LAND 400 PHASE 2 – LAND COMBAT VEHICLE SYSTEM
(LCVS) – Part 2
Byline: Geoff Slocombe / / Victoria
IN PART 1 OF THIS ARTICLE
April’s APDR article discussed the Army’s Combined Arms Fighting System (CAFS) with LCVS being the lead project for integration into it. Because LAND 400 Phase 2 is such a complex project with many linkages to other components being acquired for the Army’s modernisation, there was a discussion about the process moving the LCVS project forward. Timing issues were examined including the probability that nothing will be delivered much before 2027, 14 years hence.
Networked Army is the future and LCVS has a key part to play in it, both delivering feedback from its own sensors and also receiving situational awareness and commands while in the mounted close combat role with an enemy in difficult terrain.
Finally there was a crystal ball look at the forthcoming Defence White Paper 2013 and the impact that might have on the LCVS project.
FROM DCP TO FIRST PASS APPROVAL (FPA)
Critics of Defence manpower and expenditure rarely recognise the enormous amount of effort that goes into moving a project forward from DCP listing to acquiring FPA from the Government. Without FPA no further funding is available for a project in the form it was presented for FPA.
Even then Defence do not always get it right and there are an unfortunate number of projects which do not meet the aspirations expressed at the FPA stage, for reasons explained in the 2008 Mortimer review. However, most project teams do deliver, if not always to an originally planned timescale for project delivery and final operational capability.
After writing an FPA project management plan, and drafting material acquisition agreements, the team moves into the meat of the FPA proposal. An analysis of options must include “off-the-shelf” and “Australianised off-the-shelf” options to reduce development costs. To quote from the DMO “The time, effort and expense of examining each option in detail makes it essential to concentrate on investigating only a small number of options, usually three or four” then later in the same document “the First Pass approval process involves the presentation to Government of a broad range of options, and the selection by Government of a narrow options set for more detailed consideration leading up to decision about the preferred solution at Second Pass approval.” The two parts of this extract are not consistent with one another unless some barely investigated options are offered to Government in the “broad range of options.”
Option investigations include a requirement to consult industry, seek DSTO input, and do a detailed study of acquisition, capability development and in-service costing.
A 25 item option checklist commences with this exhortation “Turning statements of a capability need into realistic, well-defined options takes considerable time and effort, and a degree of trial and error. The process also requires consultation with stakeholders, a willingness to think laterally, and an appreciation of the full range of inputs to the future capability. There are numerous aspects to consider when determining and refining capability options.”
The checklist identifies the primary consideration as “operational concepts which look at the proposed capability through the lens of the warfighter and consider why the proposed capability is needed, and how the proposed capability will be used to meet the identified capability need. CS Div staff need to consult closely with the Single Services headquarters on these issues.”
The LAND 400 Concept of Operations 45 page document, combined with Army’s User Requirement 10 page statement, gives a very clear description of what the operational concepts are. They give unambiguous guidance to the IPT, although the user requirements are not prioritised in the unclassified version, and look to be a “wish list” which might be challenging to meet.
By the time of FPA submission, the LCVS project will be fully documented.
FORCE ATTRIBUTES AND CAPABILITY DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES RELEVANT TO THE LCVS
To guide the development of Force 2030, the Government identified a number of force attributes and capability development principles relevant to the LCVS.
A simplified statement comprises precise force application through application of kinetic and non-kinetic force; networked capability across the battlespace; operational flexibility which can include interchangeable modules; fully developed capability meaning effective within planned readiness warning times; capability advantage to give a war-winning edge for a small ADF force; survivable and robust capability with active protection and stealth characteristics; interoperable sub-systems capability within and between vehicles; and cost-effective capability to drive down the cost of ownership through use of COTS and MOTS equipment.
WHEELED OR TRACKED LIGHT ARMOURED VEHICLES (LAVs)?
Although it is too early to get excited about specific LCVS platforms, one basic consideration might ultimately rule in or out a number of likely contenders.
The present light armoured fleet comprises tracked M113 APCs, wheeled ASLAVs and Bushmasters PMVs. A single platform LCVS cannot be both, so which road traction method might be favoured, and why? Unless, of course, Defence goes for a mixed fleet.
Considerations revolve around strategic mobility for transport to the area of operations; operational mobility for getting around after arriving there; tactical mobility when in close combat; survivability and protection which includes both active (and passive) protection and stealth characteristics; firepower from the main and subsidiary weapons; support system requirements; costs both initially and over the life-of-type; and fit within the composition for various types of forces.
Today’s tracked armoured vehicles weigh up to 65 tonnes, while wheeled armour is typically under 35 tonnes, in fact most are under 25 tonnes. In addition to their relative lightness, wheeled vehicles tend to consume significantly less fuel (and other lubricants) than tracked armoured vehicles of equal weight. Their relatively lower weight and reduced logistical needs are an advantage for transporting LAVs over large distances, including over oceans. For strategic airlift the RAAF’s C-17 Globemasters will obviously be able to carry a greater number of lighter vehicles within their 70 tonne capacity.
Wheeled vehicles on roads consume significantly less fuel and therefore can go longer between refuelling stops. They have twice the top speed of tracked vehicles over level ground and readily zig-zag in evasive manoeuvres. However these advantages are reduced as soon as the wheeled LAV goes off-road on soft ground, even with reduced pressure in their tyres.
Wheeled military LAV’s ground pressure – that is weight per unit area of its tyres in contact with the ground – is naturally higher than a tracked vehicle of comparable weight. A tracked vehicle has more surface area in contact with the ground, therefore this lower ground pressure results in a reduced likelihood of sinking into soft terrain such as sand, mud, and snow, which can lead to wheeled LAVs becoming stuck. When it comes to crossing gaps like trenches, overcoming obstacles, and climbing slopes the tracked LAV has the advantage.
The clumsiness and increased vulnerability of loading tracked vehicles onto floats for movement over a distance, then having to unload them again, is a serious disadvantage for such LAVs.
Active protection involves defence against incoming missiles by electronic or physical decoy, or firing radar controlled patterns of fragmentation grenades. Passive protection aims at reducing the impact of incoming missiles and rounds through reactive armour or a defensive mesh surrounding the vehicle. These defensive systems tend to be more suitable for heavier tracked LAVs rather than lighter wheeled ones.
Stealth characteristics are affected by height above ground and acoustic noise. In this regard, wheeled vehicles usually have better stealth characteristics than tracked ones.
Lighter LAVs are typically equipped with lower calibre direct fire weapons than their tracked counterparts, and the impact of firing them is less, due to the extensive springing system in their 8×8 wheel configuration. If larger calibre direct fire weapons are required, then a heavier platform is required to cope with the recoil. “Rail guns”, as electromagnetic guns are often called, may change this equation should they eventuate in service.
Finally, costs to acquire, operate and sustain are typically lower for wheeled LAVs than tracked ones. Australia’s future CAFS will have tracked M1A1 main battle tanks for the foreseeable future so maybe there is no pressing need to acquire tracked LAVs, but this will surely be one option presented by LAND 400’s IPT in their submission to Government for First Pass Approval.
When APDR asked about IPT preference between wheeled or tracked options, a Defence spokesperson said “A number of options (and sub-options) are being developed by the IPT that include tracked, wheeled and mixed fleets to meet the required mounted close combat capability. This will allow Government to make an informed decision at First Pass cognisant of the capability and cost profiles for each option.”
LAND 400 SUPPORT SYSTEM
The LCVS support system needs to be aligned with Army operational needs and geared to support the Force Generation (FORGEN) and Operations Generation (OPGEN) cycles.
As Defence states “This approach will allow for enhanced Fleet Management as each stage will rotate priorities of effort and allow for planning of system usage. If we begin to look at the force in terms of the Ready Force we can build in a high degree of system readiness levels as the contingency force. The Readying Force will be primarily training focused with the Reset Force in a state of low availability undergoing deep maintenance and equipment storage, cross levelling, and pooling. Managing the priorities and availability of LCVS in conjunction with the FORGEN should occur routinely, minimising disruption to force deployment preparation and training.”
The support system will need to enable integration across legacy and future support systems, maximising commonality and responding to opportunities for resource sharing. It is planned to be able to meet the needs of one or two Joint Task Forces abroad concurrently. It aspires to not constrain deployment of these JTFs when strategically required.
Joint or Strategic lift, or Coalition operations, will require interoperability with other services and overseas partners’ logistics and support systems.
The LCVS support system will need to maximise operational availability through the use of predictive technology, interchangeable systems, and reduced administrative downtime. This will be helped by increased commonality across ADF fleets, optimisation of the supply chain, and automatic fleet health monitoring.
Defence will be seeking whole of fleet management (WFM) for which they declare “WFM strategies will allow improved through life upgrade, technology refresh and configuration management, reduce the impact on the support system when meeting contingency operations, and facilitate efficient measures to be undertaken.”
Logistics is a key close combat enabler and this highlights the need for Combat Support Systems (CSS) to sustain the LCVS fleet during close combat operations. There needs to be integration between LCVS and LAND 121 systems in the conduct of CSS operations in order to ensure the seamless transfer of supplies and services.
Defence recognises “LAND 400 will require a training system to support the force generation and sustainment of the LCVS capability. The training system for LAND 400 will focus upon the requirements of individual and crew collective training in order to operate and support the vehicle. The training system will form a major pillar of the overall support system for LAND 400.”
During further discussion about support capabilities which could be provided by Australian companies, a Defence spokesperson declared “The IPT will seek a Military Off The Shelf (MOTS) design solution for the acquisition of the Land Combat Vehicle System platforms. Currently, these designs are only available from overseas Original Equipment Manufacturers. However, the IPT expects the vehicles to be supported in Australia with significant ‘reach back’ to the OEM.”
In building towards LCVS FOC there will be a transition of capability where both legacy and inbound vehicles and their sub-systems will need to be supported. This will be an early peak requirement which will sorely test and stress the LAND 400 support systems then in place.
COMING IN PART 3
Although only part of the overall project, a review of possible LCVS platform contenders will show that many armies are investigating ground combat vehicles and international defence prime contractors are expanding their offerings.
Platform contenders will include the PUMA AMV and BOXER MRAV, both from the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall Defence led consortia in Germany; the PATRIA AMV produced by Finnish defence company Patria; NEXTER XP2 from French company Nexter; NAMER heavy APC/AIFV from Israel; BRADLEY IFV from BAE Systems in the USA; plus others not yet publicly declared as being in contention.
There will also be some consideration given in Part 3 to the types of sub-systems that will need to be integrated with the LCVS.
Part 3 of this series – published in the June edition of APDR – will also feature opportunities for Australian companies, given that Defence has an Australian sourced industry capability strategy aiming to ensure that local industry is provided with full, fair and reasonable opportunities to tender for work.