Royal Ordnance RO2003
Vehicle design history
The Royal Ordinance RO2000 series of light vehicles was designed as part of a government initiative to develop a new generation of vehicles known as the Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV). This name should be familiar to people who have gandered at my previous suggestions, as the program led to the development of the Warrior Defence Reconnaissance Variant (DRV), The Scorpion 2 also known as the Scorpion 90, and further refinement of the Stormer CVR(t). This program was a continuation of the Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FLAV), which dates back to the mid 1980s, and was a massive multi-decade undertaking, with a wide range of vehicles demonstrated by a myriad of companies, which only had the common theme of continually failing to deliver a workable platform.
One of the main design choices of the FFLAV was to reduce the logistical footprint of vehicles in service with the British at the time, something further highlighted in the 1990-1991 Gulf War. The idea was a shared theme during the period with both, Alvis (CVR(t), GKN (MCV-80) and Royal Ordnance (RO2000) producing a family of vehicles mounted on a universal chassis designed to undertake a wide number of roles, from scouting and combat, to logistical roles.
To mention the FFLAV is to get a little ahead of myself though, as initially just like its peers from Alvis and GKN the RO2000 family had been designed explicitly with the intention of creating an affordable armoured platform for export, with the possibility of local adoption for the British armed forces on the table if it could meet design requirements. The central design of the RO2000 was a common platform encompassing an engine, transmission, chassis and suspension, only varying with the rear combat module based on the intended role of the vehicle. This combined with a standard design focused on ease of manufacture and mechanical simplicity was supposed to create a cheap-to-run fleet with massive amounts of parts commonality.
The RO2000 in question stemmed initially from a design called the SP122, which was a self-propelled howitzer initially designed for the Egyptian army, this design would later become the RO2001 which would serve as the initial proof of concept for the vehicle family, before a flat bed and the RO2003 prototype could be constructed. The initial design had been meant for manufacture in Egypt, which lacked the well-developed industry of the United Kingdom, and as such the vehicle had been built from the ground up to be simple and easy to manufacture. Some reports conflict this though and say the chassis family had been intended from the start, with the SPG version being offered as a manner to allow testing of RO’s newest product.
The basic RO2000 was an all-steel chassis, powered by a Perkins TV8-640 V8 turbocharged diesel giving 320 hp coupled to a 6-speed epicyclic automatic gearbox. This power train was completely contained within the front of the vehicle, leaving the rear space empty for the addition of a fighting compartment. The suspension consisted of 5 double wheels mounted on torsion bars, with an idler at the rear and two return rollers per side. This layout was selected due to it being cheap and simple to construct, and due to the low maintenance of the layout. Royal Ordnance were also keen to show off the fact the vehicle was easily upgradable for the needs of the British Army. The RO2000 could manage a gradient of 30 degrees, a trench measuring 2.2 meters or an obstacle 75mm high.
The armour values for the vehicle are not readily specified, though it can be inferred that it is rather low given the weight of the vehicle. A armour upgrade package was advertised with the family listing protection against both kinetic and HEAT shells but details are lacking. What was readily advertised though was the fact the vehicle could be maintained in the field with rapid efficiency, for example, it would only take 40 minutes to take out the engine, 35 mins to take out the gearbox and 25 mins for the drive unit, with the simplest of equipment. Reliability was also highlighted, with RO claiming the RO2000 underwent at least 10,000 km of testing in ‘arduous conditions’, likely relating to the RO2001 in Egypt.
The RO2003 is by far the most exotic variant of the family though, possessing a breech-loading British Royal Ordnance 120 mm mortar, this same mortar would later be mounted on the AMS 120 mm self-propelled mortar system and a few other exotic derivatives including a warrior chassis. This gun has a rate of fire of 8 rounds a minute and was designed to provide fire support for infantry up to a range of 6.5km. The Mortar is complimented by a pintle-mounted 0.5" HB Browning machine gun, along with 10 smoke grenades mounted in two banks five either side of the turret. This prototype would be shown off to much fanfare at BAEE 86 in Aldershot, along with a turretless chassis, where its unusual appearance resulted in it being featured in several articles in military magazines at the time.
Unfortunately like most British export attempts of this era, the RO2000 family failed to find any traction, and its attempts to wade into the mess that was the FFLAV resulted in no orders either, leaving only a few preproduction vehicles to represent RO’s attempt at entering the universal platform market. For the FFLAV program though this was only the beginning, as it would become a permanent mire in British armoured acquisitions for the next 30 years, leading into a fiscally disastrous string of projects, some of which I have previously mentioned contenders for, and some to come, including the MBAV, MRAV, TRACER, and later FRES programs…
Additional historical pictures:
*RO2000 Platform - Tank Encyclopedia (Tank encyclopedia for the vehicle family)
(Vehicle sales brochure, if anyone needs a better scan of this it is literally framed on my wall)
(Article for the vehicle in French)
(Additional sales ad)
- RO2000 Light Vehicle Series | Secret Projects Forum (Additional info on forum)
- A survey of the modern mortar. - Free Online Library (Mention of it in modern mortar systems)