Monday, January 16, 2012

A closer look at the Foxhound


Developed in the UK by Force Protection Europe (recently acquired in a 300 million dollars deal by General Dynamics) and by engineering firm Ricardo, with Thales, Qinetiq, Formaplex, DSG and Sula collaboration, is a wholly new design. The vehicle has been drawn on a clean sheet to increase current available levels of protection, mobility and modularity/mission configurability compared to vehicles already on the market.

The result of the design process is the by now relatively well-known “Skateboard” chassis type. Most, if not all readers interested in the British military have probably already read the name. This chassis, basically, is a V-shaped armoured element that acts as spine for the vehicle, like a keel in a ship. It sustains and protects the engine, the two fuel tanks (one main and one secondary tanks), the batteries, the electric generator and all elements of mechanical transmission. The only elements left outside of the armored shield are the torsion bar suspensions, but this is not to be considered a disadvantage: in most cases, as proven by the tests, a mine will blow off a wheel, but leave the Foxhound able to move on on the remaining three, and reach a safer area on its own. 

Foxhound on trials: note the absence of side door


Atop the skateboard pod sit the various mission-specific pods. For now, there’s a 2+4 seats Protected Patrol module, a Fire Support open-top Weapon Mounted Installation Kit WMIK pod and an Utility pick-up pod for protected logistics role, but more could be developed, and in particular an ambulance pod should be available soon. Each pod, regardless of its specific role, has sharply tilted inferior sides, which sitting atop the skateboard complete an ample V-shape perfect to reduce underbelly blast effects, venting the force of the explosion outwards.

The advantages of the Skateboard are: 

-          A low centre of gravity as all the heavy items are placed under the skateboard, improving mobility and stability  

-          The absence of any mechanical part inside the crew pod, ensuring maximum safety and leaving more exploitable space available inside the mission pods. 

The pods in this way could be built entirely in composite materials, giving it a good compromise in terms of weight and protection levels. The base protection level of each pod is STANAG 4569 Level 2+, with add-on armor kits available to overcome Level 3 and offer protection against RPGs and Explosively Formed Projectiles EFPs. I expect the UK Foxhounds on order for Afghanistan to be fitted with this additional layer of protection, but for now there is no evidence of it.
I also must say that I’m a bit disappointed: Level 2+ protection, or even Level 3, is far from revolutionary, even if, to be fair, the Foxhound is intended for a gross weight of 7.5 tons, which limits the amount of armor that one can put upon it. The French Aravis 4x4 vehicle offers Level 4 protection, but it weights over 12 tons. Blast and mine protection levels are not disclosed, but are certainly at least meeting STANAG Level 2a/2b, and hopefully exceed these significantly. 

A batch of Foxhound vehicles: again, no side doors.

The pods are installed with a fast linking system that allows the replacement of mission pods directly in the field. To replace a pod it is enough to remove the electric connectors, detach the steering system and open the hinges on both sides of the hull. At that point the module is detached and can be lifted off and replaced, in just 30 minutes of work. For normal maintenance, the operation is the same, but the hinges of the pod are opened only on one side, and the pod is gently pushed to tilt to the side with the help of, for example, another vehicle.
Very simple is also the replacement of the engine block, which has to be possible in any FOB, without sending the vehicle back to the main base.    

The Patrol Protected Vehicle module has two front seats (Driver and Commander), with the seats, provided with five-points harness, hang from the roof for improved blast-mitigation effect. Two bulkheads behind the seats separate the front compartment from the rear one, where four dismounts sit in seats attached to the walls, shoulders to the wall, sitting face to face. Further bulkheads separate this compartment from the last one to the back, which houses the radio and the electronics, on the two sides of the large double door at the back. 

Inside the Foxhound LPPV: note the empty space in the back, over the wheels. Here is housed the radio and other electronics, while the seats for the Dismounts sit in the middle.

Access to the vehicle is possible from this large door or from a large “Commander’s Door” in the side of the vehicle. This door is optional, however, since the absence of side openings is advantageous in terms of protection. Since the Mastiff 3 re-introduced side doors, it is probable that Foxhound vehicles will also have it, despite the detrimental effect on overall resistance of the safety cell. On the roof two large openings are provided: one hatch above the Commander’s seat, on the left, and a larger one in the middle of the roof, over the Dismounts compartment. This second opening is large enough for two men to stand and fire out of it at once with their personal weapons. In alternative, a ballistic-protected shielded turret for a machine gun can be fitted. Remotely-operated turrets should however be the preferred long-term solution, as they tend to offer the maximum performance and protection while generally impacting less the weight margin and centre of gravity.

The Protected Logistics variant sits only driver and “commander”, has a single top hatch over the commander’s seat and side doors, with the back made up  by the pick-up loadbed. The WMIK variant sits four men in an open-top pod with thick rollbars from which the blast-mitigating seats hang. Several weapon mounts are available, two more than on a Land Rover or Jackal: in addition to the top ring mount and the Commander’s swing mount, to the side of the driver, there’s a heavy machine gun mount in the back, aiming to the rear, and a further swing mount for a medium machine gun can take place on the passenger’s side.   

The Foxhound Protected Logistics variant: ideally, this vehicle will appear in the British Army and be a long term replacement for many Utility Vehicles, including the UOR procured Husky, which is inferior in protection (blast protection in particular) and payload (around 1300 kg).
Foxhound with WMIK module
  
The Foxhound is 5.4 meters long, 2.1 meters wide and 2.34 meters tall, with a gross weight of 7.5 tons, with a payload of nearly 2000 kg. In the Patrol Protected Variant this means that there is payload margin for 6 soldiers (for design purposes a soldier is a load of around 158 kg) and over 900 kg of further load, which could include a RWS turret (on the market there are models from 70 to 280+ kg. The Selex Galileo Enforcer, widely used by the British Army on the Panther, on the Bulldog and on some Challenger II vehicles, weights around 156 kg without ammunitions and weapon) or a shielded, manned turret ring (can weight well over 300 kg), additional armor and other kit.

At 7.5 tons, the Foxhound can be under slung on a Chinook helicopter and airlifted easily by C130, A400 and, of course, C17 and above. The Foxhound has a Steyr-Daimler Puch 3.2l engine. It is a six-cylinder, four-stroke diesel engine with turbocharger with a power of over 250 HP. The vehicle is also fitted with a ZS six speed auto-transmission and independent, lockable differential axles from AxelTech. The four-wheel steering provides it with a turning circle of just 12m. The Foxhound can reach a maximum speed of 110 km/h and accelerates from 0 to 80 km/h in 19.7 seconds on road. Cross country it can overcome a 60% maximum gradient and negotiate side-slopes of 30%, promising very good mobility on the field.
With the around 200 liters of fuel in the tanks, the Foxhound has a range of around 600 km.

Last, but not least, it is worth remembering that the Foxhound will be the first vehicle adopted by the British Army that meets the Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA) requirement. Objective of the GVA is to affirm as unique vehicle standard for all electric and electronic parts, the DefStan 23-09. In practice, the wish is to have all new vehicles fitted with a common, open electronic architecture, so that any equipment developed for a vehicle is compatible with all the others as well.
To make this possible, it was necessary to rapidly select a stable base over which develop the system  and write the requirements in terms of hardware (which tension should the component use, which shape factors it needs to follow, etc). Key to this is the “Middleware”, the common software interface that allows components from different firms to work together and dialog without problems. As Middleware, the MOD selected the DDS (Data Distribution Service), and consequently made available to its suppliers a specific development software suite, called Land Data Module. A supplier that tomorrow will be asked by the MOD to design and provide a new component for a GVA vehicle will use the Land Data Module development suite to write software fully compatible with the DefStan 23-09.
In the case of the Foxhound vehicles on order, responsibility for design of the DefStan 23-09 components falls on Thales.

The Foxhound should soon make its appearance in Afghanistan, mainly as Land Rover Snatch replacement. Initially procured as UOR in the first order, placed in 2010 (180 million pounds for 200 vehicles and initial spares package) they have been brought into Core budget and are part of the long term Army plan for the future. A second order for around 100 more is being negotiated and has already been announced. It is expected that the actual contract will be signed soon. This news is however made a bit less happy and good by the awareness that, originally, it was expected that the second batch order would be for another 200 vehicles. It has effectively been halved.

Further orders are expected, but they will depend on the availability of budget for it – no more UOR money for Foxhound, most likely -, on its effective performances in Afghanistan, on its cost hopefully dropping (now it is still way too high) and on the decisions that will be taken on its long term roles within the new army structure. In particular, its future is likely to be closely connected to that of the ex-Operational Utility Vehicle System, now Protected Vehicle Multirole. Of course, the Foxhound/Ocelot aims to export orders as well, even though its first big occasion (a 1300 vehicles order from Australia) has been lost, with Australia deciding to locally develop and pursue the Hawkei vehicle.

6 comments:

  1. Hi Gabriele,

    The foxhound looks a useful vehicle.
    Is there a personnel carrier version, that could carry a section of 8 plus a driver and gunner?

    What to you expect to be announced tomorrow?

    Regards
    Phil

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, there is no Section vehicle. That was a Foxhound competitor, the Supacat SPV400, http://www.supacat.com/files/pdf/Supacat-SPV400-specification.pdf, which lost and was not selected. The Supacat vehicle could be stretched to a 6x6 configuration (SPV600), which i suspect would meet the 8 dismounts requirement.
      The third competitor, Babcock's Zephyr, http://defense-update.com/products/z/Zephyr_170909.html, also offers a 6x6 solution, but it also lost in the British Army selection. It will be produced in the Middle East by a Babcock joint-venture with a Saudi Arabian firm, though.

      A stretched Foxhound could still appear in the future, but i don't know how serious the chances are.

      As to tomorrow, there does not seem to be much in store. I don't think there will be announcements of regiment closures or mergings, yet, but only a list of posts lost.
      Gurkhas and Parachute Regiment are said to be losers. There is also expectations about more higher-rank personnel being cut: we will see if it happens for real.

      Delete
  2. Gabriel

    Fascinating post. I think you are quite right when you talk about how the second order for only 100 vehicles (when one for 200 was expected) was somewhat disappointing.

    I am concerned that the cost of the vehicle might militate against the UK buying large numbers of it. That is unfortunate as it is meant not only to be the replacement for the Snatch Land Rover but also for other light vehicles.

    I thought at one point that it might have been possible to buy large numbers of the Foxhound to equip our light forces. For instance, our Light Infantry can no longer really go without adequately protected vehicles and cannot expect go on being transported by Land Rovers and 4-tonne (or now 6-tonne) trucks. They are now more than motorized infantry. Then there is the whole question of how the TA (who will play an increasing role) will be equipped. More Landies for them? I do not really think that that solution will be accepted, not least by the public.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is hard to say. The Army needs a lot of Foxhounds, as ideally (if it proves as effective as it promises to be) you'd have Command and Liaison variant (replacing Panther), PPV (replacing Snatch), Protected Logistics (replacing Husky and other vehicles from Land Rovers to Pinzgauers), Ambulance, WMIK (replacing Land Rover and, longer-term, Jackal). A stretched, larger variant should replace Pinzgauers and RB44, too, ideally... that's what OUVS and now the medium multirole vehicle protected programmes were/are about.

      But cost is a real issue. As for the TA, that's another issue. But i fear we won't see any buy of kit for the TA despite the expansion in role. After all, when you can't fund kit for the regulars, you definitely can't for reserves.

      Delete
  3. Gaby

    I've no idea whether I'm placing this in the right thread. I just thought I'd bring your attention to the latest announcement on Foxhound on the MOD webite.

    Apparently, the British Army is to get 51 more Foxhounds in a £46 million deal. This will bring the Foxhound fleet up to 376 vehicles.

    The interesting point is that the money for this has come from a significant underspend in the MoD’s equipment programme for the 2012-2013 financial year. Do you think that posssibly some more equipment announcements might be on the way?

    There is nothing yet on obtaining the Protected Logistics version or the WIMK variant. Are they scheduled for British forces?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a good news. More Foxhounds can't hurt, definitely. And yes, unspent money has been used, like last time when they ordered 25 vehicles. Peter Luff said it clearly in an interview: ordering new vehicles for the army from the "hot" production line is the easiest and quickest way to employ the money.

      I don't think there will be other big procurement announcements, but there might have been a few orders that haven't been detailed: there's been more than a mention lately of orders for additional targeting pods for the RAF, countermeasures for helicopters and so forth, funded with money unspent earlier. These orders have however not been detailed, not that i know of.

      As for the Logistic and Fires variants, i don't know, but i guess they will be given lowest priority due to Jackal and Husky being available in numbers.
      In the future, ideally, the fleet should be standardized, but for the moment they will be focusing on the patrol/troop carrier variant.

      Delete

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