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Back To The Future- BATTLESPACE Drives the LRV 600 By Julian Nettlefold

It has been over thirty years since the Editor drove a 6×6 Land Rover, so it was a pleasure to be invited to join Supacat at their Dunkenswell Test Track for our annual catch up and a drive in the Light Reconnaissance Vehicle 600 (LRV 600) the 6×6 version of the LRV range.

“Could you give me some background on the development of the LRV Range of vehicles?” The Editor asked Jamie Clarke, former Group Head of Marketing and now consultant to Supacat.

“The base-vehicle LRV 400 was developed using Private Venture funds to fill a perceived need for a lightweight vehicle which had the capability to be carried internally by a CH-47 Chinook. The LRV 400 has evolved considerably since its initial launch at DSEI 2015 as a concept and the exciting new ‘mk2’ LRV has become the latest addition to the Supacat range of high performance off-road military vehicles. For this ‘mk2’ LRV, Supacat has taken the rolling chassis and automotive systems from the Land Rover Discovery and adapted them for specialist military applications. What you see here is the newly converted 6-wheel version, increasing payload and capacity over the 4×4” Jamie Clarke said.

Using the renowned Discovery as a start point, Supacat has combined Land Rover’s world-wide pedigree in quality and performance off-road products with Supacat’s military vehicle prowess, offering unrivalled performance for a vehicle in this size and weight class. High speed through harsh environments is the LRV’s strength, offering the operator an ideal light weight rapid intervention vehicle for special forces, border patrol, reconnaissance or strike forces. The Land Rover base automotive platform offers superb performance combined with mass-produced reliability and safety. The LRV’s size and weight enables effective air portability, including tactical CH-47 internal loading. Whilst primarily fulfilling light force reconnaissance and strike concepts of operation, low-weight armour solutions can also be fitted as an option. A variety of communications and weapons systems can also be integrated depending on the customer’s requirements. Uniquely for a military vehicle of this size, the LRV design also incorporates the Extenda principle so can be converted from 4×4 to 6×6.

“What markets are you aiming at?”

“Supacat is currently bidding a number of programmes around the world, including the Middle East and Holland where Supacat are in partnership with Rheinmettal. The teaming agreement, announced in March 2017, is based on a strong collaborative platform and the allocation of responsibilities will be based on ‘Best for Customer’ criteria. Both companies have demonstrated their agility in forming a solution that delivers an outstanding in-country product, which supports Dutch jobs for a Dutch requirement.”

Supacat and Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles Netherlands (RMMV NL) teamed in May 2016 to offer Dutch-built Supacat Protected Vehicles for the 12kN air assault vehicle (AASLT) and a 12kN light-weight protected vehicle requirements as part of the Defence-wide Wheeled Vehicle Replacement Programme (DVOW) with the Dutch Army. Under the teaming agreement and upon contract award, the Supacat-designed vehicles will be built by RMMV NL and the production line will be supported by their existing supply chain in the Netherlands. The proposed solution includes substantial local industrial content for a fleet of more than 500x 12kN AASLT and 900x 12kN light-weight protected vehicles. Supacat, a high-mobility vehicle specialist, stands on an established and successful track record of developing high-quality vehicles for the global defence market. RMMV NL is currently in the process of producing Boxer 8×8 wheeled armoured vehicles for the Dutch Army at the local facility in Ede.

“Rheinmettal was the natural partner for the Dutch Requirement as Supacat already have a strong relationship in Australia for the Land 400 Programme where Supacat Australia and Rheinmettal Australia share offices and workshop facilities. Building on a strong relationship, Supacat and Rheinmetall continue to work together on a number of programmes, including the UK’s Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme and Australia’s Land 400 Phase 2 programme.” Jamie Clarke continued.

“How did the design for the LRV 600 evolve?”

“The LRV 600 is the 6×6 variant which we have developed to enable a payload of 1.5 tonnes to enable the carriage of a Standard NATO Pallet and space for a number of weapons fit and passengers. The variant you are driving today is the 6×4 prototype variant, the 6×6 variant will have a drive-through axle 2. All the LRV variants have the standard Land Rover Discovery running gear with the air suspension ‘tweaked’ to allow better carrying capacity and cross-country ability. Supacat have militarised the cockpit and dispensed with any of the fancy ‘terrain setting’ controls. The LRV 600 employs a similar concept to the Supacat Extenda Range whereby the third axle can be easily fitted to the 4×4 version in a matter of a couple of hours. The space in the cargo compartment gives us the ability to offer our customers a number of customised fits including .50 calibre and 7.62 machine guns in a desert patrol variant, as you are driving today, personnel and cargo carrier variants and specialist rocket and medium calibre weapons fits.”

The Editor was given the usual wet weather gear, given that we were going to film through the water splash, and then strapped himself into the LRV 600 with Supacat driving supremo Nigel Platt. The .50 calibre machine gun mounted in the rear and 7.62 pintle mounted on the passenger side were removed prior to the drive.

“We’d rather you didn’t break the vehicle Julian, as Supacat are exhibiting it at DSEI!” Jamie Clarke said.

“I know that you have driven round here before but given the recent rain and this is a new vehicle for you, I’ll drive you round first so you can familiarise yourself with the track and the terrain.” Nigel Platt said.

We set off up the track and swiftly accelerated to 90mph, slowed down took the track back at a similar speed where Nigel demonstrated the excellent acceleration and braking system on the LRV 600.  Nigel said that the vehicle would have to be governed for military service as it could reach speeds in excess of 130 mph, a Squadie’s dream! We then had the traditional photo shoot where the Editor succeeded in again making the largest water splash, soaking Nigel and the others in the process! We then set off round the test track where Nigel demonstrated the nimble ability of the vehicle to navigate the mud and ruts of the test track and its excellent decent capability under power.

Changing seats the Editor then strapped himself in for his drive. The first thing I noticed was the power steering which was very positive and more like a passenger car than a military vehicle. accelerating into the corners on the wet surface, the steering wheel responded immediately to commands and there was no oversteer which is common on many military vehicles. The other noticeable feature was the acceleration and braking capability that enabled a good steady speed to be achieved round the test track. The 6×6 configuration gives the vehicle and good solid platform over rough terrain and of course when 6×6 will give the vehicle excellent climbing ability up steep gradients and through the deserts and mud conditions. The Editor reminded Nigel of his time at SMC Engineering when Managing Director Peter Jones was the first person to drive over the soft sand desert in Salalah, Oman,  using a Sandringham 6×6 with a wrap round track system.

The LRV 600 had no problems navigating the wet and rough track conditions and we returned to the waiting and clearly apprehensive Jamie Clarke and Supacat’s Ellen Rodger intact and with no damage. The Editor is always reminded of the time he removed the wing mirror from the original HMT 4×4 vehicle prototype with the Deutz air cooled engine on the same test tack many years before, a true flying machine!

“What’s the verdict?” Jamie asked.

“It has all the characteristics of the Jackal in terms of cross-country ability and speed but given the bonneted configuration and lower ground clearance has a smoother drive and would be well suited for civil and military use. I can see Arab Princes using the vehicle for hawking over the Arabian sand dunes. The ergonomics of the vehicle are very like the Jackal, the gearbox is easy to operate and the steering very responsive. Once you have engineered the 6×6 configuration, the performance will be hard to beat.”

“Yes, we designed the ergonomics and the cockpit layout to mirror the Jackal so that any Jackal user can easily transition to the LRV Range. The forward pintle mount is, unlike other vehicles, mounted in the centre of the passenger compartment to enable the user to fire on the move in the protection of the cabin. The air intake is cleverly included in the roll-over bar to enable deep fording capability. In the back we have a modular system, similar to an airliner, where we can slide in extra seating or change the ammunition storage configuration to suit differing weapons fit; the vehicle can also be configured as standard cargo carrier. Click locks enable the wheel carrier to be configured to suit the application and cargo.”

As our readers know, BATTLESPACE has covered Supacat and its products for many years, starting with the All Terrain Mobile Platform Trials (ATMP) that took place on Jura post the Falklands War. It is a tribute to Supacat, its management and staff and early investors such as David Clayton and Angus Hamilton that the Company has established itself as a foremost manufacture of specialist all terrain vehicles with sales of HMT and Jackal vehicles now reaching over 1000 with customers all over the world from the UK, Denmark, Norway, the USA, New Zealand and Australia.

The recent creation of SC Group, masterminded by Chief Executive Nick Ames and his team has taken Supacat into new areas of precision engineering such as outboard motors, specialist ships, RNLI beach recovery equipment and nuclear components, taking the company through this century and beyond whilst retaining the Supacat brand to focus entirely on defence.

LRV 400 Vehicle Specification

Price: Upwards of £150,000 depending on specification

Weight (GVW) 4200 kg

Payload (configuration dependent) 1700 kg

Kerb weight (configuration dependent) 2500 kg

Turning circle (kerb to kerb) 11.5 m

Speed 160 km/h

Fuel capacity 80 Litres

Maximum road range 800km

Power to weight 45 kW/tonne

Fording 750 mm

Gradient 60%

Side slope 40°

Engine: V6 3.0 Litre Diesel: Power 256hp Torque 600Nm

Transmission: 8 speed automatic transmission Hi and Low range permanent 4WD with centre diff. lock

Differentials Options including: Front and rear air locking Suspension and axles Front and rear fully independent double wishbone Steering Power assisted rack and pinion

Brakes: Alcon Ventilated disc all round

Tyres: 245/70R17 as standard (other options available)

Electrical system 12v/24v DC

LRV 600 (as seen at DVD 16)

Unladen weight – 3150kg

Max GVW – 5500kg

Payload – 2350kg

Overall length – 5.65m, although ability to shorten with bob-tail to 5.3m

Summary: LRV 600 is approximately 450kg heavier, and then gives approximately 850kg more payload. Length is 1m more (shorter than a 4×4 HMT), and can be shortened to under 5.5m long.

 

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