Two companies used DSEi 2013 in London this week to highlight new special forces vehicles.

However, contrary to media reports, Canada’s Special Operations Forces are still several years away from acquiring a new High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, otherwise known as a replacement for their heavily-used HUMVEE.

CANSOFCOM put a hold on the acquisition program in 2010 after it failed to find a “generational leap forward” in capability. Instead, it refitted and extended the life of its current fleet of Humvees.

The replacement project was reinitiated in the summer of 2012, but at present the command is only at the pre-definition phase and likely won’t engage with industry again “until about 2015,” said BGen Denis Thompson, commander of CANSOFCOM.

In interviews during CANSEC in May, both London-based General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada and Wisconsin’s Oshkosh Defense spoke about vehicles that might be contenders for the program.

John Urias, executive vice-president of Oshkosh Defense, said the company could offer a more muscular light vehicle for Special Forces. “The light vehicle for U.S. forces has been the Humvee, but the Humvee was never designed against IEDS or EFPs (explosively formed projectiles) and was never designed to bolt on the armour such as we had to do. What has come out of the Iraq and Afghanistan experience has been that you need a highly mobile, off road, high performing vehicle that has survivability embedded in it – you don’t add it on, you build it into it. It’s not the featherweight class. It’s a robust vehicle but it’s not in the medium class. The definition of light has changed.”

Doug Wilson-Hodge, manager of international business development for GDLS-C, said the company could offer “a Special Ops configuration for Canada” of the modular Ocelot Light Patrol Vehicle, which integrates a V-hull with other blast-protection technology and a demountable protected crew pod. He also raised the Bronco 3, an evolution from the Bronco 2 Warthog, for the CANSOF marginal terrain vehicle project. “We believe we have a compelling offering for that program,” he said.

Of note, Supacat launched its Light Reconnaissance Vehicle 400 at DSEi, a light strike vehicle aimed at special forces, reconnaissance and border patrol that can be loaded on to a CH-47 Chinook with its full operational payload on board.

Supacat has teamed with Qt Services to develop a militarized variant of the latter’s Wildcat off-road motorsport vehicle, which has been successful on the Rally Raid circuit. The LRV 400 fills the gap in Supacat’s product portfolio between the heavier Jackal surveillance, reconnaissance and patrol vehicle and the smaller All-Terrain Mobility Platform. It weighs 3500 kg and boasts a top speed of 170 km/h and a range of 1000 km.

Oshkosh also used the event to exhibit for the first time in Europe its Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle (L-ATV), which also aims to fill “a vital capabilities gap” for protection and mobility that the Humvees, Eagles and Land Rovers currently lack. The L-ATV features the TAK-4i intelligent independent suspension system, now with more than 50 centimetres of independent wheel travel, and can be fitted with fully integrated and tested command, control, communications and computer (C4) equipment.

“The ability to operate on a battlefield with a wide range of threats and terrain is increasingly critical for forces around the globe,” Urias said. “The L-ATV was specifically designed to fulfil that mission. The platform offers unprecedented levels of protection and off-road mobility to navigate even the harshest environments.”