While high altitude special mission aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and other advanced Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms have grabbed the limelight, an enduring reality on the battlefield today and for many years to come will be the use of medium and lightweight tracked and wheeled reconnaissance vehicles, acting as the eyes and ears of manoeuvre forces. These platforms will take on the task of scouting ahead, investigating areas of interest and accurately marking targets or enemy concentrations and transmitting that over the network across echelons of command, populating the common operation picture with critical situational awareness that simply can’t be achieved any other way.
by Adam Baddeley
Platforms tasked with undertaking this have been largely divided into two categories; one is what might have been termed ‘scout cars’ many years ago; light armoured vehicles that emphasise speed and mobility over protection and heavy armament to conduct their missions and larger better protected 6×6, 8×8 or tracked designs employing medium calibre cannon and in some cases anti-tank ordnance.
Special Forces have long placed an emphasis on speed for protection rather than armour in conducting operations and missions, many of which. The US Special Operations Command Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) 1.1 programme competition has prompted a number of solutions to appear over the past few months. The GMV 1.1 requirement is for a vehicle with scalable armour protection according to near, high speed with the ability to be carried via a CH-47 helicopter and equipped with an advanced C4ISR systems with nearly 1300 vehicles required replacing the legacy modified HMMWVs.
Northrop Grumman launched its solution for the GMV 1.1, the Medium Assault Vehicles – Light (MAV-L)at AUSA in October, developed with partners BAE Systems and Pratt and Miller Engineering. The design has a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of 5.8 tonnes with a payload of two tonnes and has been shown to offer speeds of 60Mph over cross country trials.
The MAV-L is not alone, one of the most recent offerings in this field is the Special Purpose All-Terrain Vehicle (S-ATV) developed by Oshkosh Defense. The solution is equipped with the TAK-4 independent suspension system, used on the successful M-ATV and implemented on number of other platforms.
Other offerings include that of General Dynamics OTS and Flyer Defense LLC, offering the latter’s Flyer Advanced Light Strike Vehicle. Navistar, SAIC and Indigen Armor have developed the Non-Standard Tactical Truck (NSTT) platform. Another Light Armoured Vehicle in this category was the Spectre from General Dynamics Land Systems offered in a Widetrack configuration which can be carried by a CH-47 and has a scalable armour package. The vehicle has a combat weight of 4.7 tonnes and is powered by a 3.2L g CYL Turbo Diesel which runs on JP8 fuel and has a scalable open architecture. HDT Storm’s Light Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle has a turning circle of just 6.1m and has a gross vehicle weight of 3.65 tonnes and at maximum load can reach 60mph in under 15 seconds and has a maximum speed of 161Kmph and has range of 563km.
Polaris Defence recently unveiled their Amour Concept Demonstrator, developed with M9 Defense and designed to provide high levels of protection but at a 40 percent reduction in weight over what is in service today. Features include a aluminium exo-skeleton, a seamless composite V-hull with crew capsule protection to STANAG IIII and Door protection to STANAG III+ with an number of areas using a steel – composite hybrid material. Polaris also had their MRZ2 and MRZR 4 ultra-light tactical vehicle on show aimed at airmobile or special operations forces.
Beyond the world of special forces the next generation scout vehicles for the US Army will be met in part by the Joint Light Tactual Vehicle (JLTV) programme, the potential HMMWV replacement, currently at the Engineering Manufacturing Development stages with teams lead by AM General, Lockheed martin and Oshkosh being awarded contracts for the 27 month effort.
To meet the requirement of JLTV, a number of light armoured vehicle designs have emerged. Oshkosh’s L-ATV Light combines features of the M-ATV, notably its protection levels and the use of its TAK-4 based AK-4i intelligent independent suspension system to provide 508 mm of wheel travel as well as new features such as an optional ProPulse hybrid diesel-electric drive train kit generating on-board and export power. AM General’s Blast Resistant Vehicle Offroad (BRV-O) and BAE Systems-Northrop Grumman’s Valanx solution are two more. Another, Navistar’s Saratoga has a reported payload of over 3.3 tonnes and is designed both to meet JLTV and other global requirements.
The requirement of France’s military throughout the Cold War and continuing today for light armoured vehicles, has produced an enviable range of platforms suitable for the scout and reconnaissance role and for the future this will be sustained through requirements for the Army’s Scorpion programme the acronym for the Synergie du Contact Renforcé par la Polyvalence et l’Inforvalorisation which has established the Army’s requirement for the Véhicule Blindé d’Aide a l’Engagement. This has prompted a number of designs including the Panhard Crab and 8-10 tonne, low profile – 1.8m high platform – housing a crew of three in a highly protected platform. In the reconnaissance role a package of a 25mm cannon in a Remote Weapon Station which also carries the Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile is envisaged. At its launch at Eurosatory 2012 it was equipped with a 25mm ATK Bushmaster M242 equipped CTI turret although it can support up to 30mm weapons. Protection wise, it has a STANAG 4569 2/3 versus mines – the design incorporates a triple floor but eschews a V shaped hull and can reach up to STANAG Level 4 with uparmouring against small arms.
Today however, France’s Véhicule Blindé Léger (VBL) remains in widespread service including several militaries in the region. The four wheeled, Panhard vehicle is capable of high road speeds and can traverse rivers with an amphibious speed of 5.4Kmph. Protection is limited to small arms, artillery fragments, mines and also includes NBC protection. The latest version is the Mk 2, equipped with a 130Hp Steyr engine. France also continues to use the PVP Petit Véhicule Protegé. Another vehicle, the Panhard VBR has payload of 2.5 tonnes and is powered by an MTU 325hp engine, capable of propelling the vehicles to a top speed of 110kmph.
Outside of widespread use by the French Army but a design that is gaining adherents elsewhere is the Sherpa developed by Renault Truck Defence which is a family of vehicles which includes a light scout variant which can be operated with a RWS and active protection systems including the IMI Bright Arrow systems designed to defeat RPG and ATGWs.