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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

28 January 2015

IAV XV 2015 - NDIA SO/LIC 2015: Special Operations Forces (SOF) Vehicles

These are interesting times in the evolution of SOF vehicles. Although the fundamental platform has not changed much since the UK’s WWII SAS used Willys JEEP, they have evolved significantly…right?

The key to current and future SOF vehicle programmes is the ability to quickly load up an air asset with troops and a rapid reaction mobility capability for speedy manoeuvrability onto target, as well as swift extraction when needed, especially under fire.

SOF vehicles are best described as platforms used to support unique, unconventional operations as conducted by Special Forces troops with much emphasis placed on mobility and air transportability. This trend is expected to maintain its position as the main driving force for future procurements, it appears. Media reports coming out of the UK in November 2014 described UK Special Forces (UKSF) force elements targeting Islamic State (IS) combatants with sniper rifles from the back of quad bikes. The UK’s MoD refused to comment on the news but this is nothing particularly new in the SOF community.

NATO Special Forces have routinely used quad bikes over recent campaigns in logistical support roles and more latterly, as mobile platforms capable of carrying heavy weaponry, supplies and ammunition, not to mention an operator. Australian SOF teams operating as part of the Special Operations Task Group in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, have also utilised such equipment to great effect so it is no surprise to hear of their popularity in the contemporary operational environment.
Similar to quad bikes has been the use of “outriders” on board cross-country motorbikes, generally used as scouting vehicles ahead of larger columns of armed vehicles, a tactic popular in desert environments, as well as the security of temporary landing sites in hazardous terrain. Again, a stalwart of the SOF community, this tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) appears sure to remain in the near to medium term.

Other SOF options that have gathered momentum in recent years include the All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) such as the Polaris buggies and more recently, Internally Transportable Vehicles (ITVs) such as General Dynamics’ family of FLYER vehicles, specifically designed to be carried on board CH-47 helicopters- a requirement particularly specified by the USSOCOM; or ST Kinetics’ SPIDER New Gen LSV.

Similarly, US Navy SEALs have routinely operated with Desert Patrol Vehicles (DPVs) over recent years with each ‘dune buggy’ capable of carrying SATCOM radomes and medium machine guns over harsh terrain. A US Navy source told MT: “Special operations units are characterised by the use of small units with unique ability to conduct military actions that are beyond the capability of conventional military forces.” This variety of SOF vehicles merely provides a means to an end to conduct and successfully complete a mission.

Rapid Reaction Mobility Capability in the Air as well as on Land

And therein lies the key to current and future SOF vehicle programmes: The ability to quickly load up an air asset (CH-47, C-130, CV-22) with troops and a rapid reaction mobility capability for speedy manoeuvrability onto target, as well as swift extraction when needed, especially under fire.

According to Sean Ridley, Programme Director for ITVs at General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GDOTS), SOF vehicles must support the very ‘unique’ mission sets covered by operators. “They are a very niche group, very small in numbers and with a very unique set of missions. In order for them to accomplish those and keep the operators safe, I think you need a different system compared to what conventional armies use. It’s not necessarily a different vehicle but a different set of mission capability sets, depending on the mission,” he explained to MT.

Referring to CSAR tactical vehicles as an example, Ridley explained how SOF operators required a vehicle to infill tactically and exfill quickly back onto a CH-47, potentially under fire and with combat patients on board. The future of SOF vehicles and ongoing requirements for ITV variants, Ridley confirmed, would be critical. “Those guys are not operating in very large groups and they need to get in and out to get their mission done. I think that [ITV] capability is necessary for what they’re trying to do,” he explained.

To this end, GDOTS’s FLYER 60 is currently a Program of Record with USSOCOM. The platform is capable of being transported on the back of the CV-22 OSPREY, as operated by the USAF Special Operations Command.

GDOTS’s FLYER 72 has also been selected for USSOCOM’s $562 million Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) 1.1 programme, despite protests from competitor AM General. This requirement called for internal and external transportability by CH-47 helicopter, again illustrating principal requirements from SOF units. An undisclosed NATO SOF unit has also received a demonstration platform for evaluation.

In line with comments regarding the support of particular SOF mission sets, Ridley described how in late October, GDOTS conducted a live fire exercise with the US Army at Ft Benning, GA, to demonstrate a static engagement using a remotely operated M230 chain gun. It is expected that this weapon system will replace the in-service .50-cal heavy machine gun currently employed by USSOCOM and other nations around the globe, providing a significant shift in firepower.

Previous iterations of the FLYER have also proven firing tests with anti-tank guided munitions including Rafael’s SPIKE system and Ridley confirmed that the FLYER series of vehicles would be “open” to such a capability.

Finally, SOF vehicles also require modularity in order to best equip them for particular mission sets. As is the case with the FLYER series, current and future SOF vehicles have the capability to mount or dismount modular armour kits to make the platform as heavy or light as required. Such configurations are unlikely to change in the near future, with heavily armoured platforms lacking the mobility required for SOF units.

Issue #2 of MT will consider all aspects of SOF vehicle procurement, TTPs and payloads as this particular vehicle type gathers more and more experience on operations.
Andrew White

NDIA SO/LIC 2015: A Look at USSOCOM’s Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) Programme

Always at the forefront of evolving equipment spirals, the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community is witnessing an interesting dichotomy in the development of future protection systems. The past decade of operations has seen SOF operators utilised for a wide range of tasks ranging from direct action raids in complex urban and rural environments in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, to more cerebral support and influence/surveillance and reconnaissance missions working out of embassies and other governmental/non-governmental organisations. It is no surprise that the amount of equipment required for such a diverse range of activities is broad to say the least. However, arguably the most interesting and ongoing development involves a USSOCOM effort, initiated in 2013 by former Commander Adm. Bill McRaven, who became frustrated at hearing of casualties and fatalities taken in the ‘fatal funnel’ stage of a breach of a target building.

Maritime Special Operations Forces prepare for a mission during a training exercise aboard the NIMITZ-class aircraft carrier USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73). (Photos: Mönch Archive)

The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) Programme

Current tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) see operators ‘stacking up’ outside an entry point before gaining entry and dominating a hallway, room or corridor. However, such choke points have left assaulting troops almost helplessly exposed to small arms fire from opposing forces, sometimes deeply entrenched in the building or compound.

McRaven’s idea was to provide an all-encompassing protective suit to almost guarantee a SOF operator the ability to gain entry into a building without the risk of injury or even death.

Known as the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) programme - SOCOM dislikes any comparison to the Iron Man suit made famous in recent Hollywood films - it aims to provide ballistic protection and C4ISTAR capabilities alongside environmental systems to enable a soldier to operate for long periods of time in a fully-encapsulated suit.

As it stands, the programme encompasses a five-year effort and should a workable solution be presented to the then SOCOM leadership in 2018, the effects on equipment scales for SOF units worldwide could be huge.

The past decade of operations has seen a definitive shift to reduce the size and weight of protection systems, not to mention other equipment including weapons and munitions, as well as increases in power consumption for C4ISTAR systems.

Sources close to USSOCOM revealed to MT that working models of a ‘Gen-1’ TALOS solution had been delivered to the organisation ahead of trials at the US Marines Special Operations Command (MARSOC), at Camp Lejeune, NC, where 10 operators will trial the system over an assault course.
One source added: “This will enable SOCOM to make decisions on where to go for Year 2 [of the programme].”

Special Operations Task Group soldiers and their partners from the Provincial Response Company - Uruzgan (PRC-U) arrive back at Multi National Base - Tarin Kot after conducting a PRC-U led security operation in Uruzgan Province, Southern Afghanistan. 

One company already involved in the TALOS effort is Revision Military. Director for Programme Management, Brian Dowling, confirmed the two ongoing and future trends in protection to MT: “One trend is the usual reduction in weight by reducing coverage area, but what’s come out from the last ten years of combat is that even though you reduce weight and coverage area and increase mobility, you are still seeing those gunshot wounds and higher incidents of wound mapping throughout the soldier’s body. So the TALOS programme looked at a different approach to increase the amount of coverage of protection and then augment that weight or manage that weight through things like human augmentation, through things like load distribution.”

One such solution offered up by Revision is its Vertical Load Offset System (VLOS), which takes the form of a curved bracket which connects the top of a ballistic helmet to the shoulders of a robotic exoskeleton worn by the same operator, meaning ‘zero weight’ of the helmet is carried by the operator. “It also allows full articulation and range of motion but floats on top of the head and you don’t have that mental drain of a 7lb thing on your head anymore,” Dowling added.

It is a common thought across the SOF community that by decreasing the size and weight of protective systems, and thereby improving the mobility of an operator, a soldier will be safer when conducting kinetic operations.

However, Dowling warned: “That is one course but some of the quantitative medical results that have come out from USSOCOM have shown just because a guy is mobile, doesn’t mean he has less injuries. He also has to have some level of protection, so if you increase that coverage area, you increase weight so let’s figure out how to manage it versus continuing to reduce it.”

Protection of the Neck and Facial Areas 

According to USSOCOM figures and gunshot wound maps obtained by MT, 36% of injuries inflicted upon SOF operators are likely to wound the neck and facial areas. So, another option which is gaining traction in the community is that of maxillofacial protection, whose additional weight could be offset by systems similar to Revision’s VLOS.

This protection incorporates a variety of face guards ranging from Roman Legionnaire-type cheek protectors through to variants resembling wrap-around motorcycle helmets for a 360° protection of the head and neck.

Things like modular maxillofacial protection will allow an operator to conduct a breach and throw it off at breach point when it is no longer required. So you’re still getting that protection,” Dowling urged.

Readers of MT will be familiar with the ‘cutaway’ or ‘skater-boy’ helmets now being adopted by SOF units worldwide, a trend which has been adopted by every major ballistic helmet manufacturers worldwide including Gentex and OpsCore. The helmets have done away with the ear cups to protect the side of the head (most SOF units have now integrated Peltor ear defence and communications headphones covering the ears) and covered the helmet in Picatinny rails for the addition of torches, IR and coloured lights, cameras and IFF sensors, amongst other things.

Another company which continues to evolve such a design is 3M, which launched its latest variant AUSA 2014. Speaking to MT, a company spokesperson confirmed it was the company’s goal to lighten the weight of the helmet. “We hear it from SOCOM that to them, weight reduction means survivability, more than increased protection. So we are developing helmets that are extremely light weight.”

The company’s latest variant is the Ballistic Bump Ultra Lightweight (BB ULW) helmet, which is designed as a hybrid to allow an operator to carry a single helmet in theatre, as opposed to carrying separate ballistic and bump helmets. A ballistic helmet provides protection against small arms projectiles (traditionally 9mm and 5.56mm) while a bump helmet does not but can be used for less threatening missions including maritime counter-terrorism operations.

Up until now, people looked at the bump helmet as a really lightweight solution without ballistic protection but if they needed ballistic protection, they had to take on a weight that’s three times that of the bump helmet,” the spokesperson continued. “This option combines the two helmets. A Bump helmet is normally used for 90% of operations but an operator will need access to a ballistic helmet as well as and when required. So we have pushed the weight down to a combined helmet, meaning an operator doesn’t have to take off a ballistic helmet because it is too heavy and wear their carbon bump helmet alternative.”

3M’s BB ULW helmet provides 17-Grain (V50) protection against NATO sub-sonic rounds travelling up to 670m per second, which includes the standard 9mm round. “That is not bad. We are talking about picking up maybe a third of the weight more than a standard bump helmet weight but which offers ballistic protection. For a further 60g, you are getting into a legitimate, full protection helmet as used by current SOF operators. This meets similar requirements to the current [FAST Ballistic] maritime [as manufactured by Ops-Core] helmet as worn by US Navy SEALs.”

However, it is important to note that the Ops-Core helmet provides additional protection up to 2-Grain (V50) and rounds travelling up to 1,242m per second.

Referring back to USSOCOM’s TALOS programme, 3M admitted it was not actively involved and warned that they currently viewed the initiative as a “pipedream.”

However, one executive explained: “We can put together all these features and make something that looks like a motorcycle helmet. But, with a motorcycle helmet, it will have air circulation and you do not wear it for 20 hours a day. On top of that, you have got a lot of soft support in there without hard protection and you can do that and make it bigger because it is a thin lightweight shell on the outside. You ca not do that with a ballistic helmet. If you grow it that big it is going to be very heavy. So, from that perspective, it is not there. It is not something an operator can wear for 15-20 hours. Furthermore, if you give an operator mandible protection and visors, and put all that together in a helmet system, and start running in it, eventually [operators] will throw it away because it will start fogging up and will get very hot. USSOCOM wants it to look like that but you can’t operate it in the same manner as a motorcycle helmet.”

Current serving operators in the NATO SOF community have expressed concerns with a ‘motorcycle-type’ helmet system, warning of restricted situation awareness and tunnel vision. “What happens if your battery runs out, or if any of the integrated sensors fail to function?” one asked.

Special Operations Task Group soldiers and their partners from the Provincial Response Company - Uruzgan (PRC-U) arrive back at Multi National Base - Tarin Kot after conducting a PRC-U led security operation in Uruzgan Province, Southern Afghanistan.

SOF Operator Body Armour Developments

There has also been much movement in body armour as worn by SOF operators, again with substantial moves to reduce size and weight in order to increase mobility. Ballistic plates have gradually evolved into thinner and thinner variants with innovative techniques used to disrupt and fragment incoming rounds.

While conventional units operating in Afghanistan and Iraq were forced to wear large chest, back and side plates, not to mention groin, shoulder and neck protection systems, SOF operators have generally veered to lighter carriage systems for smaller and thinner chest and back plates. Additionally, the latter contain minimal soft armour components to counter blunt force trauma inflicted by incoming rounds.

Again, the idea here is for people who just want to wear the vital protection plate in a minimalist state. There’s not a lot of weight and more manoeuvrability, that’s what this is all about,” 3M officials continued.

Interestingly, the plate carrier has also been reduced in size and weight with companies like S&S Precision, based in North Carolina, offering up a ‘skeletal’ Plate Frame carrier to hold ceramic protection plates.

A spokesperson for the company, informed MT, “Plate Frame's lightweight, semi-rigid plastic design provides a rigid mounting platform and gives the operator the capability to scale their load up or down to meet operational requirements. It allows for easy attachment of accessory pouches and will accommodate standard MOLLE pouches. Weighing in at 1lb 6oz (without ballistic plates), the maritime inspired Plate Frame does not retain any water due to the use of non hygroscopic materials and welded seams.”

This is what the user is looking for. Weight reduction and performance to stay the same or get even better,” a 3M Ceradyne official said. “We are trying to reduce weight, whether they be contracts through US Army NATICK partners or through the Soldier Protection Systems programme. But the intent is to reduce weight from the systems as much as possible.”

Describing how such weight gains could be achieved, he described how the ceramic on the front of the ballistic plate was designed to ‘break up projectiles’ while backing materials (traditionally made from Kevlar or Polyurethane) were designed to ‘catch it’ before fragments of the projectile penetrated the plate. “So the idea is to reduce the weight in the system while making improvements in the ceramic and backing materials.”

Referring once more to the next-generation TALOS system, 3M Ceradyne executives added: “All these programmes are basically looking for the same thing. They are looking for weight reduction in plates, carriers, head protection and any other type of protection such as goggles and glasses. It is hard to say what the future holds. We think there will probably be a variant of TALOS, which may not be a fully protected , enclosed helmet but a lot will depend on the user. He may be issued it but he may not want to use it. It may be mission sensitive. From an overall perspective, TALOS looks good and is heading in right direction to protect the warfighter but potentially there could be variations that have to happen as it goes forward.”

It may well be the case that SOF units elect, funding dependent, to pursue both the all-up protection offered up by TALOS, as well as the lighter weight variations currently on the market. But, whatever happens, the face of the next-generation SOF operator is likely to change markedly over the next decade of operations.

1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, popularly known as Delta Force, is a US Army component of Joint Special Operations Command.

Andrew White started reporting in the defence industry over a decade ago and has, concurrently, completed multiple tours of duty with the British Army in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan providing a unique insight into the contemporary operating environment. He is a regular contributor to MT. 


As the world SOF eyes are always on USSOCOM, below is a list of USSOCOM’s wish list of what it is interested in receiving from industry, academia, individuals, and government laboratories capable of providing the design, construction, and testing of SOF related technologies. The intent is to accelerate the delivery of innovative capabilities.


C4 solutions that USSOCOM is acquiring include antenna designs combining broad banded and performance, such as 1.5 or lower Standing Wave Ratio 30MHz–5.8GHz that have dismounted (lightweight and ruggedised), mounted, and fixed site applicability, but are visually difficult or impossible to distinguish from their mounted platform. Furthermore the capability to conduct secure, low probability of intercept communications in Line-of-Site (LOS), Beyond LOS (BLOS), and Over-the-Horizon (OTH) scenarios. Modular, configurable electronic devices that maximise common interfaces are also sought. Enabling technologies such as advances in semiconductors, field programmable gate arrays, and microcomputers with multiple devices collapsed into a single platform/enclosure that would allow SOF operators to plug and play their modules for varying missions without having to jump between multiple interfaces.

Comprehensive Signature Management

Multispectral signature reduction for the individual soldier and his equipment including materials or technologies that reduce the likelihood of detection/identification/targeting of SOF operators and vehicles. These include Airburst/counter defilade capability and advanced sniper rifle barrel technologies, i.e. applicability of hot hard alloys (e.g., H-11,H14, H19) to cold hammer forged barrel making technology and cryocooling to create longer life sniper grade barrels in 7.62mm NATO, 300 Winchester Magnum, and/or .338 Lapua Magnum. The rifling of interest is 5R and/or 6 land and groove with 1 in 9.5in twist in .338 and 1-in-10in twist in 300WM. As well as, Match grade 7.62mm and .338 caliber rhenium and/or rhenium alloy lined rifle barrels, and, other advanced sniper barrel concepts, designs, materials and/or processes that significantly enhance barrel life and maintain accuracy are also sought.

Other areas of interest are: Advanced propellants for assessment in standard military calibres that have a higher energy density (12%-20%), temperature stable pressure/velocities from -40F to 160F, and standard deviation velocities of <10ft/sec; modernised lightweight (<9lbs) 40mm RPG launchers or trainers with enhanced fire control that can safely, reliably, and accurately fire US and allied produced RPG-7 family of ammunition; a M4A1 belt feed kit enabling the operator to convert the M4A1 from magazine fed to a belt fed lightweight machine gun; as well as a Concealable/Take Down Urban Sniper Rifle (CUSR) - a small and light sniper rifle that can be rapidly dissembled for concealed carry and rapidly reassembled by the operator to engage target; desired characteristics include accurate (1 minute of angle at 300m), lightweight (12lbs threshold, 8lbs objective), fit in small case (12x20in threshold, 12x16in objective), and compatible with current suppressor or include suppressed barrel.

The Personnel Defence Weapon (PDW) is significantly smaller and lighter than the M4A1 with capabilities beyond any pistol. There are two types of interest, those based on an operator/unit armour modification to a M4A1 carbine and those based on a unique weapon design, both of which must fire standard 5.56X45mm NATO ammunition. PDW desired characteristics include lightweight (6lbs threshold, 5lbs objective), concealable (18in threshold, 16in objective), effectively fired in its collapsed configuration, semi/full automatic, and rapidly employed from concealed carry. .338 Lapua Magnum anti-materiel ammunition that would be fired from the Precision Sniper Rifle at ranges from 500-1,500m with desired characteristics including armour piercing capability to penetrate Level IV body armour (500m threshold, 800m objective), cinder block greater than 12in, 10% Gel, and stop vehicle/small boat engines.

Other areas include technologies that can stop/disable individuals for an extended duration, remain less lethal, and be useable on combatant and non-combatant individuals, as well as technologies that use less lethal payloads to prevent combatant and non-combatant individuals from entering a specific area for a specified period of time.

Of interest are also small unit organic munitions capable of delivering highly accurate kinetic effects on stationary, moving, soft targets, or the interior of hardened targets at ranges beyond crew served weapons effective range. Potential material approaches may include guided 40mm tube launched grenades; self-propelled, precision-guided, handheld grenades; guided 84mm CARL GUSTAF munitions; and handheld guided kinetically armed UAS.

Human Protection

The USSOCOM wish list includes:

  • Lightweight body armour (<5.5lbs per square feet) able to defeat the following rounds with less than 44 millimeters of backface deformation: One round of 7.62x54R API; and three rounds of 7.62x39 API at 2.5in inch.
  • Lightweight helmet (<2.0lbs per square feet) able to defeat 7.62x39mm rifle rounds with the following backface deformations:<25.4mm on the front and back of the helmet, and <16.0mm on the crown, left and right sides of the helmet. 
  • Thin, lightweight concealable body armour (<0.2in thick) that protects against 7.62x39mm mild steel core (MSC) rounds.

Mobility Small UAS

UAS system improvements include reduced acoustics and visual signature technologies, external/internal bay payload solutions, increased endurance, advanced fuel cell/battery propulsion, kinetic engagement, advanced integrated day/night fire control, increased electronic attack capabilities, a common ground control station and digital data link, and improved ISR and Exploitation capabilities.

Power and Energy/Lighten the Load 

Lighten the load for the dismounted SOF operator to the extent that he is safe and unencumbered while executing the mission, without adversely impacting his survivability and ability to communicate, move, and shoot. Reduce the mass and volume of carried equipment. Decrease the overall carried equipment mass and/or volume for the dismounted SOF operator (i.e. objective is fighting load plus mission load total less than 45% of operator body weight) with no decrease in current capability (i.e., reduce size and/ or weight for all non-powered and powered equipment to the extent possible, which includes intelligent, efficient power & distribution management).

Design solutions that incorporate the dismounted operator as a system, with his powered and non-powered equipment (e.g., navigation system, radios, antennas, computers, visual augmentation systems, displays, NVGs, combat ID systems, armour, etc.) as subsystems. Design solutions that incorporate advanced power technologies and provide centrally wearable power on dismount; intelligent and highly efficient power and distribution management; automatic power charging/recharging capability; seamless integration for all powered subsystems; and novel power systems.

The award of each selected proposal will depend on the methodology and the technical approach to be pursued by the selected offeror. Proposals identified for negotiation may result in a procurement contract and/or other transaction. USSOCOM notionally expects to have $18 million of available funds for approximately 10 total awards from this wish list.

IAV XV 2015: Afghanistan Officials Call for Increased Armour Capabilities

Senior government representatives from Afghanistan have highlighted the critical role being played by armoured vehicles in sustaining security but announced their intention to extend their current capability of two Mobile Strike Forces (MSFs) yet further, it emerged today.

Addressing delegates at the International Armoured Vehicles conference in London on 28 January, Maj.Gen. Payenda Mohammad Nazim, Inspector General, Afghan Ministry of Defence (MoD) described how armoured vehicles constituted a “major complement” to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and specifically the Afghan National Army (ANA) becoming an optimised force.

We are currently in a high combat readiness and armoured vehicles provide fire power, bigger communications and networks, flexibility and mobility for conventional and unconventional warfare,” Nazim explained.

However, he warned: “Unfortunately the ANA lacks such [armoured vehicle] capability presenting a huge challenge for the armed forces. This lack of armoured vehicles has resulted in high numbers of fatalities with 80% caused by IEDs. Armoured vehicles can dramatically reduce this. In addition to other requirements, armoured vehicles remain top of our list of priorities and we seek to acquire this important capability in line with our coalition allies.

Currently, the ANA possesses two MSF units based out of Kabul and Kandahar, which operate Textron’s COMMAND protected vehicle or Mobile Strike Force Vehicle (MSFV). A total of 600 vehicles were delivered under a US Foreign Military Sales programme to Afghanistan with deliveries having been completed in March 2014.

The Mobile Strike Force Vehicle (MSFV) is a new 4x4 armoured vehicle developed by Textron Marine & Land Systems for the Afghanistan National Army (ANA), under the US Army's MSFV programme.

Describing ongoing efforts by the government of Afghanistan to improve the tactical capabilities of the ANA, Nazim said: “The ANA currently comprises 195,000 troops who maintain remarkable operational and tactical capabilities thanks to the sustained efforts of the international community. The ANA has enjoyed increased capabilities over time in terms of quality, quantity and force structure in order to enhance combat effectiveness but it requires sustained help to maintain these capabilities and maintain the ANA as an effective force capable of executing combined arms operations.”

He also highlighted the recent achievement of ANSF in assuming responsibility for overall security in the country as well as providing security during last years presidential election, explaining: “The ANA remains fully committed to supporting rule of law, human rights as well as the creation of a just and transparent military institution. The ANSF exceeded everybody's expectations but the planned force drawdown of 150,000 multinational troops from Afghanistan created a whole new task for the ANA and ANSF at large with threats continuing to be posed by the Taliban and insurgent drawing support from outside the border of the country.”

Meanwhile, Brig.Gen. Imam Nazar, Commander of the ANA’s 2nd Armoured Mobile Strike Force, outlined the “importance and significance” of armoured vehicles in maintaining security across the country.

The end of [NATO’s] International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] has left a big space and gap in the military and armoured force,” he explained. "In Afghanistan, there is war and trouble in many provinces but especially in the South and Southwest in Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces where the threat is serious or significant."

“These provinces have a long stretch of border with Pakistan and Iran and on both sides of the border there are different tribes making it obviously very difficult to control access and there are only two brigades replacing coalition forces who are armed with armoured vehicles,” he said while describing how the Kabul-based brigade supported the 201st, 203rd and 209th Corps in the South, Southeast and North of the country; while the second brigade based in Kandahar, supported 205th, 215th and 207th Corps in the South, Southwest and West of the country. “We have conducted a lot of training in order to professionalise our troops in regards to armoured vehicles and in 2013/4, we conducted driving, sniper, health and safety, command and signals and leadership lessons. Now, management lessons are being conducted.”

Current ANA TTPs see the MSFV deploy on the ground with commander and driver, dedicated sniper and between four and seven dismounted troops. An additional variant is being used for casualty evacuation and is capable of carrying two casualties- signalling another capability gap following the drawdown of NATO and coalition forces.

The MSFV vehicle is very suitable for the terrain and current situation in Afghanistan,” Nazar explained. “Weaponry of this type is very effective against the enemy and also provides extremely strong protection against mines and RPGs. But the challenges we face relates to spare parts and ammunition.” Textron is contracted to supply spare parts to the MSFV fleet until the end of 2015.

However, referring to the wider support of ANA units around the country, Nazar warned: “Because ANA is equipped with Ranger vehicles and small arms, every unit requests Strike Force Brigade support and sometimes these requests are higher than our abilities.”

Finally, speaking to MT, sources within Textron admitted that they were awaiting an additional FMS decision which could see the company supplying an additional 60 MSFVs to the ANA later this year.
Andrew White

IAV XV 2015: France Reveals Armoured Lessons from African Ops

The French Army has reinforced the utility of wheeled armoured and artillery vehicles on expeditionary operations with a review of lessons learned from tasks in Africa, a senior service official has revealed. According to Brig.Gen. Charles Beaudouin, Director of the French Army technical and operational department, platforms including the VBCI infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) and CAESAR artillery system performed admirably in Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR), as well as Afghanistan.

The VBCI was deployed to Mali and CAR in 2013 with Beaudouin stressing how the choice of wheeled armoured vehicles had “immediately paid off.” He described how VBCIs had driven 2,700km from Dakar, Senegal to Gau in Mali with a mounted combat team on board. The transition took seven days, including three days in a rest area.

Furthermore, he described how each VBCI had achieved 8,000km in the first two months of the deployment, with the wheeled armoured option better adapting to the fighting tempo in large, open areas.

The 8x8 configuration worked well in both sand and rocky terrain,” he explained while describing how the vehicles provided exceptional mobility in open terrain with its automatic inflated tyre system; comfort and reliability in temperatures over 55C; mission duration up to 10 days; long range mobility; and weapons systems capable of engaging targets up to 2km away. He also stated how thermal imaging technology had provided a “huge advantage” over enemy combatants during night time engagements.

Support echelons were often left at long ranges behind the VBCIs which were able to observe all threats in theatre. But it was essential to keep line of sight between armoured vehicle and dismounted rifleman,” he continued.

In urban environments, Beaudouin described how the power of the 25mm gun had proven its worth against buildings and insurgent combatants at medium and short ranges down to 30m. He also highlighted the use of short bursts of explosive 25mm shells in order to clear rooms as well as VBCI’s speed, mobility and protection when operating in built-up areas.

The height of VBCI provided better observation capabilities, better fire range and a climbing capability as well as protecting forces against enemy fires and direct attacks, whether mounted or dismounted,” he said.

Shifting to describe operations in CAR, Beaudouin praised the vehicle’s air conditioning, accuracy and efficiency of the 25mm cannon and reduced collateral damage, mobility and tyre inflating system, digitised situation awareness and reliability. He also highlighted the psychological impact the vehicle had on enemy forces.

Also deployed in Lebanon, the French Army has deployed a total of 549 VBCI platforms with an overall fleet availability of 90 per cent. “Minimum downtime, maximum use,” Beaudouin proclaimed.

Referring to operation of CAESAR artillery systems in the same areas of operation, he described how the platform had proven a capability to travel more than 500km without refuelling while highlighting how the weapon system had worked in tandem with airborne strike assets as a joint fires solution for French forces operating in Mali.

The precision of this fires capability was high and the right weapon for French operations which adapted to the high operational tempo and was hugely useful for operations in Mali due to the huge size of the area of operation,” Beaudouin said.

"Both VBCI and CAESAR fully satisfied overseas operations and in line with the Army’s Scorpion modernisation strategy for 2020, we have a full fleet of modernised armoured vehicles suited for wide spectrum of engagement. The French Army has engaged in operations on a permanent basis and we want our armoured vehicles to be able to be used very often and anywhere," he said. "Operations since the first Gulf War have been very different gulf so we are always likely to be surprised by future roles. I think we will always have air supremacy in asymmetric wars, allowing us to identify and target enemy forces before they can approach our vehicles."

“So the major threat for me will be the permanent IED threats and capability of ambush by insurgents with very powerful accuracy weapons. i think we will have in front of us, men with accurate and tremendous effect arms even against helicopters so we have to be very careful with that,” Beaudouin explained.

Referring to the French Army’s Scorpion modernisation programme, French Army officials confirmed that in 2015, the entire fleet of 630 VBCI vehicles will compete upgrades from a 30t to 32t platform.

Beyond this, Beaudouin confirmed that 110 JAGUAR and 780 GRIFFON vehicles will be delivered to the French Army by 2025. Developed by Nexter, Renault Trucks Defense and Thales, these new platforms are scheduled to replace in-service VBCI platforms.

However, he said this would not hinder shorter term upgrades of VBCI in the future, explaining how these were scheduled to include new information and communication systems; enhanced optronics and vectronics systems; night driving camera, supervision and 360° vision system.

Furthermore, he described the integration of long distance air burst and limited lethality munitions, development of a 3D imaging and rangefinder capability (to optimise air burst ammunition capabilities) and integration of an anti-tank guided munition capability on board the 25mm turret.

Currently, the 25mm turret comprises a 7.62mm machine gun which is capable of firing up to 200 rounds per minute in single shot, burst of 3 and 5 rounds and full automatic with target practice, armour piercing, high explosive and air burst ammunition. It also contains 12 GALIX 13 smoke grenade launchers.
Andrew White 

IAV XV 2015: UK MoD Identifies Dual Role for SCOUT SV

The UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) SCOUT SV armoured platform will satisfy capability gaps identified on recent operations to conduct both combat and peacekeeping missions, a senior army official has stated.

SCOUT SV (Graphic: GDUK)

According to Maj.Gen. Robert Talbot-Rice, head of armoured vehicle programmes at Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), the SCOUT vehicle programme is actively responding to these capability gaps identified from operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We found a requirement to operate against different threats through a vehicle’s lifetime and Scout aims to significantly improve on what we’ve been able to achieve until today with our medium weight tracked vehicles,” Talbot-Rice explained while referring to CV90 and WARRIOR platforms, amongst others.

In September, the UK MoD awarded General Dynamics UK a contract to supply 589 SCOUT vehicles, comprising 6 base platforms performing 9 different roles. This includes 245 reconnaissance; 50 equipment repair; 93 reconnaissance support; 38 equipment recovery; 112 command and control; and 51 engineering reconnaissance variants, all due to be delivered between 2017 and 2024.

It is envisaged that SCOUT SV will be capable of supporting Major Combat Operations (MCO) as well as Peace Support Operations (PSO) with the former comprising a baseline primary sight and CT40 cannon and armour fit while the latter includes a self-defence weapon, reduced armour fit and integrated electronic countermeasure equipment.

Where possible, software configurations have been minimised so the vehicles can be switched between MCO and PSO roles,” Talbot-Rice explained.

GVA is an evolving standard and has changed overtime,” he continued while explaining how the Foxhound protected patrol vehicle- the first UK MoD vehicle to be dubbed as GVA-compliant- not longer met current electronic architecture standards. “There are certain aspects of GVA that haven't yet be defined. Scout’s electronic architecture may well be the predecessor to a fully-compliant GVA because in some respects, it goes beyond GVA standards. Scout is as compliant as it can be so we get the benefits so we strongly believe in GVA and believe that GDUK does as well.”

Considering the wider impact of the SCOUT vehicle on the British Army, Talbot-Rice described how it would make a “significant contribution” to transformations due to be delivered by the Army’s Future Force 2020 concept.

The [SCOUT] programme is on track and the MoD now has a firm price contract for delivery of 589 vehicles and the award of a production contract that has allowed the supply chain to commit to long lead items early and take long term investment decisions in plant, machinery and people, derisking our plans for delivery,” he continued.

Looking ahead to potential future development options, Talbot-Rice expressed his interest in a long-range missile capability, similar to those deployed by France’s VBCI platform. “There are terrific opportunities and this is an exciting prospect but not currently funded for the Scout programme,” he said.

The SCOUT programme is currently continuing its demonstration phase with the first Reconnaissance Support variant having been displayed at the NATO Summit in Wales last September. The first turreted SCOUT platforms are due to be delivered to the Army early in 2017 when reliability growth and qualification trials will begin.

Beyond these trials, the first 55 vehicles will be delivered to the army for the commencement of training in 2019 with a first armoured cavalry squadron expected to reach an initial operating capability by Q2 2020.

Talbot-Rice highlighted SCOUT’s surveillance and survivability capabilities, praising the platform’s ability to identify targets at range, record, process and transmit large quantities of information. Regarding survivability efforts, he highlighted the vehicle’s low signature and “high levels of protection against IED, blast and chemical threats,” as well as highly capable CT40 cannon with armour piercing and air burst rounds.

The baseline SCOUT vehicle has a gross vehicle weight of 42 tons and maximum range of 500km. A total of 10,000km of accelerated life testing was recently completed in December, GDUK confirmed.
Andrew White

For more information on the JLTV, its contenders, and the programme, please see issue #1/2015 of MILITARY TECHNOLOGY available at the show. 

IAV XV 2015: JLTV Update

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is expecting responses from companies competing for its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) programme within the next two weeks, according to US Army officials.

Lockheed Martin's contender for the US DoD's JLTV programme. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Speaking to MT, US Army Col. John Cavedo, JLTV Joint Program Office Manager, described how the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are currently in the final stages of officially responding to the Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Request for Proposals (RfP), which was initially released on 12 December. OEMs expected to respond to the tender include AM General, Lockheed Martin, and Oshkosh Defense.

Once responses have been received by the Program Office, Cavedo said it would take approximately five months to conduct a source selection board with a down-selected winner expected to be announced in July.

This will be followed by three years of LRIP and a further five years of FRP manufacturing with the first US Army infantry brigade and US Marine Corps battalion expecting to receive the first tranche of JLTV platforms  by the end of 2018. The contract will then be up for competition again in 2022 for the next increment of JLTV.

In total, the Army is seeking to procure some 50,000 vehicles with the marine corps expected to take just 5,500 platforms.

The vehicles will be made available in two- and four-men configurations, with the former variant comprising utility and general purpose applications and the latter being used as a close combat weapon carrier.

Cavedo also reiterated the DoD’s intention to make the winning solution available for Foreign Military Sales (FMS), saying it would be compatible with legacy trailers and generators, albeit with a small degradation in mobility of the JLTV.

FMS has been planned for JLTV since the technology demonstrator (TD) phase. There is no state-of-the-art technology in this programme and a lot of commercial-off-the-shelf systems meaning it is easier to export,” Cavedo explained.  “We did partner with Australia in the TD phase and have included some right hand operation (RHO) and European standard exterior market lighting but there is no RHO requirement within the EMD phase but all vendors have indicated their variants can be produced in this configuration.”

It is understood that a single JLTV platform will cost over U$250,000, disregarding maintenance and logistical costs.
Andrew White

For more information on the JLTV, its contenders, and the programme, please see issue #1/2015 of MILITARY TECHNOLOGY available at the show. 


TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit) looks like it is out of a movie, but it is the name given to a robotic exoskeleton that the USSOCOM intends to design with the help of universities, laboratories, and the technology industry. The brief for TALOS at SO/OLIC stated that it must be bulletproof, weaponised, have the ability to monitor vitals, and give the wearer superhuman strength and perception. The suit would comprise layers of smart material and sensors.

Thus, TALOS is a vision for the future SOF Operator. In fiscal year FY14, SOCOM AT&L established the Joint Acquisition Task Force Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (JATF-TALOS) in order to develop an advanced combat suit prototype through an innovative acquisition process.

The current TALOS roadmap consists of incremental prototypes with increased levels of subsystem integration leading to the First Article Tactical Prototype delivery, currently scheduled for August 2018. Along this path, JATF-TALOS expects to discover, develop, and transition advanced technology to the soldier.

The JATF-TALOS priorities for FY15 are: Pioneer Innovation Processes (rapid prototyping, prize challenges, streamlined acquisition), Powered Exoskeleton & Enabling Technologies (further integration of subsystems), Consistent Collaboration (maintaining extended network, user engagement), Accelerating Technology Development and Transition (equipping SOF to win in a complex, uncertain future).

TALOS is looking deeply in these functional areas: Mobility & agility, power & energy, computing, human factors, operator interface, offensive systems, survivability and C3!
Andre Forkert

For more information on the TALOS, please see the Special Forces Features in recent issues of MILITARY TECHNOLOGY.

NDIA SO/LIC 2015 World Premier: LYNX Multi-Band Communications Solution

Tecore Networks, a pioneer supplier of innovative American-made mobile network infrastructure, tis showcasing its newest multi-payload communication solution at booth #502. It is on display for the first time ever.

Tecore’s LYNX is a 4G LTE mobile solution that is based on a software-defined all-IP architecture. Tecore says it is compact, adaptable and cost-effective end-to-end and meets MIL-STD-810G, MIL-STD-461F and 3GPP R9. It offers: Multi-media messaging, voice services (VoLTE), SMS, encrypted VPN (AEWS 128 & 256), WiFi hotsport, Push-to-Tal (PTT) and MBMS. Size is 12x5.5x5.75" and weighs (without bat.) 12 lbs.

Within the design of the LYNX is Tecore’s 20 years of experience in scalable wireless systems; leveraging our patented iCore portfolio to provide support in theatre anywhere in the world. We designed this product based on the requirements needed by the warfighter to assist in any austere environment,” said Kevin Thompson, Director of Government Programs. “This end-to-end solution, engineered to meet military requirements, delivers the most compact, adaptable, and cost-efficient end-to-end (ETE) 4G LTE platform on the market. I look forward to elaborating on the benefits and features of the LYNX at the SO/LIC Symposium.”

In Tecore’s product portfolio, users can choose a network solution that can be placed in a backpack (LYNX), taken as carry-on luggage on a commercial flight (RAVEN), or hauled in the back of a Humvee (Network-in-a-Box (NIB)). In addition, any of these solutions can be deployed as a standalone system or integrate into a larger mesh network to cover the area needed as scenarios change.

NDIA SO/LIC 2015: BELL/Team VALOR Presents the V-280

The US Army-led Joint Multi-Role Demonstrator (JMR-TD) programme is the science and technology (S&T) precursor to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Future Vertical Lift programme expected to replace 2,000 to 4,000 medium-class utility and attack helicopters. The US Army and DoD are seeking leap-ahead capabilities and have identified a speed of 230+ knots as a key discriminating capability. The US Army’s current helicopter fleet cruises at 140 knots.

In April 2013, Bell Helicopter, a dvision of Textron, revealed its offering – the Bell V-280 VALOR, a third generation tiltrotor for the JMR-TD programme. Accoding to Bell, the Bell V-280’s, "unmatched , speed, range and payload, operational agility, and low speed maneuverability provide transformational reach and revolutionary capability."

Bell Helicopter's V-280 VALOR. 
In August 2014, the JMR-TD government team selected Bell Helicopter to build and fly the V-280 VALOR as part of the demonstration programme. Bell Helicopter and Team Valor are focused on building and flying a trusted, affordable and effective aircraft, and the team is on track for first flight in 2017. The other team members are: Lockheed Martin (cockpit, avionics, distributed aperture system, mission equipment package [MEP]), MOOG (flight control computer and actuators), GE (engines), GKN Aerospace (V-Tails and control surface), Spirit Aerosystems (fuselage), EATON (hydraulic system), Meggitt (fuel system), Astronics ( electronic system), TRU (simulation and training), LORD (elastomerics), and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI - nacelle structures and aircraft seats). On the other side of the bidder table is Sikorsky teaming up with Boeing.

The V-280 should reach a max. speed of 280kn and have its first flight in 2017 with a decision by 2019 and milestone C should be reached by 2030.

At SO/LIC Bell is also showing a weaponised version (as a model). This is using HELLFIRE rockets on both sides (24 in all) and a front gun. But it will be open for other weapon options and Bell is looking right know at the option of an inside gun. There are altogether three versions planned: An attack, a MedEvac, and a utility helicopter.


The V-280 should not only offer a much higher speed, but also a range that is twice as far.
The Bell V-280 VALOR builds upon proven tiltrotor technology to deliver unmatched speed, range and payload with the agility to perform a multitude of missions un-achievable with today’s conventional helicopter. Its clean-sheet design reduces complexity and improves reliability, maintainability and sustainability while reducing total ownerships costs.

The Bell V-280 is a combat force multiplier with superior performance, survivability, and reliability to give the soldier the decisive advantage. The Bell V-280 VALOR will deliver a number of transformational features and capabilities including:

  • Speed: 280 KTAS
  • Combat Range: 500-800nm
  • Strategically Self-Deployable – 2100+nm Range
  • Achieves 6k/95F Hover Out of Ground Effect (HOGE)
  • Carries crew of four and 14 troops
  • Useful load of 12,000+ lbs
  • Triple redundant fly-by-wire flight control system
  • Conventional, retractable landing gear
  • Two 6′ wide large side doors for ease of rapid ingress/egress
  • Enhanced situational awareness and sensing technologies

Andre Forkert

NDIA SO/LIC 2015: Realistic Live-Fire Training

Marathon Targets at SOLIC presents its latest solution: Marathon Smart Targets.

Marathon Smart Targets

Marathon Smart Targets address a fundamental training gap: The first time shooters fire live ammunition at a realistic moving target is in a firefight. Developed in conjunction with the Australian Department of National Defence (DoND), smart targets are now used by shooters around the world. With smart targets, soldiers train the way they fight: Against unpredictable moving targets, with live ammunition. Marathon robotic targets are autonomous, i.e. no joystick control is required, and this key technology enables:

  • Realistic, challenging and unpredictable motion
  • Responsive behaviour
  • Minimum infrastructure

With smart targets, soldiers train the way they fight: against unpredictable moving targets, with live ammunition. They are realistic because they react human-like (targets have human size, shape, and speed, are reactive to hits). When a target is shot, it provides instant visual feedback by stopping and dropping its mannequin. The target can also produce sound effects when hit. Smart targets are autonomous robots that “think” for themselves and move and behave like real people. For example, when one target is “killed” the other targets react by scattering to the nearest cover. After a pause, the “survivors” will emerge and counter-attack.

They are flexible and allow all training levels. All levels of expertise can be accommodated: from new recruits to elite shooters. All can benefit from shooting at unpredictable, realistic moving targets. In addition to basic moving marksmanship, the system enables training of other essential combat skills such as shoot/no-shoot decision making, rules of engagement, fire control – all contributing to Squad Level Overmatch. Scenarios can be short or long, simple or complex, repeatable or unpredictable. The system can be used for intensive training on specific skills or long-term endurance exercises, with any number of targets.

They are simple to install and can even drive off-road and rough terrain. One operator can control up to 25 autonomous robots.
Andre Forkert

NDIA SO/LIC 2015: Information and Quotes from Day Two

The USSSOCOM V-22 received additional armour in 2014.

USSOCOM aquired new ground vehicles in 2014.

The mission of USSOCOM is to synchronise all SOF operations.

United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) focuses on IS (Islamic State) and different criminal groups.

Social technology and the cyber room will be challenging to USSOCOM.

Russia is using Special Operation Forces (SOF) to destabilise its neighbours. The Scandinavian countries are raising their budgets and there will be a close partnership with them. USSOCOM Commander will travel shortly there, to see to their points and needs.

Current budgets cuts in the Forces and SOF have a big influence in their readiness and in meeting mission goals.

TALOS is one of the most important hubs for the future. The Mk5 prototype suit by 2018 is on time.

US SOF success is directly related to their partners (allies and training partners).

By 2020, SOF will be directly connected to SOF networks by mobile devices – from home and everywhere.

Manned/unmanned ISR will be a very important domain in the future, USSOCOM has a need there.

Gen. Joseph L. Votel, USSOCOM Commander said: “We can’t focus on the tip of the spear, we have to look months in front of that tip.”

There are currently 12 SOF advisor teams in Iraq. USSOCOM is partnering in 60 countries around the world, and numbers are growing.

Gen. Votel talked about the danger of rising suicide numbers. He and his leaders are asking the troops to go and look for help and assistance. He said in the past there was a stigma built up and they have to fight that. No one is singled out, if he is looking for assistance. The leadership is targeting that topic at the moment. Stress to the operators and their families is a huge factor – and it has a direct effect on the missions.

USSOCOM TOA FY15 is $10.0 (coming from $9.3 in FY14), that is 1.5 % of the total DOB.

Lt.Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, United States Army Special Operations Command (Airborne) (USASOC) explained: “We are getting better, not bigger. […] And we have to differentiate between direct and non-direct forces, so the whole structure had to be changed. Now, we look at the mission and then choose the right troops for that.” So USASOC provides two types of SOF operators.

Since 2014, ARSOF 2022 is THE new document as a basis for all.

Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) showed their plan for using their amount of airplanes by 2020: 37 AC-130Js, 57 MC-130Js, seven EC-130Js, 23 C-146s, five C-145s, 50 CV-22s, 12/5/10 MQ-9s, 13/7 MC-12s, and 31 U-28As. AFSOC also said, they need the AC/MC-130J fast and even would accept IOC status with the block 20 airplanes.

Because of political reason it will become more important to work with local forces around the world – under the radar. That means to take a closer look in selection and cultural competence.

United States Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSOC): There are 10 SEAL TEAMS, three SBT, two SUPPACT, one SDVT, one NAVSCITAS, and five NSWU around the world.

NVSOC plans for 2021: Better agility across domains/authorities, modernisation to counter A2/AD domain and a balanced-access capability portfolio. That portfolio will have a big change with less platforms. The platforms of the future will be: Vehicles for shallow water “wet” and “dry,” combatant craft heavy (CCH), combatant craft medium (CCM), and combatant craft assault (CCA).

USSOCOM is planning to lease equipment for their training partners, before they get their equipment to speed things up. That equipment will not be the same than the one later used, but similar as far as possible.

USSOCOM needs equipment that is simple/handable even for countries with not such a high technology background like the US.

Conventional Forces do not have to become SOF in the future, but they have to learn more from SOF, and to be part of that dynamic battlefield.
Andre Forkert

NDIA SO/LIC 2015: Reliable Off Grid Power for Special Forces

Modern Special Forces systems are becoming ever more power-hungry. Optimum soldier safety and operability depend upon reliable power supplies.

Conventional solutions are limited: Batteries alone cannot meet the requirements in multi-day missions, forcing soldiers to carry large and heavy spare batteries – weight and volume they cannot use for water, food or ammunition. Generators require maintenance and produce detectable signatures. Solar modules are weather dependent. SFC Energy solutions on the basis of direct-methanol-fuel-cells are a silent, lightweight, non-detectable alternative.

Fuel cells recharge batteries fully automatically. Thanks to the high energy density of their fuel (30 times higher than that of lead batteries and seven times higher than that of li-ion batteries) soldiers can carry along much power at minimum weight and volume. Intelligent power management enables hybrid operation with other energy sources, e.g. solar panels.

Portable Power for Fielded Missions - SFC Energy Network

Fuel cells enable 80 % weight savings in fielded missions. The SFC energy network consisting of the portable JENNY 600S fuel cell and the SFC Power Manager is a man portable, flexible fuel cell system. It supplies 24/7 reliable power without emissions or detectable signature. It powers electric devices directly. Operation in combination with the SFC Power Manager enables use of different power sources and parallel charging of up to 4 batteries.

Power for Military Vehicles and Fielded Missions - EMILY Fuel Cell

Communication, sensing and weapon systems require a continuous power supply. In the vehicle engine starts cause cover loss, emissions, fuel consumption, and component wear. Fielded forces face similar problems: They must carry along heavy batteries. The EMILY fuel cell provides reliable power in multi-day missions. It recharges batteries fully automatically on demand, 24/7, in any weather, without requiring user attention.

Intelligent Power Management - SFC Power Manager

In the field soldiers want to use any available power sources to operate any kind of device they need. This requires intelligent power management. The SFC Power Manager can easily be integrated into existing systems to simplify power logistics and reduce overall power system weight, while at the same time increasing operation efficiency. With the Power Manager soldiers can draw power from any available source including batteries, vehicle power, solar, and fuel cells. The intelligent and configurable system automatically adapts its output voltage to the requirements of the connected systems. Soldiers can use the Power Manager for recharging batteries or for directly operating devices.

SFC Power Manager

SFC Energy Fuel Cells
SFC Energy fuel cell products are used by numerous international defense organizations. SFC Energy has been cooperating closely with German Bundeswehr for over 10 years. It is the world’s first company with a fuel cell fully approved for use by the German Bundeswehr. SFC Energy has sold over 30,000 fuel cell systems in defense and security, off-grid industry and consumer applications worldwide. 

27 January 2015

NDIA SO/LIC 2015: Vectronix' new lightweight multifunctional sensor for day and night

The MOSKITO TI is the newest multifunctional solution from Vectronix and Sagem, incorporating eight essential functions in one lightweight device: wide field-of-view (6.25°) thermal imager for detection, LLCMOS camera for 100% positive identification (6x magnification) by day and night, low-divergence fiber laser rangefinder (10-10,000 m) for best performance in harsh environmental conditions, direct view optics for maximum DRI performance, digital magnetic compass, inclinometer, global navigation satellite system (GNSS) and an internal, optional eyesafe laser pointer for target handover.

Vectronix MOSKITO TI multifunctional sensor. (Photo: Vectronix)

MOSKITO TI combines all essential day and night viewing, measuring, and geo-location functions into one compact and user friendly device. Its outstanding digital and video processing capabilities for observation and reconnaissance missions, the optimized power concept, and the intuitive and unobtrusive HMI are additional advantages. The presence of standard interfaces (RS-232/USB/Ethernet/USB) and protocols also provides perfect connectivity and therefore easy integration into higher-level systems. The weight (>1.3 kg) is incredible for such a multifunctional device. Four CR123 batteries will run the system for >6 hours. An East-European Army is the first customer, deliveries starts in April.
Andre Forkert

IAV XV 2015: Aselsan ASUR and ACAR for the Uruguayan Army

On 23 December 2014, the Uruguayan Army Batallon de Apoyo y Servicios de Comunicaciones Nº 2 has presented the development of a border ground monitoring surveillance system, as part of a contract signed between the Uruguayan Army and Aselsan. The company’s ASUR Mobile Border Security System were integrated in 4x4 Land Rover DEFENDER 110 vehicles. The sensors allow to perform 24hs surveillance activities, even in bad weather. It uses the ACAR Surveillance Radar, EO systems, which have thermal cameras, daylight TV cameras, and a laser sensor to measure different distances, all of which was developed by Aselsan.
Juan Carlos Cicalesi

IAV XV 2015: New Armoured Vehicles for the Colombian Army

The Colombian National MoD and Army have recently presented their new General Dynamics Land Systems Canada (GDLS-C) 8x8 LAV III armoured vehicles in the Cantón de Buenavista, in the Distraccion jurisdiction (La Guajira). Columbia bought 32 vehicles, for U$84 million.
Juan Carlos Cicalesi
(Photo: Colombian National MoD)

IAV XV 2015: Equipment Improvement of the Paraguayan Army

In the context of a moderate modernisation and re-equipment programme of the Paraguayan Army, the amphibious ARGO 8x8 was recently received, assisted by an outboard engine and an all-terrain trailer. Furthermore, a new batch of the all-terrain jeep Agrale MARRUA was attained, including the troop transport and utility vehicles.

The amphibious ARGO 8x8 for the Paraguayan Army. (Photo: Paraguayan Army)
A batch of NEGEV and NEGEV SF light machine guns, manufactured by Israel Weapons Industries (IWI), were also acquired.
Juan Carlos Cicalesi

IAV XV 2015: Pearson Engineering Selected to Undertake Structural Assessment of CHALLENGER 2

Pearson Engineering has been selected to undertake a structural scanning assessment of the British Army's CHALLENGER 2 tank fleet by inspecting and non-destructive testing (NDT) of up to 60 vehicle hulls. The £1.129 million contract will provide valuable information for the whole fleet management of the CHALLENGER 2 tank platform by the UK MoD Defence Equipment & Support Organisation (DE&S).

Tim Rutter, Director of Manufacturing Services at Pearson Engineering, explained: “Pearson Engineering's technical capability and defence know-how, coupled with the capabilities of the Armstrong Works in Newcastle, enables us to offer a wide range of manufacturing and support services across the entire land defence sector. We are delighted to be supporting the UK MoD in the CHALLENGER 2 structural scanning assessment project.”

IAV XV 2015: Industry Considers Future Integration of Hybrid Electric Drive for Armoured Vehicles

Hybrid Electric Drive (HED) engine solutions are now mature enough to be integrated into the next-generation of armoured vehicle programmes, industry representatives proclaimed today.

Speaking to MT at the International Armoured Vehicles (IAV) conference in London, on 27 January, executives from RUAG, BAE Systems Hägglunds, Milspray, and Nexter explained their aspirations for the inclusion of HED technology in the future.

According to BAE Systems Hägglunds’ Per Samuelsson, deputy director of business development, HED will be both a “necessity and choice” for governments moving forward with future development of medium-sized armoured platforms.  “Both within wider the BAE systems and Hägglunds companies, we are basically ready to do [HED] now, having developed this technology for the US Ground Combat Vehicle and Swedish SEP programmes. SEP was eventually cancelled but we stayed developing and maturing it and took it up in the commercial domain. Now we are ready to bring it back into the military platforms,” he said. “HED technology is not really new but we have seen a bit of wariness amongst defence forces to be the first to actually go down this path. But eventually, HED will be one of the only solutions to actually solve that capability requirement while maintaining a balanced combat vehicle.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Nexter described how the company had also experimented with HED, before admitting that existing customer bases remained unconvinced by the technology. “Countless programmes have been delayed and cancelled because the technology aspiration [for HED] is placed too high. Until there is a mainstream heavy commercial hybrid technology fielded that is robust, it will be some years yet until the customer takes the leap.”

Elsewhere, a spokesperson for Milspray warned that the proliferation of additional technology being integrated on board armoured vehicles, resulted in requirements for increased power generation and management systems to distribute it. “HED can make that happen and reduce sustainment and logistics tails but we have to convince governments and industry to go that way. However, Special Operations Forces (SOF) may be more likely to go to HED initially before it is rolled out into larger formations. But we need to find that pivot point to get it into the mainstream, but for the niche [SOF] market, i think we are pretty much there,” he said.

Finally, RUAG Defence CEO, Dr Markus Zoller, said future integration of HED on board armoured vehicles was based around power availability and distribution on the platform, explaining: “Demands will increase and it will take time and conviction before these solutions are available. I see a two-phased approach where trial processes will give it enough momentum to proceed to wider development.”

Attempting to define the future character of conflict, Samuelsson highlighted a growing rise in hybrid warfare although he was quick to confirm this would not represent the end of traditional or conventional warfare. “It does however present a complicating factor for defining planning and thus a challenge for the defence industry in order for us to remain relevant,” he explained while highlighting how future requirements would have to consider the environment and terrain of future conflict areas; required missions sets; character of hybrid, conventional and irregular threats and adversaries; and political and societal factors.

He also listed certain assumptions regarding future development and requirement of armoured vehicles, which he said would include survivability, higher demands on C4ISR, information management, supportability and incremental capability enhancements.

More specifically, Samuelsson said this could include requirements tailored around signature management; soft and hard kill defensive aids suites; power management systems; sensor fusion for increased situation awareness; flexibility and scalability.

This keeps options open for the next generation of armoured vehicles with the flexibility of a common base platform concept reducing lifecycle costs and logistics footprints, obsolescence management, and an ability to build variants on a common chassis, not to mention economy of scale,” Samuelsson continued.

Finally, he outlined future requirements in electronic architecture with the integration of ECM, radios, computers, sensors, defensive aid suites, soldier systems and weapon systems all set to be increased in the future. “In hybrid wars, the adversary will exploit modern technology and present us with asymmetric modes of operations and unanticipated tactics. This will assume changes in our approach to operational art, command and control, leadership development, training and education as well as force structure,” he continued.

To ensure the required breadth when responding to the corresponding demands for capabilities in the land domain, armoured vehicles would have to provide the requisite base platform flexibility while allowing for rapid insertion and fielding of new functionality and special to role capabilities,” Samuelsson concluded.
Andrew White 

IAV XV 2015: “Armour” Critical to Future Ops, US Army Urges

The US Army’s Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) will provide the “key” to future operations, the International Armoured Vehicles (IAV) conference has heard today.

Addressing delegates at the event in London, Lt.Gen. Michael Williamson, principal military deputy assistant secretary of the US Army and director for acquisition career management, said the army had learned a considerable amount over the past 13 years of sustained conflict. Describing adaptation of the army units to the demands of counter-insurgency (COIN) operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Williamson explained how armoured vehicles had proven “indispensable” to operations.

Specifically, he outlined the capability of army units to upgrade from HMMWVs to heavier armoured vehicles like the STRYKER and BRADLEY platforms as combat escalated in the battle for Sadr City in Baghdad, during 2008. Once completed, he said the units then had the versatility to downscale back to peacekeeping operations in lighter vehicles, like the HMMWV.

It is harder to take lightly armoured and trained forces to try to equip it for a tougher conflict. That’s why we are so committed to our armoured formations in the US Army. Our armoured forces are the key to the future fight and next to our light and medium forces, BCTs equipped with Abrams and Bradley vehicles possess the protection, mobility and firepower required. All BCTs have versatility to scale down for irregular and other campaigns, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, peacekeeping and training missions with foreign militaries,” he explained.

On the back of recent operations, Williamson said the past 13 years of conflict was allowing the army to formulate plans for the optimal mixture of capabilities, training, equipment and doctrine in order to best provide a globally responsive and theatre specific force, he continued.

US Army procurement will centre around mobility, force protection and precision firepower, Williamson explained.

Mobility is extremely powerful. Tracked vehicles allow us independence on roads while wheeled vehicles provide increased speed and mobility and gives commanders a lot of options on how to conduct the fight,” he said while describing how such tactical mobility was crucial to counter-ambush, route security, quick reaction and cordon search operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Force protection and survivability is key to allow us to survive attack from a wide range of weapons including rockets, guided missiles, mines and IEDs.”

Finally, he expressed the importance of precision power on board ABRAMS and BRADLEY vehicles with the former carrying seven different types of precision munitions allowing it to execute targets at ranges of 2mi and beyond. Looking ahead to modernisation moves being undertaken by the army, Williamson described how the fleet of M113s and MRAPs would be divested, although the service will retain 8,500 M-ATVs, MAXX PRO DASH and MAXX PRO Long Wheel Bases vehicles out of its 21,000 strong fleet of MRAPs.

The STRYKER fleet will continue to be reset and sustained while modernisation efforts will be undertaken for ABRAMS, BRADLEY, STRYKER, and PIM fleets in order to maximise lethality, mobility, survivability and enable network integration. Elsewhere, the AMPV programme will continue to be develop and fielded, concentrating on mobile protected firepower and light infantry combat vehicles, Williamson added. “The AMPV remains our highest priority in the armoured vehicle programme to fulfil critical needs in survivability and mobility,” he said.

Finally, S&T investments will target “future fighting vehicle technology initiatives” including vehicle power, data architecture, surveillance, automotive sub-system prototypes and lethality/target acquisition. “We will develop combat vehicle systems in concern with army operating concept direction and concepts and modify existing systems to meet near term capability gaps for lethality, mobility and survivability,” he urged.

Finally, Williamson stressed the importance of the ongoing JLTV programme, designed to fill the gap between HMMWV and MRAP fleets as well as efforts in the Ultra Lightweight Combat Vehicle and Lightweight Reconnaissance Vehicle to “surprise and strike [enemy forces] from unexpected directions.

The former comprises a 4,500lb vehicle capable of carrying a nine-strong squad, which can be transported on board a UH-60 BLACK HAWK helicopter. The latter, comprising 12,000lbs and able to carry six personnel, must be transported inside a CH-64 or airdropped from C-130 HERCULES.

Looking to the future, Williamson concluded: “If we’re not building it today; if plans are not in place; and if industry is not engaged in design and development today, you’re not going to have it tomorrow. It is very important that you have intellectual engagement and wherewithal to start developing those systems today, whether you want [the vehicles] in 2024 or 2025.”
Andrew White 

IAV XV 2015: UK Minister Outlines Future Armoured Vehicle Concept

The British Army must be equipped with the capabilities to deal with a “Kaleidoscope” of threats in the future, UK Minister for Defence, Equipment and Support (DE&S), Philip Dunne, warned today.

Philip Dunne, UK Minister for Defence, Equipment and Support (DE&S), Philip Dunne, spoke at the International Armoured Vehicles (IAV) conference in London on 27 January. 

Speaking at the International Armoured Vehicles (IAV) conference in London on 27 January, Dunne described “diverse threats” in the contemporary operational environment which includes the Russian threat in eastern Europe, Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East as well as global weapons proliferation.

Our armed forces will continually be called upon to provide agile, speedy and intelligent responses mixing hard, soft and smart power,” Dunne explained. “It is imperative to maintain our battlefield fleet of versatile armoured vehicles and we need to stay ahead in a world of exponential technological advances and the ever present challenge of shrinking defence budgets.”

Referring to an “overheated” defence equipment programme which the current administration inherited four years ago, Dunne urged how the present government had restructured the armed forces into a scalable, modular, and joint approach.

According to Dunne, the UK’s 10-year defence equipment plan was launched in September last year with a GBP3.5 billion contract with General Dynamics for the development of the SCOUT SV capability, providing the Army’s first “fully digital armoured vehicle.

SCOUT SV prototype.

This game changer will provide the eyes and ears on the battlefield for commanders in the future,” he continued. “Finally, we are looking at how to complement forces with medium armoured capability and we need to consider what other capabilities we might require to complement scout SV, further improving operational and tactical reach with minimum logistical drag.”

It was added that such a digital platform, developed around a Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA), would also feature integrated protection systems to counter hard and soft targets with this approach been applied to FOXHOUND and future SCOUT SV vehicles.

Elsewhere, Dunne said the WARRIOR Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) would keep the infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) at the “front and centre” of combat capability for at least the next 25 years. The programme began life fire evaluation with the CT40 canon last year with the initial tranche of 28 upgraded vehicles due to be delivered “on time and cost” this year.

The CHALLENGER 2 Life Extension Programme, he added, also continued in a concept phase, also designed to extend the main battle tank’s (MBT) shelf life out beyond 2025, while Dunne also explained moves to incorporate JACKAL, COYOTE, and MASTIFF armoured vehicles into the MoD’s core, long-term equipment programme.

Meanwhile, Dunne stressed the importance of international collaboration moving forward in the armoured vehicle market while explaining how UK personnel were currently evaluating the VBCI IFV in France.

We must pool our resources more widely and share nascent ideas to deep technological data and experimental data as much as possible. We have seen what can be achieved for the WARRIOR programme and in the US with novel armour and protection of our [vehicle] fleets,” he said while also outlining IED protection efforts with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the US.

We must work together in training our people and how we can work together building on our experience learned in Afghanistan. At such a time of turmoil in the world, there is plenty to discuss,” Dunne continued.

Looking at the future of the UK’s domestic market, Dunne said: “We are looking at our next vehicle programme beyond SCOUT. There are a series of challenges over the next couple of decades and many of our vehicles will hit their out of service dates [in that period of time].  There is no trying to hide the fact, we will need to invest in our vehicle fleets in decades to come and some investment in heavy and some in light. protected mobility an increasing cap in our vehicle procurement. This will have an impact on the weight of the vehicle with a continuing trend for heavier vehicles than perhaps we ‘ve been used to in previous decades. We live in an unpredictable world and it would be very foolish for any politician to say they did not envisage opportunities to engage some of the threats we face in several regions of the world."

"Who’d have thought we would see the breakdown of many nations in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Dunne asked?

I’m not saying we are going to be deploying large numbers of troops to those theatres but we live in an unpredictable world and threats are appearing where we did not perhaps envisage them.”

Finally, Dunne described how the British Army had been “less at the forefront” of technology development over recent years, in comparison to the air force and navy. “We are trying to address that balance now,” he said.

Clearly, if we can cut the time it takes to design and manufacture technology, so much the better. We can work together with industry to cut that time and that would be very welcome,” Dunne concluded.
Andrew White