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Militaries race for Extreme cold weather vehicles for possible Arctic conflict and mountain warfare

As the Global warming is melting the Arctic ice, and opening up new shipping trade routes and real estate, intense resource competition over an estimated $1 trillion untapped reserves of oil, natural gas and minerals has started. Human activities have grown in the Arctic by almost 400 percent in the last decade, the U.S. board estimated, in terms of shipping, mining, energy exploration, fishing and tourism. Considering its geostrategic importance many countries including Russia and US  are planning military presence to protect their interests.

 

The average Arctic winter temperature is -30° F (-34°C), while the average Arctic summer temperature is 37-54° F (3-12° C). In Arctic, Surface and subsurface drainage is poor and creates muddy summertime conditions. Cold-weather warfare, also known as Arctic warfare or winter warfare, encompasses military operations affected by snow, ice, thawing conditions or cold, both on land and at sea. Cold-weather conditions occur year-round at high elevation or at high latitudes, and elsewhere materialise seasonally during the winter period. Mountain warfare often takes place in cold weather or on terrain that is affected by ice and snow, such as the Alps and the Himalayas.

 

Extreme cold weather such as Arctic continues to present challenges impacting transportation systems and the safety of all transportation service providers and users. These include airport closures; equipment breakdowns and failures; frozen fuel; rail and shipping delays; induced schedule breakdowns and bottlenecks in the logistics and supply chain networks.

 

Cold weather impacts

The cold has been identified as an enemy of military forces and equipment since the beginning of recorded history. When employed in a cold region, a force actually faces two enemies–the tactical enemy and the environment that also aggressively attacks and can destroy equipment and men. Army forces may be required to conduct sustained operations in temperatures as low as -65° Fahrenheit (F). Under such conditions, personnel are subject to decreased efficiency and cold casualties, equipment is prone to breakdowns, supply problems are increased, and operations are restricted and complicated by the environment.

 

In the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese learned the importance of foot care, keeping feet dry and warm with replacement socks. In WWI doctors realized that trench foot was prolonged exposure to cold, wet conditions on the feet, which were exacerbated by the use of tight puttees, bandage-like leg wrappings

 

Units are less maneuverable in icy conditions or deep snow. Deep snow reduces vehicle traction on hills and increases the chances of breakdown/damage caused by hidden obstacles. Motorized units are restricted almost exclusively to roads. Also, personnel have a tendency to operate close to vehicles, which is tactically unwise. Trailers and towed artillery pieces further reduce mobility. The emplacement of artillery pieces for fire missions is very difficult.

 

In high mountain operations, equipment must be prepared for cold weather prior to arriving in the theater of operation. Most vehicles are designed to operate in temperate climates and must undergo winterization to function properly in the cold. Cold weather kits are necessary for every vehicle and include tire chains for all wheels, tire chain repair kit, deicer, non-freeze windshield wiper fluid, scrapers, tow bars
or straps, extra chock blocks, and plastic or canvas to cover windshields to reduce buildup of ice or frost.

 

Maintenance of mechanical equipment is exceptionally difficult in the field during cold weather. Added time is needed to complete tasks. Even shop maintenance cannot be completed at normal speed. Mechanics must allow equipment to thaw out and warm up before making repairs.

 

The proper antifreeze materials are critical for cold operations. One of the greatest hindrances to successful military operations in a winter environment is the effect of cold on batteries. The storage battery’s available energy decreases sharply when temperatures fall. Power requirements for starting an engine increase when the battery is least capable of delivering power. Current delivered at 15° F is

 

Military Vehicles

Small cargo vehicles with improved cross-country mobility sustain and transport units at high altitudes. For example, a vehicle used in recent mountain operations is the Small Unit Support Vehicle (SUSV), formerly a program of record and produced by Hagglunds of Sweden.

 

The SUSVs are specially designed for  restrictive terrain, can operate on top of snow, if the snow can support the weight, or through snow up to 1.2 meters (four feet) deep, and can drive over any road with packed snow. In snow, tracked, over-the-snow vehicles are invariably required for movement off roads and necessary on roads in icy conditions.

 

All-terrain vehicles, such as the John Deere Gator, are useful in the mountains. They are highly mobile but may be limited by their lack of protection against enemy fires, mines, or IEDs. Snowmobiles with a small trailer or Ahkio sled can be used to resupply up to a company effectively. The SUSV can tow a trailer as well, however, there should be a SUSV without a trailer to break trail as using one vehicle in extreme cold weather operations is not advised. The HMMWV is a useful vehicle in mountain operations. The high-back variant may be the only troop-carrying vehicle that can negotiate some of the terrain encountered.

 

 

Russian Arctic vehicles

DT-10PM and DT-30PM: Since the Soviet Union, this pair of two-unit, all-terrain vehicles have been indispensable workhorses in the Arctic and remote areas of the country. What’s more, the DT-10PM and DT-30PM are among the strongest all-terrain vehicles in the world.

Arktika hovercraft: The “Arktika” hovercraft was designed to go where other vehicles can’t – in any weather conditions. It can carry up to five tons of cargo or 50 people for more than 1,100 km without refuelling.

Nerpa 550: Strong snow storms are no match for Nerpa 550 propeller-driven snowmobiles, which run on skis – even against wind speeds of 25 m/s.

 

 

Russian daily Izvestia reported that the Arctic Troops would soon add the newly modified version of the T-80 main battle tank—the T-80BVM—to their arsenals (Izvestia, June 5, 2018). This advanced model boasts a wide range of superior upgrades, including:

– The ability to effectively operate under challenging climactic conditions (well below -40° Fahrenheit/-40° Celsius), thanks to its modified turboshaft engine, similar to those used in helicopters;

– Profound advancements in speed and maneuvering;

– An upgraded fire-control system (Sosna-U), which increases the level of effectiveness and range of fire; as well as

– The Refleks integrated, laser-guided anti-tank missile.

Former head of the Main Automotive-Armored Directorate of the Ministry of Defense (GABTU), Colonel General Sergei Mayev, stated that T-80BVMs will help Russia secure military superiority in the High North  All in all, the Russian defense ministry expects to deploy at least 100 of these modernized tanks to troops stationed in the Arctic.

 

US Army Vehicles

The service also needs modern and capable equipment as the Arctic region becomes increasingly important for military operations. The Army released its Arctic strategy last month, which stresses the need to modernize and ramp up presence as Russia and China continue to assert dominance in the region to pursue their economic and geopolitical goals.

 

U.S. Army is looking to buy a purpose-built cold-weather vehicle. The requirement comes as the U.S. military as a whole is looking to increase its capability to operate in and around the immensely strategic Arctic region in response to similar developments by potential opponents, such as Russia.

 

The Army previously purchased SUSVs, a version of the Hägglunds Bv206D articulated carrier, in those exact same configurations. The service’s small unit support vehicle, or SUSV — which was last purchased in 1983 — is an amphibious, tracked system built to travel through rough terrain such as snow, mud and swamps. The boxy vehicles have incredibly low ground pressure thanks to the wide, rubber band-type tracks and lightweight bodies. Over deep snow, the vehicle can exert as little as 1.8 pounds per square inch of force. A typical human male has a ground pressure of around 8 pounds when standing. That allows it to travel smoothly over deep snow.

 

The two distinct sections give them good mobility over rough and uneven terrain while still being able to carry an infantry squad or cargo. Larger, single body vehicles might get stuck in various inclined positions or have difficulty getting up and over certain obstacles. Both portions of the vehicle are powered, with a single drive chain providing power to both sets of tracks.

 

Even so, it can travel at 10 to 15 miles per hour, much faster than an individual walking and much more capable over rough, uneven ground than a fast-moving snowmobile. SUSVs have a top speed on improved roads of over 30 miles per hour and a maximum range of between 120 and 200 miles depending on the terrain. The top half of the front portion of the vehicle and the rear compartment can both come off, which makes the vehicles small enough to fit inside a CH-47. C-130s or larger cargo aircraft can also airdrop them if necessary. The modernized Bv206S model was actually low profile enough to drive straight on and off a Chinook.

 

However, the aging vehicle no longer falls under a program of record, leaving the service without means to maintain them, the Senate markup for the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act noted. Keith Klemmer, director of business development for the National Guard for combat vehicles at BAE Systems, said it is also difficult to find replacement parts for the vehicle because of its old age. The company’s Swedish subsidiary, Hägglunds, was the original manufacturer of the small unit support vehicle. Additionally, the vehicles have only five years left before they will be classified as obsolete, according to the Senate markup for the fiscal year 2018 NDAA.

 

Joint All Weather All Terrain Support Vehicle, or JAASV

On June 5, 2018, the Army issued a formal request for information for a high-mobility tracked vehicle family that it is calling the Joint All Weather All Terrain Support Vehicle, or JAASV. Any company making an offer will have to be able to provide its design in four different configurations, which are general purpose, ambulance, command and control, and cargo-carrying types. JAASV is almost certainly a response to the same security concerns and while there are no plans for combat-centric designs as of yet, the new tracked vehicles will provide important additional mobility for any units operating in the frigid cold. The ability to rapidly insert them via helicopter or fixed wing aircraft could at least help units get closer to their objective faster in a more serious contingency even if they would likely dismount before any final assault. In the same way, it could also help support conventional scout and special operations units on reconnaissance missions.

 

“Allied and near-peer competitor countries are developing extreme cold weather ground transportation capabilities that far exceed U.S. military capabilities, notably the recent advances in all-weather/cross-country mobility being demonstrated by new Russian specialty vehicles,” the document stated.

 

Cold-weather, all-terrain vehicle, or CATV

The CATV is a new-start program in FY21, and its capability development document was signed May 7, 2019. The Army plans to spend $6.6 million for research and development, testing, and evaluation in FY21, and $9.25 million to procure the new vehicles. The CATV “will provide transportation in extreme cold-weather conditions for up to nine personnel to support emergency medical evacuation, command-and-control capability, and general-cargo transportation,” Goddette said.

 

The service awarded contracts to two vendors: a team of American firm Oshkosh Defense and the land systems division of Singapore’s ST Engineering; and a team of two BAE System units, Land and Armaments as well as BAE Hagglunds.

 

The Oshkosh CATV is based on the Bronco 3 built by ST Engineering, Oshkosh touted the Bronco vehicle family’s performance saying the platforms had underdone 1,860 miles of performance testing ‘in Arctic conditions’. Oshkosh said its CATV offering was designed with modularity in mind, adding a general-purpose vehicle could be used as a troop carrier, casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) or Command and Control vehicle and swapped between configurations in the field in 30 minutes by two people.

 

Oshkosh vice president and general manager of US Army and US Marine Corps programmes Pat Williams said: “Oshkosh Defense and ST Engineering bring together an abundance of defence industry and manufacturing expertise to address the U.S. Army’s need for a proven vehicle that can easily manoeuvre in arctic environments. “We are confident that the Oshkosh CATV will enable Soldiers to efficiently move personnel and supplies in the most extreme conditions, and we look forward to getting them into the hands of the end-user for testing and evaluation.”

 

BAE System’s Beowulf is an unarmoured vehicle that like the Oshkosh Bronco variant is being promoted with its modularity as a focus. The BvS10, known as the Viking in British service, is currently in service with the UK, Sweden, Netherlands, France and Austria. BAE Systems said Beowulf would benefit from the existing BvS10 supply chain and production line adding that lifecycle management and routine maintenance and sustainment costs would benefit from the use of common components.

 

BAE Systems vice president of business development Mark Signorelli said: “Beowulf is an optimal and mature solution for the CATV programme, and we look forward to submitting our prototypes with the goal of meeting the Army and Army National Guard’s mission. “Beowulf, and its armoured sister vehicle, the BvS10, represent the most advanced vehicles in the world when it comes to operating anywhere, whether it’s snow, ice, rock, sand, mud, swamp, or steep mountainous environments. And its amphibious capability allows it to swim in flooded areas or coastal waters.”

 

They will provide prototypes for a cold-weather, all-terrain vehicle, or CATV, in the second quarter of fiscal 2021, said Tim Goddette, the program executive officer of the service’s combat support and combat service support. The deadline to deliver prototypes is June 14. These prototypes — currently regarded as test assets — are to undergo extreme cold-weather testing and evaluation in Alaska at the Cold Regions Test Center from August through the end of December. “This will help inform the downselect process for the production contract,” Goddette said. “Current plans call for the final downselect for the CATV in the third quarter of [FY22].”

 

 

 

References and Resources also include:

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/21392/the-army-wants-new-tracked-vehicles-that-will-run-in-deep-snow-at-50-below

https://www.defensenews.com/smr/frozen-pathways/2021/04/05/us-army-embarks-on-competitive-prototyping-journey-for-arctic-vehicle/

https://www.army-technology.com/features/oshkosh-and-bae-vie-to-build-us-armys-next-cold-weather-vehicle/

 

About Rajesh Uppal

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