The Canadian Army has started to train on its new Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicles, with the entire fleet expected to be delivered to units across the country by the end of next year.
Textron Systems began deliveries in August and expects to produce about 30 vehicles every month for the Canadian Army, company officials say.
The first six vehicles arrived at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown on August 12, the Canadian Army announced.
“The initial cadre training for operators and maintainers will be provided by field service representatives from Textron Systems Canada Inc. with oversight provided by the Canadian Army’s Directorate of Land Requirements and the Combat Training Centre,” the army noted in a statement.
The fleet of 500 Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicles (TAPVs) will eventually be distributed across seven bases and 24 units.
Textron Systems Canada Inc. was awarded two contracts in 2012 for the TAPV deal. One $603-million contract was for the acquisition of the 500 vehicles; the second contract was for vehicle support valued at a little more than $105-million.
The final TAPV will be delivered in December 2017.
The Canadian Army has said it expects to declare full operational capability by mid-2020, following training of all operators, and completion of user trials and exercises confirming operational readiness.
Rich Valenti, Textron Systems Vice President of Land Systems, said vehicle deliveries and training are proceeding smoothly. “We are training the trainers,” he explained to Esprit de Corps. “We are giving the Canadian Army the ability to train its own soldiers so they don’t have to rely on us.”
He noted that Textron Systems is teamed with Rheinmetall Canada, both on acquisition and support. “Rheinmetall completes the vehicle with the integration of the remote weapon station and preps it for delivery and supports the delivery process,” Valenti noted. “They are also our Canadian lead for the ISS (in-service support) contract.”
Besides the remotely controlled weapon station, Rheinmetall has also noted it is integrating essential subsystems such as the vehicle navigation system and the driver vision enhancement system. Kongsberg Protech Systems is providing the remote weapon stations, which come equipped with both a 40-mm automatic grenade launcher and a C6 machine gun, the Army pointed out.
With the 4x4 TAPV, the Canadian Army says it is receiving a well-protected vehicle capable of negotiating tough terrain and providing troops with a cross-country capability. At just under 18,597 kilograms in weight, the Army noted that the TAPV can perform a wide variety of roles and tasks, including reconnaissance and surveillance, security (patrolling and escort), command and control, and armoured transport of personnel and equipment. The vehicle is also air transportable. Each of the RCAF’s C-17s can haul four TAPVs.
The vehicles are being delivered in two variants, according to the Army: a general utility variant and a reconnaissance variant. The TAPV will partially replace the Coyote Light Armoured Vehicle, completely replace the Nyala RG-31 armoured patrol vehicle and complement the Light Utility Vehicle Wheeled (LUVW), Army officers say.
The 2nd Canadian Division is expected to be the first formation to operate the TAPV; it will see action in Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE 2018.
Canada’s TAPV is based on Textron Systems’ Commando series of vehicles. Valenti said the firm already had an advanced design in mind when the Canadian competition was announced. “We already had a design and we began to tweak that design for the Canadian opportunity,” he explained.
The firm kept an eye on the U.S. MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush
vehicle project, which was fielding a fleet for Iraq and Afghanistan designed to withstand improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
But with the high levels of armour protection, those vehicles lost much of their mobility. That, in turn, limited them in the missions they could undertake. But Textron was keen to avoid such limitations.
“The real hallmark of the TAPV is the combination of the high protection level without compromising mobility capabilities,” Valenti said. “For a vehicle of its size and payload capability, it has extremely high levels of mobility.”
The Canadian TAPV eventually became what the firm also calls its Commando Elite vehicle. “So when we developed the TAPV Commando Elite our focus was on having those high levels of protection without compromising on the vehicle’s mobility,” Valenti said. “We think we hit that sweet spot.”
That view was backed by the rigorous Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Durability (RAMD) test program, completed earlier this year. Tests included driving more than 130,000 kilometres on challenging terrain representing operational profiles prescribed by the Canadian Army, Textron noted. The TAPV’s RAMD testing also included firing the remote weapon station and conducting more than 4,700 hours of remote weapon station usage. Testing was conducted over three months, day and night, six days per week. The final results showed that the TAPV exceeded the reliability and maintainability requirements of the contract, the firm said.
The Department of National Defence procurement process also allowed Textron Systems to make improvements based on issues identified during the RAMD. “When we started the RAMD testing initially the vehicle weight had increased,” Valenti explained. “When we started the heavy severe off-road testing we saw some need to improve suspension and steering systems.”
The end result was a higher performing, higher quality vehicle than was anticipated, he added. “And that’s a win-win for everybody,” Valenti said. “It’s a win for the Canadian soldier because he gets a vehicle that is extremely reliable and it’s a win for Textron because we now have a Commando Elite we can market that has extremely high reliability.”
In turn, the Canadian deliveries prove to potential customers the vehicles are successfully being fielded. Nations in the Middle East, Europe and Africa are among those who have closely watched the Canadian Army project.
“We have a number of countries interested,” Valenti said. “Hopefully now that we have deliveries flowing into Canada we will be able to get some sales internationally.”
More than 8,000 Commando armoured vehicles are in service worldwide, including with militaries from Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.