In recent years, special attention has been paid to non-combat vehicles, especially logistics and engineering. Industry experts note that in response to changing threats, the need for greater flexibility, agility and autonomy is growing.
According to Mike Ivey of Oshkosh Defense, the term "non-combat vehicles" is increasingly becoming redundant, as in today's battlefield, multiform weapons put all platforms at risk. “I'm not sure what that phrase means now,” he said. "From the experience gained by the American military and our allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is clear that any vehicle on the battlefield today is a combat vehicle." Ivey added that while the vehicle may not have a 120mm cannon or a 30mm cannon, in today's non-linear combat space, those in it could be at the epicenter of combat at any moment. "Our holistic understanding of machine classification has, frankly, changed significantly over the past decade."
Oshkosh is a major supplier of heavy, medium and light tactical vehicles and other platforms to the US military and its allies. The company manufactures a full range of logistics vehicles, such as the PLS (Palletized Load System) multifunctional transport platform and the HEMTT A4 heavy-duty off-road truck. It also manufactures the JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) light tactical armored vehicle for the American army, the MRAP category vehicle for the army and the Marine Corps, and a number of other platforms.
As explained by Pat Williams, Program Manager for the Army and Marine Corps at Oshkosh Defense, the original design of the previous variants of heavy and medium tactical vehicles did not provide enhanced protection, but they were later additionally armored in order to increase the safety of the crews.
“The approaches to modern vehicles are different. The JLTV armored car, for example, was built from the ground up with future needs in mind, meeting or exceeding all software requirements for protection, mobility, carrying capacity and portability, taking into account the possibility of growth and adaptability in the event of changing the nature of the battlefield or challenges facing the ground forces. - he continued. "We always think about how the soldiers can do their difficult job - often in difficult terrain, against a very aggressive and knowledgeable enemy - and get home alive."
The performance of machines like the JLTV has improved over time, but "it would be nice to improve the capabilities of other types of support vehicles," Williams said. In this regard, he highlighted the FMTV (Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles) family of medium-duty military vehicles, which the company had been manufacturing under a contract with the American army for more than five years. In June, Oshkosh received four additional orders from the army for these vehicles, intended for combat missions, logistics and humanitarian assistance. Williams said more than 28,000 vehicles will be built under the main contract.
The requirements for FMTV have evolved over time, the army wanted to increase the level of booking of the car. "The army decided that they needed a vehicle with increased payload, improved survivability, smooth running and increased mobility." However, in order to meet all these requirements, it is necessary to simultaneously solve a number of rather complex problems.
“Adding extra armor or increasing payload reduces ride performance and mobility,” Williams explained. “So you have to balance it all. Make a number of compromises, eventually getting a car with higher performance, which is necessary for the military."
According to Bill Sheehy, AMPV Program Manager, the need for continuous modernization of vehicles in order to meet evolving needs and threats also affects BAE Systems' approach to the AMPV (Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle) multipurpose armored vehicle. BAE under contract with the US Army is to produce five platform options: general purpose; mortar transporter; commander; and two medical models. Sheehy noted that the AMPV is designed to grow by 20% in order to have the potential for future technological development.
Of the two AMPV medical options under development, one is for the evacuation of the wounded, and the other is for the provision of medical care. The AMPV is generally more maneuverable than the M113 armored personnel carrier, which is replacing, thanks to an improved power unit and tracks and many other improvements.
As Sheehee pointed out, this is especially useful from a medical point of view. For example, in the event of a large number of casualties, the AMPV medical evacuation vehicle will be able to reach the scene and then transport the victims to the medical assistance vehicle - “literally a surgical operating room on tracks” - which itself can move to a position closer to the engagement line, “that is, surgeons will receive into their hands seriously wounded soldiers faster and will be able to stabilize their condition."
Sheehy called AMPV's digital architecture a major step forward. From a medical point of view, this means that information can be transmitted to the hospital faster and therefore "they are better able to prepare to receive the wounded." Many of the design features found in modern civilian ambulances have been carried over to the AMPV. All these innovations are largely related to the improvement of the power unit, because "in addition to traditional consumers, you now need a lot of power to power this entire digital architecture."
In addition, BAE is in the early stages of developing a variant of the AMPV engineering vehicle, although no contract has been concluded for it. Sheeha said he will be mainly involved in making passages in minefields and marking them. BAE and other companies are currently working with the US Army School of Engineering to identify future military needs in this area. The Army tested contracted AMPV variants at Fort Hood in August 2018. These vehicles took part in demonstration field maneuvers together with units equipped with M113 armored personnel carriers. The army plans to decide on the production of AMPV machines at the end of this year, after which the company BAE will begin production of the pilot batch.
According to Richard Beatson of Pearson Engineering, manufacturers of mine and improvised explosive device (IED) disposal equipment are also constantly faced with the need to implement technological change.
“Everything we do must be determined by the customer's requirement, and every requirement is determined by the threat,” he said. “As soon as we provide the end user with the means to combat the threat, our adversaries come out with a new threat. Therefore, we must constantly develop and refine our equipment to stay ahead of the evolving threat."
Beatson said there is an increased demand for versatility in times of tight defense budgets. Increasingly, Pearson's customers want equipment such as plows and plows to be mounted on multiple platforms, from main battle tanks to mid-range vehicles. The shift from counterinsurgency operations back to operations with almost equal or equal rivals is very stimulating this process.
“According to our estimates, all armored vehicles will need to have engineering capabilities, at least partial. If they find themselves in a minefield, for example, they can quickly get out of there themselves,”he explained.
Beatson said there is a growing interest in Pearson's proposals from the Western military and NATO, with a clear trend toward a return to "high-intensity combat." The military of many countries of the world have spent the past 10-15 years on counterinsurgency operations, and this until recently determined various procurement priorities.
Beatson noted that Pearson Engineering pays special attention to weight, size and energy performance, and therefore conducts extensive R&D aimed at reducing weight while maintaining performance and protection. For example, advances in materials of construction mean that modern systems can use less metal than previous options. “With new technologies, we can become much easier while maintaining the capabilities of the systems. We devote a lot of time and effort to so-called smart design."
However, he added that “there is a balance between reducing weight and maintaining mass, because these are different physical quantities. If you run into a mine, a large, heavy piece of metal between you and the explosion could well save your life."
Pearson works closely with its customers, either directly from the military or from the hardware manufacturers, to minimize the effort to find the right balance, Beatson explained. - First of all, we carefully study the car, even in detail, in order to determine the centers of gravity, the effect of mass on the transmission, suspension, etc. This is very important and therefore we optimize our equipment for installation on a specific machine."
The company operates in four main areas related to combat systems: mine clearance, IED clearance, earthworks and bridge building. While the first two are the dominant part of the company's business, Pearson has recently seen increased demand for bridge-building systems that allow large numbers of personnel to navigate small obstacles. "Our rapid reaction forces also need fast bridges."
Beatson noted the British project Tugo, which BAE Systems is working on. Its goal is to upgrade or replace the bridge system so that it can handle heavy loads and remain in service until 2040.
Forward to autonomy
Due to the fact that engineering vehicles, logistic supply vehicles and other non-combat platforms on the modern battlefield increasingly have to face a variety of threats and in order to reduce losses among personnel, special attention is paid to the development of unmanned systems.
For example, Oshkosh Defense has developed TegtaMax technology, which combines computers, electronic control and distributed sensor systems to control ground-based robotic vehicles. It can be integrated into crew vehicles, effectively turning them into robotic vehicles.
“A large number of casualties in Iraq were associated with IEDs. Many supply vehicles carrying cargo were blown up. That is, the idea of a crewless car is to have fewer people in trucks in convoys,”Williams said. He highlighted the work that Oshkosh under the Army's Expedient Leader Follower program is doing with the Armored Research Center, integrating scalable autonomous technology into the multi-functional PLS transport platform.
In June of this year, the company received a $ 49 million contract for the supply of ten PLS machines for this project, which must pass government tests before another 60 machines are purchased in 2019. Operational tests of these 60 vehicles will begin in 2020 "and then the army will decide on the further fate of the program, whether to accept them for supply in larger quantities."
Beatson said that in the field of engineering vehicles, unmanned or autonomous options can be compared to "guiding stars." Pearson is currently working with a number of customers to test and demonstrate traditional crew vehicles that have been redesigned to operate unmanned. “One word in the coming years we will hear more and more often -“autonomy”, that is, the exclusion of a soldier from the control loop. I believe that this technology will stimulate everything else, especially in the field of combating mines and IEDs."
According to Ivey, the changing nature of the battlefield is also forcing more attention to protecting support platforms from cyber threats. “Customers want machines that are resistant to these threats and into which systems can be integrated to protect against such threats,” he said, adding that recent Oshkosh platforms have been designed with this in mind. "We are now thinking not only about resilience to real-world threats, but also resilience to cyberspace threats."
In such a dynamic space, flexibility in machine design is the key to success. Recently, there has been a growing demand for equipping JLTVs and similar vehicles with lethal weapons ranging from DUMV to air defense systems and machine guns. "We are seeing an increasing demand for weapon systems fitted to Oshkosh vehicles that give them offensive and defensive capabilities."
Williams agreed, drawing attention to the work of Raytheon to install a 100 kW laser weapon system on the FMTV truck, which is being developed under the US Army's High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstration program.
Beatson also pointed to the importance of functional flexibility, noting that “in the West there are only one or two armies that, in terms of size and budget, can operate different vehicles for specific missions. "A more general approach is to use available funds according to a specific task." Depending on the operational task, each time, different sets of equipment are installed on the machine, for example, a mine plow or a roller. This equipment can be integrated with a specialized vehicle, although it can also be installed on MBT or other platform, usually not used for clearing mines and IEDs.
Armies are becoming “incredibly resourceful when it comes to how to conduct hostilities with limited resources … As suppliers, we need to be a little smarter about how best to offer them innovation,” Beatson added. In his opinion, the market for engineering machines will expand in the coming years. “Once you deal with Threat A, your opponents come with Threat B, and as a result there is a constant battle. It is important and correct that the military of all countries, without exception, are very concerned about the survival of their soldiers."
Going forward, Williams said, autonomy will continue to evolve. Also, special attention will be paid to integrating more advanced weapons into platforms that are not technically intended for a combat role."We're moving on to a near-equal threat and so they need to be able to do what they probably shouldn't have done in a counterinsurgency scenario."
The basis for everything is constant adaptation to changes in threats, what impact they can have on machines of all categories. “Our adversaries are smart and as we develop our defense capabilities, their threats also evolve,” Williams said. “Therefore, we must try to offer our customers protection against new threats, even at times proactively - this is exactly what we should be doing.”