Light troops need speed of manouvre to reach their objectives – and carry their support equipment with them.
A principle advantage of light infantry is its strategic mobility. Units can be loaded aboard aircraft relatively easily and transported anywhere limited only by the range of the aircraft. Large numbers of troops are moved by aircraft when they are needed to move into place immediately. However, a major limitation is that once light infantry arrive their tactical mobility is limited.
Airborne troops dropped by parachute have routinely sought drop zones as close as possible to their objectives. This can be critical as they need to move by foot – 4km per hour – and ideally must have reached their objectives and be dug-in for defence before the enemy reacts. This may include the seizure of an airfield or other suitable site to establish and air-head into which transport aircraft can be landed. These are needed to bring in follow-on forces and assets essential to continuing operations. Failure to secure this airhead can have serious consequences for the success of the operation.
Helicopter inserted forces have a similar concern in that their ground movement is also limited once they leave the aircraft. Their initial capture of the initiative can be eroded as time passes after being placed on the Landing Zone (LZ). Here again the answer has been to use an LZ in proximity to the objective. Accurate and timely intelligence is critical to assure that the LZ is not covered by enemy fires, particularly accurate and effective air defence weapons.
Another increasing concern is the effectiveness and ranges being offered in modern artillery and rocket systems. It has become established that given what has been seen in the Ukraine-Russian conflict a force once located by intelligence, direction finding, shot location or other means can be targeted by overwhelming fires. This leads to the need for the landing force to maximise manoeuvre with as much independent action as possible.
Squad Mobility Vehicles
Major General Eric Wesley in an earlier interview with Armada International, as then Commander of the US Army Manoeuvre Centre of Excellence (MCoE) Fort Benning summarised the new future scenario as where, “A2AD (Anti-Access Aerial Denial) technology and weapons, like air defence systems and anti-armour, mines and IEDs, have become both more effective and prevalent.” This opens the question of whether traditional insertion drop or landing zone are still feasible. It is increasingly likely that an ‘offset insertion’ will be necessary with the ground force then moving by land to the objective or operating area. The mobility of pick-up mounted ‘technicals’; use of improvised explosive devices, longer range artillery, and use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) are even prevalent even with lower capability forces. Near-peer opponents offer an even greater challenge.
Improving the ground mobility of the light infantry is viewed as part of a broader solution to these issues. The concept is that the combination of expending the potential insertion possibilities and the speed of movement will provide the advantage, keep the opponent off-guard and gain and maintain the initiative – in classic manoeuvre warfare form. The adoption of light vehicles is gaining momentum among armies. While some are seeking essentially off-the-shelf vehicles vehicle others are pushing for more complex rides.
The US Army is seeking to address this requirement in a vehicle referred as the Infantry Squad Vehicle (ISV), previously call the Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV). The ISV is intended provide infantry brigades with the small unit tactical mobility to out manoeuvre enemy forces. Army is evaluating proposals received from industry and plans to award a prototype contract to up to three vendors by 20 August, with a production award contract for one vendor by March 2020. According to the announcement of the request for proposal (RfP) “the ISV will provide mobility for a nine soldier infantry squad with associated equipment. The ISV is a lightweight, high mobility platform that shall be transportable by all means including vertical lift (via Boeing CH-47 Chinook and Sikorsky UH- 60 Black Hawk) and Low Velocity Air Drop (LVAD).” Actually, the Army already has an ISV in their award to General Dynamics for their Flyer (see following) in a version based on vehicles already fielded and in extensive use by US Special Operation Command (SOCOM). However, the US Congress directed that an additional full competition be again conducted to select a vehicle to fill be balance of the Army’s projected fielding needs. The ISV requirements and performance are essentially unchanged from the earlier GMV.
Tactical Mobility Vehicles options include:
General Dynamics Flyer (ISV)
Developed by General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GDOTS) the Flyer has already been field by the US Special Ops and Army and other militaries. The vehicle can be carried in all transport aircraft, and also up to two in the CH-47/MH-47 helicopter. Special attention is given to high agility, optimising visibility from the vehicle, maximising on-board stowage, and adaptability through mission kits. With its 2,500 kg (5,512lb) payload Flyer 72 (referring to its 72 inch width) can undertake a number of roles including logistics transport and as a fire support platform. It can also be configured to accommodate nine solders while still leaving another 1,062kg (2,336lb) for additional supplies. In fact, the GD-OTS Flyer-72 is already being fielded to selected brigades in this configuration. The GD Team’s previous military user exposure is evident in the design. For example, rather than providing a chassis seat for the ninth rifleman, there is a position in a secured gunner’s seat to man whatever overhead machine gun that will employed on the vehicle. Flyer is also available in a narrower 150cm (60”) version, the Flyer 60, which fits inside the V-22 and can also be externally lifted by the UH-60 Black Hawk. Both the 72 and 60 share components with the HMMWV with the majority of the balance being Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS).
Polaris DAGOR (ISV)
DAGOR (Deployable Advanced Ground Off-Road) is a new vehicle from Polaris Defense. According to Jed Leonard, senior manager the design “went from concept to testing hardware in only nine months with much of the design influenced by input from Special Operations (SOF) personnel and the company’s experience with more than 20 countries that have our ultra-light military vehicles”. DAGOR is in service with SOCOM but has been reconfigured to also meet the Army ISV requirements for air and helicopter lift. The DAGOR takes advantage of the rear open bed, used in the SOCOM vehicles to carry additional supplies for extended operation, to accommodate the additional soldiers required in the ISV. Full payload for the DAGOR is 1,447kg (3,250lb).
Vyper V4 is being custom configured for the ISV drawing on the earlier V3 Python fast attack vehicles and other tactical ultra light vehicles. Its empty weight is 240kg (529lb) (4,500 lbs), gross weight of 4990 kg (11,000 lbs), and towing capacity of more than 4536 kg (10,000lb). Vyper Adama’s CEO Nicholas Chapman told AI that “Vyper will utilize the most advanced technologies available in its GMV candidate to achieve the weight, ride and operational performance possible”. The company particularly emphasizes its use of patented mission “Modular PODs”. These can be installed on any base chassis to convert the vehicle to different applications.
SQUAD/SMALL LOAD CARRIERS
An additional challenge for light infantry is their sustainability. The water, food, ammunition and other consumables hat they require to life and fight are largely dependent upon what each soldier can carry. As that load increases so does his ability to move quickly and undertake extended marches. It is not unusual to find infantry carrying between 31-58KG (70-129lb), versus the 22KG (50lb that is recommended basic load. At best the light infantryman may have sufficient food and water for a day or two and may be pressed regarding ammunition should they be engaged in an intense or prolonged fire fight. They, thus, require either regular resupply and/or the ability to store and transport with them both essentials like water, ammunition, food and other consumables. These resupplies need to be close at hand and readily accessible to the squads. This is even more essential for the infantry support weapons such as mortars, machine guns, and anti-armour weapons. These are bulky and can have significant ammunition demands in providing fires for forward elements in engagements. Finding a solution to carrying these ready supplies has been a continuing process since the first infantry units were fielded.
One approach has been to use what are essential commercial off the shelf vehicles that have the ability to accompany behind the infantry combat unit. All terrain vehicles have proved capable of filling this need. By taking some of the loads that would otherwise need to carried by the soldier they are able to potentially reducing the light infantry soldiers load. A number of these have been fielded and used successfully. They are relatively inexpensive and have been shown to be reliable and adaptable. Some of the offering companies have gone forward and developed modifications that better reflect military requirements, such as providing diesel engines, military lighting, and tie downs.
Another program focused on taking advantage of advances in robotic and autonomous driving advances. These seek to undertake the same task but by using small semi-robotic/autonomous vehicles. An advantage is that they have the potential to not require a soldier to physically drive the vehicle. The US program for such a system is named S-MET (Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport). This was previous the “Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport), however, user trails demonstrated that such a vehicle was difficult to maintain and support at such a low combat unit level. The plan is now to retain the S-Met at battalion and to provide them to lower units as needed.
Candidates that are filling or are proposed to fill the task of carrying the infantry loads include;
Drawing from its commercial all-terrain vehicle (ATV) line, Polaris has been adopted by a number of armies to provide a rugged, reliable, adaptable and relatively low cost light vehicle for small unit use. Its well proven off-road use allows it to travel in both close and rough terrain. Provided in two, four or six occupant versions it also offers up to 680kg (1,500lb) payload and can be configured for various mission roles, including medevac litters, weapons carrier, command and logistics. It is ideally suited for both carrying initial supplies and to ferrying necessary supplies from supply points forward directly to the platoon and squad. The combat size of the vehicles allows them to be not only carried in virtually all transport aircraft but also in many heavy lift helicopters including the Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion and CH-46 Chinook. The company on its own funding developed a turbo diesel powered version which addressed that the primary fuel used by most armies is diesel or multi-fuel requirements.
John Deere M-Gator
The M-Gator is a diesel powered adaption of the commercial Gator. It is from inception designed as a light, off-road pick-up with a substantial rear deck built to carry various loads. Its 454kg (1,000 lb) cargo box capacity is augmented by a substantial 635 kg (1400lb) towing capacity. A number of all-terrain trailers have been offered to take advantage of this.
Using an eight wheel design the ARGO ATVs are built to traverse any terrain including desert sand, marsh, snow and mountains with models can also swim. With up to 680kg (1,500lb) of cargo capacity they have been able to be largely adopted in their commercial versions – the latest being the Aurora and Conquest. The later has a 748cc (45.6cubic inch) liquid-cooled, V-twin, electronic fuel injected Kohler Aegis ELH775 engine providing 30hp. Argo’s are rapidly drive on/off air-mobile and can be provided with an optional four-point lift hitch, allowing sling loading by a helicopter.
Polaris MRZR X (S-MET)
Teamed with Applied Research Associates (ARA) and Neya Systems, Polaris has converted their proven and already in service MRZR to provide an autonomous operating capability. Of particular interest and unique to any other S-MAT candidate their submission also continues to retain the ability to have a driver in the seat. This has significant advantage in that one system can be utilized based on the needs at any time. It can function remotely when that is preferred or with a driver in the seat when that is more suitable. In addition, it retains all the supportability benefits of drawing on the Polaris commercial network for service and parts.
General Dynamics 4×4 Multi-Utility Tactical Transport (MUTT)
MUTT uses a hybrid electric drive and can be outfit with either wheels or tracks. This adaptability makes it suitable for a number of terrains including soft ground and snow. The hybrid allows it to have a very low noise signature. It uses a line-of-sight remote control with an operating range up to 300m. Soldier trials found it easy to operate and manoeuvrable. These field evaluations found that it could be used to tow an all-terrain trailer permitting carry of up to six days supply.
Howe and Howe RS2-H1
Using full tracks the RS2-H1 is, according Howe & Howe, “a mid-sized high torque electric drive diesel hybrid ‘pack-bot’ designed to operate in the toughest of terrains while offering unprecedented range, reliability, and mobility.” It incorporates state of the art electronics and hybrid technology. It has a range of 128km and can carry 450kg (1,000lb).
HDT Global Hunter Wheeled Offload Logistics Follower (WOLF) – (SMET)
The HDT vehicle uses six solid composite wheels and a JP-8 / electric hybrid power train that provides both a ‘silent drive’ and ‘silent watch’ capability. Its range is 100km range with 72 hour endurance with a 450kg (1,000lb) payload.
by Stephen W. Miller