WHEELS IN MOTION
By Shaun Connors
Shaun Connors takes a snapshot look at the world of military load-carrying trucks that is biased in content towards manufacturers exhibiting at DVD 2009
The logical starting point for an overview look at the world of military trucks in an issue of BATTLESPACE that will be available during, and have some emphasis on, the UK’s DVD 2009 show should be, and therefore will be, with the current major supplier of trucks to the UK’s armed forces, MAN.
MAN Truck and Bus UK Ltd
Following a long drawn out and evolutionary contest that began in 1998 with aspirations of being a PFI (Private Finance Initiative) procurement, MAN Truck and Bus UK Ltd was finally awarded the UK’s Support Vehicle contract in March 2005. The initial contract award was valued at £1.3 billion and called for 5,165 vehicles (including 314 recovery), 69 recovery trailers, around 1,000 appliqué armour kits, and a significant product support package. At DVD 2006 MAN disclosed that after considering a number of options including the possible refurbishment of current DAF 4-tonne trucks, the UK MoD had exercised its maximum possible option under the Support Vehicle contract by ordering an additional 2,077 vehicles.
The first of the new fleet entered service in June 2007, and by mid-2009 around 2,400 vehicles had been delivered, with production/delivery scheduled to continue until 2013.
To meet the evolving threat on deployed operations, details of a number of Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs) to enhance the capabilities of the Support Vehicle fleet were disclosed by the UK MoD during 2008. Project Fortress was the upgrade of 280 vehicles, the main emphasis of which was enhanced crew survivability. By mid-2009 approaching 120 Project Fortress vehicles had been deployed. All 280 vehicles involved are equipped with electronic and enhanced electronic countermeasures equipment in an effort to neutralise Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The forward control cab is fitted with appliqué passive armour to classified ballistic and blast protection levels. The front and sides of the cab have been fitted with bar armour to neutralise high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead-equipped rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) before they impact the main armour. Run flat tyres are standard fit. Mounted on the roof of the cab is a protected weapon station fitted with a 7.62 mm general-purpose machine gun (GPMG).
The EPLS (Enhanced Palletised Load System) is another UOR under Project Barricade. EPLS will supplement/replace the currently deployed Leyland DAF Medium Mobility Load Carrier (MMLC) and Foden Improved Medium Mobility Load Carrier (IMMLC) DROPS (Demountable Rack Off-loading and Pick-up System), the cabs of which are commercial pattern and will not readily accept suitable ballistic and blast protection. Under Project Barricade around 90 standard HX77 15-tonne payload (8×8) cargo trucks were converted to a load handling system (LHS) configuration, complete with integral container handling unit. To meet ongoing operational requirements, additional EPLS trucks are required, with an order for a further 70 vehicles understood to be pending at the time of writing.
The Support Vehicle fleet consists primarily of HX range trucks, these bolstered by around 470 (including the recovery fleet) of the more capable SX range.
MAN’s SX range utilises some MAN commercial driveline componentry for obvious supportability/commonality reasons, but is based on a purpose designed torsionally stiff chassis, features coil spring suspension, has an engine mounted behind the cab, and for optimum mobility uses a fully automatic powershift transmission. MAN’s HX range trucks are visually quite similar to the SX range, being fitted with MAN’s modular military cab and featuring a cooling back relocated behind the cab. They are, however, based on the chassis (albeit stiffened) and driveline components of MAN’s TGA range of heavy commercial trucks.