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Do we need the 60 tonne MBT

Challenger tank from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards drives through the town of Basra

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:

TD’s recent piece on protection:

TD on multi-role brigades:

Jed on MRB’s and wheels:

Jed on “Medium Armour” :

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 ( 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 ………

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293 Responses

  1. 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!

  2. @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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.
    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.

  7. 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’


  8. @ 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.

  9. 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.

    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.

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

    Neither tactically much difference nor worth the budgetary pain.

    * 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.

  10. 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 . . .

  11. TD – as ever thanks for publishing my drivel :-)

    Everyone else – while I personally agree in general, being as stated, a proponent of the MBT, I am nonplussed by the conservatism being displayed!

    Lets have some out of the box thinking ………

    As for the “we can’t get rid of them while others have them” – well we have barely any ground based air defence yet potential threat nations have air forces! We run down the RN and talk of Euro-navy allied task forces, etc etc

    As for Africa being good tank terrain and the potential future battle ground, what is South Africa’s biggest, heaviest tank? What is the heaviest tank China could supply??

  12. 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

  13. 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)

    Weight 41.5 tons

  14. @ 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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?

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

    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.
    (“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:

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. @martin

    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

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. @martin,

    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.


    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.

  25. 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.

  26. @Jed – 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.

  27. @ 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.

  28. 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?

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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?

  32. @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.

  33. 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?)

  34. 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.

  35. @Monty

    “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.

    @Phil 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!

  36. @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.

  37. 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.

  38. “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”

    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”

    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”

    Common chassis, with a variety of turrets

    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?

  39. 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)

  40. 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.


    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.

  41. 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

  42. @ACC

    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/

  43. @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.

  44. @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.

  45. 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.

  46. @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 :-)

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. @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”.

  50. Hello all – good to see I got the conversations going !

    At work, so can’t take a long comment to address individuals but:

    The “ISSUE” with L30 rifled 120mm is lack of production of the ammunition, particularly the CHARM 2 APFSDS “depleted uranium” AT round.

    A quick look at Wikipedia page for Chally 2 states the Army tested a German L55 in a Chally back in 2006, as part of test the new German tungsten cored APFSDS round was considered supperior to the planned British CHARM 3.

    TD has told us before that “simply” re-gunning the Chally 2 turret with the smoothbore wont work, smoothbore uses single piece ammo, UK rifled uses two piece (propelling charge and warhead)- so the whole tank would have to be re-designed internally to accept single piece ammo.

    Hence the Jordanian Falcon turret – lift out the current one – drop in the new one. I accept James’ comments about lack of situational awareness, but at the same time challenge simply accepting his assertions without testing them.
    This link has some good pictures of it:

    Solomon – the gun makes a difference between Tank destroyer and infantry support tanks simply because I say it does ! My article, my rules….

    But seriously, long barrel does make a difference in urban scenarios, but even more so is the inability to fire it because own troops are “danger close’ to the muzzle for the blast and over pressure effects.

    My definition of tank destroyer as seperate type of vehicle is the WWII one – big gun, thinner armour – I did mention the archetypal Sherman Firefly in the article for that very reason.

  51. Oops hit send too quick

    Yes a Supacat with a Javelin launcher is a tank destroyer.

    Yes the Apache and it’s ilk are cool, but the iron triangle applies to combat helo’s too – big on the mobility, low on the protection ! Look at the abortive GW2 scenario to find a Republic Guard when a whole regiment or more flew over a city (can’t remember which one) – Iraq’s were waiting, passed the fire order by turning off / on the city’s lights and then lit up with small arms, MG’s and stuff – Apache’s had to scrub the mission, ever helo hit multiple times, all had various system failures, multiple crew wounded and I believe one helo went down and crew were captured – with nothing more than lots and lots of small arms fire ?

  52. @ 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.
    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.
    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.

  53. 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…

  54. Hi Jed,

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

  55. @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?

  56. 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?

  57. @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 :-)

  58. 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..

  59. 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.

  60. @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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

  63. 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?

  64. @ 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.

  65. 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.

  66. James

    While I am highly deferential to your experience, which I dont have, there is considerable difference between zooming around heads out in your CVR(T) and ‘wading through fire’ in the Urban scenarious is there not ?

    For example the only kill on a Chally 2 by another Chally 2 happened because the HESH round hit the open commanders hatch and blast, heat etc directed down through the open hatch and set of ready rounds in the turret (killing 2 crew). Yes I now that was only 1 particular flukey incident, but the Chally’s that took 19 and 70 (?) RPG’s would not have survived if they had not been buttoned up ?

    Also the first WWII / Korea / Vietnam war lesson the Yanks (and us I suppose) learned in Iraq was the requirement for gun shields on MG’s – because people standing up in hatches are bullet magnets !

    Now the cavalry also use the very open, hardly-armoured-at-all wheeled vehicles such as the Jackal to get that heads out situational awareness, but does the same strict set of rules apply when your going to need the thermal imager or CCD with zoom and the laser rangefinder to get the 4km kill shot on an enemy MBT anyway?

  67. Mr Fred – I understand your points ref fitting an autoloader for a smoothbore into the existing Chally 2 turret, problem here is cost.

    The options appear to be:
    1. Continue to produce rifled ammunition – relative cost unknown (to me)
    2. Lift out Chally 2 turret, replace with existing design with say 75% capability, to get smoothbore gun – relative cost low to medium ?
    3. Modify existing turret to fit smoothbore gun – relative cost, potentially VERy high
    4. Ditch Chally 2 for something else (Leopard 2 and M1 have been mentioned) – mmmm’ medium perhaps ?
    5. Replace capabilities provided by MBT with something else e.g. FRES SV based big gun (like CV90120T) – relative cost – medium ?

  68. @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

  69. 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.

  70. 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?

  71. …(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.

  72. 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.

  73. 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.

  74. 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.

  75. 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.

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

    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.”

  77. Gareth, thats bloody spooky

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

  78. @ 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.

  79. 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).

  80. 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.

  81. 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).

  82. “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.

  83. 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.

  84. 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.”

  85. 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.

    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?

  86. 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.

  87. .. 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.

  88. “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

  89. OK everyone – please read the comments – the discussion about replacement of Chally 2 with something else is absolutely linked to upgrade of gun to NATO standard smoothbore OR re-starting manufacture of 120mm rifled ammo.

    Also see James comments rife optics/EO/fire control.

    So it’s not the idea of replacing Chally 2 with second had Leo II or M1 “for the sake of it” – it is all basically driven by the lack of ammunition production for it’s existing main armament.

    Do we have the industrial capability to manufacture 120mm rifled ammo any more ? No idea…

  90. 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.

  91. 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.

  92. 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?

  93. @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

  94. 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.

  95. 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.

  96. 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.

  97. 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.

  98. 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.)

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

  100. 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.

  101. @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.

  102. 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.

  103. @jackstaff

    “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.

  104. Observer

    Any news on how Russians got on with Sprut SD?

    I think they were only made in small numbers.

  105. 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.

  106. @IXION

    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.

  107. 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.

  108. 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
    – starts with underslung tanks…in the 1930s!

  109. 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.

  110. @ACC

    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.

  111. 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.”

  112. 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.

    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.

  113. @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.

  114. 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?

  115. 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.

  116. 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.

  117. 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.

  118. 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?)

  119. 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?

  120. Hello all, I am back to my thread… :-)

    I wonder if the modern 60 tonne plus MBT has become as self licking lolly – – need a big tank to carry a big gun to kill the other guys big tank…..

    Advanced hit-to-kill interceptors and reactive armour might take care of even the biggest dual warhead RPG and even more advanced (top attack) ATGW, while the long rod penetrator APFSDS round is cheaper than a gun launched missile, then the MBT remains a cost effective AFV killer that has the ability to carry many rounds(which can be switched around for more general purpose HE in the infantry support role). Meanwhile the modern engines gives pretty good manouvre abilities even at it’s considerable all up mass.

    However that big high velocity anti-tank gun is really no good for infantry support (despite the new ammunition designed for the role) because it can’t be fired in close proximity to ones own troops.

    Sooooo, here is my modest proposal:

    1. Take 120 Chally 2 and fit the Falcon turret with the RUAG or Rheinmetal smoothbore – these are really tank destroyers. 60 each in one regular and one TA regiment.

    2. Take another 120 Chally 2 and fit BAe AMS II 120mm smooth bore breach loading mortars in the turret – making them heavy infantry support tanks. If the mortar makes more room in the turret swap out the 7.62mm co-ax for 12.7mm or even a 40mm GMG (!) – fit 1 or 2 RWS on turret roof. 60 each in one regular and one TA regiment.

    3. Take a page out of the old Thompson-Brandt “gun-mortar” book and develop a “mortar in a shell” round with combustible casing, to throw a medium velocity HEAT round to a decent range to use against non-MBT level AFV’s. Buy IAI LAHAT or build own version of tube launched ATGW. Also make sure there is a thermobaric anti-bunker / anti-building round for it.

    4. Whether tracked FRES SV or some variant of 8 x 8 – don’t fit any of them with “medium to high velocity” 105mm or 120mm “tank guns” – instead fit the 120mm breach loading mortar, single type of vehicle can do direct fire support, indirect fire support and anti-tank overwatch (with LAHAT or whatever).

    5. Fit all 40mm CTA armed vehicles, be they upgraded Warrior, FRES SV, or wheeled, with at least 2 turret mounted Javelin. Designated anti-armour platoon vehicles can carry an infantry Javelin team in the back and / or more rounds, but all other vehicles have at least the 2.

    So, with fast air, Apache, ATGW armed AFV’s we should be good with a regiment of “tank destroyers” and a regiment of “heavy infantry support” tanks, with 4 x 12 tank squadrons working a 1 in 4 roulement. The TA regiments would share their vehicles between at least two regiments worth of personnel, to insure we could call up enough crews if required for a major deployment.

    There you go, pick that to bits…. :-)

  121. @ 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?

  122. 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.)


    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.

  123. 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?

  124. Jed, I must admit I am rather taken with the idea of taking some of the CR2 hulls and putting a range of turrets on them, 120mm mortar, high elevation 90mm, 40mm CTA, Hellfire, 155mm, LMM, take your pick

    I also think we need to start thinking seriously about operations in an urban setting and using these modified CR2’s as infantry assault vehicles and even fighty recce vehicles equipped with elevating masts/platforms

    The more I think about a CR2 equipped with a 20 or 30m elevating hydraulic platform with multi sensor head and a handful of LMM’s on it is something that would be bloody fantastic in an urban context

    I know I know

    Off for a lie down

  125. @ TD,

    …am filled with horror at your bastardised Chally hull suggestions! Have you ever tried to keep a Chally going in field conditions? Needs 4 fairly full time, plus the fitter section and a biggish LAD.

    Most of the armour is on the turrets, so you’d lose some weight, but you are still a 40 ton lumbering noisy beast without the turret. 40 tons is not a good weight for something with much diminished protection.

    A 20-30m elevating platform is going to take all of the hull space when in collapsed position, and at that height is going to require huge amounts of bracing to counter tilt, camber and wind, particularly if firing anything with recoil.

    Indirect fire in urban contexts is only going to be used in general war, as ROE will make it useless in anything less than WW3. We had huge problems firing at positively identified and laser designated targets around Dobrinja and the western suburbs of Sarajevo from Igman, even though we had 105s with a good direct view of the targets, far less indirect. I can’t see it being any different in the future.

    There are many other platforms that could take your basic concept but apply it more sensibly. Stryker is my favourite, but there could be others. All at reduced cost of acquisition, support and crew maintenance demands, and most of them better capable of manoeuvring around in a slightly more stealthy manner. Add in C-130 deployability and there is a virtuous circle going, not a vicious circle.

  126. @ a, re super heavy tanks,

    in a most complimentary fashion, I can observe that is completely out of the box thinking. Privately, I think it is as mad as a box of frogs! ;)

    Check out an overview of the super heavies at Your suggestion is among those.

    Biggest issue is with moving the b*ggers about. Just too heavy. Outside of western Europe, most roadways and bridges would struggle to cope. None of our heavy lift logistics is geared up to cope. In any normal town / city, it could not go down the minor streets, leaving it extremely vulnerable to being outflanked and making movement extremely predictable. The glass on the optics having been shattered by grenades, what then? A blind elephant with a fat arse in a space in which it cannot turn around.

  127. Hi James, I agree, but playing Devil’s advocate
    “On the 30th April, Untersharfuhrer Georg Diers and his crew of tank 314, were ordered to take up a defensive position at the Reichstag buildings. This was one of only two remaining King Tigers belonging to Heavy SS Tank Battalion 503 in Berlin. By that evening they had knocked out about 30 T34s, and the following day led a successful counterattack against the Kroll Opera House directly opposite the Reichstag. Their efforts though, merely postponed the inevitable and by the end of the day the order was given to abandon the position and prepare to break out of Berlin. Tiger 314 ended the war with 39 victories. The crew survived the war.”

    Interestingly Leopard2A7 has by now reached the same weight;The full combat weight was 68,500kg when fitted with the Porsche turret and 69,800kg with the Henschel turret.
    – not ordered yet; will it ever be?
    – Chally 2 is 70 tonnes, too, with all the goodies?

  128. James, I feel a hairbrained scheme post coming on

    Am thinking of an elevating mast on a CR2 hull with laser beams and everything

    Come on, feel the love :)

  129. Re: Yes, you’d need a different turret for the 155mm – probably not such a great idea then… However, you will have to modify the C2 turret for High angle fire for the 120mm mortar… and to taget high rise buildings, etc.

  130. @TD: I can remember one very old and bold bugger at RARDE(ch) who declared that the best tank engine would be a steam one, since torque was highest at the lowest speeds. Perhaps the future 200 tonne TD-Fantasy tank can have boilers, useful for aircraft catapults and plasma pumped lasers, as well as prime propulsion?

  131. @ wf

    Steam tank? Yes, why not? We’ve had steam submarines. :)

    Electric motors give instant peak torque.

  132. If we want plasma pumped lasers it simply has to be Liquid Thorium powered Nuclear-electric !

  133. @ TD,

    already invented. I used to stand on the top of my turret (that’s the elevating part, albeit only about 1.8 metres), and could shine my laser pointer around if I heard “noises off” during nights and exercises against infantry. Nothing scares an infantryman so much as the thought of a Woolies laser pointer being pointed into his eye while he’s trying to creep up on a tank leaguer for a covert attack on an exercise. Frighteningly effective.

    Now, a real laser designator is actually going to do some damage to human eyes. We managed to set off the LWR on some Andrew floaty grey thing on an exercise off Lulworth with a Chally laser, at about 6 miles (deliberate, pre-planned, testing for effect). The ruddy boat turned smartly sideways and b*ggered off. Clearly, the Captain had not done any joint training to know that he was miles out of range, and could have carried on in safety.

    Serious note, there was some talk of China using laser-blinding weapons against US / Taiwan fast jets. Can’t find it now, it was about 5 years ago?

  134. in a most complimentary fashion, I can observe that is completely out of the box thinking. Privately, I think it is as mad as a box of frogs! ;)

    A fair point and well made. :)

    But I would say that this isn’t the first time we’ve had the “too heavy for bridges/transports” argument – we used to have 30t Shermans and 38t Churchills, and the Centurion wasn’t supposed to go above the 40t limit, but it did, and tactics and transports adapted. Then we brought in the 55t Chieftain and then the 70t Challenger 20.

    Tanks (like combat aircraft) seem to be getting heavier and heavier. I’m just going with the flow. Moving tanks by air is barely practical even now – you put them on ships.

    The more serious part is “modular, re-roleable and futureproofed” – we need to be able to put in a new sort of power pack when one is invented (so this probably means hybrid drive trains, which would be good for x’s torque point of view too) or a new turret gun or a new mission pack.

    And “infantry proof” – which we have at the moment in the CR2. But if you can build an infantry-proof MBT for only 50t using fancy active defences and composites, then great; I’m not going to insist it has to weigh 95t just for the principle of the thing.

  135. Serious note, there was some talk of China using laser-blinding weapons against US / Taiwan fast jets.

    That might have been the RN in the Falklands as well, actually.

  136. @James

    Look under latest Chinese tanks, most of them seem to come with laser blinders, not really sure how effective they can be. Maybe they play games with missiles like the Safeguard? It’s a bit of a black box area. (Type 98/99)

  137. Sure that this “come with laser blinders, not really sure how effective they can be” is not a translation error?
    – are we perhaps talking about counter-measures that stop the AFV from being effectively (or at all) lased with a target designator

  138. My daughter put a sign on her bedroom door in an attempt to keep my son from bugging her:

    “Warning. Big scary laser. Do not look into beam with remaining eye”

  139. One way to get a universal tank, suited to a variety of warfare, is to really go to town on the modular nature. A base structure with an oversized drive train that you can then pile on armour and protective systems onto dependant on the threat would seem sensible.

    Fighting insurgents with RPG7, small arms and IEDs? Then pile on the lightweight armour set to keep the logistics train small.

    Going high intensity? Heavier armour biased towards the front is the order of business. Tailor it to the weapon set you are facing too.

    If said universal tank is a hybrid with multiple generator sets then the lighter incarnations don’t need to run all the generators in order to meet the power requirements. Fuel savings then abound.

    If you go further down the modular route then you could end up with a modular gun mount that would mount ordnance as appropriate to your role. COIN work could allow a lighter gun (90 or 105) to permit more stowed rounds or a 120mm mortar for a shorter barrel if it really gives an advantage. That said, the need for a 120mm mortar because you can’t use a standard tank gun in proximity to dismounted infantry doesn’t really hold water because you can always short-load your HE rounds to reduce muzzle blast. You could even set your fire control to different permissible arcs depending on which ammunition is loaded, thereby permitting higher elevation when firing reduced charges.

    Quite the job qualifying all that and creating a design that is optimised across all the weapon systems.

  140. Hi Mr fred,

    This sort of thing “Fighting insurgents with RPG7, small arms and IEDs? Then pile on the lightweight armour set to keep the logistics train small” (as also in TUSK and in Street Fighter) is reflected in the first two minutes of the following:

    And as for “Going high intensity? Heavier armour biased towards the front is the order of business. Tailor it to the weapon set you are facing too.”
    – this is the various AMAP configurations (the next-gen Cobham), but more modular, as being actioned by Germany (50 on order, if the latest cuts did not bite into it), Sweden (two prototypes fielded) and Finland (riding on the back of the Swedish and Turkish upgrade kits).

  141. One way to get a universal tank, suited to a variety of warfare, is to really go to town on the modular nature. A base structure with an oversized drive train that you can then pile on armour and protective systems onto dependant on the threat would seem sensible.

    Exactly what I was getting at. Though I’d add the point that insurgents increasingly have access to stuff that can get through all but the heaviest armour – as events this week have unfortunately shown.

    If said universal tank is a hybrid with multiple generator sets then the lighter incarnations don’t need to run all the generators in order to meet the power requirements. Fuel savings then abound.

    Flip that around: if you’re going heavy, then one of the addons is another modular diesel generator, to give the power to the electrics that they’ll need to shift all that extra armour and weaponry. Spec the hub motors to handle that current if necessary, and run them at half maximum power when you’re running light, on just the one diesel generator that’s permanently fitted.

    This decreases the box-of-frogs element pointed out by James: you won’t be driving that 95t tank everywhere. You’ll be driving a 50t tank, with a couple of trucks in the logistics train carrying your extra modular protection and weapons fit, like squires carrying the knight’s lance and plate armour, to be donned when necessary.

  142. When I said “Do we need a 60 Tonne MBT” it was really in the context of the MRB’s and FF2020, not really as in the “future of the MBT” – so modular electric is probably as fanciful as nuclear powered and plasma cannon armed – we don’t have the budget to develop it ourselves right now, so it’s probably “off topic” really.

  143. ACC,
    I would view TUSK and Street Fighter as almost the antithesis of what I was suggesting. Both those systems take a high intensity armour array and add to it in the attempt to provide 360 degree protection.
    It would make more sense to take off some of the thick frontal armour that substantially overmatches the threat and redistribute the weight elsewhere or simply have an all around lighter solution.

    I wouldn’t call a 30t IFV “The heaviest armour”, but your point is a good one. It is always possible for the insurgents to put more HE down than can be practically dealt with.

    With the hybrid vehicle, I would suggest multiple gen-sets to start with so there is the capacity to tailor the generating capacity to the mission at hand. i.e. silent watch, pootling about or rampaging over sand berms. The add-on generators idea is a good one though. The lighter version can use the space for stowage/fuel to operate for longer periods without resupply. I wouldn’t envisage that these vehicles would deploy with a baggage train clanking around behind it but rather that it would be set up as appropriate in the UK then deployed, although you could use the modular nature to break the overall unit down into more manageable loads. You could send the armour/engine sets out in ISO containers that then serve double function as a workshop to support the vehicles in theatre.

    There’s always a way to bring it back on topic. For example, we need to know what we want to replace CR2 with, so we can see if we can drip feed otherwise revolutionary technologies in to existing vehicles. Few of the proposals use all the CR2s, so perhaps we should set aside ten or twenty for such development work. Can we replace a CR2’s drive train with a hybrid electric system? Could we strip a couple of their Chobham packs to lighten them? Replace the heavy armour with something lighter?

  144. Hi Mr. fred,

    I know ,”TUSK and Street Fighter as almost the antithesis of what I was suggesting. Both those systems take a high intensity armour array and add to it in the attempt to provide 360 degree protection.
    It would make more sense to take off some of the thick frontal armour that substantially overmatches the threat and redistribute the weight elsewhere or simply have an all around lighter solution”

    That’s what AMAp does, but
    – I wanted to pick up the discussion from where it was left (infantry support tank vs. TUSK and other kits as just a part of it)
    – I also did not want to make it sound like a Leo2 advert (because both AMAP and Leo come from Germany, only Sweden and Turkey, so far, are working on doing bespoke applications… which are changeable, according to what is expected in the way of primary threats)

  145. I thought the Universal Tank was invented about 70 years ago? I do believe under a different name though. I think they called it a Main Battle Tank.

    Are we not reinventing the wheel here and again throwing technology and cool kit at problems that can be solved by the proper employment of tanks in combined arms operations?

  146. Phil,

    I think that the concept for a “universal tank” is what became the MBT, but that’s just splitting hairs.

    As for throwing cool kit at problems, are the following not considered cool kit:
    Thermal imagers
    Stabilised guns
    Commander’s independent sights
    Powered tensioning on the tracks
    Hydrogas suspension
    Quick removable powerpacks
    Chobham armour
    Remote Weapons Stations
    Bar armour
    Laser rangefinders?

    Because that seems to me like a list of things that can be substituted for by tactics and combined arms, but really make the armoured force more effective.

  147. No I don’t rate them as cool kit, they’re pretty standard these days and for good reasons as you say. But really, is there any kit out there now that would increase effectiveness enough to justify the extra complexity and loss of resilience?

  148. Phil,
    Could you have used the same argument against anything on that list, at the time it was introduced? I would contend that you could.

    The ideas posited usually aim to reduce weight and fuel consumption, increase mobility and protection, maximise available and appropriate firepower and improve situational awareness. All of these are generally accepted to be of some use to the armoured formation.

    The AFV itself is a system born of throwing technology and cool kit at problems that could have been solved by “proper employment of existing equipment in combined arms operation”.
    We could have made do with image intensifiers, or searchlights.
    We could have made do with halting to fire.
    We could have made do with APDS and cast steel armour.
    We didn’t.
    We threw cool kit and technology at the AFV and introduced complex systems which reduced the overall resilience of the system because it gave us an advantage. Some tactical, some logistical. Unless we keep innovating or at least being aware of how we can innovate, we’re going to end up with a bunch of under armoured, under gunned cruiser tanks. Again.
    If we allow ourselves to stop testing new systems, instead waiting for the next big thing, we are going to end up going to war in FFLAV. Or TRACER. Or FRES.

  149. The AFV itself is a system born of throwing technology and cool kit at problems that could have been solved by “proper employment of existing equipment in combined arms operation”.

    This is spot on – go right back to the birth of the tank, and on the German side they were inventing new tactics using existing equipment (Stosstruppe, infiltration etc) rather than coming up with the New Hotness (Mark I Tank). (And of course the Allies were inventing new tactics all the time as well…)

    I thought the Universal Tank was invented about 70 years ago? I do believe under a different name though. I think they called it a Main Battle Tank.

    I think the idea here is not to create a Universal Tank but a Flexible Tank – one that can be a recce platform or a tank killer or a breaching/assault gun as required.

    I think the real lesson from history here is, as I alluded above, that Stuff Gets Heavier. It’s inevitable. The first thing the tankies will want to do once we give them their shiny new 60t tank is to hang another couple of tonnes of kit on it. And then another couple…

  150. Modular tank is an interesting concept that could be worth a look at, but I can see one major problem. Size. If you put in support systems for possible add on modules, the tank is going to get a bit large. This means a bigger target, heavier armour (more surface area to cover against “standard” projectiles), tonnage creep, heavier or over heavy engines for extra module weight etc. You can easily end up in the super heavy category.

  151. I think that you would have to start with a number of defined fits rather than an open ended “put on whatever you want” philosophy.
    So, for example, a nominal combat weight of 60t, a growth path to 70t but also an identified path to reduce to 50t.
    You don’t need the whole of a Challenger’s front array to stop an RPG7, but if it’s built in you can’t take that weight and redistribute it over weak spots. Most modern MBT upgrades end up with added protection down the sides but tailing out towards the rear, ending up with only bar armour, presumably because much of the weight is concentrated and fixed at the front.

  152. Not to mention sometimes, there is a big engine at the back which needs to be ventilated…

  153. At the very strong risk of sounding as though I wasted my years in tanks, I really think that the days of the tank are fast approaching their end. In 50 years, I don’t think that the tank as we know it will exist. Challenger 2 has another 20 years of life in it with some mid-term upgrades, but after that, I think we should be looking at other alternatives to a 70 tonne lumbering beast. I think we should be looking at a 20 tonne (maximum) protected assault vehicle.

    I’m not talking about sci-fi electric armour, although if that is available and affordable, so much to the good.

    We live in a globalised world. Strategic mobility should be weighted far more than heavy steel protection. 20 tonnes (max) gets you into strategic mobility far more than 70 tonne monsters.

    The old arms race of protection vs firepower has been lost by protection. 10 kilo anti-tank missiles with a 4 km range can now kill modern tanks, before the tank commander has spotted the well camouflaged infantryman 4 kms away, and certainly before he can do anything other than lob a HESH shell at him. Attack helicopters can kill a squadron of tanks in the open with impunity from a greater range. Going for “even more” protection is delaying the inevitable.

    Stealth technologies are making even quite large vehicles more difficult to find: composites reduce radar signatures, design and IR shielding mask heat sources. You can make a Jackal virtually disappear to sensors, but that Jackal can be packing a serious punch with missiles.

    There will never be anything to replace the sensation of driving onto an objective in a Chally and grinding the tracks into an enemy trench (or of then finding a severed hand stuck in the tracks at the next halt parade, which was the experience of a mate of mine), but that is a scenario of increasingly limited likelihood.

    We’d be better at trying to find the right balance of stealth, lethality and mobility over distance as a new paradigm to replace the old firepower, protection and manoeuvre triad that has dominated tank design for the last 100 years.

  154. the only weak point of Abrams? “big engine at the back which needs to be ventilated…”

  155. Ahh! Back to millimeter radars, re:
    “Stealth technologies are making even quite large vehicles more difficult to find: composites reduce radar signatures, design and IR shielding mask heat sources.”

    When such radars were thought to transform the battle field, the French funded a stealth tank prototype. I’m sure it is made of some super-duper composite, but the funny side of it was that it turned out looking just like an Abrams
    – so could that beast be transformed, too?

  156. I must confess to being almost completely perplexed when people claim the death of the tank.

    Because to claim that is to claim that we do not need mobile, armoured firepower. It is to claim that both artillery and machine guns are also obsolete.

    My only explanation is that what people really mean when they say “The tank is dead” is:
    “The MBT as we know it, that is to say a 60tonne-plus, turreted, gun-armed and passively protected, is dead.”
    Which is:
    A) not the same thing at all and
    B) wrong.
    That line has been trotted out for the introduction of the dedicated anti-tank gun, the shaped charge, guided anti-tank rockets and top-attack artillery munitions. In every case the heavy, passively protected and gun-armed tank has subsequently proved most useful in combat.

    The main reason that I can think of is that people fail to think in terms of combined arms. Helicopters may be able to put down tank formations, but fast jets will make mincemeat out of helicopters and MANPADS are a pretty severe threat to the things as well. Infantry with ATGW may be able to kill tanks, but that’s what artillery and supporting infantry is for – get rid of infantry harassing your armour while the armour gets rid of machine guns etc. that are troubling your infantry and provides protection and mobility to avoid artillery fire.

    Without protected mobility you can be fixed by machine guns and destroyed by artillery. If your protected mobility doesn’t have an offensive capacity, you will be destroyed by direct-fire weapons before you can deploy your infantry

  157. Re mobility, is a 70t MBT significantly less mobile than a smaller vehicle? Given that most of our new protected patrol vehicles are so heavy that airlift is impractical, they are restricted to sea, rail and road transport the same as an MBT. Accepting that a big vehicle is less manoeuvrable in tight urban confines, does the mantra of building bigger is better not have some value?

    Non Army type here I hasten to add!

  158. @ Mr Fred,

    thanks for that. Maybe my 22 years of service were completely in vain. I wasted all of those years in a combined arms Army, all of those campaigns in sandy places and elsewhere, without realising that a combined arms solution is in fact the way ahead. It’s a matter of deep regret that those two years I spent commanding a combined arms squadron group were so wasted on my tiny little brain. Those attacks on Objective Lead Alfa, Bravo and Charlie, combining direct and indirect fire, air delivered munitions and EW in a time-coordinated assault made zero impression at all.

    You might have missed to sentence in my post where I advocate a protected assault vehicle.

  159. @james, after that rather frank confession i’ve put the mess webley in the ante room, don’t forget to ring the bell as you pass the bar! ;-)

  160. @ James

    If you had been in a 60 tonne MBT would you have still taken that short cut through that village?

  161. X,

    if I’d known that my summer holiday with the then main current squeeze (Lord knows what she sees in the Tory MP she is currently married to) was about to be comprehensively trashed by Gen Sir Anthony Horror- F*ckley, I’d have taken a short cut through the mansion house, dinner party or not.

  162. James – the closest I have got to being in armour is serving with Cavalry types who were attached to Psyops, and having a Dad who was in the Blues in Korea – BUT – doesn’t your rather sarcastic presentation of your CV somewhat run at odds with the comments you make in the post which Mr Fred was commeting on ?

    I realize you said “in 50 years…..” but then you specifically call out threats which I agree with Mr Fred, all SEEM to be dealt with by a combined arms philosphy.

    So, that said can you expand some more on why, despite your experience in this field, you STILL feel the way you do about the future ???

  163. James,
    I would note that “Protected Assault Vehicle” = “tank” in most people’s language.

    I would also point out that I was making a general comment inspired by your post rather than a direct response – When making direct responses I try to use names – as above.

    Lastly, what Jed said.

  164. @ James re Tory MP

    Perhaps he has a cupboard well stock with a variety of breakfast cereals from Waitrose?

  165. Jed,

    (with my reasonable head on)

    Tanks are only really valuable as anti-armour killers in a free-ranging role, where their tactical mobility and relatively quick fire control solutions can dominate out to about a mile. It is probably heretical to observe that the “shock action” effect is largely over-emphasised.

    The effective killing on an objective is done by infantrymen de-bussing from the back of an armoured bus. Yes, in conventional terms tanks lead in, but you have to appreciate that the visibility from a closed-down tank is really rubbish, and that in most cases tanks can only do that once, as a combination of direct and indirect fire shatters the optics. Paul G will probably confirm that most Brigade REME battalions are not scaled up with immediate supplies to replace the optics on a dozen tanks, and indeed that it is a 6 hour job to swap out the optics and then you need somewhere to confirm accuracy by fire (CABF), AKA zeroing in.

    We did some trials in BATUS. It was a lot better in simplistic terms to conduct a deliberate assault with Warrior only, with the tanks firing them in from about a kilometre away. This completely flew in the face of accepted doctrine, caused huge upset in Bovington and also Warminster, and was stopped by DRAC. It was like fighting City Hall. But the data was empirical, and reported in the end of year BATUS report. That got squashed and was not circulated as is normal.

    A protected assault vehicle – Warrior for the 2020s – gives the infantry protection from weapons up to about 14.5mm, and with the lovely depression of the Warrior guns to about -10 degrees gives them the ability to drive up close to a bunker and stonk it.

    So if the tanks are sitting off one kilometre firing in the PAVs, do they need to be tanks? Not in my book. They can be “adequately” protected, and invest the design in making space for a range of weaponry, from GW to AGL, HMGs, and a good ISTAR suite on a mast. Nothing on a battlefield is risk free, and lives will be lost, but an overall investment decision would I am sure result in an intelligent decision to not replace Challenger 2, in favour of a rather larger number of more useful vehicles.

  166. X,

    that one completely flew above my head. I do know that he’s got a pretty depressed wife who arrived at short notice to spend Christmas with us, but went home on Boxing Day.

  167. @ James

    Well you have admitted here on this webby-bloggy thingy that you do run out of cereal…

  168. Hi James,

    Everything you say (@10:03 pm) makes sense, just a note and one speculation

    RE “valuable as anti-armour killers in a free-ranging role, where their tactical mobility and relatively quick fire control solutions can dominate out to about a mile.”
    – Chally may have the record (of a kill out to 5 km) but now the gun-launched missiles cover out to 8 km
    – there are already three tanks with tracking and autolaying FCSs (Leclerc, Korean K2 and the Turks have borrowed that system to their new tank)… so that is really quick

    But about your closing comment, to have a bigger number of cheaper/ simpler AFVs 1 km to the back
    – perhaps that idea is being worked on
    – UK has a joint project with Japan to develop a 155mm autoloader. So doing that (instead of what everyone else has been doing, a caliber change up, to 52 abouts, which was deemed unnecessary in the light range and accuracy of rocketry)would give the AS90s a very meaningful role again. The speed is unknown but I think over 30 rounds are being targeted

  169. Thinking about it,
    AS90 has mobility and ample number of rounds carried as its plusses
    AS90’s weak point in the role would be being armoured only (?) up to MG & splinters level
    – but in indirect fire being exposed to direct fire would be less likely?

  170. @ ACC re AS90 direct fire

    Gawd you would have to be brave. As for mobility have you seen the length of the barrel on those things?

    (In WW2 weren’t German self self-propelled tanker killers all classed as artillery?)

  171. X,

    yes. forgot about that little incident. Having a stock of cereal does make for happy children, but I think the grown ups need rather more in their lives.

  172. @James, can’t say I’m surprised by your BATUS discovery. I long regarded the ‘shock action’ thing as a bit suss, I think it originates in the effect of heavy cavalry on infantry and one particular battle in the Peninisular War (which escapes me at the moment) where the timing was ‘just right’, a tad dodgy as the basis for tactics two centuries later. Its the WW1 experience that’s relevant, suppress with arty for as long as possible, infantry close as quick as possible after fire lifts. Sov research in 1970s concluded this was 2 mins max, based on the time it took to decide fire had stopped and move into fighting mode, I think it could be less than 2 mins, but wpns like AGLs/GMGs may fill the gap, as may mounted assaults. Msl armed tank destroyers may be better than MBTs, particularly if Swingfire like remote firing were possible, but would probably cause even more constenation around DRAC, particularly if RHA put their hand up again!


    AS-90 has normal armour, ie protection against 155mm splinters at 15M. However the 39 cal barrel barely extends beyond the front of the hull. The urban advantage is elev to 70 degrees. During trials AS-90 demonstrated the same rate of fire as PzH2000, 10 rds/min. This is fine at short ranges, eg urban direct fire, for long ranges (ie high charges) it runs into barrel thermal management issues, that’s why the intense rate (6 rds/min, is limited to 3 mins). Thermal mgmt is not widely appreciated, it’s not a issue with antiques like M109 and neither the Germans nor Dutch seem to have had to do any serious firing from PzH2000 (and some of the NL experience I’ve heard suggest it has issues with significant barrel warming effect – in Afg they had to fire 2 warmers somewhere safe before starting on the actual tgt, of course this might just abe a quaint dutch practice).

  173. @James: I agree with the notion that a tank per se is probably on it’s way out. Provided hyper velocity missiles of one sort or another arrive (CKEM or similar) we have a solution that equals the tank gun’s rate of fire and ability to do kinetic energy attack without the associated weight.

    But even assuming that a 20 tonne IFV assault vehicle was possible (very unlikely given how indispensable steel is proving), there’s no aircraft available that could provide a meaningful level of strategic mobility for say, a brigade for the UK or a division for the US. Unless Boeing build their Super Pelican :-)

  174. James, I think you may be a tad pessimistic with regards to the MBT. Yes, ATGM armed infantry is death to tanks, but ATGM infantry do have their own weaknesses, mainly, lack of ammo. Those missiles tend to be heavy, and with ADS systems, there is a possibility of simply out enduring the enemy’s supply of missiles, which I estimate to be about 8 per team more or less. Arty? Dumb rounds, you just get the hell out of there. Laser Guided? Pop smoke and pray.

    I do agree that going too far on the combined ops thingy can sometimes be counterproductive, like the exercise you mentioned, park tanks as fire support if they got problems in closed terrain, but on flat fields? It’s the infantry holding them back then.

    Long story short,I think the MBT especially ADS equiped MBTs, won’t be going away, but the utility of it will be reduced. You’ll have to be more circumspect using them but they will still be useful in cases like charging medium armour on open terrain.

  175. Hi Observer,

    A good point “with ADS systems, there is a possibility of simply out enduring the enemy’s supply of missiles”
    – that’s the defensive

    The offensive is gun-fired missiles reaching out to 14 mls+ (Looks like I hadn’t done my research, with my previous 8 km statement). Targeting?
    – the beam-riding LAHAT is already obsolescent
    – when the Israelis talk about celestial guidance, it is not GPS or an archangel. Rather, the Merkava’s carry man launched UAVs (yes, there is a troop compartment in the back)which are connected not only to the launching tank, but the Command Tank as well. So lasing & top-attack combined, while themselves sitting within the Trophy/ Iron Fist cupola against attacks from closer in.

  176. With “celestial guidance” and from a few days ago the “rod of God” this blog is becoming almost evangelical.

  177. Amen. :P

    “I’ve been chosen… by the big metal hand in the sky!” (Warcraft reference)


    Smoke works against lasing and aerial observation too. Not to mention the simple expedient of simply shooting the damn bugger down if they knew it was there. (Another good reason for not running around buttoned up in a tank). UAV ops are a bit.. interesting. The UAV’s engine tends to be noisy and noticable while running, so what is usually done is to fly it up high, then cut the engine and glide over the target area before turning it on and climbing again.

  178. Hi Observer,

    For that “Smoke works against lasing and aerial observation too” you need to have a few AH-64s with their targeting kit, hovering over the horizon, ie. not exposing themselves until all other ,tricks’ have run their course (as they are quite pricey to replace).

    All the UAV issues you mention are valid; have a look at the design the Israelis have the man in the back launch. They’ve even added a double hatch so that once the launching has been done, the rest can be done from under cover (most of it is done through the data link anyway, but when the time for recovery comes 5-10 hrs later, it will be useful to see it).

  179. BTW ACC, just a bit of a backtrack,I just saw the old post, no, the Chinese tanks have “laser blinders”. What they mean, I have absolutely no idea, they’re not saying much. Possible ideas are it flooding the target’s laser rangefinder with trash data, Safeguard missile spoofing, or laser guided missiles sensor blinding.

    Or the Chinese have got 1st Contacct with Aliens and they got traded the laser as a main gun… :P

  180. There are laser dazzlers out there that are green light lasers that are particularly distracting to the human eye. Most frequently in the news for idiots with powerful laser pointers trying to dazzle aircraft pilots but there are versions that mount onto rifles.

    At close range, these can cause permanent eye damage, so a more powerful laser would be a blinder. However, blinding weapons targeted at people are illegal by international agreement.

    On the other hand, targeting electro-optics is not illegal and image intensifiers/LLLTV cameras are particularly sensitive to near-visible infra-red, so maybe they are designed to attack those.

  181. Mr fred, thanks for the link, the Chinese MBT was mentioned midway down the article. It does look like a counter laser system designed to mess up optics and targeters from the description.

    No idea how effective it’s going to be, but speaking as someone who once rode a motorcycle into a tree because my NVGs “whiteout”, I’d say it has potential.

  182. Moving away from these “counter laser system designed to mess up optics and targeters “, which many have
    – the Israeli Thor (chemical) laser is great for cooking up IEDs and the like (a little nudge with a .50 cal, if needed)

  183. Have we reached any conclusion with this?

    Leaving aside the perfectly practical argument, that what you already have is easier on the annual budget than what you have to buy new, (BIG tick in the pro chally 2 box), do we need a 60 ton tank?


    One talked of replacement is the seeming perfectly OK Leopard 2v5-7 is 50 ton bracket vehicle.

    WE will need to adddress the matter of the 120 mm gun ammo. We are going to look really silly if a Gulf 1 style conflict kicks off, and we have perfectly servicable tanks with not enough ammo.

    The physics and economics of armour are very unforgiving, and I doubt if any huge weight savings in protection against kinetic energy rounds are possible; but moderate ones are in the pipeline. It SHOULD be possible to design say a 45 ton vehicle with the same protection as the leopard but based of Fres componants.

    So lets assume the Martains land tommorow and beam up all our chally 2s. Beaming town a £5million pile of used £20 notes to replace each vehicle.

    What would you all do next to replace them?

  184. Ixion,
    The combat weight of the Leo 2 up to the 2A4 is 55t. From the 2A5 it increases to about 62t for the 2A6 and more for the 2A7 and local variants.

    Which FRES components are you thinking of? You won’t do it with the current hull and you’ll be at the very limits of the drive train.
    You also won’t match late mark Leo 2s at 45t. They’ve got pretty modern and efficient armour on them already.

  185. A good one , Ixion, as we don’t attempt summaries too often (a shame)

    – big tick for Chally 2 budget-wise; yes

    – “replacement is the seeming perfectly OK Leopard 2v5-7 is 50 ton bracket vehicle; not a replacement, but a benchmark of evolution from same generation (actually Ch2 design is of much later, but there has been more evolution with Leo2)
    — part of the evolution is the tree, by now branching into two main ones:
    1. 70 tonne 2A7 UrbOps (with PSO kit as part of it, the naming to appease politicians), cfr. 74 t Ch2 Street Fighter
    2 There are equally survivable A4 conversions with AMAP armour, going up in weight only by 0.3 t – or even down, if the configurable option is chosen

    “adddress the matter of the 120 mm gun ammo”; a good point, but the comment will be at leasst a page long (so for later)

    “The physics and economics of armour are very unforgiving”
    – a common misperception (not before, but as of today)

    “SHOULD be possible to design say a 45 ton vehicle with the same protection as the leopard but based of Fres componants”
    – been going back in time in the FRES SV selection of ASCOD, and a big “number” was made of the large turret ring and capacity for an all-up 42 t weight, to give enough strength and stability to take a 120mm gun…
    — these statements may have been made just to please the “customer” who was known to be leaning towards a future of medium armour (only)
    — as of today, there might be more to the scenario (goes back to the physics and economics of armour)

  186. Mr Fred

    Granted Leopard (like all AVFs) has but on weight.

    But it still started out as a full on MBT chassis.

    I would expect and Fres based vehicle to be physically smaller – particlary if we go for unmanned turret. I happen to think it can be a bit of a false economy to try and fit different design criteria into the same hull. But a very good idea to share engines, internal control componants, drivetrains, running gear and tracks, between vehicles so in efffect creating a 45 ton tank.

    Not only has it GOT to be cheaper that starting affesh it will hugely reduce maintanence costs.

    Also 45 tons fits withing worldwide weight limits for brideges etc 60+ does mnnoit

  187. What’s mnnoit?

    Having a 45 ton MBT with the protection of a 60 ton sounds good. Now what do we have to sacrifice for it? Remember The Sound of Music? Nothing comes from nothing. So what’s the catch? What is going to be taken out to hit the 45 ton limit?

  188. Ixion,
    Why should a FRES-based gun tank be smaller? It has more internal volume to protect
    with the current hull. If you want to fit the crew in then the internal volume would be the same as an MBT. Unmanned turrets don’t really save you that much in terms of volume and weight if you want the mission systems protected and bring with them some significant problems for a vehicle with a gun tank role.

    FRES SV’s drive train is rated to 42 tonnes. At 45 tonnes you are not only 3 tonnes (7%) over your max rating but you also have no growth allowance
    With an 800hp engine you are at 17.8hp/tonne, compared to 19.2 for Challenger at combat weight or 24.2 for a Leo2A5, so you are risking being underpowered as well.
    Running over capacity is possible but it will hurt mobility and it will reduce reliability so you will have to conduct more maintenance. Commonality savings probably won’t make up for it and the cost of optimising for a smaller chassis/drive train will probably cost more too.

    A 40t gun platform on the same chassis as FRES SV would make sense as the cheapest new option right now. You will get commonality savings that way. If we use the gun tanks to stand off at 1km and fire in support, then we might be able to get away with the lighter protection

  189. Dont forget the Poles only recently cancelled their Anders project – a front engined IFV hulled 120mm armed “light tank” of around 35 tonnes:

    Of course it has an unmanned turret just to piss off James ! This link says ‘combat weight’ with upgraded armour could be up to 45 tonnes

    With 720bhp engine it would only get 16hp per tonne, so a bigger engine might be a good idea.

    To James point ref ‘shock action’ be over rated – well I don’t know enough from personal experience to argue the point. The ‘shock” of HE landing on you is still provided by the slight stand off distance for the “supporting” tanks – and at 1km that could be 120mm gun-mortar rather than a high velocity tank gun.

    So Perhaps we should just go for licencsed production of Merkava 4 and Namer !!

  190. @Jed, he doesn’t mean “shock” as in HE concussion, he means “shock” as in sudden attack with extremely heavy forces, causing massive coonfusion, dick waving and sitting around wondering “how the hell are we going to get those 60ton monsters off our doorstep?”

  191. Yes Observer thank you, I did actually understand that as being what he meant :-)

    I thought I had point that out by saying “The shock of HE landing on you” – Obviously I did not make it clear enough that I was differentiating between the two.

  192. Obviously :P

    James is worried that the day of the MBT is over, and you wanted to bring in Merevka and Namer? … hmm.. isn’t it like: “NOO!! The cat’s drowning!!!… pour more water on it!!!” :) And besides, I thought there was a financial crisis going on?

    If you do want to go down the 45ton MBT route, I can think of a few ways, though I’d seriously not recommend trying them until the economy is better.

    1) Armour up to 0.5cal proof.
    2) ADS/s system with a fair size stockpile of ammo.
    3) 30/40mm rapid fire system or twin Motar/RR turret (120mm too heavy for a twin system).
    4) 40mm GMG co-ax.

    This is probably the bare minimum survivability/capability I can think of. 0.5 cal and below is handled by armour, APFSDS, HEAP and ATGM rounds intercepted by the AMS. Biggest threat would be 20-40mm quick firers in medium tanks.

    Twin main weapon system or quickfirer to bypass enemy AMS, GMG for enemy infantry supression or house clearing.

    It’s by no means an “outstanding” napkin design, in fact, it’s near borderline crap, but it’s crap that might get the job done.

  193. RE “the Poles only recently cancelled their Anders project – a front engined IFV hulled 120mm armed “light tank” of around 35 tonnes”
    – Anders is an improved CV (which they trialled forever)
    – the similar upgrade for CV has been around for ages (and has not sold)

    For the medium, the habitat is still restricted to mountains (the Austrian Kurassier sold well; India is looking for 300 but there is nothing in the market that would be uptodate), jungle (as in what the Thais have in service) or amphibious (mainly outside the “West”).

  194. Hi Observer,

    Putting all of these
    “Twin main weapon system or quickfirer to bypass enemy AMS, GMG for enemy infantry supression or house clearing.”

    on a shared chassis (not as in all of them on one)has a lot to say for it, because you make a good point about what actually can get through ADSs (not that many have those today, e.g. the first one ever, in Russia, never made it to service).

    So think somewhere in the middle of A)a wheeled AMV/ tracked CV and B) the Russian T-72 conversion with twin fast cannon, two (not twin, but an operator for each, GMG) not to forget the missiles, to make sure not to be at a range disadvantage, even though they are normally twinned with tanks that have the gun/missile combo anyway… but this last thought restricts the concept to MBT conversions
    – expensive in one way, but a lot of them around (paid for) thinking in a different way

    Double 120mm turret (with AMOS) is only 3 tonne, and can go on an AMV or a CV

  195. ACC

    By : “Anders is an improved CV (which they trialled forever)”

    Are you suggesting that the Anders is based on the CV90 ? Because it’s not, it was a net new design, for a family of AFV, they started with the tank version, but also produced prototypes of the AIFV. Yes they did indeed undertake a long trail of CV90 including the CV90120T I believe.

    As far as I have read, and that includes google translate of Polish papers it was a clean sheet design created in Poland.

  196. Going back to the summary that IXION was trying to tease out (as usual, got shot down on the detail):

    I think that
    1. going down the LeoA4 upgrades path with AMAP armour (modular and swappable) can get us back to 45-50t range (we are not at 60, really, but at 70, with the state of the art)
    2. we go with the improved (from)German 120mm as on the latest Merkava and all the ammo/ missiles that go with, and the volume that makes Merkava to be 65 t can be reduced (to hit “1” above)because of the one shot- one kill
    3. as per Observer’s point the best chance of getting through active defences is with “quick firers”, or just simply picking up one target at a time with smart rounds so that the ADS can’t cope with the incoming (needs supreme targeting & networking on the firing side)
    – as always, ‘both’ is probably the answer
    4. suppressing infrantry (before and after dismounting) needs more and more tank-installed mortars right upfront (GMGs or accurate long-shot’s as in the 60mm by South Africa/ Israel, out to 3200 m, and directed by the same computer as the main gun)
    5. moving heavy mortars “under armour” with the armour will also be necessary, which was the lesson from Yom Kippur War (160mm is good, Israel, Russia and Finland are always cited… the last mentioned retired them ages ago in favour of the fast-firing and well-protected AMOS)

    So the MBT is alive and well, got from 60 to 70, went on a diet (rather, will do so either through upgrades or as next-gen)
    – surprisingly, the “dead” piece might be the heavy SPG, epitomised by M-109
    – the ones that are more mobile and can keep up are still likely to be complementing mortars of all calibres and rocketry of longer ranges (but the latter will bring to an end the artillery piece competition about range, to be able to do counter-battery)

  197. @Jed

    That’s what marketters will always say. :)
    But in all honesty, designers will always be influenced by things they saw before or used, so no surprises if things turn out similar.


    The Arena? It went into service, but got improved and supersceded quickly, so it isn’t exactly a failure, just obsolete.

    The GMG I’d recommend as a common weapon for all as a co-ax or in turret commander’s weapon, most tanks have a main weapon and a secondary for anti-infantry, the GMG is it. I prefer it over the 7.62 or 0.5 in theory due to the blast effect (no need for pinpoint shooting, especially in a bouncing AFV) and the dual usage of being able to clear out firing points in buildings. Or at least being able to clear out the room without resorting to calibres above 100mm. And I think someone would like their house back. :)

  198. Hi Jed,

    I’ve read both the Polish and the Swedish sources on the topic.

    The Poles are doing some really good designs (Rosomak, with diffrent flavours on top), or the new SPG
    – chassis from T72
    – turret from Braveheart (not a copy, licensed)
    – barrel from Nexter
    – FCS indigenous (and used for all pieces that support the manoeuvre formations)

    They even have an AMOS prototype, but on which chassis?
    – still reading up on it, same factory that did Russian-designed SPGs and now those that I described above

  199. If we had our future armour capabilty of just ascod or Stryker. What operation could we not do. Which operations conducted since the end of the cold war could we not have done? During the al faw operation in 2003 did marines not stop the Iraq armoured columns using infantry anti tank and lynx helicopters sort of supports James theory. I find the idea of chasing small groups of insurgents around urban city odd and not something we should be doing with a mbt.

  200. Hi Observer, RE
    “GMG I’d recommend as a common weapon for all as a co-ax or in turret commander’s weapon, most tanks have a main weapon and a secondary for anti-infantry, the GMG is it. I prefer it over the 7.62 or 0.5 in theory due to the blast effect (no need for pinpoint shooting, especially in a bouncing AFV) and the dual usage of being able to clear out firing points in buildings”
    – all of that is v good
    – in the turret,”commander’s weapon” tends to be the single shot variety – but well targeted by the FCS, so no probs, the commender just pulls a different trigger
    – the question I have is for the co-axial: GMGs tend to be in the back of the turret as they eat round like crazy; how can you arrange for one to be co-axial? (any examples?)

  201. I would have thought that the best way through APS would be a non-optimised shell. Full-bore APCBC is tricky to disrupt because it is relatively massive. Even APDS would be more resilient because it has much smaller L/D ratio so it is more difficult to hit or disrupt. If you have lightened the passive armour and are depending on the APS then a full-bore shell will just trundle through and do the job with mass.

    That might even be an argument for keeping the rifle – being able to shoot fullbore shells more easily. On the other hand, there are some spiffy smart rounds out there for the smoothbore that would be really good for suppressing/destroying infantry position. However, if you are operating combined arms, then this would be an ideal role for IFVs mounting light/medium autocannon with lots of ammunition and a variety of airbursting shells.

    Perhaps an externally mounted autocannon like the M230, slaved to the main gun and sighting systems could be used to pepper the target, but then you’ve got artillery for that.

    If you have lightened the passive armour and are depending on the APS then a full-bore shell will just trundle through and do the job with mass.

    45-50t is only a realistic target for a new tank – you couldn’t do it with a Leo2. I would suggest a 30-40t base chassis to which armour is attached (a la AMAP) and a drive train suitable to 55-60t without modification and beyond with upgrades. The base chassis would be proof against HMG and artillery fragments. But that’s a medium/far future aim.

    In the near term, I wonder what could be done with CR2 to test out some of these new concepts and/or improve deployability of the tank. Can the Chobham packs be dismounted somehow? It looks pretty integral, but at the same time there looks to be some join lines.

  202. @Mark: the RSDG shipped a CR2 squadron out to Al-Faw at short notice via M3’s to provide the armoured grunt for 3 Cdo.

  203. wf

    Was that before or after the column was stopped? I do recall the CDS briefing about 14 cr2 against 14 Iraq tanks as being in the largest uk tank battle since ww2.

  204. Hi Mr. fred,

    An interesting idea “If you have lightened the passive armour and are depending on the APS then a full-bore shell will just trundle through and do the job with mass.

    That might even be an argument for keeping the rifle – being able to shoot fullbore shells more easily.”
    – do you know if it has been tested?

  205. Mark & wf,

    Basra & al-Faw, one of them (which?) had the normal order of battle, with the recce wagons deployed in front of the main force… but on flat land, unobstructed line of sight and totally at the mercy of the (well-hidden) opposing MBT force, and only saved by the AT helo force (fully occupied that day!)

    Same place as mentioned, or different?
    – I am sure there is no mention in the tactical manual “to be saved in the last minute”
    – so whether coming out of landing craft, or helo lifted, is neither here or there; but rather, what do you counter the heavier force with (once you are there)?

  206. @Mark

    You’d rather it be 14 tanks vs infantry? I’m sure some of the infantry would be… incredibly annoyed.. at your suggestion. Infantry AT ammo is very limited. Or to be precise, it’s fu-king heavy, who’s the hero that’s going to lug it?

    Mr fred

    It’s one of the oddities of the FSDS system, an AMS actually reads the long rod penetrator or HEAP as a missile and acts accordingly. The older AMS like the Throphy uses DIME slugs to kill missiles, which you are right in saying the sabot will simply bull through, but later ones, like the US Quickkill uses mini-missiles which do knock the round off course.

  207. ACC,

    What has been tested? APS vs. full bore AP? I don’t know. On one hand it would be justifiable for the sake of completeness, while on the other, it isn’t really a current threat or some simple maths might tell you that it wouldn’t work.

  208. Mr. fred,

    Maybe I misread it
    “vs. full bore AP? I don’t know.”
    – I thought you were saying that the “sling shots by the active defence systems” would not be able to make much impact, as they intercept so slose to the target (ie. where they where launched from)?
    – this would be an argument identical to the trials with Phalanx against sea-skimming missiles (showing not 100% good results, because of what is going to hit you anyway, after the intercept)

  209. Observer

    They seem to be carting a fair few javelin around afghan at present. We bought apache to kill tanks. As your in the know can you answer what an ascod can’t do in any likely uk operation that a mbt can.

  210. @Mr fred

    That it won’t work is still speculation. You don’t have to vapourise the round, just knock it off-course, or failing that, deflect it to such an angle that it hits the armour at a terrible slant instead of a direct on shot, and those AMMs do tend to pack both mass and explosives. The Quickkill one even comes down from above to drive the shot down into the ground.

  211. I’m somewhat confused right now.

    Active Protection Systems, as far as I know, work by disrupting the incoming projectile.
    HEAT relies on shape and detonation at the appropriate stand-off distance. The APS knocks it down or damages it to the point of not working before it can detonate.
    APFSDS relies on its shape for armour defeat. The APS knocks it off-line so it either breaks up or strikes the target sideways with greatly reduced effect.
    A full-bore AP shell is spin stabilised and relatively massive, so it is more difficult to destabilise or knock off-target, so even if the APS hits it, the effect may be minimal and the projectile will carry on to the target regardless.

  212. Just to clarify in case some don’t get it, I’m not even avocating the 45ton MBT as a vehicle, as I already said, it’s the absolute base chasis I see as survivable, so don’t tell me X,Y,Z will kill it, yes I know X,Y,Z will kill it, I’m just putting it out as a template if people absolutely insists on it as a vehicle.

  213. @Mark

    Which tank battle do you know where there ISN’T main cannon fire? Hell, even 20mm-40mm can do a job on a medium. There is a reason for that massive armouring scheme on a MBT you know…

    And before you trot out that old saw on Afganistan again, might I ask when did the Taliban get tanks? The use of ATGMs in Afganistan, unfortunately, have been along the lines of anti-structure (hence the new ASM rockets) or even anti-infantry judging from the commentry about using Javelins vs single infantrymen.

    MBTs are best used against weaker or slightly weaker tanks. Just because this type of encounter is rare, does not mean it is non-existant.

  214. @Mark: it was probably a combination of both before and during. Some of the accounts are quite interesting, there has been a book written about part of it: Main Battle Tank

  215. Observer It’s almost as rare as the dodo for the uk we don’t need to invest in mbt for tank battles. You asked who the hero was lugging anti tank missile around as it’s real heavy. So I don’t give a dam what it’s being fired at in afghan there still lugging the bloody thing around.

  216. ACC

    Leaving the silly digs aside (BTW what detail was is ‘shot down on – I was asking a general question about future vehicles. – Oh and I can read wikipedia as well as anyone. So carry on obsessing about Versions of L2 V5- whatever. I would like to move on to the point of the article. ).

    I will repeat the F*cking question

    IF we had a clean sheet (and cash), what would you buy? and why? would you go 60-70 ton?

    Or would sacrificing some protection for greater use and deploy-abillity be an acceptable or desirable course of action?

    If you go to an unmanned turret you can save considerable weight because you can reduce the turret ring dia’r; and thus the ammount of armour required to cover it, you can reduce the c of g an, thus the width. Plenty of design tricks therafter allow for hull size reduction.

    Mr Fred

    As I keep saying the vehicle can use fres components- or any vehicle takes your fancy. It does not have to be the same hull.

  217. Looking back at the posts, I just realised that I and Mr fred just described the attack/counter/attack/counter development cycle.

    Solid slug-> Composite armour-> APFSDS-> ADS-> Solid slug. :)

    Full circle.

  218. Ixion, very touchy there… and no need to swear?
    – btw, I was trying to be positive and support you in getting the pro’s and cons to the table, but nevermind

  219. @Mark

    You seriously don’t want to go down that path of “we don’t see much tank vs tank”. You won’t like the answer.


    Back on course, I’d go with the current common MBT platforms though with engine to the front instead for sacrificial protection and to free up the rear for infantry or a large AMS system similar to the Merevka. Yes 60 tons+, too bad, suck it up. Co-ax GMG and top mounted GPMG (For when people really love you and want to snuggle with explosives). Main weapon is still under consideration, trying to think of a way to get APFSDS past an AMS. Twin AMOS might work, or a new sabot round with a precursor cap (I hate to be the engineer given this nightmare.) Ultimate engineering nightmare? 20mm over/co-ax 120mm. 20mm fires 1st to harass ADS, then the 120mm sabot goes in, but it will be a nightmare to design

  220. @wf

    Yes I did, but came to the conclusion that HVMs will just trigger the AMS radar even faster. :(


    How to co-ax a GMG?

    Right at the bottom, the ADDER weapon station, GMG tandemed with a GPMG. Or you can look up 40/50 weapon turrets. Ammo reload won’t be that much of a problem since the whole system is supposed to be inside a turret with the gunner/commander.

  221. Hi Observer,

    v impressive (the designator up the mast, especially), BUT:
    – I was talking in the context of an MBT turret, not in the “empty” hull of an APC

  222. @ACC

    Same way as the Gimp would go in the turret. A GMG is even smaller than a GPMG, so space wouldn’t be that much of a problem.

  223. Well… it does describe the effect on the person carrying it :P And yes, it’s the Gimpy, MAG/M60/L7-8 etc. Still good. Provided someone else carries it. :)

  224. Wha? Since when is a GPMG bigger than a GMG? Even if the weapon can be made smaller (which I doubt), you can fit several hundred rounds of 7.62mm into the space needed to contain 32 rounds of 40mm.

    Turret ring diameter has very little to do with armour mass. The turret internal volume is the critical parameter. If your unmanned turret has a small turret ring, then you cannot depress the breech of the gun into the hull to elevate, so your turret has to be taller for the same range of elevation. Since the turret ring is small, you have to feed from above the turret ring, so your autoloader is going to have to take up some space for a decent number of shells. This has to be protected. You need recoil space too. Then you need space to access the weapons under armour in case they suffer a stoppage, or need ready rounds replenishing, or just to do maintenance.

    If you look at the Falcon and Anders turrets, both of which have turreted guns with hull positions for the crew, they have a similar frontal and side areas to a comparable turret.

    Re-use of components rather than the whole hull is eminently sensible, but the components need to be appropriate for the size of the vehicle.

  225. @Mr fred

    A GMG isn’t smaller that a GPMG? When did that happen?

    And please differentiate between the GMG/GPMG and the ammo?… One is the weapon, the other is the thing that comes out of the weapon.

    If the lower ammo count is what bugs you, too bad. I prefer my MBT’s secondary with a bit of blast effect and some house clearing ability. Without the use of the main gun, that is.

    Don’t like it, go design your own, sticky fingers off my design. :P

  226. I think that a secondary weapon should have a bit of ammo depth. I’ve got no problems with a difference in opinion, but the lightest belt-fed automatic grenade launcher I can find weighs nearly twice as much as the GPMG. and is somewhat larger. Which one are you thinking of?

    Weapon and ammo are both part of the installation – I thought it relevant to working out if it fits inside an armoured vehicle.

  227. hi Observer,

    maybe your last post covered this revelation, but
    “please differentiate between the GMG/GPMG and the ammo?… One is the weapon, the other is the thing that comes out of the weapon.”
    – this was exactly my original point
    – over the decades, ways have been found to accommodate the thousands of MG rounds that a tank needs… but for a co-axial GMG?

  228. Mr fred

    Turret ring diameter is about many thinks but you do not have to depress the gun into the turret ring and several designs have managed elevation it witout doing that. We are not talking about taking 5 ft off it, only a couple or so.

    However we agree about secondary argument.

    There have been several attempts to build 20mm weapons into turrets with main guns and they have pretty much all been failures, due in main to lack of ammo capacity.

  229. I think (?) what has been said here
    March 11, 2012 at 9:43 pm
    is supportive of what I said about a large turret ring in the base design being supportive of (ever?) putting a 120mm gun (hi-low-or medium pressure) into the turret later on, should the fleet evolve in that way

  230. @Mr fred

    I was thinking either the CIS 40 AGL or the newer CIS 40 LWAGL

    The top one is the LWAGL tricked out with fancy optics, the bottom one is the old 40mm AGL.

    There might be more photos on the net, but you’ll have to go under google images, there doesn’t seem to be much written about it.

    Since you’re mounting to a turret, weight isn’t the issue, the key killer is size. And of course ammo, you’re trading 32 rounds for 200 rounds of 7.62, a 7x reduction. It is severe, but depending on the situation, the grenade might be an advantage. Firing 7 rounds at a guy in a house vs a grenade through a window or a guy behind cover vs an overhead shot is probably worth it. In fact, firing on the move might show better results than an MG, considering how hard is it to bring the gun to bear while bouncing all over the place. Just plaster the area.

  231. Hi Observer,

    ammo feed, I guess, would be the key problem. Looking at that last image you linked to, how well can the belt (linked ammo)take twists and turns?
    – think of the CT gun; the story is that the design team went to a brewery to observe the bottling line (into cans, can’t think of a verb for that; no different from the rounds in shape, for that particular gun)

    Otherwise I still think it would have to be at the back of the turret.
    – you could easily put two there, but the aiming would likely to be by the same person (one target at a time)

  232. @ACC

    Links arn’t THAT flexible, once past a point, they twist off, just like linked 7.62. And links are more or less standardised across NATO, havn’t heard of anybody complaining of breaking or twisted links for 40mm, the rounds are so fat that the degree of twist per meter is much less than 7.62 or 0.5. In short, the belt will twist much less than a similar belt of bullets due to less joints, so it’s more rigid. And having the feed more or less straight down helps too by using gravity to straighten the belt.

    Of course, you can go the 40/50 way and use a feed chute if you want to sideload it, but it’ll be a pain to reload if the last link got pulled into the chute.

    I seriously do not want a GMG on the pintle mount because if you needed to use it in an urban environment, you also do not want to have to stick half your body out to use it. Co-axing it would allow the gunner to control both systems and use similar firecontrol + stabilised turret control instead of leaf/reflex sights and manual aiming. I’d put a 7.62 as a pintle for extreme close range work though, the FOV is better.

  233. I was looking at the American Mk19 on wiki and I think you can fit that into a turret too, there was a pic of one there with an AAV turret and a 40mm mount co-ax with an MG.,_Calif.,_mans_the_turrets_of_his_amphibious_assault_vehicle_(AAV).jpg

    From the looks of it though, I can see another problem. If you tandem the 40mm with a main gun, the elevation section of the turret is going to be pretty wide, a possible weakness. Unless you use a step solution? As in small GMG sitting on top of a 120mm in front of the ram loader? Complicated and will be tricky to reload, and spent casings are going to have to go somewhere…

    Possible, but tricky…

  234. Observer, anyway, from your second to last post I read that only a box feed will work in practice

  235. @ACC

    Go look up 40/50 turret weapons pictures and when you find a 40mm AGL, look for the bloody long rubber looking thing linked to it and tell me. Does THAT look like a box to you?

  236. And for those out to nitpick, yes I KNOW the internal ammo bay is simply a big ammo box, so YES it’s a box feed too, though that is really stretching the point.


    It has been “done” since at least the 1980s, by Cadillac for the M113s as the first I think.

    Even a cursory google would bring up the V1117 from Textron which shows an ammo feed tube going from the Mk19 into the turret, and the AAV picture above shows a Mk19. Look right, you’ll see a rectangular slot. That’s the feed for the left hand Mk19.

  238. Easy does it…

    I am (and I thought we were) talking about the practicality of GMGs co-axial with an MBT gun, in the front of the turret

    I thought we had the same aspiration, and are debating the practicality? Now, if you tell me M113s and AAVs are MBTs…

  239. Thought you were still on GMGs being exclusively box-fed.

    The M1 and the Chilian Leo 2 all have the same GMG idea, but they prefered putting the system in a RWS on top of the turret, which is probably the best answer for a refit as you don’t need to rebore the hole for the MG to a different calibre. If the GMG was to be standard from the start, it might be different as the borehole would be larger in the first place. From the size estimates, the GPMG might be able to be replaced. The LWAGL is a shoo-in, it’ll fit, but Mk 19/LAG 40/CIS? Not so sure, the form factor might play a part, though the idea of mounting them sideways so their fat “width” becomes “height” and their “height” -> “width” instead did occur to me.

    Main gun… Metal Storm tandem rounds? Works like the RPG-30, a pre-cursor round, followed by the actual killer, i.e load 2 rounds in and fire both off?

  240. Observer – I have fixed it ! The co-ax issue that is…..

    You simply open up the aperature in your turret for the co-ax 7.62 and above it pass through a Metal Storm 3-GL based 40mm grenade launcher. Change the breech arrangement and you simply stuff in 3 stacked grenades for a quick burst through the window or what-have-you. Actually as the top of MG’s open upwards, you might have to mount it below the MG.

    Add a full 40mm GMG on the RWS and Bob’s yer Aussie Unlce ?

  241. … I’m starting to really hate that 3GL….

    A GMG has a RoF that a 3 shot infantry GL simply cannot match, not to mention the ammo and payload is different. 3GL is a LV infantry weapon firing the lighter 40×46, with an approx range limit of 200m, a GMG is a vehicle mounted weapon/support weapon firing the HV 40×53 with an approximate range of 2km. Almost completely different effects.

    I also don’t want to keep reloading after every 3 shots, a GMG usually has a 32 round box mag, more if you’re using internal ammo bins.

    I’d rather keep an MG on the top, if satchel charge infantry get close, at least you can still shoot the bugger without killing yourself. 40×53 has a lethal radius of 5m.

  242. Yes, Observer I totally get that they are completely different kettles of fish, just thought it was a quick and simple way to dish out HE and smoke out to approx 600m with a medium velocity round (STK, who have an agreement with MetalStorm for ammo, have a lower impulse MV round than some other manufacturers).

    If you dont like it, then you dont have to use it…. nah nah neh nah nah….. :-)

  243. @Jed

    If it’s a MV round, it doesn’t go into a 3GL. Unless you like exploding launchers.

    Now how about you design your MBT? I’d love to see what you can come up with.

  244. I am pretty sure that the press release last year said that STK was developing a MV round with approx 600m range specifically for the 3-GL. By the way if this was a “3GL derived” weapon specifically for use in turrets, don’t you think they could beef it up a little if it’s truly not capable of handling MV rounds ?

    Anyway, even though I did not write the article to get into a conversation about designing a new MBT – I already made my suggestions away back:

    1. Half the Chally 2 get the Falcon turret with a 120mm smooth bore to be “anti-tank” guns

    2. Half the Chally 2 get their rifled gun replaced the BAe AMS II 120mm smooth bore breach loading mortar for use as “infantry fire support tanks”

    Far from perfect I know, but actually do-able I think.

  245. Oh and by the way, I think I even said, if there was a enough room in the turret the “Infantry support tank” should have a co-ax 40mm GMG !!

  246. Not sure if people realise this, but the Metal Storm type ammo is not conventional ammo? Which means if you chucked a 3GL grenade into the breech of an M203, it won’t fire, or use the Redback ammo in an AGL, all you will get is a hangfire? You need the electrical circuit to fire, not to mention MS ammo is actually caseless ammo, not the normal 40mm that NATO uses. So no ammo commonality.

    Actually, before we design the tank, we need to consider it’s probable enemies, so that we won’t end up with “yesterday’s tank”, but instead be poised to counter “enemy” tank advances.

    The way I see it, next Gen aggressor MBTs will retain the current ERA armour scheme that is common to MBTs, but enhanced with ADS systems to counter RPGs and long rod penetrators (APFSDS) and potentially come with radiation absorbing paint or laser “blinders” to counter laser targetting/designating.

    On the offensive side, RPG-32s counter ADS, which makes them a serious threat. IEDs/mines won’t be lessening too and artillery dispersed bomblets are still a threat. APFSDS or HESH/HEAP will still be in popular use, and ATGMs (Heli-and man portable) are another factor to worry about.

    So, how do we crush the enemy’s defences and improve our own?

  247. Yes, I think most of us, if not all, do indeed understand the nature of MetalStorm ammo ;-)

    In answer to your question – that’s easy, electromagnetically stealthed, nuclear powered hovercraft with force fields and rail guns.

    Of course until they are read, things are a little less clear cut…… ;-)

  248. Ref: RPG-32s counter ADS, which makes them a serious threat.”

    OK, just googled for five mins, can’t see how this rocket would counter an Active Defence System, it has tandem dual HEAT warheads, so I can see how it would counter “active” (explosive) armour. Has something been lost in translation from original Russian, or do you know how it defeats an ADS ???

  249. The force field and railguns are a bit too much, the stealth cloak already takes up too much of the power from the pebble bed reactor. And the tankers are protesting that this is about the MBT, not MBH.

    I can just see the reaction from the media now if it comes out that nuclear tanks are being considered. Pity. I’m all for pebble bed reactors.

  250. “The seven vehicle concepts being developed by the FPV group are:

    • Pointer: an agile remote-controlled armed robot which can take on dull, dirty or dangerous jobs such as forward observation;

    • Bearer: a modular platform which can carry a range of mission payloads;

    • Wraith: an unmanned, highly stealthy scout vehicle;

    • Safeguard: a large infantry carrier or command/control vehicle, which can also carry other vehicles;

    • Charger: a heavily-armed attack vehicle, designed for high lethality and armed with a reconfigurable missile system;

    • Raider: a small, highly agile autonomous reconnaisance and attack vehicle which can carry a variety of payloads;

    • Atlas: a retrofittable convoy system with automated systems for following the vehicle in front, to remove drivers from harm’s way.”

    Read more:

  251. I like the fact that they are trying to go lightweight and smart. We seem to have reached a law of diminishing returns in terms of heavier and heavier armour. The mobility and logistic penalties are just too high and it can still be defeated by a really big, cheap IED.

    The question is how soon the ‘smart’ protection systems can be made good enough to avoid the ‘coffins on wheels’ tag. Imagine the political fallout if we sent one of these vehicles into a warzone and troops got killed because the software crashed.

  252. Isn’t “Lightweight and smart” potentially another way of saying “fragile and expensive”?

    We’ve had the FCS/FRES boondoggle where radios and computers were going to be equivalent to some amount of rolled steel armour. That eventually came into contact with the real world and it has become apparent that by going lightweight you have to sacrifice protection.

    How heavy is too heavy? It’s a recurring question stemming from this article.
    My take is that while a a heavily protected vehicle will go down to a sufficiently large IED, a lightly protected vehicle will go down to a smaller, more prolific, more easily emplaced one.

  253. @Mr.fred: yeah, the value of steel plate is remarkable. That being said, the lower velocity projectiles like ATGM/RPG at longer ranges can probably be reliably negated by active defences soon. Mines/IED’s/RPG’s at short ranges are going to need armour. Hypervelocity tank guns and missiles are going to be a lot harder..which mean heavy armour plate.

  254. I like the fact that they are trying to go lightweight and smart. We seem to have reached a law of diminishing returns in terms of heavier and heavier armour. The mobility and logistic penalties are just too high and it can still be defeated by a really big, cheap IED.

    I am not sure this is true, actually. Is a Challenger 2 significantly less mobile than a Churchill, say, was in 1945? They both have to be carried on transporters or trains if they want to go any distance. Neither of them are air portable. The CR2 can probably go further in between track replacements or maintenance (James?), and it’s faster on its own tracks. Armour’s always needed a big logistic tail.

    And the IED point: there are really very few examples of modern MBTs being destroyed by IEDs. (Warrior is an entirely different creature and much lighter.) Yes, in theory a big enough IED can destroy anything, but using that as a reason to stop building heavy armour is irrational, just as it would be to stop building tanks because they could be destroyed by a sufficiently large anti-tank gun.

  255. Monty.

    ‘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.’

    -Perhaps, and perhaps not. The value of an armor does not rely soley on its tensile strength. For example, defense against HEAT warheads requires a high flow strength, which will neutralise their energy. Monty, I would not place much hope in these exotic new armor systems. Among other things, they are unreliable and unproven.

    ‘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.’

    -As mentioned by sundry, the cost of helicopters is many times the cost of a tank, and low flying aircraft of any kind are inordinately vulnerable to anti-aircraft artillery. In a truly professional army, wheeled AFVs will never replace (nor even supplement) tracked AFVs. Pound for pound, a vehicle with wheels can carry only 72% as much armor as a vehicle with tracks, and their poor country performance often relegates their usage to predictable and exposed road networks, where they will be easily ambushed by the enemy. This has been amply demonstrated in iraq.

  256. With active defense systems (jamming systems, missile-kill systems) being developed and deployed relying on missiles (ATGM carriers, aircraft) instead of tank guns is just plain stupid.

    Active defense can be a nice addiction to armor, not a replacement.
    Ships had the best active protection systems but the Falkland war proved this is not enough.
    As a lesson of the Falklands the Arleigh Burke class was made with armor to improve its passive protection against ASMs.

    Imagine a column of T-80U’s with shtora and Arena (or similar system). 1 Hellfire would kill it if hit, but its anti-missile systems could destroy the missiles before it got close. The Apache might fail or at least require multiple missiles to hit the T-80U.
    If there are anti-air vehicles such as Tunguska the Apache might even be shot down before it can fire a Hellfire.
    And if within range modern tanks are more then capable of shooting down helicopters.

    A Challenger 2, Abrams of Leopard 2 however could destroy a T-80U with a single APFSDS-T hit at 4km. While a T-80U could only penetrate such tanks from the rear and maybe sides. A tank also has more ammo and can remain in an area much longer then an aircraft. So it is a much more capable tank-killer.

    When fighting you require vehicles that are able to take hits and survive. No other vehicle can take as much hits. An MBT gives its crew the best possible level of protection.
    Human lives are most important. It takes years to replace a good tank crew.

    Wheels are not an option as wheels limit where you can go.
    Tracks allow you to reach places and climb/crush obstacles that wheels can not. Tracks provide greater mobility.

    I don’t see a tank gun as being to powerfull for COIN. Since there are air strikes as well (which cause way more collatoral damage).
    A tank gun is much more precise and doesn’t destroy anything around the target that a bomb does.

    There might be cases where a 120mm is overkill. This is why the IDF put a .50cal above the main gun. For cases where the 120mm is to much but the 7.62 is to weak.
    The Abrams also has a .50cal as AA (much more effective then 7.62). Controlled by commander so the loader is free to reload the main gun.

    MBTs could become modular. If you look at the Leo2. For COIN and urban warfare you could use the L44 but for actual warfare you could fit L55.

    I also think that all modern MBTs should have a commanders .50cal for AA that is controlled from the inside. Possibly a secondary .50cal above the main gun for the gunner (like on Merkava).

    Lighter weight tanks should only be an option if lighter armor types allow greater protection for lesser weight.

    But lighter armor could also mean you could make a 60mt tank which is extremely well armored.

    I do see a role for airdroppable light tanks like the cancelled M8.
    That could hold out untill the heavies arrive.

    But overal I prefer main battle tanks that arrives later but are nearly unstoppable.

    Lighter vehicles = more casualties. Casualties is something western nations can’t afford. We care about our troops, we only have few of them and to much losses means public support for the operation drops.

  257. Good page. I think with lighter armor a concave hull tanks are vulnerable when they exit a rise but for IED’ and EFP’S 3/4 have to be shaped to deflect the blast with the trophy and a 150mm to 160mm smooth bore main gun. Auto chain gun, .50 and 40mm grenade, spike NLOS surface to air 35 to 40 tonnes. 100 mph, 700 operating distance. Heavy tracks in strength but light weight. You can’t turn on fhe spot with wheeled vehicles. Light enought to use in all weather even the tropics to a degree. It is a big move going to a lighter MBT but maintain capability.

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