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Canadian Military Procurement – DAME Project – Arctic Sovereignty – March 2014

Vehicles – Domestic & Arctic Mobility Enhancement (DAME) Project

Domestic and Arctic Mobility Enhancement (DAME) is another of  DND's omnibus projects that clump together semi-related planned procurements. In the DAME Project, DND expects to replace one variant of the G-wagon 4x4 light utility vehicle as well as to provide all-terrain vehicles capable of  operating in Arctic winter conditions. This is hardly a natural grouping.

G-wagon Command & Reconnaissance vehicle – the Gucci SUV falls quickly out of favour

The G-wagon C&R (or Command and Reconnaissance) variant proved highly vulnerable in combat conditions in Afghanistan. But, the turreted G-wagon C&R is still used by reserve units at home for light reconnaissance (hence the 'Domestic' in the DAME Project). Canadian citizens will likely be mystified as to why the G-wagon C&R replacement has been lumped in with vehicles for use in the Arctic. We can offer no elucidation. Perhaps the fact that all the vehicle types lumped under DAME are to be operated within Canada must suffice as DND sees no compelling reason to make its choices clear to those citizens and taxpayers who pay for procurement.

Les Grandes Dames –  Replacing Bv206 MOSVs with Medium Marginal Terrain Vehicles

The second type to be replaced under the DAME Project is BAE Hägglunds'  Bv206 tracked utility vehicle, known to the Canadian Forces as the Medium Over-Snow Vehicle (or MOSV). Originally, the Bv206 for the Canadian Forces was to be licensed-produced in Calgary as the Northern Terrain Vehicle. But, the Mulroney Conservatives killed the NTV.  Instead, Canada bought 78  Bv206s from Hägglunds in 1983-1985. Now we will pay the price for that decision.

In 2009, the VCDS ordered that  Bv206s not be used or upgraded. That directive was later reversed and  DND scrambled to find Bv206 overhaul services or parts. [1] Finding a direct replacement for the Bv206 would be a real challenge. [2]  Most armies looking to replace their Bv206s have gone to BAE Hägglunds' larger BvS10 but that is a welded-steel armoured vehicle. [3] By contrast, the lightweight Bv206 MOSV relies upon its foam-filled fiberglass bodies to provide it with naturally buoyancy.

In other words, in-service Bv206 Medium Over-Snow Vehicles will be a tough act to follow. And yet, DND assigns no real urgency to buying a new 'Medium Marginal Terrain Vehicle'.

'And now for something completely different ...'  –  the Over Ice and Water Vehicle Project

The Medium Marginal Terrain Vehicle will fill  the same niche as the current  Bv206  Medium Over-Snow Vehicle (which is to say: snow, boggy muskeg, and the like). But, the Directorate Land Requirement (DLR) also envisions an entirely new class of vehicles – the Over Ice and Water Vehicle (OIWV). The OIWV concept goes back at  least as far as 2007 when DND first expressed interest in a radical new Arktos Evacuation Craft being developed  in Surrey, BC.

The Arktos Craft is an articulated, twin-hulled vehicle arranged rather like a Bv206 but there the resemblance ends. The Craft is a much larger vehicle (carrying up to 52 passengers) that was tailored  to Arctic conditions. The twin hulls are constructed from foam-filled reinforced plastic composite (an e-glass/Kevlar-hybrid) to insulate against both cold and high heat. [4]

The Craft's twin hulls are both powered by 260 hp diesels.[5] The vehicle has no suspension, relying on a 'slider system' to guide the tracks and the flexibility of the hull structure to absorb impact. The tracks are covered in spikes  'to help the vehicle claw itself  out of  the water and scale icy inclines [or slopes] as steep as 34-degrees' (left, on USCG Arctic trials).

According to Arktos, the Craft can operate on ice, in water (with broken ice), as well as over muskeg, mud, or quicksand for up to 12 hours. DND presents Arktos' Craft as one option for its OIWV. Hovercraft are also touted, but it's hard to see them rivalling Arktos for the OIWV.

Back to the Future for DND's Domestic and Arctic Mobility Enhancement (DAME) Project

The planned Medium Marginal Terrain Vehicle and the Over Ice and Water Vehicle might  be viewed as complementary projects, since both  involve vehicle types suited  to rough terrain in remote areas. Both types can also be imagined operating in southern climes, justifying the 'Domestic' in the DAME Project. But neither MMTV nor OIWV make natural partners with a G-wagon C&R replacement. [6]  And the latter will  be the priciest part of  the DAME Project procurement. That is rather the point.  DND wants to tie a larger, expensive vehicle purchase to Arctic specialty types. The reasoning is: if  the GoC emphasizes Arctic sovereignty,  then Cabinet will have to approve a G-wagon replacement to get the desired over-snow vehicles.

[1] Then there was a bizarre 2011 NPP for SUSV Spare Parts  referring to the US Army Bv206.

[2] The Russians produce a close copy of the Bv206 in the form of the GAZ-3351 Los or Elk (but, a Russian vehicle was unlikely to find favour with DND even before the Crimean crisis). Some armies are buying used  Bv206s  (Finland bought from Norway, Austria from Sweden).

[3] The 'S' in the BvS10 and Bv206S designations is for Splitterskyddad (splinter-protected).

[4] Arktos designed the Craft specifically for Arctic operations with the oil and gas industry.

[5] The engines are Cummins 6BTAs driving Allison MT643 automatic 4-spd transmissions.

[6] G-wagon C&R replacement was to fall under LARV, the Light Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle Project. But  LARV, which was to enter service in 2010-11 disappeared without trace.

CASR | Background | Projects | Vehicles | Arctic Sovereignty | Strategic Overview