Canadian American Strategic Review







BG Archive  —  Rebuild or Replacement  for the  LAV III  'Platform'?

Update: 23 Oct 2011 – a $1B contract has been issued for the LAV III Upgrade. The 'LAV UP' project, first announced in July 2009, covers 550 LAV IIIs (with an option for 80 more). This upgrade may include LAV-H elements but new-build LAV-Hs are not included in this buy.

The CF's light armoured vehicle fleet [1] in Afghanistan is being ground down by IED attacks, bad roads, and constant patrolling. Even the newest LAV IIIs (left) are wearing out. In the press, CDS  Gen  Rick Hillier has revealed  that the CF is looking for LAV III replacements. Earlier, the CLS, LGen Leslie, suggested in a leaked report that overhaul and rebuild could extend the LAV III fleets service life.  In April 2008, the maker of  the LAV III, General Dynamics Land Systems- Canada, displayed its new LAV-H concept vehicle to staff at  NDHQ in Ottawa (right). So what exactly is  GDLS-C's  new LAV-H?

LAV-H:  Light Armored Vehicle-High Capacity
LAV-H is a 'Technology Demonstrator Chassis' based on a US Stryker.[2] At a glance, a LAV-H looks very much like the Piranha IIIC, Mowag's version of the LAV III (right), but there are major differences. The Piranha/LAV III/Stryker family were designed for a gross vehicle weight of 17-t. LAV-H has a 25 tonne GVW to cope [3] with the greater weight of operational equipment and add on armour. Extra protection is also afforded by a revised floor beneath the crew compartment that now forms a shallow 'V' to deflect  IED and  mine blasts from below (left). [4] As can be seen, LAV-H add-on armour is also consider- ably thicker than that currently applied  to CF LAV IIIs  (especially hull side plates).

CF LAV III  –  Fate of the Future Fleet
All Afghan-deployed LAV IIIs must be rotated out  for refit and repair every 12 months [5]  and  replacement stocks are dwindling.  If  the entire LAV III  fleet is to be replaced altogether, new  vehicles may look very much like LAV-H.  If, on the other hand, the LAV IIIs are 'reset', upgraded  LAVs may be indistinguish- able from current LAV IIIs  –  but better protected and able to handle today's higher weights.

[1] Currently in Afghanistan, the CF has light armoured vehicles from three distinct families  –  the wheeled LAV IIIs, two representatives of an earlier generation of 8x8 wheeled LAVs (the Bison carrier and Coyote recce vehicle), and  the tracked TLAVs (M113A3s or MTVLs). All of these vehicles must cope with a hostile climate  (geographical and often human)  at weights far greater than originally designed for.
[2] The LAV-H was developed to demonstrate potential Stryker refit improvements to the US Army. As such, the LAV-H was based on a US M1126 IFV (effectively a turretless LAV III). The LAV-H's chassis and armour improvements could be applied to any LAV III chassis.
[3] The higher GVW is possible because of the LAV-H's improved hydro-pneumatic suspension. (For comparison sake:  LAV III  GVW is 17.2 tonnes and curb weight is 14.2 tonnes. M1126 Stryker is 13.9 tonnes while, oddly, LAV-H's curb weight is listed at only 13.2 tonnes). LAV-H suspension is based on the Piranha V – an evolved LAV III developed for the British FRES competition – with a baseline of  26-t.
[4] A potential criticism of the LAV-H upgrade is that, while belly armour may be enhanced,  that crew compartment  'V' shaped floor does not extend forward to the driver's position. Overviews of CF Afghan vehicular casualties suggest that drivers are very vulnerable to IEDs. However, troops in the rear would be better protected, sitting isolated from the floors in roof-suspended seats from Armatec Survivability.
[5] In 2006,  GDLS-C  established a  LAV III overhaul and refit centre in Edmonton to handle CF vehicles being returned from Afghanistan. A post-deployment 'reset' program at that Edmonton facility would be an economical way to deal with LAV shortfalls.  But,  there are two problems. The original LAV III procurement plans were cut back in the mid-'90s.  So, the CF was short of  LAV IIIs from the outset (which brings up replacing Bison ISCs...). And, previous wheeled LAV life-extension projects (WLAV / APC-LE) were not managed well by DND. The best plan may be to farm-out management of  a 'reset' for surviving LAV IIIs and  top up stocks/replace Bison with new-built LAV-Hs.