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The Canadian Coyote Reconnaissance Vehicle

by MAJ Sctt Farquhar, NTC Lynx Team
Recently the Canadian Army deployed its new Coyote Reconnaissance Vehicles for two rotations to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, CA. The first unit to deploy was the 1st Troop, Reconnaissance Squadron, The Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), 1st Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. The second unit was 2nd Troop, Royal Canadian Dragoons, Reconnaissance Squadron, 2nd Canadian Mechanized Brigade. In Commonwealth dialect for armored or cavalry units, the troop is a platoon, the squadron is a company, and the regiment is a battalion-sized unit. Additionally, in Her Majesty's Forces, the leaders of specialty platoons (reconnaissance or mortars) and company executive officers (called 2ICs) are captains while company commanders are majors. Their platoon sergeants equate to our warrant officers.

Looking Through the Coyote's Eyes

1. The Coyote is a turreted, scout/reconnaissance wheeled vehicle. It has an 8'x8' chassis that is very similar to the USMC's LAV-25. Unlike the LAV, however, the Coyote is not amphibious; it has sponson-mounted fuel tanks in place of the propellers.

2. The Coyote is armed with a M242 Bushmaster 25-mm chain gun and a coaxial-mounted M240 7.62-mm machine-gun in a fully stabilized turret very similar to the M2 Bradley. But there are some noticeable differences from the Bradley in the fire control system of the Coyote, to include:

a. Ammunition-select and rate-of-fire switches located on the gunner's and commander's hand station.

b. A Laser Range Finder that produces a ballistic solution for the weapon system.

c. Thermal imaging sights at 3-power or 7.5-power magnification.

3. The Coyote's weapon systems allow the crews to engage enemy targets out to 2,200 meters.

4. The vehicle's premier feature is a suite of electronics that allows for video, audio, and radar intelligence information collection. It has a Mast-Mounted Camera (AN/TSD-501) and Ground Surveillance Radar (AN/PPS-501, Doppler Radar) system that enhance the scout's ability to acquire targets and collect intelligence. Together, these two systems allow the scouts to acquire, track, and identify targets at significantly greater ranges than conventional U.S. scout platoons.

a. The Mast-Mounted Camera can acquire targets (day or night) out to 12-15 kilometers, with the capability of identifying targets out to 8-10 kilometers using high-resolution thermal-imaging capability.

  • The camera is mounted on a 7-meter-tall hydraulically erected mast that can be either mounted on the vehicle or set up remotely up to 200 meters from the vehicle. These features allow the vehicle to remain concealed while the camera is employed.

  • The camera system records video footage on an 8-mm tape that can be viewed for analysis and training feedback. During their rotations and NTC, The Royal Canadian Dragoons gathered the tapes from their OPs during their daily resupply (LOGPAC), exchanging the previous night's full tapes for blank ones. The squadron and brigade S-2s then reviewed the tapes for analysis. Currently, the system does not allow for a "real-time" feed of the video footage via FM radio systems; however, the Canadians are testing an FM link that will allow transmission of this information between the Coyote and a command post receiving unit via a modem.

  • The camera is linked to a Global Positioning System and laser range finder that gives 10-digit grid locations to a target.

b. The Ground Surveillance Radar can acquire moving target indicators out to 24 kilometers, distinquish between wheeled and tracked vehicles at 10-12 kilometers, and identify targets at 8-10 kilometers.

  • There is an audio-tracking system that can acquire and track audio signatures out to 12 kilometers.

  • The radar provides defensive and force protection features when employed as a target acquisition device. It is capable of conducting a "local scan" over a suspected artillery/mortar firing point or target and plotting the weapon's location by spotting the round's trajectory.

  • The radar can be remotely employed, similar to the camera system.

Listening Through the Coyote's Ears

1. The Coyote's communications equipment is currently AN/VRC-12-series radios. The radios caused communications problems at NTC because of their limited range and lack of interoperability when working with SINCGARS-equipped units. However, the Canadians are fielding a new digital radio system, called the TCCS (Tactical Command Communications System), that should eliminate the communications interoperability problem.

2. Having operated over the NTC's long distances with its intervening terrain, one platoon leader suggested that his leader's Coyotes be equipped with a mast-mounted antenna, as they have no radar/sight system, to transmit information to the brigade CP. An alternative is a dedicated mobile retransmission team accompanying the patrols.

Running with the Coyote in the Mohavia Desert

1. During their rotations at NTC, the Canadian troops operated primarily as brigade reconnaissance assets; however, during several missions, they were task-organized down to the squadron and troop levels.

2. Under Canadian doctrine, the reconnaissance troop is a brigade asset, working directly for the brigade commander.

a. The troop normally operates at least 15 kilometers from the forward line of troops for as long as 72 hours and reports intelligence to the brigade commander.

b. The Canadians prefer to conduct reconnaissance in patrols of two vehicles that allows them to establish an OP with the vehicles and then begin aggressive patrolling with dismounted scouts. The dismounted patrol of an NCO and two troopers is conducted to physically touch the NAI that the OP is watching, mandated by their doctrine to determine soil composition and trafficability, the presence of obstacles or contamination, et al.

c. The dismounted patrol also performs local security, soon to be enhanced by the Coyote driver's thermal viewer as this sight can be tripod-mounted up to 100 meters from its flat panel display that is monitored from inside the vehicle. The 2nd Troop has developed their own crude version of this by placing a commercially-available "baby monitor" in an ammunition can along likely avenues of approach.

Coyote's First NTC Rotation:

The first Canadian unit participated in the NTC rotation with five Coyote reconnaissance vehicles. The 1st Troop brought 24 troopers to the NTC, 19 Coyote crewman (organic to the troop) and 5 support troopers (attached from Squadron). The reconnaissance squadron deployed one "Bison" recovery vehicle (a turretless Coyote chassis equipped with a winch) and two LSWV (Light Support Wheeled Vehicle) support trucks to support the troop.

The unit had just recently received their Coyote vehicles and this rotation afforded their commander, Captain Trevor Cadieu, the opportunity to train his troopers on the capabilities of this unique scout vehicle.

During this first deployment, the Canadians were attached to an ARNG-enhanced separate brigade. The brigade inadequately employed the Canadians. They were unaware of the capabilities of the system and did not routinely assign the troop a clear task and purpose for each mission. Often, the Canadians were forgotten about during the planning process, and were task-organized to one of the brigade's subordinate elements at the last minute as an afterthought.

Coyote's Second NTC Rotation:

The second Canadian unit participated in the NTC rotation with seven Coyote reconnaissance vehicles. The 2nd Troop brought 32 troopers to the NTC, 28 Coyote crewman and 4 support troopers. Their reconnaissance squadron deployed two LSWV support trucks to support the troop.

(As a side note, the 2nd Troop included one female reconnaissance vehicle crewman. Since 1990, the Canadian Army allows female soldiers to serve in the combat arms provided they meet the same requirements as male soldiers. The female trooper was well-integrated into the troop and was very knowledgeable on her job and the capabilities of the equipment.)

Again, this unit had just recently received their Coyote vehicles and this rotation afforded their commander, 1st Lieutenant John DeSuert, the opportunity to train their troopers on the capabilities of the Coyote scout vehicle.

During the second deployment, the Canadians were attached to an active duty aviation brigade that was assigned an armor task force, a divisional cavalry squadron and an attack aviation battalion. This time, the troop was employed more in accordance with the Canadian doctrine; however, the brigade TOC was unprepared to assimilate the increased amount of intelligence information that was collected by the Coyote troop. This "overloading" of information may have cluttered the intelligence picture as opposed to clarifying the enemy situation.

By the end of the rotation, the brigade had a better appreciation for the capabilities of the Canadian troop and began employing the Coyote patrols to gain an information advantage. During the last mission (a live-fire defense), a Coyote crew teamed up with a Fire Support Officer whose vehicle had been destroyed to direct first-round target destruction missions.

Logistical support for the Canadian troop was a constant challenge. The LSWV support trucks were inadequate to resupply the troops. These trucks had difficulty negotiating the NTC terrain and could not provide for complete logistical resupply.

The use of the attached command relationship would probably have solved the logistical problems by using the brigade's organic cavalry troop as the sole source of combat service support during the first rotation. During this second rotation, support was received directly from the brigade, which was also inadequate, as the aviation brigade had neither the assets nor training to conduct this operation.

The best solution would probably have been to attach the Canadians to the cavalry squadron as a fourth ground troop. These observations do not bode well for the future U.S. brigade reconnaissance troop.

Maintenance support for the Coyote vehicles came from a General Motors contractor located in Barstow, CA, due to the limited repair parts accompanying the troop and the NTC's inability to support the vehicle's unique Class IX requirements. If major repair parts or components were needed, the contractor had to coordinate directly with the manufacturing plant located in Montreal, Canada.

In the face of these challenges, the units still maintained a 100-percent operational readiness rate of their Coyotes during both rotations. The closest the Canadians came to "deadlining" vehicles was during the second rotation when the platoons required nine replacement tires but had deployed with only seven. By using repair patches and the Coyotes' central tire inflation system, they were able to complete their missions. The Coyote can operate with two wheels missing on a side, using chains to "snub" the suspension of the missing wheels to the vehicle's hull. The Canadians, who plan to increase their on-hand stockage of tires nonetheless, noted the conditions that caused the tire problems, namely sharp rocks and 120-degree heat.

Careful cleaning of the sight masts in the dusty environment is required to prevent them from jamming during retraction, as is a supply of head cleaners for the cameras' video recorders.

Despite the harsh conditions of the NTC, and the fact that more than half of the Canadian soldiers had less than one year of service, the NTC platoon sergeant with the the 2nd Troop, a warrant officer, was impressed that the ratio of time spent on training to maintenance was four to one. His experience with the M113 series vehicles was exactly the opposite.

CONCLUSION

The Canadian reconnaissance troopers and their Coyote provide a valuable reconnaissance asset to units at the NTC. Units rotating to the National Training Center should continue to include assets of this type into their troop lists and training scenarios to allow U.S. units to work with our allies, understand their capabilities, and identify and solve the interoperability problems that occur when working with allied armies.



New 11th ACR/OPFOR Vehicle Arrives at the NTC
Acknowledgements



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