By Mr. Mark Schauer (ATEC)September 5, 2017
YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz.-- U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) is one of the busiest vehicle-testing centers in the Army.
It's more than 200 miles of roads and trails have been traversed by generations of wheeled and tracked combat vehicles from both the United States and friendly foreign nations.
Now, you can add the Mowag-manufactured Piranha 5 to the list.
Descended from a vehicle originally produced in the early 1970s, the Piranha has evolved from an armored personnel carrier to an 8 x 8 infantry fighting vehicle. Currently used by over 20 nations, it is similar to the Stryker Combat Vehicle, which is based on the third generation of Piranha. In 2016, the Danish Defense Acquisition and Logistic Organization (DALO) ordered 309 of the Piranha's fifth generation, with full delivery expected by 2023. The vehicle is expected to be the basis of the Danish Army's vehicle fleet for the next three decades.
"Piranha 5 is a major step forward in all senses," said Lt. Col. Soren Horst, project manager for DALO. "When it comes to protection, it has a much higher ballistic and mine protection capability. It has a much larger payload and is more powerful."
The vehicle, 26 feet long and weighing in excess of 30 tons, comes in six different variants: Infantry, Command, Ambulance, Engineer, Mortar, and Repair. The Piranha 5 has larger wheels and a tighter turning circle thanks to a fourth axle that turns. The electrical system has been improved to accommodate current and future electronic gear. The test at YPG put the base infantry variant through its paces across punishing desert terrain.
"We configure the vehicle as if it were on a mission and drive in terrain that looks like Afghanistan and Iraq," said Horst. "The things we put the vehicle through are not far from what they would encounter in theater."
The testers were eager to see whether the vehicle could run at full capacity in an extremely hot desert environment. For example, could the air conditioning cope with not only the exterior heat, but that generated by a vehicle full of soldiers with all of the electronic equipment powered up as it traversed punishing, irregular terrain? What if it had to ford a body of water in the middle of the mission?
"What we stress on the vehicle is the air conditioning, oil temperature, cooling temperature, and the driveline and suspension," said Horst. "We also see if it has enough power to pull the vehicle and all the add-on equipment like mine rollers and dozer blades that we can attach."
With a crew of three and enough room for nine additional soldiers, the latest variant of the vehicle has a greater interior volume than its predecessor. The Piranha's interior boasts padded seats and retractable, raised footrests that suspend Soldier's feet above the vehicle's hull as an anti-blast precaution.
"It's quite comfortable," said Horst. "When soldiers ride in it they maintain their combat strength."
"Soldiers should not get fatigued in here," added Maj. Erik Viken. "They should be ready when they get out to go into combat."
Denmark's climate lacks the extremely hot conditions Danish soldiers have faced in recent years in places like Afghanistan. Yuma's summer didn't disappoint the testers: Every test day saw temperatures north of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Though the Danish Army conducted the test, YPG offered plenty of support personnel. Day-to-day operations were coordinated by the staff of YPG's Training and Exercise Management Office (TEMO), with technical support from test officers Carlos Anaya and Brad Cox.
"We also had instrumentation support, general service support, tactical vehicle operator support, and escorts," said Luis Arroyo, TEMO chief. "We had a team put together for this event and I believe the customers were happy with what they were able to accomplish here."
"This is one of the few places we can be certain to have that high level of temperatures," added Horst. "Yuma provides fantastic facilities when it comes to tracks that look like Afghanistan and Iraq, and also maintenance facilities and experienced personnel who can support us."
At the conclusion of the hot climate testing in Yuma, the Piranha will see further testing in Scandinavia during the winter months.
"We've been extremely grateful for the support we've gotten from YPG," said Horst. "They've offered us fantastic facilities and this has been really fruitful for us."