A guest post by Jed Cawthorn
With recent news that the US Army is considering changes to its JLTV requirement before authorising full-rate production, the UK’s decision to buy the same vehicle for our MRV-P requirement has been put on hold. In particular, the JLTV is less good than the Humvee it is intended to replace when launching TOW missiles. There are other concerns that have not been made public. As far as the UK was concerned, there were already worries about the price of JLTV. Originally, a figure of US$ 430,000 per vehicle was quoted by the UK MoD when it announced the decision to acquire the Oshkosh JLTV via an FMS contract. However, according to sources within DE&S, the un-integrated price has risen to US$ 700,000. If JLTV is going to be considerably more expensive than anticipated, there may be a case to reconsider a UK-made vehicle instead.
The Multi-Role Vehicle – Protected (MRV-P) is the UK Army requirement for a lightly armoured (or protected) utility vehicle to replace the Panther Command & Liaison vehicle, Husky Tactical Support Vehicle (Light), and Vector (Protected Pinzgauer) – all were purchased via UOR processes. MRV-P could also replace un-armoured LandRovers in some command and liaison roles and has the potential to replace the Foxhound LPPV in the future.
The requirement is split into groups or packagers; the Package 1 requirement is for the command & liaison and utility roles, Package 2 for an ambulance and troop transport, and Package 3 is for a light recovery vehicle able to rescue all of the above. A superb history and overview of the program is available here: https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/multi-role-vehicle-protected/
The intention was to fulfill the requirement by competition, but the rumour mill has the Oshkosh L-ATV (JLTV) taking Phase 1, Thales Bushmaster Phase 2, and a variant of the Supacat HMT 600 platform taking fulfilling the light recovery requirements.
The case for a “Buy British” approach
Some months ago (autumn 2018) @ThinkDefence on Twitter suggested that a “Buy British” approach capitalising on a platform already in widespread use by the British Army, made sense e.g. Supacat HMT400 and HMT 600, known respectively as the Jackal Medium-Weapons Mount Installation Kit (M-WMIK) and the Coyote Tactical Support Vehicle (TSV). Supacat has recently designed a new armoured cab for the Lightweight Recovery vehicle, and it appears that the Army is going to convert existing Coyote platforms to this new configuration to meet the requirement. Secondly, the UK also acquired the Foxhound Light Protected Patrol Vehicle (LPPV). Developed in competition with the Supacat’s SPV400, it won the competition with production fast tracked by the UOR process. After the drawdown from Afghanistan Foxhound was taken into the core equipment fleet and some 400 now remain in service.
The Supacat HMT platform
The UK purchased around 400 Jackals in two variants, and took more than 200 Jackal Mk2A into the core equipment fleet after Afghanistan. These now equip light armoured reconnaissance regiments. Some 165 Coyote TSVs were purchased, and all were taken into the core fleet.
The argument is that if we have hundreds of these vehicles in service already, and the number will be added to with Light Recovery variants (or conversions) then why not utilise the platform, its chassis, suspension, engine and drivetrain to gain greater utility from a British design, and bring operational and budgetary benefits through widespread commonality? The new recovery variant provides a new design of cab, and that is another reason to extrapolate designs based on this platform.
Another military tweeter, @TotherChris did some great work converting Supacat’s line drawings of their vehicles to show how the HMT400 and 600 platforms, using a CAD program to keep the dimensions correct, all to show how they could be adapted to meet all MRV-P requirements, and beyond. Building on Chris’ impressive work, I have explored how the HMT400 and HMT600 series of vehicles might be able to fulfill the full range of roles. If we intend to keep the Jackal 2A in service in the light cavalry role, this would provide obvious benefits in commonality across the MRV-P fleet, with potential savings in training, maintenance and procurement of spare parts.
The General Dynamics Land Systems UK (GDLS) Ocelot
Another in-service UK designed vehicle, also much discussed in the UK military twitter-verse is the General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) Ocelot, known as the Foxhound Light Protected Patrol Vehicle in UK service. Designed by Force Protection and Ricardo in the UK to meet a UOR requirement to replace the Snatch Land-Rover and Vector, it utilises composite armour for lightweight protection, with a crew of 2 this vehicle carries four personnel or a “brick” on patrol. Designed to be modular, GDLS has built prototypes for cargo pick-ups and open cab M-WMIK-type variants. It has also marketed the concept of Ocelot-S – a steel armour version, which offers the same protection at an increased gross vehicle weight and reduced payload. With no CAD created line drawings, where necessary I have just used MS Paint to modify photos of existing models as a graphical depiction to back up the text.
Ocelot / Foxhound versatility is based on the modular design. Different mission “pods” are fitted on the generic engine and chassis combination, based on an armoured “skate board” that carries the transmission and automotive components.
The protection requirement for MRV-P is Stanag 4569 Level 2 minimum, Level 3 aspirational, to protect crews from small arms fire and artillery shrapnel. Level 2 is 7.62 x 39mm AK rounds, and protection from 155mm artillery rounds exploding 80 meters away. IED / mine blast is Level 2A minimum, which is a 6kg HE mine under any wheel. Protected is the keyword here, this is not an armoured fighting vehicle.
A replacement for the Panther CLV and Land-Rovers, this version is the Company/ Squadron Commander and RSM’s / CQMS’s wagon. With a driver and vehicle commander up front, and 2 pax in the back, the vehicle needs space for battle management system computers and Bowman radios.
Supacat CLV variant
The design of the Supacat HMT400 platform, puts the driver and vehicle commander in front of a mid-mounted engine, with two more seats further aft. In the Jackal M-WMIK the heavy weapons mount, is over the engine bay, the gunner standing on top of it when operating the .50 cal HMG or 40mm GMG. If the Command & Liaison vehicle does not need to have roof hatches in the same place (but perhaps rather, it would need them over the forward or aft seats) then the space over the engine bay provides ideal space for radios and computers, and maybe some equipment stowage. Note that on the Jackal Mk2 the spare wheel is on the inside of the armoured “door” and that on the opposite door is a storage compartment.
Taking the new LRV cab configuration, that would give us a layout that looks something like the vehicle depicted below:
Depending on the hatch configuration (the figure depicts 2; 1 over front seats and 1 over rear) this vehicle could have a pintle mounted MG with gun shield etc , or the lightweight RWS taken from the Panther CLV for self protection. Smoke grenade launchers, ECM antenna’s and a spare wheel are not depicted but could easily be fitted. The load deck could also carry the crew’s kit, water and fuel jerry-cans, ammunition, and camouflage nets etc.
The Jackal has a kerb weight of 5.5 Tonnes with armour package and fuel, and a payload of 2.1 Tonnes for a gross vehicle weight of 7.6 Tonnes. So with its full cab / superstructure, the MRV-P configuration might leave half to three quarters of a tonne mass capacity for use on the cargo deck.
Foxhound CLV variant
When it comes to Foxhound, it could be argued that a standard vehicle is already suitable for the CLV role, despite having 6 seats. Existing room in back is sufficient for the C4I fit, and, if 2 seats were removed, there would be no need for a new “pod” or mission module. While such a solution might not be optimal, it would utilise the existing design. These vehicles could be derivatives of the Ocelot-S version, with conventional steel armour, to ensure the vehicle remains affordable.
The artist’s impression below shows a 4-seat, 4-door pick-up variant of Foxhound that is equivalent to the JLTV.
Command & Control variant
This requirement is for an MRV-P variant with more command and control space, and less cargo space. Also potentially for more space in the static C2 role, a tent / pavilion is attached to provide more working space.
Supacat C2 variant
A Supacat HMT400 variant, with a full armoured cab module taking the whole length of the vehicle without the pickup truck style cargo deck could easily meet this requirement with the internal space available, in fact such a vehicle could potentially seat four in the back section, plus the two crew up front, with space for C2 electronics and some working space provided by fold down / fold out desks , map boards or large LCD displays etc.
Foxhound C2 variant
This requirement would likely be met by using a standard Foxhound pod with a different seating / equipment layout in the back.
MRV-P Tactical Support Vehicle (TSV) variant
This variant of the MRV-P is a pick-up truck to carry unit stores, and can be seen as the direct replacement for the Husky TSV.
Supacat Transport / TSV variants
The Supacat HMT400 and HMT600 platforms provide a number of options for meeting this requirement, depending on the amount of stores that need to be carried, and crew total. The HMT400 full-cab version detailed above for the C2 requirement could carry cargo internally “under armour”. The “Crew cab” pick up variants could have two or four crew, and various cargo handling facilities could be mounted, including cranes for pallet handling or mini-DROPS / EPLS type platforms.
Size ranges go beyond the requirement depicted above to include the HMT600 6×6 versions, able to carry more cargo, and potentially replacing the Coyote TSV with a closed cab variant.
Foxhound Transport / TSV variants
GDLS has already developed a prototype that could meet this basic requirement, with 2 crew and a load-bed. Originally an extended wheel base 4 x 4 and 6 x 6 versions of the Foxhound were proposed, providing some flexibility in how the role was fulfilled, like the Supacat variants.
Interestingly, it is not clear whether the LPPV requirements included a tow hook. But adding one should not be an issue.
MRV-P Troop Carrier
The MRV-P troop carrier requirement is currently seen as being met by a bigger vehicle, the Thales Bushmaster seems to be a favourite, although there are other contenders. The bigger chassis also provides the basis of an ambulance variant.
Extrapolating the plan diagrams available on the web showing the seating plan of Jackal gets me to a slightly longer full cab version of the HMT400 than our friend Chris’ original drawing he published on Twitter, based on more overhang at the back of the vehicle. So that might give us something that looks like this, two rows of 3 seats in the back as per the block diagram in the requirements:
If two rows of three seats could not be fitted in the back while retaining the side doors, these could be deleted and a single large door at the back used as with other vehicles of this type.
A slightly longer body as show above on the HMT400 with more overhang at the rear, but without reducing the departure angle, might also allow for a litter to be carried, producing a simple casualty evacuation ambulance model.
Supacat also has the longer HMT600 6×6 chassis as an option for an APC able to carry a full 8-man section in the back, or for an ambulance that can carry multiple casualties and / or provide more space for treatment on the move.
Foxhound Troop Carrier & Ambulance
A few years ago, when GDLS first floated the idea of an Ocelot-S version, with less-expensive steel armour, they produced images of a long wheelbase 4×4 as the troop carrier, and also a graphic of an ambulance version:
MRV-P Supacat Variants Summary
Between the HMT400 4×4 and HMT600 6×6 platforms, we have a common chassis, engine, drivetrain, and suspension, offering considerable commonality of spare parts across a range of vehicles that have interoperability with the existing Jackal M-WMIK and Coyote TSV fleets, that could potentially meet all of the MRV-P Phase 1 and 2 requirements.
Potentially, the closed cab variants could replace some if not all, of the Jackal and Coyote fleet. The HMT600 could also potentially replace Mastiff and Wolfhound, although with lower mine blast protection ratings. Supacat already built a prototype HIMARS type MLRS rocket launcher vehicle for the previous LIMAWS(M) requirement. The platform is big enough to carry Exactor precision guided missiles in support of light forces (the South Koreans and Israeli’s mount it on the Sandcat). Specialist versions for the Royal Corps of Signals; radio re-broadcast, EW etc seem a given, as the HMT600 was the platform for the Soothsayer system.
MRV-P GDLS Ocelot / Foxhound Variants summary
GDLS would have to fully develop the cheaper Ocelot-S steel armoured variants that they have suggested / marketed in the past. Foxhound, as it exists, is considered too expensive. However the basis is definitely there for a British-designed and produced vehicle to take-on a least some of the MRV-P roles alongside the existing fleet of 400 LPPVs. Again, the benefits of commonality are potentially substantial. With no 6×6 version in existence, it might be that Ocelot variants would be supplanted by an off the shelf purchase of something like the Thales Bushmaster at the larger end of the capability spectrum, such as the troop carrier and ambulance requirements.
In an army that drastically needs to be re-equipped with modern equipment, across support as well as combat vehicle fleets, the commonality provided by development of the Supacat HMT or GDLS Ocelot platforms could produce considerable benefits in through-life costs by standardising a single vehicle family across both MRV-P roles, and through commonality with existing in-service fleets. They provide an alternative “buy British” approach to the suggested FMS purchase of Oshkosh L-ATV (JLTV) for at least the MRV-P Package 1 requirements.