Multipurpose ground vehicles will be a draw at Eurosatory
Eurosatory gets underway in Paris next month (June 11-15) and, following a trend that began in 2010, the biennial exhibition will move from an entirely land and air-land defense show to include homeland security equipment and technologies in response to market evolution and changing needs.
The show's full name has, in fact, been changed to reflect this shift—it is now the Land Defense and Security Exhibition.
Unmanned ground vehicles are expected to attract attention from companies that are not traditionally linked to robotics. Missile maker MBDA, for example, not the first name that comes to mind when considering vehicles, will be showing the Souvim 2 route-clearance system with counter-IED (improvised explosive device) capability.
The initial Souvim (systeme d'ouverture d'itineraire mine, or mine route-clearance system) was based on the South African Meerkat/Chubby “road trains,” bought from Armscor by French forces in 1995. Using these as a base, studies determined what system would be best to counter new IED threats. MBDA was contracted by the French procurement agency DGA in 1999 to design the system, subsequently known as Souvim 2.
The Souvim 2 system clears long stretches of mined routes—150 km, or 93 mi. per day—at speeds in excess of 25 kph (15.5 mph.), detecting and destroying a full range of threats. The system consists of the VLB (vehicule de leurrage balisage, or marker and decoy vehicle), which can drive over pressure-sensitive mines without activating them due to ultra-low-pressure tires developed by Michelin to MBDA's specifications. The VLB detects mines by pushing a series of decoys ahead of itself, while the RDM (remorque declencheuse de mines, or mine-exploding trailer) tows various trailers whose function is to trigger the mines.
In response to the IED threat in Afghanistan, MBDA also developed the VDM+ system, which comprises an autonomous non-towed vehicle that carries ahead of itself a heat, weight/pressure and electromagnetic decoy system and metal detector. Of the three VDM+ systems delivered to the French army, two have been deployed in Afghanistan.
Renault Trucks Defense, meanwhile, will be showing the Slate (systeme de localisation acoustique de tireur embusque) acoustic sniper-detection system it has integrated onto 12.7-mm guns atop VAB armored vehicles, 80 of which were delivered to the French army at the end of November 2011. A small Pilar MKII-W acoustic antenna, made by O1dB-Metravib, has been set on the roof of the vehicle at the rear left corner. This connects to a Kongsberg M151 Protector remotely operated gun and a crew interface. As soon as the antenna detects a gunshot aimed at the vehicle, the gun turret automatically turns in the direction of the shot. The threat level can also be determined, as the system indicates whether the enemy weapon is of small or medium caliber.
Slate stores the geographical location of the attack after the VAB has moved, enabling the vehicle to seek cover when engaged. Renault says that ultimately, the Slate system could be connected to information and command systems to improve information-sharing at the tactical level.
Among the themes at Eurosatory this year is simulation. The annual joint simulation seminar, organized by ADIS, an informal group drawing members from the French army, the DGA and industry, will be held for the first time during Eurosatory. National issues are scheduled to be addressed on June 12 and 13, and international issues on June 14.
One topic likely to be broached during the seminar is how companies can use the increasingly sophisticated simulation tools at their disposal in real equipment, which would save the expense of building simulators. At the flick of a switch an armored vehicle could be used for training with onboard systems in simulation mode. The same vehicle would be used in theater with onboard systems in operational mode.