Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR DECJAN 2016 Contents 39
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 16 | DEC/JAN 2016
AS ONE OF THE MAIN BUILDING
BLOCKS OF THE COMBINED
ARMS FIGHTING SYSTEM, CRV
WILL NEED TO ADAPT TO NEW
OPERATIONAL DEMANDS AND
THREATS, REQUIRING THE
RETROFIT OF NEW SYSTEMS
AT REGULAR INTERVALS OVER
THE LAND 400 Phase 2 tender evaluation has now been under-
way for three months. A demanding set of functional require-
ments will have coalesced into some impressive vehicles from
four bidders. Inside the tender evaluation teams, expectations
will be forming about just how capable the new Combat Recon-
naissance Vehicle (CRV) can be.
As the transition from ASLAV to CRV approaches, it would
be tempting for planners to assume that CRV is just an ASLAV
replacement. That would make transition planning simpler. It
should be obvious to everyone by now though, that CRV will be
much more than an ASLAV replacement and the transition will
not be straightforward.
In the military profession, it is said that amateurs talk tactics
and professionals talk logistics. General Patton is supposed to
have remarked that he didn’t know what logistics were but he
knew he wanted them. With CRV, while there is little doubt that
the Army has grasped the technical and even the logistics chal-
lenges ahead, it is not yet clear whether it has grasped the extent
of the cultural change that will be required.
Army needs to consider the cultural implications of CRV very
The starting point is to understand what is coming. At face val-
ue, CRV will be an ASLAV replacement. It will be, like ASLAV, an
8x8 wheeled armoured fighting vehicle with a manned, stabilised
turret, medium calibre cannon, secondary machine gun, ther-
mal sights, a diesel engine, a conventional drivetrain, independ-
ent suspension, radios and a battle management system (BMS).
In many other respects, however, the CRV will be so much
more than an ASLAV replacement. It will introduce a range of
technologies currently unfamiliar to the Royal Australian Ar-
moured Corps (RAAC). These technologies will radically im-
prove the capability of the Combined Arms Fighting System
(CAFS). Anti-tank guided weapons, air burst munitions (ABM),
active protection (to defeat incoming missiles), threat detection,
threat recognition, acoustic and radar shot location (to identify
the location of a weapon firing at the vehicle) and automatic tar-
get tracking as well as non-lethal and less-than-lethal munitions
are technologies currently associated with Australian Army hel-
icopters but not its armoured vehicles. These technologies will
enable CRV to conduct counter reconnaissance as well as recon-
naissance, something that ASLAV cannot realistically do. CRV
will be able to sense its environment, identify threats and gen-
erate a range of lethal effects to fight and win. With CRV, com-
manders will have the confidence to break out and conduct de-
cisive manoeuvre. This is exactly what the Land 400 Operational
Concept Document demands.
Three Cultural Challenges
Three of the cultural challenges facing Army as CRV approaches are
configuration management, obsolescence management and exper-
tise management. Management is not a term that excites warriors.
Warriors prefer to think of leadership not management. No matter;
if Army cannot overcome these three cultural challenges, CRV will
be a white elephant. It is that simple.
One way to understand these three cultural challenges is by de-
scribing what happens without them. This will make it clear that
they are not fads or the result of an obscure policy. They are not triv-
ial. They are fundamental to capability.
Without configuration management, nothing happens when you
pull the trigger. In the worst case, the wrong weapon fires and kills
someone unintentionally. Modern weapon systems require both
hardware and software to work perfectly together. The ease with
which they work is the result of years of development. Every small
component and line of code plays its role. Replacing anything, how-
ever small, with something that is not identical in function, can re-
sult in equipment failure, malfunction, injury or death.
For understandable reasons, armoured corps soldiers have been
exchanging one vehicle part for another for as long as anyone can
remember. If the new part fit, it could be fitted. A cursory inspec-
tion has established whether the part is acceptably similar and has
been exchanged. Unfortunately, this procedure is risky when sensors
and software are involved. A part that looks outwardly identical to
another part can function differently because of an almost imper-
ceptible difference in firmware or software or one tiny sensor. In
short, appearances can be deceptive. With CRV, it will no longer be
acceptable to take an ad hoc approach to maintenance. Operators
and maintainers will need to be more thorough and disciplined. Or
someone might get killed.
In other words, because the consequences of an error will be great-
er, a different approach will be required. One place to look for an
example is in Army aviation units. Because simple errors can result
in helicopters crashing, operators and maintainers do not follow ad
hoc approaches to maintenance.
Without obsolescence management, the whole capability will grind
to a halt over several years. Gone are the days when you could still
buy most of the same parts 20 years after you bought a platform.
Nowadays, many products and components are available for only a
few years before they are updated or no longer available. This applies
to major components and small parts alike as well as to tools (in-
cluding diagnostic tools). Software languages become obsolete. So
do software operating systems.
Despite these changes, it is still common to refer to the life-of-
type (LOT) of a platform. Service lives of 20, 25 and even 30 years
are quoted. The insinuation is that most of the platform will still be
there at the end of LOT. This might have been the case for ASLAV,
but it will not be the case for CRV. If most of a CRV is still there in 20
years, the vehicle will be unsupportable and irrelevant. This means
that significant components will become obsolete and require re-
placement several times if the vehicle is to remain capable. Moreover,
as one of the main building blocks of the CAFS, CRV will need to
adapt to new operational demands and threats. This will require the
retrofit of new systems at regular intervals over its LOT.
The question is whether Army is ready yet for the cost and effort
involved in this level of ongoing technical development. It will be
expensive. It will require fleet managers with commercial acumen,
leadership and technical expertise. With ASLAV, there has been
more emphasis on cost minimisation and less emphasis on ongo-
ing capability. With CRV, the approach must be to match ongoing
capability requirements with appropriate funding. This will be a big
cultural change but there are signs it is already underway. There are
emerging discussions about strategic partnerships between Army
and industry. This indicates a new approach from Defence and
bodes well for CRV.
Without expertise management, a driver may even forget how to
start the vehicle (no exaggeration). Or a gunner will forget how to
turn on one of the weapon systems. Or a commander will forget an
engagement sequence. Or a maintainer will not even know where to
start with a diagnosis.
A ‘soldier’s five’ is a common expression in Army. It refers to in-
formal training given by one soldier to another. By this means, when
required to do an urgent task, a soldier can explain to another how
to do something such as operate an unfamiliar radio. At some time
later, that soldier might receive formal training. In the meantime,
they will learn on the job, use their initiative and adapt. In time, they
might even give a soldier’s five to someone else on the same subject.
A soldier’s five, of course, has its limits. A Black Hawk helicopter
pilot doesn’t give a soldier’s five about flying the helicopter. Modern
military equipment can perform very specific tasks. For example, a
CRV might be used to fire ABM, at night, whilst moving, at a moving
target that is directed from the BMS. Performing this task involves
some very specific operations with hardware controls and software
menus. It requires much more than a soldier’s five.
If the operator cannot do this quickly, instinctively, when tired,
confused and afraid, it might be the last thing they do. The same
applies to maintainers. The challenge will be to retain the necessary
expertise. The solution is the regular repetition of tasks. Operators
and maintainers will need to train almost every day on some aspect
ABOVE: Maintaining the in-service CRV fleet won’t be the same
as that for ASLAV. Image: ADF
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