 2.5 tonnes to 3.7 (which should underline a higher protection level) while the new powerpack entrusted to move all this is asked to kick 450 hp instead of the original's 370.

Europe

Since the late 1990s European manufacturers addressed the needs of their armies in various ways. At the time, the main focus was put on mine protection and vehicles of different sizes were thus developed. Krauss-Maffei Wegmann of Germany first developed the Dingo, followed by the Dingo 2, both based on a Unimog truck chassis. Together with Iveco, the Munich-based company is now developing a new family of vehicles, which can properly be defined as Mraps; KMW is concentrating on the Grizzly 6 x 6 version aimed at the GFF4 contract in Germany while Iveeo has developed the 4 x 4 version, a roadside-bomb-protected version of which will be unveiled at Eurosatory in June 2010. These vehicles are based on Iveco's Trakker chassis with Stanag Level 3 hulls supplied by KMW. Their respective gross weights will be 25 and 18 tonnes. Iveco is already working on two other variants of its 4 X 4, an ambulance for the Italian Army, which will be delivered in late summer, and an engineer ACRT vehicle equipped with a telescopic arm is due for roll-out in early 2011. Once optional, central tire inflation systems are now a standard fit for all 4 x 4s. Rheinmetall is also lurking on the GFF4 project with the 8 x 8 version of its Wisent modular vehicle system. The GFF4 selection is expected in 2010.

Nexter from France, for its part, has developed the Aravis. Presented at Eurosatory 2008, this 12.5-tonner provides all-round Level 4 protection for eight people. The French Army ordered 15 in April 2009, the first four of which were delivered in January 2010. The remaining vehicles were awaited by the end of April. According to the little data made available, the Aravis currently has the higher protection/weight ratio in this category and could well feature an active under-belly armour device.

KMW is developing a follow-on to its Fennek reconnaissance vehicle. The newcomer will include state-of-the-art armour technologies providing Level 4A anti-mine protection using a sandwich armour which might also include liquid materials. The vehicle will be powered by two identical engines, one front and one rear, to eliminate mechanical connection under the vehicle floor and provide an easily working base for a 6 x 6 version. Named F2, its ballistic protection is forecast at Stanag Level 3, the 4 x 4 aiming at a 15-tonne gross weight while the 6 x 6 will tip the scales at around 24 tonnes. KMW has teamed with L-3 Communications to develop the F2US for future American requirements.

Other recent developments include the Ranger, which is a heavy Mrap produced by Universal Engineering in Britain, teamed with Creation. A 6 x 6 with a 19-tonne gross weight, it ensures a Level 4 ballistic and Level 4B mine protection to its ten-man crew compartment. Add-on protection against RPGs and EFPs will be available for production vehicles, the first of which should be ready by the time these lines are printed. According to Universal Engineering, the Ranger has a protection three times higher than the current British Army Mastiff, while boasting greater mobility.

Renault Trucks developed its own Mrap, a 6 x 6 vehicle that sees its weight increasing from 15 tonnes to 22 depending on the protection level required. Based on the Sherpa 5 chassis, it provides transportation for up to ten soldiers plus a crew of two.

Turkey's Otokar developed its Kaya mine-protected vehicle based on the Unimog 5000 chassis (the same for the Dingo 2), which, at 12.5 tonnes, can transport up to ten passengers plus the crew of two.

Hatehof in Israel proposes its Xtream, a 16-tonne gross weight vehicle with a payload of four to six tonnes that can host up to seven soldiers. Three protection kits are offered: 'A' providing ballistic Level 3 and mine protection level 2A/B, the 'B' kit increases protection respectively to Level 4 and Level 3B and 4A, and 'C, which provides protection against RPGs and roadside bombs.

Elsewhere

Much further away, Thales Australia developed the Bushmaster, adopted by Australia and the Netherlands which together have ordered over 800 vehicles, of which over 400 are in service. This 15-tonne class vehicle, which is equipped with Axletech 4000 independent suspensions, was developed in an export version known as World Bushmaster, which can be equipped with numerous options; among which a roadside bomb 'interrogation arm' with a reach of over 8.5 metres, a surveillance mast with sensors, a Thales SotasIP intercom, an upgraded armour package and a Kongsberg Protector Lite weapon station. More recently, a new dual-cab utility version with a gross weight of 17.2 tonnes and a payload capacity of six tonnes has been down-selected for the Australian Land 121 Phase 3 programme.

Lighter

Moving to lighter vehicles, the Mowag Eagle, once a close derivative of the Humvee as it used its chassis, is now a completely different beast since it is now based on the Duro III chassis. The current Eagle IV tips the scales, gross, at 8.8 tonnes with a 2.1-tonne payload at Stanag Level 2 protection. It is being proposed for Australia's Protected Mobility Vehicles-Light programme.

Iveco's LMV is continuously evolving, and at IAV 2010 in London, a stretched version was exhibited. The wheelbase is 300 mm longer, which provides an internal space increase of about 200 mm. It features new seats designed by Iveco, and a hardtop able to carry an overhead weapon station replaces the original roll-protection bar system. The overall mine protection is improved and a third hinge on the vehicle doors adds resistance in case of blast. The instrument panel is fully digitised and available electrical power is increased to 300 Ah. The model displayed at the show was a utility vehicle with full-size cabin and a rear flatbed to transport a shelter. Further evolutions are known to be on the firm's computer screens.

Renault Trucks' Sherpa family was also developed in numerous variants, ranging from 7.7 to 10.5 tonnes gross weight and is offered with two wheelbase versions. Some have been adopted by Nato and France.

The British Light Protected Patrol Vehicle (LPPV) programme has sparked the development of numerous 7.5 tonners, especially in Britain, many of which were unveiled in 2009 at the DVD and DSEi exhibitions.

For instance, Supacat introduced its SPV400, with a 1.5-tonne payload. Its V-shaped hull and composite armour survivability cell developed by NP Aerospace ensure Level 3 ballistic protection and Level 3A/B mine protection. Following blast trials against simulated vehicle-borne bombs, the first running prototype was rolled out in late January 2010 and entered the trials programme.

Force Protection Europe and Ricardo produced the Ocelot, with a two-tonne payload and Level 2B mine protection, ballistic protection is at Level 2, with optional add-on protection against hollow charges and explosively-formed penetrators. Two prototypes have been delivered and have already logged an aggregate 16,000 km. The type is competing in Australia for Land 121 while discussions are ongoing with the US Marine Corps on concept modularity.

Creation and Babcock Land Systems formed Team Zephyr, from the name of their LPPV proposal, which features a 2.5-tonne payload capacity and a crew cell with ballistic Level 3 and anti-mine Level 3A protection. Following the decision of Babcock to withdraw from the LPPV bid, the Zephyr is looking at the world market and at bids such as Australia Land 121 and Canada Light Tactical Vehicle, but over 20 other countries have shown interest in the vehicle. By mid-2010 Creation will unveil two new variants, a 6 x 4 and a 6 x 6.

In Germany, KMW and Rheinmetall continue the testing of the Type 2 prototype of their Armoured Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV), which aims at the Bundeswehr GFF2 bid. At 7.8 tonnes gross weight, this version has a payload capacity of over two tonnes with Level 3 ballistic and Level 3a mine protection. The Type 1 lighter versions will be developed from 2011 on.

One of the latest entries among non-American light armoured vehicles is the Thales Hawkei 9, which leverages experience acquired with the Bushmaster. In the crew vehicle variant it can accommodate four to six people and in the external air transportability configuration it has a seven-tonne curb weight, with a 2.5-tonne payload. The utility vehicle has a gross weight of nine tonnes with a 2.7-tonne payload. Protection is adequate to face current threats and is fully upgradeable according to Thales, which does not provide many more technical details apart from the fact that suspensions will be independent and that the powerpack will be based on a six-in-line engine mated to an automatic six-speed transmission. The vehicle is being submitted to the Australian Land 121 Phase 4 programme.

Hatehof of Israel is starting production of its Hurricane, a 4 x 4 with a gross weight given as 9.2 tonnes, a payload capacity of 2.7 including an 'A' ballistic kit providing Stanag Level 2 protection and a kit 'B' increasing it to Level 3 (the latters weight being unknown). Mine protection is Level 2A/B, although no data are available about RPG and roadside bomb protection levels. A JLTV-type vehicle, the front cabin seats two while the rear can host from two to five.

In South Africa, Integrated Convoy Protection developed the Reva 4 X 4 in different variants, ranging from the Reva III Short Wheel Base (7.2 tonnes gross) up to the 10.4-tonne gross weight Reva V Manufactured in Baghdad, Jordan and South Africa, over 400 such vehicles are in service with the Royal Thai Army, KBR and other multinational companies in Iraq as well as with security companies. Its armour provides up to Level 3 protection while all models can withstand a 14-kg mine under wheels and a seven-kg blast underbelly. Roadside bomb and explosively-forged warhead protection is also available on the Reva III.
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Title Annotation:Vehicles: mine-protected
Author:Valpolini, Paolo
Publication:Armada International
Date:Jun 1, 2010
Words:3359
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