Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lessons learned, lessons forgotten?

We are still waiting for a "Lessons Learned" report about Libya operations (promised, but not yet in sight) and it will be interesting to see what such analysis ends up saying, but what about previous "Lessons Learned" exercises? Did they have success in informing the successive decisions regarding force structures and equipment?

Yes and no.

An emblematic case is the 2003 Iraq War lessons learned exercise, in which some of the observations made were promptly forgotten in the following years, when the moment came to apply the lesson learned to facts.

For example:

The deployed fleet of 116 Challenger 2s fired a total of 1.9 tonnes of Depleted Uranium (DU) and 540 High Explosive rounds, whilst the 36 AS90s and the [39] 105mm Light Guns fired around 9,000 and 13,000 artillery rounds respectively; some 2000 of the former were bomblet shells. The Challenger 2 was used to provide very precise firepower effects, in circumstances where the risk of collateral damage prevented the use of artillery. This was crucial when operating in cities and towns such as Basrah and Az Zubayr. Artillery was critical in preventing freedom of movement of enemy forces in the open battlefield.

22.000 rounds of heavy artillery fired, despite the unprecedented availability of air support, demonstrate that there is still plenty of need for the timely delivery of barrages of artillery. In addition, over 9% of the artillery shells fired were bomblet carriers for wide area attack and anti-tank duty. It is a significant amount, which makes it hard to accept the wisdom of cancelling the SMART 155mm guided submunitions carrying shell, which the RA tried to purchase following the retirement of the earlier unguided submunitions dispensers, banned for the danger they represented because of the high number of unexploded munitions they would leave on the field.
It also continues to call into some real question the constant cutback over the number of artillery guns available to the army.  

Another interesting passage is about the old, not-very known Swingfire missile, and might come as a surprise to many:

The Swingfire anti-tank guided weapon system, which is fitted to some UK reconnaissance vehicles, was also of great utility during the combat phase. It was the longest range, integral weapon system available to reconnaissance units and was used in approximately half of their attacks despite representing only a quarter of their main weaponry.

The Swingfire missile, mounted on the FV102 Striker vehicle, of the CRV(T) family, proved highly effective and very useful, and was intensely used during the operations of Recce formations maneuvering in Iraq. 12 such vehicles were employed in 2003, on a total of 66 CVR(T) vehicles deployed on TELIC, so this is quite a proof that, despite their relative lack of fame, they were kept in high consideration.
This valuable system, which mounted 5 missiles ready to fire and 5 reloads under armor in a small, highly mobile vehicle, was lost without a real replacement when the Javelin ATGW entered service in 2005. Excellent weapon, but with only about half the range of Swingfire, and not vehicle mounted: the troop of 4 Strikers in a Recce regiment has been notionally replaced by 4 Spartan APCs carrying Javelin teams.
Only two years had passed from the experience in Iraq, yet no real effort was made to replace the capability: there were, tentatively, Overwatch vehicles with missiles in the aborted LANCER program (armed with Brimstone, no less) and one such variant was also expected to be part of FRES SV Recce Block 3, but we are back to ground zero once again as the Block 3 itself seems destined not to happen, with the indispensable variants moved down into Block 2 instead, which is, in itself, far on the horizon.

A solution, off the shelf and extremely capable, is available in the form of the SPIKE NLOS, from Israel, which is a multi-mission weapon with a range of 25 km, which would give unprecedented coverage and accurate firepower to formations on the ground.

Sandcat SPIKE NLOS, carrying sensors, quadruple launcher and 6 reloads. A lot of firepower available on call.

While there's no official confirmation, it is widely believed that the Royal Artillery's UOR missile system "EXACTOR", operated by two Troops from the batteries of 39 Regiment, is the M113-mounted SPIKE NLOS.

Thanks to its very long range and small sizes, we do not need a FRES hull either: a quadruple launcher, with space for reloads, was shown on a Sandcat 4x4 protected vehicle, which is comparable in dimensions and architecture to the Foxhound. The UK could field this kind of capability with a relatively little investment, and rather quickly too.
South Korea ordered 67 SPIKE NLOS missiles in 2011, along with an unspecified number of launchers of unknown architecture for some 43 USD millions. It is also widely believed that non-standard M113 vehicles spotted in british colors at Camp Bastion are connected to the mysteryous UOR missile system known under the name "EXACTOR", which is believed to be the SPIKE NLOS.
Two Royal Artillery Troops regularly work with the EXACTOR system in Afghanistan in any given day, and there might be an hope for a future order beyond the UOR scope. We'll see.  

The worst part, in any case, is that these are just two cases of lessons identified, learned, and forgotten, among many others. 

Anyway, speaking of the Foxhound, the good news of today is that the vehicle has been delivered to the troops in Afghanistan. There is also the definitive confirmation of the follow-on order, announced months ago, for a second batch of vehicles: the total value of the Foxhound orders is 270 million pounds (180 + 90), covering 300 vehicles. The Foxhound is produced by General Dynamics Land Systems : Force Protection Europe, and while it started as a UOR, it is already firmly part of the Core Defence budget and of Army 2020.
It promises to bring much enhanced mobility and protection to the troops, and if it will live up to its many promises it will be an excellent addition to the Army's capabilities.

Foxhound vehicles inside a RAF C17, fitted with their TES kit, inclusive of cameras for 360° situational awareness

Foxhound on in-theatre trials following delivery to Camp Bastion

I'm a bit puzzled by the choice of armament mounting, though: two pintle-mounts for GPMGs on top, one on each side. The gunners sticking out of the hatches are going to be very, very exposed when manning the guns.
Didn't a RWS make a lot more sense...?


  1. I'm not aware of any brits who have been killed or wounded whilst manning pintle mounts.

    RWS, or even a gun shield would be nice, but needed?

    I'm more concerned that its only armed with GPMG.
    Although it depends what else is moving with it

    1. "I'm not aware of any brits who have been killed or wounded whilst manning pintle mounts."

      That does not mean it does not happen. It would be nothing short of a miracle if no overwatch gunner in such exposed position had been hurt.
      I do not think it is the case.

  2. I would like to see at least a armoured platt mount, but looking at the vid, i think it would be top heavy. Once again have we picked the right vehicle?

    1. According to Force Protection, it can take a RWS or a shielded gun ring if you place it in the middle, like on Hummer and so along.
      Even if, looking at the video, it does seem a bit narrow and high to be stable, already as it is. I'm hoping the engineers know better, though...!

      I think operational use is going to tell us if it is the right vehicle. For sure, at 900.000 pounds each it is expensive like all hell. Gotta hope that it wins other orders, export ones as well, to shove that price down some, or it will never, never, never be affordable in the numbers needed.

      The US JLTV is aiming for 250.000 dollars unit price, for christ's sake. You can buy a Mastiff for around 500.000 pounds, if i remember correctly.
      A Panther costs 405.000 pounds including RWS.

      Foxhound better prove really awesome, or it will be really, really hard to swallow the price.

      Interestingly, in the ongoing trials for Multi Role Vehicle - Protected (MRV-P) at Millbrook, the Army has been trialing the Supacat SPV400, which rivaled the Ocelot/Foxhound for the patrol vehicle requirement but was not chosen.

      Now, with a 6x6 version offered, which would be great for many utility roles destined to MRV-P, the SPV400 might become a lot more attractive. Especially if it costs less.

      So, to conclude: Foxhound has been presented so far as the be all, end all of its category.
      It'll better prove true, or it'll be a major pain in the ass.

    2. I think the Foxhound has a niche useage manily for urban warfare not for open plains ie Basra not Afganistan, i cant see it being developed much further. so the spv 400 and the spv 600 might as you say become more attractive, but there is an outsider which is doing surprisely well is the creation Zephyr SPV, it was entered for the LPPV trials but virtually ignored (including myself). but is now a fully developed vehicle in both 4x4 AND 6x6 varients, with fully drawn up designs for the MRV-P, while the others are are still on paper

    3. On open terrain the Foxhound i'd want is the Fire Support variant. Configured like a Jackal or WMIK, but with up to two more mounts for weapons and much greater mine protection.

      As to the Foxhound Patrol, yes, it is mainly for urban applications indeed.
      But i can also see it replacing the 4 Land Rovers currently used by RECCE elements in Light Role infantry battalions. For that and a few other roles, it is perfect.
      What puzzles me is the cost, and the rumor of its protection level being 3. If it really is STANAG 3, it is not at all revolutionary, and its advantages reduce to the electronic configuration and with the APC-arrangement of the seats for the dismounts.
      A bit too little for almost 1 million apiece.

  3. Wouldn't a bushmaster IMV have done the same job at a fraction of the price?

    1. They are different vehicles. Foxhound is much smaller, only carries 2+4 and weights around 7.5 tons. The Bushmaster is well over 12.5 and carries 9. It is closer to the Ridgback than to the Foxhound, which is meant to be a smaller, urban patrol vehicle.

      But in a way, it was probably possible to find alternative "good enough" solutions at lower price. It comes down to assessing which works the best in terms of cost/effectiveness.

      Regarding Bushmaster, i don't know if you are aware that 24 were ordered as UOR for use by the SAS, in 2008.
      Reportedly fitted with RWS with .50 machine gun.

      The Bushmaster is probably worth some serious thought for MRV-P, since it has already developed many of the variants that would be needed for the British Army, such as Ambulance, Command/Radio, Pioneer vehicle, even Mortar vehicle. Would be quite a good solution, i think.

  4. Yes Gabriele I was aware of the recent purchase of the Bushmaster by the SF, perhaps the Hawkei would fit the bill better...after all, the Bushmaster is less than $600,000 USD and the Hawkei less.

  5. Gabriele

    If we were ever fortunate enough to see a missile system like Spike NLOS enter service (perhaps as part of the core), would it matter, do you think whether the system was placed on a wheeled platform like the Sandcat or Foxhound OR on a tracked platform? Striker of course was tracked and able to tackle the same kind of terrain as other tracked vehicles. The question, I suppose , boils down to whether a wheeled platform would be man enough for the job in a high intensity conflict. Or down to what Spike NLOS's main role would be.

    1. Personally, i think that a wheeled platform, with good mobility performances such as Foxhound would do the job more than well enough.

      Might actually be easy to hide a Foxhound than a FRES CBP hull, and staying hidden in the rear echelon is what this system would do: hide far in the back, preferably behind a hill, and fire the missiles to targets pin-pointed by the guys in the first line.

      I see the Spike NLOS as a battalion/regiment level weapon, fitting in the doctrinal scenario of "dispersion of the force" that appears also in the Land Operating Concept Document of the MOD that i've recently commented.

      A Spike NLOS platoon at Battalion level would give an "umbrella" of responsive, highly-accurate fire that forward-deployed companies could require and obtain with minimal delay.
      The Battalion in exchange does away with the Maneuver Support Company, that is broken down in Fire Support Groups, each given to a Rifle Company, possibly with the Companies becoming 4 by means of cutting the per-company rifle platoons from 3 to 2.

      That would give Mortars and SPIKE NLOS at Battalion level, AS90 and/or L118 at Brigade level and GMLRS/Fire Shadow at Divisional level, as a notional arrangement.


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