EUROPEAN LIGHT BATTLEFIELD VEHICLE UPDATE
By Stefan Nitschke, International Defence Analyst and Consultant
Light tactical vehicles are becoming key assets of the today’s and tomorrow’s land force. As the today’s battlefield brings a new set of payload, performance, and protection demands, the industry offers a wide variety of vehicles, most of them designed in accordance to customer specifications. Light battlefield vehicles like the Defender four wheel drive off-road utility vehicle produced by Land Rover are being upgraded and fitted due to customer specifications with additional equipment, including add-on armour, reconnaissance sensors, communications, armament, and other additional accessories. Craig Ffitch, Land Rover’s Contracts Manager, Global Direct Sales, named the Defender 130 Kajman of which 79 vehicles were procured by the Czech Army. Besides the Czech Armed Forces and the UK Army, Defender vehicles are also in extensive use by several other military customers, including the US. US forces found the British Army’s vehicles to be more capable and better suited to operation in urban areas and for air-lifting than the US Army’s HMMWV. But the British Army’s Land Rovers have been the subject of criticism due to the fact that they carry no armour-plating.
An upgraded version of the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Humvee), the M1114, has improved ballistic protection levels. The vehicle is used for scout, military police, and explosive ordinance disposal missions. The M1114 provides protection against small arms artillery airbursts and anti-tank mine blasts. Another variant, the Composite HMMWV, a prototype jointly developed by TPI Composites and AM General, encompasses composite materials to reduce the vehicle’s weight so that it may easily be able to carry an up armour kit. TPI’s all-composite HMMWV saves approximately 410 kg when compared to a current HMMWV made of steel and aluminium. Meanwhile, the Humvee replacement process undertaken by the US Armed Forces is focused on interim replacement with vehicles of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) programme and long-term replacement with the vehicles of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) project.
A similar vehicle is the SHERPA 2 from Renault which is a light tactical military truck intended for projection forces. It is designed to be highly mobile on difficult terrain and has a payload of 2 to 3 tonnes. It forms the basis for the Multi-Purpose Combat Vehicle (MPCV) project of MBDA, representing a high-mobility armoured vehicles composed of a motorised turret including electro-optical sensors, a small calibre gun, and four ready-to-fire MISTRAL missiles that can be operated from a firing console installed inside a highly mobile vehicle. MBDA also developed the concept of an MPCV for battlefield engagement equipped with MILAN-ER anti-armour missiles.
The new generation of light battlefield vehicles
Better protected vehicles are being sought by the military to withstand the great variety of modern threats. The family of light-duty vehicles offered by Oshkosh Defense includes several protected, multi-role vehicles like the SandCat™ light tactical vehicle or the MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). Specifically designed to protect occupants against mine attacks, IEDs, standard ammunition threats and armour piercing bullets, the SandCat incorporates a Blast Management System that includes a v-shaped belly deflector, impact-absorbing seats, advanced suppression systems, and composite materials. The vehicle consists of a commercial chassis and kitted hull so it can be rapidly and efficiently produced. The better protected SandCat™ Mine-Protected Light Patrol Vehicle (M-LPV), which is also based on a commercial chassis, has a compact profile that offers superior off-road performance, allowing it to move swiftly, easily and carry up to four passengers with an option for two more. The MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) is an ans