Mike DZ

Mike DZ



Bit of talk about Mastiff recently. Lots of pros and cons for ditching the fleet - which I’m not going to get into (at least initially!) - but I thought this might be an opportune moment for a trip down memory lane before another Christmas makes it too fuzzy… 🧵

Note of caution: this is all from memory, and given that my official records from the time would have been classified - and inappropriate as a source - this is more a personal perspective than official record.

In light of the Snatch Land Rober controversy (on which I’ve commented previously), Des Brown had ordered a review of protected mobility for Op Telic in June 2006, but things really kicked off seriously in July - when orders given to acquire a *wheeled* PPV to augment Snatch…

The ‘requirements’ were pretty loose: - Wheeled - COTS - Don’t compromise on protection

With that in mind, three men boarded an aircraft at Heathrow on a Sunday with round tickets to Johannesburg and Charleston SC - with a mission to pick a horse from the BAE Systems RG-31 or the FPII Cougar…

Answer was required on the Minister’s desk by end of the week - and hotels would not be required. Analysis was conducted in meeting rooms and departure lounges (thank God for lounge showers!) based on whatever information could be released, and knowledge of the threat

One thing became clear immediately: To have relevance in SE Iraq, the vehicle would need to be protected against the emerging threat - predominantly side-attack EFP. That meant COTS mine protected vehicles would be useless unless they could support considerable appliqué armour…

So that meant the original plan of a ‘glorified Snatch’ wasn’t going to work - as a 4x4 couldn’t handle the additional weight. Therefore a 6x6 was required, and given a 6x6 version of RG-31 wasn’t available yet, the answer - in true Sherlock Holmes style - was Cougar 6x6

Cue announcements in Parliament, and a rather challenging timeframe imposed by Des Browne (“vehicles in theatre by Christmas” 😱). But the only was to achieve this was a straight FMS buy through the USMC Programme Office (at the time Cougar was mostly a USMC EOD vehicle)

Now FMS brings many advantages - but also more than a few challenges… We’d essentially be buying vehicles of the current Cougar JERRV production run in Charleston - which meant production-standard vehicles

Therefore any funky plans for UK mods (incl all-important appliqué armour) would need to happen in 🇬🇧 - a task for NP Aerospace, who already had a contract for fitting ECM to Snatch PPV. Lots more engineering ‘challenges’ soon became apparent…

An obvious one - fitting appliqué side armour would mean that crew compartment windows - and can doors - would essentially be useless. A discussion ensued as to whether *not cutting* a hole in Charleston constitutes a engineering change…luckily it turned out to be acceptable

Another issue - where do we put the exhaust and spare wheel? And how do we redesign all this without a CAD package?

The answer involves lots of plywood a sheet metal mock-ups on a donor ‘exemplar’ vehicle. Exhaust got re-routed, and spare wheel made do without (run flats and the tactical situation in Iraq made wheel changes outside a base irrelevant)

What about armament? As a PPV, the original plan was to fit the vehicle - now known as Mastiff - out like our Northern Ireland fleet, with a top cover hatch or DISA GPMG mount at most

Luckily, better ideas prevailed, and the vehicle retained the standard US traversing ring mounting - to which Platt mounts and a custom composite armoured gunshield added.

Can’t really speak too much about the appliqué armour for obvious reasons, but it was as good as it got at the time. A year or two later, an improved version became available for Ridgeback, which enables protection on a 4x4 with reduced lateral bulk.

Obviously one of the differences between a PPV like Mastiff/Ridgeback and a conventional APC like Boxer is that the protection emphasised at the sides rather than frontal arc. It would be difficult to provide very high frontal protection to any ‘truck-like’ cab due to the glazing

For a vehicle only intended to do a limited PPV job in Iraq - not 🇦🇫 (where Vector was headed - another story…), the old girl ended up providing Sterling service. More variants ended up uprating suspension (extra spring leaves), better seating and eventually a cab door solution.

Arguably we should have done more earlier - if we’d gone for the coil-spring upgrade, we’d have had a very capable Saxon replacement, and might have produced more relevant lessons for MIV/STRIKE experimentation. Easy to blame ‘MIV protectionism’ for this, but UOR

Isn’t always an easy system to work with - it’s very good at solving the operational problem in front of you, but could not really be used to fund wider capabilities. Either way, when the old girl eventually leaves services, she’ll have much to be proud of.

@thinkdefence @JonHawkes275 @nicholadrummond @areteaare @B4ck1n @EdOBrien

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