Defence And Freedom
I’ll try to build my own vehicle strategy here. It’s meant as a baseline for comparison with actual vehicle inventories. I am fully aware that developing an actual vehicle inventory is messy, incremental, and done by successive leaderships.
The comparison is thus not necessarily a critique, but rather an try to make the difference between actual and optimal (or what I believe could be optimal) visible.
(1) Road march and driver efficiency
Up to as quarter of the personnel of a division or brigade might be full-time or part-time drivers. Almost none of these troops would abandon their vehicle during contact and fight in effective small units. This drain of personnel strength is astonishing. Many formations have a substantially lower share of drivers, albeit 15-20% drivers continues to be bad enough. The trouble doubles once you assume a second man within the cabin for manning a defensive gun. This issue adds to the attractiveness of big, high capacity vehicles as you get more capacity per head.
The same effect is visible in regard to maintenance. The maintenance requirements of trucks do not scale nearly with their nominal or average payload. Again, attractiveness bonus for prime capacity vehicles.
The third effect of this kind is about column length. Both the convoy length and convoy time of passing a certain point (from first to last vehicle) must be short. A high capacity vehicle may have five times the payload of a small one, but be only about twice as long. The mandated spacing between vehicles (for avoidance of traffic issues, accidents and for diminishing the effect of attacks) is even the exact same for a car and a heavy truck.
As a consequence of these considerations, I am no fan of light trucks. A HMMWV-based vehicle park may be very suboptimal in my view.
Many vehicles have functions which only require a 1.5 or two-ton truck’s payload capacity, and the common practice is to not allocate a much bigger vehicle than necessary for the job. Sometime ago I already wrote about my alternative; multi-role vehicles. A light truck with a radio cabin may be replaced by a medium truck with a radio cabin, a powered water purifier, surplus diesel fuel capacity, and a small flatbed with some supplies, for instance. The general quantity of vehicles could be decreased, and the overall quantity of drivers and gunners could be decreased.
one ACMAT VLRA version (light truck)
(2) Spare parts logistics
Having the identical steering wheel in all trucks is a largely pointless commonality, but having the identical engine spare parts (even when the engines of two trucks have a unique cylinder count) or the identical tires (two or three standard tire sizes could suffice for nearly all vehicles) is a unique story. The French had great success with their ACMAT VLRA family of vehicles and Germany had partial standardisation with its MAN trucks as well. I’m under the impression that these laudable efforts are withering away.
(3) Fuel standardisation
Most modern armies have standardised on diesel fuel, with some jet fuel for rotary aviation. This move of the 70’s and 80’s was a wise one, but it surely also helped to drive motorcycles out of the armies, and that was probably not such a good suggestion. Luckily, there are a number of diesel engines for medium weight motorcycles available off the shelf today, so an ideal fuel standardisation on diesel fuel ought to be self-evident nowadays. You never know what dearly paid-for lesson the bureaucracies throw out of the window next, though.
(4) Night march capability.
A limitation of headlight effects was important in the course of the Second World War as much as the Vietnam War, but modern combat aviation has introduced sensors which question the relevance of such discipline nowadays.
The suppression of the visible light signature at night should still be worthwhile because of the ground threat, though. This assumes that only negligible civilian traffic drives at night, after all. Civilian trucks would both provide false positives to hostiles and the chance of traffic accidents with dark military trucks would force the latter to change on their headlights on temporarily with a purpose to avoid crashes.
One solution to the issue is the use of infrared driving aids
Using such driver’s aids actually adds another issue: It makes little sense to build mixed convoys of vehicles some of which have such aids and others don’t. I suppose easy hairstyles for long hair for school we have to limit the employment of such driver’s aids for some years to come, and i assume the vehicles in manoeuvre and scouting units should get such aids, as should the advance guard of large convoys.
We must always always afford the quite simple, cheap yet effective devices used for night marches at correct intervals used up to wigs now. Mere reflector crosses and other simplistic pro forma measure for night driving safety aren’t nearly pretty much as good.
(5) Climate control
German military vehicles need only the basic heater and no cooling climate control. Neither Germany nor NATO or EU may be defended in an African desert, period.
Cabins stuffed with electronics are an obvious exception, after all. There should nevertheless be provisions for an upgrade with a standardised climate control kit (for export, if nothing else).
(6) Fuel tanks, road range
Wheeled vehicles can quite easily reach great on-road ranges. 1,000 km is well possible, and 1,500 km is feasible as well. It has been documented that even in heavy formations the trucks are the principle fuel guzzlers, not the tanks. Even the notorious thirst of the Abrams tank prior to introduction of its auxiliary power unit didn’t change this. Logistical trucks drive more and are so numerous that their combined movement of weight is way greater than the combined movement of armoured vehicle weight even of a mechanised brigade.
Now let’s take into consideration that manoeuvre forces (corresponding to a mechanised brigade) are very difficult to resupply during mobile warfare. Often times they receive supplies only every second day, even if daily resupply was intended. The longer they can make do without resupply, the less trouble for the leadership. The extra fuel thirst from carrying the additional weight of extra fuel and fuel capacity does not come close to compensate for this.
I might thus set a minimum road range of 500 km (apart from motorcycles) under realistic conditions including whatever electrical power needs to be supplied for the payload. The vehicle fleet as a whole should have about 1,000 km road range. The transfer of fuel from longer-endurance vehicles to shorter-endurance ones must be possible, quick and straightforward with on-board equipment. This manner the upper fuel capacity vehicles (heavy trucks) would probably be the one ones being refuelled by fuel resupply after which much of this fuel could be further distributed over time to lower endurance vehicles. The filling of fuel tanks ought to be visible outside, so no driver could refuse handy out fuel as long as his truck’s fuel supply is above a marked level (such as equivalent to 500 km road range), by claiming that he is short on fuel.
Armour protection for trucks is terribly in fashion nowadays. Even RPG-proofing with the aesthetic armageddon of cages is widespread. Protection against mines is targeted on the command-detonated types, both below the hull (V-shaped belly, shock absorbing structure, roof-mounted seats) and roadside.
The classic pressure-fused mine threat is being neglected by comparison (otherwise we would like to have the front axle well ahead of the cabin, so the cabin isn’t directly above the explosion of a pressure-fused mine). We also don’t care much nowadays about scatterable mines either. Anti-vehicle (anti-tank) mines may be scattered by multiple rocket launchers, combat aircraft, dispensers underslung a helicopter et cetera. I suppose this threat is something to consider for vehicles in a manoeuvre formation.
Does up-armoring make sense It depends. One thing is certain, though; it does again favour the higher capacity vehicles. The armour protection for a truck cabin weighs in at a few ton, so two-ton trucks cannot reasonably be up-armoured and still be employed in a two-ton truck role. The drivers of 15-ton trucks barely notice a difference.
It is smart to keep the overall standard truck design compatible with up-armouring and lightly armoured versions, but I doubt that today’s fashion of very much protected cabins and trucks will last for long.
We are going to probably return to mere bullet-proofing and add a reduction of secondary effects (reduced fire hazard, spall liners to limit the effect of penetrations, protection against common mines) to it. Even this sort of protection could also be limited to those units most exposed to wartime hazards.
(8) Fuel consumption
Very high pressure tires, much electronics, no armour weight and very aerodynamic, curved shapes would be ideal for fuel efficiency. Instead, many military vehicles are rather technically primitive, boxy vehicles. Modern civilian trucks are in between.
I suppose there is a golden middle. We are able to have the electronics, but the vehicles should keep going in a back-up mode if they fail. We are able to have the boxy cabin structures that allow easy addition of armoured panels, but we will have aerodynamic, curved skins on them. The 1950’s era innovation of central tire inflation systems is widespread anyway and allows for top air pressure tires during road marches and soft, wide tires on soft soil. Alternatively we could use airless tires.
(9) Off-road requirements
Most vehicles do not need greater agility or off-road ability than the trucks used in the forestry industry. Those which need better off-road ability could be divided into groups. The greatest off-road aspirations would have the scouting vehicles and combat engineer vehicles (some of which could even be reasonably equipped for amphibious movement) followed by combat vehicles. Most other vehicles even in manoeuvre formations wouldn’t drive in difficult terrain often. Most significantly, they’re unlikely to cross drainage ditches, fences or walls often. Driver training is a greater determinant of off-road capability in such trucks than the gearbox or axles. There’s little to be gained by noticeable variations in the off-road capability of such vehicles. An offroad-wonder similar to a Unimog in the same unit as a barely modified 7-ton road truck would allow the convoy effect to kick in: The leader would have to limit his routes and speed in keeping with the limits of the poorest vehicles and drivers.
(10) On-board spare parts
I’ve long-lost the source, but I remember an anecdote a few convoy in Bosnia throughout the 90’s which got harassed by snipers so badly that hundreds of tires were ruined during a day’s trip. Sure, now we have run-flat tires nowadays, but once pierced these still require replacement and a minimum of some serious repair. The very small quantity of spare tires has always irritated me. I suppose we want many more, and vehicles needs to be prepared to hold many more full quality spare tires, ready for a fast change. Two full quality and inflated spare tires on or in a four-wheel vehicle must be normal, not noteworthy. Again, airless tires may be an inexpensive alternative.
All trucks should have the rather large radio antennas (to maintain observers from identifying leadership vehicles) and all should be (are) prepared to accept a quick upgrade with a military radio set.
Short-range (hundreds of metres, with automatic relay function) radios needs to be in all vehicles. Their use shouldn’t be more distracting than unavoidable. The costs of this type of technology have dropped a lot that there is actually no excuse for not having short-range radios in all trucks. No troops should be forced to resort to improvisations with civilian mobile phones.
(12) Camouflage and deception
Certain paints can reduce infrared contrast, certain netting can reduce both radar and infrared signatures. Exhausts and coolers will be placed and designed to depart less of a signature.
All these signature reduction measures needs to be considered with the possibility of blending with civilian-type vehicle traffic in mind. I’m probably not thinking of mixing with civilian traffic, but many civilian trucks with quick military paintjobs could be used in a significant conflict. They can be driven either by contractors or by soldiers.
Either way, they would be lower priority targets than the dedicated military trucks. The latter possess more capabilities, are more likely to be part of manoeuvre forces, and are more likely carrying valuable equipment.
The heavy army trucks should thus be able to modify between an almost civilian appearance and trying to cover entirely (not on the move, after all). Special versions equivalent to trucks with multiple rocket launchers or expensive air defence or electronic warfare equipment should be able to look identical to their less important military truck cousins of the same basic vehicle type.
(13) Crew comfort aside from temperature control
Many heavy civilian trucks possess a module on top of the cabin (or in its rear) with a bunk for sleeping. Military trucks do not, for somehow we still pretend that a weapon on most if not all trucks is a good idea.
We should nevertheless provide some more comfort for these troops. Sleep deprivation is a large problem during military campaigns, and it’s well-known that tired drivers cause many accidents. These accidents are ‘friction’ which sabotages the execution of the commander’s intent. A discount of this friction requires enough sleep for drivers. Yes, this should be a truck design issue, too. The truck’s side could have a quick folding tent roof and a quick-folding camp bed with enough insulation for a European spring or autumn night. Maybe there is actually enough personnel for 2 men per cabin; the second ought to be easily able to regulate his seat, get a pillow and sleep during a road march. Many cabins weren’t designed with this in mind.
(14) Navy and air force have little need for standardisation or off-road capabilities
Dump all vehicles which were found deficient in practice there.
It ought to be possible to satisfy the need for trucks during an emergency doubling of the army within six months. The production of enough trucks needs to be possible on short notice and civilian commandeered trucks should be adapted in time.
(16) Temperature range
Useful down to about -40°C, without excessive breakages. This includes suitable coolants, rubbers and lubricants.
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