Friday, 29 July 2011

Squad Mission Support System

Sometimes armed forces have a habit of making the simple and cheap expensive and complicated.

This was brought to our attention by Solomon's S.N.A.F.U. blog.

This is the United States' Army's new Squad Mission Support System,an unmanned vehicle to carry 600lbs (375kg) of kit for foot soldiers which is said to cost U.S. $500,000 (£312,000) each.

This is the British Army's Supacat All Terrain Mobile Platform (A.T.M.P.) which carries a payload of 1.6 tonnes (3,520 lbs) and cost about £46,000 each (U.S. $74,000) including a trailer back in 1997,today they can be purchased used at a very reasonable £9,500 (U.S.$15,200).

Infantrymen have to carry large amounts of equipment when they are operating in areas where vehicles cannot operate such as jungles,forests or mountains like the troops shown above in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan.

At most other times they will be on bases or operating alongside vehicles which can carry their kit for them.

The Squad Mission Support System cannot follow the infantry in very close terrain,it can only go to places where a manned vehicle could go.

But unlike the driver of a manned vehicle it cannot keep it's eyes and ears open for the enemy,pick up a rifle and shoot,provide medical attention to wounded men or even change it's own tyres when they are punctured.

To an infantry section it is more of a burden and less of a benefit than a manned vehicle.

Is it worth the loss of military capability and huge procurement cost of an unmanned vehicle just to save the wages of an 18 year old driver?


Chuck Hill said...

Understand the US Army system has been killed.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Chuck Hill,

I would hope so but I heard it is going to Afghanistan soon?


TheRagingTory said...

The price is of course obscene, however, some of your critique isnt fair either.

A manned vehicle would leave a section with 7 soldiers and 1 driver.
An unmanned vehicle would leave a section with 8 soldiers.

The burden/benefit is related to uniot manpower, not vehicle crew requirements.

An 8 soldier 2 driver section will be more capable than an 8 soldier section, but no more capable than a 10 soldier section.

Its unmanned, because they expect it will suffer appaling mine losses, and drivers rarely survive when their lightly armoured vehicle drives over an IED.

No doubt someone has worked out a cost of a dead soldier, or two, and decided this is cheaper.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello TheRaging Tory,

the cost is the important factor here.
Cost dictates how many infantrymen you can put in the field.

The more money you spend on $500,000 unmanned vehicles the less you have to pay for infantrymen.
That amount of money would pay for roughly 10 infantry man-years.

Look at the overall combat capability for the same cost of (section+unmanned vehicle) versus (section plus manned vehicle).

With the manned vehicle you can afford more men not less.

Mines don't come into the thinking on this.
The unmanned vehicle is designed to follow behind an infantryman on foot and he is going to be far more vulnerable than the driver of a light vehicle.

If this was designed to clear mines ahead of the dismounts it might make some sense but it can't do that,it has to follow someone who is on foot.


TheRagingTory said...

I dont believe cost is a factor.
Troop levels are political, not budgetary, and with harmony guidelines, 10 man year, are more like 2 "in country".

A 10man section with an unmanned vehicle beats a 10 manned section with a manned vehicle.

Mines come into every bit of thinking. And true, most of the time, this will floow a soldier, but not step for step, and a soldier can walk over an AT mine without setting it off, a vehicle, not so much.

If we were in a "total war" situation, you'd probably be right. But we are fighting a cabinet war, and the funding dynamics are subtly different.

The British vehicle you mention would probably be better, but its not quite a slam dunk in its favour.

J Kent said...

I work for the manufacturer of SMSS. The Army has not purchased this system, but will consider something similar with the SMET program around 2016. SMSS served with troops in Afghanistan on an experimental basis in 2012, and the soldiers liked it very much. Load-carrying capacity is 1,200 lbs, not 600. The unit cost would be far below $500,000 (no idea where that figure came from) if the system were produced in volume. Currently only a handful of vehicles exist.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello J.Kent,

you might find this post about a manned alternative interesting: