CAVS Rolling On

While HX has cemented its place in the spotlight during the last few years, in the background a number of other important acquisition programs have been moving forward without making too much of a fuss – just as you want your major projects to do.

One of these is the CAVS, the Common Armoured Vehicle System, in which Finland, Latvia, and since April 2020 also Estonia, has been aiming to procure a new common armoured vehicle system. The baseline will be Patria’s ungoogleable 6X6 armoured personnel carrier.

The 6×6 prototype being shown at the Ādažu base in Latvia this spring. Source: Gatis Dieziņš / Latvian MoD

At the first stage the aim is to bring into service the standard armoured personnel carrier as well as a command post vehicle, though naturally the family can be expected to be expanded into further versions if and when the platform matures. To understand exactly what is happening, a brief look back at Finnish APC development is needed.

The ubiquitous Finnish armoured vehicle is the originally Sisu (later Patria) XA-180 series and the closely related XA-200 series of vehicles. These rather unassuming 6x6s are rather typical of late Cold War designs, and has achieved a comfortable number of export successes as well as a solid reputation in international operations. The Pasi, as it is widely known, does however suffer from the basic issue of being designed in the early 1980’s, and there is only so much you can do to upgrade it before you run into the obvious question of whether a clean-sheet design isn’t the better option.

‘Shadow’, one of the original Rosomak still painted in green and lacking later upgrades, on patrol in the Ghazni province back in 2010. Source: U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark O’Donald via Wikimedia Commons

Enter Patria AMV, or XA-360. If the Pasi is your basic Cold War APC, the AMV is your typical early 2000’s design, being larger, 8×8, heavily protected, and able to carry both significant firepower and protection into battle. Now, the AMV is by all accounts an excellent vehicle, and has scored a number of export successes during the first decade of its service. It also continued the tradition from the Pasi of building up a solid reputation in international service, in this case with the Poles in Afghanistan. However, this performance didn’t come cheap, and in a twist of irony Finland is in fact one of the lesser users of the platform, with the majority of the vehicles having been produced in Poland under license as the KTO Rosomak. In fact, reports surfaced a few years ago that Polish company PGZ was interested in acquiring the whole land division of Patria.

At home, with the large-scale acquisition of AMV being ruled out (at least for the time being), the FDF instead launched a limited mid-life upgrade programme of the XA-180, bringing the vehicle up to the XA-180M standard and allocating the vehicles to the manoeuvre forces of the Army (these are responsible for creating the centre of gravity of the defence and fighting the decisive battles). It was however clear that this wasn’t a long-term solution.

Exactly what the FDF is up to has been somewhat unclear. A few pre-production vehicles of the Protolab PMPV/Misu have been acquired, but while these obviously can do the job of an APC they are closer to armoured trucks. The same has been the case with the Sisu GTP 4×4, six vehicles of which have been acquired for tests, but these are too small to work as XA-180 replacements. As such, neither is really a direct Pasi-replacement.

The obvious case was to bring the XA-concept into the 21’st century, something which Patria was quick to do once it became clear that the pendulum was slowly swinging back and the 8×8-market was starting to become cramped while at the same time many armed forces wanted a modern wheeled APC that didn’t break the bank.

Latvian Minister of Defence Dr. Artis Pabriks and Janis Garisons, State Secretary of the MoD of Latvia, in front of the 6X6 during this week’s ceremony. Note the additional equipment compared to the prototype, such as shield and mount for a heavy machine gun. Source: Armīns Janiks / Latvian MoD

Enter the 6X6, building on the components of the AMV with the pedigree of the XA. The vehicle sports room for two crew and up to ten dismounts as well as their equipment for a 72-hour mission (or alternatively, three crew and 8-9 dismounts if you want to bring along a gunner). Protection is STANAG 2-level (roughly protection from 7.62 x 39 mm armoured piercing rounds or a 155 mm HE round exploding 80 meters from the vehicle) as standard, but can be increased to STANAG 4-level if the customer so wishes (roughly protection from a 14.5 mm armoured piercing rounds or a 155 mm HE round exploding 30 meters from the vehicle). I’m gonna make an educated guess that you will sacrifice your “optional amphibious capability” if you choose to go down the STANAG 4-route. The vehicle has all the niceties that can be expected, with fully individual suspension, all-wheel drive, ABS brakes, and so forth. As noted, the vehicle ended up chosen as the baseline for the CAVS-programme, and this week the first orders have been placed.

Latvia went all-in, ordering ‘over 200’ vehicles in a joint ceremony in which Finland signed a Letter of Intent for 160 armoured personnel carriers. Estonian plans are still somewhat unclear, but notable is that with the Finnish schedule of placing the main order only in 2023 (with an order for pre-production vehicles this year) the Estonians still have plenty of time to get aboard. A key note on the Finnish decision is that the 6X6 (which by the way locally is known as PSAJON2020, in case you need more designations to keep track off) won’t actually replace the XA-180M in service, but rather allows the manoeuvre forces to trade in their XA-180M for the 6X6 and send the XA-180M to the third-tier local forces (responsible for participating in battle and providing security, surveillance and support to the manoeuvre and second-tier regional forces in their area and assisting them in maintaining contact with the other authorities). The addition of a significant number of armoured vehicles will provide a serious boost to the tactical and operational mobility of these units, but also raises an interesting question about whatever happens with the regional forces, which certainly have an even higher need for APCs? The missing link might be explained by the middle ground of the XA-203 series vehicles, but their number in Finnish service is significantly smaller than the XA-180 series of vehicles, and a number of these are used for other purposes where the heavier and more powerful vehicle is more suitable than the original XA-180, such as vehicles with dedicated signals- or C3-roles. In any case, we know that there are further vehicle programs coming in the form of e.g. replacements for the all-terrain vehicles used by the more northerly units (Bv 206 and NASU) which will be replaced by significantly faster all-terrain vehicles allowing the tracked vehicles to keep up with the wheeled ones of the units, and on the horizon the MLU proper of the CV 9030 looms (for those looking even further, the BMP-2M/MD and MT-LBV-family are also bound to wear out eventually). Whether further 6X6 buys are bound to follow for the needs of the regional forces remain to be seen.

6 thoughts on “CAVS Rolling On

  1. Tom

    Sweden will use Patria vehicles in central Sweden where the road network rarely requires you to go completely off road. But in Northern Sweden, there the armoured variant of BV206, the BvS10, will be the vehicle of choice. Sweden just announced that it will order at least an additional 200 BvS10:s in the near future. I think that Sweden will transfer a number of older Patria vehicles to the new loical defense battalions that will be set up in the south of its northern region and on the island of Gotland.

  2. AK

    Thank you for good write-up but I think you don’t quite hit the nail in what comes to re-allocating XA/Sisu APCs. You need to look more in to the future.

    There will be no regional/2nd tier forces in the future. Based on all public source, Army itself, future will have different structure than today. Future is 2-tier.

    The old regional 2nd tier force will be disbanded and most likely will be partly upgraded to strenghten 1st tier and for most part the old 3rd (local) tier which combined form the new 2nd tier (local). The legacy XA will be highly needed to raise the bar in today’s 3rd tier to make them able to live up to new expectations of the future.

    In this light, acquisition of new APC with re-allocation of the old make sense. Hopefully numbers get higher than 160, I find the initial number a little dissapointing as no ”option for more” was mentioned.

    1. Reeveli

      Uh, the source you cite literally lays out the future triad of different land forces: ‘Kynnysjoukkot’, ‘ratkaisujoukkot’ and ‘paikallisesti toimiviat joukkot’. What signifigance, if any, the rebranded names carry I do not know but the ‘old’ local forces are very much present. They basically even carry over their old name. Am I missing something obvious here since I’m not seeing any two-tier structure mentioned?

      1. AK

        In the link text ’Kynnysjoukot’ are described as pre-emptive/first phase/rapid response troops and thus their mission has nothing or very little in common with old 2nd tier ’Alueelliset joukot’ of large scale regional defence. No details of course but I think ’Kynnyjoukot’ are smaller in numbers too and probably a mix of different capabilities, SOF included.

        Just my thoughts though.

      2. AK

        And to clarify… I never said the ‘Paikallisesti toimivat joukot’ would go anywhere, to the contrary, they’re being reinforced with legacy XA (and hopefully other gear too) and most likely in numbers as well to take over the duties of old 2nd tier ‘Alueelliset’ (Regional). I’m trying to answer this question raised by the author “but also raises an interesting question about whatever happens with the regional forces, which certainly have an even higher need for APCs?”

      3. Stadkonna

        Kynnysjoukot and ratkaisujoukot both seem to fit under the term ‘operative forces’. The rhetoric around kynnysjoukot leans towards the readiness battalions (consisting of current VYKS and high readiness reserve components). Ratkaisujoukot are more about winning decisive battles than emphasising readiness. Their firepower will come from mechanized/motorized forces and operational fires.

        These things are rarely set in stone and if any further information is released I’d expect (read hope) it to come in a few days time in the defence policy report 2021 (9th of september).

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