Armor: Cracks Of Doubt


October 29, 2019: The Belgian military has decided to stop using some of its Lynx LMV (Light Multirole Vehicle) 4x4 light armored vehicles. The cause is the recent discovery of chassis cracks. These were detected during regular inspections on some vehicles. The number of affected vehicles is unknown but the problem is related only to armored and armed Lynx RPK and SPS variants. The 320 unarmored Lynx vehicles will remain in service. Meanwhile the 120 armored variants are undergoing extensive inspections including total disassembly and usage of an X-ray scanner to determine how extensive, and serious, the problem is.

An additional complication is that 29 armored Lynx vehicles are deployed in foreign operations and training exercises. Another 26 of these armored vehicles are used to provide protection for Belgian air bases. These overseas and airbase protection Lynx vehicles will be taken out of service and checked as soon as possible. Users have been alerted about the possible problem. The Belgian army began using the Lynx in 2007 and since then it has also been used as a liaison vehicle for battlegroups during foreign humanitarian and peacekeeping operations.

The seven ton Lynx is another design influenced by the success of American armored hummers and MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like the hummer, the Lynx normally carries five people. The Lynx can carry a machine-gun on the roof and there are variants with the rear of the vehicle used for cargo or equipment. Lynx can be armed with an RWS (remote weapons station) or an armored or unarmored manned turret equipped with a machine-gun.

The Lynx is similar in size to the hummer (5.1 meters/15.8 feet long and 2.35 meters/7.3 feet wide) but is actually a few percent larger and weighs about a third more. Like the hummers built with armor (rather than having it added), the Lynx provides excellent protection from bullets and roadside bombs. The V-shaped hull of the Lynx improves protection from explosions beneath the vehicle. The Lynx costs nearly half a million dollars each when tricked out with all the accessories.

The Italian manufacturer, Iveco, has sold the Lynx to sixteen export customers. The Italian army ordered 1,210 Lynxs and some were used in Afghanistan, where they performed well. Russia was going to buy at least 60 Lynxs but the 2014 economic sanctions placed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine halted that, for the moment. The Russians originally wanted to build 2,000 Lynxs locally under license but the collapse of oil prices after 2013 put that on hold before the sanctions even became a factor.

Lynx was designed with high mobility in mind. To achieve this it has a 190 HP engine paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox. Lynx is air-transportable by transport aircraft like C130J, C-5, C-17 or A400M as well as helicopters like CH47 via sling-load. Lynx has also reduced thermal, acoustic, visual radar signatures. For example, the exhaust pipes were rearranged and the hot spots were treated with a high capacity IR absorbent materials. In order to make the vehicle more difficult to hear, sound deadening panels were placed in relevant places. The low visual signature was achieved with low profile vehicle silhouette while the radar cross section was reduced thanks to non-radar reflective coating. The Lynx is available in many versions including armored variants or not. The “heavy” model can be armored up to STANAG 4569 Level 3 (bullets) and Level 2a (mines).

The Iveco Lynx LMV has been a successful design, with over 4,000 sold so far. The recent Belgian problems might affect future export sales depending on how much the cracks limit performance and how widespread the problem is. The first armored hummers in Iraq were improvised and had problems. Armor was only bolted on and it was later discovered that the additional weight could lead to problems with the suspension and cause chassis cracks. This tended to occur when these improvised armored vehicles were used off-road a lot. That meant a lot of bouncing around while moving over uneven terrain and this always puts more stress on and suspension and chassis. Soon hummers were modified (more robust suspension and strengthened chassis) to handle armor kits that could easily be attached when needed and removed when not needed. The additional weight of the armor reduced fuel efficiency and changed the driving characteristics. Users had to adapt to the different “feel” of the vehicle while maneuvering it with the armor on. Eventually, there were hummer models that were more fully armored and the armor was built in at the factory. Iveco was aware of all this when they designed and built the Lynx and the current problems are probably not widespread as otherwise they could have been noted earlier. --- Przemysław Juraszek




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