Tag Archives: IED

Is this the end of the Humvee?

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, you probably saw that the US Army finally selected who will build its next-generation light tactical vehicle. The winner, announced late Tuesday, was MRAP and military truck specialists Oshkosh with their L-ATV (Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle) design, beating out competition from Lockheed Martin and AM General.

Oshkosh won a $6.8 billion contract that will see around 17,000 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) being built for the Army and Marine Corps, and there is the potential for additional contracts and a production run lasting 35 years (the adjective ‘lucrative’ comes to mind here). I won’t go into the nitty-gritty contract detail, rather suggest a read of Scott Gourley’s comprehensive run down here.

The contract marks the beginning of the end for what is probably the US military’s most iconic vehicle, the Humvee. Brought into service exactly 30 years ago to replace another set of battlefield icons, the M561 Gama Goat and M151 Jeep, the Humvee has slowly become less relevant on today’s battlefield as better protected vehicles have taken their place on the frontline.

The JLTV will be a much better vehicle for troops in almost all respects; particularly in areas such as payload, mobility and protection. It’s the latter area that is most important for troops and where the Humvee’s reputation was tarnished throughout the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Designed as a vehicle for behind the Cold War frontlines, rather than a combat vehicle, the Humvee was a fish out of water in 21st century asymmetric conflicts that had no definitive ‘lines’ or enemy.

But is it really the end? Some would argue that the end of the Humvee really came when the US military decided to purchase mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles to replace Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan. By 2007, the Marine Corps had replaced all its Humvees with MRAPs marking a significant shift in the US military’s approach to using light tactical vehicles.

Others would say no, this isn’t the end of the Humvee era. Chances are you will be seeing Humvees in a warzone somewhere in the world for at least another generation. With the JLTV not being procured in enough numbers to replace the entire Humvee fleet, the US

Army will retain many of the vehicles for non-combat roles for the foreseeable future. Hundreds, if not thousands, are also being sold off to governments around the world, including a recent transfer to Ukraine.

Now it’s a matter of time to see if the JLTV can become a military icon like its predecessor. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comment section below.

Making sense of military acronyms

M88A2 HERCULESThe other day one of my colleagues tweeted about the following, which he described as an ‘absolutely obscene backronym’. It was MAGIC CARPET, which obviously stands for Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies. Well, of course, what else could it stand for?

Anyway, it got me to thinking about acronyms in the defence sphere. There are hundreds of them, and even after a decade writing about it, there are still times in interviews when I have to stop the SME (subject matter expert, not small & medium enterprise, stupid!) and ask for clarification on some obscure acronym they used.

Another backronym is the pictured M88A2 HERCULES, which stands for Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lifting Extraction System. Another long-winded one is the US Air Force’s Rapid Engineers Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer (RED HORSE). One has to wonder who thinks these things up!

Most acronyms we are okay with. The last decade and a half has reinforced in the public consciousness such things as improvised explosive devices (IED), to be which can be added vehicle-borne (VBIED) and person-borne (PBIED) versions. Most would also recognise the US-coined OEF and OIF too.

Grammatically, however, acronyms can be fraught, and defence journals can be as guilty as everyone else. For example, there is no reason to call the above Improvised Explosive Devices. Capitalisation is quite unnecessary, because we are not referring to proper names. The same applies to UAVs, for they are unmanned aerial vehicles.

Some companies don’t help things at all. Continental European companies in particular, for example Atlas Elektronik or Kongsberg just to take two names out of the hat, like to capitalise their names at every possible opportunity. This is unashamed self-promotion, because these are not acronyms at all. Some companies like to do the same with their products too. Note it is Exocet, not EXOCET.

But if you’re GDLS or MBDA, then you can get away with it. MAN or ZF are not guilty either, because these are indeed acronyms. In fact, these two latter names are so firmly entrenched that most of us would be hard-pressed to identify their original/full names as Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg or Zahnradfabrik respectively (the latter = literally Gear Factory, incidentally).

Then there are those company names that started off as acronyms – FIAT and SAAB, for example – that no longer require capitalisation.

As journalists we excitedly write about SLEPs, MLUs, ASW or ASuW weaponry, and want to learn about MBTs, SPHs, IFVs and APCs. In some cases it becomes difficult to keep up – we have, for instance, FCS, GCV and now FFV as the US Army’s search for a new armoured vehicle seems set to continue until it runs out of suitable acronyms.

In preparing this article I resolved one question I always held. Was it OTO Melara or Oto Melara? In fact, it is the former as OTO is an acronym for Odero-Terni-Orlando.

Know of any other interesting acronym stories?

Protecting the principal

Rolls-Royces have also been used by many leaders from the Maharajah of Udaipur to Queen Elizabeth II to General Franco.

Rolls-Royces have also been used by many leaders from the Maharajah of Udaipur to Queen Elizabeth II to General Franco.

On the face of it, a convoy of luxury cars may seem nothing but a statement of outrageous wealth and poor taste. To some extent that may be true – the sheer number of dictators and state leaders who have chosen to ride in stretched Mercedes limousines in the past is enormous (from Adolf Hitler to Pol Pot to Saddam Hussein…)

However there is also a very long list of perfectly sensible reasons why international VIPs rely on multiple saloon cars and 4×4 escorts to travel in safety. Some of the main factors which must be considered when creating a secure VIP convoy are discussed below.

The reliability of the base vehicle is the first factor. Mercedes-Benz produced what was arguably the first motor car ever made in 1886 and since then has built up a record of near rock-solid performance. Thus is demonstrated by the humble city taxi – if you have ever ridden in the back of a European cab it was likely to be a high-mileage but ever-functioning C or E Class model. The luxury S Class range-topper is renowned for its smooth ride and advanced safety systems. Similarly, Toyota Land Cruisers and sister-brand Lexus LS sedans are also the vehicles of choice for many VIP convoys due to their reputation for go-anywhere dependability – even before specialist modifications are made.

The second step in creating any discerning defence convoy worth its weight in metal is armour-protecting the entire vehicle or fleet. Mercedes-Benz has long offered its own in-house armouring service, under the moniker S-Class Guard. This adds high-strength steel which is integrated during the car’s construction and protects against ballistics to NATO B6/B7; bulletproof glass, heavy-duty run-flat tyres able to perform evasive manoeuvres up to 50mph even when deflated, independent cabin oxygen supply, high-tech imaging solutions which increase situational awareness of vehicle occupants and intercom systems. After these are added, the Guard gains a minimum of 500kg extra weight over the standard model, but its V12 Bi-turbo motor ensures pace is not badly affected.

Thirdly, many independent companies also offer non-lethal deterrents which have the advantage of flexibility for application on several other types of vehicle, since budget is unlikely to be an issue here. Systems available from companies such as MS Instruments include high-decibel sound emitters, bright flashes and smokescreens which detonate just seconds after jettison in order to disorientate the enemy in case of live-fire assaults.

The fourth step in convoy protection is, apart from relying on safety in numbers, the addition of a radio frequency (RF) jamming unit. SESP is a prominent company specialising in retrofitting anti-RCIED (remote control improvised explosive device) jammers. Their JAM V series of electronic protection systems can be recognised by a set of high-gain antennas mounted to the car’s roof, and tall aerials to the rear section.  Jamming allows the vehicle to disrupt the radio frequencies most commonly used by terrorists to detonate road-side bombs: 66MHz – 2500MHz. The field of protection radius of the JAM-V is large due to an ultra-high RF transmission power of 1000 watts.

The final step in ensuring the safety of a VIP within a convoy situation is to surround them with highly-trained (likely ex-military) security professionals and skilled drivers capable of active resistance and able to coordinate an effective escape from potential roadblocks or assassination attempts. So all those extra cars and that added weight really serve their purpose.

Remote-control Land Rovers on the front line

snatch panama

Writing and researching about the defence industry has been a new concept for me, but there are certainly many things that catch my eye as a lifelong petrol head.

The Land Rover Defender has to be one of the most awesome and capable vehicles ever built. Totally classless and modifiable, the vehicle has been used for everything from farm hand to royal carriage, 4×4 family wagon to mountain rescuer.

The Snatch-Vixen 4×4 is perhaps the most obvious relation to a UK road vehicle that you might see on the front line – but its role is changing. Their use during the early days of Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns saw the Snatch heavily criticised for its lack of adequate ballistic and IED protection for occupants.

Since then semi-autonomous versions have emerged in the form such vehicles as the MIRA MACE Guardsman and Sherpa, allowing personnel to one day take a step back from such dangers and conduct missions remotely.

However, the news this week is all about the MIRA Autonomous Control Equipment (MACE) route clearance system.

It is a bit of a mouthful for what is an exciting piece of kit – just look at the pictures complete with huge hydraulic attachments – although I can’t help wondering if it’s the final nail in the Defender’s coffin, just being used as expendable mine fodder.

Nevertheless it will be a welcome and totally justified move if it therefore saves lives by preventing the need for directly manned counter-IED operations.

The Snatch-based MIRA MACE is operable in both semi-autonomous and autonomous modes from a distance of up to 20km from its control station – a more heavily protected vehicle.

The well-loved civilian Defender will cease production from 2015, with a chunky replacement dubbed DC 100 on the cards. Whether it will continue to sustain such a huge variety of customers both civil and military, and whether it can possibly be capable of spawning such a wide range of useful (and frankly rather cool) applications, remains to be seen.

Simon Truscott

To read more about the MIRA MACE system, please click here.