Armored vehicles at DSEi 07: While British forces are pulled out of the conflict zone in Iraq, the UK Ministry of Defence is not resting as it pursues new armored vehicles programs to improve operational capabilities and troop protection. Three armored vehicle programs dominated this year’s DSEi 07 exhibition – the development and procurement of thousands of future family of armored vehicles known as Future Rapid Effect Systems (FRES), with a potential value of GBP16 billion; the Warrior Sustainment Program, which includes the upgrade of some 450 Warriors Infantry Combat Vehicles at a cost of about half a billion pounds and the procurement of additional 180 Medium Protected Patrol Vehicles (MPPV) at an estimated value of about GBP100 million.
Future Rapid Effects Systems (FRES) is the largest armored fighting vehicle program in Europe, with up to 3,000 vehicles expected to be procured. At present, the competition for the supply of about 2,000 8×8 FRES Utility Vehicles (UV) is underway. These will cover a number of variants, including a scout vehicle which will replace the current Scimitar, a direct fire platform and maneuver support vehicles (engineer and bridgelayers). This will be followed by the acquisition of a land combat vehicle, troop carrier and mobile gun and indirect fire systems (mortar carrier), based on different tracked or wheeled platforms. The three finalists for FRES UV – French Nexter VBCI, German-Dutch BOXER built by Artec and the Swiss made General Dynamics’ / MOWAG Piranha Evolution based on the Piranha V design, participated in intensive trials held this summer. A decision on the outcome of these tests is expected in
Some of the vehicles and technologies associated with FRES were on display at DSEi 07, including the French VBCI 8×8 vehicle, a Piranha III fitted with Saab Avitronics active protection system and several turrets which could be associated with the upcoming FRES scout configuration. General Dynamics UK also demonstrated a typical internal configuration utilizing synthetic situational display for the driver and commander and individual computer screens for crew members, facilitating ‘virtual windows’ for improved situational awareness.
The British MOD has set a higher priority for the modernization and upgrading 449 of its 786 Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle with modern guns and electronics, and is currently planning to begin fielding the upgraded vehicles by 2010 – 2011 timeframe, about two years ahead of the original schedule. The upgrade is expected to sustain the vehicle’s operability until 2035. Several competitors associated with the program displayed their hardware at the exhibition, including Lockheed Martin Insys, BAE systems and Selex Sensors & Airborne Systems.
Other modifications are planned for the FV432 Mk3 (Bulldog) troop carrier, which has recently received enhanced armor protection. These include an uprated power train, sustaining the heavier loads of the up-armored Mk3. At DSEi 07, Selex also demonstrated an FV-432 fitted with the latest electronics, situational awareness and integrated weapon systems, hinting about how future armored vehicles could be equipped.
Another hot topic at DSEi 07 was the Medium Protected Patrol Vehicle (MPPV), which is part of the British Army procurement agenda for 2008. Following the introduction of the heavily protected Mastiff armored vehicles, the British MOD plans to field, by 2009, 180 additional medium protected patrol vehicles (MPPV) supporting troop transportation, convoys and patrols. Sofar, the Army is using two versions of armored patrol vehicles – the heavily armored Mastiff 6×6 truck, produced by the US based Force Protection International and the light armored 6×6 truck called Vector, produced by Austrian Pinzgauer recently integrated within BAE Systems (through the acquisition of the US based Armor Holdings group). Minimum requirements for the MPPV call for a wheeled vehicle to operate on road and on rough tracks in urban, semi-urban and rural environments. It should also have a maximum weight of 14 tons, be capable of carrying up to seven troops and provide protection against ballistic, mine, fragmentation and blast threats. Vehicles are expected to mount Bowman radios, Counter-IED jammers, specialist armor and weapon mounts, including protected gunner positions or remotely operated weapon stations.
Several candidates for the program displayed or discussed their hardware at DSEi 07. Some of these vehicles were brand new. One of the new entries was QinetiQ, teamed with specialist vehicle contractor MacNeillie & Son to offer an MPPV based on MacNeillie’s Military Armored carrier System (MACS) design.
A different proposal based on the all-composite CAVCAT armored vehicle was presented by NP Armour Systems. Other new candidates include the Blackwater Grizzly, which made its international debut at the show. Other new vehicles at DESi were the latest model of the South African RG31 Mk6 and the Australian Bushmaster, presented here by Thales Australia and Oshkosh. (3)
DESi 07 provided the opportunity for the European debut for the Israeli Golan armored vehicle from RAFAEL. 60 such vehicles are currently in production for the US Marine Corps. The vehicle is also being considered for use by the Israeli army, as an ‘urban patrol vehicle’.
Another vehicle on display was the Cheetah from Force protection. This is the lightest version of FPI’s family of mine protected armored vehicles. Cheetah provides a highly protected alternative for small patrol vehicles, such as the British Snatch (armored Landrover), and up-armored HMMWV. FPI decided to bring the Cheetah to the UK to promote support among MoD in the acquisition of this vehicle as potential replacement for medium protected command and patrol vehicle. Such acquisition could be considered apart from the MPPV procurement, as Cheetah does not comply with the accommodation and load capacity requirements of the MPPV. Other vehicles unveiled at the show include teh J8 from Jeep and a new 6×6 Land Rover.
Other aspects of vehicle protection on display at DSEi 07 included a range of safety seats, designed to improve crew protection in an event of IED or mine attacks. Blast protected seats are becoming indispensable in every new or upgraded mine-protected vehicle program and the choice of seats offered by manufacturers is growing. Other aspects of vehicle protection include the employment of weapons behind armor, using remotely operated weapon stations. Several manufacturers introduced new systems at DSEi 07, and some systems are covered here. Active protection systems are also maturing, and are considered to provide an essential (not exclusive) layer of protection in any future armor solution. Some of the systems displayed at DSEi 07 are covered here.