DCD Protected Mobility has for the first time showcased its Husky unmanned route clearance vehicle in South Africa, and is offering the type to the South African Army to meet an emerging potential requirement.
The Husky comes in several variants, including the single seat Husky Mk III, two seat Husky 2G and optionally manned Autonomous Husky, which can be controlled remotely. The vehicles were demonstrated to the South African Army earlier this month – the Army has a potential requirement for route clearance/mine detection vehicles and has already expanded its handheld mine detection capability. The South African National Defence Force already operates older versions of the Meerkat/Husky. DCD said it was the first time that the unmanned version had been showcased in Africa.
The Husky has been fitted with the Route Clearance Platform Autonomous Control Kit (RC-PACK), which allows the vehicle to be operated in manned, tele-operational or autonomous modes. Although this was integrated a couple of years ago, this configuration has only just been demonstrated in South Africa. The unmanned Husky can be operated from a distance of around two kilometres away, but range depends on the radio frequency.
The autonomous Husky research and development programme was initiated by the United States Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Centre (Tardec) with development by Critical Solutions International (CSI), Torc Robotics, DCD and Tub. Requirements were for a route clearance speed of 5-25 km/h, obstacle recognition, emergency stop system and surveillance cameras. The United States Army is the largest user of the Husky.
The Husky can be fitted with a wide variety of sensors, including ground penetrating radar, metal content detection system, laser radar (lidar), cameras etc. DCD has been exploring the fitment of remote weapons stations onto the Husky, and last year added a Denel 7.62 mm remote weapon station onto the vehicle. This remotely controlled turret is available in either 5.56 or 7.62 mm calibres and is designed to protect against sniper attacks and ambushes. Other mission equipment includes an optional Owl 360 degree camera system and SWAT III gunshot detection system.
The two seat Husky 2G was developed due to the longer duration of route clearance missions, resulting in less strain on the operators. It can detect, mark and interrogate landmines and IED threats depending on equipment fitted to the vehicle. An optional mine roller system can be added to the vehicle. Other additions are a nine metre long interrogation arm that can lift objects up to 70 kg, and a cyclone blower.
The 9 350 kg Husky has a payload of 2 650 kg and is powered by a Mercedes Benz 6.4 litre six cylinder tubodiesel delivering 201 horsepower and giving a governed top speed of 72 km/h and range of 350 km. All-wheel steering is provided for extra manoeuvrability. Typical route clearance speed is 3-12 km/h, as this gives the vehicle enough time to stop if it detects a threat. The metal detector and ground penetrating radar can detect a three metre wide path during route clearance.
In case the vehicle detonates an explosive, it has been engineered so that it predictably breaks apart and can be quickly repaired – much of the blast damage is dissipated due to the vehicle’s narrow hull and tubular wheel module design. Blast protection is STANAG 4569 level 4A and 4B (10 kg) and ballistic protection is STANAG 4569 up to level 3 (7.62 x 54 mm armour piercing).
Husky operators have survived over 7 000 blasts, with only three fatalities so far: one operator was killed by an RPG hitting the vehicle (the Husky has subsequently been fitted with an RPG net); another operator was killed when an IED detonated under a bridge resulting in the bridge crushing the vehicle, and the third operator was killed when the vehicle overturned due to a blast and he fell out because the roof hatch was unlocked. In March this year in Turkey, a Husky operator survived a 100 kg remotely detonated IED. Although the vehicle was damaged, it was speedily repaired and put back into service.
Cornelius Grundling – General Manager DCD Protected Mobility – said the Husky provides assured mobility by ensuring a route is clear. He said that there is a growing threat from asymmetric warfare, especially with groups like Boko Haram and al Shabaab making heavy use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). He noted that there are an estimated 110 million landmines in 64 countries around the world, resulting in 800 deaths a month. He noted it cost ten times the cost of purchase to clear a landmine.
Some of the most heavily mined countries include Egypt (23 million), Angola (15 million) and Iran (16 million).
The Husky, and other DCD Protected Mobility products, are on display at the Africa Aerospace and Defence 2016 exhibition at Air Force Base Waterkloof.