Demountable Rack Offload and Pickup System (DROPS) is a family of logistics vehicles operated by the British Army, which currently consists of two vehicle types:
Both are able to transport 15-tonne flatracks or containers and to load/offload them in seconds. Both may be fitted with Side Rail Transfer Equipment (SRTE) for loading/unloading railway wagons.
Specification and procurementEdit
Leyland and Foden vehicles mounting Multilift loading equipment were selected from designs submitted to the Ministry of Defence, by a wide cross-section of the UK engineering industry. It was by far the most detailed, searching and expensive selection process ever undertaken for a British Army logistic system and never before had wheeled vehicles been required to transport such large loads over such demanding cross-country conditions.
The provisionally selected vehicles were extensively trialled for a year by a specially-formed trials unit, before both the unit and the MOD were completely satisfied that they met the Army's requirements in all respects. Because of the finance controls placed on the MOD by the Treasury, all DROPS vehicles and equipment were limited in their design to operate effectively only in NATO's European climatic conditions of temperature and humidity, and as such both variants were only available in left hand drive only. It has, therefore, been a challenging engineering problem to ensure that they have performed extremely well under war conditions in an environment for which they were specifically not designed now they have been deployed to the recent Middle Eastern campaigns - the desert!
Introduced in early 1990s, the truck was a military development of the commercial Leyland T45 Roadtrain. As the company had entrusted to Scammell the development of the commercial 8-legged variant (S24 Constructor range), the military variant was developed as the Scammell S26. Initially developed for the 1986 DROPS trials as a 6x6, the final 8x6 S26 had a Rolls Royce - Perkins 500 Eagle engine (as used in the Challenger 1 main battle tank; 26 litre diesel @ 1,200 horsepower (890 kW)), ZF 6-speed automatic gearbox and Kirkstall axles.
In February 1987 the company learnt that its tender for 1,522 such vehicles was successful, but that as Leyland group had been purchased by DAF NV of Holland, that the S26 would be built at the Leyland factory in Leyland, Lancashire, allowing complete closure of Scammell's Watford site. Leyland eventually produced 1,421 MMLC vehicles, plus a number of vehicle cabs ordered as spares. Due to in service damage, the entire MoD stock of spare cabs has now been exhausted.
During the 1st Gulf War, the vehicles suffered from sand ingress, which resulted in a total failure of the engine plant. A modification was introduced quickly to raise the air intake to avoid the sand ingress. During 2002, the fleet underwent a major midlife upgrade/refurbishment. This included the introduction of an ABS braking system. The MMLC had two trailer types, (known as King & Queen trailers) specifically designed to carry the same load pallet which was transferred from the main vehicle. The Queen trailer was supplied by Reynolds Boughton but the King trailer was indeed supplied by King Trailers who have since 1962 been the UK's biggest manufacturer of trailers for specialist loads. The Leyland DAF MMLC vehicles were mainly issued to the Royal Corps of Transport (RCT), later to become Royal Logistic Corps (RLC), however a number of these vehicles were provided to other units along with the RAF Regiment.
Production of the Foden IMMLCs began in January 1994. 404 were introduced. These vehicles were primarily supplied to the Royal Artillery in support of the AS90. These vehicles differed significantly from the Leyland DAF variants, most notably with the Foden cabs, but also the increased ground clearance, and Perkins (Shrewsbury) Eagle 350 MX diesel engines. The IMMLC vehicles again had a specifically designed trailer, for the transportation of replacement engines for the AS90.
As both vehicles are now out of commercial production, resulting in vastly reduced and resultantly higher cost spares provision, and taking into account the wider geographic nature of modern British Army deployment, the MOD is presently developing a replacement under the Enhanced Pallet Load System (EPLS), which will be based on the 15 tonne MAN SV.
References / sourcesEdit
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