India need combat proof tank transportation solution with Goose Neck facility and the APP with the AXLE having additional HP to ensure sand dune mobility and to meet qualitative requirements projected by the Army. Such transport solutions are being used by developed Armies in number of countries since 1977.

A tank transporter is a specialized road vehicle for the transport of tanks, to and from the battlefield or during peacetime. They are necessary to limit the mileage of the tracked vehicles (as the tracks have a limited lifetime) and also to reduce wear on road surfaces which can easily be damaged by tracked vehicles. Tank transporters also use less fuel than tracked vehicles and have a higher road speed if provided with a good road network. Tank transporter is a combination of a heavy tractor unit and mating semi-trailer, typically a Lowboy (trailer), used for transporting tanks. As the weight of tanks became too much for lorry chassis, separate trailers were developed. These carried the entire weight of the tank on their own wheels, putting no weight onto the tractor unit. They are pulled by a ballast tractor connected to a drawbar

Semi-trailers cannot be moved on their own, or pushed and pulled by ballast tractors. They are only mobile when connected to the correct tractor unit. To keep the load's center of gravity low, gooseneck trailers are used. These have a low horizontal load bed, with a central spine that rises up at the front to connect to the fifth wheel.

Indian Army Requirement

The tank transporter for MBT, the Army required only a 70T semi-trailer. Presently the Indian Army holds TATRA 815, which uses the traditional tatra concept of rigid backbone tube and swinging half-axles giving independent suspension, where perforce the counter weight (25T) has to be used .This results in increase in the length of the trailer, very high fuel consumption and is also not recommended for critical manoeuvrability. TATRA 815 also does not have the provision for critical parts like “POWER BOOSTER” OR “LIFT AXLE” which are necessary for critical battlefield movements.

Draw bar and counterweight are old designs and on way out due to following shortcoming:-

  • Tow bar leads to extended length
  • Counter weight (25t extra unutilized, extra fuel consumption)

The above leads to Reduced driving range, reduced manoeuvrability

The Army is looking for 70-75 T Trailer for their MBT fleet as per the RFP floated in 2015. The trials were held in Jan 17 with STRATIC & BEML offerings, but it was a disaster as they could not meet the GSQR requirement and even their trailers failed to perform. As the trials failed, Army Hqs wanted to make a new GSQR with additional inputs as the old GSQR was made in 2008-09 for the semi-trailers, and to achieve that, they re-issued the RFI to number of vendors in 2017.

Transport Requirements Under severe conditions and  Manoeuvrability in rough terrain (mud, sand, soft ground, hills):

  • Low weight design
  • Minimum overall length of truck-trailer combination
  • Load stability under all conditions and for long distances
  • Combat proof systems minimum downtime
  • Built-in recovery system on board (e.g. in case of tank damages, breakdowns)
  • Enhanced operability
  • Minimum TBO
  • BITE system on board

Tank Transporter in Developed countries

The combat proof tank transportation solution with Goose Neck facility (where the counter weight to offset the off balance during loading is not required) which keeps the 5th wheel on ground by hydraulic pressure and the APP with the AXLE. This APP or APU has additional 180 HP to ensure sand dune mobility. Though, the maximum weight restriction by the Army was given 25T, however, these can be lesser than this with available technology

Most of the developed countries use Tank Transporter having under mentioned features:-

  • With Gooseneck and Power Booster
  • Full operational flexibility - gooseneck and 5th wheel for extended mileage
  • Increased platform length for versatility and flexibility
  • Excellent manoeuvrability and versatility even under severe conditions
  • Power Booster technology for increased traction in rough terrain (sand, mud, hills)
  • Hydraulic suspension for optimum load stability and high steering angle
  • Combat proof design and performance (meets NIJ specification)
  • Sand tires with inbuilt automatic tire-inflation system for fast operation
  • Selection of sand tires as well as standard double tires possible
  • Rigid axles for best possible off road application
  • Additional engine + hydraulic pump
  • Wheel mounted hydraulic motors
  • Control system for easy operation
  • Power Booster for enhanced operability
  • Increased traction in rough terrain (sand, mud, hills)
  • Self-driving operation (loading into C17)
  • Manoeuvring without truck in confined areas
  • Emergency rescue operation (trailer pulls the truck out)

Gooseneck has advantages over conventional Bar

  • No tow bar no counter weight
  • Weight transfer (25t) to fifth wheel
  • Lower fuel consumption = increased driving range (~200-500km)

Rigid Hydraulic Axles

Advantage of rigid hydraulic axles and same track width

  • Trailer follows truck in its tracks: Less traction force required to displace sand, mud
  • Same track width of trailer and truck = improved manoeuvrability under severe conditions

Lift Axles Provides

  • Less fuel/higher range

Lift Axles Provides

  • Less fuel/higher range
  • Higher 5th wheel load
  • More traction
  • Important in steep terrain

Load Stability

Hydraulic suspension is basic for rigid and pendulum axles. Such system is basis for heavy duty transport vehicles globally.It allows for even distribution of payload to set of wheels and compensation of uneven/rough terrain  platform remains stable.

In Off-road and severe conditions (sand, mud): rigid axles are strongly recommended


The Tire

The tire is always the weakest point. Need Special sand tires for optimized traction with ease of Lifting of tires to improved manoeuvrability  and the easy to operate Tire inflation system

Way Forward

While preparing the QR, Army needs to look beyond the immediate conventional solution to acquire operationally and logistically most cost effective solutions and Combat proof design and performance. The trailer has to provide increased platform length for versatility and flexibility, excellent manoeuvrability and versatility even under severe conditions, with Power Booster technology for increased traction in rough terrain (sand, mud, hills) and emergency rescue operations facilities.

Article published in Magazine issue “Mar-Apr 2018 “


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