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By Julian Nettlefold

26 Apr 10. Before driving up to Millbrook on Tuesday to drive the Ocelot, the Editor visited Ricardo’s Shoreham-on-Sea facility to see the engineering behind the Ocelot.

“We are extremely pleased to have been able to work with Force Protection Europe to create this exciting new vehicle concept. Ocelot offers a highly practical defence vehicle solution to current and future operational requirements, while also providing unparalleled levels of occupant safety against the very real and present threats of a hostile theatre environment. This is just another example of how Ricardo is able to work with its partners and customers to deliver the very latest in automotive innovation and technology in truly exceptional defence vehicle solutions.” John Lake of Ricardo said.

“By starting with a clean sheet we have been able to create a design that is a complete departure from the usual practice of basing mine resistant vehicles on a standard chassis. We are confident that Ocelot not only meets today’s blast resistance requirements but those expected in the future. Ocelot exceeds the required mine protection level set for the UK MoD’s Light Protected Patrol Vehicle, while still meeting the targets for mobility, payload, size and gross vehicle weight. As a member of Team Ocelot, Ricardo was tasked with the design and development of the vehicle from the ground up. Given the short time frame, from February to November 2009, we had to be nimble on our feet as well as providing the best engineering solution to meet, what was, a very demanding Requirement. We used our expertise in the WMIK and SNATCH Vixen Programmes to design a build process which provides fast throughput. We aim to build 10 vehicles a week at Shoreham, with the powerpack being supplied by Ricardo in Leamington Spa and the pod, fully fitted out from Formaplex. The resulting vehicle is a wholly UK design and the IP rights rest with Force Protection Europe. ” John Lake continued.

Measuring 5.4m long by 2.3m high x 2.1m wide, Ocelot comprises a core automotive armoured spine or ‘skateboard’ onto which a number of alternative, special-to-role pods are mounted. Each of the pods can be easily changed in the field as the need arises and have been designed for roles such as patrol, fire support or protected logistics. Four wheel steering is common to all and the vehicle can be transported in a C-130 or underslung from a Chinook.

“We looked ‘outside the box’ particularly with the design of the armoured pod, given the weight restrictions, and looked at a number of Formula 1 suppliers who, of course, have expert knowledge in designing strong composite structures with structural strength. We chose Formaplex of Havant, a Formula 1 supplier, who together with QinetiQ supplied the armoured package. We also had to build in growth to the vehicle and to that end we used an Axletech system which will give growth to at least 10 tonnes if required. The vehicle you see is plated to 7.5 tonnes to allow non-HGV drivers to drive. In addition to save weight and moving parts, we used a torsion bar suspension system which gives excellent cross-country capability, together with strength and rigidity. It is a first for a wheeled vehicle in this class. It also allows the vehicle to drive away in the event of damage or a blast to the system. The combination of the Steyr-Daimler-Puch 6 cylinder 4-stroke turbocharged diesel M160036-A 160kw engine coupled to the ZF 6-speed automatic 6HP28 gearbox, not only gives excellent performance but also saves 300kgs over the Cummins/Allison combination used by other vehicles. We have used the Steyr engine for other projects such as for a CVR(T) upgrade and it is an excellent engine. We have built the engine/gearbox configuration into a powerpack model, similar to those on a Main Battle Tank, which allows the whole module to be changed in less than 6 hours.”

John Lake showed the Editor the bare chassis ‘skatebo

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