Page last updated at 07:07 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 08:07 UK

Jackal 2 makes its public debut

By Daniel Emery
Technology reporter, BBC News


Daniel Emery takes the MoD's new reconnaissance vehicle for Afghanistan on a test spin.

Deep in the heart of the English countryside, just outside Aldershot in Hampshire, the calm of a hot spring morning is shattered by the roar of a 5.9 litre diesel engine.

The Jackal 2 is the upgraded version of the Army's weapons mounted patrol vehicle and is making its public debut.

Its predecessor - The Jackal - was deployed to Afghanistan in April 2008 to provide British forces with an off-road vehicle that could travel long distances, provide fire support when needed and, importantly, could offer a degree of protection against small arms fire and roadside bombs and so-called improvised explosive devices (IED).

People are defending their country with their lives, they deserve the best equipment money can buy
Quentin Davies MP

While not impervious to all IEDs, they were seen as a safer alternative to the Snatch Land Rover, a vehicle developed for use in Northern Ireland in the early 90s which although providing some protection against small arms fire, came in for criticism from some quarters, saying it did not provide sufficient protection against the range of IEDs found in Afghanistan.

In October 2008, Gordon Brown said £700 million would be spent on new troop vehicles - the Protected Mobility Package - which at the time pledged to buy 100 more Jackal vehicles.

Six months later, the order has increased to 110 and the first vehicles are due to roll off the production line in Honiton, Devon, as part of a £74 million deal with the vehicles manufacturer Supacat.

Of course, what the army is now buying is called Jackal 2, although many of the changes from its predecessor are rather subtle.

The basic armament - a top mounted .50 caliber machine gun - along with a secondary 7.62mm general purpose machine gun is still there, although the .50 cal gun position has been moved forward.

"While firing the gun on the old vehicle was very effective, the noise would give the driver a very hard time," Sean Limbrick, the chief engineer behind Jackal 2 told the BBC.

Jackal 2
The Jackal 2 can travel 1000km on a single tank of fuel

"The new position makes all the difference and it also allows the gun to be depressed [pointed downwards] far more, giving the operator more flexibility."


The engine, transmission and suspension are basically the same, however the chassis has been upgraded allowing the vehicle to carry a greater load and give it greater strength - vital if a vehicle is to survive the blast from a roadside bomb. The majority of casualties linked to the Jackal in Afghanistan were caused by IEDs.

The Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies, said that amongst the troops in Afghanistan, The Jackal was one of the most popular vehicles after the Mastiff protected patrol vehicle, despite some casualties, and he expected Jackal 2 to be equally well received.

"The object is to continually improve our portfolio of vehicles. We produce a vehicle, it goes to the front line and we take account the experience of the front line including disasters and fatalities.

Jackal in Afghanistan
The Jackal 1 has been in service in Afghanistan since April 2008

"We feed that back to the engineers and see if we can improve the vehicle. And so there is a continual process of improvement," he said.

The new vehicle can now carry four soldiers, one more than the Jackal 1. There are other changes that have been made as a result from feedback from troops in the field.

The armoured door now locks back into the open position, allowing troops travel while looking out the door.

"We found that many soldiers wanted the ability to have a wide field of fire, so the door can now be locked open," said Mr Limbrick.

The rear of the vehicle has also been redesigned, allowing fuel or water cans to be carried on the outside of the vehicle, allowing troops to store their Bergens (backpacks), extra ammunition, or other equipment.

Mr Davies said that although the Jackal 2 was expensive, it was money well spent.

"People are defending their country with their lives, they deserve the best equipment money can buy."

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