BABCOCK MARINE –ENGINEERING LAND SYSTEMS
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
Nestling amongst the sprawling 330 acre HM Naval Base Devonport dock complex, the home of a major part of the Royal Navy’s surface fleet and centre of excellence for Babcock Marine’s huge ship and submarine service and support, lies a state-of the-art production line assembling the British Army’s latest light vehicle the Jackal, described by the Army as a Land Rover on steroids.
“What brought Babcock Marine into the vehicle business?” BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold asked Paul Parnell, Equipment Programmes Director.
“In 2000 I was recruited by the then DML to broaden the Company’s capabilities away from its core ship repair and support business. Coming from VSEL, where we had similar capabilities in land and sea systems engineering, the progression to building the Jackal, previously called the M-WIMIK was a natural progression. Supacat, the vehicle licensee, a local Devon Company, contacted us in 2003 with regard to our becoming involved in the manufacture of the HMT vehicle. Our LSC Consultancy Company had already done some work for Supacat refining the HMT as Frazer-Nash did after we became involved. ”
The Jackal vehicle is one variant of the HMT (High Mobility Transporter) designed by Val dare Bryan. It is worth looking at the history of the HMT vehicle to understand the need for Babcock to become involved to develop and refine the manufacturing process. Historically Supacat are vehicle designers and developers with little or no production capability. The first tranche of vehicles for the MoD hit some post-production problems involving quality and standards, thus the SUV IPT decided to use Babcock Marine for Production and Supacat as the Design Authority.
Lord Drayson, MoD Procurement Minister, announced during DVD 2007 that the MoD would buy 130 (later uplifted to 155) new M-WMIK (now named Jackal) weapons-mounted patrol vehicles under an Urgent Operational Requirement for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from DML. Delivery of the MWMIK will take place throughout 2008.
The MWMIK will deliver a new level of power to the WMIK fleet, with more firepower and a better range and mobility. It will be fast for a 4 tonne vehicle, with a potential top speed of 80mph.
The vehicle can be fitted with a range of firepower including a .50 calibre machine gun or an automatic grenade launcher and a general purpose machine gun, as well as carrying up to four troops with their own individual weapons.
The initial history of the HMT was littered with cost overruns, delays and technology changes which resulted in the MoD taking IPR for the top hamper design of the vehicle. The vehicle was developed as a result of an MoD requirement for replacement of the ageing Pink Panther Land Rovers in 1999. The previous UOR, issued in 1982, caused the then Technical Director of SMC, Mike Stone, to say, “The only thing this vehicle can’t do is fly!” SMC declined to bid!
Thus, when the Requirement for the replacement vehicle was issued in 1999 it had, once again, a very onerous specification. Many companies bid the UOR including ATK, Ricardo and AutomotiveTechnik, but the contract was won by Supacat which ticked all the capability boxes. It rapidly became apparent that the vehicle offered by Supacat, the HMT, although superior in performance and speed, lacked the engineering and support required for the vehicle.
The Editor drove the new HMT 4×4 vehicle in 2001. We had written about the vehicle in 1999 for the DSEi show and had already marked it as ‘one to watch’.
Val Dare-Bryan, who designed the Lotus 18, was the design force behind the HMT range, ably supported by the Duke of Hamilton and his Family Trusts, who have been involved in a number of cross-country vehicle projects following the ATMP trials on Jura in the early 80s, where the relationship with Supacat Ltd first started. Latterly, following negot