Ford Ranger defence vehicle concept

Ford Ranger defence vehicle concept

Unveiled for the first time at the Defence and Security International exhibition in London in September, a new Ricardo defence vehicle concept based on the Ford Ranger platform demonstrates an innovative approach to fulfilling military general service vehicle needs.

Manufactured in the Ford’s South African facility and sold globally, the Ranger is a common sight on the highways of Europe. A vital workhorse in sectors ranging from construction to agriculture and forestry, the Ranger is the continent’s best-selling pick-up and is also valued for its versatility, durability and high towing capacity in leisure applications.

However, while the model is familiar in many differing roles, it has not - until now at least - been seen as a candidate for military service. This new Ricardo developed Ranger concept builds on thewealth of experience of the company’s special vehicles team and is a modern interpretation of the Ricardo approach to cost-effective military vehicle design, a heritage that stretches back almost three decades.

The special vehicles team, led by director Paul Tarry, has long championed the innovative design and manufacture of defence vehicles; wherever possible, these have used commercially available platforms and components. Back in the early 1990s Tarry and his team noted that British forces were using large fleets of the then-current Land Rover Defender for basic transportation, but that they also had an occasional requirement for light-attack vehicles. The result was the WMIK (Weapons Mount Installation Kit) concept. This Ricardo innovation comprised a roll cage and ring-mount weapon system kit, as well as a strengthening of the chassis
and body structure across the fleet of the otherwise standard transportation vehicles. When required, standard
Land Rover Defenders could be WMIK equipped and deployed as required in theatre, both in front-line use and for special forces operations.

Ricardo’s militarized Ford Ranger

The new Ford Ranger general service vehicle concept demonstrates a modern interpretation of the Ricardo approach to the adaptation of a commercially available platform as the basis for defence and other security-related applications. The concept is intended to be available with a range of powertrain options, including Ford’s powerful and refined 213-horsepower 2.0-litre EcoBlue bi-turbo diesel powertrain, which produces 500 Nm of torque for excellent load-hauling capability. This is mated to an advanced new 10-speed automatic
transmission for easy, economical driving.

Key features of the Ricardo Ranger concept include options for a rollover protection system; a ring-mounted
weapon system similar to that used in the WMIK; an armoured ballistic underfloor and armoured glass;
lightweight but heavy-duty front and rear bumpers; skid plates for the radiator, powertrain and fuel tank; rock
sliders and improved wading/fording protection; NATO IRR paint/camouflage and four-point seat harnesses. In
addition, the 24V electrical system is enhanced to provide the power requirements and electromagnetic
compatibility (EMC) protection expected of modern defence vehicle applications, and the chassis can be equipped with upgraded springs, dampers, brakes, heavy-duty wheels and all-terrain tyres to provide increased ride height and greater towing capacity.

In delivering this project Ricardo has worked closely with Minnesota based Polaris Government and Defense, in particular when it comes to support in the areas of onboard power management and C4i (command,
control, communications, computers and intelligence) integration.

Successful collaboration

“The Ricardo relationship with Ford is great,” explains Tarry. “They rely upon us for our strong connections with military sector customers and our detailed knowledge of defence and security operations, and from their side they provide proactive engineering support for our adaptation work. For example, they have been extremely helpful in adapting the controls and displays for use with night vision goggles and have also treated calibration adaptation for use on NATO standard JP8 fuel as part of their in-house alternative fuels work. These types of challenge are far from insurmountable to Ricardo, but it is far less costly, as well as more effective, to have an OEM partner that is willing to collaborate on such adaptation needs.”

Tarry contrasts this with the many defence conversions of commercial platforms in other parts of the world,
particularly those based on Japanesemanufactured vehicles where the country’s pacifist constitution or moral
objections to defence-related work can act as a barrier to co-operation. “If you base an adaptation on a platform for which you do not have the support and co-operation of the original manufacturer, you’re effectively working with equipment purchased on the grey market for which service support will not be available,” explains Tarry.

The flexibility of the partnership with Ford on the Ranger concept extends beyond the design of the concept to take in the manufacture by Ricardo of specialist versions. Tarry explains that lightly modified vehicles would be produced in-house by Ford, as is already the case, for example, with some specialist forestry vehicles; However, for more bespoke defence. adaptations – particularly those requiring sophisticated communications, electronic countermeasures, weapons systems and other role-specific adaptations – vehicles would probably be sold to Ricardo for conversion and onward sale to the end customer. Crucially, this collaborative approach with Ford ensures that defence fleet customers have the reassurance of an established international supply chain of parts and service.

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