Obstacles are inevitably covered by fire of some description if they are to achieve their aim. A vehicle attempting to breach the obstacle will inevitably be a priority for targeting and as such needs to be at least as survivable as the combat vehicles it is breaching for, and preferably better able to withstand the effects of enemy fire.
Whilst survivability can be enhanced in a variety of ways, reduction in profile is clearly a sound objective. If the breaching vehicle is to be produced by modifying an existing combat chassis there is potential to achieve this reduction in profile by removing the turret and locating the command element of the crew inside the hull. Such a configuration also provides significant advantages if there is a requirement to carry additional non-vital stores such as fascines on the vehicle. The disadvantage of this approach is that visibility for the command element will inevitably be degraded by this approach unless some form of enhanced viewing capability is introduced.
At the same time driver survivability in an area of potential mine threat is best achieved by removing him from the extreme front of the vehicle and relocating him in the main hull of the vehicle.
The crew compartment is designed to accommodate a crew of 3. A commander, an operator, who drives the vehicle and an additional crew member.
The crew compartment forms an armoured “citadel” within the overall armour envelope of the hull. It is isolated from the rest of the hull with a combination of armour, high strength steel, spall liner and under-floor reinforcement.
Sitting in the crew compartment, the driver is higher up with a better view over the Pearson Engineering equipment both in work and transport position than would otherwise be the case on an MBT.
This design solution allows crew protection to be optimised for the operational requirement and the probable threats to be faced, while keeping the total weight of the vehicle within the weight of the original MBT.
- The crew compartment has been designed to protect the crew from the effects of a 10kg blast mine detonated under the centre of the vehicle as defined by STANAG 4569 (Level 4b).
- Maximum protection mode in which all the crew look through periscopes and are as low as possible.
- Maximum vision mode in which the crew look through bullet-proof glass windows from a higher vantage point.
To protect the crew from mine blasts at the front of the vehicle during operations, the vehicle controls can also be operated from within the crew compartment.
The existing driver controls and monitors remain in place so that the vehicle can still be driven normally. Operation from the crew compartment is by secondary actuation of the main driver controls. This minimises the modifications required to the chassis; maintains a familiar driving environment for use in peacetime, reduces training and provides a proven backup to the secondary operator stations.
Driving the vehicle from inside the crew compartment allows the vehicle and engineer equipment controls to be integrated together, shared between the operator and commander and tailored to suit each specific operation.
The crew compartment assembly fits into the chassis after the turret has been removed. It is secured in place using the turret slew ring bolts forming a fully armoured NBC sealed compartment. Only minor changes are required to the chassis to adapt it to fit the crew compartment.
The crew compartment consists of two major components, the crew compartment cabin and the crew compartment casement.
Hydraulic cylinders, external to the crew compartment but internal to the vehicle hull, lift and lower the casement and cabin to change between maximum protection and maximum vision modes.