Western militaries are again preparing for peer-on-peer conflict and, with it, the threat of well-organised adversaries with technologically advanced and sophisticated methods. There is an emerging doctrine of ‘march divided, fight united’ for many within Nato, enabling the dispersal of troops across the battlefield while allowing them to concentrate mass quickly and at a time and place of their choosing. It represents a trend that champions interoperability as networked intelligence, automation and unmanned assets establish themselves on the battlefield.

However, with dispersed troops comes the need for scalability. Valuable combat engineering assets cannot be everywhere, and they are also high-value targets on the battlefield. Therefore, it is important to supply engineering capability to non-engineers in order to achieve this concept of scalable battlefield mobility.

Enabling commanders to move to places of their choosing

Pearson Engineering believes that, when facing sophisticated adversaries, a tactical advantage can be achieved by equipping selected main battle tanks and other combat vehicles with engineering frontend equipment to allow more platforms to conduct mobility and counter-mobility tasks. In doing so, friendly force intent/axis of advance will no longer be telegraphed by signature engineering kit.

The company has developed SLICE, a rapid integration mechanism, to allow this wider adoption of front-end engineering capability. The new vehicle integration kit houses all the power requirements to fit and operate front-end equipment, requiring little to no modification to the host vehicle.

Typically fitted to the towing eyes and plugged into a Nato slave socket, SLICE can quickly be added to a vehicle when it is needed (and removed when it is not) to integrate mine ploughs, rollers and dozer blades. While it is not the primary role of this type of vehicle, providing independent manoeuvre support has the potential to outwit adversaries and ensure commanders can move freely when faced with complex obstacles.

Inherent flexibility for dedicated engineering assets

Dedicated armoured engineering vehicles play an important and historic role in supporting battlefield mobility. However, recent procurement plans published in Germany with the Kodiak 3 and in Australia with the US-origin Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV) represent rare investments in such vehicles and buck the trend seen elsewhere.

“Such dedicated assets must have the ability to adapt. They need to be able to breach minefields, create and defeat obstacles, and launch bridges to respond to the needs of the mission,” says Richard Beatson, business development director at Pearson Engineering. “Dispersed troops will face a greater range of mobility challenges, leaving them vulnerable to attack and removing their choices. Armoured engineering vehicles that can breach a minefield in a morning and support gap crossing in an afternoon will be invaluable in the future fight.”

The company’s approach to rapidly interchangeable front-end attachments has been proven on Kodiak, the M1-based ABV, Trojan and Leopard, among others.

Interchangeable attachments as a force multiplier

“We believe that platforms like the Stryker Engineer Support Vehicle will become more widespread in the near future,” Beatson adds. “To supplement the need for a broader range of engineering assets and support evolving mobility and counter-mobility requirements, these lighter, more strategically mobile vehicles will be deployed to enhance combat engineering capability.”

Providing rapidly interchangeable tools for mid-weight wheeled or tracked vehicles will enable armed forces to maintain manoeuvre on the battlefield for lighter ‘strike’ forces. Fitting many vehicles for, but not with, such equipment offers a level of flexibility and interoperability that can act as a force multiplier.

Scalability means ensuring armoured engineering vehicles can adapt to everchanging mobility and counter-mobility missions. This allows other vehicles to undertake engineering tasks when needed to offer independent manoeuvre support for combat vehicles, so that they can defeat even the most resourceful and well-equipped adversaries.

“Such dedicated assets must have the ability to adapt. They need to be able to breach minefields, create and defeat obstacles, and launch bridges to respond to the needs of the mission.”