Desert Chameleon APCs for Kuwait
In mid-January 2011, Advanced Defense Vehicle Systems (ADVS) announced an initial delivery of their new 6×6 wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC) design to Kuwait’s Ministry of the Interior. The vehicle’s full size cannon may be unusual for policing forces, but it is not unusual for interior ministry troops around the world to use full-scale military equipment, and similar APC designs are already serving with police forces, including police forces in the USA.
There is no shortage of wheeled APC designs in the global marketplace, but Kuwait chose to develop its own, in conjunction with a new firm.
ADVS, and the Desert Chameleon
In February 2007, James LeBlanc Sr.’s former company, General Purpose Vehicles, changed radically after one of the founding partners and the CEO were lost to illness, and the firm converted from an LLC to a corporate structure. Co-founder James LeBlanc Sr. left, and on March 1/07, Advanced Defense Vehicle Systems was born.
GPV had sold vehicles to, or designed vehicles and/or turrets for, a number of governments and police forces around the world. They had even had been awarded an initial US MRAP competitor contract, but were reportedly one of 4 contractors who ran into initial deadline issues in March 2007. In the end, without their founders, GPV’s MRAP contract went nowhere, and the company’s current status is murky.
ADVS, on the other hand, moved ahead, picking up contracts in the USA, and with Kuwait. James LeBlanc spoke highly of the Kuwaitis’ openness to new ideas and participation in the requirements and design process, which began in 2007, and culminated with a 2010 contract. The end result is a wheeled APC known as the Desert Chameleon.
The 6x6x6 Desert Chameleon carries 3 crew + 7 soldiers, and is derived from a design that can be stretched and fielded with anywhere from 4 to 10 wheels. Modularity and adaptability were key drivers of the vehicle’s design, which also borrows advanced automotive space frame techniques used by firms like BMW.
Vehicle specs include a 600-horsepower Caterpillar engine power-pack, a fully independent active suspension system, a 6-speed automatic transmission, and a speed sensitive all-wheel steering system. Exits include a rear ramp, 2 side doors near the front, and 4 top-hull hatches that can be used for observation or as emergency exits. A total of 6 firing ports and periscopes cover the vehicle’s rear arc, including 2 in the rear doors.
The APC also takes advantage of v-hull design for protection from land mines, which is now being retrofitted to contemporaries like the USA’s 8×8 Stryker fleet. Unlike the Stryker, however, the Desert Chameleon’s v-hull is removable, in keeping with LeBlanc vision that all aspects of the vehicle should be able to adapt to future changes on the battlefield. If desired, the vehicles also have provision for mounting additional applique armoring on the rest of the APC.
The vehicle’s main weapon is the ADVS (UK) RMTS unmanned turret. The ADVS founders, who have done rapid development and fielding of turret systems for vehicles including the US Marines’ AAVP7 Amtracs, were heavily involved in the turret’s unusual design.
Subsequent discussions with ADVS personnel confirm that the main weapon depicted in the Kuwaiti photos is a 30mm Bushmaster cannon. RMTS weight capacity is reportedly up to 2.27 tonnes, and the remotely-operated turret necessarily includes an advanced multi-sensor ball whose sub-contractor ADVS was not willing to identify. Protection levels for the Kuwaiti systems were upgraded from the turret’s standard 360 degree protection again 7.62mm armor-piercing rounds, to similar protection against 14.5mm armor-piercing rounds. Presumably, this was done to be consistent with the rest of the vehicle, implying wider up-armoring.
None of that is unusual. What is unusual, is that the RMTS turret is designed to carry weapons ranging from 5.56mm light machine guns to a 40mm cannon, which can be fitted to the turret and switched out by field maintenance personnel. That low cost and quick turnaround means that it’s both possible and practical to change the turret’s weapons, depending on the mission that day.
While the Desert Chameleon’s core design has amphibious capabilities, the firm stressed that these were river crossing capabilities, not the ability to fight through pounding surf on to a beach. That’s all the USMC’s proposed Marine Personnel Carrier requires, however, and that program is reportedly being fast-tracked in the wake of the tracked EFV’s demise. If ADVS bids, they will face declared competition from BAE Systems/Iveco (SUPERAV), General Dynamics (probably Piranha-III or similar), and Lockheed Martin/Patria (Patria AMV).
Contracts & Key Events
Jan 14/10: Jane’s reports that ADVS (UK)’s first batch of Remote Multipurpose Turret Systems (RMTS) were installed on 5 ADVS Desert Chameleon 6×6 APCs delivered to the Kuwait Ministry of the Interior, along with a fully equipped training simulator. That clearly sets the number of initial deliveries.
Jan 13/11: Advanced Defense Vehicle Systems announces the initial production delivery of their 6x6x6 Desert Chameleon armored personnel carriers to Kuwait’s Ministry of the Interior.
ADVS began exploratory discussion with the Kuwatis in 2007, but design details and a contract were not established until early 2010. Even a 3-year arc from preliminary specifications discussion to delivery is fast, but the actual vehicle development phase is about a 1-year arc. The firm’s release does not shrink from claiming that “These advanced wheeled vehicles offer the most innovative design and safety features, surpassing current U.S. Army military vehicles in terms of maneuverability, capability, performance, comfort and survivability.”
Under this program, supply chain management and distribution firm SupplyCore, a major player in the US DLA’s multi-billion dollar contracts, assisted in the procurement and supply chain management of production and aftermarket parts. True North Logistics, a Michigan logistics firm whose CEO, USMC Maj Gen Bradley M. Lott (ret.) sits on the ADVS Board of Directors, assisted with the distribution and management of vehicle parts during vehicle production.
Maj Gen. Lott told DID in an interview that the interim financing mentioned the Nov 30/09 article turned out not to be necessary, as ADVS found the resources it needed via its partnerships with SupplyCore and True North. While the Kuwaitis had requested that numbers bought and costs be kept confidential, he did mention that they were confident that the contract could keep production running for several years.
Nov 30/09: Crain’s Detroit Business reports that ADVS is looking for interim production financing to cover the cost of producing Kuwait’s initial order of 29 vehicles. The article set the initial development and Detroit-based W Industries, as the manufacturer, with production of the 6×6 beginning in November 2010, and notes that ADVS already has obtained partial financing for production through Mt. Clemens-based Community Central Bank and LeBlanc’s own funds, to help with manufacturing costs.
- DID wishes to thank Maj Gen. Lott and James LeBlanc Sr. for their time and assistance.
- ADVS – ADVS 6x6x6 – Desert Chameleon
- Army Recognition – Desert Chameleon 6x6x6 armoured vehicle personnel carrier