On Tuesday 05 December a few invited companies took part in a closed event Light Mobility Showcase for UK MoD at Defence BattleLab in Dorset.
Formally announced by the UK MoD on 18 May 2022, the Defence BattleLab is a “hub designed to spark innovation and push the boundaries of technology used by UK Armed Forces”. Part of the government National Strategic Technology and Innovation Exchange (NSTIx) programme, located at Dorset Innovation Park, BattleLab is a joint venture between UK Ministry of Defence, Dorset Council and Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership.
In mid-November the organiser of last week’s Light Mobility Showcase announced via social media: “We are a running a closed event for UK MoD at Battlelab to showcase innovation and product development in the Light Utility Vehicle space, up to 6500kgs GVW. A superb line-up of companies are attending with an array of 4×4 & 6×6 LUV, all converted for specialist and general utility roles. In addition there are hybrids Quads / Side-by-Side and E-Bikes Together they tell different parts of the same connected story.” [LUV = Light Utility Vehicles]
After hearing other parties interested in attending the showcase to present their potential Light Mobility / GSUP solutions to UK MoD had been informed access was ‘By Invitation Only’ and as such they could not attend, curious specialist defence media contacted a representative of the organisers who, the evening after the event was over, provided this response: “It was a closed event to MoD, we promised them no industry and no press. That is how we got such good attendance and very few people outside of MoD / DSTL / QinetiQ got wind of it. The cat is out of the bag on what we are doing to prepare for GSUP / LMV and it is down to the partners we are now working with to push that message out.”
In response to a subsequent enquiry from JOINT-FORCES asking who “we are doing to prepare” referred to and if a consortium had been formed, the simple one-line response received was “ProSpeed with others.” Fortunately, however, both MoD personnel and company employees in attendance subsequently publicly posted about the Light Mobility Showcase and from simple research we have been able to glean clues as to a few of the partners aligning themselves:-
- ProSpeed: Yorkshire company ProSpeed Motorsport Limited is best known for producing after-market roof racks and accessories for Land Rover Defender and Discovery models and the Toyota Hilux, but has also developed the HILOAD 6×6 conversion to increase the payload of the Toyota Hilux; they exhibited a Double Cab 6×6 Hilux prototype at the Light Mobility Showcase.
- Babcock Land: The Land division of Babcock International displayed three of their GLV (General Logistic Vehicle) conversions of the Toyota Land Cruiser LC70, which on the company website they claim is “replacing the Land Rover Defender” and “builds upon the characteristics, performance, and core architecture of the iconic military Land Rover”; in addition to a five-door hard top version, as unveiled at DSEI 2023, they also exhibited four-door double cab (with ring mount over rear load bed) pickup and two-door pickup versions at the Light Mobility Showcase.
- ACS: German conversion specialists ACS (Armoured Car Systems GmbH) who are probably best known for their ENOK range of in-service Light Armoured Patrol Vehicle conversions, presented a lightweight open-topped rapid response vehicle based on a Mercedes-Benz G-class at the Light Mobility Showcase; the upper framework of this vehicle is reasonably similar to the in-service Defender 110 WMIK and could be adapted for the Toyota-based Babcock GLV.
- Electric Motion UK: EM UK, the British distributor of the French Electric Motion bike range, displayed two of their electric-powered off-road cycles at the Light Mobility Showcase.
It is also understood that Babcock presented an armoured Toyota Land Cruiser with ECM suite outside the building and it has been mentioned that a hydrogen-powered INEOS Grenadier was present, though we have not yet been able to confirm the latter.
We feel sure our readership would have been very interested to see what at least one segment of industry is proposing as potential replacements for the lighter end of the UK Forces’ ageing light and medium utility vehicle fleet, the OSD (Out of Service Dates) of which cannot really be extended very much further, but regrettably these days opportunities to provide independent first-hand reportage seem to be exceedingly rare.