Land technology forcing change
The pace of technology does not pause for a second, even in areas where we think that product development moves relatively slowly. Armoured vehicles do not seem to have advanced as rapidly as other areas such as unmanned vehicles, but that is always the case with new platforms and available technology that offers capabilities and ways of operating.
For good old manned ground vehicles, however, there is a change in the air. Tactics, techniques and procedures are being altered due to a shift in the strategic and operational doctrine, led mainly by the US.
Dancing to the technology tune
In a change to military doctrine for land forces at the Manoeuvre Centre of Excellence in Fort Benning, planners have been working on a concept of rapid deployment with very light vehicles.
This has resulted in two major programmes that are coming up – the Ground Mobility Vehicle and the Light Reconnaissance Vehicle.
These have a strong commercial-off-the-shelf element to them, which represents a new opening for new vehicle manufacturers and component suppliers in the military market that are experts in this very light field. Traditional companies should beware (see feature, page 8, Land Warfare International Dec-Jan edition). The change is a response to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and represents a major shift in focus.
The new doctrine is calling for very light mobile vehicles for off-road operations. It seems that in Afghanistan the use of main roads and arteries became so restrictive due to IEDs and other roadside bombs it made operations slow and cumbersome to the point where forces where holed up inside bases and it was a major task just to get out and about.
The other result was travel required ever more heavier vehicles with more armour for protection.
How to solve this puzzle? One option is to take the roads out of the equation by using air transport.
The idea seems to be to plan a mission and fly out to close to the area of operations then drive off-road where there are no IEDs or bombs, to your objective. It is fast, undetectable until the last minute and means that missions can be completed quickly without having to negotiate long hazardous roads where the enemy can focus its attention on columns of cumbersome vehicles winding their way along circuitous routes.
Therefore these vehicles need much less or no armour and presents a challenge for military vehicle manufacturers that are used to building armoured platforms. They have to meet a whole new set of requirements they have not seen before, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with.
The other major technological innovation is also related to armour and weight – how to avoid the vicious circle or more armour and weight on vehicles as enemy weapons get more powerful?
Active protection system technologies are finally getting the boost they need. After some research and development work led by Israeli companies that has been tested in the field on IDF operations the west is jumping on the bandwagon (see feature, page 14, Land Warfare International Dec-Jan edition).
If these systems can neutralise the threat of anti-armour munitions and other shoulder launched projectiles before they reach the vehicle then there is less need to support such extensive heavy armour payloads, which reduces mobility so much.
This could trigger a new revolution that will see a return to lighter tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers that can use the extra payload to support other systems that improve their combat effective instead of the armour. This in turn will affect the tactics, techniques and procedures of land forces significantly.
Here, it seems the choice is between hard kill or soft kill protection systems and the extent to which these systems are automated not only to trigger the defensive response but if the sensors can be used to identify and target the attacker for vehicle weapons to engage.
So there is work to do developing army doctrine to see what is acceptable for use on their vehicles and how they will use them.