The Fighter Still Remains… The Boxer MRAV APC Family
Wheeled armored vehicles have become much more common, but the Dutch-German Boxer stands out from the crowd. Its English acronym is “Multi Role Armoured Vehicle” (MRAV), but rather than being a family of different vehicles, the Boxer will use a single chassis, with snap-in modules for different purposes from infantry carrier to command, cargo, ambulance, etc.
The base vehicle has a maximum road speed of 100 km/h (60 mp/h) and an operational range of 1,000 km (600 miles). In its troop carrying configuration, it has a crew of 2 and can carry 10 fully equipped troops. The MRAV is fighting for space in a crowded market, but its principal countries are beginning to give it the front-line credibility it needs to succeed.
Boxer MRAV: The Vehicle
The base 8×8 vehicle provides a load capacity to 8 tonnes (9 tons) and has an internal capacity of more than 14 square meters. The Mission modules fit into the base vehicle’s steel shell, incorporating a primary safety cell with a triple floor and shaped sides to deflect mine blasts. Ceramic modular armor is sandwiched between the vehicle cell and the steel coat, and all three elements are secured by fastening bolts. The shaped sides of the modules also work to deflect mine blasts away from the soldiers inside, while a double-lined hull soaks up critical blast deformation.
The exact maximum weight of a Boxer MRAV depends on the version, and on its add-on armor package. The base is currently about 30 tonnes (33 tons), but its current design allows it to grow to 36 tonnes (39.6 tons) without any additional modification to the drive line. The vehicle and modules are air transportable in an A400M or larger aircraft, and modules are interchangeable in less than one hour.
Boxer MRAV: The Program
In mid-2006 the Netherlands decided to remain in the ARTEC consortium’s joint Boxer MRAV modular armored personnel carrier project with Germany. Despite earlier reservations, Dutch secretary of Defense Cees van der Knaap declared to the 2nd Chamber that the country wanted to continue with the project. By June 28th, 2006, a release noted that the Chamber had given the green light; the APC’s price has apparently been reduced to an acceptable level following negotiations with Stork. A formal contract worth up to EUR 1.2 billion (about $1.6 billion) was finally signed in December 2006, clearing the way for both Dutch & German vehicle production.
The Royal Netherlands Army is purchasing 200 Boxer vehicles for transport, engineering, command, and transportation of wounded, replacing some of their YP-408s and all of their M577s (command post version of the M113). The 200 Boxer MRAVs will be delivered in 5 versions – 58 ambulances, 55 Command Post variants, 41 engineer group (pioneer) vehicles, 27 cargo vehicles, and 19 cargo/command-and-control vehicles to replace the current YPR 765 tracked vehicles. Note that this figure is down from initial estimates of 384 vehicles.
In addition to the Boxers, the Dutch Army will also be operating BAE Hagglunds’ CV90-35 MkIIIs as Infantry Fighting Vehicles.
Under current plans, Jane’s revised reports indicate that the German Army is due to take delivery of 272 Boxer vehicles in 3 baseline versions: 135 armored personnel carriers (APCs), 65 command post (CP) variants, and 72 heavy armored ambulances. The Boxers will replace some Fuchs 6 x 6 and tracked M113-series APCs currently in service; like the Dutch Boxers, they will fill a middle weight armor role alongside heavier tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles – in this case, the new KMW/Rheinmetall Puma.
The Boxer program is being managed by the European OCCAR (Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation) Armaments Agency. Britain was initially part of the MRAV consortium as well, but left in 2003 to pursue its own future armored vehicles project called FRES. The industrial contractor is ARTEC GmbH – acting on behalf of the consortium formed by Kraus-Maffei Wegmann (36%), Rheinmetall Landsysteme (14%) and Stork PWV (50%).
Manufacturing of the vehicles will take place in both countries. Amsterdam-based Stork PWV is the national prime contractor and system integrator for the Dutch Boxer vehicles. As a partner, Stork Special Products is also responsible for assembling of the power pack consisting of a MTU engine, angular gear, transmission, cooling block and over 1,200 minor parts in total. They’re also developing the Environmental Control System, an air-conditioning system with integrated NBC(nuclear, biological, chemical) protection.
Contracts and Key Events
Jan 24/12: The German Bundeswehr produces a video about the Boxer’s combat deployment in Afghanistan. Deployment is going well, but they may want more storage space. That’s always an interesting challenge with APCs. The Boxer CP variant is set to arrive in theater in February 2012. German Bundeswehr [in German] | Aviation Week.
July 22/11: German Boxer A1 MRAVs ship out to Afghanistan, aboard chartered AN-124 aircraft.
A1 is a modification set designed for ISAF operations in Afghanistan. It includes extra armor, raising the FLW-200 remote weapon station 30 cm/ 1 foot to give it better coverage high and low, and an appropriate camouflage pattern for the ISAF region. FuInfoSys networking between the Boxer and the infantry group equipped with the IdZ-21 Future Soldier system is standard. KMW.
March 3/11: Germany readies to deploy the Boxer. Its driver training school in Dornstadt received 7 Driver Training Vehicles (DTV) in 2010. In February 2011, another 8 Boxer APCs were delivered to 292 Jaegerbattalion in Donaueschingen, in preparation for the vehicle’s deployment to Afghanistan with this unit in August 2011. OCCAR | German Army [in German].
Oct 7/10: BAE Systems announces a $3.6 million contract from Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) to manufacture and deliver SCHROTH brand 4-point harness safety restraint with integrated airbag systems, to equip for 125 German Boxer vehicles. BAE will produce 7 restraint systems per vehicle (875 total), along with replacement parts. As part of the agreement, SCHROTH engineers have also developed a special, self-administered diagnostic tool for soldiers to verify that the systems are in working order. Deliveries of the new restraint system are expected to be completed in 2014.
Airbags to protect passengers are nothing new in civilian vehicles, but they’re still rare in combat vehicles. In the event of a crash, sensors on the SCHROTH harness measure the resulting acceleration, and send signals to gas generators whose micro pyrotechnical charges deploy the airbags in a fraction of a second.
April 27/10: A brief to the Dutch Parliament says that Boxer MRAV “Drive Module” (main body) qualification will not be done by the end of 2010, as scheduled. The vehicle did not fully meet contracted standards, and Germany’s intent to use Boxers in Afghanistan in 2010 has had effects of its own.
An agreement was reached with Germany for post-delivery qualifications in 2010, during so-called “Reliability Batch Trials,” with any changes Germany requires made at the manufacturer’s expense. Agreements were also made concerning post-qualification of some Drive Module sub-components, and alteration of the Logistic Qualification Course.
In contrast, the Dutch absolutely require pre-qualification before they’ll accept delivery. That means delays for series production of Dutch vehicles, and to the future Cargo, Ambulance and Command versions. Extra budget is also being requested to modify the Dutch C2-LAN system to a full C4I system. Kamenbrief [in Dutch]
Feb 8/10: KMW subsidiary Dutch Defense Vehicle Systems (DDVS) opens a new production facility in Helmond, near Eindhoven, NL. The facility will produce all hulls and several mission modules for the German-Dutch Boxer vehicle program, which currently stands at a total of 472 vehicles. Helmond will also be the site for logistics and maintenance service to the Dutch fleet of Fennek reconnaissance vehicles. KMW release [PDF]
Sept 23/09: At a ceremony in Munich, Rheinmetall Defence and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) transfer the first serially produced Boxer to the Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’Armement (OCCAR), which is administering the Boxer project, and Germany’s Federal Agency for Defence Technology and Procurement (BWB). Rheinmetall | KMW [PDF format].
May 8/08: ARTEC’s Boxer MRAV made a dramatic comeback to reach the finals, but lost to General Dynamics MOWAG’s Piranha-V in Britain’s FRES-Utility competition. | UK MoD release | General Dynamics UK release.
June 14/07: Stung by criticism that the MoD has wasted years in order to select off-the-shelf vehicles that may not be survivable enough, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support Lord Drayson fires back in a public forum:
“Yes, the Boxer was a programme the MoD pulled out of when it was known as the MRAV programme. We took that decision in 2002 in light of the requirement at the time. We have since reviewed the FRES requirement in light of recent operational experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Force protection in theatre now has a higher priority than strategic deployability – I don’t think anyone would argue with that view. When the situation changes our procurement process must be capable of responding to that change… I’m not going to go into the details of the protection FRES will have in a public forum… But to suggest that we are ignoring the threats we face in Iraq and Afghanistan today when we set the requirement for our future vehicles is wrong. And the idea that taking into account the full range of threats FRES will be less well protected than the patrol vehicles you list (such as the Mastiff) is also wrong. Finally, let’s all be clear that FRES is neither a protected patrol vehicle nor a replacement for Warrior…”
Given Canada’s poor experiences with wheeled vehicles in Afghanistan, and the Stryker’s emerging difficulties against new IED land mines in Iraq, this may become a recurring subject.
June 8/07: Britain’s MoD announces the FRES finalists. Surprisingly, the SEP vehicles don’t make that list, nor do other test platforms. All of the finalists are wheeled: General Dynamics MOWAG’s Piranha IV, Nexter (formerly Giat’s) VBCI – and the KMW-ARTEC Boxer, which Britain pulled out of several years ago in order to pursue FRES.
The vehicles will go on to the “trials of truth,” and the MoD says the outcome of the trials will be announced by the end of November 2007. At that point, “one or more utility vehicle designs will go forward for detailed assessment.” UK MoD release | Nexter release | KMW release.
May 23/07: Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that ARTEC expects to deliver the first Boxer 8 x 8 MRAV to the German Army on schedule in late 2009, with deliveries to the Royal Netherlands Army following in 2011.
Dec 19/06: At Bernardkazerne in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, a contract is signed for series deliveries of the Boxer Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle to the Netherlands and German armed forces. The series production contract covers up to 272 vehicles for Germany and the 200 vehicles for the Netherlands, with a total value of EUR 1.2 billion (about $1.58 billion), of which Stork will receive EUR 500 million (about $660 million) from 2008 – 2016. Up to 70% of Stork’s turnover will be subcontracted. Deliveries of the vehicles will start in 2009 and extend for seven years.
The contract for Stork encompasses a continued design for 2 new Boxer versions, the series production of 200 Boxer vehicles in 5 versions and an initial in-service support package. The Netherlands army will use the Boxer in 5 different versions: an ambulance vehicle, command post, engineer vehicle, and two types of cargo vehicles. See Stork release.
Dec 13/06: The Budget Committee of the German Bundestag approves MRAV acquisition. Formal signing of an OCCAR acquisition contract by representatives of Germany and the Netherlands is expected to take place on December 19, 2006. The order will reportedly encompass 400 vehicles, 200 of which are earmarked for the German Bundeswehr. Under this contract, the Germans would also have an option for a further 72 units configured as field ambulances. See Rheinmetall release, also KMW release in German.
Oct 13/06: The Dutch Ministerie Van Defensie issues a release noting that the Council of Ministers has approved the purchase of 200 Boxer APCs for the Dutch Army; the final decision now moves on to Parliament (and see Oct 10/06 entry below). The first Boxer MRAVs will enter service in 2011, and deliveries will be complete in 2016. Defense Aerospace’s translation adds some additional information that doesn’t appear to be in the Dutch release, noting that:
“On the basis of information supplied by industry, the operating cost of the Boxer for 200 vehicles over a life span of 30 years was initially estimated at approx. 1,125 million euros (excl VAT). More recent estimates have allowed the Ministry of Defence to reduce the projected life-time operating cost to 938 million euros (excl VAT), based on the best available data.”
In approximate US dollars, the range would be $1.176 billion – $1.41 billion, or about $5.88 – $7.05 million per vehicle over a 30-year operating period.
Oct 10/06: Jane’s International Defence Review reports that The Netherlands national elections scheduled for November 22, 2006 could lead to changes on the defense front. “With the electorate more or less split down the middle, a change of government from the current centre-right coalition to a new centre-left or even 100 per cent-left coalition is not impossible.” Such shifts would have implications for programs like the Boxer MRAV. As it happens, the Dutch elections produced losses for all major parties and left Parliament in a similar balance.
Additional Readings & Sources
- ARTEC Boxer official site
- Stork NV – Boxer. The subsidiary tasked with production is Stork PWV, who has this Boxer page, and also the Stork Special Products page that includes details re: some of Stork’s sub-projects within the program.
- KMW – Boxer Wheeled Vehicle
- Rheinmetall Defence – Boxer
- Army Technology – Boxer MRAV Wheeled Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle, Europe
- Ministerie van Defensie (June 28/06) – Kamer Steunt Voortgang Boxer
- Janes (May 22/06) – Revised bid aims to put Boxer back in the ring
- Ministerie van Defensie (June 21/06) – Nederland Gaat Door Met Boxer Pantservoertuig
- Janes (Oct 3/05) – Boxer misses key pricing deadline