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Spanish army
Ministry of Defence
Spanish army

Ejército de Tierra

Feature Articles

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Number: 89

Castor put to the test

The international presentation of the new Castor Sapper Combat Vehicle was one of the key moments in the International Security and Defence Trade Fair, which took place at the end of May in Madrid. This was the vehicle’s debut, which, for the first time, offers the army’s sapper units a unique capacity: the possibility to install, in one single vehicle, a multitude of tools according to the requirements of each mission.

 

Castor put to the test

 

After the show and exhibition phase, the time has come for the prototype’s ratings tests, which started in June. The 10th Sapper Battalion is involved with these tests, having been named in 2017 as the support unit for the Pizarro Programme Office. In fact, members of the battalion have helped and advised the manufacturers, General Dynamics European Land Systems Santa Bárbara Sistemas, in aspects such as the configuration of the crew’s posts, the composition of the onboard equipment or the design of the loading area.

From the user’s perspective, what remains to be checked is that the design can be adjusted to their needs. For this, two complete crews (with doubled up drivers) from the 10th Sapper Battalion travelled to the company’s Sevillian headquarters to begin the tests, which will have various phases and will continue for a number of months.

The battalion members have had the good fortune to be the first to have direct contact with the Castor and their initial impressions could not be better. “The vehicle is incredibly ergonomic and convenient, as well as being very secure,” highlights Sargeant González Roldán who is in charge of the support team from the 10th Sapper Battalion and who is cognizant of the high standards of protection offered by the craft.

Castor put to the test

On the one hand, the tests, which have just started, take into account the more formal aspects, such as doing a review of all the elements (which they call the checklist) and seeing if they are all operating correctly or checking the loading plan (where all the Sappers’ equipment will be placed, as well as the weapons, the Individual Protection Equipment or rations). On the other hand, the tests will consider more operational matters, such as testing the mobility of every one of the posts when the whole team is in the vehicle, or checking that every one of the tools carried by the vehicle complies with the established technical conditions. “For example, if we think that the spade could knock down concrete blocks of a certain weight, we have to take a block with these characteristics and manage to knock it down,” indicates the sergeant. More specific tests will be carried out in Seville and in the ‘Cerro Muriano’ manoeuvre ground in Cordoba.

Castor put to the test
Starting from zero

 

As for the driving, there is nothing new: in fact, the drivers from the crews selected for the tests are Pizarro drivers.

However, there are bigger changes for the vehicle chiefs, because the Castor has different functionalities and capacities and they will have to take on new responsibilities.

With regards to teaching, various aspects will have to be changed to adapt to the new vehicle. “We will start to review the procedures and see how to apply them to the Castor, making any necessary modifications to the pre-existing procedures,” adds the sergeant.

Castor put to the test

The shooters already know the 12.70 machine gun with which the Castor is fitted (because it is the same as is used in armoured vehicles), but they are used to operating it in manual mode, whilst the guns in the new vehicle are automatic and are controlled from within the craft.

In spite of all the work that this entails, the sappers have approved it because the end result will be worth the effort: having a vehicle which is adapted to their needs and which will pave the way for Brigade 35.

Castor put to the test