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CHANGING OF THE GUARD

CHANGING OF THE GUARD
By Shaun Connors

The British Army’s truck fleets are undergoing a period of significant change

A Stobart-type high-profile commercial truck operator with a good-sized fleet would usually look to run a heavy truck for little more than three years (maybe stretching to a year or so longer in the current financial climate), during which time it can be expected to cover anything between 300,000 and a half a m miles. Military trucks are a different ballgame and the differences between those sort of figures and what the military projects for its trucks could hardly be further apart. The British Army, as a fairly standard example, generally procures trucks with a projected service life of anything up to 25 years, albeit at miserly anticipated annual mileages of around 10,000 miles.

A further military difference is that most military truck purchases are made with some form of mid-life refurbishment or overhaul scheduled in at time of purchase, this particular approach demonstrating its value when usage figures (and associated wear and tear) peak as they are currently doing on the back of ongoing deployed operations.

If the British Army’s current truck fleet is compared with that of its NATO/European allies it stands out as a relatively modern one, even if in the commercial terms outlined above most of that fleet would be considered of pensionable or near-pensionable age. However, things might not look as good overall for the British Army’s truck fleet as they currently do had the sizeable Wheeled Tanker and Support Vehicle procurements not reached their current respective status of full capability delivered for Wheeled Tanker and two-thirds of the way through deliveries for Support Vehicle, by the time the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) began to impact.

Young Blood

The $1.3 bn Support Vehicle contract was awarded to MAN ERF Ltd in March 2005, with the first vehicles entering service on schedule in June 2007. By year-end around 5,500 are expected to have been delivered, with final deliveries scheduled during 2013.

Support Vehicle originally called for 4,815 cargo trucks plus 314 recovery vehicles with 69 associated recovery trailers, however, following an exercised option for an additional 2,077 cargo trucks (in preference to refurbishing the Leyland DAF 4-tonne fleet), some delivery revisions (including a reduction to 288 recovery vehicles) and additional orders, the total number of Support Vehicles and derivatives now contracted by the MoD has increased to 7,479.

In a forward-thinking move the Support Vehicle contract also included a requirement for 1,098 appliqué protection kits, these capable of installation on all except a 161-vehcile training fleet.

For operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, under Project Fortress some 280 Support Vehicles of all types were subject to a selection of protection and capability enhancements during 2008. More recently, 324 Support Vehicles (including 211 Project Fortress vehicles) are currently being further upgraded to the latest Theatre Entry Standard (TES) for use in Afghanistan.

Gestation

Support Vehicle traces back to 1998/1999 as Future Cargo Vehicle and Future Wheeled Recovery Vehicle, these requirements (plus Future Fuel Vehicle) all then proposed Private Finance Initiative (PFI) procurements. The PFI route was ultimately abandoned for these procurements, and in April 2001 it was announced that Future Cargo Vehicle and Future Wheeled Recovery Vehicle had combined to become Support Vehicle.

Support Vehicle is based around fleets of MAN TGA-based HX and military-specific SX models. The fleet, following some delivery revisions, will be made up of the following:
* 5,213 HX60 6-tonne 4×4 trucks
* 611 HX58 9-tonne 6×6 trucks (381 cargo/230 7,000-litre Unit Support Tanker)
* 923 HX77 15-tonne 8×8 cargo trucks (some converted to EPLS role)
* 181 SX44 9-tonne 6×6 (100 cargo/81 7,000-litre Unit Support Tanker)
* 288 SX

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