Tanks for the memories

The need to rethink the UK’s Armoured Vehicle Strategy

This is a post from Monty that I have been sitting on for a while, apologies to Monty [TD]

Introduction

According to official MoD figures released in June 2013, the British Army has 501 horses and 334 tanks.

No one (apart from Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander) has suggested cutting the number of horses.

The UK has more horses than tanks.
The number of horses isn’t surprising.
The number of tanks is.

Perhaps there’s a good reason. According to official tourist statistics, there are 31 million visitors to London each year and they spend more than £18 billion. A major attraction is the colour and pageantry of the Monarchy typified by the Household Cavalry, King’s Troop RHA and Foot Guards.

Challenger 2
Challenger 2
Kings Troop RHA
Kings Troop RHA

The annual cost of maintaining our mounted regiments is a drop in the ocean compared to the revenues they help bring in. When it comes to the comparatively low number of Main Battle Tanks, no one has suggested that we need less.

However, of the total number quoted, only 227 Challenger 2’s have been issued to front line units; the reminder are held in storage as reserves. Meanwhile, the US Army and USMC have 10,000 M1 Abram’s, the Israeli Army has 1,000 Merkava’s, the German Army has 400 Leopard 2’s, and the French Army has 400 LeClerc’s.

Even Switzerland, with a defence budget of just $4 billion, has 380 Leopard 2’s.

It is not unreasonable to ask whether the number of tanks the Army has at its disposal reflects a clear prioritisation of our defence needs based on a robust analysis of current and future threats or is merely a reflection of our broken economy and sub-standard defence planning?

More than just tanks, we need to ask whether the UK’s entire armoured vehicle strategy is fit for purpose and equips the Army with sufficient IFV’s, APC’s, CVR’s, and PPV’s to perform the many roles expected of it?

Since 2008, a colourful new expression has entered our military vernacular: capability holiday.

This is recognising that you need to replace certain equipment, but postponing purchase until you can afford it. The risk of this approach is that when the skills relevant to designing, building and operating highly sophisticated equipment are mothballed, they tend to atrophy and are lost. Rebuilding them a decade later can cost more than if the capability had been retained at a very basic level.

Worse than this, the other problem is that, having learned to survive without a certain capability, the people who deprived you of it have a horrible habit of saying: since you have survived so well and for so long without said capability, you never actually needed it in the first place.

This is all well and good until an urgent need arises.

We then end-up spending far more than we would have ordinarily spent to buy equipment that is available more than ideal.

In the world of military procurement, the one unchanging certainty is that the next generation of ships, aircraft or vehicles will invariably cost three times more than the legacy equipment it replaces.

The F35B Joint Strike Fighter being procured to replace the Harrier is perhaps an extreme example, but, while defence budgets continues to grow in absolute terms, David Cameron’s pledge to cut UK defence expenditure from 3-4% of GDP to around 2% suggests that our future armed forces will be smaller and leaner than before.

Looking ahead, we’re going to need to make some tough choices about what we buy and how many we acquire to ensure we get the maximum bang for our bucks. But selecting the right equipment also means we need to make smart choices. We can’t afford to waste money on kit that does not work.

Regrettably, the UK’s recent vehicle procurement record reeks of incompetence and the fuzzy thinking that results from committee-made decisions.

In a climate of enduring austerity, UK needs to make some tough choices. It also needs to make smart choices.

Under existing plans, the Royal Navy is getting Type 45 destroyers, Type 26 Global Combat Ships and the much vaunted CVF Carrier(s). As exciting as this sounds, it amounts to a total of 21 ships. Prior to World War 2, the Navy had 450 ships including 7 aircraft carriers.

The RAF is getting an estimated 48 F35B Joint Combat Aircraft, 22 Airbus A400M Atlas tactical transporters, 14 Airbus A330 Voyagers for air refuelling and transport and a modest amount of new UAV’s.

Meanwhile, Army troop numbers have been cut from 100,000 to 80,000 and the only new armoured vehicle in the Army’s pipeline is the FRES SV Scout tracked reconnaissance vehicle.

The latest news, however, is that FRES SV, like so many previous UK AFV programmes has run into difficulties.

The 40 mm CTA cannon is reported to have an unacceptably short barrel life while its feed mechanism is mechanically unreliable. With an increased armour requirement, the vehicle is also struggling to meet weight targets, which is indeed surprising because ASCOD 2’s ability to deliver growth potential in terms of maximum vehicle weights was a key factor in it being chosen over CV90.

Even without unexpected issues, the decision to use the ASCOD 2 IFV chassis for a reconnaissance vehicle remains controversial.

Despite the MoD insisting that a vehicle weighing 35 tonnes versus CVR(T)’s 7-10 tonnes was necessary to achieve protection requirements, critics consider that the size and weight of FRES SV is fundamentally too big to perform the reconnaissance role. The counter to this is that the reconnaissance role has evolved, with the capability to fight for information an essential new requirement.

In future, reconnaissance regiments will evolve into highly flexible medium tank regiments that use their speed and agility to perform a variety of battlefield roles.

Assuming that ASCOD 2 is an appropriate choice for whatever roles FRES SV must perform, it remains an IFV platform.  That being the case, it would make sense to adopt a common platform for both IFV and Recce roles. So, if we adopt ASCOD 2, it seems logical to use the same platform to replace Warrior.

Under current plans, Warrior will not be replaced before 2040.

It will have to make do with a mid-life upgrade despite being older than most of the soldiers who operate it.

However, the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) programme now also appears to have stalled.

This is because of vulnerabilities that have emerged from its use in Afghanistan, which suggest that a fundamental redesign is required to make the vehicle less of a death trap in the event of fire.  Furthermore, fitting the same 40 mm CTA cannon will apparently reduce the vehicle’s capacity to carry dismounted soldiers.

Then there is Challenger 2, which is also approaching obsolescence.

Its life extension programme appears as though it will only encompass minor changes. In fact, looking at the current AFV plan, it is quite easy to conclude that the Army is the least important arm of our three armed services. But the aim of this article is not to fight the Army’s corner relative to the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, but simply to emphasise the fact that the time has come to rethink our AFV needs and to develop a coherent long-term plan for new vehicle acquisition.

The UK has more than 2,000 front-line AFVs that were acquired before 1980

An old and obsolete fleet

Challenger 2

The jewel in the UK’s AFV crown is the FV4034 Challenger 2. This well-regarded MBT entered service in 1998. It uses the same chassis as the Challenger 1, which dates back to the late 1970s, but features a new turret with an advanced fire control system developed in the late 1990s. Unique among NATO countries, the UK adopted a rifled 120 mm gun, the L30A1.

In addition to armoured piercing APFSDS ammunition, it fires high explosive HESH shells which are ideal for destroying fortified positions. After the UK ceased production of rifled 120 mm ammunition, a new Belgian supplier was found in 2009. At some point in time, however, the UK will need to invest in new ammunition or fit a new gun.

Challenger 2 is equipped with second generation Chobham ceramic / composite armour, Dorchester armour, and is frequently described as the best protected MBT currently in service. Despite the plaudits, Oman has been the only export customer, ordering 38 units. The total number of vehicles delivered to the UK was 408 units, but the current inventory of 334 will be reduced to 250, with just 227 issued to the UK’s five tank regiments. Though Challenger 2’s design is more than 20 years old, it remains one of the world’s leading MBT designs and is expected to remain in service until 2035.

FV4034 Challenger 2 shown with reactive armour plates (these were subsequently removed when one was detonated by an RPG29, injuring to the driver).
FV4034 Challenger 2 shown with reactive armour plates (these were subsequently removed when one was detonated by an RPG29, injuring to the driver).

In any event, the Challenger 2 fleet will need to be further upgraded to remain a credible MBT. This was recognised in 2001 when the Challenger Life Improvement Programme (CLIP) was initiated to develop a revised vehicle mounting the Rheinmetall L55 / U55 120 mm smooth bore gun – the same weapon used by the German Leopard 2A6/ A7. Tests showed that the tungsten DM53 APFSDS round achieved better penetration than the UK’s controversial depleted uranium CHARM 3 penetrator. In 2006, CLIP was rolled into a second programme, the Challenger 2 Capability Sustainment Program (C2 CSP).

Fitting a new 120 mm smoothbore gun to Challenger 2 has proved to be problematic, because its larger one-piece ammunition takes up more turret storage space than the UK’s existing 120 mm rifled ammunition, which is stored in two separate pieces. Consequently, Challenger 2 is likely to require a brand new turret design. The previous estimated cost of £386 million to upgrade the fleet was almost as expensive as acquiring a second-hand fleet of Leopard 2A6s with new 120 mm smoothbore guns.

Consequently, the programme ran out of steam in 2008, becoming another casualty of MoD austerity. A third programme, the Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme (C2 LEP), was announced in July 2013 and is expected to receive funding in mid-2014.

It isn’t yet clear whether the 120 mm rifled gun will be retained or replaced by a 120 mm smoothbore gun.

Warrior

The FV510 Warrior IFV was developed in the early 1980s and came into service in 1988. It was meant to completely replace the FV430 series of APCs and related family of vehicles. The total number of Warriors acquired was 789, including 489 section vehicles, 84 command vehicles (FV511), 105 repair variants (FV512), 39 recovery variants (FV513), 52 Artillery observation vehicles (FV514) and 19 artillery command vehicles (FV515).

This was not enough to replace all of the existing FV430s and almost 900 FV430s remain in service.

The Warrior section vehicle has a crew of 3 and can carry 7 dismounts. It mounts the L21A1 Rarden 30 mm cannon, an old but reliable weapon, which fires clips of 3 rounds, and a coaxial Hughes 7.62 mm chain gun. Used extensively in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the Warrior’s basic armour was upgraded with cage armour to defeat RPGs.

A Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle is shown being put through its paces at a Firepower Demonstration at Warminster, Salisbury Plain.   Photographer: Graeme Main www.defenceimages.mod.uk
A Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle is shown being put through its paces at a Firepower Demonstration at Warminster, Salisbury Plain. Photographer: Graeme Main www.defenceimages.mod.uk
A soldier from 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment is pictured with one of the new up-armoured Warrior infantry fighting vehicles in Afghanistan (copyright UK Ministry of Defence)
A soldier from 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment is pictured with one of the new up-armoured Warrior infantry fighting vehicles in Afghanistan (copyright UK Ministry of Defence)

In 2006, a new Theatre Entry Standard (TES) Warrior was fitted with appliqué armour to provide all-round protection from 14.5 mm AP projectiles. Unfortunately, IED attacks have shown that the vehicle is still vulnerable, particularly the fuel tank. The vehicle also needs to be modified to allow troops to exit more quickly in an emergency and to have better fire-fighting equipment.

As recently as October 2013, these improvement had not been made.

By any objective standard, Warrior is starting to show its age.

Like Challenger, Warrior has also suffered from delayed upgrade programmes. The Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) will eventually upgrade 643 vehicles with the Warrior Modular Protection System (WMPS) and Warrior Enhanced Electronic Architecture (WEEA). Then the Warrior Fightability Lethality Improvement Program (WFLIP) will upgrade 449 section vehicles with the new CTA 40 mm cannon, which is stabilised. This was originally meant to be mounted in a new turret, but will now use the existing one. Despite Lockheed Martin being announced as the winners of the competition to upgrade the Warrior fleet in 2011, work has yet to commence. The in-service date for the revised vehicle is 2018 and it is expected to stay in service until 2040.

The cost of the improvement programme is reported to be around £1 billionn

FV430 / Bulldog

First introduced in 1962, the FV430-series was the British Army’s first fully tracked APC and the UK’s answer to the US’s highly successful M113 tracked APC.

Mounting a 7.62 mm machine gun, the FV432 section vehicle has a crew of 2 and can carry 8 dismounts. Variants include a repair and recovery vehicle (FV434), command vehicle (FV436), guided missile (Swingfire) platform (FV438), signals vehicles (FV435 / FV439), and a self-propelled artillery gun variant, the Abbot (FV433).

As noted above, it was intended that Warrior would replace nearly all FV430-series vehicles, but, as costs rose, it was decided to retain approximately 900 vehicles. Although production ceased a long time ago, the drivetrain and other components have been upgraded and additional armour protection has been added. Appliqué Dorchester armour plates on the front and side of the vehicle have increased weight and reduced mobility. The average age of the fleet means that reliability is not what it was.

Bulldog in Iraq
Bulldog in Iraq

In Iraq, there were several instances of vehicle breakdowns that left crews stranded in hostile territory. There is no escaping the fact that this is an old and out-dated vehicle.

CVR(T) 

The CVR(T) family of vehicles was introduced in 1971. Originally mounting a Jaguar J60 4.2-litre in-line 6-cylinder petrol engine, it was a revolutionary design that relied on speed and manoeuvrability for protection as much as the vehicle’s aluminium armour. With a small size and relatively low weight of 7.8 tonnes, it could easily be transported to wherever it was needed, including being underslung from a Chinook helicopter. During the Falklands Campaign, CVR(T) provided invaluable fire support. Its low ground pressure, about 5 psi, allowed it to negotiate boggy ground impassable to other vehicles.

Primarily used to equip reconnaissance regiments, nine different variants were produced, all with names beginning with the letter S. The British Army acquired 313 Scorpion (FV101) reconnaissance vehicles fitted with a low velocity 76 mm gun; 328 Scimitar (FV107) reconnaissance vehicles mounting the Rarden 30 mm cannon; 48 Striker (FV102) ATGW launcher vehicles with Swingfire missiles; 478 Spartan (FV103) armoured

personnel carriers; 50 Samaritan (FV104) armoured ambulances; 205 Sultan (FV105)  armoured command vehicles; and 37 Samson (FV106) armoured repair and recovery vehicles. Additional types included the Sabre, which mounted the Fox CVR(W)’s 30 mm turret on a Scorpion hull, when the latter was retired; and Stormer, which is a larger version of the Spartan APC with an extra set of road wheels. The UK bought 62 Stormers to mount its Starstreak anti-aircraft missile system. A further 29 units of the flatbed version of Stormer were acquired to mount the Shielder minelaying system.

The UK acquired a total of 1,863 CVR(T) vehicles. They have also been exported to Belgium, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, The Philippines, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, Chile, Venezuela, Nigeria, The UAE, Jordan, Oman, and Iran. In total, more than 3,500 CVR(T)s were produced.

The first CVR(T) upgrade programme, the CVR(T) Life Extension Programme (LEP), began in 1988 when a larger and more efficient 5.9-litre Cummins diesel engine and an upgraded transmission were fitted. Then in 2010, BAE Systems via a UOR order was asked to produce 50 Scimitar Mk 2 vehicles. Scimitar 2 is a new-build Spartan hull mounting the Scimitar’s 30 mm cannon turret on top. The vehicle has increased armour protection including composite / ceramic armour and a redesigned fuel system. Weight has increased to 13-tonnes.

A CVR(T) (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked)) vehicle is pictured being operated across the harsh desert terrain of Afghanistan by soldiers of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers.  The first of the enhanced Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) (CVR(T)) fleet are now operational and being put to good use by the Lancers, whose main task is to overwatch the battle space either side of Highways 1 and 611, the two main supply routes that run through the Task Force Helmand area of operations.
A CVR(T) (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked)) vehicle is pictured being operated across the harsh desert terrain of Afghanistan by soldiers of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers. The first of the enhanced Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) (CVR(T)) fleet are now operational and being put to good use by the Lancers, whose main task is to overwatch the battle space either side of Highways 1 and 611, the two main supply routes that run through the Task Force Helmand area of operations.

Given its age, many older CVR(T)s have now been retired, but approximately 900 remain in service. By today’s standards, the CVR(T) design is extremely old and dated. The Scimitar’s 30 mm cannon is totally outclassed by other 30 mm weapons. Its flat bottom hull is vulnerable to IEDs and its aluminium armour can easily be pierced by .50 Cal heavy machine gun fire. Not before time, it is due to be replaced by the FRES Scout SV. This new vehicle discards the small and lightweight formula for a larger 35-tonne vehicle based on the ASCOD 2 platform and mounts the new 40 mm CTA cannon. It is not clear, however, when FRES SV will enter service.

AS90 and M/GMLRS

The AS90 155 mm self-propelled gun entered service in 1993 and replaced the Abbot FV433 105 mm self-propelled gun and M109 155 mm self-propelled gun. In total, 179 vehicles were acquired, with approximately 89 remaining in service. Though 20 years old, both gun and platform have life left in them.

AS90
AS90

This is guided multiple-launch rocket system based on the US M270 weapons platform. The launcher can fire 12 rockets to about 40 kilometres with precision accuracy. This system dates back to 1983. The UK acquired a total of 42 launch vehicles.

The final pre-acceptance trial of the GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, USA.
The final pre-acceptance trial of the GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, USA.

Like AS90, this platform is old, but has life left in it.

Viking and Warthog

Viking and Warthog are all-terrain vehicles based on the Hagglunds BvS 10 / BvS 206 amphibious personnel carrier. Viking was acquired in 2005 after an extensive trials and development programme. Warthog was acquired in 2010 via a rapid UOR programme when the Viking’s protection was found to be deficient. While both vehicle types provide utility through their all-terrain mobility, neither is a true AFV or ideal APC.

Viking vehicles operated by men of the Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) engage enemy positions after coming under fire from compounds surrounding Checkpoint Yellow 7 on the Shamalan Canal.
Viking vehicles operated by men of the Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) engage enemy positions after coming under fire from compounds surrounding Checkpoint Yellow 7 on the Shamalan Canal.
A 'Warthog' Fighting Vehicle is pictured on patrol in the Loy Mandah District of Afghanistan, during an operation to clear out an insurgent hotspot.
A ‘Warthog’ Fighting Vehicle is pictured on patrol in the Loy Mandah District of Afghanistan, during an operation to clear out an insurgent hotspot.

Both vehicles feature a distinctive tandem box hull arrangement and articulated steering system. In the Viking, the front section weighs 5-tonnes and the rear section 3.5 tonnes. It can seat 4 soldiers in the front and 8 in the rear. The UK acquired a total 158 vehicles with four variants: troop carrying variant (TCV); command variant (CV); repair and recovery variant (RRV) and ambulance variant (AV). In addition to being used by the Army, Viking is also used by the Royal Marines. Like the CVR(T), Viking has a low ground pressure enabling it to traverse all kinds of terrain. Without substantial armour, Vikings deployed to Afghanistan proved to be vulnerable to IEDs. Within two years of Viking being fielded, losses forced it to be withdrawn from frontline service. Viking is now being re-issued to Royal Artillery units as an equipment transporter for the new Watchkeeper UAV

Warthog is the UK version of the ST Kinetcis Bronco and visually looks very similar to the Viking it replaced. It offers increased protection, greater mobility and a larger load carrying capacity, enabling it to carry 6 soldiers in the front cab and and 10 in the rear. A total of 115 vehicles with the same four variants as Viking (TCV, CV, RRV and AV) were ordered. While Warthog has proved more effective than the Viking, it too is being transferred to the Royal Artillery as a Watchkeeper transporter vehicle.

An army of jeeps and trucks

To support its primary range of armoured vehicles, the British Army has recently acquired a large assortment of wheeled vehicles that are essentially armoured jeeps and trucks.

Pictured are elements of the Manoeuvre Support Group MSG from 42 Commando Royal Marines, based at Bickleigh Barracks Plymouth, whilst conducting live firing of the new Light Forces Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (LFATGW) Javelin.  42 Commando Royal Marines were the first UK Armed Force to live fire the new Javelin system. The live fire demonstration was an early opportunity to see the Javelin being live fired in the UK. The future reliance on simulation,rather than live firing will mean that a demonstration such as this will be a rare event in the UK during the service life of the system.  This image was submitted as part of the Peregrine 06 Photographic Competition.   <i>This image is available for non-commercial, high resolution download at www.defenceimages.mod.uk subject to terms and conditions. Search for image number <b>45145988.jpg</b></i> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Photographer: PO (PHOT) Sean Clee Image 45145988.jpg from www.defenceimages.mod.uk
Pictured are elements of the Manoeuvre Support Group MSG from 42 Commando Royal Marines, based at Bickleigh Barracks Plymouth, whilst conducting live firing of the new Light Forces Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (LFATGW) Javelin.
Pinzgauer 6x6
Pinzgauer 6×6

Vector is a light protected patrol vehicle (LPPV) based on the Pinzgauer 6×6. Intended to perform the same LPPV role as Foxhound (see below), it has proved to be deficient across a number of areas and has been withdrawn from theatre. What future role the UK’s 153 Vectors will perform is unclear. In hindsight, it was a poor choice.

Vector
Vector

Husky is the UK version of the US Navistar MXT-MV 4×4 with a flatbed load area at the rear. It is a tactical support vehicle that can transport small loads around the battlefield under protection, making it suitable for combat resupply. The UK acquired 327 Husky vehicles despite the fact that it had been previously rejected by the US Army for not providing sufficient protection. Again, it was not an ideal choice.

Husky Protected Highly Mobile Tactical Support Vehicle in Afghanistan
Husky Protected Highly Mobile Tactical Support Vehicle in Afghanistan

Panther is a new command and liaison vehicle based on the Iveco LMV Lince and has assumed some CVR(T) roles, but with less mobility. The UK has acquired a total of 401. The procurement process was heavily criticised and the MoD appears to have paid much more than many competing designs would have cost for a vehicle that offers marginal IED protection, poor interior space and average cross-country performance.

Panther and Jackal
Panther and Jackal

The UK has acquired 400 new Foxhound LPPVs and 736 Mastiff, Ridgeback and Wolfhound PPV variants. These infantry mobility vehicles provide significantly greater IED protection, but at a much higher cost and without significant off-road capabilities (see below).

Foxhound
Foxhound

There are 868 armoured Land-Rover variants including 371 Land-Rover RWMIK for fire support and reconnaissance roles and 485 protected Snatch 2 vehicles. Though better protected than the disastrous original Snatch Land-Rover, they are not in the same class as Foxhound. Similarly, the Land-Rover RWMIK has been replaced by Jackal, which has greater underbody protection from IEDs. Since these vehicles have mostly been replaced by those listed above, they will be withdrawn from service at some point.

In addition to its fleet of protected vehicles, the Army has its ‘C’ fleet, or logistics and  support vehicles. This includes a further 12,000 general purpose, utility Land-Rovers and 5,000 MAN HX60 4×4 trucks with a payload capacity of 6 tonnes.

Finally, there are an additional 1,800 specialist vehicles including cranes, heavy transporters, dump trucks, tankers, water bowsers, bulldozers and a fleet of 92 HET Oshkosh 1070F 8 x 8 tractor units to transport Warrior and Challenger 2s.

Summary

In summary, the UK is spending a huge amount of money on vehicles, but very few of those vehicles are front-line fighting vehicles with a significant offensive armament. We seem to be buying an excessive number of different platform types for vehicles that perform fundamentally the same roles. Do we need Jackal, Panther and Husky? Could not a single common platform based on Foxhound be adapted to perform all of the roles they perform? Worst of all, we have bought more than a 1,000 vehicles that proved inadequate for the roles they were supposed to perform and needed to be replaced.

UORs Have Sucked up the Budget

It needs to be pointed out that a large percentage of the Army’s future vehicle budget has been consumed by UOR purchases for Afghanistan. Latest estimates suggest that expenditure since 2006 was approximately £2-£3 billion. We plan to gift more than £1 billion worth of clapped-out vehicles to the Afghan Army when we leave and there isn’t much left in the AFV pot to replace them with new vehicles.

Two UOR vehicles are noteworthy.

One is the Foxhound LPPV and the other is the Mastiff PPV.

The Army has acquired 400 Foxhound (Ocelot) 4x4s. This light protected patrol vehicle (LPPV) offers unprecedented protection in its weight class, accommodates up to six soldiers and can mount a variety of weapons including the .50 Cal HMG, 40 mm GMG and 7.62 mm GPMG. Foxhound has proved to be a highly flexible vehicle that is rapidly deployable by air and able to perform a variety of mission types. Consequently, it will be taken into the core equipment budget and used to equip several light role infantry battalions. Feedback suggests that it is an excellent vehicle, but, irrespective of Foxhound’s proven capabilities, we should not be blinded by the fact that it is essentially an armoured Land-Rover and has relatively limited cross-country mobility.

The second major UOR purchase was a fleet of larger protected vehicles. The UK bought 248 Mastiff 6×6 PPVs, 90 Wolfhound 6×6 PPVs (Mastiff with a flatbed load area at the back) and 157 Ridgeback 4×4 PPVs. These vehicles can carry 10-12 soldiers and can be equipped with the same defensive weapons as Foxhound. The Mastiff family offers greater IED protection than Foxhound, but the penalty is more limited off-road performance. This vehicle has undoubtedly saved lives in Afghanistan, but Mastiff is little more than a heavy armoured truck that depends on good roads. The decision to take this vehicle into the core equipment budget reflects the fact that the British Army has an ongoing need for protected mobility. But, it cannot be considered as a true wheeled APC, because it cannot keep-up with tracked vehicles across country. It is merely a substitute for the trusty 4-tonne truck (which, with a rear flatbed and canvas cover, is totally unsuitable for carrying troops when the threat of IEDs exists).

To pretend that Mastiff is any kind of replacement for the FV430 series or an alternative to FRES UV is to sell the Army short.

It has been persuasively argued by Think Defence and other military commentators that if the UK had not abandoned its MRAV collaboration with Germany, we could have acquired the Boxer 8×8 instead of Mastiff. Similarly, if the FRES UV programme had not also stalled, we could have acquired the Piranha V 8×8. As it was, we spent between £200-£300 million trying to procure a highly mobile wheeled APC without a single vehicle being fielded. Both the Piranha V and Boxer would have provided much greater cross-country mobility and combat flexibility as well as providing comparable IED protection.

The emerging structure for Army 2020 suggests that FRES UV may have now assumed a lower priority. Those who defend the purchase of Mastiff say that it was simply a case of buying what was available, at a price we could afford and at the time when we needed it. This may be true, but with an improved approach to vehicle procurement, we could and should have acquired a fleet of 8x8s similar to the US Stryker Brigades that have more than proved their worth across a wide variety of combat roles in Iraq and Afghanistan and, equally important, will continue to play an important role beyond these deployments.

The 8×8 wheeled APC is a relatively new AFV type. As such, the optimum design configuration continues evolve as they are used more widely. Clearly, there are risks attached to acquiring a large fleet of vehicles that may need ongoing development or modification. For example, despite the many strategic, tactical and logistical benefits provided by the US Army’s Stryker 8×8 vehicle, it was acquired before the IED threat was fully appreciated. Inevitably, combat experience has forced the US Army to upgrade its entire fleet by adding a double V-hull for better protection.

The KMW Boxer is a German 8×8, which we could have acquired, and has greater protection than Stryker. It has a modular design that enables the basic chassis to accommodate a variety of mission modules which can be swapped as needs dictate. However, this makes the Boxer 2-3 tonnes heavier than rival designs and puts it right on the limit of what an A400 can lift. The GDE Piranha V (a Piranha IV redesigned around the UK’s individual requirements) also offers increased protection. Unfortunately, it is flawed in other areas. During the UAE Army’s wheeled APC trial one was overturned, not while crossing a steep sand dune, but on a level road. Whether this was due to the steering system design or because it is inherently top heavy isn’t clear, but the design needs modification. In hindsight, the UK may have been fortunate in not having bought the Piranha V. Had we done so, we might now find ourselves in the same position as the USA and needing to spend extra money to upgrade to our own 8×8 fleet.

As the conflict in Afghanistan draws to close, it is only now that a benchmark specification for 8×8 APCs has emerged. While other early 8×8 vehicles may need to be upgraded, both Stryker and Boxer would have been a better choice for the British Army than the slow, lumbering, and overweight Mastiff

Stryker Afghanistan
Stryker Afghanistan
Boxer Afghanistan
Boxer Afghanistan

 

Preparing for the Next War not the Last One

As we look ahead to determine our future requirements, we must consider how our needs have evolved in the light of recent experience. Does Afghanistan define a new AFV paradigm or is it merely a one-off deployment that does not reflect a wider spectrum of threats? Our AFV fleet presently incorporates a COIN operation focus, but has our selection of vehicles compromised our ability to field effective forces across a wide range of potential deployments and mission types?

In spending our tax receipts wisely, military programme managers are frequently urged to prepare for the next war not the last one. This requires us to prioritise a wide range range of threats according to how likely they are and how serious their impact would be.

The British Army is organised around three types of conflict scenario:

  • Low intensity policing, peacekeeping, training and support role
  • Medium intensity counter-insurgency / counter-terrorism role
  • High intensity major domestic or international conflict role

Each of these scenarios can be further divided by their duration: short (6 months or less), medium (2 years or less) or long-term (More than 2 years). The challenge is to equip our soldiers (and other armed forces) to counter the broadest possible range of threats across the most likely scenarios without compromising their ability to deal with a less probable, but potentially much more serious major conflict.

Underpinning our analysis of likely future deployments should include the political consideration of how essential a British response is when operations take us beyond defending UK soil. Bitter experience has taught us that it is often better to get involved before a minor indirect threat becomes a major direct one. However, we seem to adopted a more extreme strategy of being a self-appointed global policeman. Has our involvement in Afghanistan made the UK a safer place? Has it made a difference for the Afghan people? The British public’s attitude to Syria seems to suggest that, as regrettable as the situation is, it is none of our business. Perhaps future deployments will be confined to close-to-home situations?

probability

Building on Corin Vestey’s excellent recent review of UK defence planning, we need to identify and prioritise the things we most wish to protect. One important point he made was that irrespective of any external threats, there is an over-riding need to ensure the UK’s own internal security. That makes protecting national assets is a number one priority governing our choice of equipment. Corin listed a variety of things based on a hierarchy of human need: food, water, shelter, warmth and so on. Which gives us a neat list of domestic UK assets:
– Power generation and distribution facilities
– Food supply (including agricultural)
– Water supply (Including treatment and waste disposal)
– Transport infrastructure (roads, airports, ports, railways and public transport)
– Telecommunications (including command and control networks)

Any of these essential assets could be threatened internally, e.g. attacks by home-grown terrorist organisations, but also externally, e.g. attacks against the UK initiated by a foreign power. While physical assets need protecting, we tend to think of potential conflicts only in terms of seizing territory (land appropriation) and direct military response (attrition of the enemy’s capability to wage war). Beyond any existential threats that may exist, there are less obvious, indirect threats that seek to destabilise our way of life, dilute our culture, or impose a different system of values upon us. They can be far more subtle in appearance, but no less lethal in effect. Rather than the knock-out blow of an all-out attack, we face death by a thousand cuts. At what point to you swat the mosquito that is irritating you. You may not notice the first bite or the thirteenth, but by the time you resolve to take action, you may already have malaria. When a wider definition of potential threats is considered, the roles of our national police and intelligence services assume a much greater importance.

The other major evolution has been the means through which we wage war. Drones are proving to be a much less expensive means of eliminating enemy. Since they don’t have pilots, the risk of casualties and political fallout these produce can be avoided. Then there is cyber warfare. The Israeli offensive action against Iran’s nuclear programme represented a fundamentally different means of prosecuting an offensive campaign. It included direct action: not an air strike, but the assassination of key personnel and scientists involved in running the programme, and also indirect action: a cyber attack through the Stuxnet virus, which caused all of the nuclear centrifuges to spin out of control so that they completely destroyed themselves, denying the Iranians the means to make nuclear weapons. Both were more cost-effective than direct military action.

The big elephant in the room of defence planning – nuclear weapons

Before we begin to consider the size of our conventional forces and the vehicles they will need, we need to remind ourselves that our nuclear arsenal has direct impact on the size of our conventional peacetime forces. In various debates about whether the UK should retain its nuclear capability, it has been pointed out that abandoning Trident would require us to have much larger and more expensive conventional forces to ensure our security. If this is true, in a post-Cold War world, where we retain a nuclear capability, we need to consider how the optimum size of our land forces is influenced by the policies that define when we would press the nuclear button.

The recent sabre-rattling by North Korea ceased as abruptly as it started. Was this because China or the USA threatened it with massive retaliation if it should attack South Korea? Quite possibly. But what if North Korea had unleashed a conventional attack? Without sizeable conventional forces, nuclear weapons might be the only viable response.

It has been suggested that nuclear weapons have dramatically curtailed the time period during which international tensions build and reach crisis point. Hitler became an acute problem over 10 years. North Korea recently became belligerent in a matter of weeks. Few people would disagree with the notion that conventional forces are preferable to nuclear weapons. But if we want avoid using them, we need to have a credible navy, army and air force. Traditionally, we have always had smaller peace time establishments due to the belief that a period of political manoeuvring would give us time to reinforce our conventional forces. In today’s fast-moving world, we might not have enough time to reinforce a conventional capability before needing to use a nuclear one.

Consequently, conventional forces are not irrelevant. They can buy vital time before a doomsday scenario becomes inevitable. They can even be used preemptively to disable an aggressor’s nuclear weapons before they are triggered, e.g. attack by Special Forces units. Even when nuclear weapons give us the upper hand against an enemy that doesn’t have a similar response, their indiscriminate use is unlikely to be tolerated by the international community, so some form of conventional forces will need to be retained as an option until a nuclear attack is the only recourse.

Discussion of the fundamental aims behind our defence policy may seem a long way away from decided how many tanks (as well as combat aircraft and ships) we need. But until we set realistic priorities, we cannot equip ourselves appropriately. In essence, there are four pillars of UK defence planning.

The Four Pillars of Defence Planning

  1. Self-defence of the United Kingdom. We need to protect ourselves from any direct action that might threaten our liberty, prosperity, democracy, indeed, our way of life. Situations might include a direct enemy attack against the UK mainland or our economy. Traditionally, this was seen as an invasion by sea or air. Today, it could be a cyber attack that paralyses infrastructure or communications. It could also be an indirect attack that prevented food, fuel and vital supplies from reaching the UK. It could be attacks against natural resources, e.g. oil and gas reserves, or compromising other assets that might paralyse the economy. A direct attack by conventional forces has given way to terrorist attacks conducted by internal and external dissident groups, e.g. the IRA and Al Qaeda. Sustained and successful terrorist attacks against airliners carrying passengers could easily paralyse the Country if we were unable to stop them.
  2. Protection of British and Commonwealth interests abroad. We need to be able to protect commonwealth partners with whom we have mutually dependent trade agreements, e.g. Nigeria and oil. Situations would obviously include defending any legitimate government that asked for our help against an external threat, but also overpowering a coup.
  3. Support of the United Nations: the global police force / peace keeper role. This is the role we performed in Kosovo and Bosnia and part of the reason why UN member forces are presently deployed in Afghanistan. It consists of the restoration of legitimate democratic government; helping nations build and manage their own police and national security capabilities; protecting the civil population in a political vacuum; and providing aid after a natural disaster, especially when law and order have broken down. The role increasingly includes counter insurgency operations against terrorist organisations, action against organised crime gangs and pirates in international waters. Above all, the role is about providing nations with the support they need to become self-sufficient and self-determining.
  4. The fulfilment of treaty obligations including NATO and the European Union. This is honouring the mutual commitment to our allies, where an attack against one nation is regarded as an attack against all. NATO was originally created to protect the West against the Warsaw Pact threat. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, NATO still exists but former Cold War scenarios are now redundant. With new threats emerging, including Iran, North Korea, former-Soviet Union states and, possibly, even China, NATO still has a role play. Over time, NATO and the UN may merge into a single entity where the world community will protect member states from an attack by another rogue member. In the meantime, Britain’s membership of the EU implies the responsibility to protect our European neighbours in the event of an attack.

The important thing to emphasise here is that whether we take action to protect the things we value or protect other nations who depend on us, e.g. a Commonwealth nation invaded by an aggressor, we will need boots on the ground. Deploying troops quickly, reliably and in a fit state to perform the tasks we ask of them will require us to equip them with the right range of vehicles.

The IED threat has been discussed at length. Although it is right to categorise such weapons as mines, their asymmetric effect in shifting the balance of power towards less well-resourced insurgent groups has forced us to take them seriously. In COIN warfare there is no FEBA. Wherever troops travel, they are at risk. If the UK was ever forced to defend itself against a substantially larger attacking force, we might ourselves use sophisticated mines in exactly the same way as the Taliban has used crude pressure-plate devices against us. In other words, protected mobility is now needed at every level.

The Tank is Dead, Long Live the Tank

So, using the four pillars of defence planning, we can begin to consider the scope of our armoured vehicle requirements. Let’s start with 20th Century’s signature asset, the tank, and the heavy armoured vehicles that support it. A previous article on this topic generated a lively discussion on the future of armour.

Without wishing to rehash the debate, a number of important summary points were made:

  • We need to maintain tank forces simply because potential enemies have so many. The large number of main battle tanks currently in service across the globe, approximately,108,000 in total, represents a significant threat. NATO and its allies could mobilise around 18,000 tanks. That leaves more than 90,000 tanks that could potentially be ranged against us.
  • The threat of air attack does not render tanks obsolete. It goes almost without saying that attack helicopters and strike aircraft have become extremely adept at engaging armoured vehicles. This assumes that air superiority (or at least parity) allows ground attack aircraft to operate with impunity. With constant blue skies above Afghanistan and the Middle-East, we tend to take 24/7 air support for granted. However, in a major conventional conflict, no self-respecting armoured division would deploy without organic anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) systems. Just as hand-held anti-tank missiles have been a great equaliser in tank versus infantry encounters, hand-held anti-aircraft missiles are starting to pose a greater threat to combat aircraft. With a range of AAA at its disposal, an advancing armoured division could easily defend itself against air attack. Deploying armour or deploying aircraft / helicopters to counter armour boils down to selecting the right tactics to suit the needs of what may often be a very fluid situation.
  • Tanks are still the best way to take out other tanks. While aircraft are good at neutralising armoured targets, they cannot hold ground. Moreover, large tank guns excel at taking-out other tanks. If a potential enemy launched a sizeable armoured thrust against us, our best chance of repelling it would be to deploy as many tanks as we could muster. Though we might use air assets, we would rely on the physical presence of ground-based defensive armour to neutralise enemy AFVs. Potential enemies have a huge advantage in tanks numbers, which means every vehicle capable of destroying tanks we could mobilise would make a difference. The Russian view is that any tank is better than no tank, which is why so many older models remain in their inventories.
  • Tanks cannot continue to become bigger and heavier. In seeking to gain a competitive advantage over Russian and Chinese tanks, many western designs have incorporated thicker armour. But even the best protected NATO tank has no defence against a proper anti-tank gun, such as the Russian 2A46 125 mm smoothbore gun or larger air launched anti-tank missiles such as the AT-16 Scallion (9K121 Vikhr). Any future attempt to up-armour tanks is likely to provide only short-term advantages. The penalty of increased protection is increased size, increased weight, increased cost and reduced mobility. In the same way that naval battleships grew in size without achieving invulnerability, ultimately leading to their obsolescence, 80 or 90 tonne tanks are impractical. It is difficult to transport them to where they are needed and once they get there, very few bridges can support their weight. They’re also perceived as high-value, high-priority targets by the enemy.
  • Historically, the best tanks have always been those that provided a balanced mix of firepower, protection and mobility. Arguably, the best tank designs of World War 2 were the Soviet T-34/85 and German Panzer V, Panther G. Both tanks offered excellent mobility, superior firepower and good protection. Whereas the best tanks that the Allies could muster, the Sherman and the Cromwell, had good mobility, their armour was weak and they had inadequate firepower. Thus, the Allies needed a ratio of 3 to 1 to defeat Axis forces. Luckily we had superior tank numbers. In the end, quality may not be enough to overcome quantity. As the quest to give contemporary MBTs increased protection results in NATO tank units having a reduced number of lumbering behemoths, perhaps the time has come to prioritise mobility again? 
  • The need for increased mobility suggests a requirement for lighter tanks. There are a number of ways to make tanks lighter. Two-man turrets with autoloaders have been adopted by some armies, although reducing crew numbers from four to three may not desirable, because crew duties will be shared by fewer personnel. Housing the crew in central armoured citadels with externally mounted guns can also reduce the armour requirement and thus vehicle weight, but may reduce crew situational awareness. Simply reducing the level of armour fitted to a vehicle may also help too. New tank designs, such as the French LeClerc, incorporate weight saving measures that reduce weight without compromising overall protection or mobility.
  • Infantry Fighting Vehicles need as much protection as Main Battle Tanks. Most IFVs have less protection than the MBTs they are meant to follow and support. It has been suggested that future infantry fighting vehicles should be as well protected as tanks. Israel has already recognised this need with the Namer APC. This uses the Merkava battle tank chassis minus turret to house an infantry squad. However, as soon as you add armour or a cannon to an infantry fighting vehicle you make it heavier or handicap its ability to carry infantry soldiers. Concepts for the next generation infantry fighting vehicle, such as the Ground Combat vehicle or GCV, suggest considerable weight and size gains to balance carrying capacity, protection and firepower
  • IFVs and Reconnaissance vehicles have become medium tanks. It has been suggested that as soon as you fit a cannon to an infantry combat vehicle, it starts to look like a tank. If it looks like a tank, then the chances are it will be used like one. Many existing tanks in service across the world can be neutralised with a 25 mm or 30 mm cannon. During Gulf War 1, a significant number of Iraqi T-54/ T55 and T-62 tanks were destroyed by Bradley M2 IFVs. When they encountered better protected tanks that could not be penetrated by their 25 mm chain guns, they used their TOW missile launchers instead. Who cares that the troops inside the Bradleys became little more than passengers? With the US Army using the M3 Bradley as a dedicated cavalry vehicle, a new trend has been established for using modified IFV platforms in the tracked reconnaissance role. This is what the UK’s new FRES SV is intended to do. While it has room for 2-3 dismounts, it is primarily an agile medium tank designed to complement Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks. If we need to play a numbers game, reconnaissance vehicles with more offensive firepower could be a good thing.
  • New armoured formation structures are emerging. In the UK, Armoured brigades have now been built around a new structure: 1 x MBT regiment, 1 x Recce regiment, and 3 x MICV regiments. Tank regiments provide the primary anti-tank capability supported by infantry in MICVs, while the Recce regiment provides reconnaissance, flank support, and a medium anti-armour capability. As a concept this seems to make sense, although some believe that the medium armour role would be better performed by a second heavy armour tank regiment. The counter argument is that, although a second tank regiment would provide greater firepower, it would be a less agile and flexible unit. A Challenger 2 costs more than twice as much as an ASCOD 2 FRES SV. So, if numbers matter, then less expensive medium tank vehicles will allow us to field a larger quantity of vehicles.

In the short term, the case for heavy armour seems to be well made. The current crop of Main Battle Tanks represents a powerful and flexible combat tool. The three leading Western designs are the US M1A2 Abrams, the German Leopard 2A7, and the UK’s Challenger 2. The Challenger 2 appears to be the best protected. The Abrams is the most agile, but uses a thirsty gas turbine engine. The German Leopard seems to provide the best overall compromise between firepower, mobility and protection. The M1A2 Abrams and Leopard 2A6 use the Rheinmetall L44 and L55 120 mm smoothbore gun respectively. Another top contender is the Israeli Merkava III/ IV. Recent Israeli experience has provided important lessons about how tanks should be used in a combat environment where infantry have copious amounts of ATGWs at their disposal. In truth, we won’t really know how relevant tanks are until the current generation are truly tested in a major conventional clash of titans.

The Need for Strategic Mobility

Modern battle tanks remain formidable battlefield assets, but getting them quickly to where they are needed can be a challenge. A C-17 transport aircraft can carry a single M1A2 Abrams. Deploying an entire tank regiment by air, let alone a whole brigade, is an expensive and inefficient proposition. For this reason, tanks are usually transported by sea. Once tanks arrive in theatre, however, they need wheeled transporters to get them to where they are required. Long distance deployments by road can quickly wear out tracks. While new banded tracks (continuous rubberised tracks) can aid mobility, heavier AFVs still need to use traditional linked tracks. These can soon heat-up on hard road surfaces which makes them expand leading to vehicles ‘throwing a track’ or other mechanical problems. All in all, tanks remain mechanically complex and need constant preventative maintenance to ensure they remain battle ready.

The UK’s CVR(T) series of vehicles has proved to be a light and highly mobile tracked solution that could easily be deployed to trouble spots. In an IED-infested environment, vehicles such as the Scimitar and Spartan, which have only lightweight aluminium armour, have become vulnerable. While they can avoid conventional roads and tracks to reduce the risk of IED attack, they can be easily be disabled by heavy machine gun fire.

Foxhound and Jackal provide excellent strategic mobility and have become a new currency in rapidly deployable vehicles. Foxhound is a worthy addition to the UK’s core capability, but the jury is still out when it comes to Jackal. While it is essentially another Land-Rover surrogate, albeit with improved underbody protection and superior rough-terrain performance, it is not a true armoured vehicle. Without having an enclosed crew compartment, the protection it offers is somewhat limited – as several fatal attacks in Afghanistan have sadly proved.

Recognising the need for armoured formations that can be rapidly deployed using existing road networks, the US Marine Corps acquired the LAV-25, an amphibious 8×8 vehicle mounting the Mk 242 Bushmaster 25 mm cannon. The LAV-25 has only basic armoured protection and carries a crew of 3 plus 6 dismounts. Adopted in the mid-1980s, it provided a rapid response capability. The wheeled AFV concept has shown itself to be remarkably effective, not least because it allows units to deploy long distances independently. During deployments to Panama and Gulf War 1, US Marine units equipped with the LAV-25 showed they could be as effective as tracked armoured units, especially when operating in built-up areas.

In addition to 8×8 vehicle types, various armies have experimented with 4×4 and 6×6 configurations. Overall, a larger 8×8 chassis is needed to carry a full infantry squad, especially if the vehicle is required to mount a cannon. Furthermore, 8×8 designs tend to have better weight distributions than 4x4s or 6x6s, so offer better cross-country performance.

Initially, most 8×8 designs were notably inferior across country versus tracked vehicles. As the breed continues to evolve, rough terrain performance has benefitted from hydro-pneumatic suspensions, advanced transmissions and tyre systems with adjustable pressures. In particular, Patria of Finland, Singapore Industries, Supacat of the UK, Nexter of France, Krauss Maffei of Germany and Iveco of Italy, have all made great strides in drivetrain performance for military wheeled vehicles.

The Rise of the Wheeled AFV

The success of the US Marine Corps’ LAV-25s led to the larger Stryker 8×8 M1126 Infantry Carrier Vehicle being developed. This has a crew of 2 and can carry a full squad of 9 soldiers. With better protection, improved suspension and a more powerful engine, the Stryker has shown itself to be a highly capable asset. The US Army has now fielded a number of Stryker Brigades using a whole family of vehicles based on a common 8×8 chassis.

When the first Stryker Brigade was sent to Iraq in 2004, it immediately made an impression by deploying 500 miles in three days. What was different about this formation was the lack of the usual logistics tail that follows behind an armoured formation. An entire brigade with everything it needed moved en masse to Northern Iraq to relieve a brigade of the US 101st Airborne Division. Once deployed, it was discovered that self-contained Stryker units could police large areas and easily redeploy to trouble spots when the need arose. Though Stryker units made extensive use of the Iraqi road network, they could also move across more challenging terrain with relative ease.

It is entirely possible that a wheeled formation may be attacked by a tracked heavy armour unit. That being the case, wheeled units must be able to defend themselves against main battle tanks. While a typical 8×8 vehicle would seem to be totally outclassed in wheels versus tracks clash, an 8×8 vehicle that mounts a large anti-tank gun should be as capable of destroying a T-90 as the T-90 is capable of destroying it. Victory of one over the other is likely to depend on speed of target acquisition (FCS), tank gunnery skills (training) and engagement range. The level of armour protection would, for the most part, be irrelevant – a hit on either vehicle is game over. But one key survivability factor is whether an 8×8 has sufficient cross-country mobility to outmanoeuvre an enemy tank or at least get into a tactical position where it can deliver effective, accurate fire.

In addition to standard infantry carrier versions, the US Army also adopted the Stryker M1128 MGS – Mobile Gun System, which mounts a 105 mm gun in remote turret served by an autoloader. Its primary role is to eliminate other 8x8s and to support infantry units as they seize objectives – just as a normal MBTs supports tracked APCs / IFVs. The M1128 Stryker MGS is similar to the Italian Army’s Centauro vehicle, which mounts either a 105 or 120 mm gun, and the South African Roikat, which has a 76 mm gun. Firing direct high explosive shells and anti-tank APFSDS rounds, these vehicles are often described as wheeled tank destroyers, although their primary role is to support infantry. It isn’t yet clear whether these vehicles are best deployed singly within wheeled APCs infantry battalions or as independent wheeled tank destroyer regiments. Italy uses its Centauros in separate cavalry units, and attaches them to infantry battalions as required.

While Italy’s Centauros have been successfully deployed in a variety of theatres, including Bosnia and Afghanistan, the US Army’s Stryker MGS vehicles have achieved only limited success. Adding extra armour over and above the extra weight of the 105 mm gun system has made them less agile, so further refinement is required. Despite teething problems, the wheeled tank destroyer remains an important addition to armoured capabilities.

Although the Stryker was better protected than the LAV-25, experience of IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that an increased amount of armour was needed. As noted above, the US Army has now upgraded its Stryker fleet with double-V hulls. As other redesigned 8×8 models have appeared, average weight range has increased from 18-19-tonnes to around 28-29-tonnes creating what is a new class of medium armoured vehicles. Design goals have focused on adding as much protection as possible while keeping vehicle weight below 30 tonnes so that a single vehicle to be carried in an A400 or two in a C-17.

In the tracks versus wheels debate, there is a clear consensus that tracked vehicles ultimately remain more agile across rough terrain and provide a more stable gun platforms. That said, wheeled vehicle technology has caught up, so the difference is no longer as great as it was. There are likely to be many situations where wheeled combat vehicle formations can substitute heavy armour tracked AFVs, especially when the latter are not available or unable to deploy quickly enough. A decade ago, when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started, the 8×8 concept was relatively immature. Today, as combat experience has led to improved designs, they have become highly effective vehicles that provide a medium armour capability which complements heavy armour ones.

The Three Tier AFV Structure

Based on the above discussion, a three-tier AFV structure has emerged:

Heavy Armour

Heavy Armour formations are comprised of main battle tanks, e.g. Challenger 2; infantry fighting vehicles, e.g. Warrior or its replacement; reconnaissance vehicles based on a IFV platform adapted for the role, e.g. FRES SV Scout; and tracked artillery, e.g. AS90 155 mm SP gun.

Eventually we will need to replace Challenger 2. One way to do this is to partner with Germany to develop something like a Leopard 3 with Dorchester armour and a 120 mm smooth bore gun. Another approach might be to buy whatever the USA replaces the M1 Abrams with. If we urgently needed to acquire more tanks today, Leopard 2A7 might be our best option.

Although the ASCOD 2 vehicle selected for the FRES SV role has been criticised for being too large and heavy, the Army maintains that a smaller tracked reconnaissance vehicle would be unlikely to provide the level of required protection for the evolved reconnaissance / medium tank role. More than that, the basic ASCOD 2 platform has been redeveloped to create a proper reconnaissance vehicle design that is faster and more agile than an MBT. Fitted with the 40 mm CTA cannon, Scout SV is supposed to be able to destroy anything up to a T-72 tank. Given the unproven nature of case-telescoped ammunition, the 40 mm CTA weapon represents quite a risk. The Mk 242 Bushmaster 30 mm, Bushmaster III 35 mm, or Bushmaster IV 50 mm might all be safer and ultimately more effective options. The Mk 242 is extremely an effective and proven design with an upgrade path to 40 mm – it is also used by many of our NATO allies.

If we insist on using an IFV vehicle for the reconnaissance role, why not use Warrior? This might be a sensible option if we had sufficient Warriors. Since we only have enough for armoured infantry battalions and the GKN production line is now closed, we have no alternative but to procure a second vehicle.

As previously noted, it makes no sense to have two IFV platforms in our AFV fleet. By delaying the Warrior upgrade programme and FRES SV acquisition until 2020-2025, we could acquire a single platform for both reconnaissance and infantry fighting vehicle roles. If we stick with current plans to acquire ASCOD 2 for the FRES SV role, we could ultimately replace Warrior by acquiring more ASCOD 2s. If the ASCOD platform is likely to be obsolete when we get around to doing this, perhaps we should consider delaying both Warrior upgrade and FRES SV acquisition until 2020-2025 and then commence a programme to replace both Warrior and CVR(T) simultaneously with a new common platform?

While we may need a vehicle the size of FRES SV for the reconnaissance role, it would be highly desirable to have a new compact, highly mobile, and lightweight tracked vehicle with good IED protection that can be airlifted by a Chinook – a true CVR(T) replacement. Foxhound shows that we can develop a lightweight wheeled vehicle with adequate armour in the 7-10-tonne weight class, so why can’t we create an equivalent tracked vehicle? Instead of mounting a 40 mm CTA cannon, we could fit a lightweight weapon similar to the Hughes 30 mm cannon fitted to Apache.

Another school of thought is that it could make sense to replace Challenger, Warrior CVR(T) and AS90 with a single, common heavy armoured platform to create four separate vehicle types, including an artillery gun platform. To avoid excessive size and weight, the infantry vehicle might only have a light cannon. All vehicles would have a similar level of protection.

Medium Armour

Medium Armour formations are built around 8×8 wheeled vehicles using a structure that mirrors that of Heavy Armour formations. Units would be comprised of wheeled tank destroyers, e.g. Centauro B1 8×8 with 120 mm gun, wheeled armoured personnel carriers, e.g. Patria AMV 8×8; wheeled reconnaissance vehicles, e.g. Centauro 8×8 with 40 mm CTA cannon; and towed artillery, e.g. 155 mm gun.

One advantage of the newer 8×8 designs is that a single, common platform can be used to create a variety of vehicle types. The IVECO Centauro Tank Destroyer, Freccia IFV and Draco multi-role gun platform are all built on the same platform. One noteworthy addition to Patria’s 8×8 AMV family is a mortar vehicle. The Nemo 120 mm breech loaded mortar system is able to fire in both direct and indirect modes to provide a substantial fire support capability. A standard 8×8 APC can also be used as a gun tractor to tow field guns with the rear compartment being used to stow ammunition.

The other important 8×8 capability is the ease with which such vehicles can be made amphibious. Royal Marine Commando battalions could be equipped with an amphibious 8×8 to replace Viking. A further benefit is cost. Typically, 8x8s cost 40-50% less than a tracked equivalent and are estimated to cost 30-40% less to run and maintain due to increased fuel efficiency and the need for fewer spare parts.

Light Armour

Light armoured formations would be comprised of light wheeled vehicles, e.g. Foxhound and towed artillery, e.g. M118 105 mm light gun.

There is a strong case for creating a reconnaissance vehicle with an enclosed crew compartment to replace Jackal. A low-profile Foxhound with light cannon in a compact turret would provide the crew with superior IED protection than an open cab 4×4. If we retain Jackal, we should see it for what it is: a glorified Land-Rover. Buy as many Jackals as you want, but don’t let it prevent you buying a proper AFV.

There is also a case for using Foxhound to replace Husky, Puma and Vector. Reducing the total number of chassis types would contribute worthwhile cost savings while providing a vehicle with good IED protection.

While Heavy Armour units would primarily deploy by sea, both Light and Medium Armour units could be deployed by air.

The three Parachute Regiment battalions would continue to provide a rapid reaction force and helicopter-borne air-assault brigade. Regiments on the ground would be supported by integral light armoured vehicles and towed artillery. Royal Marine Commandos would be a seaborne equivalent of the air assault brigade.

Future Force Size and Structure

Any credible future AFV plan must achieve three objectives:

  • Define the required capability based on a robust prioritisation of current and potential threats
  • Develop an appropriate force size and structure
  • Build unit formations around a reduced number of AFV platforms

The threat has already been discussed in some detail above and the three classes of AFV reflect a broad set of capabilities to defend national interests across a variety of situations. The challenge is now to suggest a logical force size and structure that matches our prioritised requirements and, of course, our budget.

The size of the UK’s Army may be shrinking, but even with 80,000 troops, we still have more than 30 infantry battalions. That is sufficient to create 10 brigades or three divisions. It would not make sense to have three full-on heavy armoured divisions (and we probably don’t have sufficient UK bases to house them anyway). NATO allies can reasonably expect the UK to contribute two complete divisions (six brigades not five). In reality, we have the manpower to muster 3 divisions. It is simply a question of organisation and equipment.

If we agree that the tank has life left in it, then one of the three divisions should be built around a conventional tracked armoured division structure similar to what we have today with the second constructed around an identical but less expensive medium armour structure using 8×8 wheeled vehicles. The third would be a light and easily deployable rapid reaction force with light vehicles. This would give us a heavy division, a medium division and a light division as follows:

Heavy Division

Three heavy armoured brigades with each consisting of:

1 x Tank regiment: Tracked MBT with 120 mm gun

1 x Reconnaissance regiment: Tracked IFV with 40 mm CTA cannon / 35 mm cannon

3 x Infantry battalions: Tracked IFV with 40 mm CTA cannon

1 x Artillery regiment: Self-propelled 155 mm howitzer on same IFV chassis

Medium Division

Three medium armoured brigades with each consisting of:

1 x Tank destroyer regiment: Wheeled 8×8 MGS with 120 mm

1 x Reconnaissance regiment: Wheeled 8×8 APC with 40 mm CTA cannon / 35 mm cannon

3 x Infantry battalions: Wheeled 8×8 APC with 12.7 mm HMG / 40 mm GMG

1 x Artillery regiment: Wheeled 8×8 APC with 120 mm breech-loaded mortar 

Light Division

Three light armoured brigades with each consisting of:

1x Reconnaissance regiment: Wheeled 4×4 with lightweight 30 mm cannon

3 x Infantry battalions: Wheeled 4×4 with 12.7 mm HMG / 40 mm GMG

1 x Artillery regiment: 105 mm gun towed

(The three Parachute Regiment battalions could form an air assault brigade within the Light Division. Although they would primarily deploy using helicopters, they would need appropriate light vehicles to support operations).

Any additional infantry battalions that exist outside these structures would perform the same function as the Adaptable Force under Army 2020

Examples of Regiment and Battalion Structures

(FRES UV MGS 8×8 regiment would mirror this structure)

Examples of Regiment and Battalion structures showing vehicle types and numbers

Structure 1 Structure 2 Structure 3 Structure 4

Summary

Total cavalry: 15 regiments (with 300-350 soldiers per regiment)

Total infantry: 27 battalions (with 600-650 soldiers per battalion)

Total artillery: 10 regiments + Force artillery assets (with 300-350 soldiers per regiment)

(Engineer, Logistics and Signals unit structures not included)

Estimated total manpower requirement: 24,000-26,500 soldiers

Vehicles

Total Challenger 2 MBT = 168

Total FRES SV Scout = 264

Total FRES SV = 108

Total Warrior IFV = 720

Total 8×8 APC (FRES UV) = 720

Total 8×8 TD (FRES UV MGS) = 168

Total 8×8 Recce (FRES UV Recce) = 264

Total 4×4 Recce (Foxhound/ Jackal) = 240

Total 4×4 Utility / LPPV (Foxhound/ Panther) = 948

The total FRES UV requirement would be 1,260 vehicles and would completely replace all Bulldog and Mastiff vehicles. In essence, FRES UV and a joint FRES SV /IFV platform would be the Army’s CVF. Such a programme would be likely to cost £6-7 billion (based on FRES UV costs of £2 million per vehicle and FRES SV /IFV costs of £4 million per vehicle), but it would provide the Army with a true 21st century “go anywhere, do anything” capability.

 

Notes:

(1)  Challenger 2 would not be upgraded, but replaced by either a Leopard 2A7 purchased off-the-shelf or even second-hand or a jointly developed Leopard 3.

(2)  Although we would reduce our MBT total to 168 units, we would gain 168 wheeled tank destroyers, effectively increasing our tank force to 338 units.

(3)  Under this structure, we would purchase fewer FRES SV vehicles (3 regiments versus 5) but this would provide budget to replace Warrior.

(4)  Assuming that ASCOD 2 gets back on track, a development of the same vehicle would be used for the IFV role.

(5)  A joint replacement programme for Warrior and Scout SV would create a requirement for a single IFV/ Recce platform and a total of 1,092 vehicles.

(6)  Warrior CSP would be cancelled, and deliveries of the new IFV would commence after all FRES SVs had been delivered.

(7)  Foxhound would be used for all 4×4 roles replacing Panther and Jackal.

 

Summary

The proposed Army 20020 structure is a random ORBAT that leaves 18-20 infantry battalions needing some form of protected mobility, artillery and armour support to enable them to deploy effectively to wherever they might be needed. At the moment, the protected mobility requirement is fulfilled by five unacceptable vehicles: the ancient tracked FV432 / Bulldog APC; the slow, immobile Mastiff 6×6 MRAV; the unarmoured 6-tonne MAN truck; and the ubiquitous 4×4 Land-Rover. With the exception of Bulldog, none of these vehicles has significant cross-country mobility and only the Mastiff provides significant protection against IED, mines and RPGs.

The one good vehicle in our inventory is Foxhound, but this is a light protected vehicle that lacks the same level of protection as heavy or medium armour options. So while it is suitable for some roles, especially COIN deployments, it should not be viewed general purpose APC. Within its capabilities, the Foxhound platform could be used to replace a number of existing platforms.

The Foxhound platform has been proposed as a Jackal substitute. Foxhound as is could replace Vector, Panther and Husky.

Getting the overall balance of vehicles right requires the UK to reorganise its AFVs formations around a simplified heavy, medium and light armoured vehicle structure. We need to rationalise the number of vehicle types around a four well-chosen platforms:

  • Main battle tank
  • Tracked IFV / APC / SPG / Recce / Specialist support vehicles
  • 8×8 MGS / APC / Recce / Specialist support vehicle
  • 4×4 LPPV / Recce/ Specialist Support vehicle / Command & Liaison

We particularly need to prioritise the acquisition of FRES UV. As the MoD continues to dither about which 8×8 APC it wants to adopt, the armies of the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Poland, Finland, Norway, Holland, Italy, Czech Republic, Sweden, South Africa, Turkey, Singapore and Switzerland have all recognised the importance of such vehicles and acquired sizeable 8×8 fleets. As a result, these countries have a capability to rapidly deploy large formations across long distances – something we cannot yet do.

Most recently, in Mali, the French Army’s wheeled 6×6 VABs and 6×6 AMX10-RCs allowed units to gain a rapid toe-hold in key areas that simply wouldn’t have been possible using tanks and tracked APCs. In particular, the AMX10-RC provided immediate on-the-ground firepower making a strong case for well-armed wheeled vehicles – it would have taken weeks to deploy tanks. In many situations, wheeled vehicles will be in and out long before heavy armour becomes a factor.

Wheeled vehicle formations are not a substitute for tracked units – they complement them. While it would be unwise to deploy an 8×8 formation against a heavy armoured unit, if an 8×8 unit is unexpectedly engaged by heavy armour, it should be able to defend itself. Each medium armour brigade should have an MGS regiment, a reconnaissance regiment and two or three infantry battalions. (Artillery guns or mortars could also be mounted on the same 8×8 platform or such vehicles could be used to tow wheeled artillery.)

Light armour brigades will be rapidly deployable and equally flexible. They would be able to support air mobile battalions. Ultimately, the combination of heavy, medium and light armour ensures that all troops are able to travel in reasonable safety to get to wherever they are needed ready to complete what mission tasks they have been given.

About The Author

Think Defence contributing author

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TED
March 23, 2014 9:11 pm

Been musing on recce vehicles for some time. @RT how does a modern Ferret take you?

The problem monty as you hinted is strategic mobility. If the UK wants to primarily do these quick ops what place does heavy Armour have. Is there any data on how many CR2 we deployed to afghan?

TED
March 23, 2014 9:11 pm

Been musing on recce vehicles for some time. @RT how does a modern Ferret take you?

The problem monty as you hinted is strategic mobility. If the UK wants to primarily do these quick ops what place does heavy Armour have. Is there any data on how many CR2 we deployed to afghan?

DavidNiven
March 23, 2014 9:22 pm

Trojan was deployed but was withdrawn on cost grounds (although it performed brilliantly), but no CR2 although the Canadians, Danes and USMC deployed MBT’s.

The Other Chris
March 23, 2014 9:40 pm

Very interesting. Am curious about VBCI details and how the vehicle measures up given the 20 examples being transferred.

The Other Chris
March 23, 2014 9:40 pm

Very interesting. Am curious about VBCI details and how the vehicle measures up given the 20 examples being transferred.

9DangerousDave
March 23, 2014 10:12 pm

First post using this new Disqus thingie – hence the slight name change from Dangerous Dave, hmmm.

Can’t disagree with anything you said, Monty. Reduction of different chassis types and consolidation of platforms, plays well to the predilections here at TD! And, of course would give long term savings . . .

Given the 3 stages of deployment you mention (Peacekeeping, COIN, Major Conflict), would it not be sensible to keep Jackal and Mastiff platforms for the lowest intensity deployments (peacekeeping role in a new “Bosnia”, say.) That way expensive to deploy tracked and medium wheeled vehicles can be kept for necessary deployments and keep the odometer reading down, reducing operational and maintenance costs. Also, our current crop of PPV (Foxhound, Mastiff and Jackal) should be ideal for the “armed rioters, improvised weapons, IED” scenarios likely to be encountered in a peacekeeping scenario.

With Regard to MBTs, I fear that the pendulum has already swung too far to the side of increased protection. You only have to look at the number of 40 tonne capacity bridges in most countries compared to 70 tonne capacity ones, to see where the sweet spot for strategic deployability is. It’s no accident that Road Haulage seems limited to 40-45 tonnes in most countries, thats the weight that the bridges can bear! Strategically, I’d prefer more 40-45 tonne MBT’s than less 65-70 tonne MBT’s, and as you say, the extra armour on the heavier tanks doesn’t protect them against 120mm AT rounds anyway. However, the higher unit losses while operating the lighter tanks may very well be politically unacceptable!

9DangerousDave
March 23, 2014 10:12 pm

First post using this new Disqus thingie – hence the slight name change from Dangerous Dave, hmmm.

Can’t disagree with anything you said, Monty. Reduction of different chassis types and consolidation of platforms, plays well to the predilections here at TD! And, of course would give long term savings . . .

Given the 3 stages of deployment you mention (Peacekeeping, COIN, Major Conflict), would it not be sensible to keep Jackal and Mastiff platforms for the lowest intensity deployments (peacekeeping role in a new “Bosnia”, say.) That way expensive to deploy tracked and medium wheeled vehicles can be kept for necessary deployments and keep the odometer reading down, reducing operational and maintenance costs. Also, our current crop of PPV (Foxhound, Mastiff and Jackal) should be ideal for the “armed rioters, improvised weapons, IED” scenarios likely to be encountered in a peacekeeping scenario.

With Regard to MBTs, I fear that the pendulum has already swung too far to the side of increased protection. You only have to look at the number of 40 tonne capacity bridges in most countries compared to 70 tonne capacity ones, to see where the sweet spot for strategic deployability is. It’s no accident that Road Haulage seems limited to 40-45 tonnes in most countries, thats the weight that the bridges can bear! Strategically, I’d prefer more 40-45 tonne MBT’s than less 65-70 tonne MBT’s, and as you say, the extra armour on the heavier tanks doesn’t protect them against 120mm AT rounds anyway. However, the higher unit losses while operating the lighter tanks may very well be politically unacceptable!

TED
March 23, 2014 10:19 pm

The only thing I would disagree with your on Monty is that tanks are the only way to take out other tanks. I would say Apache is better in that role but you are correct that they cannot hold ground.

TED
March 23, 2014 10:19 pm

The only thing I would disagree with your on Monty is that tanks are the only way to take out other tanks. I would say Apache is better in that role but you are correct that they cannot hold ground.

Cbrn Guru
March 23, 2014 10:35 pm

TD- how long have you been holding on to this? My
understanding is that we will only have 3 Type 58 Tank Regiments, all in
Tidworth. KRH, QRH and the RTR when they
amalgamate in August. The Armoured Demonstration Sqn at Warminster will disappear
and be replaced by the RTR CBRN Fuchs Squadron.

There is nothing like a good doom and gloom picture being
painted, but we have not reached the low levels of the Dutch just yet, not a
Leopard 2 in sight… :)

Cbrn Guru
March 23, 2014 10:35 pm

TD- how long have you been holding on to this? My
understanding is that we will only have 3 Type 58 Tank Regiments, all in
Tidworth. KRH, QRH and the RTR when they
amalgamate in August. The Armoured Demonstration Sqn at Warminster will disappear
and be replaced by the RTR CBRN Fuchs Squadron.

There is nothing like a good doom and gloom picture being
painted, but we have not reached the low levels of the Dutch just yet, not a
Leopard 2 in sight… :)

Enigma
March 23, 2014 10:44 pm

Did the army not say way back when if you allow us to buy apache we can do with less tanks?. The army seem to have dithered over which vehicle it wants and wasted so much money and time doing it they should now be forced to buy ones totally of the shelf and get on with it, the French vehicle recently talked about would seem apt a swap deal for watchkeeper.

The current sdsr stated a requirement to deploy 2/3rds the size of gw2 so the force structure suggested seems way to large for a 2 brigade total deployed force.

Enigma
March 23, 2014 10:44 pm

Did the army not say way back when if you allow us to buy apache we can do with less tanks?. The army seem to have dithered over which vehicle it wants and wasted so much money and time doing it they should now be forced to buy ones totally of the shelf and get on with it, the French vehicle recently talked about would seem apt a swap deal for watchkeeper.

The current sdsr stated a requirement to deploy 2/3rds the size of gw2 so the force structure suggested seems way to large for a 2 brigade total deployed force.

Swimming Trunks
March 23, 2014 11:39 pm

Very good post Monty.

RE: Medium brigade and towed artillery. Would something like this be better, or would the small numbers be too expensive?

http://www.military-today.com/artillery/porcupine.htm

Swimming Trunks
March 23, 2014 11:39 pm

Very good post Monty.

RE: Medium brigade and towed artillery. Would something like this be better, or would the small numbers be too expensive?

http://www.military-today.com/artillery/porcupine.htm

Gloomy Northern Boy
March 24, 2014 12:56 am

A well thought through proposal for re-equipping the Army to meet many possible future contingencies, and begin the process of re-balancing the economy in the direction of high tech manufacturing most probably located in the Core Cities of the Midlands and North…which also offers the possibility of strengthening our position with key allies in Europe or the Anglo-sphere by opening up the possibility of joint future projects…and could also contribute to defence diplomacy if we dispose of the kit we don’t need to our friends in the developing world (with technical support for refurbishment and maintenance).

Any sensible Government would start detailed planning to deliver it immediately, and probably give Monty the job of delivering…ours will naturally be too busy thinking of clever new ways to bribe the electorate with their own money or make Ed Milliband look silly at PMQ to even think of anything as trivial as coherent long-term thinking for the Defence of the Realm…

Still Gloomy after all these years

Gloomy Northern Boy
March 24, 2014 12:56 am

A well thought through proposal for re-equipping the Army to meet many possible future contingencies, and begin the process of re-balancing the economy in the direction of high tech manufacturing most probably located in the Core Cities of the Midlands and North…which also offers the possibility of strengthening our position with key allies in Europe or the Anglo-sphere by opening up the possibility of joint future projects…and could contribute to defence diplomacy if we dispose of the kit we don’t need to our friends in the developing world (with technical support for refurbishment and maintenance).

Any sensible Government would start detailed planning to deliver it immediately, and probably give Monty the job…ours will naturally be too busy thinking of clever new ways to bribe the electorate with their own money or make Ed Milliband look silly at PMQ to even think of anything as trivial as coherent long-term thinking for the Defence of the Realm…

Still Gloomy after all these years

Martin
March 24, 2014 2:10 am

A lot of good thinking in this piece. I think the army desperately needs an 8X8 vehicle and it needs to have a deployed capability to get a battalion sized battle group on the ground quickly. While we may not have sufficient air lift capability on our own to deploy such formations as was shown by the French this is not always needed. Our allies have tones and for international duties will be more than willing to help us out.

I also agree that the adaptable force in army 2020 looks like a real muddle designed purely to retain as many cap badges as possible. I like your three division format but I wonder if it would allow for deployments such as Brunei and Cyprus. Would have two division deployable format not be better with a light division being more an administrative feature for infantry battalions designed to meet enduring operations.

The new 7th Infantry division could possibly be reformed to comprise the core of your medium division.

Also Its worth noting that UOR have not come out of the army’s budget but rather the treasury contingency fund. I think the only people the army has to blame for the shameful state of its vehicle program is the army itself.

I also think its wrong to suggest that the other services have benefited at the Army’s expense when both the Navy and RAF have been butchered to keep Army numbers above 100,000 for the past decade.

Martin
March 24, 2014 2:10 am

A lot of good thinking in this piece. I think the army desperately needs an 8X8 vehicle and it needs to have a deployed capability to get a battalion sized battle group on the ground quickly. While we may not have sufficient air lift capability on our own to deploy such formations as was shown by the French this is not always needed. Our allies have tones and for international duties will be more than willing to help us out.

I also agree that the adaptable force in army 2020 looks like a real muddle designed purely to retain as many cap badges as possible. I like your three division format but I wonder if it would allow for deployments such as Brunei and Cyprus. Would have two division deployable format not be better with a light division being more an administrative feature for infantry battalions designed to meet enduring operations.

The new 7th Infantry division could possibly be reformed to comprise the core of your medium division.

Also Its worth noting that UOR have not come out of the army’s budget but rather the treasury contingency fund. I think the only people the army has to blame for the shameful state of its vehicle program is the army itself.

I also think its wrong to suggest that the other services have benefited at the Army’s expense when both the Navy and RAF have been butchered to keep Army numbers above 100,000 for the past decade.

S O
March 24, 2014 2:25 am

“Light Division
Three light armoured brigades with each consisting of:
1x Reconnaissance regiment: Wheeled 4×4 with lightweight 30 mm cannon
3 x Infantry battalions: Wheeled 4×4 with 12.7 mm HMG / 40 mm GMG
1 x Artillery regiment: 105 mm gun towed”

Just as an example:
“light” forces lack armour, so they need to be alternately stealthy and extraordinarily mobile, right?
Now that we’re at fantasy formations, take the time and calculate how many vehicles (“Wheeled 4×4”) such a battalion would have. Calculate the share of “infantrymen” that would need to stay behind with the vehicles during dismounted actions.

Also, calculate the road march length in kilometres and the time it takes till an entire Bn has passed a point during such a march. I propose 60 kph and 65 metres/vehicle (vehicle length + safety spacing including safety spacing between units).

A modern battalion battle group has about 100 vehicles AFAIK. With 4×4 only or mostly you may easily end up with 150-180 or risk having too few supplies carried.
A 150 vehicles column would be almost 10 km long and take almost 10 minutes to pass a single point.

Assuming you did this, put the icing on the cake and read about the destruction of Groupement Mobile 100. http://de.scribd.com/doc/214071017/ARMOR-MAGAZINE-Destruction-Groupement-Mobile

S O
March 24, 2014 2:25 am

“Light Division
Three light armoured brigades with each consisting of:
1x Reconnaissance regiment: Wheeled 4×4 with lightweight 30 mm cannon
3 x Infantry battalions: Wheeled 4×4 with 12.7 mm HMG / 40 mm GMG
1 x Artillery regiment: 105 mm gun towed”

Just as an example:
“light” forces lack armour, so they need to be alternately stealthy and extraordinarily mobile, right?
Now that we’re at fantasy formations, take the time and calculate how many vehicles (“Wheeled 4×4”) such a battalion would have. Calculate the share of “infantrymen” that would need to stay behind with the vehicles during dismounted actions.

Also, calculate the road march length in kilometres and the time it takes till an entire Bn has passed a point during such a march. I propose 60 kph and 65 metres/vehicle (vehicle length + safety spacing including safety spacing between units).

A modern battalion battle group has about 100 vehicles AFAIK. With 4×4 only or mostly you may easily end up with 150-180 or risk having too few supplies carried.
A 150 vehicles column would be almost 10 km long and take almost 10 minutes to pass a single point.

Assuming you did this, put the icing on the cake and read about the destruction of Groupement Mobile 100. I recommend “Death on the Highway: The destruction of Groupement Mobile 100” by Luedeke in “Infantry Magazine” Jan/Feb 2001.

accattd
March 24, 2014 7:10 am

I haven ‘t kept up with the evidence given to Parliamentary committees for a while now, but seem to remember that there is a net settlement outstanding between:
– what was taken out of core budget for Iraq before UORs got properly established, and
– the UORs that have been/ will be taken to the “core” rather tahn disposed of at the end of the operation.

accattd
March 24, 2014 7:10 am

I haven ‘t kept up with the evidence given to Parliamentary committees for a while now, but seem to remember that there is a net settlement outstanding between:
– what was taken out of core budget for Iraq before UORs got properly established, and
– the UORs that have been/ will be taken to the “core” rather tahn disposed of at the end of the operation.

thinkdefence
March 24, 2014 8:24 am

Was playing around with the new Flickr embed service, obviously it doesn’t work with many in the same post. Have inserted the images in the old fashioned way now, see how that works

thinkdefence
March 24, 2014 8:24 am

Was playing around with the new Flickr embed service, obviously it doesn’t work with many in the same post. Have inserted the images in the old fashioned way now, see how that works

Obsvr
March 24, 2014 9:16 am

A few points, the ‘new’ bdes are two armd inf bns and one with ‘protected mobility’. The artillery regt has five batteries in addition to its HQ Bty, these are 3 AS90, 1 precision fires (G)MLRS and Exactor, and one tac group only, the other 4 btys also provide tac groups, giving one tac group per manoeuvre battle group, including recce. A long overdue capability upgrade.
The original MLRS order was for 7 btys, ie 63 SPLLs plus replacements and training. Not sure what was actually delivered (from the European productions lines) from 1991 onwards, subsequently a few were converted to tracked wreckers, on the lines of the old M578 (used in some RA regts).
I’d also observe that strategic mobility is provided by ships, preferably big and ro-ro, forget the grey junk. The problems start when you go somewhere landlocked, fortunately there are relatively few countries like that, Mongolia comes to mind, but you can do a lot with railways (in 1945 the USSR moved three Fronts, some 16 Armies, from central Europe to the Far East in 3 months by rail, much of it on single track, now that is real logistics). Anybody who thinks UK could deploy and sustain an armd bde by air is (insert likely ailment here).

March 24, 2014 11:50 am

Monty suggests that tanks are the best weapon to counter other tanks, but then points out the vulnerability of even the best protected tanks to modern anti-tank weapons.

The disadvantage of a line-of-site gun being the tank’s main weapon is that you have to be in the enemy’s line-of-site before it can be used.

The forward march of technology might suggest that (second to air delivered weapons) ground-launched non-line-of-site weapons would be the best way to destroy tanks. If your vehicle’s armour won’t stop another tank’s shell, then better to hide behind a few hills and structures to take on the enemy.

There’s still life in tanks yet, but we don’t need the numbers of the past. The numbers of Iraqi armoured vehicles destroyed by IFV, despite the large numbers of allied tanks deployed, suggests that the allies’ big tank units were outdated structures; and that smaller tank units integrated with infantry at a smaller unit scale might have been more appropriate

March 24, 2014 12:14 pm

Concerning Stryker. The Americans have come to a couple of conclusions following the recent conflicts.

Stryker needs a cannon. The existing machine gun mounting can apparently carry up to a 30mm, though it’s not yet decided how big to go. And some thought is currently going into whether all Stryker in a brigade need a cannon, or just a few support weapon carriers.

There are too many Stryker MGS. Stryker brigades will be reduced from holding a MGS regiment to a squadron, in British terms.

The MGS has crap mobility. The US airborne forces are currently looking at gun systems and have discounted the Stryker MGS. One of the options they are looking at is the M8 Armored Gun System off of the ’80s. About six were produced before funding stopped, but it still fits their requirement. The MGS will still soldier on in the Stryker brigades largely because they’re already there, and there isn’t the money available to replace them all, rather than because they’re the best answer to the question.

I’m curious as to whether the MoD looking at the French VBCI is out of genuine interest in that or any similar 8×8, or whether it’s just thought to encourage the French on Watchkeeper and FASGW.

A lighter 6×6 would be more appropriate for the UK IMO. The 8×8 boat sailed when we plumped for ASCOD. I don’t see how another big armoured vehicle would be sufficiently dissimilar to ASCOD and Warrior’s capabilities to justify a new vehicle type; we do need something lighter though for air portability and in-theatre mobility.

Swimming Trunks
March 24, 2014 1:00 pm

Interesting you should say that Brian – this article is from early on in the IBCT/Stryker BCT’s and reaches similar conclusions – need cannon, long(ish) ATGM and doubts over the MGS; it should be noted that this force is lighter than what the Stryker brigades became.

https://www.strategypage.com/articles/ibct_files/default.asphttps://www.strategypage.com/articles/ibct_files/default.asp

March 24, 2014 1:08 pm

“David Cameron’s pledge to cut UK defence expenditure from 3-4% of GDP to around 2% suggests that our future armed forces will be smaller and leaner than before.”

I am not sure this is true….

Frenchie
March 24, 2014 1:12 pm

We have nothing given to the British army. The Watchkeeper interests the French army, who has linked a French order for the UAV to a VBCI contract for the British army. As Watchkeeper has permission to commissioning, the French army would be willing to sell you twenty VBCIs to some forty million €. The VBCI has a aluminum case, but it does not represent a risk. Some Israeli M113 caught fire after being hit by an RPG, the fire was difficult to control. The aluminum hull founded after taking fire, aluminum-evolve between other toxic fumes. The aluminum used by Nexter is different. Its quality is good for this job.

Tubby39
March 24, 2014 1:25 pm

Thanks Monty for the interesting post.

Are you able to share what the exact problem is with the Warrior fuel tank, and is it something that can be easily fixed. The reason I am asking, is I am wondering how viable it would be to procure FRES SV in scout and add a IFV version (using an off the shelf 30mm cannon, or if we want commonality with France the DRAGAR turret and a 25mm cannon), and then add a new drive train, and fix the fuel tank problem, and turn our warriors into APC’s/recovery and ambulance versions? Then we could go with an off the shelf VBCI purchase for FRES UV. BTW, if we are playing fantasy vehicles, how about the Panhard CRAB or Sphinx for the Yeomanry instead of theJackal? I think the CRAB would better fit the role, except I have doubts over a remote turret with 25mm cannon, I prefer a manned .50 cal turret.

Simon
March 24, 2014 1:42 pm

With the exception of a few tanks needed just in case our shores are breeched I really don’t understand what we need them for.

We do not have the mass necessary to land and sustain a type 58 regiment.

Furthermore, without provision of air superiority they would be history very quickly. So that means putting air superiority in place first, which is the expensive bit and also allows you to “stand off” somewhat and still have an offensive capability.

I don’t think the UK will be doing the deep offensive land battles in the future. We’re gearing up for “policing”, “peace keeping” and “rapid reaction” – of which, tanks play very little part.

What is better value – a £50m Apache or 12 Challenger 2 tanks. The latter of which would be wiped off the face of the Earth by the former with missiles, bullets and fuel to spare?

accattd
March 24, 2014 1:51 pm

Your best, and second to best, can be the same thing?
– helo or ground-launched rockets
Self-lased (for the helo alternative) or by another party (like infantry) for both alternatives.

accattd
March 24, 2014 1:54 pm

What happened to thestory ” we are under 2% already”?

Simon257
March 24, 2014 2:16 pm

Simon
Apaches have been great in Afghanistan, but how would they stand up to to someone who has the capability to fight it out. As the cousins found out in 2003.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2003_attack_on_Karbala

The entire unit was knocked out for days!

Frenchie
March 24, 2014 2:16 pm

Yes, a medium armour with a VBCI equipped of a 120 mm gun as recce is a great idea, this is what us will must to do in France.

As regards vehicles recce in a light brigade, yes CRAB is an idea that I defend since a long time for paratroopers and Royal Marines, this is a light and fast vehicle with good firepower, I have recently seen the CRAB with a sleeve cover flame that looks like a 30mm cannon helicopter gunships.

The benefits for the CRAB are my views:

– It is air droppable.

– Speed ​​and higher capacity crossing.

– A knowledge of the tactical situation and higher through vectronics external environment and the disposal of 3 crew behind a large armored glass.

– A higher level of protection, in addition to its low silhouette.

– A lot of firepower for a small vehicle.

– And on the whole, a modern vehicle so superior in all characteristics.

Observer
March 24, 2014 2:17 pm

To be honest, some of Monty’s premises are a bit skewed, though not very seriously.

1) The best way to take out a tank is really an LGB from 25,000 feet. The tank does not even have a chance to retaliate.

2) SHORAD is not an effective air defence for a division. Most of the time, if you have to go to SHORAD, you’re very badly screwed. SHORAD is only useful against low flying helicopters and planes. If the area is not covered by a higher altitude SAM system or your air force, the enemy plane just has to do the LGB at 25,000 feet. This is complicated by the fact that most SAMs need to be deployed, which you have a bit of trouble doing in a rapid advance. IIRC, most of the British Division assets are at best Starstreaks and Rapiers, last ditch defence systems or anti-helicopter units.

3) The light armour section seems to confuse light armour with towed artillery, which is a completely different thing

4) 40km+/- is the range for 155mm shells. 227mm rockets are about 70-80km in range.

5) Just because your enemy has something does not mean you automatically follow. If your enemy suddenly decided that “tanks are evil” and set them all ablaze in a giant BBQ, does that mean you are going to follow suit? If even technicals stacked with modern missiles can frequently stop an armoured advance cold (as an example), then wouldn’t it make more sense to get technicals rather than to blindly “follow the enemy” (as an example. I’m pro-MBT, but the reasoning must be solid, not just monkey see, monkey do)

6) There is also another advantage to more but cheaper tanks. While your top of the line units are having a fine time blowing whatever is in front of them to scrap, their friends may be breaking through other parts of your defence line where your MBTs are NOT. Numbers allow for more axis of attack, potentially overloading your ability to react to each incursion. Which is why mines are so important as a delaying device, but that is a local problem.

7) There is no mention of how different vehicles, light, medium and heavy, are used differently to cover their shortcomings. For example, to use a light tank in a “charge the line” role to breach enemy defences is suicidal, most common use for them is as infantry support guns where the infantry probe forward to locate and fix the enemy before the tank comes in to finish it off, covering for the lack of armour by using infantry as an ad hoc “shield”. Inversely, attaching a CR2 to an infantry company is a waste of the MBT’s speed, firepower and armour and it should be in the lead by virtue of its armour. Long story short, Heavy and Mediums tend to go to armoured regiments while Lights tend to be used for infantry support. Totally different ways to use them, not all “charge the enemy”.

And “recce with tanks” is called scouting. Real recce don’t use armour. Right RT? :)

The Other Chris
March 24, 2014 2:18 pm

2014 Budget
£1.641.3 billion GDP
£46.5 billion Defence spending
£33.4 billion Pure Military expenditure

Source:
http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/uk_defence_spending_30.html

accattd
March 24, 2014 2:21 pm

@ obsrv,

So, if Iunderstood, one tacgroup is there just for an additional BG (para/ heliborne, or someting else) to be quickly attached?

A good plan.

The last I read about it, there were 40-42 of such groups.
– divide by 5 makes 8 bdes ” all set”
– means that two of the adaptable force bge’s will be cadres, to be cannabilised
– add in the standing duties, FI 1, CYP 2, Brunei 1 as in inf bns = a bde’s worth, leaves 1 bde short of such:; bring back SFSG… Still there? … Plenty of such specialist resource

I think we are covered, for anyting that we can field… Plus a bit extra for those who move by air ( but the arty to cover them always will not)

S O
March 24, 2014 2:24 pm

12 Challenger 2 tanks are much better value than an Apache helicopter.

The latter’s forward operating base in the field will be identified by AEW, hammered by rocket artillery and overrun by armoured recce before Challenger 2s visit it and play with the wrecks by rolling over them some more.

We know approximately how MBTs fare in a first rate vs. first rate power conflict, but attack helicopters never did this. There are also army air defences in many armies, a capability which NATO largely gave up following the lead of the U.S.Army which kept bungling its battlefield air defence projects and settled on the specialised and easily countered Stinger missile.

“policing”, “peace keeping” and “rapid reaction” – none of this is worthwhile, and to expect more of this nonsense means ‘to prepare for the last war’.

accattd
March 24, 2014 2:31 pm

No, no!

The tabloid headlines can’tbe wrong?
– or maybe their roundation rules got them on the wrong side of the decimal point,just when there was a zero to the left of that point?

accattd
March 24, 2014 2:34 pm

More than 15 degrees either side of the direction that it is facing
… And it will topple over after the first round fired!

Frenchie
March 24, 2014 2:52 pm

Sorry but I misunderstood a “Centauro” with “Sphinx”, for example, is duplicative, a recce vehicle must be a tank killer, you need either a 8×8 or 6×6 with a 120 mm gun, or a 6×6 or a 8×8 with a small cannon and missiles.

Swimming Trunks
March 24, 2014 3:00 pm
Swimming Trunks
March 24, 2014 3:21 pm

An interesting point. I have read a counter argument for lightly armoured 4×4 vehicles however:

“The light family (4 x 4) would have relatively many members. There should be special versions for reconnaissance (equipped with machine cannon), infantry transport, an anti-tank missile system, shorter-range indirect fire (mortar), and an air defense missile system. All vehicles of this class should be very compact and relatively light (5 – 9 t). They should have acceptable ground pressure (to allow movement over soft ground) and a high degree of agility. Compactness and agility would enhance their survivability. This would be combined with unrivaled operational and strategic mobility. The main functions to be performed by the light family are e), f), h), i), j), k), l); secondarily, it would serve m) as well.

Cautionary note: The variables “low weight” and “compactness” imply that the infantry carrier belonging to the light family cannot have than 5 to 7 occupants. This would suffice for patrolling missions, but in a warfighting scenario the vehicle’s crew may be too small to form a viable tactical entity. However, the currently common practice of loading 10, 12, or even more soldiers into a large 15 – 25 t wheeled carrier puts “too many eggs in one basket”. This is especially worrisome because large multi-wheeled vehicles are particularly vulnerable.6 For this reason, the small-crew/compact-vehicle approach demands further study. One possibility would be to team pairs of vehicles closely together.”
http://www.comw.org/pda/0007wheels.htmlhttp://www.comw.org/pda/0007wheels.html

Swimming Trunks
March 24, 2014 3:35 pm

Interesting article I found ages ago; have linked to it concerning 4×4 light armour but it also mentions 8×8 medium armour; it is not enthusiastic:

“One system obvious by its absence in this schema is an Armored Gun System (AGS). As already mentioned, relatively well-armed gun carriers are available in the 20 – 30 t class of wheeled vehicles. However, for reasons explored above, the survivability of these platforms in a tank role has to be rated rather low — especially if an AGS is expected to confront a “real” main battle tank. The same proviso applies to tracked tanks in this weight class. A small, agile, and compact wheeled missile carrier (probably with LOSAT technology) is likely to do a better job.One system obvious by its absence in this schema is an Armored Gun System (AGS). As already mentioned, relatively well-armed gun carriers are available in the 20 – 30 t class of wheeled vehicles. However, for reasons explored above, the survivability of these platforms in a tank role has to be rated rather low — especially if an AGS is expected to confront a “real” main battle tank. The same proviso applies to tracked tanks in this weight class. A small, agile, and compact wheeled missile carrier (probably with LOSAT technology) is likely to do a better job.”

“The medium family might consist of only one basic wheeled platform (8 x 8) whose different variants (weighing 25 – 35 t) would carry heavy tube artillery, a multiple-launch rocket system, and/or a fiber-optically guided missile array. Its main function would be n), of course. In performing this function it would assist in a), g), k) as well as in follow-on forces attack and in stopping enemy breakthroughs. Emphasis would be placed on ensuring optimal fire allocation, which requires good operational mobility.The medium family might consist of only one basic wheeled platform (8 x 8) whose different variants (weighing 25 – 35 t) would carry heavy tube artillery, a multiple-launch rocket system, and/or a fiber-optically guided missile array. Its main function would be n), of course. In performing this function it would assist in a), g), k) as well as in follow-on forces attack and in stopping enemy breakthroughs. Emphasis would be placed on ensuring optimal fire allocation, which requires good operational mobility.”

“Generally speaking, the ground pressure of wheeled vehicles rises significantly with the platform’s weight. In the case of tracked vehicles this correlation is not as evident. In light of this, the renowned British tank expert Ogorkiewicz has argued to abandon concepts of wheeled combat vehicles weighing significantly over 22 – 23 t. Even a multi-wheeled configuration (8 x 8 — that is, eight powered wheels) with variable tire pressure can not solve the problem — resulting only in a very complex, hence expensive, design.

This is a principal matter: It is difficult, if not hopeless, to conceive of technological solutions that could radically solve the problem of wheeled armor’s relatively high ground pressure. (And we certainly should not contemplate resurrecting the failed “solution” attempted during the 1920s and 1930s, which was to equip wheeled vehicles with auxiliary tracks.)

Although wheeled armored vehicles cannot escape their principal dilemma, there have been some interesting and worthwhile examples of such platforms in the 20 – 30 t weight range. One is the South African mechanized howitzer, RHINO, with a weight as high as 36 t. Several other vehicles of interest, mostly in the experimental or blueprint stage, may achieve around 30 t — for example, the new British/Dutch/German infantry carrier. But the willingness of advanced militaries to invest in such vehicles does not mean that Ogorkiewicz’ concerns are being over-turned. These programs do not indicate a belief that wheeled armored vehicles could generally be heavier than he argues and still exhibit good cross-country performance. Instead, in most cases, the fielding of heavier wheeled vehicles reflects special, limited circumstances or goals.Generally speaking, the ground pressure of wheeled vehicles rises significantly with the platform’s weight. In the case of tracked vehicles this correlation is not as evident. In light of this, the renowned British tank expert Ogorkiewicz has argued to abandon concepts of wheeled combat vehicles weighing significantly over 22 – 23 t. Even a multi-wheeled configuration (8 x 8 — that is, eight powered wheels) with variable tire pressure can not solve the problem — resulting only in a very complex, hence expensive, design.

This is a principal matter: It is difficult, if not hopeless, to conceive of technological solutions that could radically solve the problem of wheeled armor’s relatively high ground pressure. (And we certainly should not contemplate resurrecting the failed “solution” attempted during the 1920s and 1930s, which was to equip wheeled vehicles with auxiliary tracks.)

Although wheeled armored vehicles cannot escape their principal dilemma, there have been some interesting and worthwhile examples of such platforms in the 20 – 30 t weight range. One is the South African mechanized howitzer, RHINO, with a weight as high as 36 t. Several other vehicles of interest, mostly in the experimental or blueprint stage, may achieve around 30 t — for example, the new British/Dutch/German infantry carrier. But the willingness of advanced militaries to invest in such vehicles does not mean that Ogorkiewicz’ concerns are being over-turned. These programs do not indicate a belief that wheeled armored vehicles could generally be heavier than he argues and still exhibit good cross-country performance. Instead, in most cases, the fielding of heavier wheeled vehicles reflects special, limited circumstances or goals.”

http://www.comw.org/pda/0007wheels.htmlhttp://www.comw.org/pda/0007wheels.html

Apart from SO’s argument concerning column length does the 8×8 vehicles have any advantage over the light 4×4’s off the light division? Protection might be one but as the article suggests size and agility could make up for that…

Swimming Trunks
March 24, 2014 3:44 pm

My apologies for double pastes above; I tried to edit but it was too difficult. In fact any alteration to writing is proving tricky – I’m not sure if it’s my newly updated browser or disqus…

Simon257
March 24, 2014 4:24 pm

Doesn’t the Centaro Turret have a layout fault. The loader sits behind the Gunner, instead of the Commander and has to reach across the empty casing bin to get at stored ammo!

Observer
March 24, 2014 4:35 pm

Well, there is redundancy, having a tire blown off is less critical if you have 8 wheels. A heavier vehicle also carries more protection. I can vaguely say that a 30 ton 8×8 carries almost the same armour leveling as a 30 ton tracked tank, something a lighter vehicle can’t pull off.

Hitting an IED or mine is also less likely to flip you.

8 wheels also gives you a somewhat lower ground pressure and more traction points so you don’t get bogged down as often. One thing we were told for my recce bike is that in areas where you can slip and slide and you need traction and grip, you deflate the tires a bit so that the surface area in contact with the ground increases. Same thing with 8x8s, they need more traction, they can deflate the tires centrally from the control panels.

More wheels connected to independent suspension also gives a smoother ride, with 4 wheels, a single wheel hits a rut, you get a jerk. 8x8s spread the load to other tires, so you don’t usually feel it if a hits a hole.

Personally, I feel that wheeled technology has advanced enough that it simply does not matter now if it is a 30 ton wheeled or 30 ton tracked, both have similar utility in the end. Past 30 tons is still a no-no for wheels though.

Andy
March 24, 2014 4:46 pm

Yes, 3 Divisions sounds possible to me. In a full NATO defence deployment:
1st Division to Poland made up of Air Assault Brigade and two Armoured Infantry Brigades;
2nd Division to Norway with one Armoured Infantry Brigade plus two Light Cavalry Regiments and 10 Infantry Battalions (and the Royal Marines along side);
3rd Division to Poland with everything else – should be able to deploy four Light Cavalry Regiments and 20 Infantry Battalions even without the use of garrisons in Cyprus, Brunei and Falklands.
I think the numbers work as long as the Army actually recruits 30,000 reserves.
How about also strengthening the 3rd Division by powering up the Light Cavalry Regiments? What if the four of them each got two squadrons of 18 Challenger 2s? In normal circumstances they’d operate recce vehicles but in a major conflict would use the Challenger 2s in storage.
Particularly handy that they’re in storage in Germany. So the crews could fly to them and then they just drive eastwards! And that adds another 144 MBTs to the battlefield.

Joe B
March 24, 2014 5:09 pm

I dont think ive seen a worse researched, though out and written article in a long while. I’m afraid I gave up reading it less than half way through

S O
March 24, 2014 5:18 pm

I have repeatedly made the point that combat-focused manoeuvre forces should use large vehicles for efficiency (unlike recce-focused forces).
Fully motorised forces often have about 1/4 as many motor vehicles as troops when all the bells and whistles down to trailer kitchens, electronics repair technicians and so on are counted. And this even excludes motorcycles.
So in the end a bridge may be 1/4 drivers which provide some mobility and close security, but almost no firepower to the force. The Americans already learned how horrible this ratio is in Korea when their fully motorized infantry divisions were embarrassed by very dissimilar light infantry forces which moved along ridges and over hills and mountains instead of producing traffic jams in valleys. They refused to learn ever since.

We can address the problem by using bigger vehicles, such as one 15 t truck instead of a 9 ton truck and three 1.5 ton trucks even if this means that a UAV launch & control vehicle doubles as 5.000 litre fuel truck.
The only really effective other option is to go really light, and this leads to at least low march mobility and probably also to lower, shorter-ranged firepower.

March 24, 2014 5:35 pm

the link doesn’t seem to work. :)

March 24, 2014 6:03 pm

The Stryker MGS can fire 360 degrees without “toppl[ing] over.” You’d be better off talking to people who have crewed them and been supported by them, as I have, before gassing about them.

Swimming Trunks
March 24, 2014 6:11 pm

Try again…
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-11570593

Edit – paste doubled again; could be why it didn’t work before…

S O
March 24, 2014 6:26 pm

“wheeled technology” hasn’t made noticeable advances in the last couple decades that tracked technology didn’t do as well. CTIS and wide tyres are 1950’s innovations and they’re still defining off-road mobility of trucks.

It’s still the same story; you go for tracks if you want soft soil and obstacle crossing/breaching capability, while you choose wheels when you emphasise road marches. Countries with prevalent hard soil prefer wheeled as well, as did South Africa.

March 24, 2014 6:26 pm

That’s not a great example to use against Apache.

The unit was ambushed as it transitioned en-masse along an over-used air corridor, and occurred after a pause in the allies momentum in that area which allowed the enemy to reorganize.

More to do with poor tactic than the platform, and still only one helicopter actually brought down by the enemy.

S O
March 24, 2014 6:26 pm

“a recce vehicle must be a tank killer”
You may be the only human being thinking this.

There’s a need for some AT capability with armoured recce, but not much.

accattd
March 24, 2014 6:39 pm

Well done; when is yours coming out?
– did you actually have something to say on the topic?

thinkdefence
March 24, 2014 6:53 pm

I have always thought the original Striker concept that provided AT overwatch for the lighter Scorpion and Scimitar etc had some smart thinking behind it.

Would be interesting to see what RT thinks of the AT overwatch concept and how things might have changed with the march of technology

S O
March 24, 2014 7:14 pm

It makes no sense to use a 15 second weapon for overwatch. It makes no sense to use a vehicle with negligible short range firepower in detached scout platoons.

Armoured recce needs some AT, but not for the scouting. It needs it to overwhelm little AFV resistance during its combat missions of opportunity. Coups de main shall not be stopped by a single T-55 guarding that airbase, road or bridge, for example.
Armoured recce with a fine coup de main capability consists of the scout platoons (very stealthy or rather forceful – depending on circumstances), the strike element and its C4I/supply column.
Some modern armoured recce doctrines have degenerated into forward observer or LRRP doctrines, while others kept the ‘combat’ element.

related: http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2009/08/about-armored-reconnaissance-and.html

Frenchie
March 24, 2014 8:11 pm

The organization of the recce regiments will be FRES Scout supported by FRES anti tank missile launchers. Because what will be the reaction of a FRES Scout when it will be in contact with enemy forces with its 40 mm gun, it will be destroyed if it encounters a tank. I don’t know why the FRES Scout does not have missiles on its turret, it would be more economical, but it is the doctrine of the British Army.

I think you mix Scouting and Military Intelligence.

Radish
March 24, 2014 8:23 pm

Great post.

March 24, 2014 8:30 pm

I was a Combat Support Company XO back in the day when US scout platoons had 3 M113A2s tracks and 3 M901 ITVs. Our scouts called the M901’s “weapons of revenge” because they sure couldn’t provide suppressive fire from overwatch with their M60 machineguns and flight time for the I-TOW/TOW 2 guaranteed that the scout track would be a burning hulk by the time the missile got there. My scouts wanted M3 Bradleys and didn’t care if they ever saw a TOW missile of any sort.

mr.fred
March 24, 2014 9:14 pm

I’m curious as to the sources for some of the claims. For example, the Warrior – how do you know that the fuel tank is a vulnerability? Why would the 2006 upgrade protect against heavy machine gun when the 1991 appliqué fit provided protection against threats up to and including 120mm HESH? How can you make troops exit more quickly and what is wrong with it now? How can work not have commenced when the NAO are reporting progress? In fact the NAO is a good source – programme costs are estimated at £1.4bn

The bit on the GMLRS – you are well out on many counts. As far as I know, the 1983 version was an area attack system, but the guided upgrade (late 90’s /early 2000’s) pushed the range out to 70km (about 40 miles)

Warthog – it’s better protected, but does that necessarily mean more effective?

The Bushmaster chain gun: the M242 is the 25mm version as used in the Bradley, the Mk44 is the 30mm Bushmaster II. The III is proven but the IV is a concept weapon only, albeit using proven and in-service ammunition, which is 40mm, not 50mm. The Bushmaster III has the potential (as yet unrealised in any but concept form) to increase to 50mm. In addition, it is not Hughes anymore. It was Boeing and is now ATK who hold the chain gun design rights.

What are the basis for wheeled AFVs costing half that of tracked?

FV430 – How is that Dorchester?

I also have a few questions:
If new hulls can be manufactured for the Scimitar 2, could we not make some new Warrior hulls?

While the T90 can kill the Centauro and the Centauro can kill the T90, what stops the BMP2 killing the Centauro? – the lightweight vehicle is much more vulnerable to other, lighter and more easily employed battlefield weapons than the tank.

thinkdefence
March 24, 2014 9:26 pm

Thanks Kent, so its a crap idea then!

Shows you how much I know :)

Swimming Trunks
March 24, 2014 10:36 pm

I’m genuinely confused SO – you dismiss the idea of serious AT capability with the recce force but link to an article where you suggest that – or am I missing something?

Swimming Trunks
March 24, 2014 10:38 pm

Wasn’t one of the main selling points of the M2/3 the TOW launcher AND the 25mm cannon?

Simon257
March 24, 2014 10:51 pm

Hi Brian
This is much better article on what happened and how quickly the cousins learned from it.

http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2003/October%202003/1003najaf.aspx

However good the Apache is it still needs support from other elements. It is not the Death Star, that people think it is. The 11th Aviation Regiment was knocked out of the Invasion.

Apologies for using wiki, the paragraph below is from the link below:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/11th_Theater_Aviation_Command

“One of these U.S. air operations, executed by Apaches from the 11th Aviation Regiment became a fiasco near Karbala, on March 25. The Republican Guard T-72s, APCs, ZSU-23-4 antiaircraft systems, along with infantrymen armed with AK-47s, aware of the U.S. Army plans, surprised the 34 helicopters with a barrage of PKM, NSV, 23 mm, and perhaps 125 mm tank fire. The route of the raiders was uncovered by the Republican Guard long before they could reach their intended objective.[4][5] The large aerial strike was repulsed, and one Apache was shot down (according to Iraqi state TV, shot at by a peasant firing an AK-47, although it was likely hit by 23 mm rounds), and all the remainder damaged, some of them taken temporary out of service and at least two being written off. Only seven were still operational after the failed raid. The two crew members of the downed aircraft were captured by the Iraqis. This left the U.S. regiment grounded for the rest of the invasion.”

wf3
March 24, 2014 10:55 pm

Testing and all that ……

Simon257
March 24, 2014 11:11 pm

Apologies, I could not finish the above post. Neither can I
Edit it, will try again in the morning!

March 25, 2014 12:56 am

What happened was that Congress saw the Bradley. It looked like a tank So they said it better kill tanks. That’s why the missile launcher looks like it was just stuck on the turret. The problem with the TOW on the M3 was that commanders were tempted to use them as anti-tank weapons instead of scouts. The problem with the TOW on the M2 was that the M242 was ideal for direct fire support of the dismounts while the TOW requires stand off. Do you see the conflict? The Marine LAV-25 has the same cannon but it doesn’t look like a tank so they didn’t have to hang a missile launcher on it.

March 25, 2014 1:04 am

As a tank company commander, I had a tank platoon provide overwatch for the scout platoon. While a TOW had more range, our 105mm rounds could cover 2000 meters in a second or a little more. If it looked like they needed help, four tank rounds would arrive in a hurry with four more about five seconds later.

S O
March 25, 2014 2:26 am

Historically, German armoured recce detachments (~battalions) felt the need for some AT capability very much. This need was modest, though: Approx. a dozen (or less) towed or SP AT guns were added and helped a lot.
These forces are no tank destroyer or thick-of-battle-specialists, but scouts who happen to be able to fight. Intentional combat by scouts should exploit surprise or other forms of superior readiness for battle.

It’s on the other hand nonsense to make AT capability a ‘must have’ for a recce vehicle. Light recce AFVs can make do with a 8.64 or 12.7 mm machine gun, for example.

Keep in mind recce teams advance in pairs or trios. Now what’s being said about the purposefulness of operating full-blown MBTs in this way? It’s being said that this wastes them.
Likewise, detached scout platoons are not going to open many tin cans no matter what weapons they mount.

S O
March 25, 2014 2:43 am

Hey TD, I even had that “Pentagon Wars” movie excerpt on my blog a while. It’s the humorous summary of the Bradley genesis…

RedTrousers
March 25, 2014 2:45 am

I’m a big fan given the current mid-weight recce concept, but as you say, over watch and not every wagon.

I’m looking forward to reading the full article (too long at this time of night). For some reason, I could not open it yesterday, it kept crashing.

It will not surprise you to know that I generally favour light vehicles. I am largely excommunicated by the pro-armour fraternity of the Army, but I think something in the 2 tonne range, equipped with precision strike, and in larger numbers than the current FRES concept is better value and utility for the Army.

RedTrousers
March 25, 2014 2:48 am

Have you ever done any recce, armoured or otherwise? Either crawling slowly on your belly through muck and pigshit towards a Fermanagh farmhouse to plant a microphone, or having the privilege of commanding the Queen’s finest recce soldiers in a straight out assault across open desert.

You don’t appear to what you are talking about.

S O
March 25, 2014 3:01 am

What are you contributing here again? Must be in white colour font, for I don’t see it.

Observer
March 25, 2014 4:16 am

Think he disagrees with you SO.

And once again, the problem of different concept of ops comes into play.

Your “armoured recce” is not what RT and I would call “recce” but “scouting” where you probe the enemy Forward Edge (FEBA) with light armoured vehicles to find weak spots. The “recce” we’re more used to calling recce is working 16-60 km behind enemy lines, not in front of it. Trying to sneak what is in reality a light tank behind enemy lines is usually a futile exercise unless you are talking about the desert, there are only so many roads you can use.

And tank hunting as a recce team is a stupid idea. AT weapons add weight that I really don’t need to lug, nor do I need a honking great vehicle that is near impossible to hide anywhere near the enemy. Especially armour. They squeak a lot. Very loudly. You ever stood near a moving tank? “Squeek, squeek, squeek, squeek….” you can hear it from a kilometer away.

You have to define your “armoured recce”. Are you talking about “recce” using armoured vehicles? Which is probably “scouting”. Or are you talking about a unit that is attached to an armoured brigade that does the recce for it, but not necessarily uses light tanks or combat cars?

I believe that it is telling that 2 different “recce” personnel from 2 different countries both agree that light, stealthy and unarmoured is the way to go for deep reconnaissance, not HMG, GPMG, TOW, 30mm etc. You’re supposed to go dark or run on contact, not reenact Rambo-More Blood. A recce team only has about 4 men, you don’t play hero, you get the hell out of there. Old saying, “The difference between Rambo and Dumbo is only a single letter”. Contacted? Drop smoke and get the F out of there.

As for anti-scouting duties, not our job. Look at where we are deployed. Behind enemy lines. They don’t deploy their scouts there, so we’re in the wrong area for anti-scouting duties. That is a job for the “real” scouts in the Scout Platoon who works at the front lines. At Company level, not Brigade level. And even then, it’s specific to an armoured company. Infantry have to make do with security patrols and engaging them with small arms and LAWs.

Observer
March 25, 2014 5:13 am

I’m 50/50 on the terrain idea. Sure, that is what is said, but when you really get down to terrain that bad, the difference between tracked and wheeled is so close that it almost makes no difference. Tanks get bogged down as well, it’s not as if tracks makes your tank hover above the mud. So in the end, it still makes no practical difference, you avoid that kind of terrain, both as a wheeled or tracked driver.

Observer
March 25, 2014 5:14 am

accattd, he has a bit of a point unfortunately. It does read more as off the cuff opinions rather than a scholarly article.

Observer
March 25, 2014 6:29 am

Bigger doesn’t mean more men. I can confirm personally that you carry the same amount of men on a 3 tonner as you would on a 5 tonner truck. It’s the space available that is limiting, and there is a limit to how big you can inflate a truck until it can’t fit the road. Wide, you run into another lane. No-no. Long? Your truck now handles like a low loader. There are always limits.

Swimming Trunks
March 25, 2014 9:58 am

Your comment reminds me of this:

Don’t think its 100% accurate… but funny.

accattd
March 25, 2014 10:04 am

Historically… Going back far enough (WW2) German recce bns on motorbikes were often used as scouts… And took horrific losses.

Hence came the time to convert onto armoured cars, as the cavalry tradition did not allow for dropping the scouting from job description
– what does cavalry do? “charge!”

accattd
March 25, 2014 10:08 am

We have had it on TD as well… About as hilarious as they come. Even though the subject matter is actually serious.

accattd
March 25, 2014 10:33 am

Nice post, with all the quantities, past and present, in one place for a change.

It is the mix, added with special horses for such courses, that determines the effectiveness.

The mass obsolescense mentioned is a serious threat.

Like mr. Fred below, would like to hear more about the wheeled half cheaper
– to buy?
– to run and maintain?

Observer
March 25, 2014 11:02 am

And what happens when you get an Air Force puke to second guess Army R&D. He has absolutely no idea what was really going on. I suspect Burton was hankering to become General Burton and did this the only way he knew how. By putting other people down to show “leadership”.

The real reason the M2 got designed into an “IFV” is not because of creep, it was designed as an IFV from the onset. The Russians at that time came up with the very successful BMP IFV design and the US had to ante up to match it or get overmatched in battle.

Of course, Mr “Kick Up A Stink in A Field He Knows Nuts About” didn’t get his promo and got the boot instead. Probably for the best. You ever worked with a boss that gets ahead by putting other people down? Then he goes and writes a book on how “heroic” he is. What a dick.

Observer
March 25, 2014 11:11 am

accattd, lots of 8×8 manufacturers in the world. Get them into a bidding war and the results are bound to be interesting. :)

As for maintaining them, definitely. When was the last time you heard of an 8×8 throwing a wheel? Other than being “assisted” by an IED. Tracked vehicles, especially heavy ones, throw their tracks with distressing frequency. Some tanks bring along spare track pieces, you can see them clipped to the hull sometimes. I know the procedure to change the track piece, by watching the crews, what I don’t get is how the track gets so damaged that you have to swap the piece out. Maybe RT can enlighten me when he gets on.

monkey
March 25, 2014 12:42 pm

Monty did mention in his dismissal of air power in his article that any armoured division worth it salt will have its own substantial integrated AAA systems , excuse my ignorance , but in the proposed mix of the 3 division system how many of the vehicles deployed are dedicated AAA ? and armed with what ? I believe low level anti armour air attack uses the terrain for cover extensively only briefly showing itself for a quick peek or to launch its weapons .The tracked armoured ZSU Shilka and 9K22 Tunguska Russian AAA are deployed up along side their armoured units and are considered so effective that NATO prioritises their destruction over MBT’s. Do we have a similar proposal?

accattd
March 25, 2014 1:01 pm

A good point (as we take airsuperiority too much for granted).

The more modern Russian systems recognise the importance of guns for the last kilometer in, as the bigger AA missiles at that range are still accelerating, and have limited manoeuvrability.

The fact that they and their bigger brethren then go out to a couple of hundred kilometers also presents a headache – the current benchmark for the answer – I believe – is JASSM.

accattd
March 25, 2014 1:09 pm

Yeah, the state of the art 8 x 8 as a cost benchmark is the latest Patria. Depending on the kit & comms on it, $ 1-2m, usd, not singies.

The drive train, though, to get all that wonderful mobility, is quite complicated. So the guts, rather than the wheels (I would still rather change a tyre than a track… In Arnheim, the two Pz Div’s in the area were in maintenance and rest mode, and it took them 24 hrs to get the skates…um, tracks on).
– maybe you could get the Patrias cheaper off the licensed production line in S. Africa?

DomS
March 25, 2014 1:44 pm

Interesting article thanks. One comment to your point about wheeled tank destroyers matching the firepower of tanks – I would agree, but I read somewhere that internal wargaming of Stryker units predicted a weakness in the face of artillery, which would add an extra dimension in a high-intensity conflict.

Observer
March 25, 2014 1:58 pm

When in Rome. :) In a UK website, I assume pounds.

As for the drive train, partially true, it’s something like your car’s drive train, you don’t normally touch every part of it like the drive shaft etc, only a few specific areas need maintenance like the engine or the electric motor. The rest don’t really need to be touched at all. Complicated does not automatically equate high maintenance. Sometimes, all it means is that you get a lot of “do not touch” black boxes. For better or worse.

The big problem with the old equipment is that it was designed for a different UK Army than what you have currently. In the past, Total War was envisioned where you break out huge amounts of warstock, kit up, and deploy into the field. Now? Reduced requirements post-1992 means that all the old stuff you were stockpiling just became useless scrap.

……I just had a brainstorm….
In the past when we, as in Singapore, were a new nation, we had to rush build an army from scratch to balance 2 other hostile powers. Getting help from the Israelis is pretty much an open secret these days, but co-op R&D is still very much alive. One thing we got from them was 2nd hand M-113s at a USD a piece. That was a ridiculous price and it was known that it was more of a handout than any sale.

Anyone can think of a “fairly” new country that is currently stressing out over a larger neighbour leaning on it? Starts with U. :) Get rid of your old stock, gain diplomatic good relations, pulls them further into Western orbit and get them started on the road to a self sufficient defence force. You need to help them develop and teach a concept of arms though. Since you might be giving them light armour, they need to develop motorised infantry tactics and strategy. Who knows, in the future, you might even be doing R&D with them, after all, with an aggressive neighbour on the border, they have a commitment to learn to build the good stuff! :)

accattd
March 25, 2014 2:21 pm

Thats what I doing… Talking to you, for instance.

A working accident, was trying to comment on Swimming Trunk’s link to the Italian ‘ lookalike’ but can’t find it now, to put the record straight.
– so apologies, and no need to get offensive. I have modified my writing style for such responses.In this case the error was mine.

S O
March 25, 2014 2:23 pm

Germany has fences, weak walls and drainage ditches everywhere. You cannot leave a road most often because there’s a ditch next to it. It’s a nightmare for a 8×8 driver, but even a tracked APC would consider these obstacles as a mere impediment to comfort.

A high ground pressure in combination with rain will also damage if not destroy unpaved (forestry, agricultural) roads quickly. The mere expectation that this might happen will render many route options impractical, limit tactical options and make one more predictable.

accattd
March 25, 2014 2:25 pm

Somewhere here, was it Monty’s leading in article, there was a mention that all Strykers had to be modified with a double V hull. I believe for the fire support vehicle it was a non-starter, eating up too much space?

S O
March 25, 2014 2:30 pm

When I write “armoured recce” I usually mean the rather dedicated armoured/protected mobility forces meant to scout – and under favourable conditions fight – preferably far ahead.
I rarely if ever call battle reconnaissance, flank security, vanguard, pickets by combat troops for their Bn or Bde “armoured recce”. Nor do I call the American ‘armoured cavalry” quasi-armoured brigade so.

By the way; I disagree on the futility of trying to slip tanks past the hostile main force. This may be impossible in the Malayan context (though CVR/T was specced for this), but the combat forces/area ratios in Europe have come to a point where real military control of areas, much less a defensible front line, are impossible until mobilizations kicked in fully. Wheeled is the better choice for very long range penetrations, though.

S O
March 25, 2014 2:34 pm

No, Kradschützen were not used as scouts. They were attached to Panzeraufklärungsabteilungen as mobile infantry force (~dragoons), providing some fighting power to the combat element of this detached vanguard force. The scouting was done with wheeled 4×4, 6×4 or 8×8 AFVs (preferably the 8×8), later partially reinforced with light armoured half-tracks.
The Kradschützen were never converted to armoured car units; they were converted to r replaced by truck-mobile and fewer half track APC-mobile Panzergrenadiere.

S O
March 25, 2014 2:39 pm

The point is that bigger trucks carry more equipment and supplies for the same one driver. The march length in km and minutes is almost identical between a 3 ton and a 15 ton truck because of the dominant spacing requirement and equal road mobility.

And a full squad carrying vehicle is much more efficient than the half squad carriers known as IFVs or the fire team carrier “4×4”.

A move towards fewer men, equipment or supplies per vehicle is a move into the wrong direction, an incomplete and thus ill-guided optimization.

Observer
March 25, 2014 3:15 pm

Or a requirement to be in more places at once where you do not need so many men per situation. Say for example like you were in Afghanistan doing COIN patrols?

Observer
March 25, 2014 3:30 pm

Now for this I have to call nonsense. I’ve seen so many cases of APC overturns because one track slipped into a ditch, some go head first into ditches with one accompanying VC losing some teeth, one even ran down a telephone pole in Thailand. 8x8s will also face the same problems, you overstate the problems 8x8s have and hide the problems tracks have.

As for soil erosion, that is even more bullshit. Tracks TEAR up the roads and any ground it is on. Look at the track after a tank has gone by. Totally torn up. And you worry about pressure a tire has on the road? I’ve seen even concrete roads gouged up by metal tracks, dirt does not stand a chance. There is a thing called a track shoe to prevent concrete road damage that you have to use if you wanted to go on roads with tracked vehicles, unless you use banded rubber tracks.

Just out of curiosity SO, were you ever in an armour unit.

S O
March 25, 2014 4:04 pm

A patrol weaker than squad strength?

That would be LRRP, and their vehicle needs are very special.

S O
March 25, 2014 4:15 pm

I know that tracks can damage the road surface, but not the same way as do wheels, and the damage is more confined to turns because of the skidding. It’s a different kind of problem, and I carefully mentioned rain and unpaved as factors.
Rubber inserts in tracks are standard practice in Western designs; we don’t use T-series like naked steel track segments.
This is how almost all AFV tracks look like in the West:

A tracked APC having problems with a drainage ditch of the kind I’m thinking of can be traced to a driving mistake.

I served in the Luftwaffe, so my knowledge about armour is indirect. I am still never curious about whether someone else has served in an air force when he is discussing aircraft or SAMs. I don’t want to waste my curiosity on anything but the content of what he brings forward.

Monty01
March 25, 2014 4:31 pm

Thanks for all the comments. Apologies for not having time to give the article a second edit before sending it in. I had been working on other stuff and didn’t have time to make it more concise. Also, Various things have changed since I wrote this in November 2013.

Contrary to various reports, FRES SV is maturing very well. The development schedule is on track and on budget. The weight growth problems are non-issues. I have been told by DE&S that the vehicle offers unrivalled protection in its weight class. The drivetrain is extremely reliable and endows the Scout with superb mobility. The 40mm CTA is also proving itself to be a good choice of weapon. All things considered, FRES SV will give Recce Regiments a true medium armour capability. My only suggestion is whether the addition of a second, fire support version with larger main armament, something like a 105mm gun, would give it more tank-killing potential and thus increased flexibility?

The issue with Warrior is not so much the fuel tank, even though watching a transparent plastic cell full of diesel sloshing around while you’re sitting next to it is bound to have a psychological effect on those inside the vehicle. In actual fact, diesel does not burn that easily. A far bigger problem is that the engine readily catches fire in the event that the hull is pierced and this can rapidly spreads to the crew compartment – something to do with the bulkhead design. To make matters worse, a general lack of hatches makes it difficult for the crew and infantry to abandon ship quickly.

It isn’t clear whether the budget set aside for the Warrior upgrade will address these problems. The ASCOD 2 design of FRES SV incorporates many learnings from AFG. I would therefore do nothing with Warrior, develop a new IFV version of the ASCOD 2 (not a problem because it started life as an IFV) and then begin to issue these as soon as all SVs have been delivered.

The problem with the 8×8 Stryker MGS is that the 105mm turret sits on top of an already high vehicle, whereas the Italian B1 Centauro has a lowered hull which makes for a lower centre of gravity.Secondly, adding a double V-hull to Stryker has made it heavier, slower and less cable across country. It is likely that the US will seek to adopt a new 8×8 Stryker replacement as soon as budgets allow.

Using the latest composite armour, it is possible to create a 30 tonne 8×8 that offers protection to 30mm AP across the frontal arc. This is what the nice people at Patria tell me. If its true, then most arguments against wheeled tank destroyers go away.

Finally, the situation in the Ukraine has refocused attention on UK AFV needs. You could deploy a wheeled 8×8 division with organic artillery to Poland within about 36-48 hours travelling under its own steam after crossing the channel. This is not true of a tracked division also traveling under its own steam.

Observer
March 25, 2014 5:41 pm

No SO, even straight roads, the cleats tear out straight chunks of asphalt, leaving white gouges. And you might not know but those rubber pads are removable, or rather, removed until fitted for use on roads. Look between the pads, you’ll see the raised metal ridge between each pad. That is the actual cleat which runs on the ground. The pads just raise the track off the ground so that it does not damage the road and is a temporary expedient.

We have them too and after a few uses, they need to be thrown away as they are then torn up too badly to reuse. It’s not fixed into the track. And I believe may be specially for the event in the photo. Look at what ground it is on. You do NOT use the rubber/plastic inserts in the field. Think they cause the tank to skid at speed. No grip on the ground.

Swimming Trunks
March 25, 2014 6:00 pm

You mean this one?

http://www.military-today.com/artillery/porcupine.htm

“This prototype self-propelled howitzer can use all standard NATO 155-mm projectiles. It is also compatible with newly-developed OTO Melara Volcano both guided and unguided long-range projectiles, which have a maximum range of up to 60 km. The Porcupine can stop and fire it’s first round within 3 minutes from traveling. Turret of this new prototype SPH has limited traverse range of 15 degrees to either side.

Due to it’s limited onboard ammunition storage it is proposed to use Porcupine with associated ammunition reloading vehicle. In this case ammunition can be fully replenished within 10 minutes.

The Porcupine is operated by a crew of only two men, including driver and commander. Both crew members are located at the front of the hull.”

Observer
March 25, 2014 6:18 pm

Or a mobile Protection Unit. We use those for Protection of Installations missions, a pair of vehicles gives you some retaliation capability in case the first one eats an RPG the wrong way. 2 men each, driver, gunner.

They are roving patrols designed to stop things like the Bastion Raid. Or act as a QRF if someone does slip through, and not rely on infantry rushes to drive the enemy back. Oh, guarding villages is a fringe benefit.

Swimming Trunks
March 25, 2014 6:37 pm

Couldn’t find much about vulnerability to artillery except for this link about Russian views of Stryker Brigades:

http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/documents/BearFacts.pdf

monkey
March 25, 2014 6:40 pm

Does any body know if any work has been done on a plastic armoured tank/wheeled vehicle?I mentioned the plastic as it occurred to me that if 1″ of UHMWPE used as plate in bullet resistance vest insert will stop a 7.62 NATO, would a vehicle shell cast from this material say 10″ thick stop a 14.5mm or even a 23mm round? (Fire resistance at UL94 class V0 ( look it up) A melting point of 160°C is not good but people don’t like that temperature either.)
http://www.dotmar.com.au/polystone-m-flametec/polystone-m-flametec-ast-flame-retardant-uhmwpe-sheets.html
Using an electric drive train to a wheeled 4×4 or rubber tracks and a battery back up such as the abandoned NLOS cannon used a reconnaissance vehicle the size of the Ferret could at times run ‘silent’ i.e. the constant output heavily silenced diesel genset powered down. (I bet RT wishes his Scimitar was silent at times)
Such a vehicle could probably be brought in under 10 tons so still lift able by a Chinook or Super Stallion.

Swimming Trunks
March 25, 2014 6:49 pm

Just to qualify the 48 hours to Poland – is that the primary justification for the 8×8 or is it expected to road march and fight on itsown?

If getting there is all that matters then an updated Saxon APC might be all that’s required; if its expected to fight as a unit when it arrives will it be as dismounted infantry or as wheeled Warriors? Do we need a wheeled battle taxi or wheeled IFV?

bankslave
March 25, 2014 6:58 pm

Playing fantasy fleets, I think the UK needs a small buy of M1117, for classic armoured car duties. Perhaps a dozen each for RMP, Paras & RAF Regiment. A deployable vehicle, with modern IED protection, small enough for urban areas & with the firepower of a .50 Hmg & a 40mm grenade launcher.
For big numbers, I fancy the Iveco Super AV. Amphib 8 x8, with modern IED protection. I think BAE was looking at licence production.

Swimming Trunks
March 25, 2014 7:04 pm

Comparing one on one is a little simplistic but came across this by Sol and thought people would be interested:

http://snafu-solomon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/chinese-mechanized-infantry-brigade-vs.html

I have vague recollections of reading a study/wargame of Stryker vs Russian MRB – Perhaps by RAND? Can’t find anything on Google tho…

Observer
March 25, 2014 7:38 pm

Whichever suits your doctrine best.

Observer
March 25, 2014 7:47 pm

Well, whatever works with your doctrine. I think most people overlook the fact that equipment does not work well individually, it is the organization and planning and training that can make even an army with crap piece of equipment into a war winning organization. Equipment is just generic tools. People are what counts. That and their brains and training.

mr.fred
March 25, 2014 7:50 pm

Again with the sources?
How is the CT40 proving anything? I’ve not heard of any trials for a while.
If a transparent tank is a problem, I have a new and innovative solution. Called paint.
A lack of hatches on the warrior? How many do you need? It has five.

Swimming Trunks
March 25, 2014 8:40 pm

Know of two research projects from awhile back; haven’t anything for awhile…

http://www.tech.plym.ac.uk/sme/acavp.htm

http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/army/docs/astmp98/fig5.htm

March 25, 2014 9:02 pm

I think the moment passed for an 8×8 division when the decision was made to upgrade Warrior instead of replacing it. When the time comes for Warrior to retire, that choice will come up again.

I suggest that if you need to be in Poland in 36-48 hours time, then you already need to be in Poland.

And to do that dash with an entire division indicates that there would have been a substantial build up before hand, otherwise you would not have a division at such high readiness (unless you have three 8×8 divisions dedicated to rushing to Poland, on top of any army you want available for anything else); which raises the question, why hasn’t anyone set off already.

Having an 8×8 division for the sole purpose of driving across northern Europe would mean spending billions optimising half our army for only the second 36-48 hour period of the phoney war of World War III (the first 36-48 hours being spent on the wrong side of the Channel); during which time, nobody’s invaded or shot at anyone else.

I would suggest that if current events were something more than the transitory period of tension that they are, then the first thing we should do, long before buying 8×8 vehicles, is to pick up some of those tranche 3 Typhoon slots that nobody in Europe knows what to do with.

The RAF is currently swapping Tornado for Reaper in the belief that WWIII is now less likely than the need to blow up the odd pickup truck. And the Rooskies won’t be going anywhere if they don’t win the sky. Perhaps develop a two-seater Typhoon “Growler” if a “proper” war has become more likely once again.

accattd
March 25, 2014 9:20 pm

There was some excitement around the (currently) weak solutions as for putting artillery on wheeled SP platforms. The answer is rather obvious, from one of ST’s newer links:
” Stryker Infantry Company has dedicated IDF support from 120mm mortars that have digital integrated fire control systems. They give up some range and punch compared to 155 cannons, but they roll with and support the dismounts. You have more 120mm mortars in a Stryker Battalion than you do in an entire IBCT, and you have 3 Stryker BN’s in each SBCT. ”

By now you already know which system I am specifically thinking of, but the Singaporean, Israeli or UAE/Singaporean solutions would do nicely, too, thank you.

accattd
March 25, 2014 9:29 pm

This was the one I was referring to in the earlier discussion; the link must have gone AWOL in edits:
http://www.military-today.com/artillery/porcupine.htm
– top heavy, limited angle of only 15 degrees to either side
– limited ammo; 10 minute vehicle-to-vehicle reloading cycle

S O
March 25, 2014 10:28 pm

Well, the Bundeswehr keeps the rubber pads on the Leopard 2 track when it goes off road. There aren’t enough breaks during a campaign to change between a road and an offroad setup all the time anyway, and the rubber has important wartime functions, including much less internal and external noise.

March 25, 2014 10:46 pm

still don’t see where it says defence spending will fall from 4% to 2%.

it hasn’t been at 4% since the height of the cold war.

it was 2.5% around the SDR98

it remained about 2.5% in the afghan/iraq years if you include operational spending.

his only commitment was to keep spending above the NATO threshold….

mr.fred
March 25, 2014 11:02 pm

The trouble with Ultra High Molecular Weight Poly-Ethylene* is that the structural mechanical properties of it are rubbish, so you can build things out of it, but it is more than likely that it will fall apart at much more than a slight provocation. Plus the ballistic properties come from absorbing energy through damaging the laminate, so the first burst of fire will collapse your vehicle.
The basic concept – that of a lightweight small-arms protected and low profile AFV seems sensible, but I think different materials would suit better. For the time being I’d look at modern alloys.
* I know that off-hand. I’m showing off.

Swimming Trunks
March 26, 2014 1:10 am

Exactly. Doctrine dictates equipment. What it actually is I don’t know… Classing the non-warrior mechanised units as Protected Mobility implies transport only and fighting as regular dismounted infantry. Does that mean in support of the armoured infantry/tanks in high level conflict and patroling on their own in SASO/COIN roles? Do we need 8×8’s for that? Or do we intend for a more direct combat role for them? In which case if they are equipped with cannon, proof against 30mm rounds across the front arc, and have the required support variants are they then viable as Warrior replacements?

Infantry doctrine could be a series of posts in itself…

Swimming Trunks
March 26, 2014 1:16 am

I was commenting on the 2% – the 4% did seem a bit high to me…

Swimming Trunks
March 26, 2014 1:52 am

I agree the original concept was to counter the BMP-1 but the evolution of the design does seem to be the result of adding requirements and merging projects. Got this from Wiki (yeah – I know…):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MICV-65

DomS
March 26, 2014 9:00 am

Maybe I’m mis-remembering as I couldn’t find the link.

Interesting to see the Russian view, given their experience with wheeled APC/iFVs over the years.
This link is an interesting view on how logistics resources need to expand to support the distributed and mobile operations of Stryker units

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-113456664.html

There is a paywall annoyingly, although I’m sure I’ve read the whole thing online for free at some point

Swimming Trunks
March 26, 2014 10:03 am
Swimming Trunks
March 26, 2014 1:00 pm

Interesting. AIUI one of the strengths of the Stryker/8×8 units is their reduced logistics; less fuel, less maintenance, greater range, etc.

RE: Artillery. Could it be the tires are vulnerable to shell splinters?

Observer
March 26, 2014 1:49 pm

Not really. The tires are actually woven steel wrapped around a rubber inflatable core followed by another layer of rubber. I suspect that there is even a sealant lining in the most inner tube to auto-seal leakage. Very hard for splinters to cut open what is really woven steel. My guess is more likely that the vehicle will get flipped if a shell detonated near it or just totally blow off the tires if it detonated close enough. Think IED. In fact I think some IEDs ARE artillery shells wired together.

S O
March 26, 2014 2:01 pm

It depends.
Even centimetres-thick aluminium shells of APCs which are officially protecting against fragments are only protecting against a share of the fragments of HE shells (and against the small fragments of ICM).

Air burst HE no doubt creates fragments which can flatten pneumatic tires, but this kind of fragment is also a serious problem for the vehicle armour itself and HE can also take out track running gears.

One of my favourites:
http://de.scribd.com/doc/151124802/Who-Says-Dumb-Artillery-Rounds-Can-t-Kill-Armor

Monty01
March 26, 2014 2:38 pm

Sources for CTA40 and Warrior were a briefing at Shrivenham. I also know a fair number of people concerned with the T&E of FRES SV.

Deploying an 8×8 Division to Poland in 36-48 hours is just an example of what you can do with wheeled armour that you can’t do with tracked armour. You’re probably right about the realities of such a scenario. But 8×8 formations can deploy independently over long distances, which is exactly what the US Stryker brigades did so successfully in Iraq.

I agree that it would make sense to buy Tranche 3 Typhoons and would probably add a commitment to buying F-35As or Cs as well. However, the Army really does need the protected mobility that a division’s worth of 8x8s would provide in my opinion.

High mobility 8x8s like Patria’s AMV and other FRES UV contenders are not IFVs. Their role is simply to deliver dismounted infantry to where they are needed – and they do that job much better than MRAPs or 4x4s.

Jiesheng Li
March 26, 2014 2:41 pm

Are you sure there will be an exactor squadron in the RF Artillery Regiments? Not just kept separately?

Monty01
March 26, 2014 2:44 pm

RT, what do you think of Jackal? I hear very positive and very negative reports about it: Excellent mobility but very vulnerable to IEDs. I would love to see a tracked and turret-less lightweight CVR(T) replacement weighing about 7 tonnes, but with the same level of protection as Foxhound and the ability to mount 12.7 mm HMG, 40mm GMG or a light 20mm cannon.

March 26, 2014 3:04 pm

The Renault VBCI that the MoD were cooing over recently is an IFV, or has an IFV variant. So it’s not particularly clear which direction the Army will go in with its vehicles after 2015; could well pick up either an 8×8 APC or IFV.

Observer
March 26, 2014 3:16 pm

Which in a way is my point. By the time the tires got shredded, your hull would have been perforated as well, so the tires are not likely to be a liability. The road and drive wheel problem is actually one area where wheeled has a slight advantage compared to tracked. The road and drive wheels for a track is totally exposed to shrapnel and blast while the axles of a wheeled vehicle is partially shielded by the wheel itself. It’s not a “WE’RE DOOMED!!” thing, just a very slight advantage that very rarely matters in real life. Very few equipment spec differences are really applicable in practical matters to be honest, only in techporn and top trumps card games.

Observer
March 26, 2014 3:34 pm

Monty, one of the flaws in this question and your article.
What are you going to use it for? And how are you going to use it?

That is a very important question to answer to decide if an item is “acceptable” or “terrible”.

For example, Jackal as a recon vehicle? As an assault vehicle? Fire support? IED clearer? Ad hoc tank? Troop transport? Patrol vehicle? Supply carrier?

How are you going to use it? With infantry screen and as a support weapon platform? As armoured screen against infantry weapons and to shield infantry assault teams? Patrol QRF? COIN Patrol vehicle itself backed by IFVs?

Doctrine drives equipment, not equipment drives doctrine.

Monty01
March 26, 2014 6:47 pm

I doubt the team at DE&S Bristol are delighted that VCBI is being forced back upon them after it was rejected by the FRES UV 2007 Trials of Truth. Its re-admission into the next round of evaluation seems no more than a sop to Hollande on his last visit to get him to support the UK’s renegotiation of its EU membership. That fell flat. I see that the MoD has now turned around and said by its own rules, it cannot accept the offer of 20 free VCBIs for testing. According to Jane’s, the short list of contenders is now: Patria AMV2, New GD Piranha version also being proposed as Stryker replacement, Singapore Industries Terrex, Ivecco Freccia and Nexter VCBI. All are capable of mounting a cannon in a turret on them. I am in favour of a compact 20-30mm cannon that can be operated by a single gunner in a one-man turret. As soon as you get large 40mm cannons in two-man turrets, then the vehicle will start to be used as a light tank – that’s very risky IMO. I don’t think the UK has worked out how to use 8x8s yet. A lot of study of Stryker Brigades in Iraq is going on. As usual, we’ll buy the cheapest.

paul g
March 26, 2014 7:02 pm

monty I proposed looking at this 1 man turret on here a while back, reload under cover, can take armament, from 7.62 up to 40mm with an option of spike.

http://www.rafael.co.il/marketing/SIP_STORAGE/FILES/7/1267.pdf

thinkdefence
March 26, 2014 7:27 pm

Monty, the vehicle we have invested many millions of taxpayers pound notes in, is combat proven, extremely reliable, well protected and could provide engine commonality with SV seems strangely absent from that list

Why am I not surprised!

March 26, 2014 8:13 pm

Cynical me suggested earlier that the UK was going to be interested in VBCI for as long as it takes the ink to dry on FASGW and Watchkeeper contracts. The whole EU thing probably was a consideration too.

March 26, 2014 8:27 pm

Foxhound itself is about 7.5 tonnes, Jackal is of a similar weight having had a couple of upgrades and redesigns to improve IED protection already.

A turretless CVRT. A Spartan? About 8 tonnes. You simply couldn’t improve CVRT with that weight target. Jackal and Foxhound indicate what can be achieved in that weight class.

And as Observer asked, what’s it for? (but give details as a new comment, it would be easier)

mr.fred
March 26, 2014 9:00 pm

The loss of face from going for Boxer now would be calamitous.
Politically the best solution would probably be the Patria, but assembled in the UK.
I might even go so far as to suggest it be managed by one of the automotive firms that have large operations in the UK, such as Jaguar Land Rover or Nissan, so the current defence firms can get on with the fine work they are doing on other projects.
The size of the 8x8s seems somewhat overboard to me. After all they only need to carry 8+2 rather than 3+10 or even 3+12, depending on your source. Could we have a 6×6?

Just to add – I can’t keep track of the new commenting system. The number of comments varies between article and home page and b’d if I can find the new comments half the time.

paul g
March 26, 2014 9:40 pm

the patria AMV2 looks good, bless ’em for not sitting back on a good thing, and still developing it further. At least the R&D has ben done on the “nice to have” stuff. ie 105/120mm turret mortar turret as well as the cmmd, ambulance, IFV and recovery versions.

The Other Chris
March 26, 2014 9:49 pm

Any scope for commonality of system with an amphibious 8×8 such as the BAE SuperAV? Would RMC have a use for them? Take off the transmission and water jets for the Army? Just throwing it out there.

Swimming Trunks
March 26, 2014 10:53 pm

There was also this:

http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2004armaments/04_Vickory_105mm_Indirect_Fire.pdf

Also read it can fire APFSDS rounds as well…

accattd
March 27, 2014 9:09 am

There is also AA in use, with Roland, and an experimental 30 mm RWS.

accattd
March 27, 2014 9:13 am

They had the Israelis on the team, to add LAHAT, but there is no mention of it.

I tbink since the development project, at least the ammo side has merged with a German company.

accattd
March 27, 2014 9:24 am

Good article even when truncated.

96 hrs to deploy and 72 of self-sustained operations.

At least it means that if the 82nd can deploy in 24 hrs, it won’t have to sit tight for the next 6 months to wait for backup to arrive, like in the (not so) good old days.

DomS
March 27, 2014 9:58 am
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