Armor improvements were one of the hottest topics at Eurosatory 2006. Challenged with growing threats, armor providers must design improved protection systems, while maintaining the armor within the weight limits of existing combat vehicles.
Some improvements call for the use of lightweight armor protection, including Boron Carbide and other ceramics that offer higher protection levels at lower specific weight. The latest armor solutions are providing impressive durability and multi-hit protection, and offer modular design, to enable routine upgrading and quick field repair of damaged modules. Further improvements have been introduced with explosive reactive armor. The latest versions, such as those provided by RAFAEL and IMI, employ Insensitive explosive sheets for optimal operation against all types of shaped charges, and also allow installation on relatively light platforms such as up-armored trucks.
Further advancements are introduced with active protection systems demonstrated at Eurosatory by RAFAEL, IMI and IBD, in cooperation with Akers and Thales. The most mature system is believed to be RAFAEL’s Trophy, currently undergoing testing with US Army Strykers and Israeli Merkava tanks. The system could be ready for fielding within a year. IMI’s Iron Fist was shown with all its components, installed on a 4×4 VAB troop carrier modified by Elbit systems to demonstrate asymmetric warfare capabilities.
The modular Active Armor Concept (AAC) from IBD was displayed on the CV90120, based on a design tailored to this vehicle by Akers. Thales’ classified SHARK active protection system was not shown at the show, but the general concept was described at the DGA display.
US and European truck manufacturers responded to growing demands for improved protection of military trucks by introducing modular armored cabs and retrofits, as well as new armored personnel carriers based on commercially available light trucks. Among the exhibitors were US truck makers International Trucks and Engines Corp., Oshkosh Trucks, Stewart and Stevenson, recently merged within the Armor Holdings group, and the UK based HMT (Supacat), newly acquired by Lockheed Martin. European truck manufacturers and armor systems providers at the show included the French Renault Defense Trucks, German KMW, Rheinmetall Defense and Mercedes Benz, Tatra from the Czech Republic and the Swiss company Mowag.
Protection of the Humvee continues to be a hot topic, due to the wide deployment of these vehicles and the vulnerability of the basic platform. AM General is introducing new models designed to carry twice the payload of the original vehicle, thus providing a much improved capability for an add-on armor suit. Responding to the growing demands, AM General is rolling out the up-armored Humvees directly from its production line, or install the armor kits in the field. Previously Armor Holdings performed these modifications.
With improved payload, the Humvee can mount additional protection for the gunner. Two versions of Gunner Protection Kits (GPK) were displayed at Eurosatory, each weighing about 100 kg. The new GPK uses transparent armor shields to provide the gunner with an unobstructed view of the vehicle’s surroundings. Armor protection kits designed for almost every military truck were on display, indicating the prosperity and growth of this market.
Panhard unveiled several new platforms, including a desert raiding vehicle designated VAP, formerly known as the experimental desert patrol vehicle. It is designed for long range patrols and deep penetration raids. The vehicle is based on an unarmored version of the VBL. Another armored vehicle introduced by Panhard is the AVL, previously known as the Auverland A5. This air transportable armored vehicle is designed as a command vehicle or for patrol missions. A special version of AVL called Gavial was modified to meet German Army requirements. Another armored command vehicle, the Yak was modified specifically as a command vehicle by Rheinmetall Landsysteme. This high mobility, armored 12 ton vehicle is based on the 6×6 multi-role Duro wheeled vehicle chassis, fitted with interchangeable multi-purpose modules to fulfill all Command Post (CP) functions. YAK is also built for German Army use.
New at Eurosatory 2006 was the wooden mock-up of the German GEFAS, presenting a distinctive shape, impressive protection level and innovative, modular design. GEFAS stands for “Geschuetztes Fahrzeug System” or “Advanced Protected Vehicle system”. This hybrid electric powered vehicle is designed to provide high level of protection and will be easily reconfigureable to accommodate various mission specific modules. The basic protected vehicle displayed at Eurosatory was configured for convoy protection, patrol and escort missions. It was armed with a remotely operated weapon station and fitted with a high level of protection consisting of the basic armor suite for defeating small arms, fragments, IEDs and mines. The vehicle will accommodate a crew of four. Rheinmetall plans to have the first vehicle ready for field demonstrations by the end of 2007.