“Light multi-purpose vehicles: compromising protection, payload and cost?” Discuss. This is high school exam time in France and this would make a good question for technology students. But in fact it was the theme of the second Eurosatory conference and was being discussed by a panel of two industrialists and two military staff.
Squadron leader Anne Bardy, 'mobility' programme officer at the French army's technical section, stressed that although light multi-purpose vehicles should not be designed for combat but for liaison, they should be protected to at least STANAG level 2 for rifle fire, mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). And she added that the vehicles should be mission-adaptable to cope with attacks from rocket propelled grenades and stones, for example. “But in case they get caught in an ambush they should have a 7.62mm machine gun for self-protection and be fitted with a remote control machine gun turret,” Bardy explained.
The French army intends to use these vehicles mostly on roads and tracks, but still wants a “selective ability to cross-country,” she said, adding that it should also have an engine not only compatible with low level qualities of fuel but which consumes low quantities of it. And it should be air transportable
The challenge for industry is to develop such a vehicle while simultaneously keeping costs down.
Michel Galand, vice-president commercial for Panhard General Défense and Jens Wachsman, executive manager at Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, gave their views of how their companies are going about this.
Panhard already has two vehicles which could meet the requirement: the VBL (véhicule blindé léger) and the PVP (petit véhicule protégé). Galand noted that the former is “efficient but expensive” while the latter, which he described as a “shoebox: easy to load, very versatile and adaptable” is built using as much off-the-shelf equipment as possible. The PVP at 5.355-tons is heavier than the 4.1-ton VBL. It is also more powerful (160hp against the VBL's 129 hp) and can go faster (120 kph against 110 kph).
Wachsman explained that because there “are plenty of vehicles in the 4x4 market ... we decided it was time to take a bigger step forward and set out to create a vehicle which gives very high off-road mobility and high protection.” The result is the AMPV (armored multi-purpose vehicle) which has technology borrowed both from the Leopard tank and from the company's 8-wheeled Boxer armored vehicle. Without revealing specific details about the AMPV, Wachsman said it had STANAG level 3 protection from machine-guns, mines, IEDs, small arms, artillery fragments and NBC (nuclear biological and chemical threats). The AMPV, a joint venture between Rheinmetall Defence and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, is designed around an armored steel monocoque for the crew with lightweight structures in the front and rear to allow for greater protection, and therefore weight, around the crew. “Until someone wins the Nobel Prize for developing weightless armor this equation -- weight = protection -- will not go away,” he quipped.
Colonel Michael Venhaus, branch chief, requirement, planning and in-service support for the joint support service of the German armed forces, noted that in lessons learned from the use of small vehicles in Afghanistan “we have noted there is a tendency to use them as fighting vehicles,” although they were not originally designed as such. The problem is that soldiers in the field “adapt” the vehicles “so that when there is a rotation and another squadron arrives from Germany where they were trained on the original design of the vehicle, they don't recognise them!” There have been strict instructions issued to “maintain” the original technical specifications of the vehicles.