Monday, June 17, 2013

Fuchs resurrection and a new MBDA concept for future weapons

Fuchs to resurrect? 

The Telegraph reports that, as part of a review into the Army's capability to deal with contingency scenarios (shaped, in this case, on Syria's situation), the defence chiefs have concluded that the early retirement of the armoured Chemical, Bacteriological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Reconnaissance Vehicles, the Fuchs, was a grave mistake. The MOD is now reportedly scrambling to find money from other voices of expenditure to re-direct on CBRN, to bring the Fuchs back out of storage and into an active role. 

If the Telegraph's information is correct, Rheinmetall's technicians have already been called in the UK to survey the storaged vehicles and overview their return to service. The 9 armored vehicles (from an original number of 11, gifted to the UK by Germany on the eve of the involvment in the first Gulf War) used to be operated by the soldiers of 1st Royal Tank Regiment as part of the Joint CBRN Regiment, formed by Army and RAF units. 

The Fuchs CBRN wide area recon / survey vehicle

The Joint CBRN Regiment was terminated in 2011, however, with the early withdrawal from service of the Fuchs and the passage of the whole CBRN role to the sole RAF Regiment (even if a small number of army and navy personnel continues to be part of the team). 
The Joint CBRN Regiment, born from the Labour-led Strategic Defence Review of 1998/99, was based in RAF Honington and comprised 1st Royal Tank Regiment (minus A Squadron), elements of the Royal Yeomanry regiment (Territorial Army), 27 Field Squadron RAF Regiment and 2623 Sqn
RAuxAF Regt. 

In December 2011, the Army moved out of the picture with the Regiment becoming the "Defence CBRN Wing", manned by the RAF Regiment. In the occasion, the Commandant General RAF Regt issued the following message to the Corps:

“On Tue 2 Aug 11, the Secretary of State for Defence agreed to the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) measure - subsumed by a PR11 Option - to delete the Joint Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Regt and transfer all of Defence’s specialist CBRN capabilities to the RAF Regt.

The key implications of this decision will be as follows: there will be no impact upon those capabilities currently provided by the RAF Regt (26 and 27 Sqns RAF Regt and 2623 Sqn RAuxAF
Regt, and the RAF will remain the Lead Service for CBRN); the wide area CBRN reconnaissance and survey capabilities, based upon the Fuchs armoured vehicle, will be gapped; all other capabilities currently provided by the Army element of the Jt CBRN Regt (the Multi Purpose Decontamination System, some of the Light Role Teams, and all command and control) will transfer to a wholly-RAF Regt manned Defence CBRN Wg, which will include 26 Sqn RAF Regt, 27 Sqn RAF Regt and 2623 Sqn RAuxAF Regt. Whilst there will be a modest increase to the RAF Regt
establishment, there will be a net reduction of 319 Army posts in the current specialist CBRN Force. The total saving to Defence will be £129 million over 10 years.

The Commander-in-Chief UK Land Forces informed 1 Royal Rank Regt (1RTR) personally yesterday of the decision to cease all Army involvement in specialist CBRN.
No decisions have been made on the future of 1RTR; this will be considered as part of the wider requirement to restructure the Army in light of the recent outcome of the ‘3-Month Exercise’, and is wholly a matter for the Army. 1 RTR will remain at RAF Honington for at least the medium term, while the transfer of capabilities takes place and their future is decided.

This decision brings to a conclusion a protracted period of intensive, sometimes understandably impassioned debate over the future provision of specialist CBRN capabilities for Defence. Detailed planning for the implementation of the measure will now commence.
This will be the responsibility of the AOC 2 Gp, on whose behalf I will develop plans for the appropriately timely transfer of operational command and control and operational capabilities, the continued delivery of which remains the Defence priority. This will be done in close cooperation with HQ Land (specifically, Director Royal Armoured Corps) to ensure that Army personnel matters are addressed positively and sensitively.

1RTR have made a quite extraordinary (and often largely unsung) contribution to Defence over the past 12 years. They have done so with all the exemplary professionalism and commitment typical of their proud heritage. It has truly been an honour to serve alongside them, and I know that all members of the RAF Regt will wish them every success in whatever the future may hold.

As for the RAF Regt, this decision will leave the Corps as the UK’s sole provider of specialist CBRN capabilities for Defence. Clearly, given the circumstances of the MOD’s preparedness to take risk against the deletion of the Fuchs capability in the context of a parlous financial climate, this is the right decision for Defence and it is not the time for inter-Service triumphalism. Be under no illusion that the responsibility placed upon the RAF Regt will be enormous and expectations will be high - we must deliver, and I know that we will, no matter what the challenges that lie ahead.”

The Defence CBRN Wing, which has taken over the number, nameplate and identity of 20 Wing, RAF Regiment, is composed by Wingg HQ, 26 Sqn RAF Regt, 27 Sqn RAF Regt, 2623 Sqn RAuxAF Regt, and a CBRN Operational Conversion Unit (OCU).
The transfer of capability from the Army elements of the Regiment to the RAF includes the formation of 6 new RAF-manned Light Role CBRN Teams (in addition to 2 that the RAF element already provided), the transfer of the Decontamination capability (with the Multi Purpose Decontamination Systems) and of the specilistic CBRN Command & Control capability. 

The 8 Light Role Team (LRT) is a strategically mobile, easily deployed self-sufficient CBRN investigation team. It is composed by 8 men, assisted by a bespoke Pinzgauer 6x6 vehicle fully loaded with CBRN Detection, Identification, Monitoring and Analysis Equipment.
The elements of kit retained to be used by the LRTs comprise both in service and Commercial Off The Shelf equipment, which can be dismounted and loaded onto other platforms. The team is self-sufficient for a period of 3 days, during which it can carry out up to three missions, each lasting up to 8 hours.

A Light Role Team showing off its kit

27 Squadron, Royal Air Force Regiment, holds the Integrated Biological Detection Systems (IBDS) platforms. The IBDS is a detection suite with atmospheric sampling equipment, a meteorological station, chemical agent detection and cameras for 360° surveillance, all housed in a rugged 14 feet container meant for quick air deployability. It can be airlifted by aircrafts and helicopters and ground-dumped or installed on a 4x4 truck. The system is operated by a team of four and comes with its own independent power supply, GPS, NBC filtration and environmental control unit for operation in all climates. 

Another fundamental piece of capability is the Multi-Purpose Decontamination System (MPDS), produced by Karcher. This is a high-pressure, high-temperature water/steam pump, installed on a water tank carried by a Leyland DROPS truck. It is used for the washing and decontamination of vehicles and has been upgraded with the installation of the Direct Application Decontamination System (DADS), which dispenses a decontaminant agent.
The small number of MPDS available brought to a UOR order on the eve of operation TELIC, with the purchase of the Bruhn Newtech/Cristinini Vehicle-Borne Decontamination Capability (VBDC). The system is actually a small, back-worn device that can be carried inside or outside a military vehicle and be employed by a single man to decontaminate the vehicle with the dispensing of BX24 (chlorine bleach) decontaminant through a telescopic brush.

The Defence CBRN Wing also provides two SIBCRA teams: Sampling and Identification of Biological, Chemical and Radiological Agents Military Sampling Team (SIBCRA MST) that are deployed globally to exploit CBRN programme/event scenes, recovering evidence and intelligence to approved analytical agencies in a safe & forensically-sound manner in order to support national strategic decision-making. Notably, the SIBCRA team from 26 Squadron RAF Regiment was in recent times involved in the british deployment of a Radiation Monitoring Team to the damaged nuclear power plant of Fukushima, in Japan (Op PEDIGREE, March 2011). 

The loss of the Fuchs, however, has severely reduced the capabilities of the CBRN force, so much so that a generalist "Detect and Warn" CRN capability, capable to operate on the line of fire, is to be provided by a suite of sensors installed on the FRES SV Scout.
The integration of such a CRN sensor suite on a non-specialized vehicle is a first, for the UK: it has not been done before on other vehicles. 

Scout will have three Radiological detectors - two external and one internal, that will have the ability to calculate the duration a crew will be able to stay in a Radiological hazard area without causing long term illness from the accumulated dose received. There will also be one internal and one external Chemical vapour detector with the ability to detect Toxic Industrial Chemicals.
The sensor suite is meant to create a CBRN report that can be quickly sent up the command ladder thanks to the advanced communications suite of the Scout vehicle. The timely transmission of such reports is meant to cue the intervention of specialist CBRN vehicles and survey teams. The CRN detection capability of the FRES Scout is not a replacement for the specialist kit found in the CBRN force, nor an appropriate replacement for the Fuchs's capability, but it will of course better protect the soldiers on the frontline and enable a faster response. 

The crucial fact remains the gap in capability caused by the retirement of the Fuchs. The highly mobile, armored wide area reconnaissance and survey capability is gone, and the MOD has been well aware of the gap, from the very start. 
Well before the Telegraph's article was written, i first heard of internal reviews and discussion within the MOD over the gravity of the gap introduced, so it is not really a surprise to hear that the Fuchs might be in for a resurrection. 

I very much hope it does return, it would correct one of many errors made in the rushed SDSR, when the need to find quick, easy savings ruled supreme. 

1st Royal Tank Regiment, having left the CBRN arena, is now engaged in a return to armoured warfare ahead of the merge with 2 RTR and the transformation in a single Type 56 Challenger 2 regiment in the Reaction Force. 
A Squadron is about to assume the 18-tanks structure envisaged as part of Army 2020, while the other squadrons are training to return to the Challenger 2, while also serving in exercises and experiments meant to refine the concepts of the new army organisation. Their flag is not planned to be lowered at Honington before next year, though, so one squadron still relatively "fresh" of work on the Fuchs could still be re-directed. 
Otherwise, the call might go out to the TA. 

An armed MALE for us, please   

It was in the air for quite some time, so the news that Dassault, EADS and Alenia are calling for the joint development of a new, european Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned vehicle is not surprising either. 
This, in a way, signals the failure of the bilateral UK/France, BAE/Dassault "TELEMOS" program. After a very promising start, the bilateral program had very quickly ran aground, with France opening the door to the other european aerospace industries and, at the same time, delaying the actual launch of the program. 
Expected to start already in the summer last year, now TELEMOS appears dead. The UK and BAE have been effectively sidelined, and now a choice will have to be made on wether to join in another european project; go alone, or buy US kit. 

All four nations have requirements (more or less clear) for weapon-capable MALE vehicles. Three of them (UK, Italy and now France) have selected the Reaper. Germany is thinking about it. 
Reaper is considered, more or less by everyone, an interim solution: in the UK it is still only a UOR, funded by Treasury funds that will dry up when operations in Afghanistan end. 
The RAF's Reapers could survive if they are included in the forces that the UK will continue to maintain in Afghanistan after the end of combat operations. When Herrick 21 ends, in 2014/15, all remaining british activities in the country will be known under the collective name Op TORAL. Mainly, it will be about training and the already famed "Sandhurst in the sand" accademy for the preparation of afghan officers. However, it has already been suggested that the Reapers could also stay in Afghanistan, flown by pilots based in Waddington, to ensure the safety of the british personnel and to offer support to the ANA.
The other option is bringing the Reaper into the core defence budget, as an interim (or perhaps even definitive) solution to the Scavenger requirement. It has been suggested that, in this case, the Reapers would not be cleared to fly in british airspace, so they would be stored in their deployment containers and all training would be done with simulators (or in the US, as happens now). The RAF could accept the Reaper as a final solution because it has built a facility in Waddington for their control from UK soil, and it has received support to employ weapons from them. Indeed, the US are helping the UK integrating the Brimstone missile, to replace the Hellfire currently employed.

Italy did not consider the Reaper as an "interim" capability when it purchased them, but now it has changed its mind, because the US have turned down the request to provide weapons for the italian unmanned air vehicles. 
France is ordering up to a dozen Reapers as well, but they will be strictly unarmed and flown from the US, so that they are considered only an interim stop-gap. 

Interesting times ahead: decisions will have to be taken.

A new concept weapon from MBDA 

MBDA has launched its Concept Weapon for the year 2013. The system this time is a vertical launch artillery missile, in two different variants, for use from ships and vehicle or even containerized launchers. The CVS 302 HOPLITE weapon system is formed by the HOPLITE L, weighting 135 kg and equipped with a multimode seeker and a boosted kinetic energy penetrator capable to defeat hardened targets, and by the HOPLITE S, a slightly lighter and simpler effect, with a simpler, non boosted kinetic energy penetrator and a LADAR (LAser raDAR) seeker. 

The missiles are capable of flying at a maximum speed of over Mach 3, granting them devastating kinetic power on impact and allowing them to fly out to 70 km in less than two minutes, flying low under the radar horizon, or to 160 kilometers in around four minutes at high altitude. 

The video shows the missiles fired by launch cells that resemble that of the CAMM air defence missile. In fact, a single Sylver VLS cell is shown filled with a HOPLITE quad-pack. The missile also appears to share the Cold Launch feature of the CAMM, as evidenced by the launch from the inside of a container and from the cargo flatbed of what appears to be a high mobility truck that very much reminds the Supacat platform originally intended for roles such as LIMAWS(G), LIMAWS(R) and FALCON.
The vehicle launcher is, again, remarkably similar to the CAMM vehicle launcher, with two independent blocks of missiles. The blocks are larger (8 missiles each instead of six) but otherwise identical, as appears identical the foldable, mast-mounted data link antenna. 

HOPLITE launchers: vehicle, palletized / containerized and quad-packed in a ship's VLS cell
The HOPLITE itself is apparently just marginally bigger than CAMM (the HOPLITE L is 3,75 meters long, while the HOPLITE S is 3.2 meters long, around as much as CAMM). Probably it is just longer, but with the same diameter and, consequently, same canister size. 

The concept is very interesting, but it is only a concept, and aimed "at the 2035". Every year MBDA launches a new concept, and this shows that good thinking is going on, but i would very much prefer to see a project adopted and brought forwards to actual delivery. 

Anyway, i see with pleasure that the Cold Launch feature is being exploited in the way i suggested already long ago, to enable the use of new weapons and systems from vehicles, containers and, that is my proposal for CAMM in particular, from helicopter-mobile pallets.  
The Cold Launch, the sensor-agnostic nature of the new weapon, the data link employed to cue them, are crucial features that enable "artillery and air defence in a box", with a lot of firepower packed tightly into a palletized, stand-alone launcher that can be deployed on ships, lifted onto vehicles, or carried under slung from a helicopter from ship to shore, for example, to quickly deploy air defence missiles around a beach during amphibious operations or in other scenarios where quick solutions with limited logistic footprint are necessary. 

HOPLITE is a promising sign that the advantages of CAMM's features are not going to stay limited to the sole air defence weapon. 
Quite a lot of possibilities at easy reach!


  1. You say US has turned down Italy's request to arm its Reapers - thought they just hadn't got clearance *YET* - if you have a link/reference for a direct refusal that'd be helpful

    1. It has been said by Italy's defence chiefs. I can only link you to this, for now:

  2. Ironically this will be in the face of fights with the treasury over further cuts! Considering the Germans virtually gave them to us cutting such a strategic capability to save the nominal running cost was absurd!

    On another note Gabriele I am putting some more thought into a Key Pub forum gathering in Edinburgh to celebrate HMS Queen Elizabeth's floating out! I am still hope to have you as an honoured guest!

    Best Regards


    1. I very much hope i will be able to be there when QE is floated out.

      As for the Fuchs, further cuts or not, i believe that every effort must be made to preserve, and where necessary restore, the important capabilities compromised in the rushed search for quick cuts.

      Another of the cuts that i regret the most is, notoriously, the loss of Largs Bay, sold away to save an even more ridiculous amount of money, losing a platform which was, really, a swiss knife, good for a lot of roles and needs.

  3. Gaby

    If the reinstatement of Fuchs goes ahead, it will be great news.

    You think then that the Army will man the vehicle, rather than the RAF Regiment? That would seem logical, given the experience of 1 Royal Tank Regiment on the Fuchs. The RAF does not have much recent experience of armoured vehicles, does it?

    1. I believe it will be army manned, yes. Although the RAF Regiment is not entirely devoid of experience with armored vehicles: even if they no longer have "armoured cars" formations like in the past, in Afghanistan they use Panther, Jackal, Foxhound and even a Mastiff variant fitted with the same mast-mounted thales ROTOS sensor used on the Protected Eyes variant. The RAF Regiment uses it for ISTAR and surveillance and calls it Praetorian.

  4. Gaby

    An interesting analysis of the problems involved in trying to obtain a new medium-altitude long endurance unmanned vehicle. You mention Reaper and how one of the options is bringing it into the core defence budget, “as an interim (or perhaps even definitive) solution to the Scavenger requirement.)

    I just wanted to ask you where Watchkeeper fits into all of this. Is it a completely different kind of platform, concerned only with surveillance and reconnaissance (with different range and endurance), or could it solve some of our problems in this area? As a matter of fact, I am getting more than somewhat fed-up with waiting for it to enter service. It seems an interminable wait, with our being told it will enter this year, next year, sometime, never. Do you know any more than I do?

    1. You could say that Watchkeeper is a tactical system, with tiny weapon capability (none at the moment, but LMM missiles could be added soon enough) and it is devoted to army needs.

      Reaper/Scavenger are much more capable, and would carry significant weapon loads while flying high above the theatre of operations to provide a "strategic" level of surveillance.

      As for Watchkeeper's entry in service, the delays are due to the wish to achieve all necessary certifications for flying in civilian airspace. For Afghanistan it is too late anyway, the urgency to deploy a task line there is no longer. If it was deployed, soon enough it would be brought back. It makes more sense to go to the end with the contractor supplied Hermes 450.

  5. Gaby

    I see that the MOD has entered into a contract to provide Scan Eagle for the Royal Navy. See the item on the Defense News website.

    1. At long last, i'll add. I was starting to worry, considering that it is a UOR and we were first talking of it on here last year... Good news.

      There is also, finally, a firm contract for Meteor integration on Typhoon.
      Very much expected something regarding Meteor on F35 too, though...

    2. There is also news of talks for the C130 Sea Hercules, which could be an acceptable Nimrod replacement solution.

      And, finally, the Block 7 upgrade to the C130J is about to deliver, and this will enable the RAF to move on with Project HERMES, fitting special forces gear to the C130J, removing it from the Ks retired from service.

  6. Gaby

    Thanks for that info. Do you think some of our current Hercules could be converted to become that aircraft ("Sea Hercules")or would it mean a new buy? I know we are only talking about a possibility at this stage.

    1. For what i understand, a conversion is definitely possible, but it depends on the conditions of the existing airframes. If they have to be so extensively fixed and repaired to add too much risks and costs, a new buy becomes more attractive.

    2. That is because the C130Js of the RAF have been worked real hard in the years, and they have in front of them several more years of fatigue.

  7. Gaby

    Thanks again for the information. One last minor point. Can you see whether the Sea Hercules has floats or small pontoons on its wings. I have looked at several images and cannot tell. I am wondering whether, in an emergency, it could float!

    1. Only fuel tanks and pylons for missiles and torpedoes.

    2. Hi Gabriele,

      As you know, I agree with you that MPA is a must.

      How developed is the Sea Hercules? and what is the cost compared to the alternatives?


    3. There is not a Sea Herc prototype. In short, it exists only on paper, as of now. However, there are reasons to be optimist, due to the existance of C130s used in Coast Guard roles, involving low flying over the sea.
      Also, modular payloads, quite complex and ambitious, are already flying on C130s: Harwest Hawk, for example, which turns a C130 into a tanker/gunship for the USMC. very low cost, extremely good capability, battle proven in Afghanistan. It not an MPA, of course, but it is reassuring to see that Lochkeed can indeed get complex kit installed and working with small expense and big gains.

      The C130 solution is very likely to be much cheaper than a P8 Poseidon, for example. Of course, the best deal would be the conversion of C130s that the RAF already has, but as i said, that must depend on a very honest assessment of wether the aircrafts have life and healt left in them to make a conversion realistic.

  8. A conversion of existing hercules for a mpa platform. Really would be promising. Fingers crossed on that one! Could any equipment, sensors etc from the retired nimrods be added? Its a long shot question as you say it only exists on paper so far but would be an ideal fit given need and budgetary requirements. Could perhaps convert as many as 12 of the most under used airframes. With a400 to come in as a replacement in terms of heavy lift.
    What gabriele do you make of the bae 146? Being bought into the royal sdn, will they make a significant difference? Will they alliviate some of the pressure on the c130s?
    And finally i wondered if you had heard any more regarding the retention of sentinel?

    Many thanks, Sellers

    1. It should be possible to recover a lot of kit, from the Searchwater 2000 radar to the EO/IR turret, the sonobuoys launchers and racks, and other equipment. This was, in fact, the base for an earlier Sea Hercules proposal, made by Marshall in 2011, well before Lochkeed made public its own offering.

      I like the Bae 146, i think it will certainly prove useful, and indeed i'd like to see more of them available in future. But even these two, being UORs, have an uncertain future.

      As for Sentinel, the UK is campaigning to offer it to NATO as national contribution to the AGS capability, so things look reassuring enough. No certainties yet, though.

  9. What would the optimum number if it were to proceed, would you say?
    Hopefully can keep the sentinel in service, very useful. Proved itself now in afghan, libya and i believe also in mali.
    Thanks for the info, sellers

    1. I'd say at least 12 would be needed to deliver something close to what would have come from 9 Nimrod MRA4. Some more wouldn't hurt, but i think 12 would be a good number, financial situation considered.

    2. A Sea Hercules sounds like a promising idea, and using a tried and tested airframe that the RAF are already very familiar with has obvious advantages.

      As you say if we progressed down this path then a very honest assessment would need to be made over whether it would make more financial sense to refit the in service but hard-worked and ageing C130J's or go down the new build route.

      My concern is over how easy it would be bolt on the relevant sensors and other bits of equipment to turn it into a maritime patrol platform.

      It often looks straightforward on paper but the British defence industry doesn't exactly have a great track record when it comes to adapting pre-existing platforms by retro-fitting. Id still try and remain optimistic, but even so I can't quite shake the potential disaster scenario (or perfect storm) of prolonged development and delays which leads to the horrid cycle of inflating costs and fewer airframes from my mind.

    3. You are thinking of the Nimrod, i'm guessing. That was a shocking experience, but it is really hard to compare the Nimrod (a very special case) with the C130. The Nimrod was a disaster because, notoriously, due to how they were originally produced, no airframe was quite like another.
      I can't see that happening with the C130. Besides, i think of successful LM programs such as Vigilant Hawk and Harvest Hawk, and i'm encouraged. I think LM and Marshall could very well develop a MPA solution for the Herc.
      I hoped to write something on it today, but so far i've been way too busy. Perhaps i'll start working on it after dinner. In the meanwhile, i can point you to this old article of mine:

  10. Cheers Gabriele!

    I was thinking of Nimrod (how did you guess!). I of course know that that particular mess did have a lot of specific circumstances which made the situation very difficult and will hopefully never occur in quite the same way again.

    I do think that any move in the Sea Hercules direction would probably be a far more straightforward affair. I just hope that when those responsible are weighing up the options they apply a healthy dose of caution and remember the mistakes of the past.

  11. Fuchs on the ground in Syria? that must happen as a stabilisation force and not to continue the civil war.

  12. how i wish my government will consider buying those military equipment exhibited in this blog.

  13. NICE BLOG!!! Thanks for your valuable information,

  14. A really informative blog. I was particuarly interested in the use of the SV SCOUT as part of a network of decentralised CRN sensors. Following this through and in light of ongoing soldier system modernistaion, could the individual also act as such a sensor? Clearly weight is an issue but is this being looked at?

    1. The generalist soldier carrying CBRN detection sensors, you mean? No, i don't think we are quite getting there. Man-portable CBRN equipment is of course used by the 20 Wing, and some sort of detectors might be distributed to the troops in specific, high-danger situations, but there is no ambition that i know of about trying to expand the network to include the infantry,

  15. Telegraphs are also very important for military personnel.

  16. Great post and video i really love the content
    nice one thank you for sharing such a great post.


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