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Thundercat Leads The Charge Of The Light Brigade! By Julian Nettlefold






As the dust settles on the Brexit discussions, the real life of politics and defence is settling down with ongoing planning and preparation regards about a Light Cavalry deployment to Mali to aid the UN and French counter-insurgency operation there following threats of a US withdrawal from the area.  The spearhead for the deployment are The Light Dragoons, whom have recently started a project 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, 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.

Technology Requirements

The Eyes

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.

Key Capabilities

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

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 Slinghsot








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 and SCISYS partnership showcased new High Mobility Integrated Fires Capability. 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).







The Light Dragoons will deploy in Q3 2020, the QDGs will relieve them in November and Scots DGs the following spring.

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