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Close Combat Vehicle Project – CCV Reset – May 2012

CCV Redux –  'Reset' for the Canadian Army's Close Combat Vehicle

Stephen Priestley, CASR Researcher
Update 20 Sept 2013: The Treasury Board was scheduled to review the Close Combat Vehicle Project on 19 Sept 2013. Apparently, funding approval has been given and an announcement from the Government of  Canada on the vehicle type selected for CCV is now anticipated. This is the outcome of a May 2012 DND / Public Works 'reset' of the Close Combat Vehicle Project.

The Close Combat Vehicle project is to be 'reset'. That is what procurement officers do when their egg-juggling act goes awry. Now they need to make decisions that they failed to make before and reverse the choices they did make. The only problem is that industry has been footing the bill over the years for comparative testing and 'Canadianizing' (or , in some cases, prototyping). And being out of pocket, it's hard to imagine that industry will be best pleased by further wobbles in an already wonky procurement program  that promises a limited return.

Like all modern defence agencies,  DND is trapped  by procurement trends and  trade treaties. When the DND requirements are too closely tailored,  planners run the risk of accusations of either using those specs to 'single-source' a rigged competition or simply not examining all of
the options. The latter appeals to the bureaucratic mind set but is a tar-pit for decision-makers.

What the  CCV Project Management Office requested  from industry was defined mainly by weight (30-45t) and high levels of protection. The rest were primarily automotive standards. That left the door open for wheeled as well as tracked armoured vehicles. It has also forced industry to choose between submitting a wheeled or tracked candidate for the CCV contest.

Nexter was first to submit a wheeled vehicle – the 8-wheeled VBCI. But Nexter had no choice since it no longer produces a tracked IFV.[1] General Dynamics' situation was different. They produce both a tracked IFV (the Austrian-Spanish ASCOD) and wheeled (the Swiss Piranha 5 IFV). General Dynamics chose to withhold ASCOD and submit their Piranha 5 IFV. Looked at one way, that  'opening up' of the CCV contest has actually limited the candidate choices.

A CCV contest between tracked contenders might have been interesting. Both ASCOD and the Swedish CV90 series are proven vehicles and currently in production. Since the German's new SPz Puma was never submitted for CCV, the third possibility was rebuilt ex-Bundeswehr SPz Marders. But the 'used' Marder CCV option never got a look in ... which is highly ironic.

Rheinmetall proposed an extensively redesigned Marder in the form of their IFV/CCV. With its massive up-armouring and 30mm Lance turret,  the IFV/CCV had been modified out of all recognition. Indeed, the IFV/CCV mods were far more extensive than the changes applied to CF modernized  Leopard 2A4/2A4M CANs. So, by DND logic, moderately upgraded German tanks are a good thing while extensively-upgraded IFVs are clearly inadequate in some way.

Military planners usually argue that leaving design decisions to industry can result in better than anticipated outcomes. A cynic might ask whether that is likely to occur with a potential order for 108 vehicles. The IFV/CCV suggests that, in straightened economic times, industry may just be hungry enough to make it happen.  Likely Rheinmetall was banking on the small numbers of CCV being ordered making heavily-rebuilt Marders a more attractive proposition.

This is not, by the way, a recommendation of  Rheinmetall's  IFV/CCV or other rebuilt Marder concepts. Rather it is meant to point out the DND's inconsistancy in recoiling in horror at the idea of rebuilt IFVs bought to accompany rebuilt tanks. It's also to emphasize the importance of timing. The perfect is the enemy of the good ... but so is dithering. DND was offered rebuilt Swedish Army CV9040s in the past as well.  Had  DND nibbled, their CCV concept might have been proven in Kandahar. [2]  Instead,  CCV PMO is just far enough along to be embarassing.

Returning to the current state of affairs rather than 'might-have-beens', whither  Rheinmetall? To some degree, Rheinmetall's IFV/CCV could  be seen as a mere conveyance for their Lance MTS turret. In the end, Rheinmetall thought it more prudent to throw their lot in with General Dynamics. GDLSC's Piranha 5 IFV would carry a  Lance turret armed  with Rheinmetall 30mm gun and Rheinmetall would submit no hull at all. Again, DND's choices for CCV were reduced.

As with dieters near candy shops, the best option for those with decision-making disorders is to reduce the options. So, how could DND and the CCV PMO have simplified their own lives?

Specifying the CCV weight-range was wise since it eliminated any vehicles in the 'Heavy APC' category (which could most easily carry the weight of armour protection CCV demanded ). [3] Specifying a high mobility was essential since the raison d'être for CCV is accompanying the CF Leopard 2 tanks. In other words, DND wanted a reliable, well-protected IFV. Until recently, that meant a tracked vehicle. That changed when the French Army accepted Nexter's wheeled VBCI to accompany Leclerc tanks (also made by Nexter). So why was DND caught off guard?

Failing to dictate a specific type of running gear meant that CCV devolved into the old debate of  'tracks versus wheels'. Makers of  wheeled IFVs must argue that  just because the CF LAV IIIs had some mobility 'issues' in Afghanistan does not mean that their wheeled MAV cannot keep up with the tanks. Makers of  tracked  IFVs  must argue that just  because such vehicles are, by nature, closer to the ground, does not mean that they cannot be adequately protected from IEDs. This debate fascinates mil-tech nerds but CCV Project Management Office should have come down on one side or the other before ever issuing the CCV Request for Proposals.

A lesser area of confusion is in main armament. DND specified no calibre let alone a preferred weapon type. Their uncertainty isn't all that surprising. At present, none of the NATO armies can seem to agree on the most desirable calibre for IFV armaments. The difference is that each NATO army specified a chosen calibre nonetheless.  And the operative word  there is 'chose'.

The CCV PMO had four questions to ask itself:
  • Does an IFV accompanying tanks armed with 120mm cannons need a medium-calibre gun?
  • If yes, has the CF's in-service 25mm rounds performed adequately in combat?
  • If yes, has the CF's in-service M242 auto-cannon performed adequately in combat?
  • If yes, has the CF's in-service 2-man Delco LAV-25 turret performed adequately in combat?

There are, of course, sub-questions and qualifiers to go along with those four questions. For the first question, the tanks may not require a medium-calibre back-up but troops dismounting from the CCV might. The remaining questions are all tied in with the armament choice made for the LAV-UP program. When CCV was launched, no such choice had been made. Now it has – LAV-UPs will retain their 25mm M242 in an improved Delco turret. Either that decision should have been made sooner  or  the chosen CCV armament calibre should have dictated armament for LAV-UP. Instead, the CCV PMO threw the entire main armament choices over to industry.

Nexter hedged its bets, submitting both a VCBI-25  (using the current 25mm round, albeit with a different cannon model) and a VCBI-30 with 30mm Bushmaster II (an enlarged version of the in-service M242 'chain-gun'). All other competitors went with guns bigger than 25mm –  30mm for the GDLSC Piranha 5 IFV and withdrawn ARTEC Boxer  (as well as the unsubmitted  SPz Puma, IFV/CCV, and ASCOD), and 35mm Bushmaster III  for  BAE Hägglunds'  CV9035 MkIII.

Interestingly, all of the current CCV candidates feature manned turrets. In the midst of  all this, Defence Research and Development Canada did a bunch of tests on vehicle centres of gravity to determine the 'pros and cons' of remotely-operated turrets for medium-calibre guns. Again, all very interesting, but hadn't the CF's Kandahar experience shown that heads-up situational awareness was paramount in assymetrical warfare?  If yes, any C/G concerns are surely moot.

As it sits, DND has two wheeled candidates and a single tracked candidate to consider for its CCV contest. It would be sensible if the CCV PMO had concluded that armament commonality with LAV-UP was important. If it did, at present,  DND could only choose the VCBI-25. On the other hand,  if the CCV PMO has decided  that tracks  (or equivalent mobility)  are essential, it could only choose the CV9035 MkIII. In the current procurement climate, neither choice would be acceptable – open as they'd be to claims of contract rigging. This late in the day, any major changes to the CCV requirement demands a program 'reset'. It's a drastic step. Having dodged key decisions this long, the CCV PMO doesn't fancy the resulting options. But a decision has now been made. Apparently, the CCV PMO has decided to postpone further decision-making.

[1]  IFV stands for 'Infantry Fighting Vehicle', a term from the Cold War.  The original concept was that infantry would fight from inside their IFVs before dismounting has been abandoned. Modern IFVs have begun to eclipse armoured personnel carriers. By comparison, the IFV may carry fewer dismounts than an APC but those troops are supported by heavier gun armament.

[2] CASR has commented on used CV9040s before. One was a CV9040 lease/purchase option, another was CV9040 'interim' CCVs and their possible upgrades (also exploring RWS options).

[3] Heavy APCs tend to be tank hulls converted  to carry infantry. DND toyed with the HAPC concept as the Heavy Infantry Assault Vehicle but the HIAV seems to have been abandoned.

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