As the Arctic ice is receding and Russian and Chinese projection of power in the region increases, the need for upgrading the military’s all-terrain vehicles is apparent. With the Army’s new strategy for the Arctic released back in March, the plan is to modernize and increase the U.S. presence in the region. Therefore, the Army is searching for a new all-terrain vehicle for use in the Arctic.
The Army is looking to replace the BvS-206D Small Unit Support Vehicles (SUSV) made by the Swedish company Hägglunds. These vehicles have a 1980s design and are out of production, thus hard to maintain.
The Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subpanel added $8.25 million above the president’s FY21 defense budget request for testing of prototypes with a delivery date of June 14 and another $9.25 million to actually begin buying vehicles, according to Defense News. The plan calls for the purchase of 110 vehicles initially, with a total purchase of 163 Cold Weather All-Terrain Vehicles (CATVs).
The Army has narrowed the choice to two prototypes, one from Oshkosh Defense and another from BAE Systems. These will compete in the service’s Cold Weather All-Terrain Vehicle competition that will take place in Alaska this year.
Both designs will be articulated carriers. An articulated carrier is one that consists of a forward and a rear section linked together by a common, flexible drive chain.
The benefit of this design is that it allows the carrier to better navigate steep inclines since its two halves move independently, making it easier for the vehicle to keep its tracks on the ground as it moves over inclines. This provides an advantage over a larger, longer-tracked vehicle.
Oshkosh released a statement saying that they will “deliver two prototypes – one General Purpose and one Cargo vehicle for testing and soldier evaluation… The prototypes will be evaluated on payload, mobility, crush resistance, swimming, and transportability,” in the FY 2021 third quarter.
Pat Williams, Oshkosh’s vice president and general manager of U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps programs said in a statement, “Oshkosh Defense and ST Engineering bring together an abundance of defense industry and manufacturing expertise to address the U.S. Army’s need for a proven vehicle that can easily maneuver in arctic environments.”
Oshkosh’s Bronco 3 is an improvement over the Bronco 2 which the British were operating in Afghanistan. It is amphibious, with a new and improved hull design. The rubber-tracked drive train gives the Bronco 3 a very low ground pressure, making its cross-country performance much improved.
The Bronco 3 can reach speeds of 40 miles per hour. Its rear section is easily configured using a modular design and can be used as a troop carrier, command and control center, ambulance, or configured into a weapons version. The remote weapons configuration on its front section, similar to the British version, will allow troops inside to neutralize threats without having to expose themselves to the elements. A video of the Bronco 3 can be seen here.
BAE Systems’ entry in the competition is the “Beowulf.” An earlier version of Beowulf, the “Viking,” was also used by the British in Afghanistan. The Beowulf also features a rubber-tracked design.
Like the Bronco 3, the Beowulf will have multiple configurations allowing it to carry TOW missiles or heavy mortar (120mm) sections. It will also come in command and control, and remote weapons variants. The Beowulf can be slung under the CH-47 Chinook. A video of the Beowulf can be seen here.
The Army wants to be able to deliver these vehicles by airdropping them from C-130s.
The testing is expected to take place over a six-month period from June through December. But whichever prototype the Army chooses it will better allow it to project power in the Arctic. Near-peer competition with Russia and China has already spread to the far-flung regions of the Arctic.