DCD Protected Mobility has completed the final batch of Husky mine detection vehicles for the United States military and is about to ship the vehicles off, the company announced this morning.
The US programme will now transition from production to sustainment, which will involve DCD supporting, improving and upgrading the vehicles over at least the next 20 years.
“We’re very excited about the potential associated with the sustainment phase of the programme, as it promises engagement with the US government and will allow the company to continuously enhance its capabilities around the Husky VMMD [Vehicle Mounted Mine Detector,” said DCD Protected Mobility general manager, Andrew Mears.
DCD became involved in the US market in the 1990s after deploying the Husky in Africa and Bosnia, leading the US Army to initiate a Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) programme, which the Husky VMMD successfully completed. The US Army then purchased the vehicle, with 10 units sent to the Sierra Army Depot in California and at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for training.
“When the US Army became involved in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Husky VMMD units were deployed to those countries and proved so successful that the US Army ordered additional systems to support their urgent operational requirements in early 2005,” Mears stated. “Once again, the units supported their operations so successfully that the US government established permanent route clearance companies with this equipment around 2007.”
Mears said that the US placed its first major order for the Husky in February 2005, when it ordered 61 vehicles. The first units were shipped three months later. Hundreds of vehicles have been delivered to the United States military, including 540 Husky systems for the US Army, 70 for the US Marine Corps and 20 through US Foreign Military Sales.
Mears said the end of US deliveries marked a “time of transition with lots of turbulence” but it was also an auspicious occasion. “This is a bittersweet day for us, delivering the last systems to the US government,” he said during a ceremony at the company’s Isando facility, which was attended by US military officials and industry partners.
Now that US production has ended, DCD is looking to sell the Husky to other foreign countries and hopes to become the “owners of the route clearance space internationally,” according to Mears. “We’ve now set our sights on identifying potential strategic partnerships to enable product development. We plan to leverage off our phenomenal success with the US Army to expand our presence in the G7 markets. We’re also following up on smaller orders from other NATO countries and US allies, which were placed as a direct result of the successful deployment of the Husky VMMD by the US Army.”
DCD said that it was working with its US partners Critical Solutions International (CSI) and Niitek (which produces Counter-IED Ground Penetrating Radars), to attract more Husky customers. Mears said that part of this strategy involves partnering with governments and other key players to meet user requirements and evolving and upgrading the vehicle. For instance, DCD has developed a two-seat version of the Husky and will demonstrate an unmanned version next week.
The Husky VMMD, previously known as the Chubby system, was developed in the 1970s for the South African Defence Force to clear roads of mines in Namibia and Angola. The system comprises of two Husky vehicles: the first acts as a Mine Detection Vehicle (MDV) (previously a Meerkat). The second vehicle (a Husky) tows a mine-detonating trailer.
The South African Army uses the Meerkat while the Husky system is being used by Canada, the USA, UK, France, Australia, Angola, Kenya, Uganda, Spain and Turkey. As of January 2012, the Husky system had taken 7 000 hits in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no mine or improvised explosive device fatalities.
The US Army recognised the Husky vehicle design with an Innovation of the Year Award for 2010. DCD said another major achievement came in September 2011 when the Husky achieved a “Full Material Release” (FMR) from the US Army – the first time that a South African-manufactured military vehicle has successfully completed this process. “Achieving FMR status was a major milestone for DCD Protected Mobility, as it meant the Husky VMMD was fully type classified and could become an approved product system within the inventories of the US Army and the US Marine Corps,” the company said.