The extensive procurement programmes for the renewal of equipment for the armed forces all over the world are based primarily on established and therefore mature technology. The ever-increasing volume of regulations and rules must be broken through in order to make the required material available quickly. These are two findings from the International Armoured Vehicles Conference 2019 organised by IQPC, which brought together around 600 experts to exchange information at the end of January in London.
Speakers from the armed forces presented their organisations and doctrines, findings from missions as well as modernisation and procurement programmes. The industry presented approaches and proposals for solutions in lectures and an accompanying exhibition. The exhibition was also a focal point for discussions arising from the more than 70 different lecture topics.
The actual conference was preceded by a focus day for maintenance, modernization and operation. In two parallel lecture series, military leaders of numerous armed forces from all over the world explained aspects of the operation of their vehicle fleets and the industry had the opportunity to present solutions for selected tasks.
The main conference was moderated by General Sir Adrian Bradshaw. High-ranking NATO commanders presented requirements for modern equipment for ground troops. The reduction of the logistical footprint and signature was also crucial for command posts at higher levels. Invisibility is the important goal, also to be achieved by dispensing with extensive technology. The troops had to be enabled to use their weapons effectively at any place at any time. The refocusing on intensive combat required the troops to be quickly equipped with adequate equipment in sufficient numbers.
Armoured Transport Vehicle GTK Boxer
A special focus was given to the GTK Boxer armoured transport vehicle for which OCCAR, NSPA, the user nations Australia and Lithuania and the manufacturer ARTEC gave an overview of the procurement programme and the in-service phase. OCCAR procures the vehicles on behalf of the user nations (not for Australia) from ARTEC, the joint venture of Rheinmetall and Kraus-Maffei Wegmann + Nexter Defence. Today, 716 GTK Boxers in 14 versions have been ordered. Germany has ordered a second batch with 131 Boxer A2 group transport vehicles and Lithuania as new customer 89 infantry and two driving school vehicles. The 500th Boxer has just rolled off the production line.
Australia has ordered 211 Boxer and 14 additional mission modules in five versions as part of the Land 400 modernisation programme. Of these, 25 vehicles known as Block I (12 reconnaissance vehicles and 13 multi-purpose vehicles) are to be put into operation by 2020 as immediate requirements. The remaining vehicles will then be realized as Block II with the versions reconnaissance (121), command and control (15), joint fire support (29), repair (11) and recovery (10). The reconnaissance version is equipped with a Lance turret with 30 mm cannon. For the variants withoutturret, additional mission modules are procured which are made transportable with ISO container frames. Two container frames are equipped with power supply so that mission modules can be operated stationary in operation or in training (without driving module).
The Block II vehicles differ from Block I in the integration of Spike anti-tank missiles, a mobile camouflage system, mine and ballistic protection according to Land 400 specifications, a new C4ISR command and reconnaissance system and possibly an active protection system (APS). On behalf of Australia, Rheinmetall is conducting a feasibility study to determine whether an APS such as the pre-selected Iron Fist can be integrated into the Boxer. The Block I vehicles will be retrofitted to the Block II configuration.
In Europe, negotiations for the procurement of 48 Boxers in four versions for Slovenia are in the final stage. Great Britain, one of the initiators of the Boxer program − but retired in 2003 − has rejoined the program and wants to procure more than 500 vehicles. The decision will be made before the end of this year. Since the British Boxers are to be produced predominantly in Great Britain, the industry is currently bringing itself into position. On January 21, 2019, Rheinmetall and BAE Systems announced that they intended to form a joint venture to produce a substantial part of the Boxer‘s production and to develop further wheeled vehicle activities. Rheinmetall‘s UK subsidiaries Rheinmetall Defence UK and Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles UK will also play a role.
In Germany, there is a further demand for boxers to carry a heavy weapon for infantry operations and air defence with a number of units in the order of 90. The Netherlands has registered a demand for five vehicles and additional training equip-ment.
This results in a total foreseeable production volume of well over 1,500 vehicles. The NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) expects up to 2,000 vehicles for which it can provide operational support. Since 2013, NSPA has been working closely with OCCAR to provide support in technical matters, material management, financing and procurement. Currently, 474 boxers are supported by the Land Combat Vehicle Support Partnership. The user nations benefit from NSPA’s expertise.
Without specific user requirements, the industry creates mission modules for further tasks. A bridge layer with a 14 m bridge (MLC 100) or 22 m bridge (MLC 50) is in prototype status. A mission module with a 155 mm howitzer is also in the experimental stage. Numerous expectations have already been fulfilled during test firing with the remote-controlled cannon. However, with a total weight of 38.6 tons, the weight of the howitzer requires changes to the suspension and other tires. ARTEC named the DSEI 2019 or the Eurosatory 2020 as possible presentation dates.
The Boxer has grown into one of the most successful 8×8 wheeled vehicle ranges. The bundling of user interests in one organisation for procurement (OCCAR) and one for operation (NSPA) each, which cooperate with ARTEC, in which the industrial activities are bundled, is proving to be advantageous. The clear interfaces and unambiguous responsibilities enable the rapid and low-error realization of vehicles in accordance with military require-ments.
Next Generation U.S. Army Combat Vehicles
The U. S. Army will renew its fleet of combat vehicles over the next few years. To accelerate development and procurement projects, the U.S. Army established the Army Futures Command (AFC) last fall, in which eight Cross Functional Teams (CFT) coordinate the work of the project teams as a Team of Teams. One of these is the Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) CFT, which reduces or closes the gap in cross-domain capabilities for the Army. For the AFC, the CFT serve as the primary integrator for all supporting analyses, modelling, simulations and technical demonstrations. The NGCV CFT Director synchronizes the capability building process on behalf of the AFC and quickly transfers the capabilities approved by the Army leadership into the Army’s procurement system.
Five projects are assigned to the NGCV CFT. The aim is to quickly introduce combat vehicles that exceed the performance of the imported vehicles while reducing vehicle weight and logistic footprint. Long-term superiority for operations in future combat environments with increasing threats is one of the decisive goals.
The following vehicles are assigned to the NGCV CFT:
Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV)
4×4 multipurpose wheeled vehicle, 50,000 pieces required, in production, fielded, manufacturer: Oshkosh.
Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV)
Support vehicle on track, need 3,000 units, demonstrators under test, order first lot expected 2019, to be fielded from 2021, manufacturer: BAE Systems.
Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF)
Light tracked vehicle for heavy weapons, demand 504 pieces, demonstrators in production, manufacturer selection and delivery order 2022, to be fielded from 2025, supplier: BAE Systems and General Dynamics.
Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV)
Infantry combat vehicle on chain, need size 4,000 pieces, competition beginning in 2019, to be fielded from 2026, supplier: BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Rheinmetall/Raytheon.
Robotic Combat Vehicle (RGV)
Remote-controlled land vehicles in three (size) variants, scope of investigation 30 pieces, concept definition until 2023
In addition, there is the incipient study activity for decision-making in 2023 on a future heavy weapon (Future Decisive Lethality, OMT/NGT). For the replacement of the Abrams main battle tank, a new platform will be sought that will ensure the decisive superiority of the effects. The prerequisite is the availability of mature technology for a leap in performance.
Amphibious Combat Vehicle For Japan
One of the most interesting innovations was the future amphibious vehicle presented by the representative of the Japanese Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA). In a five-year program, a prototype has been under development since 2017 and will be subjected to initial functional tests in the second half of 2019. The decisive feature is the 2,000 kW drive motor, which, in combination with a special transmission and two water jets, enables the vehicle to achieve a high (unspecified) water speed. An indication of the high swimming speed is also provided by the powerful surge board, which stabilizes the swimming position. The system technology for high water speeds is currently the focus of development. On land, the vehicle moves on a track with six rollers. In addition to the driver and commander, the protected interior offers space for an infantry group. The main operational area will be the sea area with the Ryūkyū islands south of the Japanese main islands, in order to guarantee the safety of several thousand islands.
Active protective systems are the means of choice for protection against rocket-driven hollow charge projectiles. Rafael and Rheinmetall Active Protection (RAP), two renowned manufacturers of active protection systems (APS), were represented at IAV. Rafael presented the Trophy, which had already been fielded and tested in combat, and is currently being integrated into U.S. Abrams main battle tanks. German Leopard 2 main battle tanks will soon be equipped with Trophy. In 2022, the first of these should be usable for subsequent deployment at VJTF. RAP will integrate its ADS on the Stryker of the U.S. Army before the end of this year and carry out tests under operating conditions in the USA. For users, the operational reliability of the APS is of paramount importance: the system must trigger safely when a threat is detected, but only then. This places high demands on the software. Rafael reported on up to two major software updates per year.
The complexity and the high reliability, however, also demand their price. A sum of €1 million per vehicle was mentioned as the order of magnitude.
The development of military armoured vehicles is progressing only slowly. After all, complex equipment has to be designed, tested and produced that has to function reliably in a difficult environment. Last but not least, they also have to comply with comprehensive and not always coherent specifications, regulations and rules, the scope of which is constantly increasing. The acceleration of these processes, which are currently measured in decades rather than years, is the concern of most players in the armaments community. The International Armoured Vehicles Conference contributes to this through its external view and the exchange of information at a high technical level.
(Source: ESD Spotlight)