Held every year at the famous Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, DVD is not like your ordinary defence exhibition. Here you can see armoured vehicles driving around and, if you ask nicely, go for a ride. There are no shiny display models; vehicles are caked in mud and diesel fumes fill the air.
DVD is a jointly sponsored by the British Army and the MOD's Defence Equipment and Support organisation, so UK equipment and capabilities is very much a theme of the show. The minister for defence equipment, support and technology Philip Dunne says the event provides a glimpse of how the UK Armed Forces are preparing for Future Force 2020. From Challenger II tanks to Mastiff MRAPs, all the Army's fighting machines are here.
"[DVD] highlights the innovative technology that industry has developed to enable the Armed Forces to deliver the capability required on operations," said Dunne. "World class technology that is made in Britain, and that I want to support British industry to export worldwide."
Replacing the British Army's ageing fleet with Scout SV
A big focus of Future Force 2020 is the Scout Specialist Vehicle (SV), which will replace a number of ageing vehicles in the British Army including the vintage Scimitar. In a first for the Scout SV programme, manufacturers General Dynamics showed off a pre-production prototype at DVD yesterday. Visitors flocked to see the new vehicle, including a quick drop in by Dunne himself, making the stand one of the busiest places to be.
Brigadier Robert Talbot Rice heads a team of 300 experts, overseeing fleet projects worth £10bn in the next ten years.
Officials from General Dynamics said it was "fantastic" to be able to showcase the Scout SV at DVD.
"This is the first armoured fighting vehicle that the UK has had for nearly 20 years," said Eddie Allen, Business Development Director at General Dynamics. "There hasn't been anything like this for a long, long time and it is a very exciting vehicle because it has been designed in the aftermath of Iraq and Afghanistan so it is highly survivable...but also it is equipped with all of the technology that has emerged from the needs of those conflicts."
The prototype on display yesterday was configured as a Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support (PMRS) variant, which recently completed its Base Platform Critical Design Review (CDR). According to GD figures, the PMRS Scout will weigh 38 tons and be able to travel up to 70km/h with four soldiers and two crew members on board. It has a remote weapon station up top, the Scout at DVD was equipped with a .50 cal (HMG) but grenade machine guns and GPMG can also be fitted.
Compared with the reconnaissance vehicles it is replacing - the Scimitar and Spartan - the Scout SV will be a sizeable vehicle. At 38 tons and 8.75m long, the Scout SV dwarfs the Scimitar which is only 5.28m long and a featherweight 8 tons. The display model at DVD was fitted with modular armour protection packs, which also give the vehicle a much wider presence. Despite its heft, GD says the vehicle is transportable by A400M, though an earlier requirement to be transportable by C-130 was dropped.
According to Allen, the PMRS variant of the Scout SV will go through its formal test readiness review with the Ministry of Defence later this year and a three year trials programme will begin in 2015. Recent reports indicate that negotiations are underway to speed up the approval of the manufacturing phase of the programme to avoid the UK's upcoming general election in 2015 and subsequent defence review.
Other manufacturers show off their kit - Oshkosh, Thales, Streit
Despite the Scout SV unveiling hogging some of the DVD limelight, other manufacturers also had large stands with multiple vehicles performing live demonstrations. Out in the off-road area, a short journey away from the main exhibition space, a host of vehicles were parked up ready to take visitors around the dirt tracks at Millbrook. Streit Group, a specialist in civilian and military armoured vehicles, gave Army Technology a bumpy ride around in one of its 6x6 vehicles.
Oshkosh displayed its M-ATV MRAP and, for the first time in Europe, demonstrated its L-ATV platform - which is currently competing for a lucrative contract to replace the US Army's Humvee vehicles. Not to be outdone, Lockheed Martin also displayed with Joint Light Tactical Vehicle prototype which it also hopes will win the Humvee replacement contract. Fresh from displaying at this year's Eurosatory, Thales brought along its Hawkei armoured vehicle which will eventually be fielded with the Australian Army.
While lacking any big announcements, DVD still offered industry figures, government officials, and most importantly, the Armed Forces, the chance to get their hands on future technologies. It was also a chance to see how the UK military and industry are adapting equipment and technology to the challenges of withdrawing from Afghanistan and transitioning to contingency operations.