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The Top Boy’s Toys at DSEi 2011

contributed by Keith Mallon

DSEi 2011 was a fantastic place to do business for all those interested in the defence industry. But with all those stands, all the space to cover and all those contacts to meet, it does get a bit tiring sometimes. And that’s when a certain childish enthusiasm takes hold and one can’t help but wander around some of the stands, getting hands on with the displays and playing with all the cool military hardware on display.

So then, as a testament to utter frivolity, and in the hope that our MD doesn’t spot that there was some blatant skiving going on last week, here is Defence IQ’s list of cool toys at DSEi 2011.

First off is the Noptel IRM Training Programme for military marksmanship. Any stand that features a gun that you can pick up and fire invariably proves popular at an arms fair. Noptel’s stand just proved the rule. With a gas powered recoil system, the action feels real. But with many militaries already operating similar systems (e.g. the British Army’s Dismounted Close Combat Trainer), what’s the advantage of this bit of kit? Well that comes from the “traffic light” evaluation of each phase of the shot that analyses the hold, aim, trigger control and result for each “round” fired. It means that, rather than relying upon the instructor’s perception of how the trainee shooter is performing, the software provides an instantaneous and visually appealing deconstruction for each element of the shot.

Perhaps it was just flattery, having mistaken me for someone important, but the Noptel representative was very complimentary about my shooting. Either that or all that time where they drilled the marksmanship principles into my head has started to pay off. Note, the shooting represented in the image is not mine.

Next is Aimpoint’s MICRO-T1 shoot-round-corners gun sight. The ability to shoot round corners would obviously be popular in urban warfare scenarios and various solutions, including a folding gun, have been offered in the past. Aimpoint has taken an altogether more stripped down approach to the problem and used… well, some mirrors.

This sight as shown below enables the shooter to peer around corners whilst exposing the minimum amount of soft pink flesh for the bad guy to aim at. It’s fully adjustable and, with just a flick of the thumb, can sit to the left or the right of the weapon. Then, when you’re not using it, its simple twist-on/twist-off design allows you to stow it easily and aim using the conventional, fore-mounted weapon sight.

It’s camouflage; it’s sleek and scary at the same time – it’s a grappling hook that fires out of the barrel of a rifle-like device. It’s the ResQMax Tactical, a line thrower that can deploy a 34m climbing line, allowing otherwise inaccessible points to be breached “with ease”. For budding ninjas it’s a dream come true. For us, it just looks cool. End of.

This Ruger pistol is predominantly made of a polymer material with just a handful of metal parts, including the barrel, hammer and chamber. So, when you pick it up, it feels incredibly light. That makes it ideal as a back-up weapon as its small, unobtrusive design makes it ideal to stash away somewhere discreet, yet easy to reach. Getting hands on with this weapon, I notice something is missing. “Where’s the safety catch” I ask a company representative. “If you need this thing, you’re in a sticky situation, so the last thing you want is any delay in getting your rounds away” is the answer. Quite so.

Jez Hermer OBE, a former Royal Marine, has always been interested in bringing new and innovative solutions to the market. This time, however, he and his company OVIK Specialist Vehicles are bringing old and innovative solutions to the market. Estimates on how CVR-T hulls have been produced world-wide vary, but Hermer believes it’s in the region of about 4,000 when all the various derivatives are taken into account. The problem is that many of these are now reaching the end of their useful life. Traditionally, such hulls wind up on the scrap heap. OVIK’s plan is to examine these hulls to establish structural integrity and give them a whole new lease of life. Enter the Meerkat.

The process is simple, but rigorous. Once the hull has been found to be free of cracks and damage, it’s stripped and salvaged for components. Then the original aluminium armour is upgraded with further protection – typically appliqué armour. An engine always comes in handy in an armoured vehicle and the standard fit is a Cummins 6.7 litre diesel engine – petrol variants are also available. After that, the interior layout, weapons specification and electronic systems are all up to the customers’ specification. The only major design restriction is that OVIK wants to keep the weight down to 9 tonnes ensuring the design’s legendary low ground pressure is maintained. This lightweight ethic is further supported by the potential to integrate rubber band tracks as distinct from the current spec of Diehl double-pin tracks.

OVIK’s plan is to equip potential customers with the skills to complete the relatively simple engineering work themselves. So, the economic benefits of an upgrade are shared between customer and supplier. Current CVR-T owning nations that have not upgraded for several years include the Philippines, Nigeria, Indonesia and Ireland.

The best part of the Meerkat is the cost. I couldn’t persuade anyone from OVIK to tell me exactly how much the recycled vehicle cost, but after a little bit of sniffing around the show, one source suggested that the reconditioning process could be completed for well under half a million pounds – a bargain by today’s standards.

Extensively profiled before the show, Supacat displayed the Wildcat vehicle – based upon the sports platform designed to compete in the Paris – Dakar rally. It is surprisingly dinky once you see it in real life, but Dave Marsh, Managing Director of Qt Services who create the vehicle, sees it as being particularly useful for special forces or for long range recce/patrol operations. The 375cl fuel cell enables a range of 1,500 miles unrefueled.

The version shown at DSEi did not feature any additional armour or protection although this could be added. In many respects however, armour runs against the very concept of this vehicle that could very well find its niche in its enhanced mobility – going where other vehicles simply couldn’t. Its bonkers top speed of 170 km/h is matched by its ability to take on gradients of 45 degrees and side slopes of 40 degrees.

What the DSEi Wildcat version did feature was Kongsberg’s Super Lite remote weapons station, making it look pretty mean. But, for extra cool factor (sorry, make that operational effectiveness) the RWS could be retractable into the rear cab making this vehicle the envy of anyone who’s ever thought about blasting their way through rush hour traffic.

Speaking of retractable weapons, probably the top-prize in cool went to the XSR Interceptor  from XSMG Defence. This super-sleek patrol craft was strutting its stuff during the waterborne demonstrations where it performed a “low speed pass” of 35 to 40 knots!

Designed as an interdiction and patrol craft, it can operate at speeds of 60 knots in conditions of up to Sea State 6. The hull can also be adapted to fit a water-jet propulsion system allowing the craft to operate in the littorals, delivering special forces troops onto beaches via a specially designed forward ramp.

The real party piece was the retractable bow-hidden remote weapons station that popped up to reveal a sinister looking .50 calibre machine gun. To anyone who ever harboured ambitions of owning a Bat-Boat during their childhood years, this feature pretty much secured the XSR Interceptor’s top spot on their Christmas wish-list.


One response to “The Top Boy’s Toys at DSEi 2011

  1. Keith Mallon September 30, 2011 at 8:22 am

    And my thanks to everyone who has pointed out that unless you’re sporting a Singapore Police Webley, a revolver won’t have a safety catch, it’ll have a double action trigger, which is safety enough. My time spent with semi-auto pistols has clearly clouded my knowledge of firearms!

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