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MILITARY VEHICLE NEWS

08 Jan 21. Options Under Consideration for UK Defence Review. Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that the MoD is looming at various options for the composition of the British Army under the forthcoming Defence Review. These include just one Strike Brigade with another following in the 2025 timescale. The vehicle mix is also under review including the scrapping of warrior WCSP running the existing fleet on until an Out Of Service Date (OSD) of 2030, fewer Ajax vehicles, scrapping of the CT40 turrets supplied by Lockheed Martin being replaced by the Kongsberg Protector MCT-30 turret as chosen by the USMC, more Boxer variants in the form of Recovery, Mortar and Air Defence with Starstreak, HIMARS on an MAN chassis and purchase of the Lockheed PrSM Precision Strike Missile for the MLRS and HIMARS vehicles.  Another issue which has reared its head which the Editor pointed out many years ago is the staggering cost per CT40 round which ranges from £1000 per APDS round to £450 per training round, more than a 105mm! Other options under consideration are the possible scrapping of Challenger LEP, following Treasury objections with Leopard 2A8 being considered with manufacture in the UK. In other news the source suggest that the Franco-German MBT replacement Programme MGCS is under strain with differing requirements being expressed by both countries. Sources also suggest that Qatar will be the first export customer for Boxer, following the dropping  of the Nexter VBCI.

08 Jan 21. Yunpao Wheeled 105mm Infantry Support Vehicle Planned. The Republic of China (Taiwan) Ministry of National Defence (MND) 2021 budget initiates development of a new variant of the current Yunpao (Clouded Leopard) 8 X 8 Wheeled Armoured Combat Vehicle. It allocates NT$768m (US$74m) toward prototypes which will mount a 105mm high velocity tank cannon with a system that will reduce recoil forces by 70%. The project further suggests moving to remote weapon station. Each will also have a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun and 12.7mm heavy machine gun.

The Armament Bureau and National Chung Shang Institute of Science and Technology are understood to be collaborating on vehicle design.

An early design of a 105mm Yanpao with a manned turret had been displayed at earlier Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE) but is not yet clear how closely the latest effort will reflect that design. Initial prototypes are projected for 2023 delivery.

The 105mm support vehicle is intended to join the recently established joint arms battalions which for rapid maneuver and strike. The forces already field the CM-32 and CM-33 Yunpao models equipped with 40mm grenade launchers in a remote weapon station, and the CM-34 mounting a 30-mm MK44 chain gun. Delivery of the later with a two man turret and an upgraded 450 hp power-pak began in late 2019. The MND has also unveiled a new 0.8 meter tall lower profile remote weapon station for the CM-33.(Source:  AMR)

07 Jan 21. The medium class Type-X Robotic Combat Vehicle developed by the European leading robotics and autonomous systems developer Milrem Robotics passed its initial mobility tests.

The Type-X RCV designed to support mechanised units was first announced in the summer of last year. The Type-X will become an intelligent wingman to main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles capable of taking on the most dangerous tasks and positions, which result in lower lethality risk.

“The Type-X will provide equal or overmatching firepower and tactical usage to a unit equipped with Infantry Fighting vehicles. It provides means to breach enemy defensive positions with minimal risk for own troops and replacing a lost RCV is purely a logistical nuance,” said Kuldar Väärsi, CEO of Milrem Robotics.

The Type-X can be fitted with a cannon up to 50 mm. With up to a 30 mm cannon the RCV is also airdroppable – the C-130J and the KC-390 can carry one Type-X, an A400M two and a C-17 5 of them.

“The vehicle will be equipped with intelligent functions such as follow-me, waypoint navigation and obstacle detection with Artificial Intelligence being part of the algorithms,” Väärsi said. “Also, Milrem Robotics’ software developers have taken a totally new and innovative approach to allow remote controlled operations on higher speeds.” (Source: joint-forces.com)

06 Jan 21. Hyundai Rotem aims to roll out unmanned K1 MBT testbed by 2024. South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem has been selected as prime contractor to develop technologies that would enable the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) to convert its existing armour vehicles, such as its main battle tanks (MBTs) and self-propelled howitzers (SPHs) into unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs).

The company announced on 31 December that will carry out two separate research and development (R&D) programmes worth about KRW15.2bn (USD13.98m) under a contract awarded by the Agency for Defense Development’s (ADD’s) Defense Industry Technology Center.

The first R&D assignment seeks to develop common tele-operation and driving technologies that can be applied across the RoKA in-service combat vehicle fleet. The second effort will build on the experience gained to develop bespoke systems for the K1 MBT. Both requirements are expected to be completed by 2024.

More than 1,000 K1 MBTs were produced between 1984 and the mid-1990s and are being operated by the RoKA and RoK Marine Corps (RoKMC). A comparable number of K9 SPHs were manufactured between 1999 and 2019 and deployed in the RoKA and RoKMC.

Janes earlier reported that key research areas include a common remote-control architecture and remote driving as well as autonomous navigation technology. The agency will also explore specific mission systems that address the unique characteristics of both MBT and SPH operations, such as mobile target remote aiming and tracking technology for the former and autonomous deployment, heat dissipation, and automated shooting preparation systems for the latter. (Source: Jane’s)

06 Jan 21. Rheinmetall to supply Bundeswehr with additional logistic vehicles – total volume tops €500m, with almost €390m coming from Germany’s pandemic recovery package. Germany’s Federal Office for Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-service Support, or BAAINBw, has placed an order with Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles (RMMV) for a further 1,401 military trucks with a gross total value of €543m. The trucks come under the Bundeswehr rubric of Unprotected Transport Vehicles, or UTFs. Funding for the extra procurement of a thousand of these vehicles comes from the German federal government’s pandemic recovery package. Delivery is scheduled to take place in 2021 and 2022. A framework contract for the procurement of modern military trucks signed in July 2017, which originally envisaged the purchase of 2,271 vehicles, has now been augmented to enable procurement of a further 1,000 trucks, bringing the current total to 3,271 UTFs.

A current call-off from the original framework contract comprises a total of 292 5-tonne trucks and 109 15-tonne trucks. Including related services, the 401 vehicles in this call-off come to €154m, including value added tax. Delivery is to be complete by the end of 2021. Furthermore, another 1,000 trucks – including 150 5-tonne vehicles and 850 15-tonne models – are to be purchased in 2021 and 2022. They represent sales of €389m, including VAT. Funding will come from the German government’s economic recovery package, with delivery to be complete by the end of 2022.

Dedicated to the twin modern imperatives of security and mobility, the Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall Group is thus playing a significant role in modernizing the Bundeswehr’s fleet of logistic vehicles, which numbers thousands of trucks. Most of the principal components – including the engines, axles, transmissions and build-ons – are made in Germany; assembly of the vehicles takes place at the RMMV plant in Vienna.

Particularly when it comes to multinational operations, the wide use of RMMV vehicles offers major advantages when it comes to interoperability and logistics. Among others, the armed forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Denmark all rely today on trucks from Rheinmetall. Norway and Sweden have each placed substantial truck orders with RMMV as well.

05 Jan 21. New in 2021: US Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle goes rolling along. This past fall, the Army announced that it will pursue light, medium and heavy versions of the RCV. The light version’s fielding could be as early as 2023 with the medium and heavy versions to follow one year after the other.

Early experiments in 2018 and 2019 focused on soldiers controlling the vehicle from a near but remote location for maneuvers and even complex operations such as breaching. Those evolved from single-vehicle “robot wingman” style tests to platoon-sized efforts and are expected to see company-sized attempts soon.

In November, soldiers with A Company, 1st Battalion of the 28th Infantry took four light versions of the RCV along on dismounted, rifle platoon exercises at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Those included movement to contact, attacks and defense. They did side-by-side comparisons, running the drills without robots in standard formations and again with the robots.

They also had a few more tools to use alongside the RCVs — including a tethered drone, counter-drone jammer, smoke obscuration module and a Common Remotely Operated Weapon System with both an M240 machine gun and Javelin missile.

The RCV got a taste of amphibious operations, too, when it “swam” across Victory Pond at Fort Benning to test its abilities in water crossings.

Soldier feedback on maneuverability and capability were positive, but it did have trouble keeping up with dismounted soldiers in dense vegetation, according to the Army.

These vehicles are seen as more than just gear mules and potential extended fires for the platoon-size force.

Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, who directs the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, also said that exercises such as the November rifle company maneuvers will help inform Army formations and employment.

That’s because the service is looking at how to best restructure their basic fighting unit – the Brigade Combat Team – as they gear up for division-level and Corps-level combat.

Paradoxically, that might mean a lighter but more mobile and faster infantry footprint.

The Army shifted some of its infantry BCTs to Stryker BCTs starting in 2018 and continued that move by bulking up its formations, transforming some Stryker teams to Armor brigades.

What that means is that IBCTs, or their eventual replacement, will have to keep up with more mechanized and mobile options with more vehicles and likely more robots in the ranks. (Source: Army Times)

04 Jan 21. US Army Seeks Robots to Transport Wounded Troops. The Army is examining ways to use autonomous vehicles to bring injured soldiers off the battlefield.

In September, Pennsylvania-based company RE2 Robotics received $1.1m in Small Business Innovation Research funding from the Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center to work on a dexterous two-arm system called the Autonomous Casualty Extraction, or ACE.

“This would be a system that would go out to the casualty wherever that person is, … recognize where the person is autonomously, figure out how they’re laying [and] figure out how to safely maneuver that casualty onto this transport device that we’re developing,” Jorgen Pedersen, the company’s president and CEO, said in an interview.

The arms are mounted onto FLIR Systems’ Kobra unmanned ground vehicle that will be able to transport casualties away from the battlefield to safety. ACE will be equipped with artificial intelligence and perception software to detect the soldier’s location and figure out how to evacuate him, Pedersen noted.

Kobra has a height of 11.5 feet and can lift 330 pounds, according to FLIR.

“A medic can remotely view a casualty through this system,” Pedersen said. “A medic can also be dialed into this system … and be looking at the patient assessing what needs to be done.”

ACE is the second phase of an ongoing effort. In the first phase, the company worked on a mechanism dubbed “Lifeline” that helps medics lift injured soldiers onto a squad multipurpose equipment transport for medical evaluation, he said. SMET is a program of record to develop a so-called “robotic mule” that can transport gear and other items for the Army.

“That’s what Lifeline is, it’s really just a lifting assist device that allows only one person to do it, instead of having to have two or three people that do it,” he said. “One person can do that whole operation on their own.”

The idea is to have the soldier retrieved by ACE, be led to Lifeline and transported out on a robotic mule.

If the Army decides to continue with the work, phase 3 is slated for about two years from now, Pedersen said.

“Once we’ve demonstrated that this is functional and is safe, then we would look to work with the Army to move into a phase 3 effort to ensure that it gets added on to the SMET program of record or other programs that could benefit from this technology,” he said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/NDIA.org)

04 Jan 21. Big Boost in Spending for Military Robots. The US Army is ramping up investments in robotic systems that could keep troops out of harm’s way and serve as force multipliers on future battlefields.

Gen. John “Mike” Murray, commanding general of Army Futures Command, has said robotics, autonomy and artificial intelligence will change the character of warfare in coming decades.

The service’s portfolio includes everything from small unmanned aerial systems and ground robots to logistics trucks and combat vehicles to soldier-borne exoskeletons.

“The robotics portfolio has grown significantly in the past six years,” Maj. Jeremy Howell, deputy robotics branch chief, G-8, said at the virtual Joint Armaments, Robotics and Munitions conference.

Funding rose from $17m in fiscal year 2015 to $379m requested for 2021, according to his presentation slides.

Priorities include: improving situational awareness; lightening soldiers’ physical and cognitive workloads; improving sustainment; facilitating movement and maneuver; and protecting the force.

The Army currently has about 20 robotics programs underway, according to Howell’s slides.

The service isn’t just interested in buying new platforms. It also wants modular mission payloads. “These packages may include lethality packages, communications and sensor suites as well as obscuration and anti-jamming capabilities,” Howell said.

To communicate with its unmanned systems, the Army is looking for a universal robotics controller, also known as URC.

Officials are currently conducting a study to identify what the solution should be.

“We will be putting small UAS as well as ground robotic platforms — thousands of them — onto the battlefield,” Howell said. “The question that we have is, how do we communicate with this vast number of robots so that they are able to be a force multiplier for the commander instead of a distraction? How do they interact with each other? Is it a standard piece of hardware that controls all robots? Or are we looking for a software that enables each of the different systems to … interact on a common medium of communications?”

The URC concept could be similar to the internet of things, Howell said. Civilians now have the ability to control the lights and thermostats in their homes from anywhere in the world with the push of a button on their smartphones, he noted.

“How do we take that technology and put it in the hands of soldiers so that they can apply it to ensuring robots out there on the battlefield are there to support them?” he asked members of industry. “What I ask you to do is think big and think far on this.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/NDIA.org)

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