Cold combat: BAE Systems and Oshkosh vie for US Army’s CATV programme
Russia is amassing unprecedented military might in the Arctic and testing its newest weapons in a region freshly ice-free due to the climate emergency. In the second part of our Arctic warfare special, Berenice Healey compares the vehicles shortlisted for the US Army’s Cold Weather All-Terrain Vehicle programme to support any future ground-based Arctic combat scenario.
The Arctic region presents unparalleled challenges to overland transport, and the US Army is seeking tough new vehicles that can operate in very cold and icy conditions. In April, the army selected two suppliers to provide prototype vehicles to undergo vigorous testing for its Cold Weather All-Terrain Vehicle (CATV) programme.
In preparation for the Arctic conditions tests, the two teams have delivered their prototypes. A consortium of Oshkosh Defense and ST Engineering has provided Oshkosh CATV vehicles, based on Oshkosh’s Bronco 3 forward operating vehicle (FoV).
Meanwhile, BAE Systems Hägglunds has supplied Beowulf, a vehicle based on the BvS10 used by the UK’s Royal Marines. The British Armed Forces also operate a variant of the Bronco known as the Warthog.
The vehicles are set to undergo testing and soldier evaluation in the third quarter of 2021, with a decision due in 2022, after which the selected vehicle will go straight into production. Ahead of the trials, we put the proposed vehicles head-to-head to find out more.
In the red corner, Mike McCarthy, BAE Systems director – communications and media relations, makes the case for Beowulf. In the blue corner, Pat Williams, Oshkosh Defense vice-president and general manager, US Army and USMC programmes, champions the Bronco.
The positive impacts on social mobility are, frankly, amazing.
The CATV programme is largely focused on operations in the Arctic or in Arctic conditions, which is exactly what Beowulf is designed and suited for.
Beowulf is truly an all-terrain vehicle, capable of operating just about anywhere, whether it’s snow, ice, rock, sand, mud, swamp or on steep mountains. In addition, its amphibious capability means it can swim in flooded areas or coastal waters. Its design is based on decades of BAE Systems experience.
Our legacy vehicle, the Bv206, which is the vehicle the US Army is replacing, and our armoured BvS10, currently operating with five European nations, have logged millions of miles in Arctic conditions, and all of that experience plays into Beowulf’s design and capabilities.
// BAE Systems Hägglunds has a facility in northern Sweden where arctic conditions prevail, including boggy ground in summer. Credit: BAE Systems.
Built on the all-terrain capability of the Bronco FoV, the Oshkosh CATV is a versatile, transportable platform with tremendous growth potential. It has been specifically tailored to meet the needs of the soldier and the demands of the mission.
The Bronco FoV has capabilities to help accomplish the diversity of an Arctic dominance mission, including a powerful drivetrain and low ground pressure to offer exceptional on-and-off-road mobility. It is proven to conquer over 80% of the world’s most difficult terrain, including swamps, deserts and snow. It offers the ability to perform amphibious missions by swimming or traversing other water obstacles at a speed of 2.5mph (4km/h).
// Oshkosh Defense and ST Engineering have built two prototypes – one General Purpose and one Cargo. Credit: Oshkosh Defense
We are contracted to provide two vehicles, a General Purpose and a Cargo vehicle. Both have arrived in the US and have been handed over to the US Army for the prototype evaluation demonstration that is taking place for the next six months, including the cold part of the year.
Oshkosh Defense and ST Engineering have built two prototypes – one General Purpose and one Cargo. The prototypes were delivered to the US Army Cold Regions Test Center in Alaska by the June 14th deadline. The Oshkosh CATV offers built-in mission modularity to accommodate a variety of configurations to meet the US Army’s operational needs now and in the future.
Changes made to the base vehicle
Beowulf’s front cabin has a different look than the BvS10 as it applies more of a commercial standard of a cabin design, so its appearance is different but functionally remains the same.
The requirement for an unarmoured vehicle opens it up to provide more volume and payload and better ergonomics than in an armoured vehicle. It does not have to use small, armoured glass windows, meaning operators can see out more easily, allowing for better situational awareness, which is important for the CATV mission of supporting homeland defence, defence support for civil authorities and search and rescue.
// Credit: BAE Systems.
Due to the ongoing competition, we cannot provide CATV specifications. However, I can tell you that the CATV is a versatile, transportable platform with tremendous growth potential.
The Bronco 3 is part of ST Engineering’s Bronco Family of Vehicle (FoV), which has proven its capability to operate in austere conditions, from trials performed above the Arctic Circle to fielded operations in the mountainous and desert terrain of Afghanistan.
// Credit: Oshkosh Defense
Overcoming harsh Arctic conditions
Having the production facility in northern Sweden, where Arctic conditions prevail, allows us to test in that environment right outside the factory as we engineered the Beowulf and previous all-terrain vehicles.
The close contact with our customer base, with thousands of Bv206s out there over decades, provides us with a continuous flow of valuable experience applied to our development of these vehicles.
We know how to provide a soldier-based solution and understand how that differs from civilian use. For example, heat in the crew compartment is important, but it has to be done in a way that doesn’t melt the snow on soldiers’ uniforms or create a damp situation that could freeze up and become an injury risk as soldiers move around in or exit the vehicle.
We know how to do that. So, it is not just about heat and power, it involves thinking about everything.
It is also important to know that even an Arctic environment has a summer when mobility can be equally challenging because there are bogs, mires, and lakes that these vehicles have to traverse, and it can be harder to cross than when those surfaces are frozen.
Another key aspect is designing a vehicle like Beowulf for low ground pressure. Beowulf’s ground pressure per square inch or meter is less than that of a human foot, allowing it to largely stay on the surface of deep snow whereas a walking human would tend to sink into it. The human foot is about 11 pounds per square inch, depending on foot size; Beowulf is four pounds per square inch.
In March 2021, the US Army announced the release of its 'Arctic Strategy: Regaining Arctic Dominance' policy, which outlines how it will man, train, organise and equip our forces as a great power competition heats up.
We’ve worked closely with the US Army to comprehend their Arctic Strategy, analyse their requirements, understand their challenges and explore solutions. This close collaboration has allowed Oshkosh to provide a CATV solution that fulfils the technical and mission performance objectives of a vehicle designed to accommodate the demands of an Arctic dominance mission.
Specifically, the US Army’s Arctic Strategy calls for equipment able to operate at extreme temperatures. The Oshkosh CATV is based on the Bronco FoV, which has demonstrated the ability to operate in extreme temperatures ranging from -49°F (-45°c) to 120°F (49°C).
It also needs to support sustained operations in extreme cold weather and mountain environments; the Oshkosh CATV offers a higher payload capacity, exceeding programme requirements and a more spacious cabin than the current Small Unit Support Vehicle. Based on an armoured, proven Bronco FoV, the Oshkosh CATV also has the growth potential to perform a variety of missions in unpredictable, challenging environments.
// Main image: BAE Systems’ Beowulf and Oshkosh’s CATV are facing off in the US Army’s CATV programme trials. Credit: BAE Systems/Oshkosh Defense