EPS SPRINGER – LIGHT ROLE LOAD CARRIAGE PLATFORM
By Bob Morrison
09 Jun 09. On 9th April the UK MoD Defence Equipment & Support branch announced that a fleet of brand new all-terrain vehicles had been ordered from Enhanced Protection Systems Ltd, of Ashby-de-la-Zouch. The contract, stated to be worth £7million, was for the supply of “around 75 Springer vehicles which will hold a crew of two and have the ability to carry a combat load of one tonne”.
In late May, exploiting a tiny window of availability, BATTLESPACE visited EPS Ltd for a demonstration drive and to interview the company’s Business Development Manager, John Stoddart, who had just returned from a specialist training area in the southwest where he had been involved in a driver instructor training programme. As a former soldier with 35 years of British Army service under his belt, first as an infantryman and then commissioned REME, who served out the closing years of his armed forces career in Defence Procurement, there can be few better qualified than Stoddart to carry this Urgent Operational Requirement through from drawing board to frontline deployment.
Springer is designated as a Light Role Load Carriage Platform, with the initial primary mission of moving combat supplies from Helicopter Landing Sites into the Forward Operating Bases (FOB). Based on the Israeli-designed and US-made Tomcar, which first entered military service as a border patrol vehicle in Israel, the 4×2 buggy-like Springer is designed to self-load a one tonne pallet of supplies and then transport them over rough terrain in harsh environments. Each heliportable vehicle is equipped with an 8000lb self-recovery winch and sand ladders, which double as loading ramps for a cargo pallet.
Dr Andrew Tyler, Chief Operating Officer for MoD DE&S, has stated: “This new vehicle will enable the delivery of vital equipment to front line troops. It is designed specifically for rugged, desert conditions – which means it is well-matched to the operational environment in Afghanistan. The Springer dune buggy will be an added capability for troops at Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan.”
EPS Ltd, which is primarily known for its supply of ballistic protection equipment to the UK MoD and to police constabularies, but is also a key player on the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle scene, has doubled its workforce on a temporary basis to around twenty to fulfil the Springer UOR and they have also subcontracted a fair proportion of work to local East Midlands companies. At present Springer is a one-off contract but Stoddart is confident there is a further MoD requirement, as every usergroup that has driven the vehicle has said what an outstanding capability it is: “Without question everyone has said that the vehicle is capable of doing a lot more than its current battlefield missions. That encourages one to believe there will be future orders for the current battlefield mission and indeed potential for future orders in other areas of the close battlespace.”
Most of the company’s additional manpower has been sourced locally and in some key areas these personnel are ex-military; with the Senior Mechanic being ex-forces, as are three of the members of the ballistic protection team. Questioned on how the company had coped with this surge in staff, Stoddart told us: “We’ve increased our levels overall by about two hundred percent over this contract period, but bear in mind it’s a one-off contract. We’ve got to be cautious about extending ourselves too early.”
The company is a comparatively young one, having only been in existence about six years. Stoddart told us. “We started off with personal ballistic protection and with ballistic eye protection, which we supply into the UK MoD. We are moving into different areas where we can see niche requirements, so we’ve got specialist teams – matrix management – in each area.”
It is a major bonus on this diversification side that EPS Director Terry Carpenter is ex-Ca