As Ground Combat Vehicles Debut at DSEI, Adaptability Is the Buzzword
LONDON — As troops from the United States and Europe exit Afghanistan, the need to develop, purchase and field new ground vehicles is dwindling. So as combat vehicle manufacturers revealed their newest vehicles at the Defense Systems and Equipment International exhibition, company officials focused on the flexibility of the vehicle to handle many kinds of missions.
France-based Nexter Systems on Sept. 11 unveiled its Tactical Infantry Transport & Utility System, or TITUS, a modular armored personnel carrier that can be transformed into other vehicles. Using “tactical environment kits,” troops on the ground can outfit the baseline vehicle to conduct missions including medical evacuation, cargo transport, peacekeeping and counter-insurgency.
The baseline TITUS can hold a driver, gunner, commander, 10-man squad. A weapon mount on the roof can house any remote-controlled weapons station up to 20 mm. The vehicle has a 6x6 chassis and can be customized for snipers or to launch self-propelled 120 mm mortars.
The armored personnel carrier will cost about $900,000 per vehicle and will only be available for the export market, said Michel Lautier, military advisor for Nexter Systems.
"If you buy an APC, which is not modular, for different missions you have to buy different vehicles. It's much more expensive. Here we have one vehicle which can be transformed for any kind of mission, any kind of theater, against any kind of threat," he told National Defense. The only mission it cannot carry out is accompanying tanks cross-country at maximum speeds, which is usually accomplished by infantry fighting vehicles.
Finland’s Patria displayed its brand-new concept for an 8x8 wheeled combat vehicle based on its armored modular vehicle, which is used in seven countries. Its maximum weight is around 66,000 pounds, and it can carry more than a 28,000 pound payload.
"The total weight [it can carry] has increased, there is more space for the soldiers, there is this digital backbone in the vehicle so you can have … modern future soldier systems,” said Jarkko Savenius, Patria’s marketing manager for land systems.
Information from the company states the vehicle could be outfitted with modular ballistic, mine and improvised explosive device protection systems depending on customer requirements. It also can accommodate up to 120 mm weapons, Savenius said.
Another newcomer at the exhibition was U.K.-based Supacat’s light reconnaissance vehicle 400, which is based on an off-road racecar — QT Services’ Wildcat. Supacat specializes in making vehicles for special operations forces.
The vehicle has a tubular space-frame chassis that allows the vehicle to easily be reconfigured for different engine types, said Jamie Clarke, head of marketing and communications. It is small enough to fit into a Chinook helicopter without having to be reconfigured, and because it’s based on a motorsport platform, it can quickly move through rocky, dangerous terrain.
The vehicle has less armor than heavier vehicles, but militaries may find themselves engaged in future conflicts where there isn’t as much of an IED threat, Clarke said.
“Your protection is provided through a combination of supreme mobility and firepower,” he said. “So if you can not be seen, you can't be engaged, and if you can move fast, you can return power quickly, and that in itself is protection."
Supacat officials believe the LRV-400 is flexible enough to either be equipped as a low-cost version for light strike and military patrol, or tricked out for special operations customers. Belgium and
Poland, in particular, will have need for new light strike vehicles in the coming years, so the LRV-400 could fit in with that requirement, Clarke said.
So far, response to the vehicle has been promising, Clarke said on Sept 10.
"Everyone's all over it, and we launched it this morning. We've had delegations from about five or six countries getting quite excited about it,” he said. “We've had several SF [special forces] units come and see us. They've heard about it, they knew that we were launching it, and they wanted to come have a look."
Another vehicle receiving a lot of buzz at the exhibition is the amphibious Humdinga created by Gibbs Technologies Inc, which is making its first appearance at DSEI.
The Humdinga can travel at speeds up to 90 miles an hour while on land, transition to water-mode in seconds, and then power across bodies of water at 30 miles per hour, said Neil Jenkins, the company’s chairman. “That's the unique thing. There are no other amphibians which can exceed about seven or eight miles per hour” while in water.
The vehicle can carry more than 1,600 pounds and is suited for both on and off road conditions. Because it can easily move through flooded areas, the Humdinga is a good fit for the search-and-rescue and disaster relief communities, though there are military applications as well, Jenkins said.
"We've had interest from just about every quarter of the military and the first responder community,” he said. No orders have been placed so far, but Jenkins believes that once potential customers see the vehicle in person, it might drum up sales.
Other major-league vendors showcased their products. BAE Systems exhibited its Terrier armored combat engineer vehicle, the newest vehicle in use by the British Army.
Italy’s Iveco displayed its SuperAV 8x8, which sported a black paint job with a snarling animal face detailed on the front. That vehicle is being offered jointly with BAE Systems for the Marine Corps’ marine personnel carrier program.
Oshkosh’s light combat tactical all-terrain vehicle — a competitor for the U.S military’s joint light tactical vehicle program to replace the Humvee — made its first European appearance.
Potential customers from the Middle East, Central and South America have shown interest in acquiring the L-ATV, but it would be a good fit for any country with an aging Humvee fleet, said John Urias, president of Oshkosh Defense.