To achieve the objectives of LAND 400 factors including price, performance, project risk and delivery will have to be fully considered:
• The complexity of individual vehicle classes,
• The complexity of the project driven by the complexity of the NCW interfaces and operational environment,
• The demonstrated capability of Defence and Australian Industry to undertake major modifications to originally foreign-designed and manufactured vehicles (M113 and ASLAV) and to design and fully manufacture an internationally recognised Australian IMV ( Bushmaster),
• The available time before the present vehicle fleet progressively loses capability
LAND 400 was launched using a conventional RFI approach, i.e. “This is what we think we need. Tell us how you propose to accommodate those requirements”. The RFI response was just another box to be ticked off in what is clearly one of the most complex projects Defence plans to undertake at a time not of its own choosing and at a time of budget restraint.
RFI for a fleet of new combat vehicles
The program has been around in some form or other for a decade now, with deferrals due to overseas developments providing yet another reason for a further analysis of the requirements, along with other Defence/Army projects and budget “smoothing”. The objective to replace the Australian Army’s current fleet of armoured combat vehicles, starting in about 2020, is likely to fall out of the window considering that the current Government approval is stated to be post-2016. Four years from Approval to IOC of a useful fleet is lokely to be unachievable, based on demonstrated performance to date.
The most recent public activity was the release of the second RFI on 5 May 2010 with a closing date of 7 June 2010. Noteworthy, was the amazingly short time for the development of a response. The RFI was internationally available and due to the very short response time is thought likely to request a refresh of information previously supplied in an earlier RFI issued 24 October 2006, closing 18 December 2006. The following information is based on the first RFI. Yet the project is not listed in the latest (2009) DCP and Government approval is cited as being post 2016.
Also noteworthy is the change of project descriptor that dispensed with “Survivability of Land Forces”, replacing it with “Combined Arms Fighting System”. The objective of the project and its new title pays homage to networked warfare concepts and weapons diversity. Maybe the concept of a Hardened and Networked Army, earlier espoused, has also gone out of the window for the classes of vehicle covered by this project.
The original RFI – about which there is more publicly available information – called for capabilities to enable “the future Army’s ability to manoeuvre, to detect and defeat threats by stand-off attack and/or by close combat, operating within complex environments, while ensuring survivability of own forces. The “System” will be network-capable and will have scalable lethality and survivability packages, (whatever that means) which can be optimised for a range of conditions.” These descriptions are probably relevant today. The RFI also asked Industry to respond to requirements in four categories:
• combat vehicle system suppliers – i.e. platforms that could be used in three or more roles;
• combat vehicle platform suppliers – i.e. role specific vehicles like Armoured Engineering Vehicles (AEV);
• combat vehicle sub-system suppliers,
• introduction of emerging and innovative technologies covering unmanned vehicles and their control methodology, hybrid engines and propulsion, such as individually driven wheels by electric motors and automatic recovery modes of operation.
As originally defined the CVS family will be required to fill the roles of:
• Cavalry Fighting Vehicle (CFV) for reconnaissance and surveillance,
• Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV),
• Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC)
• Infantry Mobility Vehicle (IMV)
• Mobility/counter-mobility Armoured Engineering Vehicle (AEV),
• Armoured Command Vehicle (ACV) in
o Command and Control (C2) and signals roles,
o Forward Observer Vehicle (FOV) including offensive support fire
• Armoured Mortar Vehicle (AMV),
• Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) carrier,
• Ambulance, Fitter, Armoured Recovery Vehicle
It is not known whether the second RFI changed this listing
The program is expected to result in the procurement of 1,100 new armoured combat vehicles, for A$1- $1.5 billion (the current fleet size estimated to be 1352). Analyses and recommendations of the RFI responses were scheduled to form the basis of a First Pass Business Case to be considered by the Government in 2012. The new RFI responses which were due by 7 June 2010, including prices, is likely to adopt the same procedure and format, but with a post-2016 date for project approval and contract award.
Setting to one side the Abrams MBT which is most likely to become a museum piece, or at best protection of Darwin and the Northern Territory coastline, LAND 400 will quite certainly be a multi-phased project that will address about 10 different vehicle classes and capabilities. This will involve a mix of tracked and wheeled vehicles and their different in-service dates. A problem with this approach is, however, that a multi-phased project will either have a scheduled mix of vehicles of each type in each phase or, all of the vehicles of one type in each phase. Neither approach is optimal from commercial or in-service capability analyses.
Although LAND 400 Combined Arms Fighting System is fundamentally for the acquisition of Combat Vehicle Systems it is understood that the project also seeks to acquire autonomous or remote controlled Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) that seek to replace manned platforms to promote survivability. Setting aside UGVs, the inclusion of a UAV capability in an otherwise land system acquisition is considered to be an error of judgement when JP129 for the provision of ISR support for land operations is also in being, although it is based on the use of a Tier 1 UAS that may be too small for LAND 400. JP129 also has a much earlier IOC of 2013-15 .
Every project has Hooks, or traps for the unwary, and every project has them in one form or another. LAND 400 is not an exception. Setting aside the mechanical aspects of vehicles and their performance, an analysis of the systems with which a new fleet will need to interoperate is quite staggering. And much of this interoperation is ADF-unique. Research of the DCP 2009 in order of Project listings that may interact with the products of LAND 400 reveals the following:
JP 90 ADF IFF system. IOC 2016-2018
JP129 ISR support primarily for land operations using Tier 1 UAS. IOC 2013-15
JP154 Joint Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices. IOC.2010-16
JP2008 Phase 3E Advanced SATCOM Terrestrial Infrastructure, Compact TX/RX System. IOC: no date
LAND 75 Battlefield Land System (Part). IOC various from 2011 onwards
JP2069 High-Grade cryptographic equipment. IOC 2013-15
JP 2072 Battle-Space Communications (Land) Part of Networked Battle Group for legacy and new platforms. IOC 2014-16.
JP2077 Improved Logistic Information Systems. IOC 2015-17
JP 3011 Non-Lethal Weapons. IOC ?
JP 3021 Joint Training Capability. IOC 2013-15
JP 3028 Defence Simulation Program. IOC various from 2017
JP 5408 ADF Navigation Warfare Capability. IOC ?
LAND 17 Artillery Replacement. IOC 2012-14 (Fringe impact?)
LAND 121. Overlander Light Protected Vehicles and Trailers. IOC 2014-16
LAND125 Enhanced Close Combat System
LAND 146 Combat Identification (CID). IOC 2011-13.
It will be noted that according to DCP 2009, if their schedules hold, the above systems will have an IOC a number of years before the products of LAND 400 emerge. This will mean that their inclusion will be a later generation or a new product will be involved.
As Army and DMO have proven incapable even of purchasing trucks under LAND 121 phase 3, one wonders how they will possibly handle a project of far greater complexity.
What is available?
It needs to be understood that the Australian program is not unique in the breadth and depth of its aspirations. A number of countries are pursuing many of the objectives of LAND 400, but as far as is known not all of them in a single project and all appear to be in strife.
British Army’s Future Rapid Effects System (FRES)
The FRES program has been defined to comprise a fleet of five families of vehicles that fulfil a wide range of roles defined by the British Army. The families are: Utility, Reconnaissance, Medium Armour, Manoeuvre Support and a family of simpler variants called the Basic Capability Utility. All vehicles are defined to be rapidly deployable, network-enabled, protected against current threats and capable of operating over a wide range of defined environments.
FRES is the British Army’s largest AFV program ever, but it is not at present a program that is providing Rapid Effects. It started with bold ambitions before the GFC hit the UK and whilst a vast amount of information has been collected and vehicles entered on the preferred list, contracts have been cancelled and companies are at loggerheads. There presently does not appear to be a clear way ahead for this program of greater than 3,700 medium-weight, armoured fighting vehicles at an estimated GBP16 billion for the acquisition phase – except perhaps to break the program into contracts for individual vehicle families, based on critical replacement needs. This approach is likely to be at the expense of commonality.
Nonetheless, a number of valuable, funded, technology demonstration and risk reduction programs (TDP) have been completed or are in progress. They include GD’s demonstration of its hybrid electric demonstration vehicle (AHED), BAE Systems/ Hagglunds demonstration of their 8×8 version of the SEP, Lockheed-Martin and Thales have proposed a future electronics system architecture whose requirements include a fully networked system that meets NATO standards, Akers Kutbruk of Sweden, for the evaluation of Hard Kill Defensive Aids Suites (HKDAS), an Electric Armour concept and an integrated survivability suite. Vehicles known to be of interest include the KMW Puma, the Artec Boxer the French Nexter VBC1 and the Swiss GD/Mowag Piranha.
Beyond the foregoing, it is understood that in March 2010 GD was awarded a contract for the supply of the FRES Specialist Vehicle Program based on the joint development by the Austrian-Spanish Cooperation Development (ASCOD) of the ASCOD AFV tracked vehicle. The collaborating companies are both owned by GD. Currently there are four ASCOD variants planned for this program; Scout (SV and main variant), the Command Post Armoured Vehicle (VCPC), the Forward Reconnaissance Armoured Vehicle (VCOAV) and Armoured Recovery Vehicle (AARV). The ASCOD SV is understood to include the following upgrades
• Main weapon: 40mm Case Telescopic Weapon System.
• Armour: basic ballistic and mine protection, with upgrade add-on packages for improved protection when needed.
• Chassis: upgraded, including an increased engine rated at 600 kW.
• Turret: To be built by Lockheed Martin UK.
• The vehicle is expected to weigh 42 tonnes.
It is understood that the vehicles ordered will be built in the UK.
The US Army Brigade Combat Team Modernisation (BCT)
On 10 April 2009 the US Defence Secretary Gates cancelled the Future Combat System because he considered that Army modernization plans during the first decade of the new millennium could be traced to the fact that senior policymakers were pushing a concept of future warfare that had little resemblance to the combat operations soldiers were actually conducting.
Confronted with that decision, in the space of a few weeks the US Army came up with a new structure and a method for how the BCT program would be established in a few years. The structure relied on adopting many of the technology developments in the FCS then being undertaken – in particular networking and seamless communications – but only relatively few of the vehicles and mobile weapons such as the BLOS artillery.
The US Army’s BCT implementation relies on the adoption of a modular force structure comprising a versatile mix of small, highly mobile, units that are supported by Infantry Companies and Reconnaissance Units, structured to meet specific operational requirements. The core vehicle of this structure is the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) that is to be developed to provide an IFV and eventually replace the Bradley IFV and the Stryker APC. A common hull for all variants is envisaged. According to the Army such a structure is an inherently flexible, speedy way of getting soldiers to a battle scene. The fact that these units will be in continuous, seamless communications mitigates against loss of battlefield intelligence and situational awareness. According to the US Army the GCV program will focus on three basic components:
• Brigade Combat Team Capability modernization
• Vehicle Strategy
• Network Strategy
The new strategy will introduce, over time, several vehicle variants to the BCT in an incremental acquisition approach, starting with a lead vehicle development effort. These new combat vehicles are expected to achieve interoperability at crew and formation levels, be highly survivable, with operationally lethal and non-lethal effects and to be highly mobile in different operational environments. The vehicles will also be required to be supportable, available, transportable and affordable using contemporary and proven technology. The vehicles will also be required to provide real time networked capabilities and have embedded training capabilities as an integral part of the combat vehicle.
The first GCV variant the Army needs the most would be the Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), replacing 6,300 M113 armoured personnel carriers currently in service.
According to the US Army the goal is to build a single affordable network employing a common set of operating procedures and supporting a common operating environment, and extendable to support joint forces operations and system evolution. Network improvements will become an integral part of every block upgrade of the vehicle. The hardware will almost certainly be COTS.
Applicability to LAND 400
In total, the BCT Modernisation covers infinitely more technology and capability than is described here, which is focussed on AFVs to determine whether the US DOD in its BCT Modernisation Program has vehicles and applications that would/could suit LAND 400.
The US Army’s revised plan for modernizing its armoured vehicles is more practical than visionary, it is a focused effort that reconciles what is needed with what is affordable. The only new “system” in the plan is a “Ground Combat Vehicle” (GCV) that is in fact a family of vehicles, with an IFV being the first variant. The aims are for reasonably quick fielding and correcting noted operational deficiencies of other existing vehicles that, in some cases, included over-engineering of basic requirements, inadequate protection, poor mobility, poor firepower and poor battlefield awareness. The new GCV IFV is planned to replace one of the Bradley family of vehicles and will carry a squad of nine soldiers with improved protection and situational awareness. Other vehicles in a brigade combat team include Abrams MBTs, Bradley troop carriers and the Stryker – all of which will be reworked to allow armour to be fitted to tackle the IED problem along with fixing other deficiencies. The M113s will be retired.
In summary, the US Army’s plan is to minimise new fighting vehicle development, but to modernise its existing ground formations to meet new and different threat environments and provide superior fighting capabilities.
• LAND 400 is a very complex program and comparatively speaking one that is well beyond Defence and DMO management capabilities as a single project.
• The approval cycle is running late considering the mooted retirement dates of the current AFV fleet. The aim of 2016 for Government approval and 2020 for the onset of existing fleet retirement are too close together.
• If the program were to be broken down into specific acquisition activities there are a number of excellent vehicle candidates available that could/would meet a basic initial operational requirement, to be followed by a multi-phased Planned Improvement Program to maintain operational capability.
• The embodiment of a fully networked communications capability and integration with other Defence programs is itself a major program that points to the need for a separately contracted approach.
• There is a little evidence to show that the UK FRES and US BCT programs would be able to materially contribute to LAND 400 in a useful time frame.
• There is considerable evidence that indicates that Australian Industry, working with Defence in an IPT configuration, would be able to structure a program that would meet the Army’s needs. British Aerospace Systems, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Thales in Australia have the background and resources to contribute to an IPT structure.
• Due to the close military relationship between Australia and New Zealand it is considered possible that New Zealand would join in the development of LAND 400.