Do we need the 60 tonne MBT

A guest post from Jed

I want to make this another short article that asks some questions in order to peruse the conversations started in the comment threads of various other posts; hence the contentious title to grab your attention!

Let me be clear, I am not singing the “MBT is dead” refrain, far from it in fact, I think the heavy weight behemoth is still a necessary part of a nations armoury. However, I would like to examine our ‘need’ for the Challenger II as our MBT platform in the context of operational requirements, reform or regoranisation of the army towards a a Future Force 2020 and of course, in the context of budget.

The Main Battle Tank

The title gives it away eh ? The MBT is an evolution of a vehicle which started of as very much an “infantry support” vehicle. I am not going to do a history of the tank section – you can all go hit Wikipedia, or watch episodes of Greatest Tank Battles on YouTube, with the glorious interwebs we have no excuse for coming to the debate from a position of ignorance any more !

However let us just very brief revise the iron triangle – mobility, protection and fire power.

1. Mobility – well with modern engines, running gear and drive train’s the 60 tonne plus behemoth can have considerable tactical mobility, and also don’t forget the ability to “wade through fire” is in fact a tight linkage between mobility and protection.

2. Protection – largely what drives up the weight to where we are now, and where we might be in the near future

3. Firepower – also drives up the weight to some extent, you need a reasonably beefy vehicle to take the stress of firing a modern high pressure / high velocity 120mm tank gun.

As I said I would like to build on the conversations we have had recently on various threads, so time for a few links:

TD’s marvellous series on mobility: https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/02/vehicle-mobility-considerations/

TD’s recent piece on protection:  https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/02/vehicle-protection/

TD on multi-role brigades: https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/01/multi-role-brigades/

Jed on MRB’s and wheels: https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/02/a-balanced-force-with-a-balanced-budget/

Jed on “Medium Armour” : https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2011/06/medium-armour-%E2%80%93-what-is-it-and-what-does-it-mean-for-the-post-2020-force-structure/

What is it for ?

Remember I am a champion in many respects of the MBT, so please try to see through my bias when I play devils advocate ! A quick visit to the Challenger 2 page on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Challenger_2#Operational_usage) will show us ample evidence of the utility of a big, heavy, well protected armoured vehicle to soak up fire directed at it by infantry type forces – the Chally hit by a Milan and 14 RPG’s that only lost it’s optics (well “only” is relative here, but we can come back to that), another one which was apparently hit by as many as 70 RPG’s !  Of course we have the driver who lost his toes to a more modern RPG29 and the other one who lost his leg to a big IED – but as we all know, no weapon system is completely invulnerable to all others.

Then of course we have the only Chally completed destroyed in action – hit by another Chally  in a “blue on blue” fratricide. The U.S. M1A1 had a pretty good record in the urban scenarios encountered after the invasion of Iraq, and we could talk all day about the to-and-fro of advantage between well armed Hizbollah irregulars and the IDF’s Merkeva.

BUT , let’s get to the crux of the matter – what do we want our MBT to do ? What is it for ? What can it do for us ?

1. Manoeuvre warfare – the armoured queen of the manoeuvre battlefield, able to destroy enemy MBT and lessor vehicles, to take on sangars and strongpoints, wade through fire and cope with varying terrain and obstacles – nothing controversial here, except perhaps the evolution of the MBT as the main weapon system to combating the enemies MBT.

2. Urban warfare – the U.S. experience in Iraq showed that the Russian experience in Chechnya was as much to do with doctrine, tactics, training and procedures as it was to do with the concept of a heavy MBT being squeezed into city streets.

3. COIN – just because we have not deployed, the Canadian, Danish, German and now USMC use of Leopard II and M1 as “120mm snipers”  has shown that even in some counter insurgency scenarios the MBT is worth it’s weight in – well, worth it’s weight in something (depleted Uranium ?)

That said, let us now put this in the context of the British Army. We have run down tank numbers, with the majority in storage (?). We made the mistake of binning 120mm rifled ammo production, and have run into form and fit issues with upgrading to the NATO standard smoothbore weapon (even if we could afford it).  So the same questions in our specific context:

1. What do we want the MBT to do for us ? Is it a niche we can deploy to provide heavy back up in urban combat scenarios

2. What CAN it do for us ? Well it is a very versatile platform, but penny packets of anything have to have their utility / validity questioned

3. What is if for really ? Killing other MBT’s,  infantry support, shock and awe assault weapon ? Where does it sit in our future doctrine ?

In the recent MRB discussion threads, many have picked up on the lack of strategic mobility and the need to deploy heavy armour by sea, rail, low mobility low loader etc as an issue for an army that according to SDSR political requirements is to be structured and postured for expeditionary warfare, of either a short duration or a of a more enduring nature. Many have also suggested that I was off my rocker by suggesting a reserve function could manage heavy armour.

Suggestions from others have ranged from 8 x 8 wheeled AIFV’s with big guns, to “medium” tanks built on FRES etc. So while we acknowledge that a FRES SV based ‘medium tank’ is no match for a Chally 2 / Leopard II / M1A1 – the question remains, what would we want to use it for, and would it be GOOD ENOUGH ?

Tank Destroyer versus Infantry Support Tank

Much of the discussion in the comment threads has been on how we could use a less well armoured, but more mobile (well strategically mobile at least) medium tracked or 8 x 8 wheeled AFV with a 120mm smoothbore as a ‘tank destroyer’. I get the concept just fine, 120mm smooth bore APFSDS being cheaper than ATGM for “plinking” the bad guys armour. Add this to allied air superiority, Tornado or Typhoon delivered Brimstone, Apache delivered Hellfire etc plus infantry or MICV / AIFV delivered ATGM and the actual “anti-tank” role of the MBT is one that can probably be most easily done by other platforms.

With modern active protection systems does the medium weight platform stand up to the multiple RPG battering that close support of friendly infantry against enemy infantry might entail ? Again, maybe not as well as a 60 tonne plus behemoth, but maybe just good enough ?

My main issue with dropping down into the medium weight category is actually also the main issue with a heavy MBT when used in an infantry support role – the main armament is not a good choice for this role.  The blast wave and over pressure produced by firing a modern high pressure / high velocity 120mm tank gun can actually be fatal to friendly infantry who are in the wrong place at the wrong time !

I will take this further by saying those who suggest a FRES SV medium tank using the Belgian 105mm gun with it’s Falarick ATGM are progressing the same approach, a high velocity gun, with a long barrel which can present it’s own issues in urban environments, in other words a weapon which is first and foremost designed for taking out enemy armour – not strong points, sangars, houses and factories etc.

So do we go back in time and split the MBT into tank destroyers and infantry support tanks ? Do we need a modern Sherman, with a smaller number of Sherman FireFly equivalents ? You know where I am going to go ref main armament of an infantry support tank – yes the 120mm smooth bore breach loading mortar – for I am nothing if not predictable…….

So I would suggest that all commentators open their response by answering these questions (if we had the money):

1. If keeping MBT capability and given the well advertised problem with “re-gunning” the Chally 2 would you retire it and buy surplus Leopard II – yes/no

2. If no to #1 above, would you consider fitting the Jordanian designed Falcon turret to the Chally 2 in order to get a smoothbore gun capable of handling NATO standard Ammo ? – yes / no

3. Would you like to see gun armed medium weight tank destroyers as part of the MRB ? (e.g. 105mm armed FRES SV or wheeled vehicle like Centauro) – yes / no

4. If we had above tank destroyers, or all 40mm CTA armed FRES carrying a pair of Javelin on the side of the turret (e.g. ample anti-tank provisions) would you consider turning the Challenger II into a specialist heavy infantry support tank with either a 40mm CTA or 120mm smooth bore mortar ? (could we even fit both ?) – yes / no

5. Do you think we should conceptually move back to less of multi-purpose heavyweight MBT to more specialist variants ? – Yes / no

 

There you go, 5 questions to frame your thoughts; as we say in the fencing salon, lets have at it ………

 

293 Comments
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Phil Darley
February 26, 2012 10:21 pm

Simple answer is YES. For the following reasons:

Whilst our potential enemies retain the MBT so should we!

Active systems will probably never substitute the passive armour if an MBT

The psychological impact of the MBT cannot be overstated… A 60-70 tonne tank thundering down a street is one hell if a deterrent!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
February 26, 2012 10:25 pm

@PD I am no expert on ground warfare but unless we are cleverer than the rest of the world(and I see little evidence to support this) then giving up a weapon system everyone else is keeping seems strange.
was there not the US helo in 2003 Iraq that was hit and kept flying to land behind a Ch2, when asked why the pilot said, “there was no way I was landing anywhere else other than behind that thing” I paraphrase.

x
x
February 26, 2012 10:33 pm

Africa looks like ideal tank country. That’s where the next big land bun fight will be.

Ace Rimmer
February 26, 2012 10:46 pm

1. No, same sh*t different wrapper.
2. Possibly
3. Yes
4. Yes
5. Yes

I’ve mentioned it on previous threads but I’d like to see something like a modernised Bulldog variant of the 105mm Abbot SPG as a fire support vehicle. But with autostab turret and additional GPMG’s for self-defence.

As for needing Sherman Firefly’s, I thought the M60 was a natural development of the Sherman through M47 and M48. We could consider the Israeli varient like the Magach.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
February 26, 2012 10:47 pm

Going point-by-point on the posited questions:
1) No. Buying hundreds of new tanks really shouldn’t be the cheap option compared to changing the turret.
2) No. Unless we are happy to go for an assault gun rather than an MBT. By putting the turret crew in the hull you lose a great deal of space in the turret, you go from a 4-man to a 3-man crew and you lose half of the commander’s situational awareness.
3) Qualified Yes. If we are deploying MRBs on their own, then it would make sense to have some kind of tank on them. The CT-CV would seem to offer the potential for a cheaper solution. The Falarick ATGW would offer stand-off engagements of point targets.
4) No. Waste of time and effort, especially for the autocannon.
5) No. You cannot guarantee that your specialist vehicle will be in the right place at the right time when in close contact with the enemy. (also my major gripe about 120mm mortar/demo guns.) Gun Tank, IFV and support vehicles ought to cover it.

solomon
solomon
February 26, 2012 10:52 pm

no to all your questions.

the British Army can retain its tanks AND be expeditionary. all it will take is a bit of effort between them, the Royal Marines and Royal Navy. they’ve already demonstrated that they can land those beast from amphibious shipping so the only real issue is how do you organize them. as currently designed, the Challenger is a multi-mission vehicle…all you need to do is stock the appropriate ammunition. perhaps design some type of urban warfare kit and get it to ships. start deploying them in platoon strength…you were talking about the Falklands…what would a company of Challengers mean for the defense of that island?

the British Army must not lose it tanks….it must use them in new ways and deploy them likewise.

IXION
February 26, 2012 11:00 pm

Phill Darley and APATS

Just like battleships in the 30’s everyone had them and everyone kept building them because everyone else did.

Jeds questions

1) No.
IF we are building 44 ton Fres then then the difference in protection between that and Leopard 2 should not be that much and the old chassis commonality comes down in favour of Fres.
Yes if it’s the only option for Nato 120mm smooth bore.
2)Yes
3)Both yes and no.
Yes if it was a ‘this is what your getting’ scenario,
No, not if trying to run 2 vehicles side by side,in the same army as the lighter will slowly kill of the heavy anyway (as I have said before)
4)OK as stop gap,
5)Don’t actually understand that question.

IXION
February 26, 2012 11:08 pm

Just to make clear my objection to Chally 2 is not an ideological one.

It’s like my Nellie and dumbo objections. However effective; penny packets are not worth keeping for all the logistical burden they impose, unless they truly bring, real world, serious heavyweight battle changing capabilities, when deployed in penny packets..

Not ‘willie waiving rights’ in the

‘we’ere a proper army because we’ve got MBT’s’

Competition.

James
James
February 26, 2012 11:11 pm

@ Solomon,

Challenger 2 would not get to many places in the Falklands – ground pressure. That’s no criticism of the beast, just simple physics for anything above about 15 tonnes with conventionally-wide tracks.

My own criticism of Challenger 2 (and it’s predecessor, and Chieftain) is around the fire control system. Perfect if everything is working right, but over-complex, too many reversionary modes, long training, and the software is buggy. We had to have a board of inquiry after an incident at Lulworth where the gun fired with the loader’s safety shield still forward. We couldn’t work it out so asked for DERA (as was) and MoD to do in depth analysis – answer eventually came back that there was a chance under certain conditions that this could occur due to poor programming.

I’m disappointed TD didn’t note the combination of mobility and protection that allows you to drive through a house in an urban environment, which tends to generate a bit of a shock reaction in the Iraqi insurgent happily firing off RPGs on the roof. You can’t do that in any of your pansy 8x8s. SCOTS DG managed to round off a few otherwise square 4-way junctions in Basra, which also helps traffic flow once the brickwork is cleared up.

S O
S O
February 26, 2012 11:15 pm

1)
Surplus Leo2? From where? Germany gave about 75% of its Leo2s away already. There may be a total of 200 Leo2 world-wide that could be spared by its users.
Newly-built Leo2s are possible, of course.

2)
Not worth it. The Chally2 is right now good enough for all but a great war, and in a great war you need great quantity (a production vehicle), not a small collection of upgraded vehicles. The only real L30 shortcoming is AT growth potential under the given circumstances afaik.

3)
I’m thinking of something completely different than that. 105 mm is not a TD destroyer calibre nowadays.

4)
Neither tactically much difference nor worth the budgetary pain.

5)
* rapid fire medium calibre (76mm high elevation) tank with CKEM, coax and SPAAG capability
* classic MBT (120mm L/55, coax)
* HAPC (no bigger gun than 12.7mm!)
* R&R (no bigger gun than 12.7mm!)
* bridgelayer
on a 40-50 t chassis

———————-
Way to go:
German MoD and Krauss-Maffei/Rheinmetall develop a 40-50 t tank family concept to demonstrator stage, invite other nations to look at it.
Then -if there are enough orders (comparable to how Airbus works)- the development begins with Germany financing development of the base vehicle and owning the copyright (= export sales = license income for German taxpayer).
German army also finances the development of some specialised versions with a downpayment for a fixed cost order and other countries can get their specialised (adapted) versions the same way.

Multilateral development doesn’t work well enough, and Krauss-Maffei has still the best reputation for tank development (earned during the 70’s, though).
BAe is corrupted by working for U.S. DoD and not to be trusted with a single Euro/GBP of taxpayer money anymore. The French weren’t able to score a single respectable export contract with the newest MBT around (the UAE order involved heavy bribing, political backing, dumping and a disappointed customer!).
The Poles, Italians, Romanians, British, Swedes have no complete capacity for the unilateral development of a completely new tank.

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
February 26, 2012 11:35 pm

I think that only question 1 is important and the answer is an emphatic YES – at the moment.
The only competitors in the anti armour stakes are the high velocity APFSDS round and the HEAT tipped ATGW. Of the two, the ATGW warhead is the easiest to defeat. The penetration of a HEAT jet is inversely proportional to the square root of the density of the target* – in other words, low density armour is more effective than, for example, armour grade steel. You can protect a vehicle against RPGs and ATGWs with fairly light weight, although still bulky, armour. If Electric armour ever becomes practical (although Mr. Ortmann has told me it never will be. . .) then the weight needed to protect against HEAT warheads will reduce again. EFP’s are, possibly, a problem but they appear (to the layman at least) such inefficient penetrators that a a relatively modest increase in the top armour of future AFVs might be all that is required.
So, to summarise, until armour technology makes some serious strides forwards the only vehicle able to carry enough armour to protect against top attack ATGWs and direct fire APFSDS rounds is a 60 ton MBT and while the threat exists, then a 60 ton MBT is a necessity.

*paraphrased from Richard Ogorkiewicz in “Cold War: Hot Science” – which is well worth a read, by the way . . .

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 27, 2012 12:36 am

Agree with Sol that the only real problem is how to organise them

There was some vague mention on this blog that the rifled ammo problem has been solved – I’ll believe it when there is a source quoted. Until then, the returreting will get a yes from me
– not only ammo, but also software problems (highlighted by James) gone!
– I don’t buy into the situational awareness comments fully (then again, the warning is in my pseudonym; can’t know for sure)

The other comment, driving through a house, from James again, I do buy into
– as the numbers in the fleet do allow it, I am much for the infantry support conversion… that sort of driving habits become more feasible, too, when it is not the barrel that meets the obstacle first

As for the substitutes, active protection systems work against RPGs and ATGWs, but I remain skeptical as regards high-velocity guns
– so a v good reason to keep some,for now at least

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 27, 2012 12:56 am

Hi Jed,
RE “what is South Africa’s biggest, heaviest tank? What is the heaviest tank China could supply??”
– Oliphants are quite heavy

One of the best tanks is Chinese-Pakistani 46t ” Al Khalid began in 1988, and in January 1990 an agreement was reached with China to jointly design, develop and manufacture system. The design is an upgrade from the original T902M and work had been going on at China’s NORINCO for some years. Initial prototypes were produced in China and fielded for trials in August 1991″ that can autotrack and fire at several targets on the move
-but you are right, in a way, the weight trend for China’s newest, ZTZ-96, is down (unlike in the West)

Specifications
Physical
Weight 41.5 tons

James
James
February 27, 2012 1:02 am

@ ACC, re driving through houses and barrels leading.

There is a “lock” mode, but I wimped out the only time I ever did it and put the barrel 2/3 rearwards on the open flank. Just didn’t seem right to stuff the barrel full of loose brick and mortar and then expect a decent clear shot when next required.

My old man managed to take out a Cypriot house in 1958 while driving through a dust cloud in hot pursuit of an EOKA sniper. He didn’t even know the house was there, but his Dingo (predecessor to my favourite wagon the Ferret) took the hit, shook itself and carried on. Either Cypriot houses in 1958 were poorly built or Dingoes had some rare qualities.

Brian Black
Brian Black
February 27, 2012 1:17 am

Yes, we still need to be able to call on the heavy weights to back up the lighter forces, even if future force planning doesn’t require armoured brigades.
A medium weight gun system. The plan to swap out a 155 battery in each of the MRBs for the light gun would imo be better with a RA operated 105mm armed vehicle – primarily for indirect fire support, but capable of the direct fire role, and definately not for replacing the MBT. Keeping the light gun for its mobility in the two specialist brigades only.

Dude
Dude
February 27, 2012 1:24 am

Follow German’s example: sell some, keep some, upgrade some, all depending on your nation’s projected security need. As you mentioned, recent wars confirm that MBT is a game-changer even in low-intensity asymmetrical conflict. 70 RPG, wow, i am impressed!

Brian Black
Brian Black
February 27, 2012 1:44 am

The suitability was questioned of using a long, high-pressure gun for urban warfare. Typically, past Engineers vehicles would mount a short-barreled, large-bore ‘demolition gun’ or mortar; though Trojan went against the trend – perhaps for weight issues? Maybe using a demolition gun on another specialist Challenger variant could help fill that niche urban role. In particular, I was thinking of whether an EOD variant might be worth consideration given our recent history. The army picked up 14 EOD Buffalos on UOR – would a Challenger variant with similar articulated digging arm be worthwhile, perhaps with a ‘dozer blade and demolition gun too for dealing with a range of battlefield obstacles and sticky points?

S O
S O
February 27, 2012 1:56 am

“(although Mr. Ortmann has told me it never will be. . .)”

Sure?
It’s quite impractical, problematic and likely easy to defeat, but I doubt I promised it will NEVER be practical.

“So, to summarise, until armour technology makes some serious strides forwards the only vehicle able to carry enough armour to protect against top attack ATGWs and direct fire APFSDS rounds is a 60 ton MBT and while the threat exists, then a 60 ton MBT is a necessity.”

Active protection systems and a somewhat more complicated consideration of what kind of protection are necessary allow me to disagree with both statements.

http://preview.tinyurl.com/85w2p8z
(“This high practical mobility in face of many threats can be exploited by large unit and formation tactics to great effect.” – key here is ‘many’ – that’s somewhat malleable)

On APS:
http://preview.tinyurl.com/6m5r4ao

martin
Editor
February 27, 2012 3:01 am

Not sure why there seems to be so many bad comments against Challenger 2. I doubt even the Germans of the USA could claim to have better armour protection on Leopard or Abram’s. Yes the 120mm rifled gun is a little out of date however to my knowledge this weapon still holds the world record range for a tank kill.

I know it would be nice to have use of NATO standard ammo. However is this really necessary given the army’s likely future focus? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

I like Jed’s suggestion of converting some across to 120mm mortar but only if this could be done cheaply.

I still do not understand the problem people have with transferring at least part of the heavy armoured force to the TA. Other countries do this. Do they have some magic ability we don’t or do we consider all our allies to have a c**p armoured force?

Any situation where we are likely to need a large armoured force of 250+ tanks will take 3- 6 months to deploy i.e give time for reservist to be worked up. They also likely to be facing a similar force of reservists and conscripts.

If it happens It’s likely to be a 1991 style armoured charge against some form of peer or near peer opponent. This has to be much easier for a reservist soldier than trying to do COIN operations in the mountains of Afghanistan or fighting in urban areas. Not to mention the vast array of aircraft systems we have that would likely clear the way for the armour far more effectively than in 1991. It really seems like the best role to concentrate our reservist forces on.

We have to focus on being the hard David of NATO rather than the shaky goliath. Armoured forces may be one of the things we have to consider dropping. However if we can simply keep what we have in reserve relatively cheaply surely this makes sense.

Observer
Observer
February 27, 2012 3:08 am

Maybe we can have the best or semi-best of both worlds instead of a infantry support/tank destroyer split.

Change the pintle mount with a 40mm GMG and you’d have some decent capacity to clear houses by simply lobbing grenades through the windows. Changing the gun to a GL might even help with the 7.62’s main purpose, infantry supression. Blast effects from grenades would help in this regard and you would no longer need pinpoint accuracy with bullets, just blast the area.

Observer
Observer
February 27, 2012 3:11 am

Just a nit on David.

He actually used Goliath’s own sword to finish him off.

Does that mean we should steal our enemy’s MBTs? :P

solomon
solomon
February 27, 2012 3:32 am

to all:

might i remind everyone here that the Urban modifications that have been done to the Leopard 2 and the Abrams essentially make them infantry support tanks.

to Sven:

BAE is not corrupted by involvement with the US DoD. they established a separate enterprise in much the same way that General Dynamics did with its European division. both have been successful and both are doing a bristling business. KMW is a fabulous company but by my estimation they have not been as innovative as BAE or General Dynamics and BAE has outpaced GD by a large margin.

your call for a European solution to this is laughable. not because of a lack of expertise but because of a savage and massive decline in defense budgets. the only major armor projects occurring today are the GCV for the US Army, the ACV for the US Marines and the JLTV for all services. besides those programs you’re seeing mostly home grown defense projects. the idea that the EU would fund a 50 to 60 ton tank in this environment is hard to imagine. to be quite honest the issue really should be this. will the British Army be allowed to keep their tanks or will they follow some northern European countries and get rid of them all together.

martin
Editor
February 27, 2012 6:12 am

AM I the only one who see’s no need for a new tank here. Tnak technoligy has barley moved since the 1970’s and it look set to stay at it’s current level for quite some time. Why waste any money on something we don’t needd when we have lots of things we do need to spend money on.

Observer
Observer
February 27, 2012 7:24 am

,

I for one, never said anything about a “new” tank and neither have a lot of others. At worst, all we implied was to keep the Challenger.

@solomon

You misunderstand the defination of “infantry support tank” and “tank destroyer”. It’s not the armour levels, it’s the gun and usage doctrine for the platform. Even if the Leo2 got tricked up with Evo2 armour, it is still at heart a tank destroyer because of its sabot firing, tank killing main gun. Infantry support tanks tend to have fortification killing guns like the 120mm motar suggested above. Lots of blast, maybe not so much penetration.

Mark
Mark
February 27, 2012 8:13 am

Can’t see the west on a great tank charge in Africa. Because good tank country means gd plane country also and they win ever time. This has pushed mbts to urban environments. Do we need to remain some for that possibly. But driving them thru houses all I can say that’s likely to make you popular with the natives!!! Especially if you get the wrong one. Medium armour if we head there needs to be quicker to deploy or you may as well just go heavy not sure where that trade off point is. The us seem to be about to remove a number of there heavy forces and have some harsh words for the Bradley as is too heavy to manoeuvre. Not sure what the answer is I guess It’s what we want to do.

Repulse
February 27, 2012 8:42 am

– I like you think that the majority of armoured formations should be manned by reserves. A small number of MBTs are needed to support expeditionary ops but we are not going to take part in mass invasions anytime soon…

In fact, with this in mind if we moved all our challengers into reserve and had a common MBT with our expeditionary buddies (French and Scandinavia) then we could share the development, support and logistical costs.

martin
Editor
February 27, 2012 9:00 am

@ Repulse

In fact, with this in mind if we moved all our challengers into reserve and had a common MBT with our expeditionary buddies (French and Scandinavia) then we could share the development, support and logistical costs.

We would still need to buy a new tank then. Whats wrong with the ones we have? I would love to reap some sharing of support costs but surely these would pail in comparison with developing a joint tank or even jsut buying one of theres cause there is no way they would buy ours.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 27, 2012 9:28 am

RE “reap some sharing of support costs”
– we have 3 models in service in the same family
– add the Buffalo equivalent and the infantry support version, and we’ll have five

… weren’t the engines already swapped to what FRES will have?

Monty
February 27, 2012 11:17 am

Jed,

As usual, an excellent guest article. Thank you for taking the time to write it. You’ve summed up the key issues well.

The contradiction I find hard to reconcile is that while armoured vehicles, unlike aircraft, are essential to hold ground, they are no longer invulnerable. Sure, it’s hard for insurgents equipped with light RPG7s to defeat Challenger 2, but if the advanced air power of a Russian or Chinese equipped army were to be unleashed upon us, we might discover that our tanks could be as easily toasted as the Iraqi T62s during Gulf War 1.

Since many of our potential our enemies still have sizeable tank formations we probably need to retain fairly substantial tank inventories so that we have a corresponding ability to engage them and take and hold ground. If we got involved in a serious shooting war, we might need larger numbers than we have. It is unlikely that we would reopen Challenger 2 production lines, so purchasing units from the USA or Germany seems likely.

As things stand, it seems probable that Challenger 2 fleet will soldier-on until the chassis components are worn out. I don’t see it being upgraded unless an urgent operational need dictates it. In the meantime, as you have already pointed out, to maintain a combat edge, we will need to develop new rifled 120 mm ammunition types or to move to a 120 mm smooth bore weapon. Since the latter option is likely to be less expensive and achieve commonality with our US, German and other allies, buying a German 120 mm seems to be the most likely future solution. Similarly, retrofitting a 120 mm smoothbore turret onto a Challenger 2 may also be more expensive than acquiring new Leopard 2A7s or M1A2s.

I don’t see any decision being made before 2020 or even later, when the USA and Germany develop replacements for the Leopard 2 and Abrams M1. I am sure we will want to piggy-back on their efforts.

The long-term question is whether new weapons technology favours an alternative vehicle type? New graphene-based carbon armour may invalidate existing tank gun types. Since graphene weighs one sixth the weight of steel but is 100 times stronger, we are likely to develop very light, very well-protected vehicles. It all hinges on the ability to fabricate graphene and other carbon-nanotube based materials in large quantities.

While we wait for the future to arrive, attack helicopters have proved to be highly effective tools. I wonder if assets like the Apache are the tank of tomorrow? Attack helicopters would be complemented by high mobility wheeled vehicles (with strategic mobility and superb cross-country performance) with the 8×8 infantry vehicle becoming the APC of tomorrow. You would attack with missile equipped helicopters and hold ground with dug-in infantry and ATGW missiles such as Javelin.

One particular aspect of future war scenarios is the speed with which assets can be deployed by helicopter and road. For all the benefits tanks provide, they are useless if they take too long to get stuck in.
So, my take is that we still need tanks but we need to complement their abilities with 8x8s. As I’ve said before, while we certainly need an 8×8 infantry vehicle, we also need an 8×8 gun platform which both the USA and Italy have developed for their medium armoured brigades.

iRoosevelt
iRoosevelt
February 27, 2012 12:00 pm

1: No. The Challenger 2 is far superior, it would be a loss.

2: No. We should return to rifled cannons and try to make them NATO standard.

3: Yes. This big gun bug would be easily deployable to Afghanistan and would expand our heavy support capabilities.

4: I would consider having the Challenger platform able to take both it’s current tank gun OR the mortar & 40mm CTA, with only a day required to modify the tank for these armaments (I would like to see a tank gun/40mm capability).

5: I think having specialist variants as well as a multipurpose variant would be just grand.

IMHO: Reserve forces could very well handle the bulk of the MBT forces, we should work on a policy of continuous procurement to massively up our heavy/medium armour numbers, most of these would be stripped out and put in storage- ready for if we ever need take Beijing or Tehran.

Jim
Jim
February 27, 2012 12:16 pm

Something else to think about, an Apache helicopter costs £35 million and a Challenger 2 around £4 million. So a regiment of tanks for the price of one attack helicopter. Good value for money?

The old saying that the only thing that beats a tank is another tank is no longer true. We all witnessed brimstone in action over Libya and ATGM are in use with most armies around the world. The next armour development must be something to divert/distract incoming missile. Paint that deflects lazers so they can not target them?

S O
S O
February 27, 2012 12:35 pm

@Solomon:
“the only major armor projects occurring today are the GCV for the US Army, the ACV for the US Marines and the JLTV for all services.”

Those are not real projects, but boondoggles. The U.S. has attempted to replace Abrams and Bradley for two decades and fails routinely. GCV is just the latest iteration of that failure.
ACV: Three decades instead of two!

JLTV: About to be cancelled just like predecessors (remember the USMC RST Shadow thing?) simply because too many MRAPs are in service and JLTV has long since become a gold-plated MRAP.

The DoD pretends to have AFV development programs; in reality, they don’t. It’s just a taxpayer money sink, not actual creation of in-service fighting vehicles (MRAPs being transports).

Separate divisions in a multinational corporations mean little. Management personnel gets shifted around, and that’s the part that’s infected with failure.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 27, 2012 12:38 pm

Hi Jim,

China is busily upgrading their newest tanks (one and a half thousand of them) like this:
“Unveiled in 2006, the Type 96G featured a revised turret armor suite, visually similar to that of the Type 98/99 tanks, and a passive countermeasures system, which appeared similar to the Russian Shtora-1, used for jamming SACLOS anti-tank missiles, laser rangefinders and target designators”

Russia has their newest only in low hundreds – and funnily enough, is stationing them all in the Far East (wonder why?)

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 27, 2012 12:40 pm

Forgot to go back and copy/paste the source, too:
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/type-96.htm

Mike W
February 27, 2012 12:40 pm

Once again a fine article, Jed.

Before answering Question 2 (“Would you consider fitting the Jordanian designed Falcon turret to the Chally 2?”), I would need to know a lot more about the Falcon. Does anyone know about how effective it has proven to be? Its strengths and weaknesses? Is it in any way based upon the present Challenger turret, for example, or was it developed entirely independently? etc etc.

Mike W
February 27, 2012 1:08 pm

“to maintain a combat edge, we will need to develop new rifled 120 mm ammunition types or to move to a 120 mm smooth bore weapon. Since the latter option is likely to be less expensive …”

Is there any evidence for that? I’m not challenging your assertion, Monty, merely asking whether anybody has done a comparative study of the likely costs.

Darley

“The psychological impact of the MBT cannot be overstated… A 60-70 tonne tank thundering down a street is one hell if a deterrent!”

Would certainly agree with that, Phil. Read somewhere that they were effective and imposed order in a recent conflict by merely standing at road junctions!

jim72
jim72
February 27, 2012 1:32 pm

@jim
I seem to remember reading somewhere that an attack helicopter will destroy 16 times its value before getting shot down.
I’m sure it was something worked out in a simulation rather than examining records but I don’t find it too hard to believe, they’re fantastic pieces of kit.

Brian Black
Brian Black
February 27, 2012 2:10 pm

Hi, SO.

The Humvee Recapitalization program has been cancelled in favour of funding the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program, so unlikely to be cancelled also.

TheRagingTory
TheRagingTory
February 27, 2012 2:28 pm

“1. If keeping MBT capability and given the well advertised problem with “re-gunning” the Chally 2 would you retire it and buy surplus Leopard II – yes/no”

Gut instinct is No.
I’d need to see a solid breakdown of the costs of rifle rounds, regunning the tank to 125 rifled (to allow for a 5mm sabbot to be fitted to 120mm smoothbore) and regunning to 120mm smoothbore.
But my gut screams the Chally2’s unique strength is its massive over armouring. Combined with its relative rarity, means that few weapons are capable of killing the thing. Lets face it, Anti Tank weapons are built to knock out T72’s, Leapards, Abrams, no ones going to design a weapon “just” to beat a Chally, because anyone who does is facing a significant weight and cost penelty for the far more likely fight.
Seems a shame to lose that advantage.

“2. If no to #1 above, would you consider fitting the Jordanian designed Falcon turret to the Chally 2 in order to get a smoothbore gun capable of handling NATO standard Ammo ? – yes / no”

Yes, but dont much about the turret, so maybe no

“3. Would you like to see gun armed medium weight tank destroyers as part of the MRB ? (e.g. 105mm armed FRES SV or wheeled vehicle like Centauro) – yes / no”

No.
To me, “medium” is a force made up of heavy and light, rather than a force made of 40t vehicles.
Is 105 even a reliable tank killer?
One shot one kill at 2km?
Or one shot one mission kill providing you hit the side armour at 250m?

“4. If we had above tank destroyers, or all 40mm CTA armed FRES carrying a pair of Javelin on the side of the turret (e.g. ample anti-tank provisions) would you consider turning the Challenger II into a specialist heavy infantry support tank with either a 40mm CTA or 120mm smooth bore mortar ? (could we even fit both ?) – yes / no”

Absolutly
120mm mortar, 40mm CTA and 120mm rifled.

“5. Do you think we should conceptually move back to less of multi-purpose heavyweight MBT to more specialist variants ? – Yes / no”

Yes.
Common chassis, with a variety of turrets

Commentry
I think the tank itself is in no danger, but the “armoured fist” concept is.
The “57” Tank Regiment just seems bizare, more so given the time it was implemented.

Large scale tank on tank battles just seem impossible. When was the last one? 1971 India and Pakistan? 1974 Yom Kippur?

“Major” Tank Battles in the Gulf Wars were generaly small, squadron level engagements, and for all intents and purposes, Iraq could have swapped out its Tanks for Howizters.

Repeated today, a Tiffie pair, one with Brimstone, the other with ALARM could destroy an Iraqi tank squadron with little risk. The only defence the tanks could offer is dispersal and concealment, so realisticaly, will be looking at Tank Troops the next time?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 27, 2012 2:29 pm

RE “The DoD pretends to have AFV development programs; in reality, they don’t.”
– the fact is that the stuff they have now is quite good, and can still be improved (Abrams is going to go to 2040).

BB is probably right about Humvee/JLTV as the tail end of the Humvee production got cut off (it is not just about number of bdes being cut, but why have some brand new ones kicking about when the replacement is arriving soon)

solomon
solomon
February 27, 2012 2:32 pm

Obsever:

i know very well what makes an infantry support tank and a tank destroyer and the gun is not even in the equation. the usage is a part of it but more important than both those is the doctrine of the user. who cares about an leopard 2 with evo armor? thats not an urban survivability kit. the leopard 2a7plus is. the Abrams Tusk kit is. and in that form they operate to support the infantry. the idea of tank destroyers was a misnomer from the very beginning. the idea that it takes a tank to destroy a tank makes tanks tank destroyers! to be quite honest a humvee loaded with tow missiles is a tank destroyer in the purist terms so your definitions need to be upgraded.

Sven:

you’e so far out in left field that to respond to you is simply a waste but i will anyway because it causes me joy to annoy you. the US programs dwarf anything germany will be doing in the next 3 decades. you live in a pacifist country that is no longer relevant on the world stage. my only worry is that your type thinking will infect those that still have the fire in the belly to charge out and protect those like you that refuse to do what is necessary to protect yourself.

quite honestly, a nation and a person that believes only in a miniscule military that is only capable of nation wide law enforcement duties (at best) IS HARDLY one to comment on something as far ranging as the US military’s programs. i would prefer that you sat in a corner quietly and observed how real nations (those outside of germany) do real work. homework assignment for you sven. read man in the arena.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 27, 2012 2:36 pm

Hi Mike W,

RE “would need to know a lot more about the Falcon”
– the Jordanians did a v good job (with Raytheon) putting the German (Swiss) 120mm smoothbore into their M60s
– the Falcon (for their Chally1s) is more controversial as the crew are all dropped down to hull level; technically I’m sure it will be competently handled, but how well will the concept work?
– equally keen as you to hear of any sources

Mike W
February 27, 2012 2:45 pm

Well, thanks for that information, ACC.

“The Falcon … is more controversial as the crew are all dropped down to hull level”

Not sure I like the sound of that. The question is, as you say,”How well will the concept work?”

Anyone else know anything/

wf
wf
February 27, 2012 2:56 pm

@ArmChairCivvy: the US did a “driver/commander/gunner in line in the hull” in the 90’s. I cannot find a specific link, but my information is that it didn’t work too well.

On the other hand, we’ve had nearly a decade of RWS like CROWS. I reckon remote turrets are becoming practical, even for MBT’s.

Observer
Observer
February 27, 2012 3:48 pm

@solomon

I call bullshit on your assertation that just simply uparmouring a tank turns it into an infantry support tank, truth is you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about do you? Evo2 and TUSK are both simply programs to uparmour tanks for greater survivability despite not being MARKETED as urban survival kits and you do notice that when most of us are talking about infantry support, we ARE talking about changing the smoothbore to a motar? Most of us here understand that to change roles, you need a different gun for the role change. And it really is pretty stupid for you to be trying to argue for a redefinition of a near universally iintrnationally understood term to “solomon standard”. What next? You want to redefine S.I units? Change the value of the kg? Shorten the kilometer?

And I’m with S.O. There is absolutely no chance of any new project in the US currently getting approval to commence, much less be brought to term, in this current day of mass cost cuts. Makes you wonder why they chose to unveil it now when they almost have to know that it’s a forlorn hope. My guess is that they are desperate for funding and are throwing everything out in the hopes of a nibble of investment. Doubt anything will come out of the US in a decade or so save for projects in progress like the long suffering F-35 program. And about time too for that one.

Nationalism is all well and good, but blind nationalism is idiotic, it allows you to be easily fooled and makes you blind to weaknesses that could have been corrected.

Think you mean the MBT-70? The operators complain of nausea and that one was driver->turret.

Commander in hull is fairly common now, that’s what the CROWs and RWSs are all about. Unmaned turrets, though it seems that application wise, only smaller calibres are being used. So I’d say it has a fair shot at being a sucess. Hull’s going to be a bit cramped though.

Alan
Alan
February 27, 2012 3:51 pm

Ref: ACC; ” the US did a “driver/commander/gunner in line in the hull” in the 90′s. I cannot find a specific link, but my information is that it didn’t work too well.”

Wasn’t this due to disorientation due to trying to navigate and operate using only camera feeds? I seem to remember something about this from a doc of that era.

wf
wf
February 27, 2012 4:01 pm

@Observer: no, this very much postdates MBT-70.

@Alan: I daresay you are right. Camera feeds in those days would have really crap fields of view. A niggling memory was that the commander found it disorienting to be looking in one direction while facing another. Why they didn’t just give him a rotating chair I don’t know :-)

Alan
Alan
February 27, 2012 4:08 pm

I did some digging and found this, I think it’s from future weapons.

http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/showthread.php?136454-will-this-replace-the-abrams

I think this is the thingy we’ve been going on about.

Observer
Observer
February 27, 2012 4:09 pm

I just had the image of the TC playing on an office swivel chair. :P

James
James
February 27, 2012 4:15 pm

Commander in the hull is a dreadful concept, dreamt up by engineers who haven’t tried to actually fight a tank in close combat either as an individual platform, much less than as a Squadron Leader with 13 other tanks to worry about. Anyone suggesting that cameras, flat panel monitors and digital mapping can replicate for even one second the ability to see, hear, and even smell the battle is simply wrong, or a civvy who is reading too much nonsense.

Observer
Observer
February 27, 2012 4:17 pm

Alan…

As much as I hate to “misuse his name”, the only phrase I can think of is really Oh My God!! That was such a long time ago and went nowhere that I totally forgot about it! This was during the era where, influenced by GW1, they believed Scudbuster LSVs armed with ATGMs had a very high chance of outmanuvering tanks for killshots and they were trying to increase protection by concealment.

The Pancake tank.

Which is more generous than some commentators who said that it looks like a T-72 ran over it. lol.

Observer
Observer
February 27, 2012 4:25 pm

@James

It might work better on things like combat cars, they have better surrounding vision in the first place, so it isn’t a totally idiotic idea. It probably did go too far carrying it into a huge metal box with already low situation awareness like MBTs though.

I still remember predicting during that era than armoured low slung armoured combat cars with either 20-30mm cannons or ATGMs might be making a comeback. Partially right. “Combat cars” ala Stryker etc yes, but I’d hardly call them “low slung”.

Observer
Observer
February 27, 2012 4:33 pm

And before anyone comments, I know, calling them “cars” is a stretch too…

Phil
February 27, 2012 4:40 pm

Combat Cars? We need a new name…

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 27, 2012 4:50 pm

@ Jed – Yet another excellent article. To answer your questions:
1. It would be a shame to retire such a survivable asset.
2. Not completely sold on the benefits of “external” guns/automatic re-loaders but it would save on manpower costs.
3. I like SO’s idea of multi-role automatic 75/76mm cannon. Particularly good foe expeditionary operations.
http://www.angelfire.com/art/enchanter/venn.html
I also like the CV90/120.
4. Personally I would like to see a modern version of the CEV. The 165mm is probably not an option but perhaps a short barrel 155mm, using the same ammo as their longer barrel cousins? 120mm ammo may be used if fitted with a sabot?
5. Bit of both. Keep the majority of C2’s but support with a HAPC/BMPT for dedicated infantry support – Heavy Dragoons/Panzer Grenadiers.
http://www.angelfire.com/art/enchanter/terminator.html
I would keep the “Heavy” units together for logistics and training; as Jed mentioned the 120mm is a dangerous weapon to be about and Tank/Infantry co-operation needs to be regularly practised.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 27, 2012 5:03 pm

Hi Observer.
A school bus, instead of “calling them “cars” is a stretch too…”

Desk Jockey
Desk Jockey
February 27, 2012 5:04 pm

I well remember that 14 RPG strike story, I heard it from a serving tank crew too. They were the only people that dared go places in Iraq that infantry did not want to be.

My answer is that we should always keep a MBT capability, even if more in the support than offensive role. Sure, in open high-end warfare, there are loads of other tank killing systems. But when the land equipment procurement has gone horribly wrong and the infantry are screaming for someone to come in to rescue/resupply them, as often seen in Iraq.Afghanistan and Mogadishu (remember Black Hawk Down?), your MBT becomes the fallback system.

MBT are not the perfect tool for every job, but they can make a huge and decisive impact when desperately needed. Doing away with them would leave the UK with a critical capability gap which will be made worse when the next land systems procurement f***-up occurs…

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 27, 2012 5:10 pm

Hi Jed,

I didn’t realise that with Falcon and its autoloader the crew is cut down to two men ( re: your link )

wf
wf
February 27, 2012 5:21 pm

@James: interested in the details of why you think crew in hull is unworkable. Obviously, you would normally fight closed down: would you say the vision blocks provide the majority of the situational awareness?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 27, 2012 5:23 pm

This one is very similar to a “Falconised” tank and was considered very successful in its day
– sure it had to stop to fire, but so did others of that era
http://science.howstuffworks.com/stridsvagn-103-main-battle-tank.htm

x
x
February 27, 2012 5:26 pm

I don’t like the idea of reducing crew. What if something happens? I am sure things in happen in war. What if the MBT breaks down, who defends the vehicle? What if somebody gets injured? What for ever reason somebody needs to dismount?

wf
wf
February 27, 2012 5:41 pm

@x: buy Merkva and you can shove a fire team in the back for those dismount or close in tasks :-)

If CR2 got a reliable autoloader tomorrow, I doubt the crew would reduce in any of the tanks, people really aren’t that expensive. But every troop and squadron commander would probably heave a sigh of relief knowing that someone else could do the hunter bit, while they could concentrate on the bigger picture. Even a troop corporal could do with an additional pair of eyes :-)

B.Smitty
B.Smitty
February 27, 2012 5:59 pm

Wonder how expensive it would be to mate an M1 or Leo2 turret to the CR2 hull? There have to at least be a few hundred M1 turrets mothballed in the U.S..

Will
Will
February 27, 2012 6:09 pm

Why not just purchase some surplus M1 Abrams. Got to be be some going cheap, particularly with the cheap deal the UK did selling the Harriers to the US.

S O
S O
February 27, 2012 6:31 pm

@solomon:
“the US programs dwarf anything germany will be doing in the next 3 decades.”

That’s to be seen. So far, production of a minimum of 350 Puma IFVs and hundreds of Boxers seems to be a done deal. The U.S. projects won’t produce more than prototypes if GCV goes the same route as FCS, ACV the same route as AAAV/EFV and JLTV the same route as RST-V.
Billion dollar prototypes that feed the complex, but they don’t serve the nation.

Besides; it’s not about being left when one insists on a threat assessment before force sizes are being discussed. Adult citizens are expected to be more rational than mil fanbois. To spend many resources against imaginary threats is waste; waste that tears down an economy if it becomes too large.

Thus I care about what you call “real nations”. I care about those that are not allied or friendly to us, and save for some on distant continents I only see Russia with its rotten military that’s not even close to parity with the EU’s military power.

National prestige and ego are irrelevant, as are mil fanboi-ism and weapon wanking. What counts is whether the military can accomplish its mission, and that mission is largely reality-driven and actually collective defence-oriented in scope in most of Europe.

Mark
Mark
February 27, 2012 6:48 pm

Im not sure from reading all these posts ive got an idea what were using are MBT for. A head on tank charge into another set of tanks is as likely as man waking on mars for the UK unless the US were involved. And I can see no one suggesting thats even how such a battle would take place.

The biggest benefit of a MBT I cant detect from these posts and I maybe wrong is we need tanks for urban warfare to act as bulldozers with a gun which may or may not kill our own troops. We if thats the main reason then they have to go.

Dont see why creating or taking a FRES sv level vehicle with up armour available for certain missions and having the modules available that say a stryker has and using it as our armoured forces doesnt meet all uk independent requirements and allows us a capability to support coalition partners in a high end operation. We havent sent the MBT to afghan others may have but we didnt so the uk didnt need it.

I see no though what so ever in uk plans which has challenger warrior and fres sv, as-90 ect all in a future fleet.

Some harsh words from the US army general of his combat trucks thought it may add something to the debate.
http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/index.jsp?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&newspaperUserId=27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7&plckPostId=Blog%3a27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post%3a36feeee0-8a2f-4702-afbd-30d7bea1bf07&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
February 27, 2012 7:04 pm

The Falcon turret has a problem as an MBT by having the crew in the hull.
First, space is lost because the turret isn’t there any more to put it in.
Second, the instantaneous vision from a full arc of vision blocks or head-out in the hatch is lost. The commander cannot see past the gun mount other than via the electro optics.
Third, the number of available rounds is limited to the autoloader (possibly not that much of an issue, but then you don’t have as much space in the hull to store spare rounds)
Fourth, the ability to access and maintain the weapons is limited
Fifth, on overall area susceptible to hostile attack isn’t very much smaller than a regular turret. A hit to the autoloader bustle will result in a mission kill, although the crew will be safer.

If the bustle space on a current Challenger turret could be used for an autoloader or ammo stowage, then that could allow for a smoothbore. Coupled with a switch to the 1500bhp MTU power pack and you have more space in the hull for the equipment that was in the bustle.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 27, 2012 7:32 pm

Sorry! Interesting link Mark. *facepalm*

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 27, 2012 7:37 pm

From MARK’s link:
“Talking about the Army’s need for a new infantry fighting vehicle, Odierno lambasted the performance of the Bradley in combat, saying that the BAE Systems-manufactured combat truck “hasn’t done very well” in terms of survivability, and that in Iraq “we lost more Bradleys than any other combat platform, and we haven’t used a Bradley in five years.”

When it comes to the General Dynamics-made Stryker, he said that “we have so much weight on the Stryker right now, we can’t get it off the damn roads.” ”

Am I looking too much into this or does it suggest a heavy/light split is the way to go, with medium (both tracked and wheeled) being a neither/or failure?

James
James
February 27, 2012 7:55 pm

@ wf

“Obviously, you would normally fight closed down: would you say the vision blocks provide the majority of the situational awareness?”

Obviously, I would not normally fight closed down. Never did, never would again. There were some different schools of thought on that, and I came from a recce background where we never dreamed of operating closed down. Why would you trade 1000% of the vision and SA for 10% additional protection? I drove around Chertsey for a day (old DERA testing site) in a VERDI (crew in hull tech demo wagon, lots of cameras and flat panels), and it was completely crap.

Life is full of risks, and I don’t believe it to be particularly over-risky to have eyes out of the turret, all of your senses available, in comparison to blundering around like a seasick dinosaur relying upon cameras and flat panels. I’ve put that to the test in the Gulf, Bosnia, and Kosovo and my mind is firm. Head out beats head down in every real situation. I’d like a pump-action shotgun between the commanders’ and loaders’ hatches to be able to take out Molotovs (for which Cavalry officers train hard on various expensive shoots most winter Saturdays), but that’s about it.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
February 27, 2012 8:27 pm

For an idea of situational awareness and the difference between cameras and screens and direct view, I present the following example:
The current iPhone has a 3.5inch screen at 960×640 resolution. This is called a “retina” display, on the basis that at a distance of about 12 inches the resolution is smaller than the human eye can discern. Consider how much of a field of view this describes. In angular terms, it’s about 300mrad corner to corner, or about 300m at a km for unity vision. Considering that the human visual field covers over 2 km at the same distance in a balanced circle, you would need at least a 24.5 diagonal inch screen at 12 inches from your face with a resolution of 6720×4480, coupled with a camera capable of providing that resolution in light conditions that vary from full sunlight to a quarter moonlit night (100,000lux to 0.01lux, roughly).

Granted that this is actually more capable than the instantaneous behaviour of the human eye, but the ability of the human eye to switch around cannot be artificially matched, so camera and display must be improved to allow the user to match direct view experience.

wf
wf
February 27, 2012 8:44 pm

@James: the reason I asked is that the RSDG seemed to spend most of their time closed down during the initial stages of GWII. The majority of this would be urban of course. I know the Israeli’s place a premium on heads up, having a parasol in Merkva, but I’m wondering how practical it is anymore.

Personally, I can’t see how flat panels everywhere can compensate either, given the time your unconscious is going to spend translating vectors from screen to reality. That being said, I would have thought a helmet mounted sight coupled to a 360 degree video system has finally become practical now the sensors have high enough definition and small enough to distribute around the vehicle rather than scan, allowing the view to be shared between crew members

http://defense-update.com/events/2007/summary/ausa07afv_vision.htm

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:gqeQnBNidaIJ:www.ad-sensors.com/ISD_LS_0360_Datasheet.pdf+&hl=en&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShbIYMZIxnKzj_6pdN9qdIN8otskUFOekwPiMjLpVcZ4DHU2AYh0M6I99DOfFP3X7uRRJpcWxVoZcB_p2FDg_uLMPzieeMobZYLHvtlpXLWg9RAlPsugYTTjOjMNXgmDZWmGxos&sig=AHIEtbStDhh4pwfbIm36FEKqIeu_pg_VKg

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
February 27, 2012 9:09 pm

One way of getting a decent field of view would be to use small, high resolution screens in place of vision blocks with matching cameras. You get the intuitive position feedback plus any advantage of alternate spectrum views that electro-optics can provide.

A helmet mounted sight and a DAS could work, but I would suggest that a helmet mounted sight be coupled with a head tracker and a small independent stabilised ball camera, permitting zoom and full 360 degree operation because you can operate an override to pan into arcs you cannot turn your head to see.

James
James
February 27, 2012 9:42 pm

wf,

90% of the time is opened up for everyone (remember, war is 80% boredom and waiting for the other 20% to occur).

Judging by my own time:

Many junior call sign tanks do close down, because they have relatively simple tasks, focussing on one area. Troop Leaders, the Sqn 2IC and Sqn Leader tend to be opened up, as there are many different parts of the battlefield to observe. Troop Sergeants tend to alternate.

The real problem is that crew in hull designs force you to rely on external optics for everything, whereas manned turrets at least give you a choice. How easy is it to execute a routine night move when your vision is a remote camera 6 feet above your head, when there is mud on the camera lens, the wiper got broken off, and the digital sensor can’t cope with the contrast ratio between oncoming headlights and darkness in the same field of view? Can your driver safely negotiate a roundabout in a traffic stream if the commander cannot see in four directions?

James
James
February 27, 2012 9:48 pm

…(got left off)

crew remote vision “solutions” always appear to me to be an engineer’s wet dream to a problem that hardly exists, and to bring in their wake 10 times the problems (and engineering cost) in comparison to the initial situation. I’m sure academic studies predate the Korean War, but Col Boyd was right when he identified the original “Observation” part of the OODA loop as being key, as were the F-16 designers by specifying a bubble canopy, as were the designers of every Head Up Display. You cannot beat the human eyeball for rapid and reactive observation.

Observer
Observer
February 27, 2012 9:49 pm

I’m with James that MBTs really can’t be camera commanded, and he’s not joking about the night move, it’s at times like that or when keeping an eye out for the whole troop that the head out the hatch is invaluable.

For the smaller stuff though like the Warthogs, I’m not so sure. The driver already has windows on 3 sides of him (or would have had if someone had not armoured them…) and from all that I can find out, most of the serious injuries from IED strikes came when the TC got thrown out of the turret to land hard. So my take on this is anything below tanks or have a really bad FOV, manned turret. Anything with a good field of vision, unmanned or none at all.

Observer
Observer
February 27, 2012 9:54 pm

Forgot to mention the “hot sun, steel box” problem too. If you’re engines off in this situation, a open hatch can provide a serious source of relief with an airflow through the back and out the top. Without a source of airflow, a tank in the sun can rapidly become a sauna.

James
James
February 27, 2012 10:18 pm

Jed,

I’ll take your word for it on that specific blue on blue incident. It is not what I heard, but I don’t have any details in front of me. If what you say took place, unfortunate on any number of levels, but a closed commander’s hatch would have made little difference. It’s only got half an inch of armour (any more and you could not lift it).

There’s a huge difference between being eyes out and standing waist out of the turret. Anyone in my Troop or Squadron who was waist out would have received a real ripping. Makes me angry even thinking about it.

It’s all a balance, and in this case, it relentlessly comes down to cautious eyes out gives you so much more than closed down, 99% of the time. Anyway, it hardly takes a second or 2 to close down if you take some incoming fire.

The alternative is for the World’s Most Crap Company (trading as BAE Systems) to design and price some clunky remote vision system. I’d rather not go through that pain.

Observer
Observer
February 27, 2012 10:25 pm

James, wiki has the BOI report on the incident linked to it. Interesting reading, serious bit of a screwup there and bad luck with the hatch.

Observer
Observer
February 27, 2012 10:26 pm

Sorry, forgot to state the main article, Challenger 2, reference 13.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 27, 2012 11:01 pm

Came across this interesting idea; any use in urban situations?

http://img14.imageshack.us/img14/851/panthern.jpg

http://img69.imageshack.us/img69/4195/scan0024k.jpg

I google translated some text with the pictures:
“A prototype of the seasons of West Germany. Designed and built by the company Wegmann this “Panther” was made ​​on Leopard 1A5 chassis and had a hydraulically retractable platform with a weapon system HOT3 combined, fiber-optic guided missile and infrared missile launcher stinger surface to air. The idea was that the panzer could hide behind any uneven ground, raise your lanzamisilies to a height of 13 meters and defend a pocision from attack helicopters and armored “hind” the covenant of vasovia to a range of 5 km, the missile were targeted by television viewers 12 times thermal and laser rangefinder helped by giving him todotiempo shooting ability. The project was developed between 1985-1988, was canceled due to the fall of the wall and back end of the Cold War.”

Think Defence
Admin
February 27, 2012 11:08 pm
Reply to  Gareth Jones

Gareth, thats bloody spooky

Just researching a piece on elevating platforms for use in urban terrain!!

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 27, 2012 11:10 pm

Hope I was some help. :)

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 27, 2012 11:13 pm
James
James
February 28, 2012 8:22 am

@ TD,

re elevating platforms and/or remote eyes.

Fantastic for surveillance while in cover. Swingfire came with a remote firing system / optics on a cable which allowed for covert use (i.e. vehicle hull down out of sight), and that’s 30 years old. I also saw a trials Marder with an optical mast in the late 80s, but don’t think that ever made it to production.

A company (French – may well have been Thales?) made an optical mast system designed for retro-fit that they exhibited at DSEI. The whole thing, including power supply collapsed into a wheelie-bin sized module for internal stowage, and gave around 7 metres of extension. It had optical, TI, laser designator and UHF on it. Clearly more designed for recce than MBT. One of those in the back of a Stryker is a recce man’s wet dream.

Tubby
Tubby
February 28, 2012 9:00 am

Been off-line for a few days and I’m at work so will have to be brief. Likely re-hashing old ground but answers are:

1) Possibly, the sensor system on the latest Leo 2’s is supposed to be head and shoulders above Chally 2 but it also shows what we could achieve with a bit of spare cash.

2) Not keen on the idea of unmanned turrets on MBT’s

3)I would be keen to see ATGW version of FRES with a decent number of ATGW (say 6 or 8) but I fear that a tracked vehicle with a 105mm gun screams tank to politicians and the un-informed and we would see shouts of why do we have two types of tanks (I have already seen the press call FRES SV and Warrior tanks).

4. Even if we did not get any tank killers I would take surplus Chally 2 and covert some to 120mm mortar platforms and others with 40mm CTA (plus possibly a pair of Spike NLOS).

5. I suspect like others that Africa will be the next battle field, however I doubt very much we will see direct conflict with China or Russia, we are much more likely to be fighting militia’s supplied with man portable Chinese and Russian weapons using technicals than we are facing an “modern” army with frontline Rusian and Chinese equipment, and even then the weakest part of African forces are typically their air forces as they tend to lack the spares and training time to be really effective, the biggest threat would be from helicopter gunships and would likely be best countered by WVR A2A missiles on helicopters, maybe we should get pylons added to Army Wildcats and add a pair of ASRAAM. Personally I would like to see dedicated scout/attack versions of the AW109LUH, purchased in good numbers, equipped to carry gunpods, TOW, CV-70 and a A2A missile (Mistral is likely the easiest to integrate with proven success on a scout helicopter), of course this would only happen in a world where the Army gets two platforms instead of Wildcat, one for the scout role and the other as a decent sized utility helicopter (like the AW149 or the Blackhawk).

wf
wf
February 28, 2012 9:01 am

@James: the Canadian’s have a telescopic mast for their LAV. Good way of seeing over the next rise without a UAV :-)

http://www.army-guide.com/eng/product933.html

Observer
Observer
February 28, 2012 10:24 am

Call me old fashioned, but I still think all these armoured recce tools are more for the close ranged armoured scout platoon than a recce company. My idea of deep recce still involves 4 men in a dug in OP without a tank, wheeled or otherwise. It’s much harder to detect a squad of men than it is to detect a vehicle, not to mention the problem of getting it that deep into enemy lines in the 1st place. Men, you can just helidrop, vehicles have to drive through THEIR frontlines.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 28, 2012 11:17 am

We got through the “all of crew buttoned down in the hull” pros and cons with good detail, but the “urban version of the MBT” discussion has mainly dealt with enhanced protection kits (TUSK, Leo – and Streetfighter being closer to home was left without mention?).

Namer (almost an MBT…)only has a .50 cal and the reason has been cited to be difficulty of replenishing while on location. Saw an interesting statistic for one armoured company engaged in Fallujah for a week:” 1600 120mm, over 120 000 7,62 mm and 50 000 12,7 mm MG rounds. Almost all of the tanks had all systems running for over 120 hours over the week”

Another interesting (hope not trivial) detail is the raised (half-open position) of commanders hatch on later Leo models (electric, so getting down and buttoned down takes under a second instead of the 1 or 2).

Observer
Observer
February 28, 2012 7:01 pm

“commanders hatch on later Leo models (electric, so getting down and buttoned down takes under a second instead of the 1 or 2).”

… with the commander in the tank or outside? :) Or half in, half out. Fingers loss due to hatch do happen.

Ali
Ali
February 28, 2012 10:30 pm

Just a thought for anti-tank usage you could use a LAHAT ATGM that can fire from a 105 or a 120 smoothbore turret? The platform could also fire indirectly as well.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 28, 2012 10:54 pm

Hi Observer,

How “Fingers loss due to hatch do happen” – when he himself controls it?

Haven’t seen it myself, but tankies told me that it is a really good feature…

And instead of going into the 70 tonne behemoth (A7), borrowing from tanknutdave’s site, there is a parallel evolution which definitely will keep Leo on par (or ahead) of the other contenders “Leopard 2A4 Evolution, it includes a belly plate and side modules for protection against IED & mines, added roof plates for airburst munitions, internal spald liners and active defence systems against guided anti-tank missiles. This upgrade should not be confused with the A6 or A7+ upgrade’s. Both these have the distinct frontal MEXAS wedge, where as the Evolution has more squarer rounded frontal modules with slits in them for the active defence systems.

AKA the Leopard 2T, it is an upgrade package for the Turkish Armies Leopard 2A4’s which includes the application of AMAP, upgraded optics and a new fire control system… Its reported that Finland has shown an interest in purchasing this upgrade for their Leopard 2A4’s.”

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 29, 2012 12:37 pm

Suggestions submitted to Armor magazine for creating new variants on the M1 chassis; a engineer assault vehicle, a SPG (and ammo vehicle) and an air defence/escort tank.

http://www.benning.army.mil/armor/armormagazine/content/Issues/1999/ArmorJanuaryFebruary1999web.pdf

http://www.benning.army.mil/armor/armormagazine/content/Issues/1995/ArmorNovemberDecember1995web.pdf

http://www.benning.army.mil/armor/armormagazine/content/Issues/1996/ArmorJulyAugust1996web.pdf

Similar variants could be created from the C2, the only question being would we want to? Any benefit from a common Heavy chassis family of vehicles?

McZ
McZ
February 29, 2012 1:03 pm

I generally tend to think that Challenger is just another piece of kit which is victim of under-utilisation of development potential.

We could have incorporated a MTU-1500hp-engine for years, which would have brought better speed and better endurance. Both are the main disadvantages compared to LeoII or M1. Apart from the operational advantages available to the army, we would have vastly improved the Challengers position on the export market. I tend to think, that this widow of opportunity is effectively closed, as the MBT-market seems to collapse.

An auto-loader in itself as well as a smooth-bore gun only make sense, when we get some real advantage from them. Compatibility with NATO-allies would be one to start with.

Observer
Observer
February 29, 2012 2:24 pm

.. third time’s the charm? :)

I do agree on the underutilization though. Or to be more precise, underestimation. There are only so many ways to build a tank, and the differences in armour between models is more a matter of theory than practical mesurement, MBTs often being too expensive to test to destruction repeatedly.

How do you lose fingers to a hatch? Way too easily. Ask James how easy is it to have the hatch slam down if it isn’t locked properly. You’re talking about a one second reaction time if you hit the button by accident, way too little time to realise your fingers are in the way and move them.

And Leo Evo(lution) is a bit old, the current, and soon to be supersceded, one is the Evo2.

Mike
Mike
February 29, 2012 2:56 pm

“Challenger is just another piece of kit which is victim of under-utilisation of development potential.”

I agree with McZ’s comment there, same along the line with Sol’s first comment, perhaps we’re still thinking too much of the ‘old school’ way of using tanks, when they should develop more in deployability and tactics, like the US ‘Urban fighting’.

I would have thought that keeping MBT’s was common sense, maybe not in ‘cold war stock’ numbers, but deffinatly a keeper… we’re not like germany or Scandenavia…and why are we thinking of replacing Chally 2’s with Leo 2’s? Same thing (he boldly says) with a different superficial look…and gun, but arent the Chally 2’s up for a upgrade/overhaul? Why cant we just do that? Rather than buying a near same tank type, then upgrading it to UK standards… sounds odd to me when we have the good equipment, just needs upgrading to suit the potential it has in other theatres other than taking out other MBTs.

Also, I love the Chally 2 tales… its like the Chuck Norris of the tanks… one story I heard from those armour guys was one surviving a A-10 straf :P

James
James
February 29, 2012 6:06 pm

Got my face a bit battered once with an unlocked hatch and a bit of a bump at a moderate 20 mph. You don’t know the 16 kilos of hatch is approaching the back of your head at warp speed until it makes contact. Tends to push your face into the back side of the commander’s sight resulting in nasal bleeding, a headache, spilled coffee, and a firm commitment to ensure that the ruddy safety catch on the hatch is properly engaged.

Alan
Alan
February 29, 2012 6:47 pm

Jed I think that your question also begs another to consider; will we ever deploy a heavy armoured formation outside of a coalition?

If the answer is no, then switch to smooth bore.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 29, 2012 8:10 pm

RE: Rifled barrels. I read somewhere that the reason 120mm smoothbore were adopted abroad was due to the APFSDS rounds, being fin stabilised, didn’t like rifling. As the raison d’etre of the tank was killing other tanks this was deemed best. We British, remembering our history, also thought tanks were necessary to support infantry and here rifling helped with accurate aiming of HE/HESH rounds. The discarding sabot/fin stabilised problem was countered with a slip ring. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

If in future the main role of MBT will be supporting infantry then wouldn’t it make sense to keep the rifled barrels?

wf
wf
February 29, 2012 8:16 pm

@Gareth Jones: you are largely correct. On the other hand, the US and Israel seem to have had no major complaints about smoothbore, which also has the advantage of longer barrel life (700 rounds rather than 250 for the L11, not sure about the L30). Furthermore, if it’s infantry support the tank is going to be doing (not very likely IMHO) then a smaller gun with a higher rate of fire would be better

jackstaff
jackstaff
February 29, 2012 8:25 pm

Jed,

Sorry to be late to the party, although it’s been a pleasure to read the continued level of detail in the comments. I suspect that, in practical terms, whether they’re slowly being binned because the Treasury continues to indulge its desire not to pay for a damn thing that won’t directly, physically cause the peasants to revolt (and I suspect that’s the only reason they keep paying for the rest) the Challys are dying a slow death *or* there’s instead a new heavy-platform program drawn up within the next few years, there will have to be a gap-filler. Based on continued parsimony, the engineering and logistical benefits of either option (smooth or rifled) will come down to HMT cost assessment and how much some Most Crap Company Ever subsidiary can gouge from it (full points for the name, James.)

OK, moment of gloom out of the way — to riff off of Alan’s comment (and one from, I think, Mark upthread, apologies if I’ve misidentified that one) I have a different view of the potential military future for the next fifteen to twenty years, at least. Lots more fast-burn instability in various places, more mid-to-upper-end force requirements (unlike, say, policing Somali piracy)that will face a mixed bag of violence (I’ll avoid the term hybrid warfare because I’m still trying to pore over the theorists with a historian’s eye and because it gets you pigeonholed as “yea” or “nay” on the philosophy attached.) Combos of convetional weapons and formations (or conventional weapons, even big ‘uns, in irregular hands), “classical” irregular warfare, social unrest, small-group terror attacks, etc. Also more fluid enemy C3 — otherwise known as “absolute bloody chaos” or at the very least “creative” disorder. Stuff that requires more speed of reply, and more solidly-built deployable formations coming in straight behind your beret-wearing door openers. In that case I can see heavy armoured formations very much in the mix, for two basic reasons:
– It remains true that the *really* heavily armoured stuff (the Challys, M1s, etc., of the world) are bloody hard to kill. The investment of time, tactics, and resources given over to each target set is still daunting for your opponent(s) unless you’re fool enough to hang around for years and patrol local block sectors in small numbers like PC Plod (oh, right ….)
– It lets you retain an armoured fist for shock-entry value and for rapid overmatch against any legacy heavy forces your opponent has squirreled away to fight you assymetrically (more and more I think that just means “smart,” since angling for mismatch/overmatch is nothing new under the sun) hoping they’re guarded by bad weather or civilian shielding from your air reach.

The result of British, American, Russian, and Israeli use of “legacy” armoured formations over the last twenty-five years or so seems to be that, among all the players — wheeled and tracked, killers and carriers — the common or garden tracked IFV is the weakest link of the bunch. (Gen. Odierno is, well, not the shiny-est bulb in the room, but whoever quoted him caught a moment of rare smarts.) The coming generation of 8x8s do the things they’re *designed* to do quite well, and so do the mega-heavy MBTs and their kin (AVREs, hybrids like the Namer if you build off something with heavier armour than a Merkava.) So if I ruled the world I’d nix the mid-level and combine arms differently:
– No penny-packeting like the as-is MRB model (“let’s have one of everything and not enough of anything! COIN rules OK! Whee!”)
– Start a move away (unless you have a very big army like the Yanks, Indians, and such) from separate heavy/tracked and medium/wheeled formations. Instead, put your armoured punch in “armoured cav” formations on a common MBT chassis up front, your infantry mass in wheeled 8x8s, and attach lighter (the Queen’s Own Doc Martens) formations as needed.

In that case, best to concentrate tracked design (other than certain classes of pure utility vehicle, of which it looks like the Viking/Warthog approach has the most design virtues) on the big bar stewards. A 120mm “pure” tank, a cavalry “mount with CTA 40mm plus an ATGW launcher and room for a four-man scout fireteam in the back, and of course your recovery/clearance engineering types. (Unless your AS90 successor goes the same route. Open to ideas there.) So four types at most. Everything else could be plunked on a different (8×8 family, lighter tracked auxiliaries) choice of chassis. And the 8x8s can integrate fires neatly — I like the American approach of pulling MGS and mortars into the Stryker bns directly rather than the Italo-French division of gun mounts/recce in cavalry units and APCs/man-portable mortars with the infantry. Also lets you cut down on your overall number of formations if they’re combining systems effectively by overall vehicle type.

So I guess, in that case, I’d vote for better development of the Challenger-style chassis (like the Leo2 mods ACC was talking about just upthread), going “outside the box” to bin Warrior, and possibly binning Scimitar as well (moving towards a recce-by-contact approach made up of UAVs, covert manned OPs set by your forced-entry bods, and “contact” defined by C2 derivatives more like “Vinnie Jones enters stage left through an exploding door with a sawn-off and an axe handle.”)

Also, seductive as it is, probably no Falcon turret. Besides where the crew end up and how they operate, there’s that persistent danger BAE will get their clumsy mitts into the contract and then God help us on cost and IOC.

Mark
Mark
February 29, 2012 8:28 pm

Alan if the answer to you question is no then do we need a heavy armoured capability at all we could just leave that to our allies who have similar logistics.

jackstaff
jackstaff
February 29, 2012 8:29 pm

Yes there are considerable differences in weight between the Viking approach and the Warthog approach, but they have their virtues: latter’s better at being shot at/blown up, former’s better on softer/less steady ground.

Observer
Observer
February 29, 2012 9:22 pm

I always wince whenever I hear about Warthogs coming under fire. They’re good against IEDs I’d give them that, but against direct fire for anything above 7.62/12.7, there is a fair chance of penetration.

Singapore has never seen the Warthog/Bronco chasis as an armoured gun platform, but more of logistics and support. If you want a fighting platform, it might be better to use tankettes or IFVs. OTOH, you work with what you have, not what you want to have. But still…. cargo haulers eating 20mm is not something that sounds good whatever way you spin it.

jackstaff
jackstaff
February 29, 2012 10:33 pm

Observer,

Fair point: I was thinking in terms of close-support or “wide area security” vehicles where 12.7mm plus IEDs is the soup du jour. Definitely don’t want a Charge of the Warthogs against conventional fire. With Vikings more restricted to some CSS roles or difficult terrain (there based almost purely on the lower gvw.)

jackstaff
jackstaff
February 29, 2012 10:33 pm

Or, I should add, trying to inter-operate them with the Fire-Belching Chobhamized Castles of Death (TM) up front.

Alan
Alan
March 1, 2012 12:41 am

In response to Mark (@8:28,29/2)
the potential knock on ramifications of that are interesting; namely do we get left out of future adventures, and does this subsequently spare lives and cash?
This in addition to freeing troops for looking out for ourselves.

S O
S O
March 1, 2012 1:18 am

@Gareth:
“If in future the main role of MBT will be supporting infantry then wouldn’t it make sense to keep the rifled barrels?”

It’s possible to develop an accurate dumb and fin-stabilised shot as well. That, by the way, was already done by Rheinmetall with a modern HE round.
http://preview.tinyurl.com/7zcxx8l

Observer
Observer
March 1, 2012 2:31 am

Yup, making rounds is easy, especially dumb ones. The problem is, for what gun? Do you want to still keep using 105mm for max performance on HESH? Or run to the common gun calibre so that in a pinch, you can mooch ammo off your NATO allies? And vice versa. I’m for the latter approach as it also allows you to piggyback any weapons improvements research by them instead of duplicating effort. Just not for the change at this time, wait for the economy to improve first.

Observer
Observer
March 1, 2012 2:49 am

“Fire-Belching Chobhamized Castles of Death (TM)”

I like this one. :)

On a more interesting note for those wanting to mount a 120mm on a 25 ton chasis, the Singaporean DSTA tried that by mounting an Oto Melara 120mm in a Thunderbolt turret on a 23 ton IFV. Test reports indicated that while workable, the stress of firing the main gun on such a small platform damages the turret ring and is not a viable long term solution. The test report was why they finally stopped grafting 120mms on light IFVs and went to Leopard 2 instead, and why the TERREX 8X8 got boosted to 36 tons, more stable platform and better reinforced turret ring.

IXION
March 1, 2012 2:26 pm

Observer

Any news on how Russians got on with Sprut SD?

I think they were only made in small numbers.

Obsvr
Obsvr
March 3, 2012 4:58 am

A few observations.

It’s often forgotten that in UK service MBT is the successor to three, not two forerunners: I Tanks (infantry support, lots of armour), cruiser tanks (lots of mobility, cavalry tradition), and RA anti-tank (lots of firepower, transferred late 1940s, RAC decided tanks were the solution, well they would wouldn’t they). Amusingly for most of the Cold War (until Ginge Bagnall got far enough up the foodchain) the tanks basically operated as RA anti-tank regts (which was probably sensible given Chieftain’s limitations!) rather than I tanks or cruisers.

There’s other important anti-tank weapons as well, it’s just that they haven’t been seen in action:

Proper modern(ish) anti-tank mines, notably barmine and RDMs; M-Kill, not a good position to be in in an urban environment.

Off-route mines, sure UK’s was cancelled by Clarke at the end of the Cold War, and a few improvised devices have been seen since. C2 with additional armour may be immune, but a top-attack version? Even firing down from buildings?

Top-attack generally, engine decks are notably lacking in protection, result M-Kill at least, includes SADARM/BONUS type indirect fire munitions, no need to rely of a/c turning up – in hours time, available 24×7 at a few minutes notice. Once you’ve got stationary tanks then even semi-dumb arty has a chance with CCF (course correcting fuzes).

HESH, my understanding is that existing HESH (120mm, 105mm L42 used for local defence by light guns) didn’t meet IM regs and no exemption was forthcoming. It would seem that a complete redesign is needed to meet the regs, assuming it’s technically possible to have effective HESH that meets IM standards.

If you remove the HV anti-tank gun requirement, then the requirement probably comes down to two things, psychological effects of ‘shock action’ by charging bull tanks and long range direct fire on the cheap(ish) compared to missiles. Interestingly the 105mm L19 ordnance (on L118) seems to achieve the latter quite adequately with its new direct fire sights, being medium velocity it is not a local hazard when firing. There are probably several mobile carriage options if it was really needed. It’s also useful to note that it appears that RA has been looking at AS90 for direct fire around urban areas, the L15 shell with some 11 kgs of HE content is a bit of a conversation stopper, although optimal fuzing might need some work.

Of course the problem for larger calibre direct fire weapons is that they are not well suited to targets flat on the ground, they need a workable amount of ‘vertical component’ at the target (unless they are very low velocity), which conveniently exists in urban areas, but less so in the countryside.

Nevertheless, CCF is going to change the game, and its likely that provided quick mensuration is possible then indirect fire will be useful against point targets without the cost of full smarts.

Observer
Observer
March 3, 2012 6:31 am

Not privy to rumours in the ole USSR, so wiki is all that I have to go on.

From that, it seems only 24 were built. Strangely enough, they seem to be arranged as artillery batteries instead of armour battle groups. That might be a clue on how the Russians see the “tank”. More as mobile artillery, less as armour.

Observer
Observer
March 3, 2012 7:10 am

Come to think of it, the turret sheer might be why it got reroled. Firing straight, you get a lot of sheer. Fire it UP, and the forces trying to rip your turret off becomes much less.

It would just be like the Russians to look for a cheap roundabout operational solution than to reengineer the whole thing.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 3, 2012 9:15 am

Hi Observer,

more like 57 and growing (naval infantry also uses them as they swim ashore).

I think you combine Nona (came first) and Sprut into one in your comments. Sprut had a wholly new 125mm gun developed for it, the recoil was lengthened to twice, to counter exactly the problem that you point out. Here’s some reading on them both http://www.strategycenter.net/research/pubID.121/pub_detail.asp
– starts with underslung tanks…in the 1930s!

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
March 3, 2012 9:44 am

I believe the Russians refer to the Sprut as a self-propelled anti-tank gun, which might explain why they would be organised in to batteries.

Observer
Observer
March 3, 2012 12:24 pm

Any info about the new low recoil gun? All I could get from that article was that they sidestepped the problem by changing it into a rocket launcher/gun.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 3, 2012 12:44 pm

Hi Observer,

This was contributed in 2007 by a blogger called FW200 (I don’t know if Fofanov is another blogger, or some authority on the topic)
“125mm 2A75 cannon, can fire the same ammo as the rest of the 125mm cannons.
From Fofanov:
In the middle of the 90s the 125mm caliber gun 2A75 has been developed for a new light airborne tank 2S25 Sprut-SD. Designed to fire all types of 125mm ounds from a much lighter platform, this gun differs from D-81 line of guns in several important respects, including the more than doubled recoil length.”

S O
S O
March 3, 2012 9:10 pm

The U.S.Army/DoD apparently cannot have a development program for a 60 metric ton MBT.

When they try to get a tracked AFV developed, they end up with a 63.5 t IFV with a tiny 25 mm gun that could be fitted to a Jeep Wrangler as well.
http://www.teamgcv.com/userfiles/files/GCV%200112.pdf

That vehicle will will be cancelled, of course. I’ve heard more than one voice suspecting that this is BAe’s way of telling DoD that their requirements are nonsense.

Observer
Observer
March 3, 2012 11:38 pm

@SO

Or it could be GE getting desperate in this time of budget cuts and throwing out anything that cound give them a lifeline.. They havn’t been getting much military contracts recently.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
March 4, 2012 8:00 pm

I was wondering if the question could be extended somewhat.
If we don’t need 60t MBTs, do we need 50t MBTs? Or would 40t be better? If 40t, could we get away with basing it on the FRES SV family, or would the large internal volume of an IFV-based vehicle compromise protection within the weight budget?

Monty
March 5, 2012 1:01 pm

An eminently sensible question, Mr Fred.

In one sense, ASCOD 2 / FRES SV Scout is a light tank. As such many people believe it will be excessively vulnerable and is therefore somewhat pointless without proper heavy armour protection.

Challenger 2 is well protected but it isn’t invulnerable. So far, it just hasn’t come up against decent anti-tank weapons. According to Jed, one of the few Challenger 2 losses was attributable to a friendly fire incident where another Challenger 2 destroyed it. So in a proper tank versus tank engagement or aircraft versus tank engagement, most of NATO’s existing tank types would be vulnerable.

If any heavy tank can ultimately be taken out, mobility and speed may be better forms of protection than armour. In this case a wheeled armoured vehicle may be a better option. It needs adequate protection against IED, light RPGs and HMGs, but overall weight needs to be not much more than 30 tonnes, as this seems to be the maximum weight for an 8×8 before mobility is compromised.

Alternatively, a FRES SV with a weapon larger than a 40 mm CTA may be desirable.

Observer
Observer
March 5, 2012 1:07 pm

Actually Monty, the only loss of a Challenger 2 tank was when the friendly fire HESH round detonated on an open hatch. Incredibly bad luck. The blast bypassed the armour entirely.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
March 5, 2012 8:49 pm

The idea that mobility can be substituted for protection has been tried before. It doesn’t really work. Modern fire control gives a high chance of hitting even fast moving targets. Moving targets attract the eye against a stationary background while the human brain cannot process data fast enough to maintain situational awareness when moving through anything other than flat, open terrain. Ergo, the fast, agile, lightly armoured tank goes rampaging into the field of fire of an enemy tank that is stationary and hull down and promptly gets obliterated.

While a heavy vehicle can be taken out, the measure is what does it take to do it? A tank with light armour would be vulnerable to obsolescent ATGW, AT rockets like the RPG7 or even light autocannon. Suddenly the opfor has a much easier time of neutralising your armoured force.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 5, 2012 9:20 pm

Hi Mr. fred,

You are retelling the story of why Leo2 is so different from Leo1?
– regardless, Leo1 was a great export success… because the threat (OpFor) scenarios need to be weighted when you decide which one to buy

We have had a tricky guessing game lately, but Chally2 is good for most scenarios (and the ones that would be better for a given one, will fall down on others?)

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
March 5, 2012 10:04 pm

Actually Leo1 vs Leo2 didn’t cross my mind. I was thinking back further to Cruiser tanks.

Leo 1 strikes me as a good model for a medium tank with plenty of upgrade potential but definite compromises made to meet the weight target. The Leo 2 does not look like the other end of the scale. If anything it is faster and has a better power-to-weight ratio than the earlier tank.

Comparing Leo 1 to Chieftain would make more sense. Those two are definitely at different ends of the AFV triangle. I always wonder if the Chieftain would have been more successful on the export market if they hadn’t stuck with the Leyland multi-fuel engine and instead gone with something a little more reliable.

All else being equal: A modern Leo 1 or a modern Chieftain for positions in the Firepower-Mobility-Protection triangle?

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
March 6, 2012 1:36 am

@ Jed – What about 155m gun/howitzer in the “Heavy Infantry support tank”? Give it to the Armoured Engineers and you have a CEV replacement/modern siege engine?

jackstaff
jackstaff
March 6, 2012 6:41 am

Jed,

Nah — what the problem of fire and maneouvre really needs is 120mm mortars mounted on hovercraft. Get some type of kevlar surface on the pad to handle cross-country movement and Bob’s your uncle …. :)

Just to tack back one last time to my thoughts upthread, since you’ve laid out a new iteration of yours so well, it seems to me the tracked/heavy and wheeled/medium division is a false one. Combine the platforms of each type into formations that are part of each maneouvre brigade. The Chally-chassis formations get:
– A “proper” tank up front, the C2 as we know it with the 120mm dedicated mostly to killing other tanks
– The CTA 40mm variety with a Javelin launcher (they seem to mousehole pretty well based on the evidence from Afghan, which gives over some of that assault-gun/close fire support you want) and a four-man scout fireteam in the hull, lugging a second Javelin if possible

And in the 8×8 bns, 120mm mortar right down at company level, APC models, ambulance and fire-control models, an M.S. company with 105mm and the Falarick round for AT and additional fire support, plus a platoon of long-barrel hand carried 60mm mortars (the 8×8 family approach is a nice chance to reverse the usual logic on mortar assignments — put the heavies right in there at company level, and provide a light-mortar mobile reserve in the support coy.) If all that is part of the same brigade you’ve accumulated a lot of flexible firepower right up front. Like you, I’ve come to think heavier is generally better for the tracked gear because it takes significant “inputs” from your enemy to kill them (it can be done but you have to work at it) and if you’re able to mass them, integrated, in specific units, then that enemy also has to make some effort to concentrate counter-force or put up with being overwhelmed wherever you concentrate that force. (A reason I’d also want an air assault bn in the brigade mix — one of their roles would be to slip in when necessary amid the armour in “close” environments, particularly built-up ones, to provide an injection of boots when necessary, with cover from your heavies.)

Gareth,

I love the “modern siege engine” reference but have to side with Jed on the dimensions. However, have you seen the 155mm the Italians are working to mount on the Freccia? It’s an, ahem, interesting image.

a
a
March 6, 2012 3:59 pm

Do we need the 60 tonne MBT

Here’s a mostly serious answer: “No; we need a 95 tonne MBT”.

We need a vehicle that is reliably protected (if not 100% immune, that’s just not possible) against infantry-portable weapons; not just current ones, but ones that will be developed in 15 or 20 years. That means composite armour, reactive armour, and active defences. At the very least, a tank has to be infantry-proof.
It needs space and carrying power for extra kit as and when required: a couple of dismounts for recce duties, ATGMs, STA equipment or whatever, as well as the traditional Big Gun.
It doesn’t need to be air portable all in one piece. It does need to be modular, so that upgrading the turret or power pack isn’t a huge challenge.

What you end up with is a heavily armoured pickup truck: engine in the front; crew compartment behind it; turret on top; mission bay behind (for dismounts in a modular hard-top compartment, modular VLS missiles, and so on).
Does it need a 120mm gun? How often is that actually going to be used for tank killing vs. hitting other targets? Wouldn’t it be better to have a smaller gun for killing buildings, sangars and so on, and kill tanks (should any appear) with ATGM?