A compromising Situation... TAPV

Jul 15, 2010

Canada’s armed forces requires a new Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle (TAPV) – a general utility combat vehicle that can fulfill a variety of roles on the battlefield such as (but not limited to) reconnaissance and surveillance, command and control, security, cargo, and armoured personnel carrier (APC). While perhaps a little clichéd, considering current global operating scenarios, the stated intent of the Department of National Defence (DND) is that TAPV will provide a very high degree of protection to the crew while remaining highly mobile.

As a starting point for this review we will examine the key elements of protection and mobility. Regrettably, between the LOI / P&A (Letter of Interest / Price and Availability) request and the later SOIQ (Solicitation of Interest and Qualification), specification-diluting revisions to both of these key elements occurred.
At this stage, such revisions could be viewed as evolving the programme – refining it in line with responses to the LOI. On the other hand, it could be argued the programme was being diluted because the original desire had been for an unaffordable 24-karat, gold-plated solution – possibly even an unobtanium-plated solution, as with the original Joint Support Ship (JSS) requirement.
When announced, it was stated that, in addition to supplementing the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen (acquired from 2003) on deployed operations, TAPV would replace the BAE Systems/General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada (GDLS-C) RG31 Mk3 (75 acquired 2005-2008) and the Coyote reconnaissance variant of the GDLS-C LAV (200 acquired from 1996). In total 500 TAPVs were called for: 200 Reconnaissance (Recce) variants, and 300 (with an option for an additional 100) of the General Utility (Gen Util) variant.
Shifting Sands…
A key problem facing potential TAPV bidders was that they were effectively being asked to replace two vehicle types from opposite ends of the capability, mobility and protection scales – the RG31 Mk3 and the Coyote LAV. At the LOI stage, the short-lived benefit for potential bidders was that there was no specific requirement for the Recce and Gen Util variants to be based on a common platform. However, the general consensus of opinion within industry was that while two distinct variants of the same base vehicle (ie: 4x4 and 6x6) might ultimately be acceptable to DND, the clear optimum solution of two totally differing vehicle platforms would never be.
At the LOI stage, the ideal solution for TAPV would probably have been a three-axle 6x6 armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) design for the Recce role, and something similar to the out-going RG31 (but with mobility enhancements such as independent suspension and CTIS) for the Gen Util role. When the SOIQ was issued, it became clear that such a solution would not be sought – a single common vehicle platform became a mandatory requirement.
There had been a number of key differences between the two variants at the LOI stage, the most significant of these being the option of either turret-mounted armament or remote weapon station (RWS), and enhanced levels of mobility for the Recce variant, 141 of which were to be fitted with the government-supplied LAV Reconnaissance Surveillance System (LRSS).
The specified levels of mobility in the current SOIQ are now common for both variants and are far less specific and demanding than those in the previous LOI. Notable omissions/deletions are the LOI’s mandatory/preferred 1m/1.5m unprepared fording depth and 1m/1.2m trench crossing capability, both difficult to achieve, the latter an unachievable feat for any 4x4 with wheels smaller than those of a tractor. 

Designed primarily for operations in Afghanistan, and with manoeuvrability and protection paramount throughout the design process (and with GD as a partner), to any gambler Oshkosh would be considered a safe each way bet.

The turret option, probably better-suited to a Recce variant, has been removed, and the requirement for all vehicles to be armed has now been reduced to “fitted for but not with” a to-be-selected RWS. A key driver here might be that only an AFV-style design suits a turret, while a RWS (despite a price premium) is better suited to the style of vehicle that TAPV appears to be heading towards procuring. In reality, only one known contender for TAPV has actually ever been fitted with a turret, and the bulk of likely contenders would probably not accept one without significant re-design.
Perhaps the clearest indicator that a serious revision of TAPVs intended roles and capabilities has taken place, would be the single line statement in the SOIQ that the decision had been taken to remove the LAV Reconnaissance Surveillance System (LRSS) from the requirement. The argument here might be that this does allow other potentially more modern systems to be procured, albeit at added cost. Two confirmed TAPV candidate vehicles (Dingo and MSV) are in volume production with a current generation reconnaissance-type package installed.
As a broad brush stroke, removing the LRSS from the requirement, the dilution of the mobility requirements, and the mandatory RWS solution all support the theory that the realisation that no single platform can adequately replace both an RG31 and Coyote capability has hit home. The now-mandatory single platform will be optimized for the cheaper Gen Util role, at the apparent expense of the once-intended-to-be-more-capable Recce variant. To further support this theory, specific variant quantities have been removed from the SOIQ, replaced with a general “around 500 vehicles” requirement.
Further key changes were made between LOI and SOIQ, although these were probably more to mirror contemporary solutions than any dilution of requirement. Certain protection level requirements were reduced slightly, however, TAPV will still retain class-leading protection levels. For a variety of tactical and logistical reasons the armour package is required to be scaleable.
Seating requirements for each variant were also reduced by one at LOI stage, and from three crew plus three passengers (four at LOI) for the Gen Util variant and three crew (four at LOI) plus one passenger for the Recce variant.
Crew reduction may also have been an attempt to keep the overall size and weight of the end product within an envelope that allows for reasonable mobility with the desired 2 tonne payload and the mandatory protection levels. While not stated, the probability is that a two-axle 4x4 vehicle would ultimately be preferred over a larger three-axle 6x6. The danger was that TAPV could fall into the MRAP trap of being extremely well protected, but lacking the mobility to perform any role that requires genuine off-road mobility.
It is anticipated that the gross vehicle weight (GVW) of some competing vehicles will approach 20 tonnes, although at the lighter end of the scale one known SOIQ respondent has a far more reasonable GVW of 12 tonnes. It is generally believed the aim still remains to achieve the highest level of mobility, but care is being taken not to request anything that may be desired but that many simply cannot offer – a mandated Mean Maximum Pressure (MMP), for example. Given this belief, the lighter overall options could then have some advantage over their heavier contemporaries as the programme progresses.
Front Runners
Sources have suggested that more than 20 responses were received to the SOIQ although it remains unclear if, in the case of BAE Systems, Force Protection and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), the three and two/two respective proposals these organizations submitted count as single or separate responses.
At this stage, and with further specification revisions likely when the Request For Proposal (RFP) is issued to qualifying bidders, those that have responded for the most part remain tight-lipped about their offering and any potential in-country teamings.
The following companies (listed alphabetically by company) are understood to have responded to the SOIQ, although in some cases these may not be the ultimate prime contractor:

  • BAE Systems – three separate responses including RG35 and a product from Sweden
  • Creation – Zephyr
  • Force Protection (in partnership with SNC-Lavalin) – Cougar 4x4 and 6x6
  • Hatehof – Xtream
  • Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) – Dingo and Generic Platform Fennek 2 Technology Demonstrator (GP F2T)
  • Navistar – MaxxPro
  • Nexter – Aravis
  • Oshkosh (in partnership with General Dynamics Land Systems - Canada) – M-ATV
  • Panhard – PVP XL (Petit Véhicule Protégé Xtra Large)
  • Textron Marine & Land Systems – Armored Security Vehicle (ASV) derivative
  • Thales (in partnership with DEW Engineering) – Bushmaster
  • Universal Engineering – Ranger

IVECO and Renault, notable omissions from the above list, are understood not to have responded. There are most definitely other products available that potentially meet the TAPV requirement, however, the above list is believed to include all those that will ultimately be frontrunners for the requirement.
In terms of actual product, BAE Systems has proposed three platforms for the TAPV requirement (see below), two from its South African product line and one from its Swedish product line. Interestingly, the recently introduced FMTV-based Caiman (with independent suspension) does not appear to be in the running.
BAE Systems (South Africa) has confirmed that a variant of its latest RG35 has been proposed, and this will likely be in 4x4 configuration, tailored in weights/ dimensions to the requirement. The second option will likely be an RG31 Mk5 derivative with an independent suspension solution. With Canada already operating 75 RG31 Mk3s, and with these having previously had some performance, quality and reliability issues, replacing RG31s with more RG31s may be a hard sell for BAE Systems, even if the two generations in question are as alike as chalk and cheese.
The Swedish element of the BAE proposals is expected to be a 24-karat solution and will leverage the APC-like SEP (Splitterskyddad Enhets Plattform – Modular Armoured Tactical System) that was developed as part of a family of armoured fighting vehicles to meet future operational needs of the Swedish Army.
Design house Creation is understood to have proposed its Zephyr vehicle in 6x6 configuration, and possibly with the assistance of Babcock’s land systems business. Creation’s military design pedigree includes Lockheed Martin’s Adaptive Vehicle Architecture (AVA) vehicle test beds and the Ranger mine-protected vehicle which has been proposed (in 6x6 configuration) by Universal Engineering.
Navistar was offering a derivative of the MaxxPro Dash, the DXM independent suspension variant. Navistar has supplied the U.S. with 7,589 MaxxPro MRAPs (including 95 FMS and 2,367 of the lighter MaxxPro Dash); with all Dash orders either delivered with, or retro-fitted with, the DXM independent suspension set-up. The 15-tonne unladen MaxxPro was one of the bulkiest TAPV competitors.
Navistar is currently supplying Canada with approximately 1,300 Medium Support Vehicle System (MSVS) MilCOTS trucks worth C$274 million, although the company’s prime in-country partner for this – DEW Engineering – has announced an alliance with Thales for TAPV.
Force Protection offered variants of its Cougar MRAP (the Cheetah being considered too small). Given the emphasis being placed on mobility, and the fact that a beam axle/leaf spring MRAP design is one of those to be replaced by TAPV, to stand any realistic change in the competition the bulky Cougar would certainly need to be fitted with an independent suspension solution. This might not necessarily be the Oshkosh TAK-4 solution that is currently being retro-fitted to more than 2,000 U.S. Army/ Marines Cougar vehicles.
Canada already operates a small fleet of Cougar (39) and larger Buffalo (19) vehicles, these ordered in 2007-2008.
Israel’s Hatehof Industries is believed to have proposed a version of the Xtream (first unveiled by the company at Eurosatory 2008). Given the urban nature of most Israeli combat, the Xtream leans favourably towards this environment in its overall design, its rear steer option an example here. Hatehof also offers the Navigator, a less sophisticated design that is based on a conventional ladder frame chassis with beam axle and leaf spring suspension. Hatehof has close ties with Turkey’s BMC, and there are considerable similarities between Hatehof’s Xtream and Navigator and BMC’s BMC 250-10Z and 350-16Z designs.
Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) is believed to have proposed a version of the Mercedes-Benz Unimog-based Dingo 2 All Protected Vehicle (APV) along with its developmental Generic Platform Fennek 2 Technology Demonstrator (GP F2T). The GP F2T is considered too immature to meet the requirement in full.
At present, the German Army has ordered 410 (plus 149 Dingo 1), while export sales of around 325 Dingo 2 have been made to Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic and Luxembourg. The Luxembourg order, primed by Thales, calls for 48 specialist reconnaissance vehicles fitted with a Thales reconnaissance package.
The current GVW of Dingo’s Unimog chassis is 12.5-tonnes, however, for the TAPV requirement, the latest Mercedes-Benz FGA 14.5 (14.5-tonne GVW) chassis could be used to expand upon the strengths of the Unimog concept.
France’s Nexter Systems has confirmed that it will offer an enhanced version of its Aravis APC for the TAPV requirement. The Aravis is based on the Unimog U5000 chassis, and the French Army has received 15 vehicles for use with mine clearance teams. According to Nexter, Aravis has the highest level of protection of any vehicle based on the Unimog U5000 chassis.
Panhard is understood to have proposed its PVP (Petit Véhicule Protégé) XL (Xtra Large) to meet the TAPV requirement. However, it is understood that it will be a considerable undertaking to get this 12 tonne vehicle up to the required protection levels.
Textron Marine & Land Systems’ (TM&LS) Mobile Survivable Vehicle (MSV) offering is understood to be a derivative of the M1117 Armored Security Vehicle (ASV), although the company goes to great lengths to point out that it is more than a re-painted ASV. TM&LS received the first ASV order in 1999, although by July 2004 only 132 had been ordered. As the security situation in Iraq (later Afghanistan) began its deterioration, the ASV quickly proved its worth in a variety of roles, and by mid-2010 some 2,981 M1117 ASVs were on contract, with over 2,600 of these delivered. US Army ASV orders include the field artillery’s M1200 Armored Knight variant, the total requirement for which currently stands at 465 (392 on contract) which, if fulfilled, will bring ASV delivery totals to 3,446. FMS sales have also been made to Bulgaria (7), Colombia (39) and Iraq (est. 200). The ASV was a contender for the USMC MRAP program but was eliminated from the competition in its early stages.
Prior to issue of the TAPV SOIQ, the APC-like MSV was a clear front-runner for the Recce variant award in any split procurement, and on the strength of the importance apparently placed by DND on the Recce variant in the LOI, remained a strong contender for any combined procurement. The apparent dilution of the Recce segment at SOIQ stage will do the Textron bid no favours.
Thales has confirmed that in partnership with DEW Engineering it will offer Bushmaster to meet the TAPV requirement. With fully independent suspension and having been designed from the outset for role (long distance troop transport with high level blast protection), Bushmaster should at the very least have a material advantage over many of its prime competitors. However, while its 300 hp engine will give it a power-to-weight ratio advantage over many of those competitors, it remains bigger and heavier than some of these, and this could well be a disadvantage.
Bushmaster is on record as having serious reliability issues in the early stages of the project, however, these are now fully resolved and the vehicle is in volume production. Australia has ordered 737, the Dutch have received 86 (initial deliveries from Australian Army stocks), and in what could be perceived a quality/reliability endorsement, the British SAS operate 24 vehicles.
Universal Engineering indicated that it would offer a variant of its recently developed Ranger Protected Patrol Vehicle (PPV). Development of the Ranger PPV started in 2008, the vehicle built around a V-shaped hardened armoured steel survivability capsule developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Israel. A 6x6 design, Ranger will probably be the largest vehicle proposed to meet the requirement.
The Alliance Maze
Missing from the previously covered SOIQ respondents are a number of high-profile companies with a sizeable footprint in Canada, these include Rheinmetall Landsysteme (RLS), L-3, and Lockheed Martin. None of RLS’ sizeable portfolio of vehicles meet the TAPV requirement, however, all three of these companies have extensive systems integration skills and are expected to be involved in TAPV in some way, most probably an industry alliance.
Of the companies known to have responded to the SOIQ, front-runner Oshkosh was first to ‘break cover’ with an announcement back in March that it had teamed with GDLS-C for both the TAPV and MSVS SMP requirements.
BAE Systems has a licence agreement with GDLS-C for the RG31, and previously had an arrangement with RLS Canada for the FMTV. For various M113 projects, the Lemur Remote Weapon Station (RWS) and Canada’s pending Close Combat Vehicle (CCV) program, BAE Systems has close involvement with Canadian land systems key player, DEW Engineering.
DEW Engineering also has an alliance with Navistar for the MilCOTS segment of the MSVS program, but has announced an “exclusive” teaming arrangement with Thales, offering the Bushmaster for the TAPV. It remains to be seen, however, just how “exclusive” this arrangement really is, DEW having discussed a variety of potential teaming/partnering arrangements with a wide selection of TAPV SOIQ respondents.
RLS may have no product in its portfolio to meet the TAPV requirement, however, fellow German KMW does with its Dingo. KMW and Rheinmetall often compete, but they also have a number of joint projects running, the Leopard MBT family (as used by Canada) being one of these. With KMW’s Dingo, Nexter’s Aravis and potentially other undisclosed Unimog-based bids, the extensive Canadian Mercedes-Benz/Daimler network could also be involved in TAPV.
Israel’s Hatehof is understood to have secured a partner of U.S. origin in L-3, while Textron, which has a substantial Canadian presence, is understood to have secured an undisclosed partner of European origin. Textron has previously had an arrangement with KMW for the Dingo. KMW, however, currently has an arrangement with L-3 for the GF-GP2; L-3 brings a sizeable Canadian footprint to the table.
BAE Systems, Force Protection, KMW/Rheinmetall, Navistar and Nexter all have equipment in Canadian military service and may be able to leverage this in any support contract package.

Beyond the Hardware
An important part of the TAPV programme as a whole is the DND requirement for logistics support for the life expectancy of the vehicle, estimated at 25 years. It is the stated intention to award two TAPV contracts (Acquisition and Support) simultaneously, and both to the same legal entity.
The Canada First Industrial and Regional Benefits (IRB) policy is applied to the TAPV procurement, which means that the winning company must generate economic activity in Canada, dollar for dollar equal to the contract value. It is accepted that Canada’s stance on this policy will not change, despite the combination of IRB requirement and Canada’s limited defence infrastructure combining to ultimately impact on the ability of contractors to put together a fully compliant, viable and genuinely true value-for-money bid. And while it ultimately may not benefit Canadian troops, it is probable that some vehicles that are a good fit for the TAPV requirement will either not be offered by their manufacturers, or will not proceed to RFP stage, and simply because IRB, and possibly Support Contract issues, prevent them from doing so.
A draft RFP to those companies down-selected from SOIQ submissions is expected be issued in the late summer of 2010, and a formal RFP should follow later this year. Contract award is then scheduled for Fall 2011, with an Initial Operational Capability (IOC) and Full Operational Capability (FOC) to be available in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
The list of those down-selected to RFP pre-qualification status from the SOIQ has just been released by DND. (alphabetically):

  • BAE Systems Hägglunds AB, Sweden – Aligator (6x6)
  • BAE Systems Land Systems OMC, South Africa – RG31 Mk5 EM
  • BAE Systems Land Systems OMC, South Africa – RG35 RPU
  • Force Protection Industries, Inc, USA – Cougar (4x4)
  • Force Protection Industries, Inc, USA – Cougar (6x6)
  • Nexter Systems, France – Aravis
  • Oshkosh Corporation, USA – M-ATV
  • Textron Marine and Land Systems, USA – MSV (Mobile Survivable Vehicle)
  • Thales Australia (submitted through Thales Canada Inc.) – Bushmaster 

This list will doubtless be a topic for extensive debate within both industry and the media, and while the author will freely admit to being unable to read the minds of those responsible for the decision making processes involved in its creation, this does not preclude him from making some select observations on its inclusions, and its exclusions.
BAE Systems’ Aligator has to be seen as the 24-karat sacrificial lamb for APC-like designs. Force Protection’s Cougar 6x6 may be too big and bulky if DND is serious about any form of mobility, and where is Navistar’s MaxxPro Dash? The Dash, which is comparable in envelope to the Cougar 4x4 would surely offer the best overall fleet commonality of the two. There will be 1,300 Navistar MilCOTS trucks (based on the same platform as the MaxxPro) in Canadian service shortly, and there are around 60 Force Protection vehicles in service. With over 700 examples of KMW’s Unimog-based Dingo on order for five countries (including specialist recce variants), it was certainly the surprise omission from the down-select list. KMW and France’s Nexter are comparable in terms of capability, yet the Unimog-based Aravis (15 supplied to the French Army) was included, while the Unimog-based Dingo (over 700 ordered) was not.
What Next?
More broadly speaking, the general consensus is that, in traditional Canadian style, the program will continue to see some degree of slippage. Given the wide spectrum of roles to be performed by TAPV, the conflicting types of vehicles to be replaced or supplemented, and the inevitable conflicts of affordability vs. capability, some further restructure of the requirement is predicted to occur.
Shaun Connors is a UK-based defence vehicles subject matter expert. He is co-editor of Jane’s Military Vehicles and Logistics, and consults to industry on specialist military transport and logistic-related subjects. He writes regularly for specialist defence-related publications, and also consults as a subject matter expert to national newspapers, television and radio.
© FrontLine Defence 2010