Whatever your moral perspective on the role of modern design and technology in the theatre of war, the levels of ingenuity, engineering problem solving, and effective design it relies on is second to none.
Yesterday saw the launch of DSEi 2013 – the worlds largest ‘showcase for defence and security products’, or ‘arms fair’ as it can be paraphrased – with companies from around the world showcasing (selling) their wares.
From the battleships in the dock outside the Excel exhibition halls; to the Eurofighter Typhoon parked outside the front; to the blistering array of small arms, mortars, armoured vehicles, rescue equipment, UAVs, special forces sniper rifles, catering wagons, sandbags… you name it, everything was there, and all the peripheral add-ons you could possibly need.
The big stuff was initially the most exciting: armoured personnel carriers, although seemingly the size of a Range Rover when seen ploughing across an Afghan highway on the evening news, are actually the size of a small house. Some are even bigger.
Finnish firm Patria unveiled, in the classic motorshow whipping-off-a-dust cloth-with-dry-ice-and-light-show, its new concept.
Designed by its in-house R&D team, the 8-wheel, all-wheel-drive behemoth can carry a payload of 13 tons – whether equipped for troop transport, invasive actions with a cannon or mortar fixed to the roof, or as a mobile medical station.
Patria’s technical manager for vehicles and land systems, Toni Töyrylä explained that the demands for such vehicles to work on all terrain makes this a truly international product.
Electrical power output, connectivity and ergonomics are designed for the needs of future soldier systems, while when fitted with a full aquatics kit, it is capable of fording (driving underwater) at up to 1.8m.
Designed in Siemens NX, the entire vehicle has been designed modularly, meaning fast manufacture turn around and a wide list of options for potential customers.
The other mammoth creature that caught the eye was the Ocelot armoured vehicle.
Named after another fluffy creature (the Foxhound, a trait of all the British Armed Forces land vehicles) when on patrol, this vehicles has been entirely designed and manufactured in the UK.
5.3m long, 2.3m high and 2.1m wide, the giant people carrier is another modular design, and is the result of designers and engineers striving to combat the threat of roadside explosive devices.
The protective pod, with double wall construction and heavily reinforced underbelly, can seat six people and is interchangeable to allow easy modification according to the vehicle’s role.
For example, it can perform as an ambulance, supply vehicle, or jeep, and parts can also be easily swapped out to reduce service time.
As with most vehicles, OEMs are prevalent in bringing the product to market, with many of the stands surrounding the giant General Dynamics stall where the Ocelot was on display proudly pointing out their contribution (Titan, more typically a motorsports engineering company, proudly helped provide the steering wrack).
These all need to have reliable engines and power trains in hostile climates and conditions, highlighting issues such as reliability, fixability and fuel availability.
Steyr Motors has built an automotive engine for such heavy duty applications: a straight six, monoblock unit free from cylinder head bolts or cylinder head gasket that can detect and use a wide range of types and qualities of diesel fuels and even kerosene.
Designed in CATIA and undergoing a vast amount of FEA and CFD testing before any production is started, the Austrian company from the city of the same name has expanded the technology greatly.
The engines can be adapted for marine use (they are already water-ready) or hooked up to electric motors, as range extenders for smaller vehicles, to the point that there are now many commercial vehicles benefitting from the technology.