Over the last week, since an image appeared in the media, readers have asked us if the MBDA and Supacat HMT 600 WOLFRAM is in Ukrainian service, writes Bob Morrison.
By way of background: In September 2022, first at ARMY EXPO on Salisbury Plain and then at DVD (Defence Vehicle Dynamics) at Millbrook Proving Ground, Supacat and MBDA presented the WOLFRAM Light Overwatch concept which mounted an eight-missile Brimstone launcher pod on a Supacat HMT 600 6×6 logistic vehicle. A second concept first publicly presented at DVD 2022 was a Boxer Mechanised Infantry Vehicle mounting an MBDA Brimstone launcher module. The WOLFRAM concept appeared again at ARMY EXPO 2023 in Central London, this time with the launcher module mounted on an in-service British Army COYOTE 6×6 variant of the Supacat HMT 600; Unmanned Ground Vehicle and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle concepts toting MBDA Brimstone launchers were also displayed at ARMY EXPO 2023.
In May 2022 the UK Ministry of Defence first gifted a quantity of MBDA Brimstone missiles to Ukraine and reports from the combat zone soon stated these missiles had been pressed into service on improvised vehicle mounts to help combat advancing Russian armour. Brimstone started life as an air-launched ground attack missile or AGM, first entering service in 2005 in this role, but later variants were developed for first the Naval and then the Land surface-to-surface roles. Brimstone is NOT a surface-to-air or air defence missile, though of course it could give a low flying helicopter or drone a bit of a headache if the two happened to collide in flight.
In 2022 the UK Prime Minister’s Office (No.10) announced that it was considering gifting an undisclosed number of Supacat HMT vehicles as part of Britain’s military assistance to Ukraine, and as only the barest of details were given it was widely presumed that these must be JACKAL 4×4 &/or COYOTE 6×6 variants. When in February 2023 it was then announced that UK MoD was ordering an initial additional 70 HMT 400 (i.e. High Mobility Transporter 4×4) vehicles some commentators presumed these were to replace the vehicles donated to Ukraine, whereas our belief is that they are intended for British Army units taking on changing roles.
The image of an HMT with improvised missile launcher supposedly from Ukraine and widely reproduced online over the last week (which we are not including here as we have not been able to establish the copyright holder to seek permission to include in this feature) purports to be an air defence system and not a surface-to-surface anti-armour system. MBDA Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAM or AIM 132) are visible in this (at time of writing single) photo and the vehicle itself appears to be one of the batch of approximately 32 MEP (Military Enhancement Programme) 6×6 HMT base vehicles procured from Supacat by UK MoD in 2005 for the subsequently cancelled (in 2009 at a cost of £88 million) SOOTHSAYER Electronic Warfare programme.
The WOLFRAM Brimstone demonstration vehicle displayed with a mock-up launcher module in September 2022 carried an FG**AB military number plate from the same series as the SOOTHSAYER MEP publicly displayed at the DVD 2007 expo at Millbrook. The photo of the ASRAAM launcher widely circulating on the internet over the last week appears to be one of this same batch of previously mothballed SOOTHSAYER base vehicles, but curiously even though all other cab detail seems to be identical the ‘Ukrainian’ HMT appears to have a completely flat left side cab door panel while those I have photographed had a clear fold line; might this be an indication that the photograph has been digitally manipulated? Because the ‘Ukrainian’ photo may have been manipulated and as I have yet to find another image taken from a different angle, I have filed this one in my Curiosities Folder for now.
One thing I reckon I can say for sure, however, is that the WOLFRAM concept demonstrator as presented (using different HMT variants as its base) at Copehill Down, Millbrook and Wellington Barracks over the last eleven months is not the GBAD (Ground-Based Air Defence) system supposedly in service against the Russian invaders of Ukraine in the anti-aircraft role. Having said that, it will be interesting to see just what Supacat and MBDA might present at DSEI next month.
[images © Bob Morrison, 2001-2023]