21 May 21. DE&S-led expertise set to revolutionise development of UK military robotics. Development of innovative robotic equipment to give the UK military an operational advantage will be accelerated by a specialist organisation. The Expeditionary Robotics Centre of Expertise (ERCoE) has been launched by Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) in collaboration with the British Army.
The ERCoE will bring together robotics and autonomous systems experts from across defence, government, academia and industry and aligns with DE&S’ strategy to deliver the edge through people, technology and innovation.
Adopting a collaborative and agile-by-design approach ERCoE will operate from MOD Abbey Wood in Bristol and from the Army BattleLab in Dorset, an innovative technology project announced in August 2020.
The ERCoE will act as a focal point for current innovative projects, and also assess unexplored, high-risk but rapidly maturing technologies.
Projects to be investigated at the outset include Remote Platoon Vehicles, nano Unmanned Air Systems, autonomous resupply of forward troops and how defence forms Human Machine Teams.
Open access to information and fresh ideas will ensure Defence can exploit the benefits this key disruptive technology could present, whilst also facilitating the rapid growth of expertise in this area.
The centre sits under the Future Capability Group (FCG) at DE&S, the procurement arm of the Ministry of Defence. FCG has a direct line to market, ensuring ideas can be rapidly developed.
FCG Head James Gavin said, “The CoE concept was borne out of the need and opportunity to bring together separate projects and people into single groupings to be more efficient and effective. Being more effective means a razor-sharp focus on exploitation and operational Advantage as the goal.”
Co-teaming between the Army and DE&S will put the customer at the heart of what we do, exploring and delivering iteratively under an ‘Agile by Default’ mindset. DE&S personnel will work alongside industry experts at the Army BattleLab within the Defence Innovation Centre, allowing new ideas and concepts to be quickly developed and put into practice.
The ERCoE has been jointly launched with Future Force Development in Army HQ and is aligned to their Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Strategy. The hub will initially focus on projects for the British Army, but there is optimism that as the group expands and matures, it will become a central hub of advice for expeditionary robotics across Defence.
Lt Col Iain Lamont, SO1 Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the British Army, said:
The Army’s Future Force Development team are delighted to be entering into a fast-paced and exciting new partnership with the ERCoE.
Driven by the Army’s RAS Strategy, this new agile approach will enable the delivery of several exciting new developments and ensure game-changing technology enters into service as early as possible as we look to accelerate Army transformation.
The ERCoE launch is a pathfinder within the recently launched DE&S Strategy 2025 and will pave the way for future delivery teams to maximise advantage from this novel capability.
20 May 21. Fresh thinking on ‘close battles’ sealed British Warrior vehicle’s demise. Changing battlefield priorities was one of the reasons behind the British Army’s decision to ditch the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle update program in the recent defense, security and foreign policy review, according to British Army chief Gen. Sir Mark Carleton-Smith.
Speaking to Defense News during a recent visit to Washington, Carleton-Smith, the Army’s chief of the general staff, said that divesting the aging vehicle frees up money to invest in other equipment that is a better fit for how the land component will fight going forward.
“We need to reimagine how the close battle is fought. And I think most close battles in the future are going to look and feel very much more like Mosul and Raqqa and Fallujah, than it is going to feel like the central European plain,” Carleton-Smith explained. “Therefore, the utility of an [Infantry Fighting Vehicle] in order to maneuver dismounted ground troops into fixed defensive positions, feels like less of a priority for me, against being able to operationally deploy infantry across large strategic distances quickly.”
The security review, released in March, axed plans to extensively upgrade the virtually obsolete Warrior, as the U.K. Army and the other armed services have embarked on a transformation policy towards the information age and away from traditional platforms.
Since 2011, Lockheed Martin UK has been leading the development effort to update Warrior with a new cannon and digitized turret, better protection and other improvements.
The upgrade program is now seven years late and more than £225m ($319m) over budget, with Lockheed pointing the finger at the MoD for much of the delay. Still, until the release of the security review, the program was expected to move forward pending government approval a more than £800m ($1.1bn) production deal to update around 275 vehicles.
Nixing the upgrade program has already had its industrial consequences; Lockheed has announced job losses at the Ampthill, southern England, site where it has invested in creating a turret center of excellence.
The company is also supplying General Dynamics UK with turrets for its Ajax armored reconnaissance vehicle fleet now in production for the British Army, and is casting around for opportunities to leverage its turret capabilities in other programs.
Carleton-Smith said that once the Army’s transformation agenda was taken into account, along with the competition for resources and age of the platform, killing off Warrior was quite a straightforward decision.
“It became really quite an easy decision. If we were going to get to true transformation, we needed to leave behind as many of the 20th century legacy systems [as possible] and Warrior fell precisely into that,” said the British general.
The plan is for the Warrior to be taken out of service by the middle of the decade, as the wheeled Boxer 8×8 armored vehicle enters service. While Boxer isn’t a perfect like-for-like replacement, its ability to quickly travel long distances provides greater value than updating the Warrior, said Carleton-Smith.
The British MoD already has a contract with Boxer maker ARTEC to build more than 500 vehicles, with the extensive local supply and manufacturing effort being led by Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land and Krauss-Maffei Wegman’s U.K. subsidiary, WFEL.
Under the current contract, deliveries were scheduled to run for nine years starting 2023. The delivery tempo of just one per week, from two production sites, was labelled “astonishing” in a recent parliamentary Defence Committee report.
Carleton-Smith said the Army was now looking to raise the production speed and buy additional vehicles in the wake of the Warrior decision.
“The debate was, were we going to pour very scarce, precious new money into a platform that was going to be nearly 50 years old by the time we were fielding it? Or would it not be better, to take this moment to take it out of service, invest the money in new emerging capabilities, such as Boxer, buy more of them, and accelerate the production?” he said.
The MoD said recently it was looking at options to increase the lethality of some of its Boxer fleet with missiles or a cannon to better replace the lethality lost by ditching updated Warriors equipped with the CTAI 40mm gun. (Source: Defense News)
20 May 21. Ajax still facing delays? PQ’s published in this issue (see below PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS), suggest that the Ajax Programme is still facing delays with no ISD confirmed.
Kevan Jones and Tobias Ellwood asked PQs this month: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many vehicles of the Ajax family have been accepted into service by the British Army.
Answer: Jeremy Quin: A total of 14 non-turreted Capability Drop 1 AJAX vehicles have been delivered. 12 turreted AJAX vehicles are currently going through General Acceptance Testing.
Mr Tobias Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what the timetable is for the delivery of all the Ajax vehicles ordered by his Department; and whether the first batch will be delivered on time.
Answer: Jeremy Quin: The AJAX delivery schedules are currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Defence and GDLSUK. 14 non-turreted AJAX vehicles at Capability Drop 1 have been delivered to date. A further 12 turreted AJAX vehicles are currently going through General Acceptance Testing. Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that £3.45bn has been spent since 2010 on Ajax out of a Budgeted £5.45bn for the whole capability! One source suggested that it could be, ‘The British Army’s Nimrod.’
18 May 21, PCP001 fire-support vehicle in service with combined arms battalion in Xinjiang. Chinese state-owned media indicated on 18 May that an artillery company under the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force’s (PLAGF’s) Xinjiang Military Command has been equipped with the PCP001 fire-support vehicle. Broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) released video footage showing at least six examples of the PCP001, which is based on a modified 4×4 Dongfeng EQ2050 vehicle, being used in live-fire drills at an undisclosed location, presumably in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. CCTV said that the drills were held by the artillery company of a combined arms formation at an altitude of more than 4,800 m above sea level.
No details were provided about the battalion or whether this is the first time the PCP001, which is fitted with an 82 mm rapid-deployment automatic mortar system, is being used by the Xinjiang Military Command. (Source: Jane’s)
18 May 21. Indonesia’s Medium Tank Program Features Allison Transmission. Allison Transmission, the largest global manufacturer of medium- and heavy-duty fully automatic transmissions for commercial and military vehicles, is an active participant in defense programs around the world. Most recently, Allison Transmission has proudly collaborated with Caterpillar Defense, FNSS and PT Pindad, to provide a new medium tank to the Indonesian Armed Forces, known as the Harimau. Nail Kurt, FNSS General Manager and CEO, reports planned production of between 200 and 400 of these tanks that are uniquely suited for the dense vegetation prevalent in Asia. (https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/turkish-indonesian-tank-ready-for-mass-production/1247122)
The Harimau is a new medium weight tank designed to increase the capability of the Armed Forces mechanized forces, providing Indonesia with the mobility and firepower capability needed in some of the most difficult terrain. The Harimau program is one of the Indonesia’s highest priority signature modernization initiatives and has passed extensive testing by both FNSS/PT Pindad and the Indonesian Armed Forces and now enters full production. The Harimau tank relies on Allison’s proven cross-drive transmission technology, designed for medium-tracked combat vehicles, and provides propulsion, steering and braking. The automatic transmission, manufactured under license by Caterpillar Defense in Shrewsbury, UK, has powered combat vehicles worldwide for decades.
“We appreciate the opportunity to provide the propulsion systems for this critically important and impressive vehicle for the Indonesian Armed Forces,” said Dana Pittard, Vice President for Defense Programs at Allison Transmission. “As we continue to support Indonesia with our world-class fully automatic transmissions, Allison is also collaborating with customers around the world to meet their current and future transmission requirements for medium weight armored vehicles. Allison Transmission is incredibly proud to collaborate with Caterpillar Defense, FNSS and PT Pindad to deliver quality products at tremendous value.”
Allison works with OEMs around the world to design, develop, manufacture and support transmissions that deliver in the most extreme conditions. For fleets that are developing new wheeled or tracked vehicles, Allison can tailor a transmission specifically for that application. Allison engineers and manufactures reliable and fully customizable propulsion solutions, so customers experience reduced downtime and increased ability to accomplish critical objectives. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
19 May 21. Rheinmetall has achieved another sales success in the United Kingdom. The British have ordered four more Mission Masters under the second phase (Spiral 2) of their Robotic Platoon Vehicle programme. Rheinmetall had already succeeded in placing its robotic vehicle in the Spiral 1 subproject of the UK’s RPV programme, which tests how unmanned vehicles can boost the firepower and capabilities of dismounted combat troops at platoon level.
Having already procured four Mission Master vehicles with cargo modules in the spring of 2020, the British military will now be acquiring four more Mission Masters, equipped this time with a fire support module to explore potential future capabilities.
The contract was awarded at the end of February. Delivery of the four Mission Master – Fire Support vehicles will take place between May and August 2021. The order, which will be handled by Rheinmetall Canada, also encompasses training and support activities as well as spare parts. Based in the UK, the joint venture company Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land will also be supporting the project.
Boasting a whole host of innovative features, the Mission Master’s nerve centre is the Rheinmetall PATH autonomy kit. It comprises a suite of advanced sensors and perception algorithms that assure rich situational awareness, enabling the vehicle to find the safest route through the surrounding environment. This ensures that the vehicle can navigate challenging terrain safely and complete its mission successfully, without collisions.
Featuring a built-in security circuit board, a tablet computer running Rheinmetall command and control software lets the operator steer the platform and control the weapon station in a safe wireless way.
The Mission Master – Fire Support is armed with the Rheinmetall Fieldranger Multi, a remotely controlled weapon station. Targets are never engaged autonomously: there is always a human in the loop. Fully stabilized, the 7.62mm cal. Fieldranger Multi features a wide vertical and horizontal slewing range, thus assuring high accuracy and effectiveness even at long distances.
Rheinmetall Mission Master – Focusing on the future with robotics and autonomy
Robotics is already changing the modern battlefield. The Rheinmetall Mission Master is a modular, autonomous, unmanned ground vehicle designed to enhance the operational effectiveness of troops tasked with carrying out a wide array of activities. Thanks to the Mission Master vehicle, soldiers can count on artificial intelligence and robotic muscle when performing dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks – the three Ds – and, more importantly, they can carry out their missions in greater safety.
Ready for deployment, the Mission Master can serve either as an autonomous or semiautonomous element of a combat team. Designed for maximum flexibility, the Mission Master can be outfitted for a multitude of different operations thanks to modular, quickly mountable build-ons. Besides logistic tasks, it can perform in a variety of other roles, including surveillance, security, casualty evacuation and CBRN detection. The Mission Master can also serve as a mobile radio relay station.
17 May 21. British Army ‘reviewing’ MRV-P options after Defence Command Paper silence. The British Army is reviewing the options for both packages of the Multi Role Vehicle-Protected (MRV-P) requirement after the programme was left absent from the UK’s recently published Defence Command Paper. The British Army’s Head of Strategy Brigadier John Clark recently told reporters that work was still underway to figure out how many vehicles and of what type would be needed to fill the requirement.
When reached for comment about the status of the programme, a British Army spokesperson told Army Technology: “The Multi Role Vehicle-Protected programme will modernise the army’s light mobility fleet, delivering vehicles in two packages for both the new Heavy and Light Brigade Combat Teams.
“Following the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper, we are reviewing options for both MRV-P packages.”
The US-built Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) has previously emerged as the British Army’s preferred choice to fill the MRV-P package 1 requirement to provide command, liaison and logistic vehicles.
Since the JLTV emerged as a front runner, the UK has yet to order the vehicle. Changes to the government’s prosperity agenda have called the possibility of ordering a US vehicle into question.
The UK was due to decide on whether to procure the JLTV via a US Foreign Military Sales case in 2020.
Answering a question about the status of MRV-P, Clark said: “We are clear that in terms of the warfighting division, the nucleus of it are the new Apache helicopters, the Challenger 3 tanks, the Ajax and the Boxer. But clearly, there are subsets of vehicles beneath that, and exactly what that force package looks like and whether it ends up being JLTV or anything else is all being worked through as part of the ongoing work.”
“Effectively, the army has unveiled… in principle down to brigade level what the future army will look like. And the field army at the moment, including all the capability branches and so forth, are working – in addition to the quite mature work that we had before – to work out exactly how many vehicles of what type we need in order to deliver the capabilities that defence has demanded of us.”
MRV-P package 2 will provide the army with troop-carrying vehicles and future protected battlefield ambulances.
A decision on what vehicle to procure to fill the package 2 requirement was also due to be made and contracted in 2020, but no orders have been placed yet. (Source: army-technology.com)
18 May 21. Texelis and QinetiQ have entered into a strategic partnership to jointly deliver in-wheel Electric Hub Drive technology to military armoured vehicles.
Under the Strategic Partnership, Texelis will manufacture the Hub Drive technology at scale to meet market demands; while QinetiQ will bring the core electrification technology and expertise. The joint approach will leverage both organisations’ unique engineering and technology expertise.
Hub Drive technology combines electric propulsion with mechanical and regenerative braking in a compact package. Efficiency and size has been the weakness of previous attempts at electric propulsion for wheeled military vehicles where the direct drive of motors to wheels has been used. The partnership will deliver a Hub Drive transmission where electrical machines are small-sized for the high-speed propulsion, with all the advantages in terms of acceleration and agility, with the high torque demands for hill climb and obstacle crossing handled by the range-changing gearbox. The agreement will see Texelis apply its deep vehicle mobility expertise to design the suspension system for the electric wheel hub. Coupled with QinetiQ’s 25-year heritage in the design and development of power-dense electrification technology the partnership will deliver leading solutions to the defence market at pace.
As well as the Hub Drive technology the partnership will bring to market the Wheel Station Controller (WSC) and Power and Services (PAS), through a design for manufacture process. Texelis will be responsible for initialising assembly lines to produce the electric drive hub and WSC at its site in Limoges, France.
Jean Vandel, Managing Director for Defense, Texelis, commented: “This is a very important area of development, both for Texelis and the military vehicle market worldwide. The Electric Hub Drive enables enhanced power, system efficiency and the ability to operate silently using the battery as a source of power. This allows us to rethink the vehicle power architecture completely and discard conventional axle and driveshaft design constraints. This offers vehicle OEMs much greater freedom to design the best, most flexible vehicles for tomorrow’s battlefield.
“We are extremely pleased to join with QinetiQ under this strategic agreement to enable military customers to access this design.”
Mike Sewart, Chief Technology Officer at QinetiQ, commented: “We are very excited to be partnering with Texelis in this fundamental component of military platform modernisation. QinetiQ’s Electric Drive capability has been in research and development for many years. We’ve leveraged our insight into global platform mobility solutions and electrification, and designed a solution to be used in the most advanced of military scenarios. Through our strategic partnership with Texelis we will be enhancing and scaling this capability to deliver solutions for our customers at pace.”
18 May 21. Jankel delivers ‘next generation’ Guardian Counter Terror Assault Vehicle-Urban (CTAV-URBAN). Jankel, a world-leader in the design and manufacture of high-specification defence, security and NGO protection systems, has delivered the first of their ‘next generation’ Guardian Counter Terror Assault Vehicle-Urban (CTAV-URBAN) to an undisclosed customer. Based on the latest 2020 Ford F-550 platform, the Guardian CTAV-URBAN features a new Mobile Adjustable Ramp System (MARS) from long-standing partners Patriot 3 who work exclusively with Jankel in the UK.
Firmly established as one of the premier global suppliers of armoured counter terror adapted vehicle systems, Jankel, with Patriot 3, have developed and integrated a new version of the MARS ramp system for Guardian CTAV-URBAN that delivers a narrower, lighter, single ramp, fully hydraulic variant that will allow counter terror teams to effectively operate in tighter spaces and more restricted city environments. Retaining the Ford OEM aluminium body, Jankel engineers have developed an armour suite that mounts within the vehicle without compromising structure, rigidity or durability. The integration of the new MARS ramp onto the Jankel Guardian CTAV-URBAN includes the flexibility to remove the MARS system, if needed, as well as the development of numerous other innovative enhancements in platform protection and tactical systems.
Jankel has a history dating back to the early 2000’s of providing the very best tactical counter terror platforms. With this new CTAV-URBAN variant, Jankel has customised the platform to meet the exact customer needs and tactics. The vehicle has been fully tested to prove the durability, reliability and maintainability but also to validate the advanced handling and performance characteristics expected of a truly tactical counter terror assault platform. Working closely together with Patriot 3, the CTAV-URBAN ladder system has been developed and refined to retain all of the MARS standard functionalities yet deliver additional options packaged in a single ramp configuration.
Charlie Fuqua, Elevated Tactics Sales Manager from Patriot 3 said: “we have had an ongoing working relationship with Jankel since the mid-2000s and have supplied numerous multi-mission vehicle solutions to defence and law enforcement end users around the world.” He went on to say: “Patriot3 looks forward to continuing our Jankel partnership with the introduction of the new CTAV-URBAN (complimenting the CTAV), as well as future developments to meet our customers ever evolving operational requirements.”
Andrew Jankel, Chairman at Jankel Group said: “we’ve worked with Patriot 3 for many years on a number of successful specialist vehicle-based projects so delivering the first of this next generation Guardian CTAV vehicles to an exceedingly important customer is a continuation of an already strong partnership”. He added: “Effective partnering is one of our key strengths here at Jankel and our partnership with Patriot 3 is another fine example of how we bring capability, innovation, flexibility and agility together to deliver and support the very best products and services, driving mission success”.