Copyright 2008 by Ernest Bywater
Chuck Phillips doesn’t remember much of the first days in hospital after he was rescued from the burnt-out tank Isis. This is because he was kept sedated and unconscious for most of the time. About a week after entering the hospital he’s told he’s a general and the official Commanding Officer of the RRF. Even though hospitalized he can still perform some of his administrative duties as the unit commander, and he does so. He contacts the unit base back in the US to order some of the senior technical staff to fly to Samara with the tank recovery vehicles and for them to evaluate the condition of the remains of the tanks.
When they arrive he gives them orders to secure and return to base all of the hulks and equipment they can because much of the technology is still classified. They collect every hulk and every part of a tank they can locate. The recovery vehicles are used to carry the remains back to the Kurumoch Airport where they’re loaded onto the planes that brought the tanks out. Even so, many of the tanks were so utterly destroyed and the rest so badly damaged the carrying capacity becomes a weight issue and not a cubic space concern. A third of the aircraft return to the US empty, and only one aircraft is carrying the bodies of their dead.
Phillips knows the departmental political in-fighting won’t permit the purchase of new tanks. However, he has a warehouse full of spares, so he thinks he can rebuild enough to justify keeping the unit alive. The senior sergeant of the Supply Company visits Phillips in hospital to tell him about the spares the suppliers have in stock. Phillips still has most of the unit budget to get the work done, and with the loss of so many personnel they’ve money to burn. Phillips authorizes the expenditure of most of his remaining equipment budget to purchase all of the spare parts currently held by the specialist suppliers. It includes one hundred and twenty of the Hudson Hound combined chassis and frame assemblies, plus engines the maker has in stock; but they have no hulls, no weapons, no electronic or electrical gear, and no propulsion systems or treads. The supplier of the electrical systems has enough electrical systems for one hundred and twenty tanks with the electronic equipment for thirty tanks. The supplier of the composite and ceramic plate for the hulls has enough on hand to build another one hundred and twenty tanks. The orders for all these parts are placed and they’re delivered within a few weeks because the companies want to clear them out of their warehouses.
About the time General Phillips is shipped back to a hospital in the US the last of the tank parts are being unloaded back at the RRF Base and the support staff sets about listing all of the damage to the hulks and they start cleaning up the hulks. All the parts are on hand when, three weeks later, Phillips receives official notice the unit is being disbanded and all of the materials and equipment will be disposed of by tender. Also, all personnel and funds will be reallocated when existing accounts are paid in full and the unit books are to be closed when it’s disbanded.
Phillips acts fast to have a lawyer friend, Steve Humphries, create a new company, Meadows Manufacturing, and to watch out for the call for tenders. Steve is an old school friend who’s been managing Phillips’ investments for him and he already has a Power of Attorney provided years earlier. So Chuck sends him a letter requesting him to bid on and buy the gear being put up for disposal. At the same time Phillips sends to the Pentagon to get written confirmation of what is planned for the Brigade, the tanks, and the technology in the tanks. This is because most of the technology is the intellectual property of the US Department of Defense because the tanks were developed under special research and construction contracts for the Department. The official response refers to the report he lodged while still in hospital in Russia where he points out how the tanks performed and listed ways they could be improved to increase their performance and capabilities further. This is used by some senior staff as a list of deficits to justify disbanding the unit by dismissing the tanks as useless despite them having out performed anything else in the current order of battle or anything any military force has deployed elsewhere. Using this reply Phillips gets authority to declassify all of the technology except the hull material, which is still in use on other vehicles. He then uses both of the responses to approve the sale of the intellectual property with the materials being sold as scrap.
When the Request for Tender is released it includes a list of all the materials, spare parts, hulks, special tools, special test equipment, and training equipment within the Brigade, but not the actual weapons systems and ammunition. It does include the electronics systems and training simulators with all of the software.
To ensure the purchase is seen to be clean Phillips is listed on the bid as a part owner and a specialist consultant as Charles Phillips. At the same time the bid is lodged he writes to the General commanding the tendering system to ask him to have his own staff supervise the tender process because he, Phillips, has an interest in one of the bidding companies. The General appoints his staff and notifies them of this interest. They have the sense to include a consultant from outside the Department on the panel making the decision. They also document all of the reasons for their decisions in the tender and evaluation process.
Many of the bidders saw the contract as being an expensive one where they remove the materials, separate them, and melt them down for scrap. They cost the tender on the basis of scrap value less the cost of removal and scrapping. All of the bids from the usual contractors are very low and under a hundred thousand dollars while the bid from Steve is for several hundred thousand dollars and it cites a use for the software too. The new company, Meadows Manufacturing, is the winning bid.
The final report mentions the relationship of Phillips to the winning company, but it also notes the major discrepancy between the bids. They assign the tender on the dollar value of the winning bid. They do note the difference in value may be due to differences in the companies’ intended uses because all of the other bids have comments on the cost of reducing the materials to scrap while the winning bid comments on the value of applying the technology in other areas while citing computer gaming as an intended use for the simulator equipment and software as well as scrapping some of the material.
The losing bidders are very surprised to see a new company won the contract and they’re quick to lodge a complaint about inside knowledge. The following external investigation shows all of the information used by the new company was also available to the other companies and all they needed to do was to ask the Department for it because they were told it existed when the tender was first advertised. The full disclosure of the personal link was made before the tender was let and Phillips had also removed himself from the tender system before then. Technically he wasn’t on duty during the process. The investigators conclude the regular bidders appear to have been bitten by a collusion between them to underbid on the tender whilst the new company gave a valid bid. The complaint is soon dismissed. A later FBI investigation shows the regular bidders often collude to underbid on government disposal contracts in order to make more profits. As a result of the investigation they’re all dropped from the list of approved contractors, which makes them even angrier.
All this was winding down and the materials released for collection about the same time as Phillips is setting up his new industrial estate. Once his warehouse and workshop are constructed all of these materials are collected and transferred to them. Some were being held in secure military storage at another base and were shipped by the Department because the tender listed all of the materials as being at the Brigade base. The rest are collected at Phillips’ expense from the old Brigade base.
Phillips’ long term plan is to build a better version of the Hell Hound and getting control of the technology is the first step in the plan. The industrial estate is the second step by creating a place to do the work. The next step is to create income to finance the work. To this end he hires as many of his old brigade personnel as he can, especially the technical staff. They spend a lot of time working on the best way to design and construct a profitable commercial use for the basic frame.
This results in the designing and building of the Road Dog truck. Chuck chose the name because it’s for general road use and is close to being a hound. They stay with the same basic frame and motor but move the location of the motor to sit in and below the chassis near the front instead of on the rear of the chassis. They place the fuel tank underneath the main chassis and between the two horizontal axis supports with extra tanks outside the supports. The cabin area is set as equal to two rows of seating. The rest of the space is set aside as one large enclosed truck body and the underneath is covered with plates of composite to avoid having the engine or fuel tanks struck by anything on the road. The motor drives a generator and two large electric motors are installed to power both sets of rear wheels while two smaller electric motors power the front wheels. The way the front steering wheels are designed they’ve a much larger amount of horizontal rotation than most vehicles because the drive motor is part of the wheel sub-unit. As much as possible the weight is kept down by using ceramics and composites where they can, with the largest single piece of metal being the main chassis and the next is the main engine / generator unit. The truck body is composites and ceramics. A variant with the full body lined with the ceramic plate is made as an armored truck version. The driver position is set up just like that for a Hell Hound driver with the controls modified to have a foot pedal to drive all four wheels while the slide controls assign the relative power levels. One special feature of all the Road Dogs is a tank of liquid fire suppressant with a fine spray system installed in the top and bottom edge of the vehicle’s sides, front, and back.
While this is going on the software for the simulators is modified a little to allow it to score points and give a top ten scores list, much of which is already embedded deep in the software. New start screens and unit covers are created then the simulators are put in place as computer games activated by coin operation slots. These are set up for all combat positions and marketed to the local youths. One simulator is retained with the normal driver software and installed in the driver training area for the training of drivers. The games are ready and in use a couple of years ahead of the Road Dogs; and they do a very good business too.
At the same time as they do this Meadows Manufacturing applies for and receives the US Department of Defense approval and accreditation to make weapons systems. This gives them the basic approvals to apply to use Departmental test fields and to make the legal purchase of any weapons systems to install in their equipment. The company works hard on designing an improved version of the Hell Hound while the Road Dogs are being developed. Both the design teams often meet together to bounce ideas back and forth.
The new tank team are given the following aims by Phillips:
1. Remove or greatly reduce the amount of steel in the tank;
2. Greatly reduce or hide the heat signature the tank produces;
3. Improve the combat effectiveness, especially against aircraft;
4. Improve the speed and range of the tank;
5. Improve the self-operating combat capabilities of the tank;
6. Improve the main gun firing rate and range with high accuracy.
Due to frequent cross development meetings of the design teams many ideas and concepts flow out of and feed into both projects. The improved road performance of switching to tires is noted and the decision is made to have a tank with six wheels on each side set up as two powered steering wheels, two free turning weight bearing wheels, and two powered drive wheels on each side. The main power unit is a large multi-fuel generator and two large electric motors are installed between the two rear drive wheels on each side with a chain drive to turn the wheels while the steering wheels have a smaller direct drive electric motor each as part of the wheel unit so each is capable of a large amount of horizontal rotation. The hull is made of layers of composite and ceramics to provide a multi-layer protection against most types of rounds. Also, the main engine is made from composites and ceramics to reduce both the heat created by it and the metal content used in it.
All these changes make a large reduction in the amount of metal in the tank. They also reduce the heat signature while reducing the weight and increasing the driving range and speed. Ducts are installed to allow the dispersion of interior air and heat below the tank. Being much lighter the tank has a higher speed and greater range than other tanks. This is extended by adding larger fuel storage with multiple fuel tanks to give it a range of six hundred miles.
Close examination of the combat damage and looking at how to go about repairing the best of the hulks they find the main support axis of the chassis would be better as a combination aluminum, composite, and ceramic unit because it gives it greater strength and flexibility while further reducing the steel and weight in the tank.
They test many of the changes by rebuilding the four best hulks. The hulks they start with are Isis, Acheron, Apollo, and Rambling Rose. All but Apollo had the chassis left undamaged while Apollo’s damage was to the drive system, the turret, and the chassis. The records show the performance capabilities of the standard Hudson Hound without and with a turret attached. Rebuilt on the new chassis Apollo out performs the standard Hound. After they strip the other three back to the chassis and rebuild them using the new hull and motors they get a major increase in performance as well, thus proving the advantages of the main changes. They then build a new tank on the new chassis and get a very much improved performance from the new system design.
Much of the tank research is done after they complete the research and design needs of the Road Dogs, so the Dogs are built using the existing Hudson Hound chassis and motor units. This creates a lot of needed cash to continue work on the rest while clearing storage space when the steel frame, chassis, and engine units are converted and sold.
Seven years after the Battle of Samara the tank redesign team have most of the tank design finalized and the real questions are about what armaments to use and how to incorporate them into the design.
To improve the anti-aircraft capabilities as a self-operating system they decide to install six of the latest 20 mm Phalanx air defense systems with built-in computer controls with a small radar unit to control the Gatling style rotary machine-gun with a very high rate of fire. The early versions had the radar unit in a large dome above the gun while the latest version has two very small radar units with one mounted on each side of the gun. Having six mounted on the sides and back of the tank should give it good anti-aircraft coverage. Two small all-round radar units are mounted on the top of the turret. The electronics package includes software to identify aircraft using IFF (Identification, Friend, Foe), and to hand off enemy aircraft to the control systems of the Phalanx units to deal with. This makes the whole anti-aircraft system a fully automatic one, but it includes software to allow the gunners to override the system. For the main armament they choose twin high velocity 155 mm water cooled cannons mounted in a single turret. They decide to use M230 30 mm chain guns for use against personnel and light vehicles. This raises the questions of where to fit the weapons and the internal layout.
There are many discussions on how to mount all of this, along with the weight distribution effects. However, when Chuck is sitting in on one long discussion he points out the designers need to forget all they’ve been taught before and to go from scratch because they seem to be trying to work around the old style design limitations. Nearly every tank built has the turret mounted in the middle with the engine at the rear, but since the engine doesn’t give a direct drive to the main drive wheels it can be mounted anywhere. He also points out that due to the very long barrels on the main armament and the fact they’ll usually be firing forward they should be mounted as far back as possible to shorten the overall length.
Starting over with these points in mind they design the tank to have the turret sitting over the back quarter of the vehicle with the hull sloping a little up to it and the turret hull continues that slope line to make the turret look like part of the mounded hull top to give the tank a wedge style look from the side. The small area just beside and behind the turret has auxiliary weapons stations where each rear corner has an M230 chain gun remote station mounted there just in front of these are two Phalanx systems, and beside each M230 is another Phalanx unit to give two Phalanx units on each side and the rear. The main turret has the two main cannons and two more M230 chain guns mounted in it with one M230 on each side of the main guns. This gives the turret area the look of a pin cushion with all of the gun barrels sticking out. In the front two corners are two more M230 chain guns so each side of the tank is covered by two M230 chain guns. Once this is decided upon it then becomes a simple matter of where to place the rest of the equipment. The turret is very deep because it uses lots of space to store the ammunition in the automatic loading system. So this goes for most of the depth of the tank with a major fuel tank below it. The Phalanx and M230 units are also a fair size to store all of their ammunition, but they aren’t as deep as the main guns. This works out well because they all sit just above the space needed for the wheels and the suspension. A fuel tank is placed below the rear weapons positions at the back of the tank with the entry to the turret above it between the two rear Phalanx stations. The main engine is mounted in an east-west configuration between the two front M230 weapons positions. Another large fuel tank is mounted below the engine. The crew area takes up just over half the length of the tank and it goes for nearly the tank’s full width. This is surrounded with extra armor plating on all sides to give protection against any problems with the engine or turret areas. The side areas between the forward and rear weapons mounts contain liquid fire suppressant which can be sprayed both inside and outside of the tank. All of the armor is composite and ceramics in multiple layers.
The crew are arranged in three rows. The first row has a driver in the middle of the front row flanked by the communications and the electronic counter-measures specialists; both of whom are trained to work the equipment of the other position and they can perform both duties from their own boards. Taking up most of the second row is the commander’s position and beside that is the lead gunner’s position so the lead gunner can also take over as the commander if need be. The third row is the main gunnery positions with all three of the gunners controlling all of the weapons stations as designated by the lead gunner, and their work can also be taken over by the lead gunner or the commander. The electronics equipment and computers are all in the cabinets built into the tank’s crew area. There are two main crew hatches with one on top that comes up to the side of the main guns and one diagonally opposite that going through the floor.
With the design work done they now have to build them. Due to the complexities and idiosyncrasies of the Department of Defense processes it’s easier for them to get approval to buy and install existing weapons stations and ammunition for rebuilt tanks than it is for a new design tank, even if the rebuilt tank is along the same design lines as the new version. Because of this they build three new tank hulls around the three old hulks of Isis, Acheron, and Rambling Rose. They rename the tanks Phoenix, Lazarus, and Resurrection in the same order.
It takes another eighteen months to get all of the weapons systems and ammunition approved, delivered, and installed in the three tanks. The approvals for the same gear for the new test tank built from scratch is still under review. No one involved finds the situation amusing or surprising. It’s taken nearly eleven years since the Battle of Samara to get to this stage, and all of it as a private expense with no government help at all. Comparisons of the new tanks’ capabilities with other tanks in current service and those in known design stages show the new Hounds to be more than twice as effective as anything else on the modern battlefield and about five times as effective as the old hounds. This is partly due to the improved weaponry, but most of it is due to the design changes increasing the tank’s ability to survive on the battlefield. Using twin rapid fire main guns means they can fire a round every fifteen seconds. This adds a lot to the tank’s combat survival ability, and to their effectiveness as well.
A New Start
On returning home from Russia Uncle Charles sets out to improve the Hell Hound while looking after his family and getting rich as well. After he starts the property development as a source of income he works on the tank redesign, and many other good things come from this too. The property development goes ahead well, as do his many other business ventures. Best of all is watching how all of his old Marine comrades feel much better about themselves through having proper paid work they can do despite their injuries. Also, working with me helps Uncle Charles to gain a proper perspective on his life now. Especially since he knows the real reason for his forced medical retirement was political and it was done to stop him pushing for the rebuilding of the RRF. As a serving war hero and a general he has the authority and power to get something done, while as a medically retired general and war hero he has little power or authority. Although he does keep a close eye on the development of the new Hounds he puts most of his personal effort into the family and all of us children while helping Dad expand his business. Over the first several years of the business he also helps train many of the local students in driving the Road Dogs.
After the interview with me about himself we spend more time working together and organizing the land development business. During this time all of us Meadows children learn to drive cars and Road Dogs, and to get proper licenses for them when we’re old enough to get them. We spend a lot of our spare time driving for father as a way to building up some work experience while earning some extra spending money. When my sister, Laura, or I go on a truck run outside of town it’s usual for Uncle Chuck to go with us or he sends one of his people with us. For some reason he can’t explain he isn’t happy with us being out on the open road by ourselves. When we’d do a run to the state capital it’s with another driver on board, and it’s often Uncle Chuck who goes with us. Sometimes we’d take two Road Dogs with special loads to the same city while we share the driving of both trucks between the three of us. This gives us all a sound insight into father’s business, and it results in us all identifying fields of study to help with the business in the long term.
In mid November of the tenth year after Uncle Chuck comes to live with us we have a double run to Santa Fe, the state capitol, with Laura, Uncle Chuck, and myself driving. Each load is almost a full load for both trucks while the combined load is too much for one of the tractor trailer trucks, so we take two Road Dogs and run in convoy. This is OK because both the delivery points are very near to each other and Dad has a return load that will give both Road Dogs a bit more than a half load each.
We’re doing the run because we asked to do it. Laura has finished her MBA and I’m home for the weekend to discuss some aspects of one of my MBA assignments with her. I’d come home early for the weekend and I took the opportunity for this short overnight run to spend time with Uncle Chuck. Santa Fe is only a five hour drive each way, so it’s a case of drive up Friday afternoon, unload, stay overnight, load up early in the morning, and back home for a late lunch Saturday. Then have the rest of the weekend talking with my sister and visiting with the family.
We’re just north of Albuquerque with Laura at the wheel of the lead truck, call sign Lemon Dog, and I’m driving Blue Dog. We switched drivers about thirty minutes ago while having a short rest at an Albuquerque truck stop. I moved from Lemon Dog to Blue Dog while Chuck moved over into my spare seat and Laura moved from the spare seat of Blue Dog to drive Lemon Dog. Uncle Chuck always has the extra driver in the rear vehicle for some unexplained reason.
As per our usual road routine we’ve three radios active: the Citizen’s Band (CB) radio on the general truck driver frequency, the Meadows Trucking Base frequency, and a third which we’re using for our convoy. All three of us are using voice activated microphones with our personal sets on the convoy frequency while the other two frequencies are on speakers to the cabins. So when another truck driver comes on the CB we pick up the handset in the cabin to talk to them.
The highway at this point is a good road with two lanes each way divided by a nice wide nature strip. We’re approaching a bridge over a wide ravine and each side of the road has its own bridge with two driving lanes and a narrow emergency lane on each side of the bridge. It’s a nice clear day with light traffic and plenty of daylight still. We’re driving just under the speed limit for this area because it’s a lot more economical speed for us, so we have no problem with giving two other trucks the go ahead to pass us.