SUPACAT HMT – THE SYSTEM VEHICLE
Julian Nettlefold, BATTLESPACE Editor meets Graham Weller, Commercial Director Supacat Ltd
The last time BATTLESPACE visited Supacat Ltd was in the summer of 2001, when I drove the new HMT 4×4 vehicle. We had written about the vehicle in 1999 for the DSEi show and had already marked it as ‘one to watch’. The test drive in 2001 convinced me that Supacat had a winner on its hands, and so it has turned out.
Since my last visit, the company has been transformed. In its early days as a small engineering company producing the one vehicle, Supacat 6×6, for the MoD and working with Alvis as prime contractor for MoD orders, Supacat was perceived as nothing more than a small specialist engineer, having won the MoD ATMP requirement in 1986. There are now 200 6x6s, 95 with the U.K. MoD, in service around the world.
Well, for those of our readers who don’t follow the company, the transformation since 2001 has been nothing less than spectacular. Gone are the tape measures and sticky tape to be replaced with a purpose designed R&D facility, The ‘Clayton Building’ named after David Clayton, joint founder of Supacat with Nick Jones, now the Operations Director. “Nick personally oversaw the design and construction of this facility”, Graham Weller told me, “We are now able to offer our customers a complete range of capabilities from extended design and development of new products to service and through life CLS support. We have developed our CLS facility thru our contract with the MoD to supply and support 8 Mine Protected Vehicles for the British Army,” Weller continued.
Nick Jones is ably supported by design and development specialist, Val Dare-Bryan, a designer of racing cars, who has recently developed an all-aluminium bus for London, driven by a 2 litre petrol engine. Dare-Bryan was the leading light, along with the Duke of Hamilton, in the development of the Supacat HMT, and what a vehicle it has turned out to be! Alongside the Clayton Building, I was taken to the new trails and development unit where one of the latest 6×6 HMT’s was being fitted out. “We have two chassis fabricators and DML in Plymouth supplies complete rolling chassis under subcontract. The company now has one 4×4 and two 6×6 demonstrator vehicles, one of which is in the USA trialing for a number of applications including the Lockheed Martin EFSS 120mm mortar demonstrator for a requirement for which the U.S. Marines are shortly to issue an RFP. Supacat is also considering the HMT as a possible candidate for the U.S. Marine Corps XM777 Howitzer tow tractor requirement. There is a potential for 1500 vehicle sales in the USA and are working on announcing a U.S. partner in the near future.”
But it does not stop there, having received Commercial Type Approval for the 4×4 variant in 2002 with the 6×6 Type Approval following next year; the HMT is attracting particular commercial and military interest in the UK, for a number of programmes totalling around 500 vehicles.
“HMT is already the vehicle of choice for a number of military systems suppliers,” Graham Weller told me, “INSYS has chosen the vehicle for the LIMAWS MLRS requirement for which one development vehicle is currently being designed for a contract requirement of 24 systems, with considerable export potential. Lockheed Martin has selected the HMT for the MoD’s Soothsayer programme and the HMT has been selected by both teams for the Watchkeeper and Falcon programmes.” I asked Val Dare-Bryan why HMT had such an advantage over its other rivals. The HMT is a modular design based on a ‘family of vehicles’ concept. The ‘common platform’ can be adapted to various configurations from 4×4, 6×4, 6×6 thru to 8×8. Other configurations include armoured body units, for a possible FRES requirement and a 6×6 with a detachable payload module called ‘Extenda’. Supacat is one of the few companies in the world to have developed a High Mobility wheeled vehicle in the 7 to 12 tonne class