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BATTLESPACE went down to the SUPACAT test track in Devon in May, to test drive the Jackal and the Universal Engineering RANGER APC.
In our February issue we outlined new developments in the application of new composite armour systems for existing armoured vehicles. These applications have been crucial to give legacy systems increased protection from the new threats, IEDs and mines.
The way war is being waged has changed forever and armies and manufacturers have to evolve to meet that change. In the case of armies, without this evolution, soldiers die, shown in graphic details on the 24/7 TV war. These deaths spur public opinion against the war and the country concerned, more often than not, without the deployment of this new equipment, pulls its troops out, giving the enemy a huge PR coup. For companies preferring to push old technology, thus preserving R&D money and thus the dividend payment, they pay with a gradual decline in revenue and orders. The recent FRES order, placed with General Dynamics UK and not BAE Systems amply proves this point.
Having said that, BATTLESPACE does not regard the ASCOD as the right choice for FRES SV and it is our opinion that the whole project should be scrapped with another look taken at vehicles which have the protection for the new war, not upgraded 20 year old vehicles to try and meet this requirement and/or join the U.S. Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) Program. The problem for flat-bottomed tracked vehicles, although giving a low silhouette and mobility, they are not protected against IED and mine threat, as the MoD has found to its costs with the loss of several Warriors this year in Afghanistan.
The United States military saw this last year and canned the Future Combat Systems’ ground vehicle programme and reinstated it with the GCV Program, which will produce a range of vehicles with the required protection against the current threat. The contenders submitted their proposals on May 21st.
Three consortia have so far bid for the contract: General Dynamics has confirmed that it has teamed up with Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Company and MTU Detroit Diesel, a BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman teaming agreement and an SAIC-led consortium which includes Boeing, Krauss Maffei Wegman and Rheinmetall Defence Systems.
A US Army statement read; ‘This marks the beginning of the formal source selection process, which will culminate with up to three competitive contract awards in late fourth quarter of Fiscal Year (FY) 2010. Upon completion of the Source Selection and the Milestone ‘A’ review, contract awards will be made for the technology demonstration phase of the program.’
The Teams now have a 27-month period in which to test and mature subcomponents and other material elements of the designs prior to a Milestone B decision in FY 2013. The subsequent Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase would run through the first quarter of FY 2016, and include delivery of the first prototype vehicle in FY 2015.
Unless the U.K. joins the GCV Program, this leaves Companies like Universal Engineering (UE) with the RANGER to take the lead and develop, at huge cost to their own Company, their vision of vehicles of the future to meet the threat.
The RANGER Vehicle Project
“What prompted Universal Engineering to embark on the RANGER Project?” The Editor asked UE Sales Director, Brigadier Jeff Little.
“We felt that Armed Forces across the world would benefit from a vehicle which gave them better protection without sacrificing their inherent mobility and ability to manoeuvre and mobility requirements for the Afghan conflict. Thus we started the development of the RANGER vehicle in 2008 using a team of engineers and designers taken from our team and other partners such as Creation. The first RANGER, the 6x6 seen here today, was launched at DVD in 2009. Prior to that we had discussions with the MoD DEC and DE&S along the way to ensure that we were giving them the vehicle they required.”
“Can you give us an idea of the differentials that make RANGER the vehicle of choice for the 21st Century soldier?”
“RANGER is an innovative family of general utility wheeled armoured vehicles, designed from first principles to operate on the 21st century battlefield and to be ‘best in class’ for its performance, survivability, reliability and mission utility. The system can thus be provided in a wide range of variants and configurations and fulfil a variety of roles. The vehicle provides the World’s best survivability system against blast, ballistic and fragmentation threats whilst also retaining a very high degree of tactical and operational mobility. It is designed to operate over the most demanding terrain thus allowing troops to have the freedom to manoeuvre off road, and giving the greatest flexibility in route selection and avoidance of vulnerable points.”
On first sight the vehicle looks decidedly different and larger from past vehicles and has been described by some as ugly. But it is only on examination of the design that one understands the rationale behind the vehicle.
“Looks are hardly the reason not to buy an armoured vehicle, indeed, what armoured vehicle can be called good looking!” Jeff Little said. “I would rather be safe and protected in this vehicle than risk my life, which many soldiers have done, in vehicles which appear to be well protected. The vehicle is higher than other APCs, but it has to be to meet the mine threat. Conventional in-service patrol vehicles have reached the limit of their ability to adapt and/or carry more and more armour. They invariably sacrifice their tactical mobility, and thus their inherent manoeuvre capability, in order to achieve their higher protection parameters. This makes them vulnerable to ambush at critical points along their route. What is required on the asymmetric hybrid battlefield is an asymmetric vehicle designed for the 21st Century. Without doubt, as you will see on your drive, RANGER is built for current and future threats and has the speed and agility to get its crew out of trouble.”
RANGER has been designed from its inception to provide a very high degree of crew protection from both conventional and asymmetric threats. Whilst most such patrol vehicle designs strive to achieve STANAG 4569 with Level 4 protection, RANGER takes this as its baseline and start point. The heart of the design centres upon an advanced, hardened steel monocoque crew safe ‘survivability’ capsule.
During extensive trials, the capsule has been subjected to multiple detonations of military grade high explosives directly under the hull and it has survived with inferior (vertical) accelerations inflicted upon the occupants which are well below those known to cause significant injury.
This survivability solution includes:
a. A ‘V’ shaped hull.
b. An armoured belly plate
c. A floating floor
d. An energy absorbing, suspended crew seating system which is designed to be quick release in an emergency and the individual seats can then be used as a stretcher to evacuate casualties who are WIA
e. An Integral spall lining
f. A tuneable survivability solution with options including:
1. Passive Armour
2. Active or Reactive Armour (ERA)
3. Hard kill DAS solutions
4. All automotive components are fitted out with of this resilient hull. Only the steering column enters this capsule.
“How may configurations have you designed for RANGER?”
“The vehicle you see here today is the 6x6 Utility variant. We are designing another 6x6 with new refinements and an 8x8. RANGER can be provided in a number of axle and crew/load configurations.”
4x4 Short capsule – Driver, commander and gunner plus 4, e.g. EOD fast response vehicle
6x6 Standard capsule – Driver, commander, gunner plus 6 or flatbed load platform, e.g. Convoy protection platform
8x8 Extended capsule – Driver, commander, gunner, 4/6 man cab and flatbed, e.g. Logistic resupply vehicle
In the latter 2 axle layouts, the available payload is 6 tonnes. This reflects the ever increasing crew, role and support equipment carriage demanded on contemporary deployed operations. A two man ‘crew cab’ arrangement will allow for a flatbed load platform (capable of carrying up to 3 NATO pallets) to the rear of the vehicle. A towing pintle is provided and a high mobility trailer can also be supplied if required to increase lift.
Electrical Power Demand
An ever growing electrical power budget to provide communications, electronic counter measures (ECM), air conditioning, lighting and other mission/role equipment now taxes conventionally fitted alternators. To overcome this, and provide spare capacity for future growth, RANGER is fitted with an independent 2000 Amp Auxiliary Power Unit (APU).
RANGER is a ‘chassis-less’ vehicle. The monocoque provides the backbone of the vehicle and all automotive, drive train and related systems are bolted to the outside of the capsule. Thus, if the frontend of the vehicle sustains mine strike damage, it can be quickly removed and a new module fitted, thus putting the vehicle back into service in the fastest possible time.
There are a number of variants available on RANGER including:
a. Patrol and security
b. Personnel Carrier
c. Command and control
d. Surveillance and Reconnaissance
e. Armoured ambulance
f. Logistic resupply and load carrier
g. Weapons platform/fire support
h. Special Forces support vehicle
i. Engineer Squad support vehicle
j. Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD)/IEDD rapid response vehicle
RANGER has an open architecture data bus and weapons/sensor options can therefore be specifically designed and integrated to meet individual customer mission profiles.
The vehicle may be equipped with any of the weapons fits described below:
a. Heavy Machine Gun (HMG)
b. 1 man turret
c. Remote Weapon Station (RWS)
d. Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (ATGW)
e. 30/40mm canon
f. 7.62mm coax plus L25 or 40mm grenade launcher
Viper Gun System (VGS)
BATTLESPACE understands that the U.K. MoD could have a Future Requirement for up to 50 30/40mm bunker busting canons. The system of choice is believed to be the Bushmaster 44 canon made by ATK with the Nobles Viper Gun System (VGS) system with the ISTEC gearing system, an Aimpoint MPS3 sight and a cupola manufactured by AML UK. One application for the system, as shown at DVD 2009 and 2010, is fitment onto the Ranger. Trials are due to commence this year.
The VGS is a family of enhanced gun mounts which bridge the gap between traditional crew-served gun mounts and the more costly Remote Weapon Stations. The VGS has an innovative Weapons Interchange Platform (WIP), which allows the Warfighter to interchange up to Seven Weapons (M230LF, LW25, MK19/47, M2HB/M3P3 & M134 Dillon Mini-Gun) in under 15 minutes utilizing the same mount structure.
The VGS provides the user with ‘Scalable Lethality’, the ability to interchange weapons utilizing the same mount dependent upon the mission parameters is a force multiplier. The VGS also incorporates a patent-pending Gun Mount Braking System (GMBS), which allows for superior weapon stabilization during firing and enhanced weapon control at all times. The VGS has an open footprint to allow installation on multiple platforms and incorporates an integrated Flex Chute and Ammunition Magazine for a compact and versatile weapons platform.
Other Features & Benefits Include:
. Enhanced Optics with both Night Vision and Laser Range Finding Options
. Innovative Gun Carriage design to enhance recoil stability
. Ruggedized construction and hardened mounting points for superior durability and lifecycle
. Magazine with integrated Last Round Switch enabling fast reload and magazine change out
. Redundant trigger options for increased durability
. Available in a Composite version for Air and Naval applications
BATTLESPACE also understands that ATK is soon to announce further news on the qualification of its 30/40 round which puts it way ahead of the CTA Qualification programme, that has yet to start. This news puts Bushmaster into British Army Service and more orders are likely, making the debut of CTA less and less likely.
“Does the mobility match the protection?”
“Yes, we have designed the vehicle against UK Defence Standard 26-06 Issue 4, it easily achieves ‘Improved Medium Mobility Load Carrier’ (IMMLC) status. Indeed, in all but 3 of the requirements, it exceeds the IMMLC parameters and sits in the ‘High’ mobility definition. With a top speed of 117 kph and an unrefueled range of up to 1000km, its operational mobility is also outstanding. In order to achieve this performance, the vehicle is powered by a 540 horse power, turbo charged, Euro 5 compliant diesel engine for optimum speed and performance. RANGER will accelerate from zero to 50 kph in just 7 seconds. This is very quick for a 19t platform get inside and we’ll take you for a drive!”
RANGER is fitted with an MAN D 2676 LF088 cylinder engine, developing 540 HP, with a ZF ASTRNIC automatic/semi-automatic gearbox linked to a drive train with 3 diff locks, high and low ratio and permanent 6 wheel drive. The suspension is the Horstman hydrogas system as used in the Challenger 2 tank, and power-assisted steering.
John Scott, the designer of RANGER greeted the Editor and I was strapped in for the drive. John explained that the 12 speed gearbox could be used in automatic or semi-automatic mode selected depending on the terrain. The track, which was built for smaller SUPACAT 4x4 vehicles looked small and testing for the larger RANGER. Not at all, John drove the vehicle round the track, taking steep hills in its stride and demonstrating the versatility of the gearbox by the ability, in low gear, to tackle very tight corners, without destroying the trees lining the route!
In trepidation, he handed the Editor the driving seat and we set off down the same track with Jeff Little and his wife Sally nervously strapped in the passenger compartment. They need not have worried, the RANGER’s ability to tackle the twists and turns of the test track was second to none, even with the Editor attempting the odd acceleration into a tight bend to test the vehicle when John was talking to Jeff!
It took the cavalry years to drop their horses in favour of the tank, it is now time for change and the Army must learn to adapt with the changing threats and embrace new vehicles such as RANGER with alacrity as they will save lives during the coming conflicts. Wasting time in change, wastes lives and that is only food for the enemy.
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