Britain Buying New Land Vehicles for Iraqi & Afghan Theaters
In July 2006, UK Defence Secretary Des Browne has unveiled a package of new equipment to help protect UK Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan following an urgent armored vehicles review he had ordered in June 2006. The UK Ministry of Defence had previously spent over GBP 527 million on Urgent Operational Requirement force protection supplementals for Iraq and Afghanistan, as detailed in this release.
Three types of vehicles were covered by that purchase – Pinzgauer’s Vector troop transport truck, upgrades to create the FV430 Mk3 Bulldog tracked armored personnel carrier, and the Cougar family of mine-resistant patrol vehicles. Additional orders for Cougar family and Bulldog vehicles would follow. Supacat’s “Jackal” all-terrain wheeled vehicle would supplement these choices, and its off-road capabilities were seen as being especially valuable in Afghanistan.
Despite these efforts, the UK MoD has faced sharp criticism, and endured several senior officer resignations, connected with its overall vehicle fleet’s lack of protection. In November 2008, therefore, it unveiled a GBP 700 million second phase effort to buy mine-clearance vehicles, upgraded BvS10 tracked all-terrain vehicles, and a wide variety of support and ancillary vehicles that can keep up with the other protected vehicles in its fleet.
Light Protection: Pinzgauer Trucks
The orders include 100 additional Pinzgauer ‘Vector’ trucks for use in Afghanistan, on top of the 66 already on contract, with deliveries to begin early in 2007. The Steyr Daimler Puch Pinzgauers will be improved with Kevlar floors, bullet proof glass and tires that will run when flat, and will reportedly cost around $800,000 equivalent.
Still, their flat bottoms and lack of mine protection, the high number of troops carried, and the growing us use of IED land mines in Afghanistan has created concerns. When compared to alternatives like the BAE OMC Casspir, or even EADS’ “battlebox” approach + heavy trucks, some critics have dubbed the Pinzgauers “coffins on wheels”.
- DID (Jan 24/08) – UK to Part With Pinzgauer Production. New owner BAE is shutting the Pinzgauer 1 line, and moving Pinzgauer 2 design and development to South Africa. Is this a tacit admission that mine protection is now a requirement for a viable market offering?
- Defence of the Realm (Oct 7/07) – No Wonder They Wanted to Keep It Quiet. The MoD mentioned a series of deaths in Afghanistan, but not which vehicle the troops were in. Richard North explain why he believes the culprit was a relatively small bomb, plus the Vector’s lack of mine protection.
Medium Protection: The Mastiff PPV Cougar Variant
‘Cougar’ MRAP variants, manufactured by Force Protection Incorporated of Charleston, SC were announced. They are expected to be delivered to Iraq and Afghanistan in batches over the next six month rotation, with an effective capability in place in Iraq by the end of 2006. Subsequent contracts were placed for 86 Cougar vehicles in August 2006, which arrived at the front by December 2006 as promised. Follow-on orders would eventually boost the total over 400 vehicles, in both 6×6 (Mastiff) and 4×4 (Ridgeback) variants.
The UK MoD would later describe their vehicles this way:
“The vehicles, derived from Cougars used by the American Marines, are six-wheeled mine-protected vehicles which have had around 50 modifications. As well as carrying infantry troops around danger zones with much more protection, they are also used by Royal Engineers and Bomb Disposal Teams.”
Among other things, the Mastiffs are customized with BOWMAN tactical communications and anti-IED electronic counter-measures, then fitted with extra armor. Cougars are quickly becoming the standard for Iraq, and will soon be used by US, British, and Iraqi units.
Photos of the British Mastiff vehicles were eventually released, however, to the consternation and puzzlement of many observers. Defense-Aerospace sums it up neatly:
“Compared to the original Cougar vehicle, Mastiff has been fitted with large, vertical armor plates which cover the large vision blocks and weapon firing ports. As the basic Cougar is already protected against RPG warheads, it is unclear why these plates were considered necessary by the British, especially as they totally block the crew’s vision and make it impossible to use the firing ports. The crew is thus blind and disarmed, which does not make much sense in an urban combat context.”
Unless of course the vehicles are not expected to be used for patrols, and will be restricted to use as specialty engineering/EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) vehicles. In point of fact, the Cougar’s armor cannot stop rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and slab armor by itself is equally unlikely to do so; either bolt-on slat armor “side-cages” or reactive armor would be required for that. Photos from the front do indicate slat armor on the sides, however, and the slab-side configuration does make it possible to fit heavier armor that would help stop explosively-formed penetrator (EFP) land mines being sent to Iraq via Iran.
Firm orders were placed for the vehicles beginning in September 2006, and the first Mastiffs were delivered in December. British soldiers then undertook intensive training which culminated in 3 weeks in Cyprus. The first patrols were deployed on to the streets of Basra, Iraq on March 1/07, and Mastiffs have also been sent to Afghanistan. Field experience has played a part in refining the Mastiff variant by feeding back suggestions and advice through to the project team.
With the coming early retirement of some of Britain’s Saxon wheeled APCs, the Cougar looks set to step into that niche as the clear advance buy and MPPV competition winner. May 2008 saw the addition of the 4×4 “Ridgback” Cougar variant, and November 2008 saw the addition of the “Wolfhound TSV” truck variant. As of November 2008, the UK MoD has ordered well over 400 Cougar 6×6 and Cougar 4×4 vehicles.
UPDATES: For ongoing developments, see DID’s Spotlight Article – UK Land Forces Order Cougar Family Vehicles.
Hey, Bulldog! Updating the APCs
Around 70 up-armored and upgraded FV430 family troop carriers, in addition to the 54 already on contract from BAE Land Systems & Armaments, with deliveries starting late this year and building up to a mechanized infantry battlegroup by Spring 2007. The intent is to provide a similar level of protection to Britain’s overworked (and no air conditioning) Warrior vehicles, while being less hostile-looking to locals and not as apt to tear up local roads. The concept is that these FV430 Bulldogs will free up the Warrior vehicles for reserve firepower status and/or rotation out of theater. As the July/August 2006 issue of Battlespace magazine noted in “UK MoD Confirms Vehicle Orders from Iraq“:
“The final size of the armoured battlegroup in terms of 430 vehicle numbers is not clear but the MoD confirmed that the battlegroup would have 800 men thus at least 100 more vehicles would be required (we hope that this time the 430s are fitted with the Donaldson Desert Filter system, unlike the first batch of Warriors which only travelled thirty metres before stopping!). In its statement that the 430 deployment will take the strain off the existing Warrior force, this suggests that some of the Iraq Warriors which one source suggested were ‘close to knackered’ would be taken out of service and sent to ABRO’s Donnington Plant for Reset.”
Details regarding the FV430 family upgrades were not provided in the release, but the FV430 family looks a lot like the US M113s and dates from the same era; as such, they may benefit from US and Israeli experience in upgrading their protection. The US approach of slat armor and proper gunshields (see picture) is worth noting, and the FV432 armored personnel carrier variant has already been successfully fitted with GD-RAFAEL’s reactive armor.
UPDATE: The upgraded FV430 Mk3 vehicles did indeed include slat armor, gunshields, and reactive armor similar to US and Israeli initiatives with their M113s, as well as what appear to be IED jammer antennas. See the photo above. The Bulldog also got an order boost, and is now 900 vehicles and counting. In November 2008, Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine selected this program for an Excellence award.
For more details regarding other British force protection initiatives, see the UK MoD’s July 25/06 press release.
Support and Specialty Vehicles: The Next Round
On Oct 29/08, Defence Secretary John Hutton announced a package worth GBP 700 million (then $1.56 billion equivalent, but only $1.05 billion by late November), which will pay for over 700 new armored vehicles for use in Afghanistan. They include:
Over 100 brand Warthog cross-country vehicles. These variants of the tracked BvS10 Viking have greater protection levels, and will replace Vikings in Afghanistan.
Talisman, a mine-clearing system that will include Force Protection’s Buffalo MRAP Class III mine clearance vehicle, and a set of armored engineer-excavator tractors. Talisman will cost GBP 96 million of the GBP 700 million total. Associated Force Protection, Inc. contracts are covered in DID’s “UK Land Forces Order Cougar Family Vehicles” article.
Wolfhound TSV (Heavy), a medium flatbed truck based on the Cougar 6×6. It will provide support and logistics in the most dangerous areas, provided it can traverse the terrain to get to them. Associated contracts are covered in DID’s “UK Land Forces Order Cougar Family Vehicles” article.
Husky TSV (Medium). The UK is ordering 260 light trucks based on Navistar Defense’s MXT-MVA. They will carry out support roles in areas where heavy vehicles like Mastiff cannot be used, and will have 3 initial variants; utility, ambulance and command post. See: “Navistar’s MXT Makes Breakthrough in Britain” for more.
Coyote TSV (Light), an all-terrain vehicle based on the Supacat “Jackal,” but with 6 wheels and enhanced carrying capacity. It’s designed to operate alongside Jackal vehicles as supply carriers. See “Days of the Jackal” for more.
In addition, the UK MoD is busy ordering or fielding…
- 30 base Cougar 4×4 and 6×6 vehicles, which will be modified to boost Britain’s training fleets for the Mastiff and Ridgback. The pressure to ship Cougar family vehicles to the front has pinched training vehicle availability. Associated contracts are covered in DID’s “UK Land Forces Cougar Family Vehicles” article.
- Britain has modified its M270 tracked MLRS launchers, giving them greater protection and self-defense for use on non-linear battlefields like Afghanistan.
- The new Iveco Panther CLV mine-resistant patrol vehicle has been modified and upgraded to prepare for its arrival in Afghanistan in 2009. Britain has ordered 400 of these vehicles to date, which are effectively Britain’s choice for the JLTV niche. Iveco’s new CLV/ MLV vehicles also serve on the war’s front lines with a number of European countries.
- A new variant of the much-maligned Land Rover Snatch has been developed, known as the Snatch-Vixen. Afghan adaptations include extra power and payload capacity, which enhances its mobility and/or protective carrying capacity.
- DID – UK SAS Commander Quits, Citing Inadequate Equipment. It is the latest in a string of high-level offer resignations over this issue.
- UK MoD (Nov 19/09) – Making military vehicles interoperable. Discusses the General Vehicle Architecture project, which aims to create a plug-and-play set of systems.
- UK MoD (Nov 19/08) – Preferred bidders named for new breed of armoured vehicles
- UK MoD (Oct 29/08) – New Armoured Vehicles for Afghanistan
- BAE Systems (Nov 14/08) – Aviation Week and Space Technology Award Recognizes British Bulldog Team
- UK MoD (June 13/08) – Cougar begins its transformation into the Ridgback. That’s Britain’s 4×4 variant.
- BAE Systems (May 20/08) – Urgent Upgrades Give British Bulldog Sharper Teeth. Looks at the BAE-led upgrade program in retrospect, cites significant reliability gains from the new engine and drive train.
- UK MoD (July 13/07) – Britain is increasing its Bulldog order by 400 vehicles, to a total of 900. See full DID coverage.
- Multi-National Forces – Iraq (June 23/07) – Armored vehicle a hit with British troops.
- UK MoD (June 21/07) – Soldiers give Mastiff the thumbs-up. Of course, the UK MoD wouldn’t be saying anything else. The reactions are consistent with general feedback from other sources, however.
- Armor Holdings (Apr 30/07) – Armor Holdings, Inc. Receives $32 Million Order for Pinzgauer Light Tactical Armored Vehicles. The company stated that the new deliveries will be completed in 2007, with work performed at the Armor Holdings Aerospace and Defense Group’s Pinzgauer facilities located in Guildford, Surrey, UK, with vehicle armoring support to be provided by the Aerospace and Defense Group at its facilities located in Fairfield, Ohio. Note that the total order is estimated at around $80 million for 100 vehicles; thus far, orders of $27 million and $32 million have been placed.
- UK Ministry of Defense (March 13/07) – Defence Minister sees new armoured vehicles in Iraq.
- UK Ministry of Defence (Dec 4/06) – Bulldog arrives at the front line
- UK Ministry of Defence (Sept 14/06) – New Protected Patrol Vehicles for Iraq and Afghanistan put through their paces. The UK releases the first pictures of their ‘Mastiffs,’ prompting observers at Defense-Aerospace to question the design’s logic.
- Armor Holdings (July 21/06) – Armor Holdings, Inc. Receives $27 Million Award for Pinzgauer Protected Patrol Vehicle. The contract was recently issued to Armor Holdings Aerospace & Defense Group’s UK-based Pinzgauer division, which was acquired when Armor’s bought Stewart & Stevenson in May 2006. Production is expected to be completed in early 2007 at the Company’s U.K. facilities.
- DID (June 8/06) – BAE Delivering a Cougar Variant for Iraq’s $445.4M ILAV Contract. The contract could go as high as 1,050 Cougar vehicles if all options are exercised, and BAE will also be engaged in production work.