Days of the Jackal: Supacat’s HMT Vehicles
Britain is part of the general push by western countries to field heavier, mine-protected vehicles, via orders for the Mastiff Cougar variant and its smaller 4×4 Ridgback companion. UK forces are also fielding vehicles like the Land Rover WMIK (Weapons Mounted Installation Kit) that have a very different core concept: firepower and visibility over protection. When deployed in mixed groups with more protected vehicles, and used on open terrain like the plains of southern Afghanistan, ‘the porcupine’ (WMIK) has earned enemy respect and commander requests.
The British sought to build on the WMIK’s strengths, in order to create a vehicle that offered both greater firepower, and off-road mobility. In response, Supacat’s HMT was adapted, then adopted, by the British (“Jackal”) and by Australia’s SAS commandos (“Nary”). Success led to more British orders for Jackal 2 and HMT 600 “Coyote” designs, and now Australian Special Forces seem set to add the new Extenda vehicle to their fleet.
Supacat’s MWMIK/ Jackal: Origins and Program
The Jackals have a somewhat complicated history. As Battlespace Magazine notes:
“The initial history of the MWMIK was littered with cost overruns, delays and technology changes which resulted in the MoD taking IPR for the top hamper design of the vehicle. The vehicle was developed as a result of an MoD requirement for replacement of the aging Pink Panther Land Rovers. The previous UOR, issued in 1982, caused the then Technical Director of SMC, Mike Stone, to say, “The only thing this vehicle [specification] can’t do is fly!” SMC declined to bid!
Thus, when the UOR (Urgent Operational Requirement) for this replacement vehicle was issued in 1999 it had, once again, a very onerous specification. Many companies bid the UOR including ATK, Ricardo and AutomotiveTechnik, but the contract was won by Supacat which ticked all the capability boxes. It rapidly became apparent that the vehicle offered by Supacat, the HMT, although superior in performance and speed, lacked the engineering and support required for the vehicle.
Thus, after many months of protracted negotiations, the MoD took some IPR over the vehicle which allowed it to purchase further batches, and a deal was hammered out with DML which allowed it to recoup some of the money in establishing the assembly for the initial batch. Supacat had obtained the sales and deign rights for the vehicle from HMT Vehicles Ltd a fledgling Scottish Company owned by the Duke Of Hamilton and the Trustees of the Hamilton Estates along with other investors.”
Jackal family vehicles are designed by Supacat in Honiton, Devon, but manufacturing is done by a company known for ship-building and nuclear submarines. Babcock subsidiary Devonport Management Ltd (DML) will build it at their Devonport dockyard in Plymouth, as part of a larger diversification effort to reduce dependence on dwindling ship-building contracts for the Royal Navy et. al. In April 2009, the 2 firms formalized their alliance.
A single project office, located at Dunkeswell in Devon, provides overall control. Supacat is the design authority, responsible for design, development, prototyping, integration and overall program management. Babcock took responsibility for detailed production planning, purchasing and manufacture. Other industrial partners include:
- Allison (transmission)
- Cummins (engine)
- Frazer-Nash systems engineering consultancy (assistance during testing and trials)
- Universal Engineering (chassis)
Lockheed Martin’s INSYS land vehicle subsidiary is also involved, thanks to its acquisition of original designer HMT Vehicles Ltd. HMT had originally negotiated a royalty of GBP 4,000 per axle for the vehicle, but the arrival of British contracts has reportedly led INSYS to reduce that royalty.
To date, Britain has ordered over 565 vehicles in the Jackal family:
- 35 HMT MEPs for Project Soothsayer (canceled in 2009)
- 202 Jackal 1s
- 120+ Jackal 2s
- 140 Jackal 2As
- 70+ Coyote TSV-Ls.
The approximate contract value of the various British buys is over GBP 350 million. That includes GBP 174 million for Jackal 1 + GBP 140 million for the Jackal 2 and Coyote buys + GBP 45 million has been spent ordering Jackal 2As. The first Jackal 1 vehicles entered service in November 2007, and were in theater in early 2008. The Jackal 2s entered service in August 2009, as did the cargo-carrying Coyote TSV-L, which is based on the 6×6 HMT 600.
Supacat has been hoping for continued orders from the British government, and/or other governments around the world, in order to keep the ball rolling. Follow-on work has materialized from Britain, Australia became the vehicle’s second special forces customer with an order for 31, and Canada currently has a special forces vehicle competition underway. Even so, the pace of deliveries has meant that the 2012 Australian REDFIN follow-on order comes in the nick of time.
Supacat’s HMTs: The Vehicles
The new Supacat MWMIK/ Jackal has provisions for 2 crew-served weapons, just like the Land Rover WMIK. The other similarity is that it’s an open vehicle, so the crew has a full field of visibility and fire with rifles, light 5.56mm machine guns, or whatever is at hand. The Supacat HMT Jackal is larger at 5.39 m/ 17’8″ long, and 6,650 kg/ 14,660 pounds. Key advantages include smoke/specialty grenade launchers as integral fittings, longer driving range, greater carrying capacity (4 tonnes), and far better off-road mobility than its Land Rover counterpart. Some concerns did remain, however. Battlespace magazine:
“One stumbling block is believed to be the requirement to armour the front cab, an addition which not only adds weight to the front axle but also overall weight which may affect the ability to heli-lift the system. Another area of concern would be mobility in rough terrain with a 6×4 system with weight added. The Carmichael 6×4 Fire Engines purchased by the MoD in the eighties suffered from problems in rough and wet terrain due to the 3rd trailing non-driven axle getting stuck in the mud.”
In the end, even more armor became mandatory. The follow-on Jackal 2 adds weight by adding some side armoring as standard equipment, and providing space for an additional crew member. A larger 6.7 liter engine replaces the original vehicle’s 5.9 liter Cummins ISBe Euro3, in order to maintain similar performance. The upgraded Jackal 2A’s most significant change involves a new cab design with integrated mine blast protection. Supacat says that it’s easier to build, and offers better protection than the Jackal 2′s system. Even so, the HMT family’s defenses against mines or small arms fire are best described as limited.
An optional “Extenda” module can add a third axle, turning the vehicle from a 4×4 into a 6×4 wheel base, and adding length and storage space. Conversation takes 2 hours, and requires a forklift. The Coyote TSV-Light (HMT 600) is built as a 6×6 version from the outset, and will be used to carry supplies alongside its brethren.
The Supacats have very good all-terrain capability. Even so, they aren’t tracked vehicles; as Canada’s Afghan experiences alongside the British have shown, this can become an operational limitation. Fortunately, the vehicle’s intended use as a special forces vehicle and long-range reconnaissance platform is likely to keep the Jackal away from most of those situations.
When the terrain is suitable, the Jackal’s engine can push it to a top speed of 130 kmh/ 80 mph. Given convoy operational procedures and the ever-present dangers of mines from the enemy or even from the Soviet era, that mobility isn’t likely to be used very often during convoy operations. It may help get a scout group or special forces team out of the kill zone quickly, however, should they come under fire in ambushes. Absent protection, it does pay to have speed.
Contracts and Key Events
2011 – 2012
Supacat’s HMT Extenda offers considerable commonality with the SAS’ Supacat Narys, but adds additional armoring options, as well as the extra module in back that can turn it from a 4×4 into a 6×4.
Supacat Managing Director Nick Ames calls the REDFIN 1B award “pivotal to Supacat’s expansion,” and the end of British HMT family orders gives that assertion weight. The 14-company Supacat Team Australia group (vid. Oct 13/11 entry) will run the project from their Melbourne program office, in collaboration with Australia’s chosen battlefield C2 provider Elbit Systems.
March 7/12: USP acquired. Supacat Pty Ltd. buys the business assets and staff of Unique Solution Partners Pty Ltd. (USP) based in Melbourne, Australia. USP was already part of Team Supacat Australia, and Supacat’s release says that:
“The acquisition is in line with the strategy announced last October of the creation of a Supacat operational capability in Australia. The acquisition enhances Supacat’s capability to provide in-country support to existing fleets in the critical areas of design and engineering.
In addition to a general automotive engineering capability, USP provides Supacat with world-class capabilities in Computer Aided Engineering, Composite Material Technology and Prototype Development. It also provides a strategic foothold in the Asia Pacific region.”
Dec 12/11: A Force Protection release says they have been informed that their entry lost Australia’s REDFIN competition, but doesn’t mention a winner. Neither do other releases, yet.
Oct 13/11: Team Australia. Supacat announces their operational launch in Australia, and names the 15 partner firms in Supacat Team Australia.
Australian Michael Halloran will transfer as Managing Director, from his current position as Director & General Manager of Supacat’s UK operations. It will be Supacat’s 1st international office, and will extend beyond defense to include Supacat’s solutions for Australia’s very large mining sector, among other civil opportunities.
If Supacat’s JP2097 Ph 1B REDFIN program bid wins, VEEM Pty Ltd will extend its current support role from the existing 31-vehicle Nary HMT contract, to add the 76 new Extenda HMTs. Other Team Australia partners include Aerostaff, Andrew Engineering, Baker and Provan, Broens Industries, Cablex, Eggler Consulting Engineers, Hallmark Logistics & Engineering, Hofmann Engineering, Marand Precision Engineering, PS Management Consultants, QinetiQ, Tectonica Australia, and Unique Solution Partners. Supacat.
Aug 15/11: Australia. Supacat Team Australia submits its 76-vehicle bid for the JP2097 Phase 1B “REDFIN” program, offering their Special Forces HMT Extenda vehicle. The Extenda shares commonality with the Nary HMT, which Supacat delivered for Australian SAS use in 2008-2009 (q.v. Oct 27/08 entry). Supacat.
2009 – 2010
June 23/10: +140. The new coalition government’s Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, says they will be buying 140 of Supacat’s Jackal 2As, alongside 28 more Wolfhound blast-protected TSV-H heavy cargo vehicles from Force Protection. The pair of contracts is reported to be worth a total of GBP 65 million (about $96.8 million), and Supacat’s release confirms its share at GBP 45 million (about $67 million). This new order will bring the total number of Jackal variants in service with the UK Armed Forces to over 530.
The upgraded Jackal 2A is an enhanced version of the successful Jackal 2. The most significant change involves a new cab design with integrated mine blast protection. Supacat says that it’s easier to build, and offers better protection than the Jackal 2′s system. Production began in February 2010, right after the firm finished deliveries on the April 2009 order for Jackal 2 and 6×6 Coyote TSV-L cargo variants. Supacat | Defense News | UK MoD.
April 6/10: RAF, too? The RAF announces that No 3 Sqn RAF Regiment took delivery of 2 Supacat Jackal-2 vehicles in early March 2010, as part of a 2 month long assessment of its suitability for Force Protection Operations in the Area of Operations around Bastion Joint Operating Base in Helmand, Afghanistan.
It is expected that the Jackal, which has already proven itself in Afghanistan with other service branches, will replace the RAF Regiment’s current fielded fleet of Land Rover RWMIK vehicles.
April 22/09: Jackals & Coyotes. Britain’s Ministry of Defence announces a GBP 74 million ($108 million equivalent) order for “around 110 enhanced Jackal 2 vehicles and more than 70 Coyote Tactical Support Vehicles.”
Supacat as the vehicle designer has been awarded the prime contract, but GBP 55 million will be subcontracted to Babcock as the vehicle manufacturer. Most of these vehicles are expected to be delivered during 2009. Supacat would later confirm the total as over 120 Jackal 2s, with final deliveries taking place in February 2010. UK MoD | Babcock.
April 22/09: Babcock deal. Supacat and Babcock formalize their cooperation on the Jackal program. Supacat is the design authority, responsible for design, development, prototyping, integration and overall program management. Babcock will take responsibility for detailed production planning, purchasing and manufacture at their Devonport dockyard facility. A single project office, located at Dunkeswell in Devon, will provide overall control. Supacat | Babcock International [PDF].
March 10/09: Canada? The Ottawa Citizen’s David Pugliese relays a CASR report that Canada’s JTF2 Special forces may be about to order 100 Jackals as their special operations vehicles, and adds research of his own. According to Pugliese, Mercedes’ Wolf G-Wagen variant is not a finalist; instead, the Jackal’s competition will be a special operations adaptation of the Hummer: the GMV-S used by some American special forces.
Canada’s solicitation is for 80 special reconnaissance vehicles and 20 quick reaction vehicles, to be fielded in a number of variants: troop carrier/weapons platform, cargo carrier with an optional tow package and trailer, ambulance, and a simpler litter carrier for stretcher cases.
2007 – 2008
Nov 19/08: The UK MoD selects a 6×6 version of Supacat’s Jackal as its preferred choice for the Coyote TSV (Light), an all-terrain vehicle with enhanced carrying capacity. It’s expected to operate alongside Jackal vehicles as supply carriers.
At this point, exact vehicle numbers and costs have yet to be finalized, but Supacat eventually confirms “over 70″ vehicles ordered. This purchase is part of a GBP 700 million land vehicle upgrade round that was first announced on Oct 29/08. UK MoD Oct 29 | UK MoD Nov 19.
Oct 27/08: Australia’s Nary. While visiting the Australian Special Air Services Regiment (SASR) at Campbell Barracks in Western Australia, the Minister for Defence inspects the first Nary Special Operations Vehicles (SOVs) delivered under Project Redfin. They replace the current set of long range patrol vehicles. Project Redfin is designed to enhance the ADF’s Special Operations equipment, and will introduce a range of combat and support vehicles.
Australia’s DoD confirms that they have ordered 31 SOVs, whose design is based upon the Supacat HMT. Australia’s version has been named the ‘Nary,’ in honor of SASR Warrant Officer Class Two David Nary, who died during a training operation in the Middle East in 2005. Australian DoD release.
Oct 16/08: The Supacats are not designed for mine protection. UK MoD release:
“It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of Trooper James Munday, of 1 Troop, D Squadron, the Household Cavalry Regiment, on Wednesday 15 October 2008. Trooper Munday was serving as a Jackal driver on Operation HERRICK 8 when he was killed in action in Helmand province. His Troop was conducting a routine patrol approximately 23km north of Forward Operating Base Delhi when he was killed by a contact explosion [land mine].”
May 8/08: +72. Supacat announces that the UK MoD is buying another 72 Jackal vehicles, bringing total UK Jackal 1 orders to 202 (237 if Soothsayer vehicles are counted).
Apr 25/08: The UK MoD announces that the first MWMIK Jackal courses for drivers and driver instructors have just finished at the Defence School of Transport (DST).
At this point, there are 10 instructors on the Jackal at DST, with 12 of the vehicles at their disposal to be used for some 24 courses per year. All potential Jackal operators from 3 Commando Brigade, approximately 120, will train on the vehicle initially at DST. The article adds that the vehicle is already being used in the field by 16 Air Assault Brigade.
Sept 5/07: 130 Jackals. The UK MoD announces a GBP 30 million contract for 130 Supacat HMT MWMIK/Jackal vehicles.
- Supacat – HMT Family
- Elite UK Forces – Mobility Troop – SupaCAT HMT 400 / MWMIK. Says that the vehicle has been ordered by Britain’s SAS as a long-range patrol vehicle, as a replacement for their Land Rovers.
- Australian DoD – JP2097 Phase 1B REDFIN – Enhancements to Special Operations Capability
- CASR – Canadian Forces Special Operations Vehicles – Special Reconnaissance (SR) and Quick Reaction (QR) Vehicles – the Candidates
- UK MoD (Aug 20/10) – Jackal keeps proving its worth in Afghanistan. Includes overall program buys and dates.
- UK MoD (Oct 13/09) – Helmand-bound Cavalry test Jackals on the dunes
- UK MoD (March 25/09) – British Forces attack Taliban in the Snake’s Belly. Narrates Operation KAPCHA BAZ (“Cobra Eagle” in Pashtu). Note the Jackal’s varying roles, from fast-moving firepower overmatch to work in pursuit and blocking roles.
- DID (Nov 4/08) – UK SAS Commander Quits, Citing Inadequate Equipment. The commander had specifically asked for Jackal all-terrain vehicles, instead of the Land Rover Snatch vehicle that failed to protect his road-bound troops. He was refused.
- UK MoD (June 5/08) – Taking the Jackal for a spin. While the author praises the vehicle’s ability to handle terrain, terrain won’t be the only threat the vehicle will face, by any means.
- UK MoD (Dec 3/07) – “Just one bloke who got a medal”: Marine who hammered the Taliban. Describes the efforts by WMIK gunner and Royal Marine Corporal John Thompson that earned him the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, which is just one level lower than the Victoria/George crosses as a combat decoration.
- Plymouth Herald (Sept 6/07) – DML CONTRACT MAY START A BOOM
- Daily Mail (Sept 5/07) – Army to use ‘Mad Max’ 4×4 to fight Taliban
- UK MoD (Sept 5/07) – MOD signs contract for new Army patrol vehicles
- Battlespace Magazine (Vol. 10, Issue 1, July-August 2007) – MWMIK ORDER SUSTAINS DML DRIVE TO DEVELOP MILITARY VEHICLE SEGMENT. By far the most detailed description of the order, the vehicles, and their history. Note that this publication’s approach causes its stories to appear only temporarily.
- EU Referendum (Aug 28/07) – Imagine this was a “Snatch.” Richard North uses a photo of a US Cougar 6×6 mine-resistant vehicle that had just hit a land mine. Despite a clearly wrecked vehicle, whose engine lay almost 100 years away, the crew all escaped. As one might guess, the MWMIK purchase comes in for strong criticism.
- UK MoD (July 25/07) – New patrol vehicles will give troops enhanced capability
Appendix A: How Land Rover Lacunae Left Britain Looking
The British Land Rover WMIK (Weapons Mounted Installation Kit) lacks even the protection levels of an armored Hummer. It’s a flat-bottomed vehicle with the troops positioned over the axles, which is where pressure mines will detonate. It has very little armor on the sides, no doors, and lacks a roof to protect its crew from the elements. Its weapons even lack transparent gunshields.
This is sometimes costly, vid. the June 9/07 incident outside of Sangin, Afghanistan. What the WMIK it does have is a pair of weapon mounts for firepower overmatch. The main mount can take a heavy machine gun for accurate ranged fire, or the 40mm grenade machine guns that have been in demand for their devastating area effects, or even a Javelin missile for use as a scouting mechanism and ultra-accurate long range shot. There’s also a lighter 7.62mm machine gun mount next to the “shotgun” front seat.
The “infantry enhancement” effect is similar to adding one of the Royal Marines’ popular BvS-10 Viking tracked vehicles, but with an adjusted set of plusses and minuses. The Land Rover WMIK’s advantages include:
- Higher top speed
- Better all-round visibility
- Air portability via helicopters smaller than a CH-47 Chinook
- Lower costs
- Cannot traverse some Afghan terrain that would be accessible to BVS10s
- Less armor protection in all dimensions, verging on none
- Less versatility in terms of possible battlefield roles
On balance, however, these trade-offs appeared to be acceptable to commanders in theater. The WMIK became popular, and the Taliban reportedly refer to them as ‘porcupines’ due to their appearance and effect. They worked with some reconnaissance and elite elements, acted as advance scouts for some supply convoys, and also took up middle and rear positions to provide sudden firepower while the convoys are running. Even so, they took no shortage of criticism.
On May 3/07, the UK MoD responded to press reports by saying:
“A newspaper repeats claims from earlier this week that British commanders in Afghanistan have complained that they do not have enough combat vehicles, especially the heavily-armed Land Rover “wimiks” (Weapons Mounted Installation Kit or WMIK). There are sufficient vehicles in Afghanistan to conduct our extant operations, and further vehicles have been delivered to allow for a planned step-change in the overall campaign. The new armoured Vector vehicles, purchased specifically for operations in Afghanistan, and the new Mastiff vehicles [DID: Cougar MRAPs, see DID coverage] have arrived in theatre. We’ve received the first tranches of these so far, with an additional batches coming in regularly and more to follow.”
Those helped, but they didn’t solve the problem of full all-terrain mobility needed by special forces, and increasingly by regular British troops as well. Hence the MWMIK’s designation as an “Urgent Operational Requirement,” and the string of contracts from 2007 to 2009.
At the time of the September 2007 MWMIK/Jackal announcement, there were 300 Land Rover WMIKs in the task force. Now they’ve added hundreds more upgraded Supacat/DML Jackals to that mix, which were delivered through 2010 as Urgent Operational Requirements.