Combat Vehicle – Opinion Piece
– DND/CF Procurement & Industry – August 2009
'Once & Future Combat Systems' – New Blast-Resistant Hulls
Matched with the latest in Electronics, Weapons, and Sensors
Edited excerpts from a report on key features of new combat vehicles
by James Hasik
CASR is grateful to James Hasik for his permission to
reproduce this abridged version of his timely report. Opinions expressed are the author's, but footnotes
and inserted commentary are those of the editor. To view the full document ( in PDF ),
please see: Hasik Analytic LLC.
Summary: a Brief Step-by-Step Analysis of the 8x8 Armored Vehicle Market in the US
Ongoing counterinsurgencies have shifted the emphasis in US force structure to the infantry, and the
need for blast-protection in its vehicles is essential. For the US Army and Marines, this might
seem to be a call for more 'Mine-Resistant, Armor-Protected' (MRAP) vehicles. The Afghan campaign, however, has
demonstrated the need for vehicles with better off-road capa- bilities than MRAPs, but more carrying capacity than
the new 'MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle' (the M-ATV ). While heavier vehicles would offer not just
blast-protection, but greater ballistic protection as well, a reasonable chance at
stopping anti-tank rounds ( or missiles ) would require a vehicle as massive as a
tank. Thus, the next generation of troop carriers – particular- ly those of the US Army –
will likely be wheeled eight-by-eight ( 8x8 ) vehicles – just with V- shaped hulls for
robust blast-protection. Designs will likely be sourced from companies with 8x8 experience. Other than General
Dynamics Land Systems, all such manufacturers are based outside the United States. Overseas companies will be
seeking American production partners to ensure adequate domestic content and technology insertion. What
follows is a brief step- by-step strategic analysis for companies interested in this market.
1) Understand what the US Army wants:
In particular, many experienced senior officers have been calling for a third maneuver battalion for each
combat brigade. Brigades should further, the service seems to be recommending, incorpor- ate their own
information operations, public and civil affairs, psy- chological operations, and electronic warfare specialists, so
that combat brigades can undertake stability and civil support opera- ations alongside traditional
offensive and defensive operations.
In particular, many support units should now be equipped with heavier
and more sophis- ticated weaponry, such as crew-served weapons [eg: machinegun, AGL, and Javelin
missile], night-vision and infrared-aiming devices, and indirect fire capabilities. This renewed emphasis on
dismountable infantry calls for armored vehicles able to provide protected mobility along
predicted routes, increased electrical and data capacity to support networked systems, and an expandable
architecture to allow for new armoring technologies should they become available.
2) Know what the Army can actually get:
This is a good start to a wish list, but its parameters are con- strained by physics. The Army's
last combat vehicle initiative, the FCS ( Future Combat System ), was doomed once its effort to develop an
active protection system – a complex defensive suite designed to shoot down incoming projectiles
– ran into technological roadblocks. Considering, then, what is possible, US Defense
Secretary, Robert Gates, is weighing options for moving up to US $75 B from current budget allocations
into new capabilities designed to deal with asymmetric threats and irregular operations. On
the ground, this means mostly high- mobility, well-protected armored vehicles
carrying dismountable forces.
Where does this leave the Army?
There are complaints that the Army's new approach is beginning to lean too far in the direct- ion of
converting the service wholesale towards fighting counterinsurgencies, at the expense of 'big-war'
capabilities. This is a false dichotomy. In Afghanistan, the Army is encouraging its field
commanders to shift towards more ' traditional ' combined arms techniques
which use artillery, mortars, and direct tank-fire, in order to clear the way for their
armored infantry. Dismounting troops are central to both big war and small war scenarios.
3) Start with the MRAP:
So, while initially considered by some as a 'one-off' program, the MRAPs form a good starting point for
analyzing real 'needs'. After all, Secretary Gates terminated the FCS MGV effort after he learned that
these vehicles were planned to have flat bottoms that sat just eighteen inches [45cm] off the ground.
The Army's similarly configured M2 Bradleys have proven relatively vulnerable to mine and bomb
blasts, and its flat-bottomed M113s [ CF TLAVs ] are not much allowed outside the wire in Iraq, clocking only one-tenth the monthly mileage
of MRAPs, and one-twentieth that of Strykers. The planned FCS would offer no great advancements in
blast- resistance over these vehicles which the MRAPs had already supplanted in daily operations.
Thus, MRAP has now become the new standard by which all vehicles will be measured. We expect
that any new vehicle project that fails to compare reasonably to this standard will face more
than just scrutiny – that proposed vehicle may not get built at all. Why? The MRAP is
optimized to protect soldiers against the three (3) classes of weapons used by insurgents: the
assault rifle [ primarily Kalashnikov AK-47s], the shoulder-fired rocket [rocket propelled grenades or RPGs],
and the improvised explosive device [ IEDs – roadside or emplaced as mines].
Guerrillas frequently innovate new tactics and techniques, but these three types of weapons have
become the major ways of doing violence for about forty years now. The monocoque
welded steel hull of the MRAP (sometimes with a surrounding slat armor 'cage' ) provides a
substantial shield against those three most common threats. In addition, the vehicle provides a relatively
large interior compartment which can be readily reconfigured for various roles.
Nonetheless, today's MRAPs suffer from at least two major deficiencies as compared to other armored vehicle types,
whether wheeled or tracked. First, MRAPs don't perform well off-road. (This is, after all, the key requirement
of the MRAP-ATV program for the Afghan campaign.) The second flaw is lack of firepower. Thus
far, MRAPs have been limited to 12.7 mm machine- guns and automatic grenade launchers. Fortunately, both
of these problems are quite fixable.
4) Move on to an 8x8 Wheeled Vehicle:
Some years ago, we predicted the eventual demise of the FCS manned ground vehicle (MGV) project, and began
hinting that the Stryker 8x8 ( the US version of the LAV III ) might become the real ' Future Combat
System '. All the same, the next 8x8 in the US need not be a Stryker per se.
Worldwide, the leading 8x8 armored vehicles by sales are General Dynamics' Piranha Light Armored Vehicle and Pandur series,
ARTEC's Boxer, Nexter's VBCI, and
Patria's AMV (Armored Modular Vehicle). All of these 8x8s feature better off-road mobility
and weaponry than the MRAPs; the latter three 8x8 designs also offer more carrying capacity
than General Dynamics' vehicles. What is particularly needed now is a section-carrying vehicle that is both robustly
blast-resistant and highly mobile
However, building such a vehicle would require more than just adding some V-shaped plating to some
existing design. There is a meaningful trade-off between retaining a lower center of
gravity for off-road mobility, and maintaining enough ground clearance for blast-resistance.
Many of these challenges seem to have been addressed in Oshkosh's M-ATV design. If these challenges could
be addressed in a vehicle with twice the cap- acity, that design could eventually take over many of the
roles of today's MRAPs as well as 8x8 vehicles, serving as platforms for chemical, biological, and radiological
( CBR ) reconnaissance, armored medevac, electronic warfare, battlefield surveillance, and as a robot
mothership. [ Ed: this overlaps with some roles envisoned for the Canadian Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle (although a bit small for
5) Don't try to Build a Tank:
Some critics will point to the recent announcement that the Canadian Department of National Defence will
seek a new Close Combat Vehicle (CCV) of 25 to 45 tons
– presumably a tracked vehicle – as evidence against the necessity for an
eight-wheeled armored vehicle combining high mobility with blast-resistance. This is an important development,
but for several reasons, it is not generally conclusive. First, the CCV will not replace any Canadian Forces vehicle,
but rather, will supplement existing LAV IIIs, which are themselves due to be upgraded. The LAV III fleet is
large enough to motorize only six of the Canadian Army's nine infantry battalions, a planned order for 108 CCVs
will be enough to motorize one or two more battalions of infantry.
Further, the CCVs will be found in an off-the-shelf vehicle line, most likely KMW / Rheinmetall's
Puma or BAE Systems Hägglunds' CV90 series. Providing
enough ballistic protection to avoid penetration by at least some large-caliber cannon rounds and anti- tank
missiles, would make for an enormously heavy vehicle. With the increasing prevalence of ' top-attack '
even this degree of armoring may not be enough for survivability, at least against reasonably sophisticated foes.
Regardless, infantry fighting vehicles like the US Bradley, British Warrior, and Swedish CV90 cannot
withstand the kinds of attacks mentioned above even frontally where armor is thickest. Thus, there are clear design
breakpoints at resistance to artillery splinters and 14.5 mm heavy machinegun fire – the heaviest
indirect and insurgent threats that a vehicle might be reason- ably expected to face, and with which
dismounting infantry should be primarily concerned.
6) Pick Your Partners:
As we do not expect the US Army to attempt to convert some of its older M1 Abrams tanks to heavy infantry assault vehicles, we conclude that the
ABCTM [ Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization, the FCS MGV replacement ] program will most likely call for a
wheeled infantry transporter. Ashton Carter, US Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition,
Technology, and Logistics, made clear that he prefers the next armored vehicle program be
jointly shared by the
Army and the Marine Corps. The Marines clearly prefer an eight-wheeled vehicle for their proposed Marine
Personnel Carrier (MPC). This program is expected to call for a mostly off-the-shelf vehicle, so
we are uncertain as to whether the scope of the engineering problem merits a fresh
start for ABCTM. Either way, those combined US Army and Marine programs are the largest
opportunities before the industry. Companies planning to compete for this business face a
challenging set of strategic issues.
European companies with existing designs are beginning to find teammates in the US: so far, Textron has
teamed up with France's Nexter and its VBCI vehicle, and Lockheed Martin has teamed with
Finland's Patria with its AMV.  ARTEC, with its well-regarded Boxer, is partic- ularly absent from
this list. Potential partners include firms beyond the list of usual suspects: US speciality truck
manufacturers are increasingly showing that they have the skills needed to build wheeled armored
vehicles. Oshkosh had never previously designed or built a vehicle more protected than an up-armored truck,
but now it has repeat orders for M-ATVs over $2 B.
The two local US firms with long experience in armored vehicles – BAE Systems and General
Dynamics – face a slightly different set of questions. BAE's existing 8x8 program, Hägglunds'
SEP, was recently rejected by the Swedish government in favor of Patria's AMV. Without that home country support,
BAE must to decide whether to double-down  with the SEP for MPC and ABCTM programs, to develop another new
vehicle, or to seek a partner overseas. On the other hand, General Dynamics simply declined to engineer its own new
vehicle for the MRAP program, preferring to exercise its North American license to BAE's RG-31 Nyala. 
Without that engineering experience, General Dynamics could seek assistance from a blast-protection specialist
designing a more robustly-protected version of the LAV III.
In short, the market opportunities in the United States alone could be huge, and there remain open
strategic questions in engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and alliance management. The answers are
not obvious, but the commercial and military imperative is looming.
 Some manufacturers already tout improved mine-resistance for their 8x8s. This issue was the central
argument in BAE Systems Hägglunds' lawsuit against the Swedish government's selection of
their Finnish rival Patria's 8x8 AMV as the Swedish Army's next infantry carrier.
 In Blackjack, "doubling down" allows players to double their bet by placing a second bet that
is equal in value to the first. Doubling down would suggest BAE's faith in the SEP 'hand'.
 The RG-31 was part-sponsored for M-ATV by the Canadian government but was refused.