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30 Jun 04. QinetiQ will reduce risk and cost for UK MOD on its Gatekeeper programme for utility vehicles, through a contract newly won with the military Specialist and Utility Vehicles Integrated Project Team (SUV IPT). QinetiQ will carry out a full set of automotive trials and technical assessments for MOD and provide comparative data on a range of military vehicles.

The Gatekeeper programme aims to evaluate and assess a range of commercially available vehicle chassis’ to consider their suitability for service applications with the UK MOD. The selected vehicles include the Mercedes Benz Unimog 5000 Series 4×4, MOWAG DURO III 6×6 and Supacat HMT 6×6. All of these are military specification logistic vehicles in the 5-6 tonne payload range.

Key to the evaluation work is a series of automotive trials led by QinetiQ, which will assess performance and will provide sufficient data to compare the vehicles. These trials include an extensive reliability demonstration, as well as assessments of vibration, noise, ride and handling. Environmental trials will assess EMC and performance in hot dry, hot humid and cold climatic conditions. QinetiQ’s team of experienced automotive and trials engineers will manage the various assessments to deliver results to MOD in just five months.

The Gatekeeper reliability trials cover a distance of 22500km per vehicle over a mixture of terrain including metalled road, rough road, alpine, cross country, setts and Belgian pavé. QinetiQ and MOD facilities will be used as they closely replicate the harsh terrain encountered during in-service use.

To ensure the vehicles have benign and predictable handling characteristics, a safety and handling assessment is included. This covers braking and handling assessments in a range of steady state and dynamic tests. Instrumentation is employed to measure lateral accelerations. Additional QinetiQ input to the Gatekeeper programme could include technical consultancy, advice on vehicle safety and legislation and safe and secure vehicle transportation schemes.

Comment: The US already has a Government Furnished equipment (GFE) system in place for the supply of HUMVEE vehicles for all specialist fits. This suits AM General; who can be guaranteed of a smooth supply process without the need for comparative trials and short delivery runs. The first GFE project for the UK was the Cormorant programme which used the DURO 1 vehicles, which required a great deal of taxpayers money to bring it up to Duro II standard and now with the purchase of Bucher by Mowag and then GD, the vehicle is well placed to win further contracts, one being the rumoured 12 EoD vehicles for Northern Ireland, replacing the Alvis Tactica vehicles which are going to Iraq via ABRO who are refurbishing the vehicles.

Colonel Carew Wilks told BATTLESPACE that because of time frames, a number of projects had selected vehicles, Skynet 5 being an example with Duros, whilst Watchkeeeper and Soothsayer had selected Supacat, the trials are still ongoing. Whilst we understand that in terms of technical performance the Supacat had performed well, it still very much lags behind its competitors in terms of through-life support and price, particularly the Unimog. If Supacat Ltd want to build on the technical success of the HMT, it is likely that the company will have to look for a ‘big brother’ to give the company sound financial stability and a long-term future in terms of support and engineering developments. BATTLESPACE understands that the company is in discussions with a number of potential suitors.

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