It has been a ritual going back many years that the Editor would go to down to Dunkeswell every year to drive one of the range of Supacat vehicles.
However, in 2020 a combination of being marooned by flood waters and COVID, the ritual drive day did not take place and hopefully one can be arranged before DSEI.
To supplement the various editorial visits to the test track, Supacat laid on an excellent virtual event on February 18th covering a range of their vehicles from the HMT Extenda thru the LRV 400 to the eAMTP, the electric drive version of the ATMP.
The HMT is now in service across the world in various guises in 4×4 and 6×6 configuration with the armed forces of, the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway and Estonia.
HMT 600 Coyote
Using the HMT variable height air suspension system, the 600 will match the 400’s impressive cross-country performance yet provides a significant increase in payload.
As with its smaller 400 series sister, the 600 can be supplied with an optional mine blast and ballistic protection kit and can be fitted with a variety of mission specific hampers, weapons, communications, ISTAR and force protection equipment to suit a wide range of operational roles.
Designed by Supacat, the HMT product is manufactured under licence from Lockheed Martin.
THUNDERCAT Deploys To Mali
The Light Cavalry deployed to Mali last year to aid the UN and French counter-insurgency operation there following threats of a US withdrawal from the area. They took a variant of the Coyote called THUNDERCAT.
THUNDERCAT, is a Light Cavalry (Lt. Cav.) initiated project looking to industry to produce innovation and potential future enhancements to the platform and Lt Cav capability. UK Lt Cav will deploy to Mali with its current platforms, Jackal and Coyote. The Lt Cav fraternity and Royal Armoured Corps is looking at the next iteration of Streetfighter, Thundercat, which is in effect Streetfighter-lite. Thundercat is the Light Cavalry solution akin to the Streetfighter Challenger 2 concept also developed for the Armoured Corps. The project is being assisted by industry friend company Assaye Defence Ltd. Thundercat innovation serials will also be deployed in European exercises in Poland in June.
The Light Cavalry Problem and The Purpose of Thundercat
Major Luke Dodington of the Light Dragoons said, “It is now essential that a coordinated programme be launched to sustain the UK’s Light Cavalry capability based on Jackal. To fulfil this improvement focused on three main areas: Surveillance, ‘Eyes,’ Communication, ‘Ears’ and Lethality, ‘Teeth.’ Thundercat identifies further capability gaps and proposes solutions.”
The Aim of Thundercat
The British Army’s Armoured Trails & Development Unit (ATDU) will explore what Industry has to offer/ATDU in terms of technology trialled by the SMEs. Innovation Funds may be utilised across the Light Cavalry to enhance current capability to develop an Expeditionary Mounted Recce Capability and mitigate the constraints across platforms.
Other key technology areas to be investigated include, Mobility, Tyres, Architecture including a C2 variant and C2 comms fit, Concealment and Deception (CCD) including Advanced Paintwork, Cam and Cam nets, Thermal sheets, a new Cab and back body with Mods for complex weapons, mortar variant and a recovery and ambulance variant. To this end a Concept Demonstrator is being developed for fielding in mid-2020.
Jane’s reported that the British Army reconnaissance vehicles are receiving sensor, communications, and environmental upgrades ahead of their deployment to serve in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) later this year.
Supacat Jackal wheeled vehicles trialled the upgrade package during Exercise ‘Wessex Storm’ on Salisbury Plain training area during February 2020, according to a senior British Army officer.
The package was pulled together by the British Army’s Armour Development and Trials Unit Armoured Trials and Development Unit (ATDU) at Bovington, Dorset and includes a mast-mounted thermal imaging camera system, a rapid pneumatically erected telescopic radio antenna mast integrated by Exsel Engineering, night vision upgrades, vehicle heaters, and driver wind deflectors. Companies involved in the project include Thales, Safran, Qioptiq, Rollatube, Exsel Engineering, Exsel Electronics, and Petards Eyecraft 360, the officer said.
The Eyes – The ISR system has to have a reach of between 8 and 12km and displays to display the resolutions out to the 12km range. One of the chosen for trial sensors is the Sagem SAFRAN JIM Compact. Based on the success of the JIM LR and a continuous improvement approach, Safran has developed the JIM Compact – a lightweight, multifunctional, long-range binocular system that provides operators with top-end situational awareness and advanced connectivity in the field.
Fully-integrated and less than 2 kg. (4.4 lbs.) with batteries, JIM Compact meets the most demanding expectations of dismounted operators – including Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP).
Safran Electronics & Defense has integrated new revolutionary functionalities:
* 24/7 Observation and Target Location – through the integration of a new Low Light Level Channel in addition to a Color Day Thermal Channel
* See Spot – to visualize laser pointers and laser target designators without adding supplementary weight and workload for operators
* Multimedia and Connectivity – allowing to share information in real-time with other combat units or higher level systems using an Ethernet LAN
For these reasons, JIM Compact offers the best performance-to-weight ratio of any device in its class – considerably increasing combat effectiveness in all environments.
In addition Local Area Situational Awareness is a requirement with an SWIR illuminator and driver’s night vision.
Thales SOPHIE Ultima is also being trialled and evaluated as a mast mounted solution later in the year. It will be integrated with Exsel Electronics brand new mil standard ruggedized multi-application tablet as the end user control device
The Tethered Drone Solution is the Drone Evolution SkyWire© Tethering System.
SkyWire, is a tethered system for rotary drones. The drone is powered via the tether and can stay in the air for hours as opposed to the 20 minutes or so afforded by batteries. It’s the very first universal tether system that can tether any rotary drone and also the first that can run directly from a 12volt or 24volt power supply making it the first truly mobile tethering system. This gives you a persistent eye-in-the-sky, ensuring that the uses for drone technology become much greater – in security, in construction, in infrastructure and in defence and security.
A BAE Systems ENVG Integrated weapon sight and goggles are also mandated.
The Ears are provided by several systems including, IDE WiSPR, Vitavox
OUTACOM, Spectra Slingshot, and the brand new to the market VITAVOX ViTac 360 degree situational awareness headset and Personal Communications Interface which allows for multiple radios to be controlled from the man.
WiSPR is a rugged, field proven digital Software Defined Tactical Vehicle Intercom system. It is designed for use in any military armored vehicular platform for any mission and delivers clear, true noise-free voice intercommunications and data connectivity including IP (Internet Protocol). WiSPR intuitive design includes ergonomically designed user terminals equipped with multi-lingual operational display and keyboard while its advanced software defined approach allows seamless interoperability with all military Tactical Radios including IDE’s Spart@n and WiWAN broadband IP radios.
The system’s modular and decentralized architecture allows rapid deployment and cost-effective scalability to support virtually any vehicle requirement or configuration, making WiSPR the optimum tactical intercom system for new or upgraded vehicular platforms.
The WiSPR novelties include the inherent Secure Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) providing high speed wireless data and voice communications among vehicles, including video transfer.
The embedded, leading-edge Dynamic Noise Reduction (DNR) assures crystal clear communications in extremely noisy vehicular environments and guarantees the highest speech intelligibility, enhanced ear safety and increased crew member performance under extended combat conditions.
WiSPR Key Features:
* Radio Access and Remote control directly through User Terminals
* Support for Tank Telephone, Field Telephone and PSTN
* Embedded IP (Internet Protocol) networking and routing
* Embedded Secure Wireless LAN (WLAN) for intra-vehicle communications including video
* Internal / External Alarms and notifications
* Sensor integration
* Enhanced built in tests (BITE)
* Plug and Play system expansion
* In field software updates for add-on or customized functionality
* Conforms to Military Environmental and EMI/EMC standards
* Fielded worldwide
* Reduced logistics requirements – Low life cycle cost
* Decentralized Architecture – No Central Control Unit
* No single point of failure
* Modular – Scalable design – Simple installation and Operation
* Software defined and controlled functionalities
* Digital Dynamic Noise Reduction (DNR) eliminates background vehicle noise in real time
* Digital adaptive Voice Operated Switch (VOX)
* Supreme audio quality through DNR for intercom and towards radios
* Multi-lingual graphic display and operational keyboard
* Dynamically selectable access rights to external communications for every user
* Dynamically selectable, multiple closed user groups
* Seamless Tactical Radio interoperability through embedded Software Defined Tactical Radio interface (SDTRi)
Vitavox Outacom® Tactical Public Address System
Vitavox Outacom is a vehicle mounted tactical public address system for use on all tracked and wheeled armoured fighting vehicles. Built to rigorous military standards, Outacom is robust, powerful and enables direct communication to distances of up to 300m.
Crucially, Outacom keeps personnel protected inside the AFV and away from possible danger. The system aids disperse crowds and clear areas whilst maintaining a full understanding of latent threat. Outacom is deployed on AJAX and its variants, integrating into the British Army’s leading-edge ISTAR platform. Fundamental to the flexibility of AJAX, the Outacom Tactical PA system works in partnership with other AJAX technologies; enabling warning, instruction and de-escalation of potential risk to civilians, personnel and equipment. Compatible with the Vitavic range of intercom systems, Outacom integrates and switches seamlessly using the Outacom Control Unit, which also ensures full communication traffic security.
Consisting of two Compact Broadcast Loudspeakers, the Outacom Control Unit and two Noise Cancelling Microphones and brackets; the system is blast proof, shockproof and weatherproof (IP67), enabling reliable service in critical situations.
Direct, command and control your vehicle’s locality, with the Outacom® Vehicle Mounted Tactical Public Address System.
Vitavic 400 Tactical Vehicle Intercom System
A truly Software Defined (SD) system, Vitavic 400 is a fully digital, military specification intercom designed with the end user in mind.
• Suitable for vehicles with up to 21 crew members and 6 combat net radios
• Operate with any encrypted peripherals and signals with no manufacturer input required
• Fully upgradeable and easily programmable via a standard laptop or fill gun, with no down time required
• Dismounted personnel stay connected via short range soldier radio or field telephone interface
• Rebroadcast from two to an expanded capability of six different combat radios.
• Full radio access
Vitavic 407 Tactical Loudspeaker
The robust and compact Vitavic 407 Loudspeaker is already standard equipment on the MOD’s Foxhound. The full solution can be integrated into new vehicles and via a vehicle upgrade programme for existing serving platforms.
Outacom is a chosen feature on Ajax and Streetfighter.
Various Comms and Power solutions are being considered including Spectra Slinghsot and the GenAircon Power solution.
Spectra Group’s SlingShot is a revolutionary system that uniquely converts UHF and VHF radios to L-Band Satellite frequency, instantly extending their range to BLOS (Beyond Line of Sight). Conceived and designed in response to Special Forces requirements, SlingShot offers a number of benefits for those engaged in high tempo operations, and that require reliable and robust COTM (communications on the move). Already deployed by several NATO countries, SlingShot, has Manpack, Vehicle, Maritime and Aviation systems, meaning that command and control of all personnel, no matter where in the world, or how they are travelling, becomes notably easier.
Teeth (survivability and lethality)
Systems being considered are Javelin ATGM and the Rheinmetall mortar.
Supacat, Rheinmetall Defence and SCISYS partnered to showcase a new capability for light forces, the ‘High Mobility Integrated Fires Capability’, at DSEI 2019. The partnership demonstrates Supacat’s 6×6 HMT platform mounted with Rheinmetall’s MWS81 mortar system in its first integration on a light vehicle. The target acquisition and integrated fire support platform is networked with SCISYS GVA compliant platform and mission software.
Supacat’s highly mobile HMT platforms with their superior off-road performance allow users to perform high tempo operations delivering indirect fire for light role forces while the MWS81 mortar capability allows for rapid ‘into action time’. The Vingmate sight provides target acquisition and location during day and night operations, with targets being shared over the battlespace data network enabling Support Weapon effects to be directed precisely onto targets.
The SCISYS developed GVA compliant platform and mission software shares data and video around the platform to each crew member’s display and into the battlespace networks, enhancing shared situational awareness and speed of decision making. The displays are supplied by Leonardo.
“This enhanced capability is a first for light forces and offers a solution to a number of potential requirements among the green army and Special Forces.” said Phil Applegarth, Director, Head of Supacat.
Thundercat funding is coming from the UKRI CLF Innovation Fund.
UKRI works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.
Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UKRI brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England.
UKRI’s mission is to be a trusted partner and to ensure research and innovation continues to flourish in the UK. They will support and help connect the best researchers and innovators with customers, users and the public. They will invest every pound of taxpayers’ money wisely in a way that maximises impact for citizens, in the UK and across the world.
UKRI is an independent organisation with a strong voice for research and innovation, both to government and internationally, we are supported and challenged by an independent chair and board. We are principally funded through the Science Budget by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Developed for use by Special Forces the Extenda provides a unique ‘convertible’ platform.
Using the HMT variable height air suspension system, Extenda matches the capabilities of the 400 and 600 series sister platforms yet can be configured as a 4×4 or 6×6 to meet the operational need by fitting or removing a modular, self-contained third axle unit. The hamper has also been designed as a modular system to enable rapid conversion.
Like the other HMT series variants, the Extenda can be supplied with an optional mine blast and ballistic protection kit and can be fitted with a variety of mission hampers, weapons, communications, ISTAR and force protection equipment to suit a wide range of operational roles.
The Light Role Vehicle (LRV) is the latest addition to the Supacat range of highly capable, modular platforms. Offering a true ‘fly and drive’ capability, the LRV’s low weight and compact packaging enables tactical loading into CH47 whilst maintaining excellent payload capacity.
Supacat’s extensive experience in delivering operationally proven, high mobility platforms to specialist users has resulted in a platform that outperforms its competitors in terms of terrain access, mission duration and comfort – operators arrive at the objective with minimal fatigue thanks to the class leading off road performance of the vehicle.
Supacat’s modular design philosophy provides a range of configuration options from the factory and the flexibility to re-role the base platform throughout the lifetime of the vehicle with a variety of mission modules and protection levels available to meet changing demands. The LRV is available as a 4×4 or 6×6 variant. A variety of communications and weapons systems can also be integrated depending on the customer’s requirements.
“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.” Toby Cox, Deputy Head – Support 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.
“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.”
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
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
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.
UK MoD Awards Contract to Demonstrate Electric-Drive Jackal Vehicles
On August 20th 2018 NP Aerospace was awarded a £3m contract by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to demonstrate hybrid electric-drive systems on Jackal and Foxhound vehicles, with the project being delivered in collaboration with Supacat, General Dynamics, and Magtec.
The contract award is part of the Protected Mobility Engineering & Technical Support (PMETS) programme which is being led by NP Aerospace as the Engineering Authority for the vehicle fleet. General Dynamics Land Systems–UK and Supacat are the partner vehicle OEMs, and Magtec is the electric drive and battery technology partner.
Developed by Magtec in the UK, the hybrid electric e-drive solution for Jackal and Foxhound is intended to deliver multiple technical and operational enhancements, including (but not limited to);
• Silent mobility;
• Enhanced Silent Watch capabilities;
• Off-board electrical power;
• Increased onboard power for the insertion of the latest technologies.
This is the first time that this type of technology system has been applied to vehicles covered under the PMETS programme. The production of demonstrator vehicles will enable the MoD to analyse the operational impact of new technical capabilities.
David Petheram, Chief Operating Officer, NP Aerospace, said, “The Protected Mobility Engineering & Technical Support (PMETS) programme delivers safety, efficiency and innovation activities across a variety of vehicle platforms, via a collaborative approach. The hybrid electric drive project is a significant development that will further extend the technical capabilities of the vehicles and is an important advancement in the incorporation of new technology. It will provide a greater understanding of what hybrid technology could achieve, whilst also looking to the future in terms of integrating additional sophisticated electronics across the PMETS vehicle fleet.”
Carew Wilks, vice president and general manager of General Dynamics Land Systems–UK, said, “As technology develops to meet the future operating needs of the British Army, the demand for onboard power only increases, and electrification of land vehicles offers an innovative solution. Foxhound, the British Army light infantry vehicle of choice, already has an architecture that enables electrification and is a natural choice for this demonstrator. We look forward to demonstrating our e-drive Foxhound in the coming months.”
Nick Ames, SC Group-Global CEO, said: Following the work we have done with Exeter University on the All-Terrain Military Platform (ATMP) to give it electric drive and associated control, this piece of work is the natural follow on for us. We have the skills and knowledge to work with our project partners in making the well-respected Jackal vehicle “hybrid drive” and thereby offer enhanced silent watch, stealth operation and improved power export capabilities for soldiers and their equipment. This is a very exciting project and clearly shows the British Army moving towards a non-hydrocarbon future as signalled by Chief of the General Staff at DSEI in 2019. This fits perfectly with our current and future strategy.”
Defence Minister Jeremy Quin, said, “It is vital our armoured vehicles are equipped with the latest technology so we can maintain our battle-winning edge. These tests will ensure our Armed Forces have the latest, safest and most efficient technology, while continuing to support prosperity across the UK. They represent a potential opportunity to improve our vehicles sustainability and military effectiveness.”
Alongside delivering multiple technical and operational enhancements, the introduction of hybrid technology will ultimately reduce the Army’s reliance on fossil fuels – a step towards the Government’s 2050 net zero goal.
Adopting greener technology into the MOD’s equipment fleet is part of the department’s strategy to reduce its contributions to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. Measures like this will be reflected in the department’s ongoing Climate Change and Sustainability Review, led by Lt Gen Richard Nugee.
Lt General Richard Nugee said, “It is great to see the Army testing electric vehicles that will benefit not only our world-class personnel, but also our planet. This goes to show how seriously we are incorporating sustainability into our operations, while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of military innovation.”
The review will focus on a range of initiatives from the MOD’s NZ50 strategy to setting the right baseline for defence’s emissions and carbon footprint, with findings set to be published in December 2020.
Andrew Gilligan, Managing Director, Magtec, said, “Magtec is a UK leader in the design and manufacture of electric vehicle drive systems and is proud to be supporting the British Army in the development of new technology to protect British troops when they are on the move. Magtec has a strong track record in delivering drive systems for the most demanding applications. We are creating high-quality engineering jobs in the North of England and strengthening the UK’s position at the forefront of the global transport sector.”
All Terrain Mobile Platform Trials (ATMP)
The All Terrain Mobile Platform Trials (ATMP) took place on Jura post the Falklands War. It happened to be the first article the Editor wrote for Defence magazine in 1983! The Editor rang Angus Hamilton one day who happened to be in the ATMP with Supacat consultant Graham Bevan on Jura!
Now in its third generation, the 6×6 All-Terrain Mobile Platform (ATMP) is a prime example of mechanical engineering simplicity. It also demonstrates Supacat’s ability to produce a straightforward and inexpensive solution to a unique customer requirement. There are now over 200 ATMPs in service worldwide.
The ATMP offers supreme cross-country performance and is now a well-know workhorse used in a wide variety of roles worldwide. It can carry a substantial payload for a vehicle of its size which, combined with its ‘go anywhere’ ethos, has made it the vehicle of choice for many years. Already proven on a variety of military operations, the ATMP can be transported within and below a range of air platforms providing instant mobility support for airborne and air-mobile forces on the ground.
The latest versions of the base vehicle architecture add options for full electric and hybrid-electric propulsion to complement the conventional diesel variant, with exportable power and ‘optional manning’ capabilities for increasing autonomy of ‘dull, dangerous or dirty tasks’.
Further advantages include reduced or zero emissions, silent operation, and the ability to transport, charge and enable the launch & docking of drones. The drivetrain architecture is adaptable to suit application-specific requirements.
eATMP Vehicle Specification
Weight (GVW) 3500 kg
Payload* 1600 kg
Kerb weight* 1900 kg
Maximum speed* 60 km/h
Maximum road range* 850 km
Fording 600 mm
Side slope 40°
Propulsion options* – Diesel 1.9l Turbo diesel engine – Hybrid diesel/electric 1.5l Turbo diesel engine and generator – Fully electric powering individually controlled axle mounted electric motors
Power 58 kW
Steering Power assisted front four wheel steering plus skid steer
Brakes Via axle mounted disc brakes (diesel powered variant) Via axle mounted electric motors plus disc brakes on front 2 axles (electric variant)
Tyres 31/15.5 R16
Electrical system 12/24V DC (all variants) 84 Volt for propulsion (Electric variant)**
Options (from new or upgrade)
Self recovery winch, RHD or LHD, optionally manned functionality including terrain detection and response, obstacle clearance/avoidance, path planning and motion behaviour control, ability to upgrade existing vehicles to electric or hybrid electric propulsion, integration of customer specific equipment
*Depending on variant
**Alternative voltages available
We very much hope that normal service will be resumed and that the Editor will be back down to the Supacat Test Track for our bi-annual DSEI feature.