Monday, July 30, 2012

Logistics, Army 2020, requirements and contractors

As we know, a stated objective of Army 2020 is using more contractors to meet some requirements, particularly in the logistic and combat service support areas, in place of valuable regular army personnel. It is fair to assume that the Private Financing Initiative approach will more and more often be considered for meeting a wide range of Army needs.
The PFI approach has already been used quite extensively in the last two decades, with the Army having replaced its Tank Transporter truck fleet and its large fleet of logistic and construction plant with two large PFIs contracts.
In future, other needs are likely to be met with the same approach.

In this post i'm going to look into the main Logistic and Support programmes of the Army, to see where the PFI has been adopted, how it is working. I'll also review the requirements that have been met with outright purchases (the Support Vehicle fleet or Wheeled Tankers) and, crucially, i'm going to talk of the remaining big programmes which might very well become new PFIs in the coming years.

C Vehicles Fleet

The so-called C Fleet covers a huge variety of engineering and logistic vehicles used by the Royal Engineers and Royal Logistics Corps. The two main types of vehicles are construction plant and field mechanical handling equipment, but each major class divides into tens of different capabilities and vehicles, so that the C Fleet effectively includes cranes, dump trucks, excavators, bulldozers, rough terrain forklifts, container handlers, well-drillers, concrete mixers and other equipment kit. In total, we are talking of over 2000 vehicles in at least 144 different types and roles.

In the past, the Army had up to 3800 assets covering these roles, a huge number to manage and keep up to date. Faced with difficult choices for the future and by the difficulties of replacing many of the main vehicles of the class, the MOD decided to go down the Private Financing Initiative route, and in June 2005 a contract was signed with ALC, a Joint Venture of Amey and Babcock International Group Plc for the provision, all-inclusive, of management, maintenance, training, obsolescence-management and replacement of old vehicles. 

The C Vehicle PFI is an availability contract, which requires ALC to deliver agreed levels of capability and availability, worldwide, in peace and during combat operations. One requirement, very demanding, is for a notional 100% Availability Rate for the various capabilities, with an effective target level of 90% for the physical availability of vehicles.
As of 2011, this demanding target is being met, as certified by the NAO in its MOD Major Projects Report, which states that 100% of the Key User Requirements are being met, with just a factor of risk regarding performance on Deployment: this is due to difficulties with spares provision, that is making it hard to maintain a 90% vehicle availability in Afghanistan.
There are at least 255 C vehicles deployed at any one time, and other vehicles from the fleet have of course been extensively used in the UK during events such as the Cumbria flooding relief ops in November 2009. ALC has been involved in the UOR procurement of the High Mobility Engineer Excavator, which is used as an interim solution covering the loss of the Combat Engineer Tractor in 2008 as the Corps waits for Terrier. The HMEE is best known as a part of the Talisman C-IED system: ALC has taken up responsibility for the provision of spares for it.

The contract runs to June 2021, and the C-Fleet managed by ALC entered service at the end of March 2006, one month ahead of schedule. The PFI is also on budget, roughly fitting within its 6 – 700 million through life planned costs. The Contract saw the first 5 years of service paid to a firm, unchanging price, with the remaining ten to be paid at fixed price, with an adjustment for inflation.

Under the PFI contract, the Army says what capabilities are needed, and ALC selects, buys and make available the suitable vehicles for meeting the requirement, providing training and support to the Army through life.
ALC was also handed the existing vehicle fleets, which it has been progressively replacing. Over the 15 years of the contract, it is planned that around 1700 new vehicles will be procured, and as of 2011, ALC has already delivered over 1000. In addition, within the C-fleet PFI, a number of Urgent Operational Requirements were met.

Like all things, the C-fleet PFI is not perfect, but, as the NAO report testimonies, it is working remarkably well compared to so many other defence projects.
Problems reported include some initial dissatisfaction within the Army with the ALC choice of some of the vehicles, but this is to be expected: you just can’t make everyone happy.
One undeniable issue, though, is that of commonality: while ALC has been pursuing commonality wherever possible within the C-fleet, selecting as few major chassis as possible, the fact that the Army has no real saying in which vehicle should be chosen to meet the requirement has meant that ALC has selected the Iveco Trakker truck family, instead of opting for more expensive but more convenient in the long term Army-wide commonality, by going MAN SV.
While in peacetime the logistic problem is not felt, as ALC covers it, on deployment to Afghanistan the picture changes quite a lot, because the different training and logistic aspect do have an impact: more and different spares have to be airlifted in, for example, and this adds strain to an airbridge that is already hard-worked. On deployment, it is REME personnel that has to make the Trakker work, so they need training for it, even if, to be fair, ALC has in 2011 started to deploy to Afghanistan Field Service Representatives (FSRs) that work shoulder to shoulder with the REME in theatre to remedy to the issue. The MOD and ALC have signed a 3-year deal for the provision of FSRs, with an option for a further 2 years, giving coverage out to 2015, when operation Herrick should be over. 3 engineers are deployed within the Theatre’s Engineer Regiment Light Aid Detachment, and 2 more are in the Camp Bastion LAD, with a 6th engineer ensuring continuous coverage as the men keep breaks away from work. A 7th engineer, in the UK, is available as Stand-By reserve. This measure has improved things, providing on-site experience, support and refresher courses on regular basis. The FRSs have reportedly been appreciated so much that they now help maintain vehicles that are not part of the C-fleet as well. [Torque 6]

Even with the FSR solution, the lack of commonality is a sad wrong note in the C Fleet story, especially when we read reports from ALC that underline, righteously, that replacing the legacy multi-type solution with the Trakker-based, 5-role fleet has

Reduce(d) spares breadth by over 2500 items, training by over 50%, Special Tools holding by over 100 sets and technical publications by over 80%.  

This same kind of improvements could have been obtained on an even greater scale had the MAN SV chassis been selected, providing wider fleet commonality within the Army. It would have made a lot of things simpler and more efficient.  

Trakker 6x6 Dump Truck

ALC is also responsible for hiring a number of truly specialized, rarely-used capabilities (rock crushing equipment and Soil Stabilization, for example) for use and/or for training exercises, allowing the Royal Engineers to keep expertise alive while not spending money on such equipment that would otherwise spend 90% of the time gathering up dust. [Torque 4]

ALC provides the services directly from its 15 Regional Pools in the UK, Germany and Cyprus and its Capability Service Centre (CSC) at Bicester. As we have seen, now ALC also have the capability to provide Field Service Reps into theatre for Operational Support under Contractors on Deployed Operations (CONDO).

As of 2011, the C Fleet is being reviewed for Value for Money adjustements as part of the major campaign of efficiency launched with the SDSR 2010. A number of possible measures to introduce savings are being considered, and these include expanding usage of C fleet capabilities by the Navy and RAF. The Royal Navy has already been benefiting from some C fleet assets, which have been used on ships such as Illustrious and Ocean. The Air Force might instead have less uses for the kit, but future documents such as the NAO Major Projects report 2012 will probably shed some light over the saving measures that are eventually identified and rolled out.

In this article, I’m going to provide an overview of the main capabilities provided under the C Fleet contract, to give an idea of the complexity and extent of this little-known element of the Armed Forces.

Iveco Trakker truck 6x6

The Trakker has been selected to provide 5 variants and replace a variety of legacy trucks from Volvo, Foden and Iveco on a single common chassis, delivering the improvements in logistics that were outlined above. The variants delivered are:

Truck Mounted Loader (x 33)
The truck mounted loader provides a 24 tons payload on a flatbed sized for a 20’ standard container, and comes with a Terex Atlas vehicle crane that provides a 6 ton “lift and carry” capability. The truck can, for example, lift from the ground the 2400kg Rough Terrain Fork Lift (also a C vehicle) and carry it on the flatbed. It can lift and carry an empty container, Medium Girder Bridge pallets and other payloads.
This Self Loading capability reduces the need for expensive cranes and associated training, by freeing them from some tasks which can well be met by a more modest capability.

Medium Dump Truck (x 61 standard + 2 Winterized/Waterproof)
The dumb truck has a skip capacity of 11 cubic meters and a payload of 10 tons on Highway and 16 tons off highway.
7 more Medium Dump Truck have been procured fully winterized and waterproof, for operations in extreme environments, probably for use by the Commando Engineers.

Self Loading Dump Truck (x 71)
The Self Loading comes with a skip capacity of 9.5 cubic meters, 9 tons payload on Highway and 14 tons off highway. It can self load with a Terex Atlas crane with 350 litre clamshell.
A further 17 Self Loading Dump Truck have been provided in the Crowd Riot Control configuration, with cab protection.

Drilling Machine Rotary Truck Mounted Well Driller (TMWD) (x 5)
The truck comes mounted with a Dando Watertec 12.8 drilling rig, capable to drill to a 300 meters depth with a borehole diameter of 300 mm or a 400 mm borehole to a shallower depth, with a variety of drilling methods (rotary with air, rotary percussion with air with down the hole hammers, and rotary with mud flush auger.
The system incorporates a Mud Pump, a Water/Foam injection pump, an Electrical Welder/Generator, CAT Hydraulic Power Pack. The drilling rig is also designed to work in conjunction with a drilling mud recycling system called a Mud Puppy which is transported on a support vehicle with the ‘down the hole’ drilling equipment.

This unique kit is assigned to 521 STRE (WD), a specialist engineer unit under 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineering Group. ALC and 521 STRE collaborated during the provision of this capability, to modify the Commercial Off the Shelf equipment to meet a series of Army requirements, such as C17 and A400M air transportability.

This system has replaced the T60 Drill Light (x 3) and the HE175 Drill Heavy (x 3), and offers better performances than both, while significantly cutting back on logistics and training needs. There is one less drill, but the 5 in force can do all the work done by the previous models, and more.  

The Truck Mounted Well Driller

Associated to this procurement was the purchase of 5 Compressor Well Drills supplied by Doosan Infracore International and mounted on Chieftain Trailers, both essentially COTS with minor changes to meet the requirements.
They replaced the Compressor Well C Drill Holman 255 17 & 24 and they provide higher output allowing the Well Drill to be used to greater depths. The Compressor is powered by a Cat C15 engine. This machine comes with towing eyes to suit the MAN and IVECO vehicles both.

Volumetric Mixer Truck Mounted (x 10)
Replaces the in service Flush Capping System.
The mixer has been integrated onto the Iveco Trakker 6x6 chassis. It has been designed to provide a flexible mobile concrete capability, by combining the ingredients of concrete on the vehicle.
It is capable of delivering up to 6m³ of concrete under 6 minutes, without needing to be refilled. The role of the Volumetric Mixer is to provide the Royal Engineers with an equipment capable of supporting a wide variety of engineering and construction tasks, these include Airfield Damage Repair (ADR), Force Protection, General Construction and Route Maintenance.
Particularly relevant to Airfield Damage Repair, it is capable of mixing specialist concrete that allows a fully armed Tornado to land within 3 hours of laying.

Trakker 8x8 UOR
24 more Trakker have been procured in Self Loading Dump Truck variant, but on 8x8 chassis and with a cabin provided with armour for use in the combat zone.

Protected Plant UOR
Under another UOR, a number of Protected Plant vehicles were provided for use on operations. The variants involved are:

Multi Terrain Loader – Protected: a Caterpillar 257B vehicle modified with armour
Medium Wheeled Tractor – Protected (Caterpillar 938G)
Light Wheeled Tractor – Protected (Caterpillar 434E)

The crew protection systems (CPS) is provided by Penman and is designed to provide the operator with full 360° protection, including the roof and floor, from small arms, blast and fragmentation threats.  An emergency escape hatch is provided through the roof or side hatch – accessible from both the inside by the operator and outside by rescue personnel.  The transparent armour offers excellent operator visibility of the machine and the surrounding work area.  Additional options including bar armour, run-flat wheel and tyre systems, communications, electronic countermeasures (ECM) and infra-red lighting are also available.

Other Well Drilling equipment

Comacchio Geo 205 - Drill Utility (x 5)
Replacing 9 drills of 3 different types, the Geo 205 is a Soil Investigation rig self-propelled on small rubber tracks. Its main role is auguring and core sampling. The drill is remote controlled, and comes with a trailer for transport to the area. It can easily drill down to 30 meters depth, and do so in a sixth of the time an old drill would take.   

Comacchio MC 450 – Drill Rotary EOD (x 5)
Replacing two older drills, the MC450 is a trailer-mounted system.


Terex AC35 (x 59)
The AC35 is a four-wheel drive, four-wheel steer crane with a 33 meters boom and a 35 tons maximum lift.

Terex AC55 (x 6)
The AC55 is a 6x6 crane with a 55 tons lift capacity, used for the toughest tasks. One of its roles is lifting Mexeflote cells onto the top deck of the Point class RO-RO vessels.

Tractors, Graders, excavators…

Medium Motorized Graders (x 34)
The Volvo G930 motorized grader is used for building and maintaining roads and runways. A single Grader can Level and maintain an area at a rate of 31.000 square meters per hour of work, on rough and rocky terrain. It is a provider of Mobility and Counter Mobility both: it can be used to build Main Supply Routes, construct and maintain ditches, shape/profile/batter embankments, clear runways and taxiways on airfields or be used in a Route Denial role disrupting un-reinforced pavements up to 250 mm thick. It can self-deploy on road, and move for 20 km or more cross country to support moving forces.

Medium Crawler Tractor (MCT) – Caterpillar D5N (x 35)
This tracked bulldozer is an high-output earthmover good for a wide variety of tasks. It is readily deployable and can be moved towards and on the battlefield on the existing Plant Trailers or Light Equipment Transporter trucks. It can move 380 cubic meters of earth per hour and can support military bridging efforts by creating a cambered shaped access route 50 metres long and 5 metres wide across an open area. 

Tractor Medium Combat Airportable CAT3030 DEUCE(x 15 ?) 
This tracked bulldozer was trialed in 1998, and an order for 14 production vehicles followed in 1999, giving a total of 15. It was intended for use in support of the Joint Rapid Reaction Force, thanks to its impressive deployability: the most unique and impressive feature of the CAT3030, better known in America as M105 Deployable Universal Combat Earthmover (DEUCE), is that it can be airlifted by the C130 cargo aircraft and, with 20 minutes of work of a couple of mechanics, be prepared for low-velocity airdrop (LVAD). After landing, it takes the same mechanics just 30 minutes to get it ready for work. 
The vehicle carries enough fuel for 10 hours of heartmoving work or for 322 km of road travel on its rubber tracks, which enable it a max speed of 53 km per hour.  

The vehicle was transferred to ALC as part of the already available legacy equipment, and should still be in service, but i do not have the details.

Light  Wheeled Tractor (Standard) – Caterpillar 434E (x 121)

Light Wheeled Tractor All Arms (LWT AA) – JCB 3CX (x 21)
The role of the LWT(AA) is to primarily to provide Royal Logistic Corp (RLC), Infantry and Royal Artillery units with a versatile mechanical aid, with high output, capable of undertaking a wide variety of field defence tasks, handling defence stores and combat supplies. It is deployable to and between sites, capable of keeping up with supported units, and is both road-mobile and deployable on the In-Service plant trailer or LET. Additionally when used in Royal Engineer (RE) Units the equipment can be called on to fit and operate the Harrier Pin Extractor.

The equipment is capable of excavating 50m³ per hour using its bucket when digging below ground level to prepare protective pits for vehicles and artillery pieces. It is also able to excavate trenches using its backhoe with an output of 80m³ per hour in various soil conditions, clearing areas and routes through urban and rural blow down debris, digging, ditch excavation and materials handling.

The LWT is capable of being fitted with a side-shift, a breaker and a sweeper attachment. The multi-purpose buckets fitted to the equipment are capable of handling broken concrete slabs and tree trunks up to 2 tonnes in weight and loading them into current in-service and supplied tippers and dump trucks. 133 LWT equipments have been procured, coming into service in October 2011.
The role of the LWT is to provide the Royal Engineers and Royal Logistics Corp with an equipment capable of supporting a wide variety of engineering and construction tasks, these include general construction, route maintenance and materials handling of palletised loads.

Medium Wheeled Tractor – JCB 938G

The MWT WW is a commercially designed wheeled tractor adapted for military requirements. It can excavate and handle spoil and debris using the various buckets available, and load into supplied tippers and dump trucks or dig below ground level to prepare protective pits for vehicles and artillery pieces. The MWT WW is also a fork lift capable of rough terrain operation and handling palletized loads and loading onto in service trucks. It can also be fitted with snow clearing equipment and other kit.

76 have been put in service, plus a further 22 fully winterized and waterproof, for the Commando engineers and the Port and Maritime engineers. For these demanding roles, it ensures the capability of working for 2 hours at a constant fording depth of 1.5 meter, with a wash-wave area of a further 0.5 meters. It also deals well with arctic temperatures, down to – 46 Celsius.

One important role of the Winterized vehicle is to work as Beach Trackway dispenser. There are 8 trackway rollers attachments, and MWTs fitted with the trackway dispenser will be found regularly in Royal Marines Assault Squadrons which are part of the LPD’s crews. They’ll go ashore first, and their task is to lay the trackway to form a solid, secure route out of soft beach ground.

The MWT can lift weights of 6800 kg. It can also be fitted with snow clearing kit. 

A Medium Wheeled Tractor goes ashore laying down Class 30 trackway with the Beach Dispenser Unit.

The MWT replaces the Case 721 CXT and Volvo 4400, however, a number of modified Case 721 CXT were actually retained and given a Mid-Life Upgrade in 2008. These are in the Crowd Riot configuration and are designed to face barricades and urban riots.

Telehandler (Rough Terrain Fork Lift) 2400 kg – JCB 524-50 
The main role of this Telehandler is to handle, manoeuvre and transport standard NATO palletised loads up to a maximum load of 1814 Kg. The telehandler is also required to stuff and de-stuff 20ft ISO containers both ground loaded and loaded onto a DROPS Flatrack. It is able to stack standard NATO pallets to a maximum height of 5 pallets, load and unload all current and future service cargo vehicles and flat racks both mounted and dismounted.
All the above tasks must be able to be completed whilst operating over a variety of surfaces ranging from level hard standing to rough terrain. This telehandler comes in two basic variants, winterised and standard and has a reach of 5m. 150 Standard forklifts are being procured, with a further 150 with sideshift. The
Winterised will be 14 with Sideshift and 15 without.

Telehandler 4000 kg – JCB 541-70
The 4000 KG FLT provides a rough terrain fork lift truck for a range of materiel handling tasks and some low level engineering support. This 4000 Kg FLT comes in two basic variants, winterised and standard, and is capable of handling palletised materiel commodities and ammunition as well as non-standard loads outside the NATO pallet envelope. It has a reach of 7m.
85 standard telehandlers, all with sideshift, have been put in service. A further 6 are fully winterized and waterproof.

Excavator Towed Ultra-Light (x 13)

Dumper Ultra Light (x 28)
This can be under slung by Chinook.

The C fleet arrives all the way down to Rollers, Saw Discs, concrete mixers and other tools, so it is a really huge family of capabilities and tools. It even includes deployable, trailer-mounted Lighting Towers

The above equipment is all new and procured in the last few years, but as we said ALC has taken responsibility for a range of platforms that already existed: a list and overview of all of them is available here.
This includes 16 Armoured Heavy Wheeled Tractors, enormous beasts of 37 tons. There were originally 25, transferred to ALC in 2005, but the requirement was lowered and 9 were sold by ALC.
These huge, very expensive and not-normally very used vehicles are being kept available for service by putting half of them into Controlled Humidity Environments, effectively mothballing them the remainder are re-lifed by putting them through a refurbishment programme. Halfway through the contract the equipment will be swapped around and the storage fleet will be re-lifed. This way the fleet will
effectively only age 7 years during the 15 year contract and there will always be a small number of modern and up-to-date kit ready on call. 

Under the C fleet falls also the invaluable KALMAR Rough Terrain Container Handler. 
20 of these powerful logistic vehicles were procured in 2003 to face the challenge of deploying troops to Iraq.  Again, these were transferred to ALC for management within the C fleet initiative.


Another PFI is for the provision of the Heavy Equipment Transporter trucks. Signed on 14 December 2001, the PFI between the MOD and Fasttrax Ltd was for a 2.5 year “start-up” period followed by 20 years of full service provision, so that it will run all the way to 2023.
The trucks went straight into deployment in 2003 for Iraq operations, ahead of schedule, and started providing constant, precious service, which extended to Afghanistan in 2006.

Under the contract, Fasttrax provides the MOD with a fleet of 92 Oshkosh Truck Corporation 1070F 8 x 8 tractor units. The F variant is an evolution of the truck in service with the US Army, adjusted for European regulations on emissions (EURO III compliant). The truck replaced the Scammel Commander.

The cab is all-steel, and seats 6 men: driver and front passenger are seated on suspension seats and the four passengers in the back are on a bench seat able to convert into two double bunks. The engine is a Caterpillar 18C capable of 700 HP. The truck is fitted with sideways radar for eliminating blind spots during maneuvers and it comes with a central tyre inflation system that can keep a tyre operative even if a bullet goes through it. Engine and drivetrain share high commonality with the British Army Oshkosh Wheeled Tankers.
The truck can reach speeds of 85 kph, and travel 325 miles between refueling. 

The PFI includes 89 King Trailer GTS 110/7 seven-axle semi-trailer and 3 Oshkosh Tru-Hitch Recovery systems. Here is a video of a Tru-Hitch system at work demonstrating recovery of Stryker vehicles.
The GTS 110/7 is designed and built by King Trailers Limited of Market Harborough, Leicestershire, UK. It has a length of 17.28m and weights 26t. There are five steering axles on the trailer, the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th and the whole vehicle has a turning circle of 30.5m and a fording depth of 0.70m. This trailer has a 72 tons payload capacity.
In Iraq, this trailer performed well even offroad and on tough but relatively flat terrain, while it struggled in Afghanistan, generating an Urgent Operational Requirement that was met in late 2009 buying 20 heavy-duty Broshuis trailers with a payload capacity of 45 tons.

Fasttrax is responsible for getting spare parts from Oshkosh and King (and Broshuis now) and getting them to purple gate, after which they become direct responsibility of the Joint Defence Supply Chain which has to bring them to the final user.

The contract also requires Fasttrax to train Regular REME maintainers and to train Regular Driver Tank Transporter Operators (DTTOs) for their Class 3 and Class 1 qualifications, and retrain them in the event that they lose currency through failing to complete a mandated number of taskings per year.

Finally, Fasttrax is responsible for providing operators and maintainers, all of whom are Sponsored Reserves (SR). They can be mobilised for up to nine months at a time and when 'called up' for an operational deployment, come under army command.
When not deployed on operations or completing peacetime taskings for the MoD, the SRs, who are salaried employees of FTX Logistics Ltd (who operate the HET service on behalf of Fasttrax) are employed on third party work. This work enables them to maintain their driver/operator skills, which, together with the fact that they must pass Military Annual Training Tests (MATTs), ensure that they deploy current and fully prepared for their operational role.

However, this leaves the regulars focusing on the “desk” part of the deal, covering administrative tasks that keep them away from actual operations with the trucks. Facing this unexpected issues has cost the MOD money, as it has had to require more driver posts for regular soldiers, and Fasttrax has lost the revenue which it would have had exploiting the peacetime service of Sponsored Reserves in those posts.

An issue to consider in the near future, when the Army will use contractors in more roles and areas as part of Army 2020.

Wheeled Tankers

The MOD chose to outright acquire the fleet of Wheeled Tankers, avoiding a PFI approach, in 2003. This contract, won by Oshkosh, was for the replacement of all vehicles used by the three Services for the provision of bulk fuel on deployed operations. Prior to contract award, the scope of the requirement was expanded to cover (part of) the requirement for a bulk potable water tanker as well. 

The result was an order for 357 vehicles:

200 Close Support Tankers, capable each of 20.000 liters, replacing a mixed fleet of some 300 Foden 6x4 and 8x4 tankers (15.000 and 22.500 liters)

82 Tactical Aircraft Refueller, each capable of 15.000 liters and offering the capability to refuel two Chinook helicopters at once, rotor turning. This replaced a fleet of around 170 much smaller 4500 liters refuellers from Bedford.

57 Close Support Tanker (Water), each capable of 18.000 liters.

Unreplaced remained the fleet of Seddon-Atkinson-fronted 32,000-litre General Support Tankers (GSTs), of which around 54 should still be in service now as I write this piece. They will either bow out without replacement by year’s end, or live on with a further delay to the OSD date. It is now intended, for what I know, to replace them within the Light Equipment Transporter truck solution.

CAVP (Common Articulated Vehicle Programme)

A logistic fleet that desperately needs replacement is that of the LET, Light Equipment Transporter, a Seddon-Atkinson tractor with trailer. This truck does not offer offroad capability and cannot be fitted with armour protection, so it has effectively become un-deployable in the modern warfare scenarios. A total of 107 were once acquired, and around 100 remain in service, but they are in clear need of a replacement soon. 

Seddon-Atkinson LET

In 2009, the British Army went close to obtaining a replacement under F-LET (Future LET), with Oshkosh the preferred bidder for delivery of 110 LET vehicles derived from the same tractor unit of the Tanker fleet. The other bidder was MAN, with an HX variant. So, one solution would have commonality with the HET and Tanker fleets, and the other would share much of the logistics with the MAN Support Vehicle fleet. Any of the two choices would have been good.

But FLET failed to get funding and the acquisition did not go ahead. The MOD instead renamed the programme and re-assessed it, hiring Frazer-Nash Consultancy. The new requirement is for a common Tractor unit which will tow LET trailers, a number of RAF Mechanical Transport trailers and the replacement General Support Tanker mentioned earlier.
A date for delivery of a solution is not known at the moment, but Oshkosh looks favorite for it, since the Army had chosen its offer as the best one and when FLET was cancelled it adopted an interim strategy of re-roling 6 Oshkosh Wheeled Tanker tractor units to tow in theatre the existing LET trailers, which are pretty much new, as 99 were ordered from Broshuis in 2004 due to the difficulties in supporting the earlier, by now ancient model, the 44-ton payload Trailmaster 3-axle stepframe lowloaders.

There is a quite clear possibility for the Army to provide for this requirement by buying Oshkosh trucks via a PFI, like it has done with the HET. This might be a part of Army 2020 were contractors step in. We’ll see if, how and when things evolve.

NAVP (Non Articulated Vehicle Programme)

Formerly Heavy Load Distribution Capability (HLDC), the NAVP is the replacement for the current DROPS (Demountable Rack Off-loading and Pick-up System) fleet.
This means replacing a fleet which from 1990 has been built up to number 1612 Leyland Medium Mobility Load Carriers, followed by 404 Foden Improved Medium Mobility Load Carriers delivered from 1994, of which there still are in service around 1400 and 375 respectively. They are not so old, but they share one of the main defects of the LET: they can’t take armor for use in dangerous areas on deployment, so that an OSD planned for 2022 in the SDSR 2010 became a December 2014 out of service date.

In Afghanistan, the need for a protected DROPS solution was met with a UOR, converting a first batch of 90 HX77 MAN Support trucks into Enhanced Palletized Load System (EPLS) and then ordering an additional 87 newly produced, with 31 being used for the establishment of a training fleet.

As announced also in the Army 2012 yearbook, it is now planned to replace DROPS with EPLS, which will be brought into Core Defence Budget post-Afghanistan and will probably see many more conversions of existing trucks and further additional orders.
NAVP is not (yet) formally dead, but the suspect is that EPLS will become the sole and definitive solution. Lately, however, EPLS system has been shown frequently on the Iveco Trakker vehicle base: perhaps the expensive MAN vehicle base is not the right solution for a cash-strapped Army? 

While a PFI initiative might be a possibility, the Army seems to be thinking about direct purchases for meeting this requirement. 

The MAN Support Vehicle fleet 

An outright acquisition was also the mega-contract for the new truck fleet for the Army, awarded in March 2005 to MAN ERF Ltd, with first vehicle entering service on schedule in 2007. When it was first envisaged in 1999, however, the requirement was to be met via PFI procurement. Back then, the requirements were actually two and separate: Future Cargo Vehicle and Future Wheeled Recovery Vehicle. These combined into Support Vehicle in 2001.

The initial contract was for 4815 cargo trucks plus 314 recovery vehicles with 69 associated recovery trailers, but over time, there were changes. The recovery vehicles requirement was reduced to 288, but the Army also exercised an option for a further 2077 cargo trucks as a replacement for the Leyland DAF 4-tonne truck fleet. With some additional orders outside the initial scope of Support Vehicle (EPLS and FALCON prime mover, namely) the number of MAN SV trucks on order increased to 7479.
The contract also includes 1098 appliquè armor kits, which can readily be fitted to all trucks but the 161 employed in the Training Fleet. 

The MAN Recovery vehicle, or "Wrecker"

For operations in Afghanistan, such armor kits have been improved with further additions on some 324 vehicles, in two different initiatives, the first known as Project Fortress.  

HX60 General Service
The majority of SV trucks are in the HX60 4x4, 6-ton payload, Medium Mobility variant. Over 5000 such vehicles on order/in service. A breakdown of the fleet is as follows:

5320 HX60 vehicles, of which:

107 FALCON communication system prime movers (not originally part of SV requirement)
3934 General Service Cargo Truck
958 Flatbed
84 General Service with Crane
28 General Service with Tail Lift (for RAF use)

611 HX58 6x6, 9-ton payload, Medium Mobility Vehicles, of which:

264 General Service
63 Flatbed
8 General Service, Crane
46 Flatbed, Crane
Unit Support Tanker 230 

181 SX44 9-tonne 6x6 Improved Medium Mobility, of which:

41 General Service
54 Flatbed
5 Flatbed, crane
81 Unit Support Tanker

1010 HX77, 8x8, 15-tonne Medium Mobility

464 General Service
328 Flatbed
12 General Service, Crane
119 Flatbed, crane
87 EPLS (UOR, new build not originally part of SV)

NOTE: 90 of the original 923 HX77 trucks result converted to Enhanced Palletized Load Systems, to complement and then replace the similar but older DROPS trucks, which cannot be fitted with armor for use in theatre. I don’t know if the trucks were taken from the General Service pot or from the Flatbed pot or a bit from both, but I personally suspect they might have converted some of the Flatbeds: I think it would be the easiest to change.

As a UOR connected to EPLS, the MOD also procured 25 Fuel Tank Container systems from WEW of Germany. These are 20 foot container-footprint tanks fitted with the KPA400B autarkic diesel-driven pump: thanks to it, after unloading the container the system can be operated completely independent of the DROPS/EPLS vehicle using its .

Finally, the Support Vehicle Fleet includes 288 SX45 8x8 Recovery trucks plus 69 Recovery trailers – replaces the Foden Heavy Recovery vehicle.

The Unit Support Tanker is a field refueling system that replaces the previous Unit Bulk Refueling Equipment. Each UST carriers 7000 liters.
Currently there are still many old Leyland-DAF 4-tonners 4x4 trucks in service, not yet replaced by SV vehicles. The first 5000+ MAN SV trucks, those of the original 2005 order, will all be delivered by 2013, but the Option for 2000 more MAN trucks came later, and will of course come into service on a longer timeframe.
These last 2000 vehicles are the intended replacement of the Leyland. The option was exercises when it was assessed that life-extending the Leyland was not advantageous, but in the meanwhile the 4-tonners are being rotated into overseas training areas (BATUS, Kenya) which are late among the MAN SV delivery plan.
In addition, an April 2011 Planning Round decision was to keep 650 Leyland 4-tonners to replace the retired, never-to-be-missed Reynolds-Boughton RB44 TUH in Mortar and 105 mm gun tractor roles. 

The gun-towing role in Afghanistan is met by the Wolfhound, while in the UK and on some military ops it might be towed by Pinzgauers or Leylands. A MAN HX60 "Equipment Prime Mover" variant thought for towing artillery guns with their ammunition and full team exists, and might at some point be considered, obtained converting some of the trucks already available (following Army 2020 reductions, after all, there should be overabundance of trucks in some roles), but this will depend on what happens to the Wolfhound and even more will depend by the fate of the Multi Role Vehicle Protected, which should replace Land Rovers, RB44s, Pinzgauers and other vehicles, including gun towers.   

The HX60 Prime Mover was demonstrated on Salisbury Plain, towing a M777 howitzer. It seats 3 in the cab, which can receive substantial armor protection, and has a further crew module which offers the same blast, NBC and ballistic protection, offering more seats. The truck in total carries the whole gun complement of 8, plus a couple of 1.5 tons pallets of ammunition and crane for handling them. That means 34 155 mm shells or 72 105 mm shells ready to fire, depending on the gun towed. 

Something roughly comparable should already be in service in the Army, since MAN trucks are used to tow Rapier anti-air missile systems. 

Again, the HX60 truck platform is being used as the vehicle for the Future Local Area Air Defence System, the CAMM(Land), which should replace Rapier in British Army service in 2018 or 2020. 

CAMM air defence unit on HX60 truck. Note the crane in the back for self-reloading.
The MAN SV trucks can be fitted with the Roush's ROPS (Roll-Over Protection System): this is a system that comes with two frames (one with 8 seats, the other with 6 seats) accommodating a series of two-part vacuum formed ABS seats, plus a 4-point quick release harness. Clearances have been designed in to accommodate a soldier in body armour, a webbing kit and battle helmet. Stowage is provided for a standard Bergen and a clamping arrangement is fitted to secure a weapon.
At least 1100 sets were ordered in August 2008 in a 5 million pounds contract and delivered by 2009 as "Enhanced Seating Kit". The system provides full protection in case of Roll Over of the truck, improving safety. 

This HX60 truck is shown fitted with a 6-seat frame and a 8 seat frame, to carry 14 men in the back. The cab sits a further 3, including the driver.

MAN SV trucks could also come into play in another future requirement: a November 2006 BAE System's document speaking of developments in the Engineer Kit being delivered to the British Army, talks of refurbishment work then ongoing on the Modular Support Bridge, better known as BR90. Back then the work was about introducing HUMS and uprating the bridge from a Military Load Class of 70 tons (Tracked) MLC 70(T) to 85 ton tracked (MLC 85(T) to accomodate the weight growth of vehicles fitted with additional armor on deployment. 
In the article it is noted that a Mid Life Upgrade for the BR90 was expected to be launched sometime between 2012 and 2018, and this would likely involve adoption of the Axially Tensioned Long Span Bridge (ATLSB) which enables the BR90 to bridge gaps of 52 meters, up from 32 currently. 
52 meters means a ready solution for bridging 90% of the gaps that the Army is likely to find on the battlefield, up from an estimated 80%. In addition, it is widely expected that the BR90 equipment will migrate from the current Unipower 8x8 to a MAN SV 8x8 base. 
It is to be noted that both these improvements are de-risked and ready for adoption, thanks to an order made by Malaysia, which acquired in 2002 three sets of 52 meters BR90 bridging equipment, on MAN truck chassis.  
For all these reasons, there might even be some additional small order for more MAN SV trucks in the near future. 

Light Recovery Vehicle 

One last important replacement programme is for 8 venerable Light Recovery Vehicles on Bedford MJ chassis. These are used in 16 Air Assault Brigade.

In reality, the requirement for a Light Recovery Vehicle in these years has arguably grown from such a niche requirement to a much more consistent one: with the preeminent role planned for Light Vehicles in Afghanistan out to 2014 and then in the longer term as part of Army 2020 (at least 3 regular and 3 Reserve Light Cavalry regiments planned on Jackal, and 6 Infantry Battalions with Foxhound), a recovery vehicle capable to follow these two types on the field is going to be a real need.

The Army anticipates launching a UOR really soon for such a Light Recovery Vehicle, to be used in Afghanistan to support Foxhound and Jackal. These two vehicles are said to share the same level of mobility, very impressive, and according to Army doctrine the Recovery vehicle will have to be able to negotiate the same kind of terrain.
It was (is?) intended that the UOR would then go into Core post 2014.

One serious contender, first showcased at DSEI last year, is the Penman-EKA Lightweight Recovery Vehicle - Protected, specifically aimed at the British Army’s requirements. Based on a DURO III 6x6 chassis with excellent improved mobility and incorporating elements and design from the Penman SuperCompact recovery system used by the SX45 MAN Recovery truck, it offers commonality, mobility and performances adequate to the intended role. DURO is not a new name to the British Army (it is the base vehicle of the Reacher satellite COMMS stations, for example) and the commonality with the larger, 32 tons MAN Wrecker is also attractive. The armored cab comes with additional seat, escape hatch, provvision for riot grilles and arrangements for installing radio and ECM kit. 

The vehicle is just 2.16 meter wide, to fit into tight roads in urban areas, and can recover and suspend tow vehicles of the Foxhound and Jackal class.  

The recovery boom assembly, which is pretty much a reduced-scale version of the SuperCompact used on the MAN Wrecker, could eventually be assembled on other vehicle chassis with the same sizes and weight capabilities. The system comprises a telescopic rectangular section, the inner box of which carries the recovery bar assembly. The boom provides a maximum lift rating of 6 tonnes and a maximum casualty vehicle weight capability of 15 tonnes. An 8 tonne constant-pull capstan winch is fitted and, in order to anchor the vehicle when winching to the rear, two 8 tonne rated anchor spades are provided to enable two-part pulls to be carried out. Safe stand-off remote operation of the recovery system is controlled from a chest pack with a 10 metre umbilical, connected to a frame mounted control box on the vehicle. The chest pack features graduable paddle joysticks (suitable for gloved operation) for boom in/out, boom up/down and recovery bar levelling.
The 15 tonnes capability would make this Recovery vehicle nominally suitable for the future Multi-Role Vehicle Protected, at least with the current known size and weight requirements. 

The Army has however selected, for the moment at least, a Recovery development of the in-service Navistar Husky, and introduced a dozen or more into service at Camp Bastion as a UOR. As of June, these vehicles were operating in and around the base, before being cleared for the full range of operations.

The Husky Recovery will work in support of Husky, Foxhound and possibly Jackal. It'll be interesting to see how it fares: due to the chassis chosen, it might have a mobility a bit inferior to that of Foxhound, and it might be quite limited in growth potential. If this is the case, the plan of bringing it into Core post-Afghanistan could change.
The final decision will also likely be connected to the fate of Husky itself post-Afghanistan.

Non-Deployable Mechanical Handling Equipment

Very recent is the publication of the contract notice for a major MOD buy (could number up to 3100 assets) for the renewal of the non-deployable Mechanical Handling Equipment fleet. The equipments include but are not limited to:

— counterbalance trucks and side loaders,
— container handlers,
— pedestrian, ride-on and electric pallet trucks,
— telescopic reach trucks,
— very narrow aisle trucks,
— tow vehicles including tracked,
— agricultural tractors including trailers and ancillaries,
— various trailers, ancillaries and MHE attachments.

The requirement envisaged comprises the supply, maintenance and fleet management of Mechanical handling Equipment to defined availability criteria, and the provision of associated training, predominantly operating on hard standing environments within the UK, with a number of assets located worldwide.

The assets are used by the Defence Support Group (4% of the fleet), by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), including Defence Training Estate (3%).
The Logistic Commodities and Services (LCS) incorporates the storage and distribution activity undertaken by the Logistics Services operation and also includes British Forces Post Office (BFPO) and Disposal Services Authority (DSA), and accounts for 18% of the assets. The Defence Munitions (DM) is responsible for the storage, safety, technical compliance and co-ordination of processing and distribution of munitions, and has 15% of the assets.
60% of the fleet is destined to cover Tri-Service needs including material handling at the Marchwood port, at Navy facilities and on board of RFA ships. 

The new contract is to replace the current arrangement for provvision of the service, which expires next year.


  1. Gabriele

    Brilliant stuff! A thoroughly researched and comprehensive examination of the”C” vehicle fleet.. Makes for more interesting reading than some of the articles one reads in books and elsewhere on “A” and “B” vehicles (I don’t mean articles on this website!)

    Just one or two comments and questions:

    1) “This includes 16 Armoured Heavy Wheeled Tractors, enormous beasts of 37 tons. There were originally 25, transferred to ALC in 2005, but the requirement was lowered and 9 were sold by ALC. These huge, very expensive and not-normally very used vehicles are being kept available for service by putting half of them into Controlled Humidity Environments, effectively mothballing them the remainder are re-lifed by putting them through a refurbishment programme. Halfway through the contract the equipment will be swapped around and the storage fleet will be re-lifed. This way the fleet will effectively only age 7 years during the 15 year contract and there will always be a small number of modern and up-to-date kit ready on call.”

    What an imaginative and resourceful way of solving the problem of extending the life of this very useful vehicle. I would imagine it was indispensable to ADR units.

    2) Have you heard any more about the possibility of putting the LHS on Trakker rather than going with the MAN EPLS system? I’m sure I read somewhere a problem with the MAN-based system was a lack of a certain area of visibility to the rear of the vehicle (but I can’t remember the details).

    3) I said “comprehensive” above but I’ve now remembered two vehicles that you have not yet mentioned : the KALMAR Rough Terrain Container Handler and the “Deuce” Light Tracked Dozer. Any chance of a brief mention of these two when you are less busy (although of course you might have deliberately not mentioned them because they are already legacy vehicles).

    1. The Heavy Wheeled Tractors are still considered indispensable for clearing runways of unexploded submunitions and other ordnance, it seems.
      Unfortunately, the Army did not consider the Heavy Wheely fit for deployment to Afghanistan, but i was glad to learn about the plan for keeping them around, at least.

      I think the same approach is being used for other vehicles too, but i don't have the details.

      And yes, i didn't directly mention ALL vehicles in the C fleet. I focused on the new ones, or on the most impressive bits of legacy fleet.
      You do mention two very important machines though. Let's see.

      The DEUCE was acquired in 15 units, one of which for testing.
      Both the DEUCE and KALMAR were given to ALC for management as part of the legacy fleet, but at the moment i don't have details about their current status.

      They should both be still in use, though. The KALMAR i'd dare saying is for sure in use, and pretty damn intensive use at that. It was bought quite recently, in 2003 as a UOR, 10 + 10 units, to complement the older Terex Rough Terrain Container Handlers.

      As for EPLS problems on the MAN truck, i know that the MAN offers little to no rear visibility, so the EPLS is fitted with rear-looking cameras and display in the cab.
      It should not be a problem calling for a change of chassis, though.


    You shameless man.

    1. Actually, if i wanted to be hostile and cynic, i'd say that Think Defence hurried publishing that article exactly because i announced days ago on here that i was going to talk about the C fleet, among other things, as Mike and others could confirm.

      And TD has no exclusive in talking about anything. So i feel like writing my own review, i do.
      If you don't like it, i frankly do not care.

  3. Gabriele

    Thanks for the replies. All interesting.

    One or two more questions:

    1) I see that a Recovery version of the Husky has been developed. If successful I suppose it could solve the problem of the Light Recovery Vehicle replacement, especially as the Husky is in service with 16 AA Bde already (I think). Trouble is, it doesn't look like a proper Recovery Vehicle, with only a couple of raisable ramps at the rear.

    2)I think one reason that the DAF was retained in the gun tractor role was that the MAN 6-tonne is slightly the wrong height at the rear for such a role with the Light Gun. Do you whether that is the case?

    1. I think a Husky-based recovery vehicle is going to be pretty seriously limited in what it can effectively do, so i'm not sure if that's going to be the definitive solution. It might be a stopgap.

      As for the MAN, there is "wrong" and "wrong". It should be perfectly compatible with the L118 in physical terms, as the 105 mm gun was clearly envisaged as a possible towed weapon, even if the demonstration was made with the M777.
      It might be that the Army considers it too high and large, though.

  4. Gabriele

    "because i announced days ago on here that i was going to talk about the C fleet, among other things, as Mike and others could confirm."

    I can certainly confirm that fact. The comment was dated 24th July 2012 and the TD article did not come out until the 27th. I've got an idea that you might even have mentioned it before the 24th.

    To other things. You mentioned the following:

    "The MAN SV trucks can be fitted with the Roush's ROPS (Roll-Over Protection System):"

    Do you know whether there is an armoured version of this system? If so, a MAN vehicle with an armoured infantry carrying pod could possibly help solve the problem of what will carry the Light Infantry in the new Army set-up.

    1. No, i don't think there's an armoured pod for infantry carriage. But i think there are reasonable margins for designing one: after all, the crew module of the Prime Mover is armored and NBC-proof: a good starting point.

      Assuming 2000+ kg weight for 14 soldiers with their equipment, there are still some 4 tons of payload margin for creating an armored pod for an HX60, ideally with a V-hull for some blast protection too, even though the best defence would probably be the possibility for the pod to detach from the chassis when a blast happens beneath. Better shaken by an harsh landing of the pod than blasted.
      I think Marshall could pull something out, obviously accepting there would undoubtely be hard limits in protection levels that are unlikely to be overcome.

      But i'm not an engineer, so i can't say for sure.

  5. Gabriele

    "because i announced days ago on here that i was going to talk about the C fleet, among other things, as Mike and others could confirm."

    I can certainly confirm that fact. The comment was dated 24th July 2012 and the TD article did not come out until the 27th. I've got an idea that you might even have mentioned it before the 24th.

    To other things. You mentioned the following:

    "The MAN SV trucks can be fitted with the Roush's ROPS (Roll-Over Protection System):"

    Do you know whether there is an armoured version of this system? If so, a MAN vehicle with an armoured infantry carrying pod could possibly help solve the problem of what will carry the Light Infantry in the new Army set-up.

  6. I think the error the MoD are making is having this massively diverse range of manufacturers until the false impression that this competitive tendering for multiple individual contracts is actually cost effective. In my experience of working in the public sector it is not.

    In my opinion, one enormous contract covering all areas of the support vehicle fleet should have been awarded to a single provider - BAe with MAN, LM with Mercedes etc, and then the equipment manufacturer provide all class of vehicles required rather than this mismash of Oskhosh, MAN, IVECO etc.

    Not only would the size of the contract driven down the unit cost, but also there would be a reduction in the spares pipeline with most vehicles from the same manufacturer sharing parts. There would also be a reduction in training costs as most equipment from a manufacturer sharing a similar layout.

    Mercedes and MAN/VW for example offer everything from Minibuses and Vans up to the biggest of Tank Transporters with a variety of armour options on several vehicles.

  7. Excellent article Gabriele.

    I thought I was knowledgeable on our armed forces but the details on this blog in your various articles are something else.
    Pleased to have found it and study it daily.

    Regards from a fellow UK armed forces enthusiast.

    Daniele Mandelli

    1. Thank you very much.

      Yous is a... very italian name, if i may note so. Italian origins?

    2. Yes. My father is Italian, mother is English, and I have family in Roma!
      But I was born in the UK and am British to the core.

      I have posted on military forums for many years but this is easily the best site on UK defence matters I have found. Really excellent.

      I note you have never been to the UK. You have an open invite from us here if you ever come to visit.

      I admire and respect your love and admiration for HM forces, the constant defence cuts since 1991 make me furious.

    3. Now that explains it! Nice to know.

      And yeah, i've so far been unable to visit the UK directly. But my aspiration is to make a tour of the country in a couple of years' time, with the last destination of the trip being Rosyth, for the float-out of Queen Elizabeth.

      If i could do that travel, it sure would be awesome.

      Thank you again for your kind words, i'm glad you find my work useful and interesting.

  8. Somebody has to do it, and you are not even British! One of the problems with my country is that the government is so screwed up they are career politicians only interested in getting votes. That means mass benfits, foreign aid, money down the drain.
    Another problem is that apart from truly patriotic sorts such as myself and others who support defence, most people do not care about cuts so long as they have their nice house and fancy car on the drive.
    My view is pride in my country and in keeping Britain where we belong on the world stage. That is as a P5 member with the means to back it up. As you know, we have an incompetent MoD at the best of times!

    We will talk again now I have found this site!



  9. @Daniele

    "Another problem is that apart from truly patriotic sorts such as myself and others who support defence, most people do not care about cuts so long as they have their nice house and fancy car on the drive.
    My view is pride in my country and in keeping Britain where we belong on the world stage."

    Well said, that man! My own sentiments exactly. Successive governments' treatment of the Armed Forces has nauseated me for years. Here we have India about to purchase a second aircraft carrier with catapults and all the trimmings we can't afford and yet we are still sending them large amounts of foreign aid, which a representative of their government has said they do not want! Insanity!


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