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The Armoured Vehicles Round Up - DSEi 2011

Contributor:  Keith Mallon.
Posted:  09/18/2011  12:00:00 AM EDT  | 
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Last week’s DSEi exhibition saw several new armoured vehicles and technologies shown in public for the first time, with several major programme updates being unveiled. Widespread analysis of the armoured vehicles market predicts a downturn in orders post-Afghanistan, but there was significant optimism among manufacturers at the show, though it was tempered by the prospect of tougher competition. IHS Jane's has forecast the global armoured vehicles market at approximately USD30 billion over the next ten years and, whilst much of this investment can be attributed to China’s modernisation programmes, there are many other opportunities more open to Western companies.
 
General Dynamics Scout SV
 
The big news was, of course, the public display of the British Army’s new Scout SV vehicle, built by General Dynamics. Built as a derivative of the original ASCOD (Austrian-Spanish Cooperative Development) vehicle, the British variant has long promised major upgrades over the early design.

The principal differences are found in the ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), lethality and survivability areas. The ISR systems come from Thales and offer far greater range and higher situational awareness than is currently available to the British Army.

A bold claim on the General Dynamics information boards claimed that lethality was “equivalent to a Challenger 2”. Officials from the Royal Armoured Corps’ Armoured Trials and Development Unit were extremely quick to qualify that claim when questioned, however. The combination of KE (kinetic energy), HE and air-burst rounds fired from the CTAI 40mm Cased Telescoped Cannon, with a rate of fire of up to 180 rounds per minute, offers a withering direct fire capability. Combined with the ability to shoot on the move and the accuracy that is enabled by the ISR systems, the ATDU is extremely satisfied with the lethality systems. However, the much smaller 40mm rounds could “never” be considered directly comparable to Challenger 2.

Critics of the Scout vehicle have sought - in private - to focus on the weight increase that comes from the upgraded survivability. At its heaviest, Scout could weigh-in at 42 tonnes. However, ATDU was confident that the typical operating weight would be in the region of 38 tonnes with the option to drop as low as 30-32 tonnes if greater mobility was required.

Both the Ministry of Defence and General Dynamics have been keen to point to the progress made by the Project Team to date – especially when considering the FRES programme’s inglorious history. Asked to comment as to how this has been made possible, ATDU emphasised that all members of the project team were closely embedded.  The customer thus has the chance to reject modifications at the paper-design stage, rather than waiting for field trials to establish that specific technologies were not appropriate.
 

BAE's Scimitar Mark II is a reconnaissance vehicle fielded in response
to the MoD's UOR programme. Image: Defence IQ
 
 
Scimitar + Spartan = 'Project Transformer'
 
Also unveiled was an upgraded version of the British Army’s Scimitar vehicle. Rumours of a new Scimitar/Spartan vehicle had circulated among the armoured vehicle community for a few months. “Project Transformer” has a budget of about GBP30 million and these new vehicles utilise a Spartan hull, arranged into a Scimitar-like configuration with the 30mm RARDEN cannon being retained alongside a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun.

Mike Sweeny, Head of External Communications for BAE’s Global Combat Systems, declined to offer specifics on what level of survivability the new platform offered, but weight has now risen to 15 tonnes, giving some indication of the level of armour on offer. This comparatively light weight still offers extremely low ground pressure with the option of reducing weight further by integrating Diehl’s band tracks - which has been touted as a distinct possibility. With the Scout vehicle still some years off introduction to service, BAE sees ongoing opportunities for the vehicle with the integration of either an unmanned turret or the CT40 canon being potential options. BAE Systems has sold over 2,000 of the original vehicles to 16 nations, so export potential in the upgrade market is very much 'front of mind'.

Sweeny also gave some details on the Warrior Theatre Entry Standard – Herrick (TES-H) upgrade, recently fielded by the British Army. Speculation suggests that about 70 vehicles have been upgraded with BAE integrating several elements of the technology that would have been included had they won the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP). The new TES-H standards include improvement of the environmental systems, integration of standard electronic counter-measures, and improved armour and protection.
 
Lockheed Martin and WCSP
 
Winner of the WCSP programme (subject to it being approved by the UK Ministry of Defence) is Lockheed Martin and they also displayed their Warrior in its upgraded standard. Senior Systems Engineer for Lockheed, Neil Grout described how the new vehicle was “fully Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA) compliant” and, although he declined to state the exact power capacity the upgrade brings, he said it was a “significant boost” over the current version in service with “a margin for future growth”. Situational awareness has been improved through the integration of a suite of cameras around the vehicle, relayed internally through several screens that can be quickly programmed by the operator to display the desired mix of images.

Lethality is upgraded with CTAI’s CT40 cannon, including a new ammunition handling system that utilises the space-saving qualities of the cannon's rotational-breach loading design. Common with the new Scout vehicle, the weapon and fire control system will reduce the training burden the Army faces as, once qualified on one vehicle, the operator can easily transition to the other.


The Czech SVOS VEGA on display at DSEi 2011. Image: Defence IQ
 
 
Czech manufacturer SVOS launched their VEGA vehicle this year and it was on display in the UK for the first time. With a company background predominantly in the upgrade of civilian vehicles to high protection standards, this is a first-time foray into the dedicated military market. As a 4x4 with “very high ballistic protection” according to Lukas Horak from the SVOS sales department, the vehicle enters a very crowded market place. Horak described the main opportunities being envisaged for the Asian market where the platform's high survivability and modularity are anticipated to prove popular. SVOS also sees a big advantage in that their platform costs “about half the price” of existing rivals. Too good to be true? Perhaps, but when asked to explain how this was possible, Horak demurred beyond a stock line about “efficiency” during the manufacturing process. A closer examination of the specifications, though, reveals that the whopping 28 tonne weight of this vehicle may somewhat compromise mobility.
 
Nexter cuts weight with XP-2
 
Nexter unveiled their XP-2 prototype, the 8x8 vehicle seeming to occupy an evolutionary position within the existing model line-up. The technology demonstrator features one major difference over the VBCI in that its aluminum armour is bent into shape rather than welded like most conventional vehicles. Explaining the process, Michel Lautier, Nexter’s Military Adviser, stated that the NATO STANAG level 4A protection came at less cost and in shorter time frames as the number of plates required to assemble the vehicle was reduced from 17 for the VBCI to 9 for the XP-2. The bending process also lessened the overall size and weight of the XP-2 to between 18-23 tonnes whilst still retaining the same volume as VBCI. XP-2 holds as many troops as VBCI, and whilst space between seats is a little smaller, capacity is still ample to carry troops equipped with the French Army’s FELIN soldier system.
 
BAE gives close-up of Adaptiv technology
 
Perhaps the biggest buzz of the show, however, was reserved not for a specific armoured vehicle but for a new type of armour. BAE Systems unveiled their new Adaptiv system - effectively an infra-red invisibility cloak that uses heat panels to mimic the thermal environment in which the platform operates.

For this year's show, the technology was installed on a CV90 armoured vehicle, but the system could just as easily be installed onto naval or rotary wing platforms.

Asked about the performance of the armoured platform against ballistic threats, Dan Lindell, BAE’s CV90 platform manager, explained that Adaptiv offered STANAG level 2 protection. Given this comparatively low level of protection, we enquired about the integration of further armour. Extra protection could be placed beneath the Adaptiv outer skin, but not on top. Exploring the example of bar armour, Lindell explained that the thermal signature of any material placed outside the Adaptiv layer could not be controlled by the technology and would negate any benefits. Adaptiv must then be seen as an integral armour system.

Power requirements for the system on the CV90 are in the region of about 20 Amps with the armour requiring approximately 150 Watts per square metre. Integration of the prototype protection on the CV90 took about 4-5 months, though this would be scalable as production increased. The cost per tile is, at present, just under GBP50, but again, this should reduce as demand increases.

For now, Adaptiv can only be integrated to BAE Systems platforms, although that too could change in the future.
 


Keith Mallon. Contributor:   Keith Mallon.


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