It is always important for security forces to assess the indirect constraints on their ability to efficiently conduct route clearance in sustained combat operations. These limitations to logistics, fiscal resourcing, and manpower are rarely more impactful than when facing a constantly evolving threat such as the IED. Due to a tendency to be reactive and chase a shifting threat in this ever-evolving context, it is often a challenge to establish standardized mechanisms that manage constraints and maximize operational efficiency. Because of the dynamic context that drives counter-IED capability it is critical to identify those areas that can standardize capabilities without limiting operational flexibility. One of the most impactful areas to establish this standardization is with vehicle fleets.
Designating a Platform to Respond to Evolving Threats
Modern route clearance packages must be adaptable in order to anticipate threat evolutions. They can do this through the modular integration of different clearance subsystems onto one type of survivable delivery platform. While payloads and their application may change, platform survivability remains a constant requirement. In other words, all clearance platforms must protect operators, but many are selected based on their payload’s ability to execute a specific clearance task. So, to establish a primary clearance platform, its design must consider everything users need it to do to respond to current threats or may need it to do for future threat evolutions. By identifying a platform that can evolve with threats, environments, and their corresponding clearance tasks, leaders can establish platform consistency to positively impact sustained operation constraints.
While the sustainment benefits of pure fleet fielding are nothing new, C-IED requirement developers often equate the unique needs of individual clearance tasks with unique platforms for those tasks. By selecting a platform designed to meet the fundamental requirements of all clearance tasks, but is also capable of integrating task-specific attachments and payloads, leaders can benefit from a pure fleet without limiting capability.
The platform that many currently-operating clearance teams are leveraging to meet this multi-functional need is the Husky. Recent innovations like remote and semi-autonomous appliques as well as advanced payloads have expanded employment options and broadened the role of the Husky from just a blast-survivable platform to one of the most versatile and adaptable vehicles on the battlefield. Recent operations in high threat areas have required survivability, but demanded more from the platform, so the Husky has been broadened beyond its legacy role as purely a detection platform.
The Impact of a Husky Pure Fleet
CSI’s Husky evolution establishes many new benefits to users as a tactical capability, but pure-fleet fielding enhances its value further through its strategic impact on route clearance in sustained combat operations:
- Personnel – Reducing the variety of platforms a unit uses to execute their missions reduces training time and associated resources. Additionally, manpower restrictions are reduced as qualified operators can transition from one role to another without needing familiarization on a completely different vehicle. Another benefit to using a Husky as a base vehicle for clearance operations is that it prevents excess personnel from occupying the vehicles tasked to operate in closest proximity to explosive threats. By integrating the Husky’s autonomy kit units can flex from two, to one, to zero operators, giving leaders options to fit their mission. Additionally, when employed as an interrogation vehicle, it’s occupancy constraints prevent the addition of non-essential passengers in the vehicle designated to physically engage with threats. Frequently, open seats in interrogation vehicles are filled with non-essential personnel, which puts them at risk unnecessarily. Even if those additional seats are occupied by essential personnel (dismounts, leadership, EOD techs) leaders increase risk to those in critical roles. If the seats of an interrogation vehicle are left empty it acknowledges that the platform has a larger footprint than needed, which often presents mobility restrictions and limits the routes that can be cleared. For some platforms this also eliminates the ability to self-recover vehicles, further necessitating additional recovery assets (increasing manpower requirements and the patrol footprint).
- Logistical – Getting the right parts where they are needed, when they are needed presents afar greater logistical burden when a variety of vehicles are employed. By limiting the variety of vehicle platforms, you limit the variety of service and repair parts needed and increase the value of the parts that are staged forward. This burden is only amplified with clearance units, as they operate in areas with the highest concentration of explosive threats and are tasked to deliberately engage in close proximity to those threats. This means that these elements have an increased likelihood of catastrophic engagement with a threat device and increased likelihood of major maintenance. Because of this, clearance planners must anticipate strikes. Even with the most blast-resistant vehicles, increasing survivability to the occupants does not always increase the survivability of the vehicle. The Husky however, designed to be frangible and predictably break apart in a blast, increases the survivability of both the occupants as well as the platform itself. So, vehicles risking major strikes are able to be repaired and put back on mission quickly, eliminating the logistical burden to recovery and evacuation assets, keeping unnecessary logistics patrols off of the road, and eliminating clearance elements’ time off mission. This ultimately reduces opportunities for emplacers to “reseed” routes when clearance elements are non-mission capable. The addition of strategically staged Repacks further reduces logistical strain, because clearance elements don’t require an established maintenance site and are able to be repaired forward, closer to the action.
- Fiscal – The above mentioned benefits ultimately have compounded cost impact on the force. This increased efficiency is seen at all stages of the lifecycle of equipment from procurement to fielding to deployment to sustainment. Pure fleet procurement means more opportunity for quantity price breaks. Reduced training requirements during fielding mean more effective management of personnel manhours and increased opportunity build operator expertise on a single piece of equipment, ultimately leading to more effective use of the platform during its deployment. The logistical impact of supporting fewer vehicle types reduces a costly and risky support footprint, while the Husky design itself ensures that the vehicles most likely encounter blasts are easily repaired and back on mission sooner. All of these considerations have a major impact on the sustained operations in which we find clearance teams to be most critical; long drawn out stability operations that can easily wear away at a force’s fiscal capability just as much as its operational capability.
One Platform; Multiple Roles
Historically applied solely as a detection asset, the Husky platform’s advances have enabled remote and autonomous operation as well as the ability to integrate a new suite of payloads. This has broadened the ability of commanders to streamline required equipment and reduce the breadth of vehicles needed to effectively execute the clearance mission.
While there are supporting tasks to a clearance mission (such as dismount transportation or casualty evacuation) that the Husky is not ideal for, developments in the platform architecture now enable its modular, tailored configuration for detection, interrogation, disruption, neutralization, mitigation, or even security and reconnaissance. The Husky represents a platform designed for protected payload delivery. It is a means to enable users the safe and effective execution of any task, when that task must be done in a high explosive threat area. As such, this system expands the capability of commanders while reducing the logistical, fiscal, and manpower burdens that so often stress sustained operations.