Show of force by fleet suppliers
The Ministry of Defence is looking at replacing a light utility fleet of 14,000 vehicles across the three services. The contract is worth £500 million.
The challenge of finding a replacement vehicle is that of a newly-created team in the MoD, called Specialist and Utility Vehicles, responsible for the acquisition, management and disposal of light military vehicles and the 'white' fleet.
It forms part of the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) and Defence Logistic Organisation, overseeing the purchase and supply of vehicles to the services and Government agencies such as the Department for the Environment, the Government Car and Despatch Agency and National Probation Service. The DPA has an annual budget of £6 billion.
The programme manager for the new team is Nick Fox. He has responsibility for looking after the capability of light utility vehicles such as the Land Rover.
He said: 'Light utility vehicles are the backbone of the Army, Navy and Airforce, playing a variety of roles from forward operations in places like Iraq to homeland bases, responsible for the transport of cargo and stores. A fleet of its size and the importance placed on the vehicle means this is a hugely important project for the MoD.
'It is still in the concept phase, but already the task is proving a demanding one, with each of the services having an input on how they use the current vehicles.'
And there can be few commercial fleets that have to worry about the suitability of road-going UK-spec vehicles for use in Iraq.
'While the vehicles were acquired for use mainly in Europe, we are now seeing them used for worldwide operations as seen in the recent Iraq war, where conditions require modifications to the air filtration, air conditioning and coolant systems,' said Fox.
The new vehicle supply contract is due to be awarded in 2009.
Together with work beginning on this highly significant contract, 2004 has been a year of change in the way 'light', non-camouflaged vehicles are sourced and managed by the MoD. Until recently, there were two Combat Support Vehicle integrated project teams in the DPA. These were Combat Support Vehicles Heavy and CSV Light (CSVL), which managed vehicle projects through the early stages, from initial concept through to manufacture.
There was also a CSV Support Integrated Project Team (IPT) within the Defence Logistics Organisation whose main responsibility was the management and disposal of combat support vehicles for the services.
From October 1, 2003, these three teams were restructured to form two. One of them, the Specialist and Utility Vehicles IPT, took responsibility for utility, light forces and special project vehicles.
'It made sense to bring the elements together,' said Fox.
'Prior to the change, CSVL would acquire vehicles and then hand them over to the defence logistics organisation to manage in-service. Our responsibilities and expertise have now been combined.'
This approach now mirrors that of the commercial fleet leasing sector, where 'whole-life' vehicle management has been a mainstay for many years and the MoD's trumpeting of the new arrangement mirrors that of any number of FN50 companies.
Fox said: 'Looking across the life of our vehicles, we are better placed to consider wholelife costs more efficiently. The creation of 'through-life' teams makes good business sense.'
The changes have seen an almost fourfold increase in the number of personnel managing MoD vehicles, from 40 to 150 working across four sites.
Would you like this as your next company car?
SO you think having the latest GPS satellite navigation system is the most impressive kit available to help you cope with the rigours of inner city traffic? Well, what if your 'at-work' vehicle was equipped with a 50-calibre machine gun capable of firing up to 635 rounds a minute, each travelling more than a mile at 915 metres per second?
The Royal Marines, the SAS and 16th Air Assault Brigade, count the heavily modified Land Rover Defender XD, known as the WMIK (Weapons Mounted Installation Kit), as part of their fleet. The turbocharged V6 diesel-engined vehicle's optional extra list includes two machine guns, a bazooka, rear-mounted cannons and anti-tank missiles.
They have been used in both Gulf campaigns and can now be seen patrolling the streets of Basra in Iraq for reconnaissance and patrolling. Each has an anticipated lifespan of 15 years.
Nick Fox, programme manager for Specialist and Utility Vehicles in the Defence Procurement Agency, was responsible for the acquisition of the WMIK. He said: 'In the past soldiers would simply strap the guns to the vehicle and go. Now we have to test fire the weapons to make sure the vehicle won't roll over and there are harness seats where before they would have had bench seats.'
The WMIK can be transported in a Hercules plane and once unloaded can be ready to roll in just a few minutes.
Two-wheeler seeks UK approval
IN the near future, police officers could be patrolling the streets on them, postal workers delivering mail and power supplier making house calls. BAE Systems has been given the UK distribution rights to the Segway Human Transporter.
It's a two-wheeled mode of transport, originating from the US but relying on British technology for its most unique feature – its ability to remain upright. Plymouth-based BAE Systems developed the gyroscopes that keep the Segway balanced when someone is riding it. Five gyroscopes and two tilt sensors work together, checking the user's centre of gravity 100 times a second, instantly responding to changes in the body's position. It means that there is no need for brakes or an accelerator. Lean forward to go forward and lean back to reverse. Stand upright and the Segway stops.
It is also battery powered. Plug it into a wall socket and the battery is fully charged from flat in six hours at a cost of about 10 pence. It will then run for an average of 10 hours and has a top speed of 12mph.
In the UK some will have only become aware of it from seeing American President George Bush falling off one. But in the States the Segway HT is being used by the police, Post Office and other industries as well as by commuters, with 40 states now allowing them to be used on pavements as they are covered by the same laws as bicycles.
The Segway is now being trialled across Europe. For example, in Paris, transport company Keolis is setting up Segway hire points at Metro stations in a new form of park-and-ride.
It's only in this country that scepticism – and the law – remains a barrier. But BAE Systems is confident there will be a role for Segway among the military and the police as well as the private sector. The police are already testing it and the Segway is being assessed by the Armoured Trials and Development Unit for future use by the Army.
Andy Hughes, BAE Systems' business manager, demonstrating the machine at DVD 2004, said: 'People are sceptical until they get on it, but there are obvious practical benefits for anyone whose job involves them doing a lot of walking. For postal workers and the police the Segway provides the mobility and the range to remove most of the footwork. It would be ideal for policing streets and shopping centres.'
The Segway, which would cost about £2,500, can tackle obstacles several inches high and be used on rough ground. It can be equipped with panniers carrying up to 75lbs of gear. However, riding one on the pavement in the UK is illegal.
Keeping services safe at the wheel
YOUNG drivers in the services are being taught a lesson in safety which the UK's other fleets could benefit from too.
The Ministry of Defence considers the safe use of its vehicles by servicemen and women as important as the responsible handling of the deadly weapons in its arsenals. So young soldiers are not automatically allowed to take to roads in a vehicle belonging to the MoD's white fleet.
Liz Towers is an 'authorised demanding officer' – or fleet manager – for logistics support and facilities management at 49 (East) Brigade, based at Chilwell. She is responsible for a fleet of 470 cars, LCVs – including dog vans – coaches and minibuses across 12 counties.
The fleet mainly consists of lower-medium cars, typically Vauxhall Astra estates and staff cars such as the Vauxhall Vectra.
She said: 'Before anyone is allowed to drive a car, they must go through familiarisation training.'
Each unit has a master transport officer or 'master driver', responsible for safety and licence checking. All are qualified examiners and some hold an advanced driving licence.
'The master driver explains the key features and demonstrates various functions,' Towers said. 'Then soldiers are allowed to drive on the road and if they are satisfied, the master driver will allow the soldier to take the car. A car is a lethal weapon. We have a much higher proportion of young people expected to drive in the forces than in civvy street.'
There are, of course, accidents. The MoD has a strict policy on tackling poor driving skills. Where a driver has obviously been negligent, the guilty soldier can be put on a charge or disciplined.
Chris Higgins, commercial director for Lex Defence, which holds the contract to supply the MoD's white fleet, said of its risk management measures: 'It would be remiss for any company that considered safety important not to match the MoD's strict standards on driver care.'
MoD set to take first deliveries of new Astra
LEX Defence, responsible for the £700 million contract to supply the MoD's white fleet, is preparing to introduce the new Vauxhall Astra to its first customers.
The five-door hatchback was introduced in the UK in May and, with Lex Defence delivering an average of 15 new cars a day to service personnel, the Astra is soon to be rolled out on to its fleet.
The MoD employs 304,000 people across the Royal Navy, Army and RAF and its agencies. Any of these staff members could be the driver of vehicles provided by Lex Defence through the UK white fleet contract. And cars make up 53% of the fleet contract.
Chris Higgins, Lex Defence commercial director, said: 'The new model will, in time, become a key feature of the MoD's white fleet, as there are more than 2,400 Astras in current use.'
In this category of vehicle Lex Defence runs a fleet of Vauxhalls and Fords, with the Griffin badge taking a 58% share, in an arrangement made in 2000. Higgins said at the DVD show: 'This event is key to promoting the new Astra. We have invited all MoD fleet managers here to offer them test drives.'
The cars delivered will almost exclusively be diesels, with a very small number of gas bi-fuel vehicles.
Armour-plated defence guards against bomb and bullet attacks
EIGHT members of the anti-mine charity, the HALO Trust, working in Namibia, Africa, had a lucky escape when the Land Rover Defender in which they were travelling went over an anti-tank mine. The explosion shattered the front of the vehicle, blowing out the engine block.
All eight HALO mine-clearers survived. One lost a foot, but only due to the poor medical care he received.
Setting off such a mine would normally have blown the Land Rover off its wheels, but this was no ordinary Defender. It had been fitted with armour by UK company Penman.
A spokesman at the show said: 'The Land Rover was fitted with anti-personnel protection only – not to counter anything the size of an anti-tank mine.'
Penman modifies cars for police forces, the military and diplomatic staff, taking standard Vauxhall Vectras, Ford Mondeos and Toyota Land Cruisers and equipping them with steel and ceramic armour and bulletproof glass.
Many elements of the process remain a trade secret to prevent terrorists thwarting the armourer's skills.
The spokesman said: 'Some customers, like the police and Foreign Office, want discreet protection, where changes to the vehicle aren't obvious. Others, such as cash carriers, want to make it obvious to act as a deterrent.'
Modifications include the addition of a steel frame into which plastic composite panels are fitted, which provide protection without being heavy. Glass has to be tough enough to withstand being struck by bullets travelling at 1,000 metres per second.
And attacks are common-place. 'Vehicles we have issued to diplomatic staff are regularly engaged with small arms fire. Bandits, particularly in Africa, are always taking pot-shots at them.'
Armouring can add up to three-quarters of a tonne to a car's weight. Other modifications include run-flat tyres, high decibel alarms, two-way communication from inside the vehicle (in order to talk to assailants) and anti- stall devices. 'So sticking a potato up the exhaust pipe will not stop you,' the spokesman said.
A modified Vectra can cost up to £70,000 and a Toyota Land Cruiser £85,000.
Hybrid's debut brings Jeep legacy up to date
A MILITARY version of the Jeep Wrangler had its UK debut at the DVD show, together with a hybrid-powered version of the Dodge Ram, showcasing the latest DaimlerChrysler hybrid power-train technology.
The Jeep Wrangler TJL continues a tradition for Jeep going back to World War II, when the American Army began using the purpose-built four-wheel drive vehicle the Willys MB, nicknamed the 'Jeep'.
For the modern military, the Jeep Wrangler TJL has been modified to handle additional payloads with a heavy-duty axle, cargo bay and upgraded suspension.
It has seating for eight people and a wheelbase 22 inches longer than the standard civilian vehicle. Power comes from a 4.0-litre PowerTech, six-cylinder petrol engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission or, for the first time in a Wrangler, the TJL will be available from 2005 with a four-cylinder 2.8-litre diesel engine.
Also on display was the Dodge Ram Combatt 2 hybrid demonstrator vehicle, a military version of a Dodge Ram 2500 full-size pick-up truck.
The prototype is powered by a 5.9-litre turbodiesel engine with a PowerGen hybrid system. One of the key features of the PowerGen system is portable AC power, available either when the vehicle is stationary with the engine idling, while the vehicle is being driven by batteries when the diesel engine is switched off.
Simon Elliott, managing director for Chrysler Group in the UK, said: 'These new prototypes demonstrate some of the technology we may be seeing in our civilian vehicles in the future. Although developed to address the needs of the military, they could also have a role with aid agencies, utility companies and emergency services.'