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Weight or budget watchers?

What is the upper limit of 'medium' in armoured vehicle parlance is pretty much a matter for conjecture, as are most categorisations. However, as a result of the increasing threat from improvised explosive devices and from rocket-propelled grenades, vehicles have recently had a propensity to put on weight--wheeled and tracked alike. Additional armour is not the only factor behind the increase in dimensions and weight: since the end of World War II the average height of the western soldier has increased by about ten centimetres.

The increasing amount of personal equipment and embarked electronic gear have also played a major role in the weight and volume inflation. Electronics--or vetronics to use the fashionable contraction of 'vehicle' and 'electronics'--have been requiring more and more power over the years, which had in turn, commanded the production of larger alternators and power supplies. Air conditioning and NBC protection are also part of the equation and require further volume. Once all the bits of the puzzle are put together, the picture inevitably shows a new breed of much larger vehicles, their imposing mass being further emphasised by their overall height which results from an increased stand-off distance from the ground to improve protection against mines and other buried explosives.

Increasing protection has a perverse snowball effect as it implies increased weight and larger surfaces to be protected although new developments in armour technology, not to mention active self protection, are coming to the rescue to reduce specific weight against an equal given protection level.

Dimensions also have an impact on mobility. Far gone are the times when units were to be deployed in predictable places. Nowadays the confrontation with unpredictable scenarios means that no one can forecast what maximum vehicle width and weight will be required to meet the challenges of future operational theatres.

Deployment capabilities also have their say. C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster III and Antonov 124 are the typical heavy-lifters used to ensure air deployability of vehicles. The A400M will be able to carry vehicles of up to 37 tonnes with dimensional limits given by the cargo bay, which is four metres in width and 3.85 metres in height, while the C130, which still is the most-used intra-theatre lift asset, is unable to transport the most recent vehicles and is playing with limits when having to carry those of the previous generation. Generally speaking, the average combat weight of the most recent wheeled armoured vehicle is now much closer to that of the previous generation tracked vehicles, and although the most recent of this latter category have grown heavier, their increased modularity makes them air-transportable, which in certain circumstances can bring them back to below the 'medium weight' mark.

In fact, many nations are shifting from a light/heavy mix to a light/medium/heavy mix of brigades. Most 'medium' units will be equipped with wheeled vehicles. However, as noted above, their weight will not be dramatically lower than that of the previous generation tracked vehicles and in the end, the overall weight of such brigades will be lower mainly because of the absence of main battle tanks. Indeed main battle tanks are seldom used in current operations, although some nations still deploy them as last-ditch resource when the life of their soldiers is put at major risk. The mix between tracked and wheeled vehicles is shifting in favour of the latter, although the psychological impact of tracked vehicles remains certainly higher than that of armoured vehicles on wheels.

Wheeled Armoured Vehicles

If the market for new tracked vehicles is drying up--something that is precipitated by numerous surplus vehicles available around the world that can be upgraded and sold at reasonable prices -that of wheeled armoured vehicles is definitely increasing. Among the most evolutionary wheeled vehicles currently at prototype phase is the BAE Systems Sep (Splitterskyddad EnhetsPlattform, for Modular Armoured Tactical System).

SEP: In fact the Sep is not really a wheeled system, as it is a multi-role platform concept that can be developed in two different ways, one tracked and one wheeled. The programme was launched in 1996 by Hagglunds, which is now part of BAE Systems. It was first intended as a technology demonstration programme, the vehicles being powered by a hybrid diesel-electric system in which the engine generates electric power that is transferred by cables to permanent magnet type electric motors that directly drive wheels or sprockets. This allowed optimising the use of the volume by getting rid of the mechanical transmission chain. The layout also allows one to use two smaller engines in place of a single one, although a mechanical transmission is offered as an option as a low-technology risk solution for the wheeled vehicles. The two engines are placed forward along the sides, the two crewmembers are thus seated side-by-side at the front of the vehicle. The use of dual engines also increases survivability should one of the engines be hit and destroyed; the vehicle would still be able to move, albeit in a degraded mode. As an added boon, hybrid propulsion enables the vehicle to operate in silent mode by running on battery power when tactically required and thereby reducing thermal emissions.

The vehicle architecture allows a 13-metre (3) internal volume with a vehicle that is one metre shorter compared to conventional layouts. All three versions proposed, the 6 X 6, 8 X 8 and the tracked, are 6.1 metres long, while base version weight is 11.5 tonnes for both the tracked and 6 X 6 versions and 14.5 tonnes for the 8 X 8. In the 'fly light' configuration BAE Systems declared respective weights of 12.3 and 13.5 tonnes for the base vehicle, compared to an estimated 14.3 tonnes for a conventional vehicle. The inherently higher protection of the Sep in its basic configuration, for both ballistic and mine threats, allows operation with only two tonnes of ballistic addon armour for the three vehicles while 1.4 tonnes of add-on mine protection is required for the wheeled vehicles and 1.9 tonnes for the tracked version (as it has a reduced ground clearance). Considering 1.3 tonnes for crew and equipment this brings the total weight to 17 tonnes for the 6 X 6,17.5 tonnes for the tracked version and 18.2 tonnes for the 8 X 8-according to BAE Systems estimates a conventional vehicle at 14.3 tonnes would need 2.8 tonnes of ballistic and 2.9 tonnes of anti-mine protection add-ons, bringing its weigh to 21.3 tonnes, well over the limits of the C-130 airlift capabilities. The limited weight of the basic vehicle also guarantees a high payload capacity, six to 13.5 tonnes for the tracked version, six to 11.5 for the 6 X 6 and up to nine to 12.5 for the 8 X 8, as well as growth potential beyond Stanag levels, according to the manufacturer.

The Sep is intended as a system composed of a mobility platform and interchangeable payload modules, which not only offers greater flexibility but also easier integration of future technologies.

In addition to vision blocks the crew uses a glass cockpit that provides good electronic forward and side visibility which can be customised according to customer needs.

Two 8 X 8 prototypes were built in 2007 with a mechanical Y-drive and conventional propulsion, and one of these was fitted with the IBD Deisenroth ADS protective system, which was demonstrated in April 2008 at Karlsborg, Sweden, From a technological and performance standpoint the Sep programme looks appealing, but when turning to scheduling and investment the programme proved to be stretched beyond limits: 14 years after its launch and in spite of awarding a SEK 500 million ([euro]48 million) contract for full-scale development including two tracked and two 6 X 6 wheeled additional vehicles in July 2006, the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration decided to call it quits in February 2008.

BAE Systems decided however to continue development despite Swedish funding dry-up. BAE Systems considers that there is a strong market for 8 X 8 vehicles of such category and thus carried on with the assembly of the four planned vehicles, which are considered pre-production items and equipped with the hybrid propulsion system. In February 2009 BAE Systems signed a teaming arrangement with Kongsberg Devotek of Norway to develop a new system of gears and transmission for its Sep 8 X 8 platform.

Turning to marketing efforts, in 2006 BAE Systems won a technology demonstrator contract in 2006 as part of the Fres programme for the chassis concept of the British Army Fres, but the 8 X 8 vehicle was not downselected for the 'trials of truth' announced in July 2007. In early 2007 one of the 8 x 8 prototypes (a configuration known as Thor on the international market) underwent trials in the Nevada desert with the US Marines for the Marine Personnel Carrier programme; this aims at the acquisition of about 630 vehicles, although the programme has now been delayed by two years. BAE Systems also offered the Sep for the Spanish programme known as Vehiculo Blindado de Ruedas, which intends to replace the current VBR 6 x 6 in the Spanish Army. In early 2008 the Sep took part in the trials for the Swedish wheeled armoured vehicle together with the Mowag Piranha III and Patria Land & Armaments Armoured Modular Vehicle (AMV) to meet its requirement for an armoured wheeled vehicle (AWV). The Sep was not the selected vehicle, but following a BAE Systems appeal to the Swedish Court the latter decided in late October 2009 that the bid had to be re-run. The original winner of the above bid was another Nordic product, the Armoured Modular Vehicle (AMV) designed and produced by Patria of Finland.

AMV: Born in the post-Cold War era, the AMV, available in the 8 x 8 and 6 x 6 versions, has gleaned numerous contracts. However, Patria is now tasked with having to restart its bid in Sweden following the court decision to cancel the bid that it had won in June 2009 (see bottom of above paragraph). The Swedish contract was worth [euro]240 million and included the supply of 113 vehicles, among which 74 armoured personnel carriers and another ten with command and control capacity at company command level, 18 ambulances, four command posts with full command and control capacities and seven repair and recovery vehicles--enough to equip two infantry battalions.

Numerous other countries have already ordered the AMV, for a total of over 1400 vehicles. Among those are Croatia, Finland, Poland, Slovenia and the United Arab Emirates. The launch customer was Poland in 2002 with an order for the 690 vehicles which have been in production in Poland since 2005 as Rosomaks. Of these, 313 infantry fighting vehicles are equipped with an Oto Melara Hitfist Plus turret armed with an ATK Mk 44 30-mm gun, while 125 personnel carriers are equipped with open-top weapon stations (OSS-D and OSS-M) after Poland failed to obtain a remotely operated turret that suited its requirements. The OSS-D is controlled by electric motors while the -M offers slightly less ballistic protection and is manually activated. The order also includes 78 command vehicles, 34 maintenance vehicles, 22 engineer vehicles, five engineer 'recce' vehicles, 41 ambulances, 17 NBC recce vehicles, 23 artillery vehicles and 32 recce 6 x 6 Rosomaks round up the order. Some of these have been in service with the Polish contingent in Afghanistan since 2007, all of which are equipped with add on armour. The Rosomak has also been used by the Polish contingent in Tchad as part of the European Union mission there. Deliveries are due to continue until 2013. In September 2009 the Polish Minister of Defence announced an extension of the contract, which will bring the total number to over 800 vehicles, and extending the production dates.

In 2003 Finland ordered 86 AMVs from Patria, 62 fitted with a Kongsberg Protector turret armed with 12.7-mm machine gun or 40-mm AGL, while 24 are armed with the Amos twin-barrel 120-mm turreted mortar system. All those vehicles have been delivered.

The Slovenian programme has been through numerous problems; the contract worth [euro]278 million was signed in December 2006 and covered 135 vehicles in 8 x 8 configuration. Of those, six were to be equipped with the Elbit Systems UT-30 Overhead Remotely Controlled Weapon Station carrying Spike missiles, 66 with a Kongsberg M151 Protector weapon station with 12.7-mm machine gun, 24 with automatic grenade launchers and twelve with the Patria Nemo automatic mortar. The first vehicle was delivered for validation in late September 2008, but in early December Slovenia halted acceptance due to a series of malfunctions. The first twelve vehicles were finally accepted in late June 2009, part of them produced in Slovenia by Indop, while in October the first vehicle equipped with the Nemo single-barrel turreted mortar was ready for delivery, Slovenia being the launch customer for this version. Rumours about a possible order cut to 90 vehicles have not been confirmed. The first international appearance of Slovenian AMVs took place in September 2009 when some vehicles were deployed to Italy during an exercise of the Multinational Land Force; a brigade-size unit formed by Italian, Slovenian and Hungarian forces.

Croatia signed a [euro]112 million contract for 84 8 x 8s in personnel carrier and fighting vehicle variants; 36 will be equipped with Kongsberg Protector remote weapon stations, 24 will carry 40-mm automatic grenade launchers and 24 will have a 30-mm turret. Numerous other variants for smaller numbers were also included in the order, 16 of which being mortar carriers, although the choice for a conventional or a turreted solution is still being debated. A further 42 were ordered in late November 2008 in a contract estimated at [euro]68 million, but the overall requirement could reach the [euro]280 mark (16 of those new vehicles might be equipped with a 122-mm multiple rocket launcher system). The prime contractor for Croatia is Duro Dakovi Specijalna Vozila, which is responsible for mission equipment, final integration and after-sales activities.

The number of vehicles ordered by the United Arab Emirates is still unknown, but these will be the stretched version in order to guarantee buoyancy when the BMP-3 turret will be installed on the vehicle. Their chassis will therefore be 350-mm longer, bringing the overall vehicle length to 8.05 metres. Modifications will be carried out locally by the Bin Jabr Group.

The Finnish vehicle was also selected by South Africa in 2007 for what was known as the Hoefyster programme. With a deal involving 264 vehicles, a [euro] 100 million research and development contract was signed for a potential programme value of some [euro]815 million. Denel Land Systems is the prime contractor, with Land Mobility Technology responsible for the vehicle and logistics engineering and BAE Systems South Africa for serial production and after-sales support. Under this contract Denel and its partners developed numerous components for the new vehicle, known as the Badger. These include a new 30-mm chain gun for the Denel LCT-30 turret as well as a breech-loading 60-mm mortar. Denel is awaiting the signing of the remaining part of the contract, which is worth over [euro]700 million. The Badger will be developed in five different versions, infantry fighting vehicle, command post, fire support, mortar carrier and tank destroyer. Denel expected the contract to be signed before end-2009 and began sending out contracts, such as that signed with Saab for the fire control computer to be used in the Badger's turrets.

Among new opportunities, Patria is looking with interest at the US Marine Corps Marine Personnel Carrier bid, which should be issued in 2010, as well as at the Spanish VBR.

Piranha: Within the numerous companies involved in armoured wheeled vehicles production, Mowag of Switzerland, now part of General Dynamics European Land Systems, deserves a special place, as its Piranhas, which date back to the early 1970s, certainly represent the largest family of wheeled armoured vehicles produced in the West, with over 9000 vehicles in service in all configurations. Constantly upgraded and keeping the Piranha brand, some of the developments represented technological quantum leaps rather than mere evolutions. We are now close to seeing what the Piranha V will look like in the flesh, although this last member of the family, born in Kreuzlingen, was announced a couple of years ago.

Piranhas have been produced abroad, including in Chile, Britain (GKN) and Canada (by General Motors of Canada, now General Dynamics) - the latter having produced among others the Light Armoured Vehicles (LAV) for the US Marine Corps and the Stryker for the US Army. The Piranha III remains one of the best sellers, as in recent times it was ordered by Romania, Spain (for its naval infantry),Brazil (also for its Marines) and Switzerland, whose most recent acquisition was for the NBC defence version. Mowag maintained the momentum in developing its wheeled armoured vehicle, the Piranha IV featuring a considerable increment in terms of payload and internal volume capacities over the Piranha III, with a High Protection version fitted with the Saab Avitronics Leds active self-protection system unveiled in 2008. The vehicle also includes many protection solutions against roadside and buried bombs, explosively-forged projectiles and ballistic threats, developed in view of the afore mentioned next-generation Piranha V. Mobility-wise improvements consist of progressive coil springs, optional hydropneumatic suspensions with ride height management and a new 343-kW engine. On the accommodation front it has greater headroom and energy absorption seats to reduce mine blast effect. In May 2008 the Piranha V was provisionally selected as preferred bidder solution for the Fres utility vehicle over two of the most modern wheeled vehicles available, the Artec Boxer and the Nexter VBCT. However, in December of the same year the British Ministry of Defence rescinded that status to General Dynamics UK, which was acting as prime contractor; this happened because the Ministry and the company couldn't find an agreement on the issue of intellectual property. The vehicle that took part in the Salisbury Plain trials was the Piranha Evolution, upon which the Piranha V is being developed and was expected to have been unveiled in late 2009. An integrated starter/generator provides 100 kW of electrical output, which should be used in the future for electric armour or weapons; a hybrid power booster adds 100 kW to the drive train when needed. Remains now to be seen what will happen with the Fres bid, i.e. whether the contest will remain closed to the three previously selected solutions or if it will be re-opened to other competitors. The latest Piranha versions are bidding for most of the wheeled vehicle contests currently underway, such as the Vehiculo Blindado de Ruedas in Spain.

In North America things are also evolving: General Dynamics developed the LAV H or High Capability, a technological demonstrator that includes improvements in numerous areas. First of all it offers an increased mechanical and electrical power thanks to a new engine, a new 500 A alternator, an optional auxiliary power unit, an optional 24 V lithium-ion battery pack that almost doubles the power storage capacity, upgraded vetronics with standard digital interface, smart driver's instrument panel, digital video layer and local situational awareness system. Baseline structure improvements include enhanced integral mine protection, redesigned applique armour modules, redesigned rear door, internal and external bomb protection kits. An extended hull, spaced lower hull extensions as well as optimised suspensions and drivelines to carry more armour, ammunition, fuel, gear etc. Improved automotive components finally provide the vehicle a superior mobility.

Upgrading programmes are also being finalised. Canada is looking at a major upgrade programme for its LAV III fleet, which should involve 550 vehicles plus an option for 80 more, and will increase mobility, protection and upgrade weapon systems. However, a crash programme to improve ballistic and mine protection is underway: known as LAV Operational Requirements Improvement Technologies (Lorit), it includes two contracts to EODC Engineering, of Ottawa (a subsidiary of IBD Deisenroth of Germany) for add-on armour kits and one to Armatec of London for mine protection kit. An interim solution provided by Defence Research and Development Canada will also be adopted on some of the vehicles. The total number of vehicles involved should not be greater than 140. Some 100 LAV Il-based vehicles, Bison and Coyote, should also receive add-on mine protection that is being procured through a tender.

Armatec already provided the Bpup (Ballistic Protection UPgrade) kit for the US Marine Corps cars, which also adopted Kidde AFSS (Automatic Fire Suppression System), second-generation suspensions and the General Dynamics electric turret drive. Two further steps known as Survivability Part II and III are being planned, the first one includes blast-proof seats, fuel cells and 'long term underbody', while the second will deal with improved suspensions and weight reduction. Upgrades for the anti-tank and recovery variants are also underway. All this is geared toward the 2025 LAV service life, when this family of vehicles will have been replaced by the new Marine Personnel Carrier. As for the US Army Stryker, the service ordered over 3800 vehicles of different variants with over 3000 already delivered, a series of upgrades is also planned including the adoption of an auxiliary power unit to provide enough power not only for silent-watch operations, but also to meet extra requirements from jammers and other equipment, while new suspensions, possibly of the semi-active type, should cope with a combat weight of about 28 tonnes.

Improvements to the on-board electronic architecture and C4I systems, in order to make the vehicle compatible with Future Combat System spin-offs, are also foreseen and might include a new databus architecture and the latest version of FBCB2. Strykers have been equipped with add-on armour following deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Passive armour kits were later integrated by slat armour to disrupt shaped-charge effects. An explosive reactive armour kit has recently been acquired, developed by General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products, in cooperation with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Israel, which should be fielded in the first half of 2010.

Pandur II: The other player in the General Dynamics stable is the Pandur II, which builds on the experience of the original Pandur 6 x 6 vehicle in service with Austria, Belgium, Slovenia, Kuwait and the United States, and of which about 300 vehicles have been produced. Developed both in 6 x 6 and 8 x 8 guises, the second series is intended to meet the demands for protection not only from small arms fire, but also from mines and buried bombs.

Two major contracts are currently underway, one with Portugal and one with the Czech Republic. In February 2005 Portugal selected the Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug Pandur II to replace its Chaimite wheeled armoured cars; the contract which was finalised in late 2005 included a total of 260 vehicles, 240 for the Army and 20 for the Navy marines. The first production vehicle was available in May, but deliveries did not start until early 2006, the first 42 vehicles being supplied from the production line in Vienna while the remaining were to be produced in Portugal. The first locally assembled Pandur II was rolled-out in September 2007. Technical problems delayed the delivery of the first vehicles to the Portuguese Army until February 2008. The Army will get its vehicles in eleven variants while the Navy Fuzileiros Navais will have four versions. So far 81 vehicles have been delivered to the Army, while the Navy was expected to have received its first vehicles by the end of 2009. Delivery of the last vehicles is scheduled for 2012.

The Czech programme was marked by legal and technical problems. The signature of the [euro]821 million contract planned for early 2006 was delayed by complaints from Steyr competitors. Of the 156 vehicles, 63 were to be fitted with a remote 30-mm controlled weapon station while the remaining 93 were to be equipped with a turret armed with a 12.7-mm machine gun. Testing of the first two vehicles led to the cancellation of the programme. Renegotiations resulted in a new agreement on 107 vehicles to the tune of [euro] 440 million in March 2009. The Czech Army was to receive six different versions: 72 infantry fighting vehicles (equipped with Rafael RCWS 30 and Spike ER missiles), eleven command posts, 16 recce vehicles (with Vera electronic passive surveillance system from Era), four ambulances and four combat engineer vehicles. The first 17 fighting vehicles were delivered in early October 2009 (all produced in Austria), while the remaining 90 Pandur IIs will be assembled in the Czech Republic with first delivery in early 2010. Production should end in 2013. The contract also includes simulators, ammunition, anti-tank missiles and a complete logistic support package.

Boxer: Two of the latest European developments in the armoured wheeled vehicles field originate from the failure of a multi-national development programme. Initially centred on a Franco-German led programme, the latter had to be overhauled when Britain (and the Netherlands in 2001) demanded to join resulting in the GTK/MRAV/PWV, but also after France's pullout in 1999 to give birth to the VBCI (q.v.). Ironically, Britain also eventually dropped the ball.

The Boxer thus became a German-Dutch programme run by the Artec consortium, which included Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, Rheinmetall and Stork PWV, the latter having been taken over by Rheinmetall in March 2008, which led to Rheinmetall now having a 64% stake in Artec. The order placed through the Occar organisation by Germany and the Netherlands (the latter having confirmed its participation in the actual production programme in 2006 after a period of uncertainty) is respectively for 275 and 200 vehicles. Germany will receive 125 armoured personnel carriers, ten driver training vehicles, 65 command posts and 72 armoured ambulances. The Netherlands will deploy the new 8 X 8 only in specialised versions and is not ordering any personnel carriers: it will receive 55 command posts, 58 ambulances, 27 cargo vehicles, 19 cargo and command and control vehicles and 41 engineer vehicles. Dutch Boxers will operate in support of the tracked CV9035s.

The Boxer's frontal arc is armoured to withstand hand-held anti-tank weapons, medium-calibre automatic cannon ammunition and heavy machine gun ammo, the glacis and roof are armoured against artillery fragments and bomblets. Protection against anti-tank and antipersonnel mines is provided both under wheel and under chassis, while sides are protected against roadside bombs. Further armour packages can provide additional protection. Tipping the scales at 33 tonnes (combat weight) the Boxer has a three-tonne growth capacity to pack new armour and defensive systems. The other main Boxer feature is modularity, the vehicle being based on the 8 X 8 common drive module and a series of self-contained mission modules. The first Boxer in the personnel carrier configuration known as GTFz (Gepanzertes Transport-Fahrzeug) in Germany was delivered to Occar and the BWB on 23 September 2009 in Munich. The delivery of the first Dutch vehicle is forecast for 2011.

VBCI: The Nexter Vehicule Blinde de Combat d'Infanterie was developed by Giat Industries, now Nexter, and by Renault Trucks Defense. The French Army requirement was for a set of wheels that could operate alongside its main battle tanks.

Built on a welded aluminium alloy structure with liner, protection is provided by add-on armour modules to provide ballistic protection and under-belly mine protection. This modular approach allows for easy upgrades as and when more effective armour solutions become available, as one has to bear in mind that the VBCI is probably the only wheeled armoured vehicle that will be required to operate in conjunction with main battle tanks. The VCI (Vehicule de Combat d'Infanterie) version features a one-man turret armed with a Nexter dual-feed 25-mm M811 gun. The commander's station, located behind the driver, offers observation, sighting and firing capabilities, making the system a virtual two-man turret. Weighing 26 tonnes, the VBCI has a two-tonne growth potential, but in VCI guise is also available in mortar and anti-tank versions. It is fully integrated with the French digitised battlefield management systems thanks to its Nexter (Sit-VI) Finders C2 terminal information system. In addition to this system, the VPC (Vehicule Poste de Commandement) command post gets the Sir regimental information system developed by EADS, which integrates the vehicle in the upper echelon C2 structure, while a remotely controlled 12.7-mm cupola provides self-defence. All aforementioned versions have been ordered by the French Army.

For the export market, Nexter also developed the VTT (Vehicule Transport de Troupes) troop transport that offers a 13-cubic-metre internal volume, accommodating a two-man crew and up to ten equipped soldiers. If required, the VBCI can also be fitted with 25 to 105 mm turrets, or even a low-recoil 120-mm gun. Following an extensive series of trials involving numerous prototypes, the VBCI obtained its DGA qualification in March 2008 and is now in mass production.

Three contracts have already been signed by the French DGA; the first one for 54 VCIs and eleven VPCs was signed in November 2000, the first three of which were delivered to the French Army in May 2008, preceding a total of 48 vehicles delivered by the end of that year. A second contract, signed in October 2007, covered a further 117 vehicles, the split being 91 VCI and 26 VPC. A third contract was signed in December 2008 for 116 vehicles, while the last contract for 332 vehicles was signed in September 2009, bringing the total to 630 vehicles (70 less than planned), 520 of which in VCI and 110 in the VPC configurations. The 110th vehicle was delivered in mid-2009 and production is planned to run until 2015 at a rate of about 100 vehicles per year, which could be increased significantly should an export order be finalised.

VBMR: Nexter is also looking in to the VBMR (Vehicule Blinde Multi-Role)--a replacement for the current VAB within the Scorpion contract; to this end a lighter version of the VBCI should be proposed, known as 'VBCI-moins'. The VTT prototype, based on the VBCI chassis, has been demonstrated to various nations, and was one of the vehicles that took part in the British Fres Trials of Truth in September 2007 in Bovington, the others being the Piranha Evolution and the Boxer. The VBCI and the Boxer are definitely competing against each other in many bids. Both seem to be considered for the Canadian Close Combat Vehicle (CCV) programme and both will certainly take part in the Spanish Vehiculo Blindado de Ruedas, bid for which an RfP should be issued shortly.

Freccia-Centauro: A company which looks with great interest at the Spanish contract--proposing its Freccia IFV--is the CIO, the consortium between Iveco DV, Fiat and Oto Melara, and which has already sold 84 Centauros to the Ejercito de Tierra. Deliveries of this vehicle to the Italian Army began in February 2009. The Freccia is based on the Centauro drivetrain, coupled to a new hull designed to provide maximum protection to the crew. Its turret is a derivative of the Hitfist Plus adopted by Poland on its AMV, but is armed with a 25-mm KBA gun. Platoon and company commander vehicles, as well as anti-tank versions with two Spike missile launchers will be equipped with the Selex Galileo Janus panoramic independent sight providing a hunter-killer capability.

The Freccia is the first Italian Army vehicle developed from the ground up with net-centric capacities; all vehicles are equipped with the Siccona command, control and navigation system while a full suite of radios ensures communications at various levels, including integration with the Soldato Futuro (the Italian Army future soldier programme). Platoon commander vehicles are also equipped with a UHF Have Quick radio providing them a link with aircraft, while in the future the company commander vehicles will be equipped with a satcom-on-the-move system. The Freccia has a two-tonne growth potential and is being developed in different versions for the Italian Army, which in addition to the above-mentioned antitank vehicle, includes command post, ambulance and recovery versions (the latter already ordered by Spain which will receive its four vehicles in 2010). Italy placed a first order for 54 vehicles, 50 of which in IFV configuration while the remaining four are one anti-tank, two command post and one mortar carrier. Over half of these have already been delivered to the Army. The second batch will include 109 vehicles, 71 IFV, 24 anti-tank, two command post and twelve mortar carriers, which would fully equip the first two regiments. The infantry fighting vehicles have already been financed, while the 38 specialised vehicles should be funded. A further batch bringing the total to 249 will equip the third regiment of the 'Pinerolo' medium brigade as well as the HQ battalion.

The consortium is delivering nine Centauro armoured cars armed with a 120-mm smoothbore gun to Oman under a contract signed in 2008, but as mentioned above, is also deeply involved in the Spanish programme. The Direccion General de Armamento y Material issued a request for information in May 2009 with an answer deadline set for 15 August 2009. The base vehicle will be the VPP (Vehiculo Porta Personal) or troop transport vehicle, while two additional variants will be considered, namely the VEC (Vehiculo de Exploracion de Caballeria) scout vehicle and the VPC (Vehiculo Puesto de Mando) command post. Other versions might be added at a later stage to include recovery, ambulance, engineer, mortar carrier, signal, explosives disposal, forward observation, driving school, etc. A shortlist was awaited for December 2009, while the request for quotation will be issued in January 2010 and the contract will be assigned in June 2010. Spain intends to acquire 300 vehicles between 2012 and 2016, but in 2014 alone at least 40 vehicles will have to be delivered to reach an initial operational capability that same year. The programme funding will be done in batches.

Super AV: In Spring 2009 Iveco DV unveiled a new amphibious 8 x 8 armoured personnel carrier. Known as the Super AV, it allows the Bolzano-based company to fill a gap in its portfolio, which lacked a vehicle with amphibious capabilities. Equipped with a digital cockpit and a treble Can bus vetronic architecture, the Super AV driveline is in fact borrowed from the Freccia while it uses a militarised commercial engine already in use in the Astra trucks in order to keep the price under control. The eight-tonne payload capacity (in amphibious configuration) allows it to accept a comprehensive add-on armour package on its high-hardness monocoque steel hull.

The Super AV behaviour in water was tested on scaled-down models at the Wageningen Maritime Research Institute in the Netherlands; the thrust of the two hydraulic-powered independent ducted propellers fitted at the back gives it a maximum swimming speed of ten km/h and the ability to cope with sea state of more than 2. In troop transport guise, the vehicle can host twelve soldiers plus the driver, but should a turret with basket be installed capacity changes to eight soldiers and three crew members. The Super AV is eyeing the US Marine Corps' Marine Personnel Carrier programme as well as focusing on many other opportunities, particularly in Central Europe.

VBTP-MR: Iveco is also providing technical assistance in the design of the future Brazilian troop transport vehicle known as the Viatura Blindada de Transporte de Pessoal - Medio de Rodas, which was unveiled at LAAD 09 Rio de Janeiro last April. This vehicle will be produced at Iveco's Sete Lagoas plant in the Minas Gerais state. The VBTP-MR is a 6 x 6 with amphibious capability and will be available in two versions, one equipped with Rafael's Samson RCWS-30 while the other will feature a light turret known as the Remax (Reparo de Metralhadora Automatizado X) developed by the Army Technology Centre. In order to keep the price low and logistics light many automotive components were taken from the Iveco Trakker lorry family, the engine being the FPT Cursor 9 Common Rail kicking 285 kW. The VBTP-MR can carry up to eleven soldiers, driver included.

The base version combat weight is 14.3 tonnes, while maximum weight reaches 17.5 tonnes in amphibious operations or 18 tonnes on land. Brazil issued an order that includes the development of the vehicle and the assembly of a single prototype to be delivered by the end of 2009 for Brazilian Army trials in April 2010. Sixteen more vehicles will then be produced for tests throughout 2011, On 18 December Iveco announced the signature of the production contract for 2044 base model vehicles in personnel carrier version, which between 2012 and 2013 will replace the existing EE-11 Urutu vehicles. The contract has a value of about [euro]2.5 billion over 20 years, the vehicle and engines being produced in Brazil (the whole programme will involve over 100 local direct suppliers). Besides the troop transport version a number of specialised vehicles as well as an 8 x 8 version, which could be armed with a 90 or 105 mm gun, are being considered.

Pars: In Turkey FNSS Savunma Sistemleri developed a new generation of wheeled armoured vehicles that employs the latest designs and technology from the commercial automotive industries that were militarised to meet modern military operational requirements. Known as the Pars (Leopard in Turkish), the family includes 4 x 4, 6 x 6, 8 x 8 and 10 x 10 vehicles. The front cabin has a side-by-side seating arrangement for the driver and commander, both having two flat screens showing images from the front and rear thermal and daylight cameras while direct view is provided by seven episcopes. The Pars vetronic architecture is based on Can (controller area network) bus technology allowing high-speed data transfer through the various subsystems installed. The engine is located behind the pilot while on the right a corridor links the front cabin with the rear troop compartment. The Pars is equipped with an electronically controlled active pneumatic suspension system to set the optimal riding height. An all-wheel steering system that adapts automatically to speed is also installed. The V-shaped hull and ballistic package provides good protection and survivability. So far the company has built two pre-production Pars with one in 8 x 8 version already demonstrated in at least two overseas countries.

FNSS is currently focusing on the 6 x 6 and 8 x 8 versions, as these variants appear to be the most appealing. Since the first Pars were shown in 2005, development and further enhancements have been carried out on a continuous basis.

The Pars 6 x 6 is one of the three known contenders for the Turkish Land Forces Command (TLFC) Special Purpose Tactical Wheeled Armoured Vehicles programme, which looks at the acquisition of 336 6 x 6 reconnaissance vehicles in five versions: 54 command vehicles, 108 sensor vehicles, 108 support vehicles, 36 radar vehicles and 30 CBRN reconnaissance vehicles. The bids were submitted in April 2009 and are currently under evaluation. The result is expected by mid-2010. The company is also promoting the 8 x 8 and 6 x 6 on the international market with a particular focus on the Middle East.

Based on the 8 x 8, FNSS has developed the Mobile Floating Amphibious Assault Bridge (Mfab) for the Turkish Land Forces. Under a contract signed in early 2007 worth $ 130.8 million, 52 such vehicles were ordered, the first Mfab was to be completed by the end of 2009.

Ejder: Another candidate for the Special Purpose Tactical Wheeled Armoured Vehicles programme is the Ejder (dragon) 6 x 6 vehicle from Nurol Makina ve Sanayi. Unveiled in 2007, it immediately won an export contract with Georgia, which ordered 70 examples in armoured personnel carrier configuration with no weapon stations installed. Deliveries started in 2008 and were due to be completed by the end of 2009. Its all welded steel body provides a basic ballistic protection but the vehicle is designed to be fitted with add-on armour kits which can increase its protection up to Level 4; mine protection with the add-on kit is Level 3 (while this means an 8 kg mine, it is not clear if the protection refers to 'under wheel' or 'under belly'). The engine is located on the front-right, the driver and commander are seated in tandem on the left, while ten infantrymen can enter the rear compartment through a power-operated ramp. If a turret is fitted, the vehicle can accept up to a 90-mm gun, but the number of infantrymen is reduced to six. The vetronic architecture is based on Can bus and cameras are offered together with inside screens to enhance situational awareness. The Georgian Ejders are being produced in an amphibious version; although the vehicle can swim by virtue of wheel motion at four km/h, two optional waterjets boost this to nine km/h. A trim vane that can be operated from inside the vehicle and bilge pumps complete the amphibious kit, which allows entering water without requiring any preparation. A full series of variants in order to answer the Turkish requirement has been designed, and some prototypes, particularly recce, have also been built. An 8 x 8 is currently under development.

AMC: Renault Trucks Defense in France is also working on a 6 x 6 and 8 x 8 programme, known as AMC (Armoured Multirole Carrier). Leveraging experience acquired by the Renault Trucks/Volvo and synergies between civil and military heavy vehicles, the company has developed a vehicle aimed at providing a sensible balance between protection, mobility and payload at a price comparable to that of the VAB. The AMC will be used as armoured personnel carrier, armament systems carrier and infantry fighting vehicle. Two engines are proposed with different outputs, while the protection level will be decided by the customer - the vehicle being designed to integrate add-on protection kits. The 6 x 6 platform aims at the French VBMR (Vehicule Blinde Multi-Role) requirement which should be for 2300 vehicles with first deliveries slated for 2015. The French DGA has made no decision yet, however, having only issued an RfP as part of the Scorpion programme, the system of systems under which the VBMR will fall. Apparently the procurement agency intends to acquire a French off-the-shelf product. Apart from Renault and Nexter, Thales is expected to enter the arena with a 'Frenchised' version of its Bushmaster. A different version of the vehicle should answer another French requirement, that of the EBRC (Engin Blinde de Reconnaissance et de Combat) reconnaissance and combat vehicle. This is intended to replace the AMX-10RC and it is unclear whether it will be a 6 x 6 or an 8 x 8 platform (although the 6 x 6 can be amphibious) and what calibre main gun it should carry. The number of EBRCs will be much lower than that of the VBMR and is estimated at around 300. A development contract was awaited late 2009.

Fuchs: A vehicle widely copied around the world is the 6 x 6 Fuchs; fielded in 1979 by the German Bundeswehr in different versions, personnel carrier, ambulance, communications, reconnaissance, electronic warfare and NBC detection, it is being replaced by the Boxer, while over 200 Fuchs are in service in other nations. Currently a Rheinmetall product after its original designer and manufacturing company has gone through numerous mergers, new upgraded versions are currently being produced. A series of modifications have led to the Fuchs 1A7 standard with reinforced axles, modified brakes and running gear and improved mine protection; some 124 Bundeswehr vehicles were modified to this standard.

The following step was the Fuchs 1A8, which features structural changes in the floor of the hull, such as intermediate floors and mine protection plates, new seats that 'decouple' the crew from the floor of the hull, reinforced wheel guards with formed steel armour components, reinforced doors and additional stowage compartments. The latest Fuchs are also equipped with the German Army's Faust command and information system which is compatible with the new FuInfoSys Heer C21 system currently being introduced in Bundeswehr ground units. Rheinmetall also developed a kit for adapting the Fuchs to the urban warfare theatre. The German Army contracted the company to modify a first batch of 21 vehicles that have been operating in Afghanistan since late 2008. For the export market, Rheinmetall also developed the Fuchs 2. The main improvements are a strengthened automotive element to allow the vehicle to reach a combat weight of 22 tonnes with a payload of 7.4; a new engine which provides 315 kW has been installed together with a new transmission while the roof has been raised by 145 mm to increase internal volume and headroom. Some 32 vehicles - all amphibious - have been ordered by the United Arab Emirates: 16 NBC recce, eight biological laboratories and eight command posts.

BTR series: In Eastern Europe Russia continues the production of its BTR-80, BTR-80A and BTR-90 at the Arzamas Machinery Plant. The latter can be fitted with the turret adopted on the BMP-3 tracked AIFV. The layout of this family of vehicles, the rear-mounted engine of which makes the access to the transport compartment difficult, is an obstacle to the sale of new vehicles, which is not helped by a second-hand market that is still quite alive due to the much lower costs involved in the surplus business.

BTR-4: Ukrainian Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau exhibited its BTR-4 personnel carrier at Idex '09, sporting a remotely operated BM-7 Parus turret module. The BTR-4 has an architecture that is quite similar to that of the German Fuchs but in an 8 X 8 configuration boasting a forward cabin with front and side glass windows that provide optimal visibility. The engine is starboard, behind the cabin, while the rear compartment can host up to eight riflemen, due to the fact that the Parus turret does not deeply protrude into the vehicle. Ballistic protection is at Level 3 (7.62 mm API) on the frontal arc and Level 2 (7.62 mm ball) on the sides and rear, but this can be increased to Level 5 (25 mm APDS) with an add-on armour package. Anti-mine protection can be upgraded to Level 3b (eight kg under belly), while a kit against hollow-charge warheads has already been studied. The BTR-4 is offered with four different engines, the Russian Yamz-7511.10, the Cummins QSM11 (298 kW), the Iveco Cursor 10 (320 kW) and the Deutz TCD2015V06 (365 kW). The exhibited Parus turret is armed with a ZTM-1 30-mm gun, a coax 7.62-mm machine gun, a 30-mm automatic grenade launcher and two Barrier anti-tank missiles with a 5.5-km range. The BTR-4 is also proposed with the Nona 120-mm gun/mortar/howitzer as is a recovery vehicle with a three-tonne crane. The BTR-4 has been ordered by the Ukrainian Army; a first batch of ten vehicles is currently being produced at the Malyshev factory and will be assigned to the 92nd Independent Mechanised Brigade.

The Ukraine also manufactures the 16.4-tonne combat weight BTR-3 - a derivative of the BTR-80, which has been sold in numbers to Myanmar, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates and in smaller numbers to Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Kazakhstan and Nigeria. The Ukrainian Nikolaev Mechanical Repair Plant developed an upgrade package that extends the service life of BTR-70s in service with the national army; it includes two new Iveco engines and a range of new turrets to increase firepower.

Terrex: Following the roll-out of its definitive configuration on 21 August 2009, the Terrex 8 X 8 infantry carrier vehicle developed by Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK) in close co-operation with the Singaporean Army and the Defence Science and Technology Agency was ushered into production the following month of October. Carrying eleven soldiers plus driver and commander, the Terrex provides a good level of protection that can be enhanced by add-on armour, the vehicle having a two-tonne growth potential. Amphibious, water propulsion by two ducted propellers placed at the rear, the Terrex is a net-centric vehicle and is equipped with a battlefield management system that allows it to connect with other land and air platforms such as the Leopard main battle tanks and Apache attack helicopters.

If the mounted troops are equipped with the Advanced Combat Man System (ACMS) they are also part of the net. The management system is integrated with a Blue Force Tracking and Red Force Marking System (BFT/RFM) that tracks friendly forces and indicates enemy locations on a digital map and thereby considerably enhances the overall situational awareness and the sharing of key battlefield information. The car is also equipped with a GPS navigation system enabling the driver to move accurately on the battlefield. Eleven low-light cameras installed around the vehicle further enhance driver and commander situational awareness. The driver and commander sit in tandem on the port side of the vehicle, the driver's control panel featuring three screens displaying the outside situation for hatch-down driving (an additional forward thermal camera further increases view). On his left, the driver also has a screen showing the navigational situation on a digital map, while the commander has a battlefield management system screen and a another displaying the sight picture provided by the remote control weapon station. In the rear compartment, infantrymen are not isolated as they too have screens showing them the outside world.

The new Singaporean infantry carrier is equipped with the 01dB-Metravib Pilarw Weapon Detection System that has been integrated into the vetronics designed by ST Kinetics, a gunshot alert and shooter location is transmitted from the Pilarw to the Terrex display, allowing cuing the roof weapon station. The latter, also produced by STK, is armed with a 40-mm automatic grenade launcher and a 7.62 or 12.7-mm cal machine gun. The delivery of the first production Terrex (of an initial batch of 135) will take place in early 2010; training was to begin in February 2010 for selected infantry. The Singaporean Army aims at having its first Terrex motorised battalion equipped with 45 vehicles by the end of 2010. Deliveries should be completed by mid-2011, but the Army might decide to equip further motorised battalions with the new vehicle.

KW1 & 2: In Korea three contenders are active in the wheeled vehicles arena, Hyundai Rotem, Doosan Infracore and Samsung Techwin. These companies are lining up for a bid that should be issued in 2010 by the South Korean administration for a 6 x 6 wheeled armoured vehicle that will become the workhorse of the future medium army brigades, modelled along the lines of US Stryker Brigade Combat Teams. Considering the stringent national acquisition of ground vehicles carried on in recent years it is quite probable that the bid will be restricted to the three national competitors. According to Korean press sources the requirement is for some 2000 vehicles with a price tag of some [euro]345,000 to 460,000 a throw.

Hyundai Rotem proposes its KW1, a 16-tonne 6 x 6 vehicle able to carry nine infantrymen plus two crewmembers, and which is armed with a 40-mm AGL and a 7.62-mm machine gun. The vehicle would be amphibious, with two rear-mounted ducted propellers providing an eleven-km/h swim speed. The engine is at the front right with the driver on the left, and the two front axles are close to each other while the rear axle is thrown far aft. The vehicle is already available as a prototype and numerous versions are being developed in addition to the armoured personnel carrier, such as a 17-tonne armoured combat vehicle armed with a 30-mm two-man turret, a medevac carrying up to four stretchers and a 17.5-tonne mobile gun system armed with a 90-mm two-man turret. Hyundai Rotem also proposes the KW2, an 8 x 8 based on most of the same KWl's automotive parts. The basic personnel carrier has a combat weight of 17.5 tonnes and carries ten infantrymen plus the crew of two, with a similar armament as the 6 x 6. A combat version is envisaged with an all-up weight of 18 tonnes, as are an air-defence vehicle armed with twin medium-calibre guns (probably 30 mm), and a 120-mm mortar carrier. The armour level of both the KW1 and the KW2 should be relatively low, although add-on armour packages have already been taken into consideration in order to increase protection should the need arise.

Black Fox: Still in the Korean connection, Doosan Infracore is developing two new vehicles known as Black Fox and New Black Fox, respectively in 8 X 8 and 6x6 configurations. The 6 x 6, which targets the national programme, has a combat weight of 18 tonnes and can carry up to twelve soldiers, including vehicle crew. It is powered by a 300-kW engine and its ground clearance can be adjusted from 76 to 530 mm thanks to the hydro-pneumatic suspensions with height control. The armament proposed for the national bid is a remotely controlled weapon station with 7.62 or 12.7-mm machine gun or 40-mm automatic grenade launcher. Steering is on all wheels, which reduces the turning radius to 6.5 metres. The vehicle is amphibious with two rear ducted propellers.

The 8x8 Black Fox has a combat weight of 24 tonnes and carries the same number of soldiers, thus its greater pay-load can be used to increase the protection level. It maintains the same engine, but suspensions are not height-adjustable, ground clearance being set at 400 mm, steering is limited to the two forward axles, and the vehicle is not amphibious. For both the 6 x 6 and 8 x 8 turrets ranging from light remote control types to 105-mm gun turrets are proposed for different versions of the vehicles.

MPV: Samsung Multi-Purpose Vehicle is the third competitor for the South Korean 6 x 6 bid; at 16 to 18 tonnes it also carries a crew of two plus ten infantrymen. The cockpit is equipped with flat-screen control panels. Its driveline provides full 6 X 6 drive, although an Automatic Drive Management (ADM) system is proposed as an option to provide the highest possible degree of mobility according to the terrain, shifting the drive to 6 x 4 or 6 x 2. Samsung is the only company to indicate protection levels, which we must assume are those specified for the South Korean military requirement; the front arc is protected against 12.7-mm AP rounds, the roof being protected against 155-mm HE fragments while the bottom can withstand the explosion of anti-personnel mines. Flanks and rear are protected against 7.62-mm AP rounds. A 40-mm AGL or a 12.7-mm MG are offered as primary armament with a 7.62-MG as secondary. A 7.8-metre-long 8 x 8 version is also proposed, however no more indications in terms of combat weight and performances have been made available.

Yunpao: Taiwan's Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation is preparing for the initial production of its CM-32 Yunpao 8 x 8 armoured vehicle. Aimed at replacing ageing tracked personnel carriers, the Yunpao (clouded leopard) is initially intended as a 22-tonne armoured personnel carrier fitted with a light remote controlled turret and a 24-tonne fighting vehicle with a 20-mm turret. The two turrets, locally produced by 202nd Arsenal, were unveiled in 2009. The first, known as the T96 is armed with a 40-mm automatic grenade launcher and a 7.62-mm machine gun, the second with a T75 20-mm cannon. Other variants could follow to include ambulance, mortar carrier, anti-aircraft artillery vehicles and even a 105-mm mobile gun system. The latter should be equipped with a locally developed turret and a low-recoil gun. In that version it will replace the ageing M-41 light tanks. Full-rate production should start in 2010. The number of Yunpaos to be produced is unclear but if both the personnel carriers and light tanks are all to be replaced the total number could hit the 1400 mark.

Panser: In Indonesia, PT Pindad has begun production of the Panser 6 x 6, although the original number of armoured personnel carriers has been drastically reduced from 154 to only 40, as the remaining money will be allocated to other defence programmes. The first batch of 20 was delivered in late February 2009, followed by the full complement in July. Powered by a Renault engine and with transmissions imported from China, this 14 tonner was to be produced in two versions, the second being a cannon vehicle armed with a 90-mm gun. The current vehicle is equipped with a light remote controlled weapon station and is able to carry a three-man crew and ten infantrymen. Its monocoque hull in armoured steel provides Level 3 protection. Because the Panser was to equip the Army Cavalry Brigade, it is possible that the original requirement will be reinstated in batches when funding is made available.

VN1: China has also strongly moved into the wheeled vehicles market. Unveiled in early 2009, the 21-tonne Norinco 8 X 8 VN1 is equipped with a one-man turret armed with a 30-mm automatic gun and 7.62 coaxial. Optionally, the VN1 turret can also be armed with an HJ-37D anti-tank missile - three can be stored in the hull. In this APC/IFV version the VN1 can host a three-man crew, (driver, commander and gunner) plus a seven-man infantry team in the aft section that has ramp access. Two ducted propellers allow the vehicle to reach a water speed of eight km/h.

Norinco continues to promote its WMZ551 family of 6 X 6 vehicles. The most recent additions of which are the WMZ551A1 APC, which is equipped with the same turret as the VM1 but carries a crew of three and a nine-man infantry team, the WMZ 551B with a 12.7-mm open-top turret and a crew of two plus seating for ten infantrymen, both variants have a combat weight of 15.8 tonnes. Numerous other versions are available, ambulance, recovery, gun tank destroyer, self-propelled rifled 120-mm gun-mortar system; the tank destroyer being the heavier at 19 tonnes and armed with a 105-mm gun. The WMZ 551BS features a different propulsion system, the original Deutz BF8L413FC air-cooled engine is replaced by the more powerful 261-kW BF6M1015C water-cooled unit. Another Chinese company, Poly Technologies, is marketing a lighter 6 X 6 with a combat weight of 11.7 tonnes and which is powered by a 156-kW engine. This vehicle is equipped with a one-man turret armed with a 12.7-mm machine gun or a 35-mm automatic grenade launcher.

Tracked Vehicles

GCV: One of the most important recent programmes in the medium armoured vehicles field was the American Future Combat Systems. Its manned vehicle segment would have combined heavy firepower, high tactical mobility together with a weight initially set at 17 tonnes, then raised to 24 tonnes and finally to about 30. The common chassis was to have a hybrid propulsion system and numerous new other technologies were to be incorporated in this family of vehicles made up of eight different types, but this part of the programme, worth $ 87 billion, was finally cancelled in April 2009, leaving the US Army with its current legacy vehicles - some of which are ageing rapidly. In the infantry role the successor of the defunct ICV (Infantry Carrier Vehicle) will be the GCV (Ground Combat Vehicle) for which a first 'Industry Day' was held on 16 October 2009 in Dearborn, Michigan. This first meeting between the military and industry was a preliminary step as no requirements had yet emerged, but a further two-day meeting was scheduled for 23 and 24 November 2009, with half of the second day being a classified session during which more detailed requirements were probably discussed.

Fres: The United Kingdom is also looking for a new family of vehicles under the Future Rapid Effect System programme. More commonly referred to as the Fres, it includes both tracked and wheeled vehicles. Announced in 1998, the programme has yet to start and the initial number of 3700 vehicles, including five different types (utility, reconnaissance, medium armour, manoeuvre support and utility vehicles), was cut to 3300 in 2006. This will however not be the final number, with the Ministry of Defence delaying the announcement. The first type of vehicle to be acquired will be the Scout, part of the Fres Reconnaissance family Block 1, which also includes repair, recovery and protected mobility variants and should total up to 589 vehicles. Two main competitors are in the starting blocks, BAE Systems Global Combat Systems and General Dynamics UK.

The former is proposing a derivative of the CV90 chassis equipped with a new turret, a derivative of the Mtip2, armed with the CTA 40-mm gun - which is incidentally the only firm point in the Ministry's requirement and which is also being used in the Warrior upgrade programme. The CV90 chassis has been lowered and slightly shortened and the rear ramp deleted in favour of a door. With a combat weight of about 30 tonnes, the fully digitised vehicle started its company mobility and firing trials in Autumn 2009. The other competitor is the Ascod 2, which is proposed by General Dynamics UK. The vehicle turret will be optimised to host the CTA 40 gun, while new automotive subsystems are already under trial to further improve performance.

Some 270 Fres Scout vehicles should be acquired to replace the CVR(T) Scimitar armed with the 30-mm Rarden cannon, with first deliveries expected in 2014 followed by initial operational capability in late 2015.

Puma: Moving from future vehicles to reality, the German Army last July ordered some 405 Pumas from PSM (Projekt System & Management), a 50/50 joint venture created by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall Landsysteme, specifically for this programme. The contract being worth [euro]3.1 billion. Deliveries of the first production vehicles will take place in 2010, the whole programme is to run until 2020, when the last vehicles will leave the manufacturing plant to complete the eight mechanised battalions which the German Army plans to equip with its new armoured infantry fighting vehicle, each unit to have 44 Pumas (the remaining Pumas to be used for training).

The German Puma is amongst the most innovative vehicle of its category. One of its key features is the decoupled running gear which includes the front drive sprocket, the five road wheels, the rear idler and the suspension system based on hydropneumatic spring-dampers: the two running gear modules are coupled to the hull drives through rubber elements acting as shock absorbers that considerably reduce vibration levels and thereby crew fatigue. The two running gear ensembles also host the fuel tanks. Another key feature of the Puma is its armament, in the form of the Mk 30-2/ABM automatic cannon located in the two-man turret that has hunter-killer capabilities thanks to the independent panoramic periscope; the main difference with other vehicles is that the Puma can fire airburst rounds. These contain 162 cylindrical sub-projectiles each weighing 1.24 grams that are radially ejected at a predefined distance from target, this distance being established by the fire control system according to the type of target.

As for command and control, the Puma will be fully networked through the Ifis (Integriertes Fuhrungs- und Informations-System) , which is the integrated command and information system in use with the Bundeswehr. However, future developments are foreseen as current radios (the Alcatel Sel Sem 80/90 for VHF communications and the Telefunken Racoms HRM 7400 for HF comms) have a limited throughput and might be replaced by a software-defined radio. A link to the Infanterist der Zukunft - Erweitertes System (IdZ-ES) will soon be needed, while C2 systems might also change or be integrated with new modules.

With a combat weight of 41 tonnes, the Puma might be classified as a 'heavy' vehicle. However, in order to maintain air transportability by A400M, 'Protection level A' decreases this to 31.45 tonnes. PSM is obviously promoting the vehicle on the international market and the Canadian Close Combat Vehicle (CCV) programme might be one of the first opportunities. Canada plans to award a contract around mid-2011 and sent out a Letter of Intent in mid-July 2009 with the idea of bridging the gap between its current fleet of wheeled armoured vehicles and its tanks, with a combat weight of between 25 and 45 tonnes. The initial operational capability is scheduled for one year after contract signature, followed by full capability in July 2015. The letter does not indicate whether the vehicle will be tracked or wheeled, which leaves the door open to various solutions, but the number of vehicles to be acquired is 108 with an option on a further 30.

Bionix: Among the most recent tracked armoured infantry fighting vehicles to have entered service, mention must be made of the Bionix II manufactured by Singapore Technologies, first deployed by the Singapore Army in 2006.

The Bionix II marked the start of the digitisation process in the Singaporean Army, as it was the first vehicle to be equipped with a battle management system (BMS) and a net-centric wireless communication suite. The BMS enables the Bionix II to be netted with many other weapon systems on the battlefield, such as drones, attack helicopters. Primus self-propelled howitzers and Bronco mortar carriers, exploiting the sensors of each system to improve situational awareness as well as movement and fire co-ordination. Compared to the Bionix 25, which entered in service one decade earlier, the Bionix II has a greater firepower thanks to its Mk 44 30-mm gun, replacing the earlier 25-mm M242, and the improved stabilisation and sighting system, while the armour package provides much greater protection with a limited increase in weight that steps from 23 to 24.8 tonnes.

Ascod: Also worthy of interest is the development of the Austro-Spanish Ascod, which, like most current tracked armoured infantry vehicles except the Puma, saw its development being started on Cold War requirements. Known as the Ulan in Austria and Pizarro in Spain and jointly developed by Steyr-Daimler-Puch and Santa Barbara, it is a conventional vehicle with front-mounted engine, two-man turret and rear troop compartment, featuring a rear door instead of a ramp. It is armed with a 30-mm Mauser Mod F automatic cannon and has a combat weight of 28 tonnes. Powered by an MTU-8V-183-TE22 developing 600 hp, it was ordered by Spain with a first contract for 123 infantry/cavalry vehicles and 21 command posts and a second contract for 212 further vehicles known as Pizarro.

The Austrian Ulan has some minor differences, starting a more powerful MTU 8V-199 turbo diesel engine providing 721 hp to compensate for the higher combat weight of 31 tonnes resulting from a the higher protection level. The Austrian Army ordered 112, and it is on this standard that General Dynamics European Land Systems is offering the Ascod 2, as it has been renamed, for the Fres Scout competition for which the turret will be adapted to host the CTA 40 gun.

CV90: The Ascod 2's main competitor in the Fres competition is the BAE Systems CV90, originally developed by Hagglunds and Bofors Defence, both now part of BAE Systems. In the 1990s and at the beginning of the following century the CV90 has been one of the most successful vehicles of its kind in terms of exports, being in service with six countries. Sweden, the launch customer, started receiving the first of its CV9040 armed with a Bofors 40/70 mm gun in late 1993. Finland, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands followed with a total of over 1180 vehicles.

Interestingly, Sweden was the only nation to choose the Bofors 40-mm gun, whereas Finland, Norway and Switzerland ordered the CV9030 version armed with the 30-mm Bushmaster II gun, while Denmark and the Netherlands went for the CV9035, equipped with the ATK 35 mm/50 mm Bushmaster III. Being the last produced, the Netherlands' units (first accepted in service in December 2008) are the most sophisticated with fully digital vetronics, high-speed Ethernet data bus, new third-generation thermal sights, a new fire control system with hunter-killer capabilities thanks to the commander's independent sight that also provides an enhanced situational awareness, and other electronic improvements. The vehicles are also fitted with an add-on anti-mine armour package as well as top-attack Stanag 4569 Level 3 armour provided by Ruag (Level 3 meaning bomblets with a 50-mm diameter and 20-mm artillery fragments).

BAE Systems is looking at new solutions and one of its CV90 prototypes was shown at Eurosatory with an IBD Deisenroth Active Defense System.

The Dutch CV9035s are fitted with part of Saab Avitronics Leds (Land Electronic Defense System); currently only the laser detectors are mounted around the turret and provide alert when any type of laser is aimed at the vehicle. The system can include a high speed dispensing system which can launch soft-kill devices such as multi-spectral smoke or other types of decoys, or hard-kill munitions such as the Mongoose 1, which is effective against rockets and missiles launched from a range of over 20 metres. Rubber tracks from the Canadian firm Soucy are also being tested to provide the vehicle with a smoother ride. Current suspensions are regarded as efficient, but semi-active suspensions are being studied with a view to avoid spoiling roads in crisis response operations. Norway is already using such tracks on its M113s deployed to Afghanistan, but with the latest versions of the CV90 having reached over 35 tonnes, new types of tracks are being tested.

K21: In Asia, South Korean Doosan Infra-core first developed an improved version of the ubiquitous M113 known as Korean Infantry Fighting Vehicle (KIFV); this however was not sufficient to guarantee the mobility required by mechanised formations operating in conjunction with the new battle tank adopted by the Korean Army. Doosan thus developed the K21, a tracked 25-tonner with a two-man turret armed with a fully stabilised Bofors 40 mm gun and which can be fitted with anti-tank missile launchers. The independent commander's sight allows the vehicle to operate in the hunter-killer mode. The K21 can be made amphibious in about 15 minutes by raising the front trim vane, inflating two floating reserves along the sides of the vehicle and modifying the air intake; on water the it can travel at 7.8 km/h. The K21 vetronics are fully digital and will be part of the Korean Army net-centric structure; moreover its aiming sight features a training mode which allows to carry out blank training exercises in the absence of real targets. South Korea approved the acquisition of about 500 K21s and their deployment should have begun by the end of 2009; the total number of vehicles may, however, be increased to 900.

Tracked Vehicle Upgrades

Numerous armies have launched upgrading programmes either because of lack of budget resources to change them or to bridge the time gap whilst awaiting new vehicles.

Bradley: The US Army received its last new Bradley M2s in 1995, and since most of those vehicles have seen action in one of the most demanding operational theatres, Iraq (although they have also been deployed in the Balkans and used for training in Korea and other areas - but not in Afghanistan). Compared to its predecessors the M2A3 version features a fully digital electronic suite including fire control system, navigation and tactical communications, which allow it to be easily transformable into a net-centric vehicle. It also adopts the new Ibas second-generation thermal imager.

On the one hand the US Army has to cope with the repair of Bradleys damaged or worn out downrange - a bill that reached the princely sum of $ 1.2 million per vehicle in 2008 for the repair of about 1000 units, but on the other the service also has had 400 more Bradleys upgraded with the latest electronics to the tune of $ 3.5 million apiece. Roadside bomb and mine armour kits have been installed on 433, while another 326 were equipped with both roadside bomb and 'Urban Survivability' kits. Initially some 120 vehicles have been equipped with an independent viewer for the commander, giving the vehicle a hunter-killer capability.

In June 2009 some further 822 commanders' independent viewers were acquired from Raytheon. The increase in on-board electronic equipment has also stressed the vehicle power production capability to its limits, its legacy HMPT 600 ECB transmission not being able to provide electrical power. In early September 2009 L-3 Communications was contracted to provide ten Bradley prototypes equipped with the HMPT 800 EG transmission, rated at 800 hp, with an Integrated Starter Generator (ISG).This new ensemble will be able to provide between 70 and 160 kW according to engine regime (800 to 2800 rpm) and will include controls and converters in order to provide different power levels on board. Awaiting the future GCV, the US Army plans to retain over 2000 Bradleys of various types in service.

Warrior: Also sitting between two stools due to the delayed Fres programme, the British Army is looking at improving its Warrior through the WCSP (Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme) which includes four sub-programmes, the WFlip (Warrior Fightability Lethality Improvement Programme), the WEEA (Warrior Enhanced Electronic Architecture), the WMPS (Warrior Modular Protection System) and the ABSV (Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle). A decision has already been made for the WFlip, with the new gun having been identified: the CTA International 40-mm gun using cased telescope ammunition will replace the current Rarden 30-mm cannon.

The two companies competing for the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme contract are BAE Systems Global Combat Systems and Lockheed Martin Insys. The two contenders have adopted a different approach as BAE Systems is proposing a brand-new turret (currently under development), while Lockheed Martin decided to retain the current Warrior turret. This will be armed with a fully stabilised CTA 40 (the current Rarden is not stabilised), will feature a new fire control system, new Thales thermal imaging sights and a fully digitised electronic open architecture that will allow easy add-on of new modules. The CTA 40 rear section being much more compact than the original cannon, the crew has more room inside the turret, which allows for easy add-on of vetronic systems while improving comfort. Trials of the prototype interrupted to enable it to be displayed at DSEi in September 2009 and were to resume immediately after the exhibition with manned firings being scheduled before year-end. Lockheed underlined how its solution would be competitive on the price side as it exploits the existing turret and thereby reduces interface risks. Tender answers were submitted by late October and the industry awaits a decision in the first quarter of 2010. Initial operational capability is forecast for 2013.

AMX-10P: France has upgraded about one fourth of its AMX-10P tracked infantry fighting vehicles. The Armee de Terre still has 400 such vehicles in inventory, armed with a 20-mm cannon, and in 2005 a contract was signed to modify 108 to partially bridge the gap until the delivery of its last VBCIs.

The first aim was to increase survivability by adopting a new passive armour package all around the vehicle, but to avoid a radical increase in weight the subsystems that provided the AMX-10P its amphibious capability were removed (these included inter alia the trim vane and the water jets). The rear ramp was modified, new suspension torsion bars adopted and the transmission was beefed up. The deliveries of those vehicles were completed in December 2008.

Marder: The German Bundeswehr has a large number of Marders in service. Before the end of the Cold War a major upgrade programme was carried out on 2100 A1/A2 Marders; these were transformed into 1A3 principally to increase protection against Soviet BMP-2 30-mm rounds. The all-round protection kit had a weight of about 1.6 tonnes and boxes along the flanks blocked the original firing ports. The weight increased to 33.5 tonnes, requiring modifications to the suspension system. Other minor modifications were also included in the upgrade.

While the 1A4 modification relates only to a new radio, the 1A5, adopted following the experiences in Afghanistan, aims at consistently improving anti-mine and anti-IED capabilities; the main modifications include under-belly add-on armour, a whole redesign of the interior and the adoption of new seats. The Bundeswehr contracted Rheinmetall to transform 74 Marder lA3s to the latest A5 standard.

Rheinmetall is offering a further upgrade of the Marder that includes a new turret, such as the E4 two-man turret, new fire control system, new sensors and new command and control suite. The Hellenic Army had plans to buy some ex-German Marder lA3s refurbished according to its needs, but the plan was shelved in mid 2007.

Dardo: In Italy the Dardo programme remains incomplete; the Italian Army would need a second batch that would include all the specialised versions based on that chassis, but budgets do not allow this move as other programmes have higher priorities. Among the 200 vehicles originally manufactured some 35 will be modified, their turret receiving the Spike missile launchers and the vehicles being assigned to the weapons platoons and to the anti-tank company of the three existing mechanised battalions.

BWP-1: Poland announced its decision, in late October 2009, to cancel the upgrade programme of its BWP-1 known as BWP-1M Puma. The programme included automotive and protection improvements, the adoption of a new remotely controlled turret armed with an Alliant Techsystems Mk 44 30-mm turret, Spike anti-tank missiles, a locally made battle management system and new digital radios. Each battalion would have received 51 such upgraded vehicles, the modernisation of four to nine battalions being originally planned. Confirmed in March and cancelled six months later, this outcome opens up the Polish market for different solutions, either national or foreign. A research contract was awarded to Polish R&D Centre of Mechanical Systems Obrum together with Wojskowe Zaklady Mechaniczne (WZM) and the Wojskowa Akademia Technizna, the military academy of technology, for the development of a new tracked multifunctional combat platform. However it is difficult to see how this could become a reality if Poland does not team with some other country. On the other hand, Warsaw has been talking to BAE Systems for at least two years on a potential co-operation on the CV90.

Other Soviet-era vehicle upgrades are proposed in many countries. How much the second-hand market of surplus vehicles of various origins, of various upgrade standards will remain active remains to be seen. Such vehicles might be of interest for countries that only need to defend their national boundaries, but are close to hopeless for those who intend to take part in crisis response operations, for which the most obvious choice goes to wheeled vehicles. These offer more flexibility, have a less threatening impact on the local population and do not spoil local roads.

BMP-3: The United Arab Emirates is planning to totally reconfigure its BMP-3s. The Soviet-made car has an engine compartment located at the rear and under the floor which, together with the turret location, separates the vehicle in two, with the driver in the middle front with two seats at his sides for two members of the infantry team who also act as machine gunners using the PKT 7.62-mm weapons placed port and starboard; the commander and gunner are hosted in the turret, while the rear offers five seats for the remaining troops, plus two additional seats. To exit the vehicle infantrymen have to pass through the roof hatches and, for those in the back, through two small rear doors. The Emirates has awarded a contract to Industriewerke Saar, one of the largest depot-level repair facilities working for the German Bundeswehr and the US Army, to upgrade one vehicle to a standard that should provide a better layout for the infantry team. No details have been leaked out but the modification will probably include the adoption of a new front-mounted powerpack (as a consequence the sprockets will also move up front) while the turret might be moved slightly aft to restore the centre of gravity, which is important if one wants to maintain the vehicle's amphibious capability. The driver would thus be relocated to the left of the engine, with two infantrymen in front of the turret's sides, then the turret and finally six men sitting in the middle looking outwards. With no more engine under the floor, the rear doors could be made taller to improve access. If the programme goes ahead a total of 588 BMP-3 in the infantry fighting configuration would be upgraded, and work would probably be carried out locally. This could be of interest to other international users of the BMP-3 such as Cyprus, Kuwait and South Korea.

Considering the potential of medium armoured vehicles worldwide, the upgrade market should not be ignored or underestimated - especially in the tracked field - as in the future it might acquire an even greater economical importance than the new-vehicle market.

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The general inflation on weight (mostly due to armour) and size the two twinchassis design contenders are tipping the scales at well over twelve tonnes and thereby enter the medium armoured vehicles arena.

Warthog

ST Kinetics' Bronco has an unladen weight of 11.2 tonnes with a combat payload of 4.8 tonnes, which allows it to accommodate six soldiers in the front cabin and ten in the rear (the latter can alternatively carry four stretchers in a casevac role.) The rear chassis can be equipped with a palletised loading system (up to three-tonne loads), or with a 120-mm ST Kinetics Srams mortar. The Bronco is the base used for the development of Warthog (right) adopted by the British Army and which has a gross weight of 19 tonnes. It features improved suspensions, upgraded mine protection, a commander's cupola and seats for 4 + 8 fully equipped soldiers.

Bv10S

The BAE Systems Hagglunds Bvl0S is slightly shorter, 7.6 metres compared to the 8.6-metre Bronco, and can seat four in its front cab and eight in the rear. The original Bvl0S had a gross weight of 13 tonnes, but recent improvements leading to the Bvl0S Mk II brought this to the 14.2-tonne mark (with a six-tonne pay-load). Its protection can be pushed up to Level 4 (ballistic side) and 2a/2b for antimine (some have also been equipped with bar armour against RPGs). The Bv10S is in service with the British Royal Marines and the Dutch Royal Marines, and has proven its capabilities in Chad and Afghanistan and 53 have just been ordered by the French Army. It can be configured in different versions such as ambulance, repair and recovery vehicle, command and control, load carrier and mortar carrier.
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Author:Valpolini, Paolo
Publication:Armada International
Article Type:Company overview
Date:Feb 1, 2010
Words:13777
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