The Army wants a new highly mobile, all-terrain vehicle to shuttle soldiers around frozen Arctic battlefields in the future and will likely conduct prototype trials sometime later this year. The new Cold-weather, All-Terrain Vehicle (CATV) would replace the United States’ aging Cold-War era Small Unit Support Vehicles which have been in service since the 1980s.
The United States’ SUSV are essentially two tracked pods joined together by a central hitch and are known for being able to cross a wide variety of terrain—including soft, deep snow and even water—thanks to their wide tracks and low ground pressure. You can read more about the Cold War-era vehicle in this previous National Interest piece.
The two CATV bids are represented by four defense groups: a joint Oshkosh Defense and ST Engineering bid, as well as BAE Systems’ Land Armaments division and BAE Hagglunds, the company’s Swedish division. The two prototypes are expected to reach the Army by summer of this year, with field testing sometime afterward.
The Oshkosh-ST Engineering CATV bid is based on ST’s Bronco 3 vehicle, which according to the company website, has seen service for over twenty years and has gone through combat service with the British Army in Afghanistan. Like the SUSV, the Bronco 3 vehicle is a set of two tracked pods connected by an articulating hitch that keeps the two together. It also appears to offer more protection to its four front and eight rear passengers thanks to 7.62 AP-resistant steel armor and a V-shaped hull designed to deflect underbelly blasts outwards and away from the crew compartments. To top it off, the Bronco 3 is amphibious as well, though on the water it can achieve speeds of just 5 kph.
BAE Systems bid is based on their Beowulf dual body vehicle, which is visually similar to both the older SUSV as well as the Bronco 3. Though company information indicates the Beowulf has a higher payload capacity and the ability to transport two more soldiers than the Bronco, it appears to be unarmored in its current configuration and has a slightly lower output engine. However, these characteristics could change in the future, as both vehicles adjust to Army-specific requirements.
Compared to the older SUSV, both the Beowulf and Bronco offer advantages in payload capacity and mobility, a fact that would be of increasing importance in the coming years. Both vehicles are specifically designed for reliable operation in extreme cold-weather conditions, and would fill a critical capabilities gap for the United States in the Arctic. The SUSV-replacement would provide medical evacuation, cargo transport, command-and-control functions, and could perhaps be used to ferry troops around icy battlefields if they could offer adequate protection.
Irrespective of which platform the Army ultimately selects, one fact is very clear: competition in the far north is heating up—and won’t go away anytime soon.
Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer with The National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.
Image: U.S. Army.