The DVD event this year at Milbrook made less noise than in other years, partly because the Paris airshow stole the headlines and partly because the focus is shifting away from making big orders under Urgent Requirement procedure to fill gaps evidenced by combat experience in Afghanistan to finding ways to bring the UOR stuff already purchased into the Core Budget.
Jane's has a video feature about DVD2013 which contains a few interesting news. First of all, the Warthog seem to be on the list of the goners. The Army's position seems to be that there is no place for the vehicle in the Core Budget. This is hardly a surprise: who's been following this blog for a while has probably had the chance to hear from me the opinion that, either the Royal Marines are interested and buy in, or the Warthog has not an evident place in Army 2020. Mind you, this does not mean that it is a bad or useless platform, but that it does not fill an evident, prioritary capability slot and is, consequently, not going to see the money.
A Foxhound WMIK is also shown in the video. So far, the army has not ordered the WMIK nor the Utility variants of the Foxhound, since it already has Jackal, Coyote and Husky. Standardizing on a single platform (the Foxhound) would be of course interesting and advantageous, but it would cost a lot of money that the Army simply does not have.
The Foxhound in the images is fitted with an Electronic Warfare package on a telescopic mast.
A more interesting fact quoted in the article regards the exposition of a HDT Storm vehicle, a lightweight high mobility 4x4 developed as a weapon platform with casualty evacuation capability, with complete air transportability. The Storm fits within a Chinook's cargo bay, can be air dropped (including with Joint Precision Air Drop package, JPADS, to ensure high accuracy delivery) and can be airlifted by any tactical cargo aircraft. The Storm has a pintle mount for a medium machine gun near the driver's seat and a ring mount for an additional machine gun on top, giving 360° field of fire. It is meant to carry up to three litters in Roll-Over Protection system (ROP) while retaining its combat capability.
|The HDT Storm provides impressive all terrain mobility|
The HDT was showcased, according to Jane's, because industry is eyeing a MOD requirement, that could be launched in 2016, for the purchase of a similar platform as part of a program to try and rebuild a complete Joint Personnel Recovery capability (Combat Search and Rescue) to close one of several macro-gaps (Maritime Patrol Aircraft, carrier strike, Joint Personnel Recovery and Supression of Enemy Air Defence, SEAD) in capability identified by Permanent Joint HQ (PJHQ).
The british army, in theory, already has a vehicle that fits inside a Chinook, and that is the Supacat HMT400, better known as the Jackal. However, fitting a Jackal inside a Chinook is a challenge: there really is no space to spare, the weapon mount on the ring on top of the vehicle must be removed and then re-fitted following disembarkation, and the HMT400, anyway, is not a vehicle thought for casualty evacuation.
While a Jackal with fuel and armor weights 5500 kg, and with crew and payload (kerb weight) can weight well over 7500 kg, with a minimum height (suspensions fully lowered, no weapon mount on top) of 1885 mm and a width of 2050 mm, the Storm only weights 1960 kg (kerb weight) rising to 3651 at full load, and is 1680 mm high and 2030 mm wide. The Storm can launch quickly out of a Chinook, without needing to be re-fitted with any piece, and ride over extremely rough terrain to reach the casualties and evacuate them back to the LZ. The mobility of the Storm is absolutely impressive, and significantly exceed even that of the Jackal, with its approach angle of 74° and capability to overcome a 914 mm high vertical obstacle.
|Squeezing a HMT Extenda into a Chinook, with no space to spare @Supacat|
The HDT Storm has been selected by the USAF for its Guardian Angel Air Deployable Rescue Vehicle (GAARV), so it is well placed to compete for any possible british order. If Joint Personnel Recovery ever manages to get funding in such a strained budget, that is.
The video also shows what looks like an unmanned, remotely controlled Project PANAMA Land Rover Snatch. These Land Rovers converted in drones are used as part of the Talisman route clearance convoys in Afghanistan. When not used to scout ahead of the other vehicles for mines and IEDs with their large front-mounted detector (ground-penetrating radar?), they are often seen towed by the large Mastiff vehicles.
The Land Rover in the video is shown with a second sensor, a Raytheon SOTERIA laser mine detector. It is not clear if the British Army has shown any interest for this system, which was classified before being shown at DVD. It might already be in use.
|A PANAMA Land Rover as seen in Afghanistan, under tow and with the large IED Detector folded up|
|The Raytheon SOTERIA mounted on top of the Land Rover|
The show also provided a perfect occasion for Navistar and Supacat to announce their collaboration agreement to jointly support the 1000-strong combined fleet of Husky, Coyote and Jackal vehicles which the British Army is bringing into core budget.
For the occasion, one of 16 new Husky recovery vehicles was showcased. The Husky Recovery is the MOD's solution to the urgent requirement for a light recovery platform, alternative to the huge, 32 tons MAN Wrecker, which is unsuitable for tight areas and for some tasks. The Husky Recovery seem set to have a good long term future, since the Coyote, Jackal, Husky and even Foxhound fleet are all "clients" for such lightweight recovery service and they all are an important component of Army 2020.
It would appear almost certain that additional Husky recovery vehicles will be required in future. British Forces News has a video from Camp Bastion showing the Husky Recovery.
WEW also put its focus on long term support of UOR capability, in particular regarding the Fuel Dispensing Racks it provided to the MOD for use in Afghanistan. These containerized 9500 liters tanks, compatible with hook arm and Enhanced Pallet Load System (EPLS) cargo trucks (6x6 or 8x8) are designed as self sufficient fuel stations that can be loaded on a truck, transported to a FOB and dropped on the ground, ready to dispense fuel.
The FDRs are only one of many deployable, containerized solutions developed in the last few years. CT scanners, workshops, fitter sections and other services have been similarly made "expeditionary" with some brilliant solutions. G3 has provided many of these solutions.
For example, already back in 2008 the MOD took delivery of 13 Combined Instrument Repair Facilities (CIRF’s), container-mounted laboratories for the maintenance of day, night and laser sights used on armored vehicles including Challenger 2, Warrior and FRES SV.
There are also 44 Deployable Machine Shops
A containerized hospital facility also entered service. A full solution for the support of the Military Working Dog Regiment also followed, with 17 containerized accomodation units having been procured, each comprising environmental control and spaces for the handlers to prepare food for the dogs and do basic admin.
More recently, the Fitter Section In A Box (FSIAB), was procured: a container with two inflatable shelters, its own generator and all the tools needed for maintenance on Foxhound, Husky and Jackal/Coyote vehicles.
Other solutions and offers also exist.
|The look of a container accomodation unit deployed and fitted with external kennels|
This year, G3 and Marshall have decided to work together in Team M3 to offer their combined capabilities to the MOD. This year's box solution is the module containing the two-man self-contained, deployable laboratory developed for the Future Deployable Geospatial Intelligence project. The Box is installed on a Mowag DURO II vehicle. The DURO is already in use in the british army in several roles, including as carrier for the deployable REACHER satellite communications terminals.
|The DURO on mobility trials.|
Marshall Specialist Vehicles is one of several companies composing the Team SOCRATES, comprising SciSYS and Actica Consulting. The team is lead by Lochkeed Martin UK, which won the contract for the Future Deployable GEOINT in January last year.
The Future Deployable GEOINT project is part of a wider program, PICASSO, for the modernisation and sustainment of british GEOINT capability, within the evolution of the armed forces' ISTAR.
Update 24 and 25 June 2013
Shephard adds more news from DVD with some news taken from Brigadier General Robert Talbot Rice, the head of the DE&S Armoured Vehicles Programme.
Talbot confirms that the Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme is taking shape. It is currently still in the concept phase, but it will hit Initial Gate next year. It seems that all decisions that matter have yet to be taken, and the Brigadier General does not provide any real clue about what the Army is planning. The LEP will be mostly about Obsolescence Management, and this was to be expected, but Talbot nonetheless says that there opportunities to do some "really good things".
Accepted that the idea of replacing the rifled cannon with a smoothbore german L55 gun is dead, because of problems in adapting the internal storage spaces for the one-piece ammunition, there are other "opportunities" that were already highlighted by the now defunct Challenger 2E. For example, the replacement of the powerpack with a more modern one: years ago, the diesel Perkins CV 12 TCA 1,200 hp with associated Davis Brown TN-54 transmission and cooling system were replaced on a Challenger 2 used as demonstrator. In what was called Project Exmouth, the powerpack was replaced by a 1,500 hp diesel MTU EuroPowerPack composed by MT 883 V12 engine and Renk HSWL 295 TM transmission.
The improvement was dramatic: more speed, better mobility, and considerable free space obtained aboard, which could be used for storing more fuel or adding other capabilities. Eventually, this solution was adopted by the Challenger 2E that BAE offered, unsuccesfully, on the export market.
|The vastly improved Challenger 2E failed to win the export orders BAE had hoped for, and it was eventually abandoned @Image courtesy of JW Boer|
The replacement of the powerpack and the addition of an Auxiliary Power Unit to provide the tank's systems with energy while the main engine is off, would rank, in my opinion, as not just "really good things" but as extremely good things.
|The Challenger 2 at the latest Theatre Entry Standard for Iraq operations. A true mobile fortress, it could certainly use a more powerful engine|
On the Warrior CSP, the read is less pleasant. Apparently, so far the MOD has placed a firm contract for just 65 vehicles to be fully upgraded (including the much improved turret with the CT40 gun). The aspiration is to upgrade 300 more, but the Brigadier General specifies that discussions are still ongoing at Army HQ to decide exactly how many Warriors should get the upgrade. The Brigadier says that, if it so was decided, higher numbers of Warriors could be upgraded, but taking the money away from the pot currently reserved for FRES UV.
The last solid info we were given on the Warrior upgrade came from the NAO Major Projects Report 2012. The document allowed us to learn that:
The affordable fleet is made up by 565 Warrior vehicles (all variants, we have to assume)
The Warrior CSP was planned to be done on 445 vehicles
It is worth remembering that the Warrior upgrade is made up by several different components. In the words of the NAO:
1. Warrior Fightability Lethality Improvement ProgrammeThe "full upgrade" comprising modular protection system, enhanced electronic architecture and WFLIP is destined to the frontline IFV variants (FV510 Section vehicle, including those modified for anti-tank section carriage, and FV511 infantry command vehicle), while the "turretless" variants, only get the EEA and MPS improvements for obvious reasons. (NOTE: the turretless variants include the FV512 recovery and the FV513 repair variants, but also the FV514 artillery observation post, which has the turret but only a dummy gun due to the need for space for the electronics).
(A new turret incorporating a fully stabilised automatic 40mm cannon)
The 40 mm Cased Telescopic Cannon and Ammunition System has been mandated as the weapon system for Warrior and procured by a joint Anglo-French project. The project is currently part way through qualification of the ammunition and cannon, concurrently the weapon system is being integrated into Warrior by Lockheed Martin UK, who will qualify the new turret.
2. Enhanced Electronic Architecture
(Power generation and distribution enhancement and the introduction of a modern electronic architecture)
3. Modular Protection System
(Applique Armour fixing points, enabling a 'tailored' armour solution to counter specific threats)
4. Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle
(A new variant, replacing obsolescent platforms, that has equal protection and mobility to the core fighting platforms). Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle is currently in the Concept Phase and is subject to future approval.
|The Warrior CSP full package @Lochkeed Martin UK|
The Warrior CSP programme is still in its Demonstration Phase, so that justifies the low number of full upgrades so far ordered. Final decisions on the exact numbers are evidently yet to be made. If Shephard's report is correct and the 300 further vehicles are to be intended as "turreted", that would mean a maximum of 365 vehicles armed vehicles upgraded from a total of (if the NAO data is still up to date) 445 vehicles interested by the CSP.
This would leave 80 repair, recovery and artillery observation vehicles. The numbers should be about right for the planned force of 6 armoured infantry battalions.
|A Warrior CSP prototype, seen during trials with the Modular Protection System|
Where exactly the Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle sits, is hard to say. Until the release of the NAO 2012 report, many (certainly i had) had assumed that ABSV was dead, since nothing had been heard about it from as far back as 2005, when, while in the concept phase, it was merged with the Warrior CSP upgrade in the Labour mandated Defence Industrial Strategy (page 79, paragraph B3.8)
The ABSV requirement can be traced back to at least 1995, so it is rather scary to see it still as just a concept. Three prototypes were built in the early 2000s, when the conversion of 125 Warrior vehicles was envisaged, with ISD in 2007. There was to be a Command Post variant, an ambulance and a personnel carrier / general support variant, which perhaps would have included a mortar carrier development. The objective was (and still is, at the end of the day) the replacement of a large number of FV430-series vehicles.
Today's shape of the ABSV is not yet clear. FRES SV is supposed to deliver an armoured personnel carrier, so that developing one from old Warrior vehicles does not appear necessary. FRES SV (albeit in a later phase, RECCE BLOCK 2) should also deliver ambulance and command variants.
On the other hand, there is no clear replacement in sight for the FV430 mortar carrier, and a medium weight bridgelayer requirement, for 35 vehicles, which was to be part of FRES SV, was descoped while a Warrior bridgelayer prototype was showcased.
The situation is especially complex because early this year the press reported that FRES SV, having been delayed with an extension to the demonstration phase, could be expanded to include vehicles originally planned for later RECCE Blocks: specifically the ambulance (from Block 3) and the Command Post and Engineer Recce Vehicle from Block 2.
However, i have not heard any news on wheter the decision was effectively made or not.
|FRES SV as it was a few years ago, from a BAE presentation|
Planning Round 11 confirmed that FRES SV remains a fundamental part of the future army, but pushed entry into service to the right by 9 months while extending the scope of the demonstration phase. The ISD date is not disclosed (it is classified in the NAO report), but we are possibly looking at 2018, if not later. I've read that CVR(T) vehicles will not be entirely gone before 2026.
The FRES SV has been broken down into multiple parts, all with their own decision Gates. So far, activity has focused on RECCE Block 1 (Scout vehicle, Armoured Personnel Carrier, Repair, Recovery and Common Base Platform) but if other vehicles types are brough forwards, the whole strategy of the Blocks could be in for a rethink.
Part of the Block 2 is the Joint Fires direction vehicle, destined to carry a full six-man Fire Support Team of the Royal Artillery, with full equipment for the direction, under-armor or dismounted, of mortar, artillery and air attacks. However, in the Army 2020 structure, there might now be a direct overlap between the Warrior FV514 and the FRES FST: with the centralization of the tracked armoured vehicles in three brigades, instead of having such elements in five multi role brigades, means that, basically, the FV514 and FRES FST seem to now be in direct competition for supporting the tracked heavy armour, while there is not a planned FST vehicle for the wheeled mechanized battalions planned in the force structure.
One possible scenario is the cancellation of either the FV514 or of the FRES FTS, in my opinion. If i had to choose, i'd prefer developing the FRES FTS, which would offer much more advanced and future proof electronics as well as more space. It would cost more up front, probably, but it would be a better investment for the future.
Eventually, a FRES UV FST would be needed in future for the wheeled mechanised battalions, instead. Two tracked, medium weight FST vehicles are redundant, while there's a clear gap waiting to happen in the wheeled formations.
The FRES SV programme was expected to also include a larger, rear-echelon command post and a larger Unit Aid Post vehicle (ambulance variant for the evacuation of casualties to the rear echelon, towards the UAP vehicle that is equipped for treatment), but even this might well change.
Finally, the RECCE Block 3 was also meant to include a Ground Based Surveillance vehicle, shown with mast-mounted long range sensors; a Shielder (retired from service early as part of cuts) replacement fitted with mine dispensers but also other means of area denial, including non-lethal solutions, and an Overwatch vehicle armed with long range missiles.
All three these variants appear, to my eyes, to be exposed at particularly high risk of never happening, despite being immensely interesting. The Shielder replacement vehicle would have a flatbed fitted with the systems selected under the ongoing Counter Mobility studies.
In practice, a whole rethink of FRES SV appears necessary (again). The tightness of the budget, the overlap with Warrior in some niche areas and the gaps emerging because of the changing face of the Army suggest that a 3 Blocks FRES SV is no longer desirable.
One would expect the Warrior ABSV variant to go and fill the roles left uncovered by FRES SV. But the brigadier does not provide hints, and actually adds confusion when he says that part of the requirement for FRES UV could be perhaps covered by "more ABSV vehicles".
I hope he has clear ideas himself, because he admittedly lost me along the way: i'm finding it hard to guess what the line of thought is. Especially since it is not even clear from where the ABSVs will come from: there is no real room in the 445 vehicles highlighted for the CSP: perhaps ABSV would be about conversion of the remaining 120 vehicles (565 affordable fleet - 445 for CSP).
The Royal Artillery is trying to find ways (and funds) to implement its own specific system upgrade on the FV514, to turn it into a modern Fire Support Team armoured carrier. Below you can see the prototype, and read about the main features. The images and data are from Gunner, the Royal Artillery's magazine.
|Report from Gunner magazine, showing the trials done by the Royal Artillery to shape the way forwards for the FV514|
As we saw earlier in the article, there is now reason to believe that two tracked FST platforms are not needed nor desirable. If i was the one taking the decisions, i'd:
- Restructure ABSV to deliver a Warrior Mortar Carrier and the Warrior Bridgelayer. FV514 would be abandoned.
- FRES SV restructured to deliver Scout, Recovery, Repair, Armoured Personnel Carrier, Command Post and communications, Ambulance/Treatment, Fire Support Team vehicles and Countermobility platform.
Long range sensors and overwatch missiles, which are by definition meant to stay away from the fighting and observe / strike from long range and concealed positions, could be installed on cheaper platforms than a fully grown FRES SV hull. An example of this approach is the Sandcat 4x4 fitted with a battery of SPIKE NLOS missiles, which could be a very powerful solution to the Overwatch requirement. I'm pretty sure that Foxhound could be kitted in a similar way.
Regarding FRES UV itself, it is in concept phase with a team of just one, for now, working on writing the list of requirements. Talbot Rice says that funding for FRES UV is available in the core budget from fiscal year 2015/16 onwards. The entry into service is expected in 2022 according to the MOD, but the Brigadies suggests that there is still a lot of thought to be put into the programme before final decisions are made. The army will see if other platforms (from Foxhound to ABSV) can help cover the needs of the force, but he anticipates that there is an irreducible requirement that will have to be met with a wheeled protected mobility platform. The new bit of info here is that it is no longer restricted to 8x8 only: Talbot mentions specifically a 6x6 as a possible solution.
FRES UV, judging from the road described in the Army 2020 plan, will very much return to the general requirements that were of the MRAV programme, years and years ago, when the UK hadn't yet left the Boxer 8x8 programme and FRES was yet to come.
Back then, the requirement was for a 8x8 vehicle which would come in APC variant (for 8 to 10 dismounts), Ambulance and Treatment, Mortar vehicle and Anti-Tank Platoon variant, with supports.
If Army 2020 wants to mechanized and put on wheels a minimum of three infantry battalions, FRES UV will need to deliver the same kind of variants, plus FST vehicle and Infantry Command variant.
Either on 8x8 or 6x6 architecture.
At the mention of 6x6, the mind races to the VBMR 6x6 vehicle that the french army wants to replace a thousand or more VABs. I've been saying at least since 2011 that it would make sense to work as much as possible together on this one, and perhaps someone at DE&S agrees with me.
It would appear fair and advantageous for both to rub each other's back where possible: for example, it now seems likely that the french army will order 30 Watchkeeper drones to fullfill its requirement, as outlined in the recent White Paper. If this interview is real, french minister Le Drian says it is already decided that Watchkeeper will be the chosen sysyem.
In addition, Shephard reports that french army personnel is in the UK from over two months and has been trained on the Terrier, since the Armee de Terre has an incoming requirement for such an engineer vehicle.
Interesting scenario, isn't it...?