Learning from the US Experience
Protected mobility will be a vital ingredient in capacity building both for defence and homeland security. A holistic appraisal and an effective roadmap are required to provide this capability to fighting elements of our security sector. Special vehicles
THE REQUIREMENT OF ARMOURED mobility confined to conventional war in yesteryears has multiplied enormously because of activation of the sub-conventional spectrum; terrorism, guerrilla warfare, low-intensity conflict, fourth generation warfare and the like. In the Indian context, we have been experiencing all these forms of conflict over the past few decades with fluctuating intensity. However, such intensity has risen considerably with increase in levels of terrorism in recent years amid an array of weaponry and sophisticated explosives available to terrorists/ insurgents/guerrillas, periodic blowing up of Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) vehicles, including mine protection vehicles (MPVs).
Nomenclatures abound in this category of vehicles like light strike vehicles (LSVs), armoured infantry vehicles (AIVs), infantry carrying vehicles (ICVs) armoured security vehicles (ASVs), all terrain vehicles (ATV) and the like, though the Indian Army has not had a special vehicle in service for effective use at the tactical level in diverse terrain other than the BMP which is referred to as the ICV. Activation of the sub-conventional spectrum of conflict and increased threat of terrorism has hiked the global demand for such vehicles in billions of dollars. The Indian Army too has been on a hunt for LSVs.
What should the user look for in this category of vehicles can be generically summed up as protection against small arms fire, protection from splinters, mines and improvised explosive devices, maximum possible deflection from anti-tank weapons, firepower, cross country mobility in diverse terrain, large radii of action, carriage capability to suit individual requirements, low noise, low signatures, pliability on diverse surfaces (land and water as possible), light weight, air/helicopter portability, easy maintenance, self-sealing tires and the like. Considerable global research and development for ushering sophistication is through exploiting technology. Take the case of BAE Systems, there are two examples: first, ongoing research and development (R&D) to detect faults in military vehicles and preempt it by taking remedial action through an Integrated Vehicle Health Management (IVHM) that will monitor engine and vehicle structure via built in sensors and will identify faults using mathematical reasoning in order to establish a diagnosis, who will take relevant action to rectify the fault; second, an ‘invisibility cloak’ that allows a vehicle to blend into its surroundings. Adaptiv, the patented technology, is based on sheets of hexagonal ‘pixels’ that can change the temperature very rapidly. Onboard cameras pick up the background scenery and display that infrared image on the vehicle, allowing even a moving tank to match its surroundings. Alternatively, it can mimic another vehicle or display identification tags, reducing the risk of fratricide.
Lashed with sub-conventional war and terrorism, the Indian Army has been looking for a suitable LSV for some time and is currently evaluating some including the Mahindra Axe and Tata Motors LSV. Diverse terrain like plains, desert sand dunes and soft sand patches, waterlogged areas, marshes, mountains and extreme cold of high altitude and forested areas need to be negotiated. Air portability by aircraft and medium-lift helicopters is required to increase the reach and lethality of special operations. The scope in India is vast considering the mobility and armoured protection requirements in this category of Paramilitary Forces (PMF), Central Armed Police Forces and police units that are battling insurgency and terrorists. To add to this is the considerable scope in the tourism sector; desert and jungle safaris, dune buggies for fun and frolic deserts, traversing difficult areas, cross country racing, para-sailing and the like. To capitalise on this market, various models are already available in India. Ashok Leyland Defence Systems is also engaged in the development of a range of tactical and armoured vehicles with military payloads ranging from 1.5 to 20 tonnes, on the Colt, Stallion and Super Stallion platforms. The product range includes light specialist vehicles (LSV), light bullet proof vehicles (LBPV), light artillery machines (LAM), mine protected vehicles (MPV), field artillery tractors (FAT), multi-barrel rocket launchers (MBRL) and other special applications vehicles.
The US Experience
Over the years, the US besides going in for improvements in all user requirements, has ensured standardisation of the inventory to facilitate maintainability of the large fleet of this category of vehicles. There are, however, exception in the case of Special Forces forming part of the US Special Operation Command, who rightfully have what suits their special requirements, an example being the 4x4 and 6x6 Polaris ATVs.
How the US Army handles requirement of vehicles in this category can be studied from the armoured security vehicles (ASVs) operated by them including in large numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Textron Marine and Land Systems has been a main supplier to the US Army.
The ASV protects the troops through employment of multiple layers of armour, defending against small arms fire, artillery projectile fragments, IEDs and land mines. It is equipped with a M2 .50 calibre machine gun, a MK 19 40mm grenade launcher, dual-mounted weapons station, M248 SAW coupled with M36 day/night sight and 360-degree vision. With speeds of over 100 kmph, 45 cm ground clearance and 3,360 pound payload, it can negotiate a 60 degrees slope and medium fording. It has a 700 km range, can operate for 2,410 hours and has a central tire inflation system (CTIS). The ballistic protection has an integral threatspecific solution; protection being scalable—payload capacity allows tailoring and future growth. Integrated laser range finder ensures first round hit capability while precision power controls and stabilisation reduces target acquisition time and shoot-on-themove capability. It is a versatile platform that can deliver exceptional mobility, reliability and versatility, enabling security forces to undertake a wide range of combat missions.
The M117 version ASV, named Guardian, provides the military and police with a light armoured vehicle that provides sustainability in hostile environment, substantially increases lethality, mobility and survivability, the main function being convoy protection. With a crew of three and one passenger, it has intercom with CVC helmets, armament system MK 19 40mm and M2 .50 calibre plus NBC protection.
The ASV is available in many versions, including the M1117 Guardia and the M1200 Armoured Knight. The ICV version too has three levels of protection, one piece door option, crew of two with eight passengers, gunner protection kit mounting crew served weapon, 700 km range on 50 gallons of diesel and Harris radio with wireless intercom for dismounts. The MSV has been combat-proven in Iraq and Afghanistan (including in mountainous region of Afghanistan) in protecting soldiers, convoy escorts, check points, cordon and search, combat raid and reconnaissance/surveillance patrols, for-
Lashed with subconventional war and terrorism, the Indian Army has been looking for a suitable LSV for some time and is currently evaluating some including the Mahindra Axe and Tata Motors LSV
ward operation base security, urban extraction under armour protection, quick reaction force and fire support, plus providing tactical supervision for civilian and police operations:
In addition to the above, the US forces in Afghanistan are also operating the Oshkosh MRP-ATV (transports five soldiers).
Lessons from US Experience
The lessons we can learn from the US experience are as follows: A holistic appraisal of operational requirements can help us arrive on a commonality matrix that will have tremendous advantage rather than going in for procurements piecemeal and landing up with a variety of LCVs with little commonality. The commonality matrix that we should look at should aim at the highest possible percentage of common spare parts and components with existing military systems. Commonality with existing military systems should include engine, transmission, differentials, wheel ends, wheels and tires, central tire inflation, turret, turret components, etc and in case of the ASV, this commonality matrix is as high as 60 per cent. The design must be modular for maintainability in terms of minimum time for removing and replacing power pack, removal and replacement of turret, removing and replacing axle, and removing and replacing transfer case. In the case of the ASV, removing and replacing power pack takes three hours, removing and replacing the turret takes two hours, removing and replacing axle takes five hours and removing and replacing transfer case takes three hours. Protection must be scalable with modular ballistic protection system to cater to all types of conflict situations and varied operational scenarios. Similarly, weapon mounting and firepower can be scalable—increasing or reducing the levels to match the operational requirements. It will also reduce costs of indigenisation with hundreds of LCVs requiring common material for production. This in turn will also facilitate production including centralising machining, tooling, welding, etc that will in turn, optimise production capacity.
Faced with prospects of increasing violence on account of insurgencies and terrorism, asymmetrically hostile neighbours and disturbed internal situation, the battling security forces need to be provided with adequate armoured mobility with requisite firepower. India is just about waking up to this requirement which until now has been limited to mainly the mine protection vehicles besides some vehicles with limited protection with police. We need to take a call on our requirement, learn lessons from militaries of developed nations and then go for procurements, followed by centralised indigenisation to meet national requirements. Protected mobility will be a vital ingredient in capacity building both for defence and homeland security. A holistic appraisal and an effective roadmap are required to provide this capability to fighting elements of our security sector. Special vehicles are an essential part of the mobility that needs to be addressed.
Tata Motors’ light armoured vehicle