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06 Feb 19. US Army delays JLTV production decision, Oshkosh addressing technical challenges. As the US Army weighs possible Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) requirement changes before making a full-rate production decision, Oshkosh Defense has said it has already addressed several technical challenges raised in a recent Pentagon test and evaluation report. In a series of emails to Jane’s, the company discussed the army’s decision to delay its intended December 2018 full-rate production decision, as well as findings in the Pentagon’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) fiscal year 2018 annual report.

“We understand that the government desires to assess a few potential changes to vehicle requirements and features before they formalize full-rate approval,” Oshkosh wrote. “We’re working closely with the army, and they have told us to expect the decision to come in the early spring or summer.”

The service did not respond to questions about the production decision nor the recent DOT&E report, which detailed several JLTV problems. For example, the Pentagon’s chief weapons testing office said that while the General Purpose Heavy Guns Carrier and Utility JLTV variants “are operationally effective” for combat and tactical missions, the Close Combat Weapons Carrier (CCWC) variant “is not” effective for these missions. The report noted that the CCWC variant “provides less capability to engage threats with the tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided (TOW) missiles over the fielded [Humvee]” and that crews face a “slow and difficult” missile reloading process.

George Mansfield, Oshkosh’s vice-president and general manager for joint programmes, said that while the company has met its contractual requirements and specifications, it is modifying the CCWC variant.

“Based on feedback from soldiers and marines, minor modifications to the CCWC variant will be incorporated to improve field of fire, and the loading and unloading of missiles,” Mansfield explained. “The CCWC has less storage space than other variants because it is also carrying missiles.” (Source: IHS Jane’s)

06 Feb 19. Full rate production delay for JLTV. There will now be a delay in the full-rate production (FRP) decision for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) which was originally planned for December 2018, Shephard has learned. A professional Senate staff member speculated on a ‘six- to 12-month delay’ timeline for that decision during a Congressional Outlook panel at the Tactical Wheeled Vehicles Conference, held in Monterey, California, on 5 February.  Following the conclusion of that panel, both US Army and US Marine Corps representatives attempted to clarify the situation, which has been further complicated by the release of a DoD Director of Operation Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) report in late January 2019. The report raised questions about the vehicle’s performance during its Multiservice Operational Test & Evaluation (MOT&E), completed in May 2018 at Marine Corps Base 29 Palms, California. Emphasising the continuing importance of the programme to both the army and marine corps, an official army statement noted that the low rate initial production (LRIP) vehicles ‘demonstrates compliance with the programme’s current requirements’. However, during test and evaluation the users ‘identified a limited number of improvements that could make the vehicle easier to use in some situations’.

It is understood from the statement that none of these areas will impact the ‘vehicle’s basic payload capacity, protection level, or mobility performance’.

‘Army leadership valued the soldiers’ feedback and asked for additional information about options to improve visibility, mitigate cabin noise, and allow for optional seats in the utility variant,’ the statement said.

‘By conducting these assessments first, the army can understand the capability and cost related to a few potential changes for a smaller number of vehicles. This approach minimises the cost and quantity of vehicles we might need to retrofit, even while still beginning to move this new capability into the field.’

In the case of ‘improved visibility’, for example, sources told Shephard that the feedback indicated that the rear windows were too small, which some users felt decreased situational awareness. However, they quickly described larger windows as ‘an easy fix’. However, it was acknowledged that larger rear windows would likely add weight.

‘The purpose of operational testing like MOT&E is to gain direct warfighter feedback on desired vehicle improvements’, echoed George Mansfield, VP and general manager, joint programmes at Oshkosh Defense in a statement to Shephard.

‘This feedback has already been extensively incorporated in JLTV. None of the issues identified in the DOT&E report involved contractual requirements, and we expect no delays in fielding or future production,’ he added.

COL Shane Fullmer, JLTV product manager in the joint program office, was more succinct when asked about some of the issues in the DOT&E report.

‘It’s fixed’, he said. ‘We fixed it.’

While decisions are still pending around issues like rear window size, an army source anticipated an FRP decision will now occur ‘in the spring of 2019’.

Meanwhile, the army began fielding low-rate initial production JLTVs at Fort Stewart, Georgia, in January and the USMC is projecting 28 February for the hand-off of its first JLTV to the infantry school at Camp Pendleton, California.

BATTLESPACE Comment: This decision to delay Full Rate Production of JLTV will clearly affect overseas sales of JTLY, particularly to the UK where Oshkosh had bene expecting to sign the contract soon. However, any enhancements in the vehicle design will automatically be included in any export sales so the UK will ultimately benefit. The UK MoD has already assessed the vehicle and has made a list of added requirements to suit UK specifications. Of course any JLTV delay will also impinge on the whole MRV(P) Programme and of course, suit the current budget impasse, which some see as stretching right into May before any resolution is formalised.

07 Feb 19. US developing Abrams upgrades to ensure survivability into 2030s. The US has responded to survivability and capability concerns about the Abrams platform through the introduction of the SEPv4 suite of upgrades, to be fielded by the early-2020s. The continuing advances in Russian and Chinese armoured vehicles and the growing proliferation of highly effective man-portable anti-armour weapons is challenging the once unrivalled supremacy of the M1 Abrams series of main battle tanks (MBT) operated by the US and allies, including Australia. In response, the US has initiated a series of modernisation and upgrade programs.

General Dynamics’ existing SEPv3 configuration suite incorporates a range of technological advances, including improved communications, reliability and sustainment enhancements, improved fuel efficiency, and upgraded armour to ensure that the Abrams is capable and relevant on the contemporary battlefield.

The SEPv4 upgrades will ensure that the new variant of Abrams will be designed to be more lethal, faster, lighter, better protected and connected through a variety of technologies, including the incorporation of:

  • Improved sensors and optics, including a 360-degree radar, processor and on-board computer, an advanced FLIR optical system and long-wave sensors;
  • Enhanced armour and active protection systems (APS) to protect against a range of ordnance, including man-portable rocket propelled grenades (RPG), anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) and enemy anti-tank rounds; and
  • Advanced weapons systems including the Advanced Multi-Purpose 120mm ammunition, which is designed to replace multiple rounds.

Testing is projected to begin in 2021, with the objective to field the modernised SEPv4 variant by the early-to-mid-2020s in order to more effectively respond to the challenges and proliferation of advanced ground-combat vehicles, like the Russian Armata and Chinese Type 99 MBTs.

This renewed focus on modernising the Abrams platform comes following a recent announcement by original equipment manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems that it had secured a US$714m deal with the US Army to provide modernisation and upgrades to 174 SEPv3 M1A2 Abrams tanks for the US Army.

The delivery order is part of an Army Requirements Contract signed in December 2017, through which the Army can upgrade up to 435 M1A1 Abrams tanks to the M1A2 SEPv3 configuration. Work on this delivery order will be performed at GDLS locations in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Tallahassee, Florida, and at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio – the only operational tank plant in the country.

The Australian Army operates a fleet of 59 M1A1 variant Abrams MBTs with the 1st Armoured Regiment. Australia’s Abrams are fitted with advanced composite armour, which provides substantial defence against enemy fire and improvised explosive devices.

Fuel and ammunition reside in separate compartments to protect the crew from the risk of the tank’s own ammunition exploding if the tank is damaged. To support the Abrams, the ADF has produced seven M88A2 HERCULES (heavy equipment recovery combat utility lift and evacuation system) armoured recovery vehicles.

The HERCULES is a fully-tracked heavy armoured vehicle that performs hoisting, winching and towing as part of recovery operations and evacuation of heavy tanks and other combat vehicles. The Abrams is also supported by heavy tank transporters to fulfil its logistics requirements while on operations. A range of simulators have also been procured to assist in training and crew preparedness. (Source: Defence Connect)

06 Feb 19. French vehicle maker Arquus sets its sights on new European battle tank. Arquus, formerly Renault Trucks Defense, is keen to get a piece of the emerging Franco-German Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) program.

“We think we have things to contribute, notably concerning fuel cells, hybrid drivetrains and robotization,” CEO Emmanuel Levacher told reporters in Paris on Tuesday.

While the Franco-German program is generally thought of as a future main battle tank, Arquus is thinking more along the lines of the program’s official name: a combat system. “Will tomorrow’s tank even be a tank?” asked Arquus’ director of innovation, François Deloumeau. He argued that “pushing existing concepts further is not very interesting,” contending that the MGCS was “unlikely to be a super Leclerc tank or a Leopard 3.”

Arquus is not being financed to develop ideas for the MGCS, “but we are thinking about it and thinking out of the box,” said Levacher.

He mentioned that France and Germany “are not yet aligned in terms of concept, or even of their needs,” which means nothing has been set in stone. “We are talking with the end-users, the DGA and other manufacturers about this,” Levacher said, using shorthand for the French government’s defense-acquisition organization.

Also on the subject of Germany, Levacher remarked that Arquus was forced to find alternative suppliers of components such as joints, automatic gear boxes or engines designed for civilian vehicles but destined for inclusion in military products for export. That is because Germany export approval procedures “are extremely long” for these types of products, he explained. In addition, the list of countries that Berlin will not give approval for “is getting longer,” with Indonesia and India recently added to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Levacher said. (Source: Defense News)

06 Feb 19. Netherlands receives new 4×4 vehicles to patrol Dutch Antillies. The Royal Netherlands Marine Corps (RNMC) is receiving 46 Dutch Military Vehicles (DMVs) Anaconda all-terrain vehicles the week of 4 February for its forces in the Dutch Antilles, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 31 January. The first 36 vehicles arrived in Willemstad, Curaçao, on 31 January, to be followed by the remaining 10 in February. Based on the Iveco Daily 4×4, the 6-tonne Anaconda was specially developed for the RNMC, with a priority on mobility and disaster relief. The 46 vehicles will replace 40 armoured Mercedes-Benz G280 CDIs, which the MoD said was too capable for the RNMC missions in the Dutch Antilles. (Source: IHS Jane’s)

05 Feb 19. Russia orders a dozen new demining robots. Cleaning up explosives is a job best left to robots. What demining robots lack in human dexterity they more than make up in expendability, and the ability to send even a pricey robot to clear explosives gives battlefield commanders much better options when trying to navigate a dangerous area. To that end, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced it is acquiring 12 more Uran-6 demining robots in 2019. The Uran-6 isn’t the flashiest robot, but it has seen operational use in Syria. While much attention has gone to the potential and implications of its sibling, the armed Uran-9 robot vehicle, combat performance for the Uran-9 suggests further refinement is needed before it can be an asset and not a liability in combat. No such hesitations appear to exist with the Uran-6s that were present in Syria as proof-of-concept and technology demonstrations.

“The Ministry of Defense said on several occasions that this UGV performed well in Syria, so we are to expect that these 12 are not the last vehicles of its kind to enter Russian service,” says Samuel Bendett, a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses. “The Ministry feels confident enough with Uran-6 to start accepting it into service. In Syria, it did not experience the range of issues that plagued Uran-9 trials.”

Demining in places where it has active combat operations in support of local allies is an obvious use case for robots like Uran-9, but it’s hardly the only one. Once deployed, mines are a persistent threat until actively removed or detonated accidentally, which means there’s a sort of humanitarian mission possible for robots like the Uran-6.

“Right now, this UGV is used in Syria — but Russians also made a big deal of clearing “American mines” in Laos recently, ordnance left over from the Vietnam War,” says Bendett. “While we did not see Uran-6 in that mission, its expected that as this UGV will become more widespread across Russian engineers forces, we may see it in future combat, as well as friendly missions where Russian forces will help clear unexploded ordnance.”

On the scale of military acquisitions, 12 specialized robots is modest, but it suggests a capability that is seen as useful and worth expanding. Robots that can clear paths through explosive barriers will remain valuable as long as war features mines. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

06 Feb 19. What will a military vehicle look like in five years? Both the UK and US armed forces are sourcing advanced military vehicles, to address the need for innovative and intelligent defence. Here, Nick Jordan, technical engineering manager at military steering system supplier Pailton Engineering, analyses three technologies military vehicle manufacturers are implementing.

Rise of the ultra-light military vehicle

Military vehicle manufacturers are receiving orders worth more than $195m from the U.S. army, take the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program for example. These vehicles will displace one-third of the Marine Corps high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWV) in 2019.  The impressive payload, miles range and speed of light military vehicles in general explains why military vehicles are generating so much interest. Some of these large vehicle orders are set to have planned operating capability by the end of 2020.  Engineers are accounting for every milligram of weight during the design and development process — without compromising on performance and survivability. This weight consideration includes the vehicle’s steering system, many of which are crucially made up of lightweight and durable parts, to ensure the success of the overall design.  Another benefit of lightweight military vehicles is adjustable height. Compared with the vehicle’s operational height, the fording height can be up to 60 inches higher, making them exceptionally amphibious in nature to clear water obstacles. The steering system further complements these efforts, with parts designed for deep water wading and preventing water ingress.

Autonomous supply convoys

According to figures released from The Pentagon, in just twelve months, 60 per cent of US combat causalities were related to convoy resupply. Military leaders have now pledged to make vehicle autonomy a top modernisation priority, in a bid to address this issue. The U.S. Army has recently awarded a $49.7m contract to Robotic Research LLC. The investment will fund autonomous kit testing on large supply vehicles, with the objective of safely sending unmanned resupply convoys into war zones. The US army aims to have its first Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCV) technology demonstrator ready by 2021, but how will it meet this deadline?  According to a release from Robotic Research, the three-year contract is part of the Expedient Leader Follower program, designed to extend the scope of the Autonomous Ground Resupply program.

04 Feb 19. Jankel announces another contract award to supply blast attenuation seats to U.S. MRAP Manufacturer. World-class specialist in design and production of high-specification armored vehicles and survivability systems, US-based Jankel Tactical Systems, has been awarded 3 contracts to supply their BLASTech mitigation seats to a US based MRAP provider. The contracts have a multi-million dollar combined value. This announcement coincides with the Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Conference (TWVC), taking place in Monterey, California, 03-05 February 2019.

Jankel Tactical Systems is the market’s most well-established Blast Attenuating Seat leader in North America. Under these contracts, Jankel will be delivering MK 2.5 BLASTech X900194 commander seats and X900003 troop seats in support of MRAP based programs. Jankel is pleased to continue to support the survivability upgrade on these tactical wheeled vehicles that have now had Jankel’s MK 2.5 seats fitted for almost a decade. These latest orders will be delivered by the middle of the 2019 calendar year. Jankel will be attending the TWVC in preparation for the release of its latest and most advanced MK 4.0 BLASTech blast mitigating seating line.  The MK 4.0 will feature the same battle-proven mitigation technology that has made Jankel the market leader in blast mitigation seating.  The new seats have been developed to be lighter in weight making them more suitable for the current evolving tactical wheeled vehicle market.  Jankel also expect the new MK 4.0 seat to be more competitive in terms of price than the existing MK 2.5, 3.0, and 3.5 designs, while delivering increased capability.

Cody Baker, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Jankel Tactical Systems said: “The USA continues to be a strategically important market for Jankel and we are glad to announce these new contracts with a long-standing customer, further developing an already strong supplier relationship with one of the biggest defense vehicle manufacturers in the USA.”  He added: “The TWVC event will provide Jankel with an excellent opportunity to network further with other global OEMs operating in the sector as we work towards the launch of our new MK 4.0 seat.”

02 Feb 19. Did Iran just show off a new ground robot? The robot appears without a name. Painted in black and a yellowish tan, it is bristling with the 12 little canisters, clustered in four sets of three, poised to project smoke or other protective measures in some direction. Any other capabilities, from sensors to autonomy to weapons, are hard to infer from the inert body of the machine. We are left without even the curated detail of a manufacturer’s brochure. What we have, instead, is this small bit of news: Iran has manufactured a new model of unmanned ground vehicle. We can expect to see more of it in the future.

This new machine was one of a whole host of items displayed as part of an exhibition of military equipment. The exhibition is timed as a preview of Iran’s annual revolution anniversary displays; 2019 marks the 40th year since the start of the revolution that expelled the Shah and created the current government still in power today.

In 2015, Iran revealed a robot car called the Nazir. The Nazir features a similar color scheme and overall shape as this new unnamed vehicle, and a top that opened up to reveal a concealed missile launcher. The Nazir entered service with the Iranian military in 2016, and is reportedly capable of mounting a variety of missiles or machine guns. It also features the same array of smoke-grenade launchers as seen on this new, unknown vehicle (perhaps the Nazir II?).

What to make of this larger vehicle? It appears, at first glance, like a scaled-up Nazir, with hinges in the right place to reveal a missile launcher emerging from the top. It is also possible that the six-wheeled vehicle is simply a transport platform for an original Nazir, the angles of the video limited enough to conceal a possible ramp dismount from the six-wheeled platform. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

04 Feb 19. Way Industries updates Bozena mine-clearance UGVs. Slovakia’s Way Industries has updated its Bozena family of tracked mine-clearing, counter-disposal unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) with the Bozena 4+ and Bozena 5+ systems. The Bozena 4+ UGV features a wider chassis equipped with an improved cooling system, along with a more efficient flail unit. According to company specifications, the vehicle has an overall length of 5,200mm with the prime mover and detachable flail system measuring 3,290mm and 2,000 mm long, respectively. Overall width is quoted as 2,840mm with the flail unit equipped.

The UGV’s prime mover weighs 5,576 kg, although this increases to 6,983kg with the flail unit. The latter is capable of clearing a 2,225mm wide route – an increase of 225mm over the original model – up to a depth of 250mm, with an increased clearance speed of 3,500m 2 /h depending on ground and terrain conditions. It is designed to withstand a mine blast equivalent of up to 9kg TNT.

A DEUTZ BF 6L914 engine provides a maximum output of 110kw, which enables the UGV to attain a maximum speed of 9km/h. The engine has an average consumption of 19.5 litre/h and is fed by a 140-litre fuel tank.

The vehicle can be remotely controlled up to a maximum command radius of 2,000m, while an improved battery supports up to 14 hours of operation.

Way Industries has also incorporated a host of enhancements into the Bozena 5 UGV. The updated vehicle, now designated the Bozena 5+, features an improved flail or tiller system and other minor revisions aimed at boosting its reliability and maintainability. The Bozena 5+’s prime mover measures 4,500mm long with an overall width of 2,420mm, inclusive of its 410mm wide tracks, and has a height of 2,560mm. (Source: IHS Jane’s)

————————————————————————-Millbrook, based in Bedfordshire, UK, makes a significant contribution to the quality and performance of military vehicles worldwide. Its specialist expertise is focussed in two distinct areas: test programmes to help armed services and their suppliers ensure that their vehicles and systems work as the specification requires; and design and build work to upgrade new or existing vehicles, evaluate vehicle capability and investigate in-service failures. Complementing these is driver and service training and a hospitality business that allows customers to use selected areas of Millbrook’s remarkable facilities for demonstrations and exhibitions.

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