Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle

The Bushmaster, designed and produced by Thales Australia, here equipped with mine rollers, is a lifesaver in Afghanistan for Aussie soldiers.

As the Australian commitment to Afghanistan increased, the Bushmaster 4x4 Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV) was deployed with the Reconstruction Task Force (RTF) in 2005. The vehicle was soon co-opted by the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR, now 2 Commando) component of the re-titled Special Operations Task Group (SOTG), as it provides a greater level of safety against mines and IEDs due to its V-shaped hull. The Bushmaster mounts an MAG 58 GPMG on its turret ring and features mounts for up to two F89 machine-guns (an Australian variant of the Minimi/SAW) next to the rear roof-mounted troop hatches. A Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) is currently being deployed to replace the GPMG.

The Bushmaster can also carry nine fully equipped soldiers (increased to ten in later versions) or several litters for casualty evacuation, allowing greater flexibility than the SRVs that 4 RAR were generally operating in. As the Commando element of the SOTG became more focused on DA raids, whilst the SASR returned to conducting mostly SR tasks, the vehicle also better matched operational requirements by being able to move Commandos quickly and relatively stealthily up to target locations, whilst offering a counter to any IEDs encountered en route. The Bushmaster PMV became one of the first of the so-called Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to be deployed to Afghanistan and to be employed by SOF. The Bushmaster is considered a Class 1 MRAP under the US designation system, based on vehicle weight, size, and envisioned role.

The role of the Bushmaster is to provide protected mobility transport (or protected troop lift capability), with infantry dismounting from the vehicle before going into action. As the Bushmaster is only lightly armoured, the term Infantry Mobility Vehicle (IMV) was initially adopted to distinguish it from a heavier wheeled or tracked armoured personnel carrier, such as the ASLAV and M113 also in Australian service. The Bushmaster replaced a stop-gap unarmoured 6x6 vehicle of the Land Rover Perentie family called the Infantry Improvised Mobility Vehicle (IIMV). Later the Bushmaster's designation was changed to Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV).

The Bushmaster is optimised for operations in northern Australia, and is capable of carrying up to 9 soldiers and their equipment, fuel and supplies for 3 days, depending on the type of variant. The vehicle is fitted with air conditioning and was once planned to have a cool water drinking system, but was omitted upon production due to cost constraints. After operational complaints the drinking water cooling system is being reconsidered for installation. It has a road cruise speed of 100 km/h and an operational range of 800 km.

The Bushmaster is a mine protected vehicle and provides a high degree of protection against land mines, using its v-hull monocoque to deflect the blast away from the vehicle and its occupants. The vehicle's armour provides protection against small arms of up to 7.62 mm calibre. The fuel and hydraulic tanks of the vehicle are located outside the crew compartment, while it also has an automatic fire suppression system. The troop carrier variant of the Bushmaster is fitted with one-gun ring. The forward gun ring can be fitted with a 5.56 mm or 7.62 mm machine gun. The two rear hatches each have a mounting boss to allow the attachment of a swing mount capable of holding a 5.56 mm machine gun (such as the F89 Minimi).

The Bushmaster is air transportable by C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III and Mil Mi-26 aircraft. It is the first armoured vehicle to be designed and completely manufactured in Australia since the Sentinel tank during the Second World War.

TerraMax (vehicle)

In convoy, an M-ATV with mine roller attachment) and two MTVRs with TerraMax. The third MTVR is manned.

A close-up view on the all-so-important roof mounted sensors of the Terramax to provide the system with a clear view of what is lying ahead of "him", but which makes one wonder why the windscreen needs to be kept so clean!

Driving development on UGVs at the beginning of the century have been the small mine clearance or explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) UGVs and those used to scout hostile buildings during the Afghanistan campaign. Removing - or at least thoroughly assessing - the danger of a situation before sending a human into the area has since proved something of a strategic preference in military planning across all domains as we move forward. 

If an American manufacturer of large vehicles were to be tagged as one of the leaders in the field of heavy robotised vehicles that would definitely be Oshkosh Defense. It started developing the TerraMax robotic technology in the early 2000 under a Darpa solicitation. Following years of development and refining, in August 2012 the US Marine Corps Warfighting Lab and Oshkosh Defense applied the TerraMax technology to test a convoy that included five normal and two uninhabited vehicles. The latter travelled in full autonomous mode albeit under the monitoring of an operator equipped with a remote-control unit. While the company remains committed to the US Office of Naval Research Cargo UGV project, which seeks to bring robotic capabilities to logistics convoy missions to help reduce troops' exposure to threats, Oshkosh is also looking at other applications for its TerraMax, which is constantly being upgraded.

At AUVSI 2014 and Eurosatory 2014 Oshkosh exhibited a company M-ATV equipped with a Humanistic Robotics route clearance roller capable to work in full autonomy. Vehicle dynamics were adapted to the roller, and Oshkosh will carry on experimentations for the next couple of years on route clearance operations. The demonstrator shown in Paris was equipped with a roof-mounted lidar. This is regarded as a prime sensor and is particularly efficient in dust conditions, assisting the radars installed at each corner of the vehicle, while electro-optic sensors are used to allow the operator to have a clear view of the situation. The upgrades consisted mostly in the adoption of a new and faster computer able to cope with a higher sensor resolutions required for increased perception of the vehicle's surroundings, which includes detecting obstacles in dust or vegetation and in turn allow the vehicle to move faster (exactly like a motorist is able to drive faster at night if given more powerful headlights). The new kit features an open architecture, improving the TerraMax's ability to accept new types of sensors.

Of note in the EOD space have been the TerraMax 6x6 autonomous vehicle from Oshkosh - which provides route clearance, aside to a number of other functions, and has been procured by the US and British militaries.