The Protected Mobility Fleet procured under UOR process and now destined to bea n important part of Army 2020, is due to be given a new wealth of life and modifications. Mastiff, Ridgback, Wolfhound and, down the weight ladder, Husky, Jackal and Coyote, are all due to get important roles within Army 2020.
In particular, Mastiff and Ridgback are expected to be used to mechanize three large infantry battalions, one for each Reaction Force brigade. Wolfhound will continue to carry on important logistic and support roles.
Sheperd News is reporting that an important program of modifications is due to finished by mid-2016 over the Mastiff, Ridgback and Wolfhound fleets. This program of work includes uplifting the older, worn-out and less performing Mastiff 1 to Mastiff 2 standard, and also includes conversion work to change an unspecified number of Troop Carrying vehicles into Communications and Command vehicles.
The contract notice says:
Short description of the contract or purchase(s):Armoured military vehicles. To provide Fleet Conversion services for the Army's Protected Mobility (PM) fleet of vehicles to achieve the correct variant mix to meet the requirements of the Army 2020 (A2020) Force Development Strategy, against the following vehicle types, hereafter known as 'The Platforms'.
Mastiff – all variants,
Ridgback – all variants,
Wolfhound – all variants,
Currently envisaged deliverables to include, but not be limited to:
— Mastiff Troop Carrying Variant (MAS TCV) to Mastiff Enhanced Communications Variant (MAS ECV) Conversion,
— Ridgback Troop Carrying Variant (RBK TCV) to Ridgback Command Variant (RBK CV) Conversion,
— Wolfhound Explosive Ordinance Disposal (WHD EOD) variant to Wolfhound Military Working Dog (WHD MWD) variant Conversion,
— Mastiff 1 to Mastiff 2 Conversion.
Note that none of the variants mentioned are new. The Mastiff 2 Enhanced Communications Variant is already in service. Work to outfit this variant, as well as the Ridgback Command Variant was done in 2010 by General Dynamics UK.
These variants are among several others that are less known that the standard troop carriers. The MOD in 2010 stated, via DESIDER magazine, that "just under 200" Mastiff 2 had been procured since December 2008, in six variants:
- Troop Carrying Variant (making "more than half" of the fleet)
- Battlefield ambulance
- Protected Eyes
- Interim Electronic Countermeasures
- Interim EOD (at least 23)
- Enhanced Communications Variant
There is even a RAF Regiment variant of the Mastiff, the PRAETORIAN, which in itself very closely resembles the Mastiff PROTECTED EYES, the command vehicle for the Talisman route clearance convoys. They appear to be fitted with the same ROTAS eletro optic sensor turret on telescopic mast and with the same M151 Protector Remote Weapon Station. PRAETORIAN isn't listed among the variants, possibly because it is counted together with Protected Eyes. EDIT: observing the photos better, front crew doors are open, which suggest that PRAETORIAN is built on Mastiff 3, not on Mastiff 2. This could explain why it does not figure among Mastiff 2 variants.
|Mastiff 2 Protected Eyes, leading a Talisman convoy during training. Beautiful photo by Rick Ingham, all credits due to him.|
|A photo of the PRAETORIAN Mastiff. The open crew door is visible, and it suggests that the vehicle is actually built on Mastiff 3, not on Mastiff 2|
The Enhanced Communications Variant carries the BOWMAN Enhanced Communications Suite, comprising HF and VHF radio, plus satellite communications. A similar suite equips the Ridgback command vehicle.
Evidently, however, the vehicles available in these specialist variants aren't enough to meet the requirements of the Army 2020 force structure, so a number of conversions are needed. It would appear likely that these conversions will mostly be done to Mastiff 2 and Mastiff 1 uplifted to MK2 standard, leaving the more modern and capable Mastiff 3 (around 100?), which offers greater mobility, for the troop carrying role.
The Mastiff 3 in fact introduced a more powerful engine, assisted by a gearbox with six speeds instead of five. Increased braking power is also available, while comfort and ease of embarkation for the two crew members and eight dismounts is given by a roof height increased by 7 inches and by opening armoured front doors.
American sources suggest that the UK has bought a total of 314 Mastiff vehicles, all MKs, all variants.
The Wolfhound order total sits at 125, on two separate contracts.
The Ridgback order was for 154 vehicles.
For obvious reasons, it is likely that not all of them will be useable and retained once their use in combat operations in Afghanistan ends.
It is curious to see that Wolfhound EOD variants are apparently considered excess to requirement, while a greater number of Military Working Dogs pods are required. This might indicate that the EOD regiments have settled on different platforms for their needs (Mastiff itself, perhaps?) while the Military Working Dog regiment is happy with its own variant.
Again, both variants are in fact already in service: according to MOD sources, at least 44 pods for the transport of dog kennels have been procured, alongside an unspecified number of EOD pods. The wolfhound is also used for general, tactical transport duties and has also been used in theatre as towing vehicle for the L118 Light Gun. In fact, three variants exist: general purpose flatbed cargo carrier, EOD and Military Working Dog carrier.
The MOD also procured 30 surplus american Cougar 6x6 and 4x4 vehicles, to be used as basic training fleet. The Cougar 6x6 is the base vehicle which, with many extensive modifications, turns into Mastiff, while the 4x4 is the base for Ridgback. These 30 vehicles, known as Cougar Training Vehicles (CTV) might or might not be kept in the long term as training fleet. The uncertainty comes from an earlier contract notice put out by the MOD for the provision of:
Post Design Services (PDS) including the design and development of modifications and the delivery of associated mod kits, against the following vehicle types, hereafter known as “The Platforms”.Note that in the "possible" platforms are not mentioned in the newer contract notice. This could mean a separate contract will eventually follow, but among the possible meanings there is also the intention of the MOD not to continue investing in this valuable equipment. This would be particularly painful in the case of Buffalo Rummage A2 and Rummage A2 MK2 (improved, safer and 1 ton heavier), as these are fundamental pieces of the Talisman route-clearance convoys. Abandoning CHOKER would also be quite a waste of equipment which continues to have a value, was high in demand until very recently and would again be in high demand as soon as the armed forces were once more dealing with the IED and mine menace.
— Mastiff – All variants;
— Wolfhound – All variants;
— Ridgback – All Variants;
— Roll Over Drills and Egress Trainer (RODET);
— Possibly, Cougar Training Vehicles (CTV);
— Possibly, Buffalo – All Variants;
— Possibly, CHOKER Mine roller System.
|Buffalo Rummage A2 towing a PANAMA unmanned Land Rover with IED search equipment. The future of the excellent Talisman "system of systems" remains unclear. What is the Army planning to do with it?|
Following the evolution of the Protected Mobility Fleet and its ancillary equipment, such as mine rollers and other kit, will be an important (and challenging) part of studying, analyzing and surveying the fate of the British Army.
At least, the variety of combat proven variants already available means that the Cougar-derived family is the perfect base for building a capable fleet covering all the key roles. That's very important because many of these roles truly need modern solutions rolled into service.
It is also important because, while we are promised that FRES UV will replace Mastiff in the mechanized battalions by around 2025, history reminds us that the 6x6 "super-trucks" could end serving the Army for a far longer time.
In the meanwhile, other vehicle fleets are being brough back home, and restored to full efficiency to return in service.