The international market for light wheeled combat vehicles remains a highly competitive and dynamic environment. That’s the view of defence industry analysis house Forecast International (FI).
In its annual “The Market for Light Wheeled Vehicles” report the FI Weapons Group says it expects the market will produce over 71 300 light wheeled vehicles, worth in excess of US$21.789 billion in the period to 2017.
FI has considered the impact of the AM General High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) on the light wheeled vehicle market since 2005. Prior to the emergence of the global war on terror, the HMMWV served as essentially a utility vehicle, not a dedicated combat vehicle.
However, in the asymmetric warfare environment of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, circumstances are forcing the HMMWV to evolve into a light armored vehicle.
Dean Lockwood, a weapons systems analyst at FI notes that the HMMWV has a significant impact on the overall market.
“As the market statistics clearly indicate, the HMMWV will utterly dominate the market during the forecast period,” Lockwood said. “We expect the HMMWV will account for 67.76 percent of all light wheeled vehicle production worldwide, worth a commanding 34.18 percent of the market value, through 2017.”
Despite the dominance of the HMMWV, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle program has emerged as the short-term star of the market.
Through September 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense has placed orders for 15 197 MRAP vehicles, with deliveries to be complete next year. The total value of all MRAP-related contract awards up to this September 2008 is nearly $12.406 billion.
During the 2008-2009 timeframe, FI expects the four primary MRAP contractors – BAE Systems, Force Protection Industries, General Dynamics Land Systems and Navistar/IMG – will combine to produce 11 590 MRAP vehicles in various configurations.
This level of production makes MRAP the second-most prolific program in this market, accounting for 16.24 percent of all light wheeled vehicle production worldwide, worth 28.85 percent of the market value, through 2017, Lockwood says.
Lockwood adds that the US Marine Corps originally defined MRAP as a short term program to fill a very specific mission role. “And – despite all the bluster and political maneuvering we have seen in this country (claims that MRAP vehicles would replace all HMMWV, etc.), the MRAP program has ultimately remained within the limits of the original requirement. No more, no less,” he says in comments emailed to defenceWeb.
He adds that experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has taught the US a number of lessons with regard to MRAP-type vehicles. These are:
· An over-emphasis on armor protection and blast-proofing can yield a wheeled vehicle with such limited maneuverability as to have questionable utility as a tactical vehicle in combat. This is precisely what we have seen with the first-generation MRAP vehicles. Due to their weight and high center of gravity, these vehicles possess virtually no cross-country maneuverability, limiting them to operations on established high-load roads.
· The next generation of MRAP-type vehicles must strike a balance between armor protection and tactical maneuverability if they are to be of any real value on the asymmetric battlefield. Thus, we see the movement in the U.S. towards a lighter MRAP-type vehicle to fill the JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) requirement for a light armored vehicle to supplement (not replace) the HMMWV.
· Given the current state of armor and automotive technology, MRAP-type vehicles will continue to fill limited and clearly defined roles (explosive ordnance disposal convoy escort, high value target transport, C4I, etc.) between unarmored or lightly-armored wheeled tactical vehicles (HMMWV, etc.) and heavier wheeled armored fighting vehicles (Piranha/Stryker, etc.).
“The MRAP experience has demonstrated the viability of an international niche market for this class of vehicle. Consequently, I expect to see any number of MRAP-type vehicle designs emerge world-wide. Note that some such vehicles actually pre-date MRAP on the international market – such as the Australia`s Bushmaster and Germany`s Dingo,” he further adds.
“When all is said and done, we see that MRAP-type vehicles are clearly not the ‘wave of the future` in terms of armored vehicle design. These mission-specific vehicles will simply become one more arrow in an army`s quiver.”
Lockwood says presuming MRAP is the way of the future means assuming the era of high intensity conventional warfare is over. He adds there is no evidence of that and one may indeed ask if the present operations in Iraq and Afghanistan not represent a doctrinal aberration.
“Perhaps more to the point, are counterinsurgency operations not simply one element of the full spectrum of modern combat doctrine? Regardless of the doctrinal basis, U.S. troops in Iraq clearly favor the tactical flexibility of a Stryker over the armor of an MRAP vehicle. The mobility limitations of MRAP vehicles in Afghanistan have been amply documented.”
“A number of U.S. Soldiers have told me that they use their MRAPs primarily as cargo carriers and evacuation vehicles while on patrol in Iraq. They prefer to patrol on foot whenever possible, maintaining the “boots on the ground” initiative – something they cannot do while isolated inside an MRAP vehicle.
“They tell me it is often difficult to dismount and remount an MRAP vehicle (which many U.S. troops call “IED magnets”), especially in full equipment and under fire. Let`s face it, they have a point. Counterinsurgency operations are – and always have been – a distinctly eyeball-to-eyeball form of combat.”