Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR MAR 2015 Contents TECHNOLOGY FOCUS
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 07 | MAR 2015
and operational traits to be learnt for any new vehicle. However,
with a conventional turret layout Army can have confidence it can
quickly field a baseline operational capability.
The adoption of an unmanned turret is a different story. Again
from a fundamentals perspective, the physical awareness of a
turret crew is tied to the orientation of the turret. When the
turret moves, they move with it. This is vital for alignment of the
turret and weapon system when it is to be brought into action.
By contrast, the physical awareness of an unmanned turret crew
is tied to the vehicle hull, breaking the physical alignment of the
operator with the weapon system. This can cause numerous issues,
such as barrel strike and other obstructions, as the commander
will now be reliant on visual aids to confirm alignment rather
than being able to simply look over the top of the barrel. This
is particularly problematic when operating in complex terrain
where obstructions are numerous and may prevent the crew from
aligning the turret with threats.
Experienced crews would no longer be able to rely on their
previous armoured vehicle experience as the employment of
an unmanned turret is a new paradigm. Overcoming the lack
of alignment with the turret may be particularly difficult for
experienced crews who have deeply ingrained manned turret skills.
Such skills are, of course, trainable and the difficulties can be
overcome; however, the cost is that the training liability is far more
significant than that for conversion to a conventional turret design.
Rather than just converting onto the new platform characteristics,
the conversion needs to include the development of awareness and
skill sets to operate a completely new vehicle concept and way of
doing business. Just the monitoring and awareness of the barrel
alone could take many hours of training and the development of
an effective initial capability would certainly be delayed whilst
crews develop basic competence.
There is also a hidden cost in that some experienced crewmen
may simply be unable to effectively adjust to the requirements of
the unmanned turret and may not successfully convert. Apart
LEFT: With no need for a turret
basket, the unmanned turret frees
up significant internal volume in
the vehicle’s rear compartment,
but at the expense of situational
from the time impost of a longer
and slower conversion process on
the ability to generate a deployable
CRV capability, the potential
loss of experienced crews would
pose its own capability gap. Even
a relatively small percentage
of conversion failures adds an
additional and costly complication
for Army at a time when rapidly
achieving a deployable, operational
capability based on the new
platform must be a high priority.
Additionally, the basis of
provisioning outlined for the CRV
makes a subtle but significant
change: the six vehicle troop
with six gun vehicles replaces
the current four gun vehicles plus two personnel carriers troop,
consequently requiring a 50 per cent increase in the need to train
CRV gunners. This may compound any training or conversion
issues that arise from the introduction of an unmanned turret.
A final critical factor is the human dimension as one of the
ingredients of an effective AFV capability is the, crews themselves
having confidence in their platform. Armoured crewman expect
an armoured vehicle to look, feel and work like the vehicles they
are used to. It is reasonable to suggest that a significant majority
of Army’s cavalry vehicle crews have a very strong preference for
a conventional manned turret. It is what they have been trained
on, have used on operations and it is what they know. In the
short term, this will translate into a lack of confidence in the new
platform. Although time with the new vehicle can overcome these
concerns, these beliefs remain harmful and can even lead to a
lasting stigma should initial experiences prove unsatisfactory.
So where does this leave Army in its quest for a step change
in capability via procurement of the new CRV? The question of
manned verse unmanned turrets can be distilled to one of superior
future capability, passive crew protection and growth potential for
unmanned turrets against the significantly reduced technical and
capability risk for manned turrets. The answer: does Army need
the adequate solution today of a manned turret or can it afford to
accept risk in pursuing the unmanned turret’s superior potential
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The author is a serving armoured cavalry officer in the Australian Army with
ex tensive experience in a variety of postings over a career spanning more
than 15 years. Originally of 2nd Cavalry Regiment and more recently 2/14th
Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry), he has significant
experience within both the regimental and training environments with all
current Australian Army armoured vehicles. He has deployed to multiple
operational theatres, including Afghanistan where he commanded an ASLAV
combined-arms company group. Other duties have included tenures with
the Defence Materiel Organisation managing armoured vehicle-related
equipment acquisition projects. He is also a graduate of the Australian
Defence Force’s Capability and Technology Management College (CTMC).
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