Challenger 3 or Leopard

A guest post from Paul G

A strange title however it will be explained further on in the post.

Now that it has been decided that there will be an armoured brigade and it will have MBT’s, talk can now turn to having an MBT for the 21st century. I have a background in armour (7 armd wksps 87-92) but as my primary role was telecommunications, it was limited to fixing the radios and the intercom harness when the turret monster had a munch on the cables!

So, although having not lived and worked in them, I have always had a healthy interest which has inspired me to have a sort of “fantasy tracks” attempt at a post, makes a change from fantasy fleets.  I was going to do a short history of the beast, but I’m more interested in its future, than it’s past. Challenger 1 and 2 were and still are highly respected pieces of equipment, chally 2 had impressive feedback from GW2 and yet due to piss poor circumstances countries like Canada are buying leopards, I say piss poor due to the fact that if someone did come asking, we no longer have the ability to produce them, or should I say there would be unwillingness by you know who to build them. (IMHO).

Before discussing replacements, I suppose we should ask what to do with the tanks that will be no longer required, I would hope we can avoid the scenes we witnessed with the nimrod where the cranes ran amok, nor would I like to see them become targets down range at lulworth.  The obvious answer would be stripped down for spares or sold on /given away to Jordan like last time. Maybe some could be converted into more titan and trojan  engineer vehicles. Personally if there were any going to the engineers I would like to revive the AVRE demolition tank. As we have seen urban warfare has played a prominent part in recent conflicts, resulting in the leopard being adapted with a front blade and a high elevating 12.7mm co-ax gun.

Cent AVRE were deployed in GW1 to deal with obstacles attached to the armour group to provide assistance and more importantly under cover reducing risk to soldiers. Now people like Tony Williams are the experts on calibres however a nice BFO gun to create a big enough hole for vehicles on a challenger chassis would be nice, space would be made by the removal of the gunner (crew of 3) and there would be no need for most of the present challenger (ie TOGS, and everything required for the stabilised turret). This could also relieve the infantry platoons from carrying weapons such as matador for breaching.

Centurion AVRE at Mutla Pass Kuwait
Centurion AVRE at Mutla Pass Kuwait
Centurion AVREs with dozers fitted arriving at Mutla Pass Kuwait City to clear abandoned vehicles at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Flickr: Paul Welling
Centurion AVRE Mutla Pass Kuwait
Centurion AVRE at Mutla Pass Kuwait
Centurion AVREs with dozers fitted arriving at Mutla Pass Kuwait City to clear abandoned vehicles at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Flickr: Paul Welling
Centurion AVRE
Centurion AVRE

The Challenger production line closed many years ago and BAe are going to close the Newcastle factory in 2013 when the last terrier is completed, This fact effects the question “where or who in the UK could build a new MBT” and I did try and offer a solution in my last post with ref to converting the MLRS to command vehicles and HIMARS using the supacat chassis, mainly to retain the workforce and keep the factory while the challenger 3 was being designed on the computer. However could the cost of the design be that great that it would simply easier to buy the leopard 7 and ride the obvious political storm. That explains the first half of the title.

Obviously you have to compare the two side by side to weigh up which would be better, now this has been done on many forums by people far better qualified than me plus it would save on the comments by people pointing my mistakes. With that in mind I would like to give a brief overview, with a few numbers and what I think are salient points. The most obvious observation is that the UK is flying solo with the 120mm rifled barrel against the rest of the world with their 120mm smooth barrel pros and cons have been discussed at length but I think it’s time to join the party and get with the smoothbore. It has been fitted and trialled in a challenger turret but it was deemed too expensive to redesign the turret  for it to be effective with a large percentage of challenger going it would seem that cost would now be reduced.

Challenger 2 with 120mm Smoothbore Cannon
Challenger 2 with 120mm Smoothbore Cannon

One of the main problems is the smoothbore uses one piece ammunition and BAe stated that even with modification the turret could only hold six rounds, now you don’t need the brains of a rocket scientist to realise that’s pants! If you look at a side view of the challenger and the leopard you can see the difference in turret size, also bear in mind the challenger is 8.3m long and 3.5m wide compared to the leopards 9.97 and 3.75 respectively.

Challenger 2 Dimensions

Leopard 2A5 Dimensions

Not the best comparison, but 90% of the photos online aren’t side views! Basically the leopard is ma-hoo-sive.

Challpard or leopenger?

No I haven’t been on the sherry, to cover all bases I thought about a hybrid vehicle either a leopard turret on a challenger chassis or a challenger turret on a leopard chassis. Why? Well spreadsheet phil likes a bargain and with the aforementioned manufacturing problems purchasing a chassis from Germany but using a UK turret (preferably a newly designed not the present one) could soften the blow, We are the world leaders in protection and it’s only the new leopard 2A7 that has finally added more protection. I can’t see the present challenger chassis been used as the engine is possibly the weakest on a MBT today, it’s ironic that many years ago an export version of challenger was offered to Greece (lost to leopard) with a more powerful, smaller and economical  engine, yet it was never adapted by the British army something I have never understood. Even now there smaller engines than the perkins 1200bhp, these knock out 1800+bhp it would be nice to leap over the leopards 1500bhp and get out front again.

The rank outsider options

The Abrahams has to get a mention however this is just as old as challenger 2 and has a very complex and thirsty gas turbine engine (watched some REME air techs fix one by the roadside in GW2 while the vm’s stayed well clear)! Also there is our new chums, the French  not to mention an emerging industry in the south east. The very last resort I forgot to mention above mainly because it’s stupid would be a cut and shut to lengthen the challenger chassis to bring it into line with the leopard (hey desperate times etc etc).

So what would I like? Well I like my AVRE idea with today’s tech a nice big cal gun (and possibly the MCLIC breacher) with modern rounds could be a game changer not only with punching holes for the vehicles if you’re on team shag nasty and something destroys your well built defences then morale sinks. Selling surplus hulls be it fighty or convert to engineer type to Jordan to fund this along with stripping down for high use areas like BATUS is a start.

After that let’s get the ball rolling on the new challenger 3, please don’t tell me we don’t need it in future wars it’s been decided we are going to have them and it’s not the point of the post. Let’s get in line with everyone else and go smoothbore, it would be nice to be designed and built in the UK, however I would accept the UK doing the turret and KMW providing the chassis, they are pretty good at it! Plus if we part funded with Germany to develop the 2000bhp engine, it exists already but needs some testing in armour. This could help with export if we developed turret tech that could be used with existing leopards as they are in service everywhere.

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Think Defence
Admin
September 11, 2012 9:09 am

I like the idea of a Challenger 4

http://www.flickr.com/photos/peggyjdb/5960392753/

But if that isn’t possible, we should ask if the cost of upgrading or developing new ammunition is more than the cost of buying new or refurbed Leopard 2’s

Fedaykin
September 11, 2012 9:28 am

Interesting what if but lets look at reality! Post 2010 SDSR current policy is to husband the Challenger 2 fleet for the next twenty to thirty years. With a reduction of numbers in service they can part out the chassis no longer needed and the remainders will be rotated through those expensive climate controlled storage facilities that are operated for the army.

As for changing the gun as you point out they realised the ammunition load would be too low and they found a new source for HESH ammunition from Belgium. As for SABOT rounds again they will husband the remaining DU rounds which are politically sensitive as it stands anyway.

In the end the British Army has a world class MBT paid for and in service, they can husband that fleet for many years to come and finally they have a budget under pressure. Buying a new tank in the next ten years (or even twenty years)is a rather nonsensical draw on the budget when regiments are being retired!

Simon257
Simon257
September 11, 2012 10:05 am

Nice article Paul

The only company, I can think of off hand, which could build a new MBT in the UK using existing facilities, would be JCB.

However, with careful maintenance and upgrades. Their is no reason at all, to build a new MBT, not for at least 20 years. You only have to look at what upgrades, Israel and South Africa have done with their Centurions, to see what is possible.

I’ve often wondered why, we have never converted some Chally 2’s from carrying the 120mm gun to a Updated version of the 165mm Demolition Gun, carried on the Centurion AVRE. They would have pretty handy in GW2 and in Afghanistan.

martin
Editor
September 11, 2012 10:05 am

@ Paul G – Thanks for writing a very interesting and knowledgeable post. I was un aware about the the ammunition size and Turret issue which I think as you point out rules out an upgrade to challenger 2.

I have to say though I remain unconvinced for anything other than Challenger 2 at this point. I do agree that the Army needs MBT’s but as you say Challenger 2 acquitted its self superbly in GW2. The rifled gun still holds the world record for a distance kill and while it would be nice to have NATO standard ammunition I just can’t see that as justification for spending billions on designing a new tank or buying a German tank which in my mind is not sufficiently superior to what we have to justify a swap.

Spending the money on replacing the armies other vehicles like FRES UV program and sorting out the myriad of different vehicles coming back from the stan would seem to be a better use of funds. I can’t see why with proper management the Challenger 2 can’t keep going for 20 or 30 more years.

I hope the government does not break up the spare C2’s. I would much prefer to see them kept in reserve on used for spare parts. While armoured warfare is an increasingly niche role it is still a vital one and that we excel in and I would hope the Army can still continue to perform this role all be it on a smaller scale

martin
Editor
September 11, 2012 10:12 am

I Like TD’s Challenger 4 idea with hover capability. Only issue is we would have to get Lego to build it in Denmark but I am sure they could ship the parts to Windsor for assembly :-)

Fedaykin
September 11, 2012 10:29 am

Simon257

JCB facilities are not suitable for construction of a new MBT, it is a rather different business and I have a hunch the company isn’t interested in the investment.

The big players in the UK appear to be BAE Systems and General Dynamics. If there was investment in a new design it will be built outside the UK and finished out at a UK facility.

martin
Editor
September 11, 2012 10:37 am

@ Paul G – I still don’t see where the need for catch up is. How is the rifled gun such a big problem that we would consider buying or building a new tank? What can the smooth boar gun do that the riffled one can’t. I take your point about engine issues but this does not seem to have hampered Challenger much. As for protection other than a new Leopard I can’t see anything in the world matching Challenger 2.

Fedaykin
September 11, 2012 10:38 am

Alas Paul G,

Any surplus would go back to the treasury, the services are not allowed to save up money for the future under UK treasury policy. Personally I see that as a crazy idea but if the MOD has money unspent in the books it will get snapped back!

Tanks can be kept in service and upgraded for decades, technically both the Chieftain and Challenger 1 should still be in service now with upgrades but the end of the cold war put pays to that!

The storage facility in Germany and the UK for vehicles is an amazing place. All the vehicles are held in climate controlled hangers and the batteries are hooked into a computerised power system that maintains a load on them. This means the batteries are trickle charged in such a way to ensure maximum life and ensuring any can be started up at a moments notice.

Any Chally 2 replacement is a way down the line and whilst your post SDSR idea of plowing back savings is sensible it is rather sunk by treasury policy on surpluses within departments!

S O
S O
September 11, 2012 11:28 am

(1) The side views appear to have different scales (just look at the machine guns on top). The font of the Leo2A5, A6 and A6M turrets is a simple hollow steel triangle armour upgrade.

(2) That would be M1 Abrams, not “Abrahams”.

(3) Challenger 2 is considerably new than M1 Abrams; Challenger 1 and Chally2’s hull are about as old as Abrams.

(4) There is not going to be another national development project as long as the nation with the R&D facilities in question doesn’t plan to operate more than 200 MBTs n the future.

(5) Best would be if there was a commercial European MBT development by sufficiently competent company that European nations could adopt post-2020.
Krauss-Maffei proved this possible in the mid/late 80’s with the Puma armoured Combat Vehicle Family, a 25-38 t project that even the internet almost forgot despite multiple prototypes:
http://waffen-der-welt.alices-world.de/armour/apc/d_puma.html
http://articles.janes.com/articles/Janes-Armour-and-Artillery/Krauss-Maffei-Puma-Main-Battle-Tank-Germany.html
Same Thyssen-Henschel TH495 of the 90’s:
http://www.army-guide.com/eng/product4317.html
Royal Ordnance pulled this off in the 80’s and 90’s with the RO 2000, too.

(6) Right now Leopard has good mobility, payload, good maintenance etc. It has apparently the ability to accept lots of upgrades, especially electronic ones. This appears to be what MBT progress is about, so Leo2A9, A10, A11 are the most likely path in the future.

x
x
September 11, 2012 11:33 am

I think the Israelis said the Leopard was the best tank ever, as long as you didn’t want to go war.

tweckyspat
tweckyspat
September 11, 2012 11:52 am

Paul G

shamelessly nostalgic – i too was in 7 Armd Wksp during GW1 watching hardworking VMs relearning all the blackhand jobs the civdet used to do in F—ingBostel..

I remember having to get some special tool or test equipment for the Cent AVRE packed up and sent out to us from the Tank musem at Bovi.. then getting a polite note asking for it back some months later (sadly i think we’d left it in kuwait somewhere)

TrT
TrT
September 11, 2012 11:59 am

What are (in concept, if not execution) the two best tanks in the world?

The Challenger 2 and the Leclerc.

Why?
Because they are different.

The Leopard, the Abrams and the T72 are the worlds standard pattern tanks
Anti Tank weapons are designed, with killing those tanks firmly in mind.

The Challenger, is designed to resist those weapons, and seems to do so pretty well. Didnt one get hit by 127 anti tank rockets of various designs without being killed?
The Leclerc goes the other way, any weapon can kill it, but its nearly twice as fast as “normal” tanks.

The enemy will always train to fight against the T92, the Leopard, or the Abrams, and will be unpleasantly surprised when a tank Brigade outruns them, or just wades through their fire.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
September 11, 2012 12:00 pm

Can anyone corroborate the following anecdote or comment on its accuracy?

– During GW2, Advantage was taken of the turbine on the M1A2’s to surge. Advantage was then made of Challenger 2’s diesel persistence to consolidate while M1A2’s refuelled.

Bob
Bob
September 11, 2012 12:02 pm

Challenger’s problem was always two-fold:

1) It was/is not MBT-80, if it was it would have had a much higher power-weight ratio and would have had far greater exportability having been available 5-10 years earlier

2) After the Rheinmettal gun won the international competition for Abram’s the UK should have seen the writing on the wall, swallowed its pride and moved away from the rifled weapons and either used RO’s own smooth-bore or license produced the Rheinmettal gun

Challenger 3 would be very easy to develop if we adopted an off-the-shelf drive-train and kept ambitions low as the South Koreans, Turks and Japanese have done with their latest vehicles. A combination of the 52 cal 120mm smoothbore, the 1650hp Europwer-pack and the latest armour innovations would do the trick nicely. There is however no point, and I say that as someone who is practically in love with heavy tracked armour.

What I would like to see is a new CBP in the heavy category on which AS-90, Warrior and Challenger replacements could be built , wont happen though.

martin
Editor
September 11, 2012 12:12 pm

@ Bob – maybe I am being thick but I still don’t see the issue with the riffled gun that requires us to look at a replacement. Can any one tell me? Challenger 2 seems to be more than capable of taking out any other tank and can take a beating better than anything.

Jeremy M H
September 11, 2012 12:26 pm

I think the UK would be best served to just keep on with the Challenger 2 until it won’t work anymore. Then they will do what everyone else does and go with the latest Leopard or Abrams variant. The rifled gun will be a problem and no one will want to have them in the future, it just won’t be worth it. I would bet good money that the M1A3 ends up being an Abrams with the L55 just like the latest Leopard’s are. It just makes too much sense to do anything else. I am not a big fan of auto-loaders so the French gun is out.

I think the west will basically offer two tank variants in the near future. One American and one European but they are going to share a lot of things in common.

S O
S O
September 11, 2012 12:38 pm

martin,
the UK would need to stem the R&D cost for every new ammunition itself because it’s the only user besides cash-stripped Jordania.

The UK army would deploy to war knowing that it could not use the same ammunition as its allies, and losing ammo depots or having small ammo stocks in general yourself could effectively disarm the Challys.

The rifling leads to inferior APFSDS and HEAT performance, its only advantage is that the spin helps with HESH. So any rifled gun will lag behind the 120 mm smoothbores.

The 120 mm rifled gun is already outclassed by 120 mm L/55 and new 125 mm developments of the Russians. Active defence suites with effectiveness against APFSDS may force a move back to shorter, sturdier or at least wider long rods, and this means raw power of guns would become relatively more important. Being outclassed by now already offers a bleak outlook to 2025.

Besides, it’s “highly” questionable that Chally2 can take more beating than a Merkava 4. Even certain T90s with the latest (Heavy) ERA tiles may be more resilient to APFSDS and HEAT.

Bob
Bob
September 11, 2012 12:43 pm

martin,

Its not a capability thing, its a sustainment thing, TD probably has the precise details but the short answer is that the CHARM ammunition is being diminished and its not very economical to manufacture it for a handful of tanks.

There were two specific issues:

1) Legality, it was claimed by some that DU was illegal, MoD claims to have proven it is not illegal- basically just pointless hippy legal wrangling and nothing serious

2) The CHARM-3 propellent charges should time expire in 2013, there have been investigations into life extension but I do not know the outcome.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
September 11, 2012 12:45 pm

@Jeremy M H

Could you expand on why you’re not a fan of auto-loaders please?

Never having sat inside a modern tank, let alone assist in operating one, auto-loading nontheless appeals to me from an engineering point of view.

This is especially given the general approval of the four drum auto-loader system on the Oto Melara 127/64 Lightweight that is being submitted for the T26.

Really interested in the issues from an MBT point of view.

wf
wf
September 11, 2012 12:55 pm

@S O : all the CR2 hulls were new. Yes, I know the original plans were that CR2 turrets would be added to CR1 hulls, but in the end they sensibly just went with new hulls.

Given the quantity of tank ammunition required compared to other ammunition types, I wouldn’t worry about commonality. The development angle is more significant, but moving to separate charge and shell should fix the issues with current smoothbore ammo as and when we need to move.

@The Other Chris: during GW1, 1st (UK) Div was way to the east of the rest of VII Corps. They were nowhere near any M1 or M1A1 (M1A2 didn’t exist at the time), so I can’t see how they could have covered them refuelling. If memory serves, the fuel consumption for a M1A1 on a “standard battlefield day” was 484 gallons of diesel, while a CR1 was 284, so it’s a lot more economical, although in recent times the M1’s turbine has been fitted with a digital control unit that reduces consumption by 15% or so.

wf
wf
September 11, 2012 1:00 pm

@Bob: the new ammunition factory in Washington produces tank ammunition.

http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/MASS-for-Effect-The-UKs-Long-Term-Ammo-Contract-05047/

Doubt it’s producing DU long rods, but it can at least replace the charges, which are separate.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
September 11, 2012 1:03 pm

Anecdote from my Friendly Neighbourhood GW2 Storyteller specifically references GW2, but the additional GW1 aspect is interesting too.

S O
S O
September 11, 2012 1:03 pm

wf, I meant design age, and understand he did, too.

Btw, an inherent problem with separate charge and shell is that the shell cannot extend into the charge. That hurts a lot with APFSDS, for its penetration is in great part a function of the length of the long rod employed. The long rods of fixed ammo can reach almost to the bottom of the cartridge, but with a separate-loading ammo that length could only match the shell length. This may lose relevance in the future, but it was a major factor in the 80’s to 2000’s.

Concerning fuel; some (old) figures:
http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2009/08/afv-mobility.html

Btw, correct myself: It’s T-90, not T90. A typo.

Bob
Bob
September 11, 2012 1:06 pm

The Other Chris,

Historically there have been two key issues with autoloaders that have usually manifested themselves in a single problem.

1) Creating a mechanical system that is as flexible as a human in that it can take rounds from multiple different locations and then load them in a gun where the breach could also move in 3 locations, all in a very tight space, has proven very difficult; the magazine is one option but this has usually resulted in a loss of capacity due to the need for uniform round storage

2) The other factor is that well trained gun-loaders have had the ability to work faster than those autoloaders that have been developed. Challenger crews were trained to achieve a very high RoF

The combination of complexity and speed have conspired to make autoloaders expensive to develop and unreliable in service.

Bob
Bob
September 11, 2012 1:17 pm

wf,

It was originally intended to run Challenger 2 and Challenger alongside each other for a total of approximately 1,000 tanks- 400 Challengers and 600 Challenger 2s with the former to be refitted with the L30 gun and associated fire control system. All because the MBT80 programme was abandoned.

Fedaykin
September 11, 2012 1:20 pm

TankNutDave who runs a Youtube channel and Website has an explanation why the rifled gun was retained for the Challenger 2.

Instead of putting a new turret in a manufacturer (in Belgium I think) was found to make new charge bags to replace the ones about to life expire.

Think Defence
Admin
September 11, 2012 1:24 pm
Reply to  Bob

A loader also add to the available ‘pool of labour’ for the vehicle, maintenance, sentry, camming up and a million and one other things. You are also transferring the people overhead elsewhere as someone will still have to maintain the autoloader

Swing meet roundabout

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
September 11, 2012 1:25 pm

@Bob

Thank you for the insights and taking the time to reply, appreciated.

Jeremy M H
September 11, 2012 1:25 pm

@TOC

There are a few reasons.

First I don’t like having one less man on my tank crew. Some jobs relating to tanks are heavy work and having an extra body never hurts when you have to do impromptu field maintenance on a track or some such thing. I think one less crewman here is a bit of a false economy.

Second I don’t like having a live round in the chamber of the gun when I don’t need to. You can’t take the round back out easily with an auto-loader either.

Third in a short span a man loading the gun fires as fast or faster than most auto-loaders on the 120MM sized projectiles. Any longer than a minute or two and you would run most auto-loaders out of ready ammunition anyway and have to manually move ammunition from storage to the ready racks.

I just don’t see the benefit of it. Would rather have an extra man to help deal with stuff in the field given the negligible benefits of having the thing.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
September 11, 2012 1:39 pm

@Jeremy M H

As with Bob, thank you for the insights and taking the time to reply. Appreciated.

Gareth
Gareth
September 11, 2012 1:44 pm

Just a few things. C2 is huge! Be careful comparing pics. Hull is longer than Leo or M1. C2 is basically a heavy tank, others are nearly mediums! Leclerc is tiny. C2 gun is good, we only have a few tanks now going to be in service, cira 200 out of 400 built. Keep using 120mm and HESH as long as the rifling and ammo lasts (same argument USN used for its BB’s 16 inch guns!) As pointed out the Israeli’s et al proved Tanks can last like modern aircraft, for 50+ years. Rebuild refurbish, update, see what BAE are doing with US army Bradley. Why can’t C2 turn into a remanufactured C3 in 20 years time? Remember the C2E export tank with the bigger 1500hp engine. That was the MTU powerpack from the Leo! Looks at C2 TES, amazing tech bolted on. Coming back to a previous post I like the idea of an infantry/engineer tank version like the Russians have been experimenting with. Uparmoured even more and looking more like an Israeli heavy APC. C2 Female with a chain gun / 120mm mortar / minigun / missile combo would be awesome. 100 Females and 100 males from rebuilding the 200 C2’s that are now in storage in 2030 onwards? I think small numbers of super heavy tanks will be the best way to complement the future Fres SV equipped RAC. We are moving towards medium and heavy tanks again. Let’s embrace it. Flexible multi role Brigades with small numbers of swiss army knife capabilities inc armoured route clearance. Let’s think the future war through, what kind of armoured brigade is going to survive even with AH support either against HezB in FISH or against massed N Korean armour? Get some Cat D9’s to clear the way. Small rock hard elite armoured units, the same way that fighter jets are moving to just a few dozen air dominance platforms per airforce per theatre so to with the tank. Leo 2’s recent export sucess is largely selling off the BW German tanks! Tanks are like aircraft carriers, i.e. like the Battleship in WW2, its sucessor is in existance but it can still do things nothing else can so don’t loose the baby with the bathwater. Remember Canada was going to go all Stryker and wheeled and then backed off replacing Leo1 with Leo2 for Afghan. Lord Strathcona’s Horse, one of the Commonweath’s finest tank reg traditions survived!

S O
S O
September 11, 2012 1:44 pm

TD;
the relevance of such an additional crew member is limited if an army really goes all-mobile warfare and establishes a 2nd crew for every tank.
The Germans had 2nd crews in May 1940, which successfully helped against the problem of crew fatigue.
Nowadays it would be less about fatigue as the internal space of a modern tank is less hellish, but it would still help a lot against sleep deficits, against the maintenance burden and it would allow commanders to replace the men who turned out to be duds in combat (it happens, no matter how they excelled in peacetime training).

@Jeremy M H:
Russian autoloaders weren’t build for “economy”, but to minimise the internal volume and thus the area that needs to be armoured. That’s one of the reasons why the Russian have lighter MBTs. Likewise, autoloader upgrades for Western MBTs could free up pace for electronic gadgets, a better APU and stuff.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
September 11, 2012 1:53 pm

Given improvements in remote weapon systems, could you envisage a fully unmanned turret/”male” on an MBT in development?

Monty
September 11, 2012 1:55 pm

Paul,

Thanks for the article. Some very good responses too. SO your comments are spot on. The L/55 120 mm smoothbore has become a more capable gun than the our 120 mm rifled equivalent, so sooner or later we will need to bite the smoothbore bullet.

If we urgently need to upgrade our Challenger 2s, the common sense thing to do would be to mount a new turret for the L/55 on them (and hopefully fit newer, more powerful engines too). Based on BAE Systems Warrior upgrade programme, new turrets are likely to be less expensive than new tanks – unless KMW wants to cut us a deal on Leopards.

The Germans excel at making tracked military vehicle platforms. The Leopard 2 drivetrain is world class. The chassis is better engineered and more modern than that of the Challenger 2. We know the gun is better. I suspect that the FCS is better too. The trouble is that both Leopard and Challenger are getting a bit long in the tooth now.

So, my ideal scenario is to wait until we really need new tanks. When we do, a joint venture between BAE Systems and Krauss Maffei Wegmann could easily produce something innovative and good. Future spec should be something like this:
– 120-125 mm smoothbore gun
– Low silhouette turret with autoloader
– Carbon nanotube reinforced armour
– V-shaped hull for mine protection
– Crew: driver, 2 in turret and additional crew station in rear of vehicle (like FRES SV Scout)
– 1,800 bhp hydrogen fuel cell and electric drivetrain
– Diesel back-up motor
– Banded tracks
– 100 kph road speed
– 60 kph cross-country speed
– 60 tonnes
– Engine forward chassis
– 3-man crew

Jeremy M H
September 11, 2012 1:59 pm

@SO

I get why the Russians did it. I just don’t agree with it. It made sense in the 60’s and 70’s. By the 80’s fire control technology was good enough that it really didn’t matter. They did not put the extra weight back into armor really, they just built smaller and cheaper tanks for the most part. Once you could basically put rounds onto the part of the tank you wanted to hit from 1,500 plus meters the low frontal cross sections of Russian tanks really stopped being much of a benefit at all. For the most part the bigger turrets of the Western tanks have more room for gadgets to begin with. I agree one might cram more in there with an auto-loader but I don’t think it is worth the trouble frankly. I still don’t like having an active round in the gun either.

When I said “false economy” though I was not really referring to money spent. I was thinking more along the lines of auto-loaders sound great in theory but are less great in the field where being down an extra man in the field. I don’t think second tank crews are really going to solve that in most combat situations.

The Soviet situation was quite different as well. They were fielding tens of thousands of tanks to the point that having another crew member in each one would have had a pretty good impact on their numbers. With nations fielding numbers in the hundreds now it is just not as big of a deal.

Jeremy M H
September 11, 2012 2:02 pm

I look forward to riding around in one of the dozen tanks that most would be able to afford if they tried to make that many leaps at once. You might as well advocate bringing back the Horse Guards mounted on magical unicorns if your plan is a carbon nano tube armored tank powered by hydrogen fuel cells. I can’t even begin to scratch at the issues all of those things would create.

Bob
Bob
September 11, 2012 2:07 pm

S O,

An autoloader would not free up any space unless it took a massive capacity sacrifice. The Russian 125mm autoloader only worked (I use the word loosely) because they adopted comparatively short ammunition (with a resultant velocity loss from shorter sabots and smaller charges. Whilst not an economy measure it did help to make up for less well trained crews. The reason the T-72 series is so light is they have very weak passive armour, especially on the turret, and are incredibly tightly built, there is not an inch of square space inside and they are the most uncomfortable space I have ever been in. The other thing they were after was a much lower silhouette to make it harder to see them and shoot them, thermal cameras and advanced fire control systems killed that advantage.

Ironically I have spoken to a number of comms and display guys who say that space in western tanks for gadgets is not much of a problem any more as most were either designed for or have since been rearranged to take fairly bulky early systems and miniaturisation has actually freed up space.

x
x
September 11, 2012 2:08 pm

I am correct in thinking some Chally 2s have been scrapped?

S O
S O
September 11, 2012 2:11 pm

Monty;

V-shape has little effect without a huge ground clearance; that’s simple rule of proportion geometry (also see the original V-hull vehicles such as Casspir). It’s more of a PR trick on MBTs.

Hydrogen: A risky bet on availability of fuel.

Band tracks; R&D so far suggests they’re no good beyond 30 metric tons. Besides, they can be burnt. De-coupled running gear as on the new Puma IFV can reduce the vibrations and noise inside just as well.

100 kph road speed; much less relevant than acceleration, and high road speed is very tricky concerning the almost exponential increase in wear.
related: http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2011/01/historical-speed-of-advance-in.html

60 tonnes; weight is much less meaningful than mean maximum pressure under the tracks
related: http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2010/08/mean-maximum-pressure-paper.html

martin
Editor
September 11, 2012 2:14 pm

@ SO –
the UK would need to stem the R&D cost for every new ammunition itself because it’s the only user besides cash-stripped Jordania.
What is this magic new ammunition that we need to develop. The existing stuff seems to work pretty well.
I agree that the Merkava is better protected but then its way more heavy than any tank we would consider using. Great for Israel but not much use for an expiditonary force.
The Challenger and Challenger 2 have fought in a real war against other tanks and anti tank weapons and proven themselves. Can the Leopard say the same?
@ Bob
I take what you are saying about the CHARM 3 propellant and the difficulty of manufacture. However Challenger 2 cost £2.2 billion back in 1999 to develop and build. That’s probably £ 5 billion today. The Saudi’s are rumoured to be paying EUR 10 billion for 800 Leopard 2A7’s which would suggest a buy of 200 tanks for us would cost around £2 billion.
I would be interested to know just how big an issue ammunition is for Challenger 2. I don’t think it will cost anything like £ 2 billion and I recon if it was a massive issue the Army would probably have put in for a new tank by now. If it was a capability issue I might agree with a new tank but as you say that’s not the issue.

martin
Editor
September 11, 2012 2:18 pm

@ Wf

What was some one smoking when they wrote this

Then there’s Britain, whose long-term defense contracting practices are establishing world-class benchmarks.

:-)

Bob
Bob
September 11, 2012 2:19 pm

The Other Chris,

A fully unmanned turret is entirely plausible, the KADDB Falcon turret is precisely that but it has a limited ammunition capacity. What the Russians were apprently trying to achieve in the T-90 was to divide the hull into 3, forward section for the crew, centre section for the weapons system with turret on top and rear for the engine with the sections separated by blast-proof (to a point) bulkheads, with insensitive munitions and propellent this would be even easier to achieve. A note of caution, this is just one of the ideas about T-95, all we have are grainy photos and the type has been cancelled now anyway.

Another interesting programme is the US Army ASM programme that was cancelled in 1992, it was trying to achieve something similar and was looking at common chassis for multiple vehicles. At least one M1 Abrams was modified as a test bed.

S O
S O
September 11, 2012 2:22 pm

Forgot to mention:

“Challpard or leopenger?”

This existed; a Leopard2 hull with a British-designed turret. Early 80’s, no customers.
http://www.tanknutdave.com/component/content/article/202

Bob
Bob
September 11, 2012 2:32 pm

martin,

I am not advocating Leopard for the UK, I actually think it would be a stupid idea, the issue was solely with the gun- and as other point out that largely seems to have been solved.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
September 11, 2012 2:39 pm

I was going to save this one for the advertised Urban Combat post but this thread is probably more relevant…

How many Challenger 2’s will we have spare after the new army structure is implimented? Could a new role be found for some of them? As Paul G says the old AVRE is missed and it is widely believed that urban combat will be increasingly important as the developing world urbanises, so what about the concept below? Imagine how survivable a C2 so equiped would be…

http://web.archive.org/web/20041204225659/http://www.sfu.ca/casr/id-fisher1-1.htm

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
September 11, 2012 2:55 pm

Just read Gareth’s post above – very similar idea… Great minds and names think alike!

martin
Editor
September 11, 2012 3:07 pm

Another big issue with swapping CR2 for Leopard or moving to smooth boar to save a few quid is its a bit of a big f**k you to Oman who were nice enough to buy CR2 from us. What does this say to a key ally especially one that’s getting ready to buy Typhoon. If we have an ammo problem for 200 tanks then they are screwed for 38. Same goes for Jordan. What would happen to their Challenger 1’s

martin
Editor
September 11, 2012 3:19 pm

One thing that we seem to glaze over is the HESH round. It seems to me a valid argument for retaining the riffled barrel. Does the smooth bore have an option that can effectively match the HESH round for range and effectiveness?

Jeremy M H
September 11, 2012 3:24 pm

I don’t really see a need for the HESH round at all frankly.

martin
Editor
September 11, 2012 3:27 pm

@ Paul G

“funny you never see him and boris together in the same room and boris has been busy last few weeks!!!”

good point :-) I am sure he will be along soon to tell us about how he finalised plans for 7th Armoured’s advance on Moscow or the like.

martin
Editor
September 11, 2012 3:32 pm

@ Jeremy H

“I don’t really see a need for the HESH round at all frankly.”

Why is this? I don’t know enough about it to comment but the argument of range and ability to tackle soft skin vehicles at 8km seems valid to me. I think it was the HESH round that was used in GW1 that scored the longest ever tank to tank kill so it would seem to have proven useful at some point. Again I don’t really know enough but I can see the logic in it. What would a Leopard or Abram’s have done in the same position as the Challenger 1 in GW1.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
September 11, 2012 3:42 pm

Tanks are not really my thing but I have a few points/questions?

1. Are the CHR 2 requiring to be replaced as they are at the end of their service life?
a. If so then yes we obviously need to replace them.
b. If not I do not see any existing tank options out there offering anything other than a minor capability upgrade.

2. The biggest use of tanks recently seems to have been in an urban environment and CH2 with upgraded options seems to cope well in such environments.

So my take would be that with the lower priority placed on heavy armour we should continue to run CHR 2 until we need to replace them and then look at the latest Leopard Version or see what the US M1 A3 project comes up with. Replacing them now would seem to me to be like spending all your money on a slightly newer car when a much better model may be released in the future.

Jeremy M H
September 11, 2012 3:47 pm

HESH is just not all that effective against fully modern tanks. It is useful to have certainly but having it means having a rifled barrel. That means you can’t use NATO standard ammunition which means you have to pay to develop stuff that will be created by others and bought in huge amounts. If I have to choose between HESH and having the latest APFSDS rounds there is just not much contest. As a bonus I can get things like HEAT rounds or canister rounds or any new thing the Germans or US decide to stick in there basically for cost.

martin
Editor
September 11, 2012 3:50 pm

@ APATS –

“The biggest use of tanks recently seems to have been in an urban environment and CH2 with upgraded options seems to cope well in such environments.”

Its a good point, Tanks today are more likely to be taking it at close range than dishing it out at long range. The CR2 would seem to s**t all over the M1 in this respect. Not sure how much better protected the L2A7 is but again I place a premium on real world proven capability which the CR2 has bags of certainly more than the L2.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
September 11, 2012 4:01 pm

Jeremy M H

“HESH is just not all that effective against fully modern tanks”

Agreed but it is not the prime anti tank round. Also who are we likely to be going up against in the near future that has “fully modern tanks”. Just asking because their is a US election due and all that.
I do not think the disadvantages of the rifled gun justify taking it out of service before the natural end life of its platform.

Jeremy M H
September 11, 2012 4:01 pm

I am curious why you think the CR2 would widely trump the M1 in protection. I would say other than the guns and power packs the tanks are virtually the same things.

martin
Editor
September 11, 2012 4:02 pm

@ Jeremy
Thanks for your comments, I am really just trying to get a handle on this debate and fully understand the issues. I take your point about the HESH round not being effective against the latest tanks however, if we ever use armour against armour again (and it’s a big if) we would be far more likely to be facing the same old T55 – T72’s we have faced in the past. Does CR2 with its longer range not have an edge over the likes of L2 and M1 in these types of engagements?
In terms of the HEAT round, is it capable of taking out anything that the CHARM 3 DU round can’t?
New ammo developed by others is a good point however is there actually any new tank ammo in development. Give the killing power of the CHARM 3 and HESH rounds do we need any new types of ammo what can’t we do with what we have. It seems to me that there has been very little development in tank ammo for the last 40 years and unlikely to be any major advances in the life time of CR2

Jeremy M H
September 11, 2012 4:06 pm

@APATS

I agree. Never advocated taking the rifled gun out of service before the tanks crap out. Just think the natural evolution of western tanks will see an American and European model fielding the same gun (at least one that uses the same ammunition) and very similar tanks.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
September 11, 2012 4:13 pm

Jeremy M H

Concur and I did not mean to imply that the US were going to start a war. I think it shows an ability to adapt that having been late for 2 the US ensured it would never happen again by being charge of the invites for every one since.

martin
Editor
September 11, 2012 4:15 pm

@ JH –

I would not say it would widely trump the M1 in protection. However CR2 is heavier and to my knowledge has never suffered a single crew fatality due to enemy action. Maybe no the best comparison as there are obviously more M1’s in service.

Jeremy M H
September 11, 2012 4:18 pm

I find it silly that people always cite anyone advocating having heavy armored forces as wanting to fight the last war. I personally think those that think we are going to lighter forces operating only in insurgent environments are the ones guilty of that at the moment. Iraq and Afghanistan did happen but they are not a solid basis to plan your military around for the next 30 years in my view. I think those that walk away from major armored formations will regret it.

HESH is in a unique position. It works against all steel armor well enough. But as those tanks get old and retired and buyers increasingly have more leverage (when you make up a higher percentage of the buy as most now do you don’t have to accept Soviet export models) increasingly nations will have tanks that don’t have all steel armor. There are plenty of powers that have access to hundreds or more Western style tanks in the Middle East that are not exactly on stable ground either. CHARM 3 is nice enough but the US Army has put one APFSDS round in service since it entered service and is about to put another in service. That is not done for s**ts and giggles.

I think it is pie in the sky optimism that assumes ones tanks won’t at some point have to duke it out with a well equipped enemy. If all you were worried about was fighting export models of T-55/72’s then you might as well just have kept Challenger 1 after all.

wf
wf
September 11, 2012 4:22 pm

@APATS: HESH is indeed not our primary anti-tank round. However, it’s not as effective in the general purpose role, or indeed in an anti-armour role, as the US MPAT round. Getting something equivalent for the L30 should be a priority

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
September 11, 2012 4:35 pm

A few questions for the more informed out there;

(1) How modular is Challengers armour. I know that it’s not designed to be switched out like LeClerc’s is but when I’ve seen a Challenger up close it does look like the Dorchester armour is an external applique layer rather than a unitary part of the hull construction. If it is replaceable then I don’t see any reason not to continue using the Challenger hull.

(2) Challenger needs to be re-engined and we know this can be done since the 2E version was marketed with an MTU power pack but does the suspension need upgrading? From what I’ve read, the external hydragas system is exceptional and superior to torsion bars as used in Leopard. If it is so, then it’s another good reason to keep the Challenger hull and upgrade.

(3) As far as it is possible to tell from available sources, there’s nothing out there that a CHARM 3 round won’t penetrate and given that there are currently the most likely opponents are unlikely to field anything better than a T-72 is it really worth going to the trouble of designing a new turret that can take the 120mm smoothbore (which is, admittedly, a better hole-puncher)?

(4) HESH means not having to carry a secondary AP round (HEAT) and an APERS round plus it makes mincemeat of buildings and bunkers so is it another argument against the bother of switching to the 120mm smoothbore?

Inform me, ladies and gentlemen!

Bob
Bob
September 11, 2012 5:00 pm

Anyone who says heavy armour is obsolete, or for yesterdays wars, or a legacy Cold War and not needed is too stupid to converse with.

We launched an armoured invasion of another country less than a decade ago and in Afghanistan right now you will find IFV’s MBT’s SPH’s and heavy tracked engineering vehicles. The lesson from the last decade is those vehicles need substantial mine protection and we need to extend mine protection through the force to anyone who may enter the combat environment. Nobody should be leaving Afghanistan thinking that lightweight and deployability should be prioritised over protection.

Mark
Mark
September 11, 2012 5:01 pm

Dont know much about tanks but would the trigger for a new tank design be a major break thru in armour. Either current protection which weights significantly less or some other new revolution.

Could a 120mm gun and some added Armour be placed on the scout sv chassis and used as a tank?

Jeremy M H
September 11, 2012 5:19 pm

@Mark

The next change in tank design will come from one of two sources.

The ability of directed energy weapons or microwave weapons or some such combination to make armor in the sense we know it now obsolete. Or the progression of active defense systems to the point that armor is more about stopping fragments from rounds you have actively killed than it is taking a full on hit.

I think the later is more likely to happen than the former but both are at least 20 years away.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 11, 2012 5:22 pm

wf, How much of a priority is the question? What do you cut to replace something that is perfectly adequate and has proven to be so? Especially as it will be naturally replaced as its vehicle leaves service to be replaced.

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
September 11, 2012 5:37 pm

Jeremy M – as for microwave weapons, the best defence against such a device would be to enclose yourself in a Faraday cage or, in other words, a Big Metal Box!

Monty
September 11, 2012 5:49 pm


@Jeremy

You can divide potential future threats into three scenarios:

1. Policing / Peacekeeping / Training and Support roles – Low intensity operations, usually in support of a UN resolution, with the aim to support a legitimate government or to supervise the provision of humanitarian aid.

2. Counter-terrorism / Counter insurgency roles – Low to Medium intensity operations, usually in support of a UN resolution but not always, with the aim to restore legitimate government, to protect national and international interests and to deny illegal organisations freedom of action etc.

3. General war roles – High-intensity major conflict, usually to defend direct national interests, extending from a high intensity limited conflict (like the Falklands) to responding to foreign intervention/ attack that either directly or indirectly affects national interests.

You can prioritise these threats in terms of probability (with 1 the most likely and 3 the least likely) and impact (with 3 having the most impact and 1 the least). Apart form protected mobility, tanks have a limited role in scenarios 1 and 2.

Although the possibility of a large conventional war is remote, we must maintain armoured formations, not only because potential enemies have retained vast fleets of tanks and MICVs, but also because such vehicles still represent a rapid and highly flexible means of land attack. Infantry will continue to need some kind of tracked mobility and if it isn’t a tracked APC it will be a wheeled one. Whatever armoured vehicles are used, we will need to be able to eliminate them, so evolved tanks / tank destroyers are likely to remain a key military asset for some years to come.

What has changed is the way tanks are likely to be used. As Gulf War I showed, large armoured formations are very vulnerable to air attack. So you cannot use armour en masse without air superiority. In any event you will need local air defence that can keep pace with armour. Let’s not forget the Yom Kippur War. So far, our 7th generation tanks have survived attacks by RPGs reasonably well. But when faced with more advanced guided missile systems, they may prove to be vulnerable. infantry will need to protect tanks as much as tanks will need to protect infantry.

For the most part, I think we’ll see small combined units of infantry in company size formations (12-16 vehicles) working in close co-operation with troop size (4 vehicle) tank formations. For this kind of structure to work, vehicle reliability will be paramount, which suggests a move to highly agile wheeled vehicles rather than tracked ones. (I don’t want to get in a debate about tanks versus wheels, it is tanks AND wheels, as they complement each other.). The Italian Army’s Centauro wheeled tank destroyer may well be the blueprint for future tanks.

I firmly believe that future armour will be an evolved species. We’ll use smaller, more agile tracked and wheeled vehicles that use advanced armour. Protection will be about crew survival more than vehicle survival, with well-protected central crew compartments. I believe that autoloaders will replace hand loading. The FRES Scout SV is a blueprint for modern Ground Combat Vehicles (GCVs). Following the same layout as the Israeli Merkava, engine forward configurations with a rear door are much better for crew survivability. It also facilitates better ammunition stowage. The same is true for 8×8 wheeled vehicles.

The other important recent learning is that APCs need to be as well protected as tanks. This explains why the latest generation of IFVs have grown substantially in weight and why FRES UV will weigh in the region of 30 tonnes. It wouldn’t surprise me if we move to a common platform for both tanks and IFVS, with both weighing around 60 tonnes.

While we will still need heavy armour. We will also need light armour. Vehicles like the Ocelot / Foxhound are the blueprint for this. What we don’t have yet is a vehicle in the same class as Foxhound capable of mounting a decent cannon.

RW
RW
September 11, 2012 6:11 pm

My thoughts on the future of the MBT have been around the CTA (cased telescoped ammunition) rounds and the US NLOS(non line of sight ) ideas with some focus on the work that the Israelis have done to develop tank defences.
Also I’ve reasoned thus- the main force of the UK ammunition strategy has been to give us sovereign capability and supplies since we have learnt not to trust our European allies for resupply. Ergo the NATO status of ammunitions is actually irrelevant to MOD sourcing decisions.
So my idea is to develop a successor to the AS90 (with input from the Japanese for autoloader) for a cased 155mm set of rounds that are fired from a turret with high volumetric efficiency , high angle of elevation and the computing power to handle both artillery ballistic computations and direct fire computations.
Result is a heavily armoured highly protected unit that can kill any tank and hit anything that modern artillery aims for.
At which point you will say barking mad think of the cost but with type 26 I think there may be many maturing technologies we could use. The CTA rounds developed so far have not required massive cost, though I grant you the French have paid that bill.
I believe there are virtues for the future in combining artillery and tank properties in a single platform. I also believe we will increasingly use CTA UK /UK French specific ammunition. The fact that CTA has not been found cost effective for other than 40mm is in my opinion just a function of the scenarios that have been costed.

If you look at the rapid recent rise in capabilities associated with the 40mm CTA round… such as the airburst or laser guided rounds it shows the basic technology of cased rounds allows for a massive range of projectiles.

Finally with regards to the Israelis I would combine the best in British protection with the soft kill of their technology to provide a system that was very able to project power but also able to soak up attacks without causing too much collateral damage

Weight as per C2, armour to include electric, engine new and big, drive possibly hybrid electric, maintenance through RFID monitoring and intelligent (artificial) systems . Much of which is already out in the commercial world and none of which is really innovative. Total budget for 150 equal to that for FRES scout- under £2 billion. Yes a lot of money but also lots of export potential and going forward early retirement of the current AS90 CR fleet.

WiseApe
September 11, 2012 6:38 pm

” I think it shows an ability to adapt that having been late for 2…” – he just wouldn’t let it lie! :-)

@ paul g – thanks Paul, I was surprised (and delighted) to see a post about tanks. But let’s be honest – we don’t need any new ones and couldn’t afford them if we did. I agree with the comment that the future will see just two western tanks – an American and a European one. But with a requirement/budget for only around 200, how much say do you think the UK will have in the design of either one?

I like the idea of developing either/or a turret for the numerically successful Leopard and a modern AVRE vehicle – perhaps an international market exists for such specialist vehicles.

“Anyone who says heavy armour is obsolete, or for yesterdays wars, or a legacy Cold War and not needed is too stupid to converse with.” – indeed. Also, can substitute the words “heavy armour” with the words “aircraft carrier.”

John Hartley
John Hartley
September 11, 2012 6:48 pm

What do you want to do?
A Super Challenger would have 135mm electrothermal gun, V shape anti IED hull, EO ball on telescopic mast, 1500hp+ engine. Fantasy tank, pretty impressive though.
Cheapest option, all those near new, Leopard 2 being flogged off by many European countries(Austria, Holland, etc).
Expeditionary option. Something like the Brazil Engesa Osorio EE-T2, 41 tons, 120mm smoothbore gun. Lots of interest, but killed by cheap 2nd hand tanks at the end of the cold war.

Tubby
Tubby
September 11, 2012 7:13 pm

Presumably, beyond the issues with the rifled 120mm cannon, the Challenger 2 has a number of obsolescence issues which are being or will be addressed by a rolling sustainability programme?

The engine is mentioned above, and I am sure that it has been discussed in the past that one of the most pressing issues is the optics. Is there a good website that could give me a bit more details on planned upgrades/sustainability programmes for Challenger 2? I have tried Defence Industry Daily and a google search but couldn’t find anything concrete

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
September 11, 2012 7:24 pm

There’s a great deal here, isn’t there?
It’s great to see this being discussed – it’s one of my pet subjects – but there are some weird prejudices that die hard and that I tend to disagree with.

AVRE:
What can a 165mm gun firing HESH do that a 120mm gun firing HESH cannot? You will notice that the advent of the 120mm-armed Chieftain saw the end of the gun-armed AVRE, although the Centurion did continue in service for some time. However, when a wholly new engineering vehicle on the CR2 chassis was developed: No gun. A gun AVRE will introduce a vehicle that looks like a tank, needs supporting and transportation like a tank yet can do almost nothing of what a tank can do. In the mean time actual tanks will be able to do everything that a tank can do which includes everything that the gun AVRE can do.

German Engineering is Awesome:
If you say so. Look at BMW, VW etc?
Personally I kind of dislike most German cars I get to drive. Ergonomics tend to be pretty weak.
Part of the reason for the prevalence of the Leopard 2 is that it was bought in large quantities by the German Government at the end of the Cold War. When the threat of immediate conflict ended they were sold off cheaply.

Rifled guns are no good:
“The rifling leads to inferior APFSDS and HEAT performance”
Well, in a sense it does, because spun HEAT doesn’t work as well. Since CR2 doesn’t use HEAT that doesn’t matter.
APFSDS loses a little energy to the rifling but gains a slow rotation to improve accuracy that smoothbore guns have to add with slightly canted fins.
What a Rifle does give you is the ability to fire full-bore shells like smoke and HE natures. Smoothbore shells must have fins which increases overall length and complexity

Cased Telescopic technology is great:
Yet to be proved.
Since most modern subcalibre rounds are partially telescoped anyway the advantages are slight for a full-telescoped round and likely to be outweighed by the obturation difficulties inherent in the full-telescoped concept.

Unmanned Turrets are great:
You’ve still got to service the guns and carry the crew. It only really gives you a weight and profile advantage if you are happy to sacrifice your mission capability. Turret height is dictated by gun elevation requirements*. If you take a look at the KADDB Falcon turret the armour area required to protect the mission capability isn’t that much smaller than a manned turret.

* If you go beyond simply unmanned and into an overhead weapon station, the loss of the ability to depress the breech into the turret ring sharply limits your elevation capability.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
September 11, 2012 7:26 pm

Just a quick thanks to @Paul G for writing the article before I reply to others and forget.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
September 11, 2012 7:47 pm

I would like to address Monty’s post specifically, because I think that it reflects important issues with specifying a requirement. I have added numbers to assist:

“Future spec should be something like this:
(1)- 120-125 mm smoothbore gun
(2)- Low silhouette turret with autoloader
(3)- Carbon nanotube reinforced armour
(4)- V-shaped hull for mine protection
(5)- Crew: driver, 2 in turret and additional crew station in rear of vehicle (like FRES SV Scout)
(6)- 1,800 bhp hydrogen fuel cell and electric drivetrain
(7)- Diesel back-up motor
(8)- Banded tracks
(9)- 100 kph road speed
(10)- 60 kph cross-country speed
(11)- 60 tonnes
(12)- Engine forward chassis
(13)- 3-man crew”

(1) Why 120 or 125mm? Is this an off-the-shelf demand or part of a requirement for a new gun?
(2) How does this impact fightability, observation, and weapon arcs to include elevation and depression?
(3) What are carbon nanotubes going to add to armour? Apart from making it more expensive, of course. They are a very immature technology and may never prove suitable, or at least less suitable than other materials (graphene?) On top of that there is a risk that Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs) may prove to have similar health complications to Asbestos. Do you really want to mandate that?
(4) Why not just specify a threat and let the engineers develop a solution? A V-hull that works is not likely to be compatible with a low silhouette
(5) Random dismount? What for? Is it worth the volume and associated weight?
(6) Hydrogen Fuel cells? Nice to aim for the revolutionary, but since the world does not yet run on a hydrogen economy perhaps we should limit ourselves to something that can be supported outside the military supply chain.
(7) back-up motor? how is that going to work?
(8) Band tracks are not currently suitable for 60t vehicles. If they were upscaled then they would be almost impossible to handle manually.
(9) Can it be done with these power-to-weight ratios?
(10) ditto
(11) Is that reasonable? what sort of protection levels are we after? stowed rounds? unrefuelled range?
(12) You have specified a de-coupled drive-train then hamstrung it by forcing the engine to be in a particular place. Forward engines force compromises in your protection, driver position and height.
(13) 3 plus a dismount? Why is this advantageous?

wf
wf
September 11, 2012 8:34 pm

@APATS: MPAT has a proximity fuse for air-bursting and is a lot more effective for bunker busting. Given that our armour is going to be doing a lot of urban work, that strikes me as an important capability to have

x
x
September 11, 2012 8:44 pm

My hope is that the Army uses re-cycled chip fat from the various Army canteens to power its armoured vehicles. Olfactory stimulus has a profound effect on the human brain. When going off to fight Tom will be immersed in the smell of his favourite food which should be good for morale. I wonder if they can make fuel from curry?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 11, 2012 9:06 pm

wf

Given we did not deploy Chr 2 to Afghan and the rounds we had worked in Iraq. So where are we definitely going to be doing urban work? I am all in favour of having good kit but wasting massive sums of money to gain a small increase in effectiveness on an asset (that remains efective) whose numbers are being cut and is mid way through its life cycle does not seem to make any sense at all.
I merely ask again what are you are going to cut to pay to re turret all our MBTs?

Simon257
Simon257
September 11, 2012 9:06 pm

One advantage a Challenger 2, fitted with a Short Barrelled L9 or a modern day equivelent. Is that it would be able to drive through a town or village and be able to transverse the turret completely, without hindrance. Bringing its gun to bear on any target. Something a normal Gun Tank, whatever country of origin, will always have trouble with!

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
September 11, 2012 9:08 pm

Single Malt fuelled idea, I know how bizarre it sounds, so go easy on me:

Derivative of the Oto Melara 127/64!

– High rate of fire;
– Fully stabilised;
– Programmable FCS with Sensor feed(s);
– Add in your MBT oriented firing solutions;
– Maintain the NGS firing solutions in the database for… Navy Army Gunfire Support;
– Unmanned turret/male thingamabob remotely cued by the Commander;
– Commonality in rounds with Royal Navy and Allied Navies;
– Large stocks of existing standard 5″ ammunition;
– Dare I say Vulcano rounds?

How big an MBT are we talking? Alternatively a self-propelled thingamabob? Could it fit inside an A400M?

(Imagine Boris has found out Gordon hadn’t flogged the Gold after all and it was hidden underneath the Orbit all along.)

Have a few wee drams yourself and join in!

Brian Black
Brian Black
September 11, 2012 9:08 pm

If we’re so fond of throwing HESH, and facing massed armour is anachronistic, then we could just take ASCOD with a 105mm gun. Plenty of anti-armour/materiel/personnel ammo options already out there.
If we need a larger caliber weapon too, ASCOD could carry a smoothbore 120mm. BAe built a 120mm turret for the CV90 with a smaller ring diameter than the UK ASCOD, so I wonder if that might be a relatively simple adaptor to fit an already developed weapon system to the UK spec’d vehicles (having lost out to GD’s ASCOD, providing 120mm turrets would benefit BAe shareholders, thereby fulfilling the primary role of HMF). Throw on some active defence systems and still cheaper than going for a new MBT, and would deliver an armoured reaction force that was A400 portable.

Tubby
Tubby
September 11, 2012 9:17 pm

No expert (not even semi-competent), but isn’t a FRES Direct Fire with 105mm or 120mm smooth bore a bad idea? Wouldn’t older ex-Soviet tanks be able to penetrate the armour on the FRES hull, as would older generation guided anti-tank missiles? So while it might be air portable, we would have difficult air lifting any real numbers in of FRES Direct Fire, and we would have something a lot less effective than Challenger 2. However I quite like the idea of FRES based overwatch vehicle with 4 – 8 anti-tank missiles.

My earlier question on good sources of information on the future upgrades of the Challenger 2 was an attempt to work out if we really need to buy new tanks or if we can go on with modest expense getting the most out of what we have – after all it was cost that kept them out of Afghanistan not utility.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
September 11, 2012 9:20 pm

Simon257,
Anything else?
To offset the lack of range, effect against armoured targets and limited ammunition?
Not to mention the unique equipment fit and ammunition?

wf
wf
September 11, 2012 9:23 pm

@APATS: no, we didn’t deploy tanks to Afghan. However, the MOD is full of stories of British units working with Danish tanks, not to mention using Warrior themselves, so we could be forgiven for wondering why we don’t have CR2 there.

Where did you get the idea I wanted to re-barrel CR2? MPAT is just HEAT with a clever fuse, and HEAT is available for rifled guns you know :-)

Dave
Dave
September 11, 2012 9:28 pm

Lots of mention about the old favourites – Leopard, Leclerc, Abrams – but what about the new boys on the block.

South Korea’s K2 Black Panther which has the ubiqutous Rheinmentall 120mm smoothbore but which was originally designed to mount a 140mm cannon, a 3man crew with LecLerc type autoloader, KSTAM fire and forget top attack munition as well as the standard munitions and a range of defensive capabilities including frontal armour which has turned back 120mm APFSDS rounds all wrapped into a 55t hull. Unconfirmed reports suggest than in an emergency two or even one crew member can operate the tank on their own.

A variant is the MITUP Altay which the Turks chose over the Leopard and Leclerc, an indigenous MBT but with significant technology transfer from South Korea. Slightly bigger than the K2 but with a 4man crew.

Could a deal with the South Koreans be an easy way to develop a modern MBT piggy backing onto the technological advances of the K2? Using the hull and chassis which is clearly adaptable, transfer armour designs including the bolt on kit and you’ve a modern tank designed to be future fitted as well.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 11, 2012 9:37 pm

wf

Well in that case buy away though as the only users we would have to pay to develop it ourselves.

S O
S O
September 11, 2012 9:39 pm

“No expert (not even semi-competent), but isn’t a FRES Direct Fire with 105mm or 120mm smooth bore a bad idea? Wouldn’t older ex-Soviet tanks be able to penetrate the armour on the FRES hull, as would older generation guided anti-tank missiles?”

Seriously, the Russians CAN penetrate Chally2, and quite easily so. All it takes is basic AT competence, some balls and post-1990 AT weapons.
Chally is not protected against a 125 mm APFSDS or tandem HEAT hit in its flank. Even the blast of a 125 mm HEAT grenade could knock it out through shattering optics, destroying the running gear on one side, hurting crew through open hatches or de-calibrated weapons.

The use of a 30-ish ton AFV instead of a 50ish to 70ish ton AFV means a couple problems less (mostly fuel consumption, recovery and bridging) and a vulnerability to additional weapon systems. These “additional” weapon systems are actually not very many: Stuff such as 40 mm autocannons and some semi-obsolete AT ammunitions of the 80’s.

x
x
September 11, 2012 9:46 pm

@ TOC re 127mm in a tank.

To give an idea of scale here is the OM 76mm gun SPAAG system. Um. Heavy cavalry vehicle? Or light tank?

I suppose this leads down the road towards that Russian idea of the support tank wotsit the BMPT.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMPT

S O
S O
September 11, 2012 9:49 pm


“I agree that the Merkava is better protected but then its way more heavy than any tank we would consider using. Great for Israel but not much use for an expiditonary force.”

Actually, Merkava 4 and Challenger 2 weigh almost the same, and Challenger 2 with upgrades weighs a bit more.
They keep publishing the baseline weight of Chally2, which makes some people believe the weight is indeed “only” 62.5 t. In fact it’s more close to 70 t. Merkava 4’s published 65 t already includes lots of upgrades (over Merkava 3).

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
September 11, 2012 9:50 pm

“PS i get a non kevin/andrew post up and there’s no sign of the crimson avenger (AKA red trousers) funny you never see him and boris together in the same room and boris has been busy last few weeks!!!”

Lol, Paul.

But i think we should all be aware that RT is in favour of lighter weight solutions than 60t behemoths for recon:

http://www.montaguebikes.com/paratrooper-folding-military-bike.html

check out the second pic. yes, RT is in fact a septic. :D

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
September 11, 2012 9:59 pm

S O,
So it IS protected over the forward arc? Seems to me that’s pretty important.

All AFVs are vulnerable to F- and M-kills from weapons that are not capable of scoring K-kills
You can protect from M-kills by fighting hull-down. You can protect against F-kills by using robust kit and redundant optics.

If the round goes straight through your armour protection it doesn’t matter about redundancies – it all goes up in smoke.

So a 60t AFV MAY lose mission capability when hit. A 30t AFV WILL lose mission capability AND crew when hit. Sounds like a pretty good argument to me.

Tubby
Tubby
September 11, 2012 10:09 pm

Thanks SO for the clarification – the pre-1990 and post-1990 date is the bit that I am interested in clarifying. Presumably it’s about the ammo rather than the gun itself – so T-72 with APFSDS could get a kill on a Challenger 2, but pre-1990 it lacked a APFSDS round? Is the T-55 with the D-10 cannon firing a tandem warhead a threat to Challenger 2?

I know predicting the future is a fools game, but is it safe to conclude that the mostly likely scenario for tank engagement would be in a war with limited ROE, in an urban area, and that we would likely be fighting against T-55/T-72 or possibly T-69/T-80/T-85-III’s?

Simon257
Simon257
September 11, 2012 10:19 pm

@ Mr Fred

I’m not talking about taking on, other Armour. I’m talking about fighting in a FIBUA situation, supporting Infantry. Which is usually up close and personal. Although granted in our “PC” world, you wouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore. I’d have no hesitation on using a Challenger 2 to knock down a house, if someone was trying their level best to kill my Infantry from it.

The thing is, you can take a tank down most streets. A normal Tank however, is going to have trouble though, with those silly little things you find on streets, like Trees, Telephone Poles, Electricity Poles and so on!

S O
S O
September 11, 2012 11:31 pm

Tubby, “1990” was not meant as a strict divisive line, but as a marker for the change of eras. The post-Cold War era saw much more sophisticated AT weapons than were common during the Cold War. Examples are top attack, tandem shaped charges and lately even munitions with a decoy warhead fired ahead to lure active defence systems.
I was mostly thinking of AT weapons, i.e. RPG-29 etc, not munitions such as certain APFSDS rounds. Still, tank gun ammo kept improving as well.

The Cold War MBTs (and basic Chally2 as well) were optimised to withstand APFSDS and HEAT frontally, with disappointing protection for the sides (usually barely enough to stop lightweight AT weapons such as RPG-18, M72), little mine protection and multiple embarrassingly vulnerable spots such as for example non-armoured fume extractor on the barrel.
These protection deficiencies were addressed driven by Iraq occupation needs, but only at the cost of excessive weight.

The state of affairs during the 80’s was that both blocs had insufficient armour penetration to penetrate the most of the frontal surface of the other bloc’s newest tanks (at least the West overrated its ammo, most of all those who stuck with 105 mm for long).
T-80 couldn’t penetrate a Leo2 frontally and Leo2 couldn’t penetrate a T-80 frontally.
Little was done against APFSDS post-1990, save for the turret front upgrades that came with Leo2A5 and M1A2SEP as well as Russian “heavy” ERA, for example. APFSDS on the other hand proceeded to become more powerful, albeit possibly also more fragile in face of lateral forces of reactive or active protection.

So there are two possibilities:
(1) Chally2 may withstand a 125 mm APFSDS frontally, but not into its sides. A 30 ton tank would then be disadvantaged in a frontal fight only. This doesn’t amount to much if you look at an entire scenario campaign. Most losses would be caused by other than frontal 125 mm hits. The biggest difference would be that T-90 OPFOR would seek a frontal fight. Which the 30 t tanks would counter by dispersing and thus getting shots at T-90 side armour anyway.

(2) Chally2 may be unable to withstand a 125 mm APFSDS threat frontally. In this case you’d have more than 30 tons additional weight for very, very little gain.

The difference between MBTs and medium tanks is likely worth it, but mediums can very well be successful and do not need to have much higher losses. It depends on how they will be used and against whom.

__________
I didn’t hear about a 100 mm tandem HEAT yet, not even for the guided missile. A competent (and still suicidal) T-55 commander would insist on getting a flank shot anyway, and then a 1968 BM-8 APDS would suffice to penetrate and defeat a Chally2.
In fact, KE resistance on hull side armour of MBTs is widely speculated to be so poor (~ 100 mm RHAeq KE) that even the ’88’ of World War 2 might kill a Leopard 2 or other MBT with a flank shot. Turret side armour is a bit tougher, but not by much except on the Soviet-style round turrets.
(Armour depth of hull sides is about 1/3 of armour depth line-of-sight of frontal armour on modern MBTs.)

___________
Concerning future wars; think of us being in 1932. Lots of old tanks from a past era around, some interesting prototypes, and save for some moderately-sized wars (which will be used by great powers to battle-test equipment and doctrines) we will likely see another 2+ years arms race (comparable to 1938-1939 and 1912-1914) totally out of proportion of what we’ve experienced in the last years before there will be another big war.
Well, that’s my guess.

Brian Black
Brian Black
September 12, 2012 12:41 am

Hi, Simon257. If infantry support in built up areas was the prime use for Challenger2, and bumping into the scenery the main concern, a smoothbore 120mm/44cal would chop 1.3m off the end of the 55 caliber Challenger2 or Rheinmetall barrel. And while 55 caliber guns overtook the shorter barrels in the 80s, it would seem that most ammunition types are still available either as common ammo or through continued development for the older guns that were still around. Only 1.3m, but you’d still retain much of your at-range anti-armour capability, that you’d certainly lose with a much shorter gun.

martin
Editor
September 12, 2012 1:52 am

@ SO “ Chally2 may be unable to withstand a 125 mm APFSDS threat frontally. In this case you’d have more than 30 tons additional weight for very, very little gain.

The difference between MBTs and medium tanks is likely worth it, but mediums can very well be successful and do not need to have much higher losses. It depends on how they will be used and against whom.”

Point taken but can L2 or M1 take these rounds. If not then not much point in changing CR2

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
September 12, 2012 11:00 am

Just so you know, lunchtime fun with a CAD package fitting the Oto Melara 127/64 into a chassis is going well.

x
x
September 12, 2012 11:20 am

@ SO re 1932

In the 1930s we British built some good tanks and sold them worldwide. Unfortunately we, that is HMG, didn’t buy them.

@ TOC

Good for you.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
September 12, 2012 11:52 am

@SO – It was my understanding that the C2 (C1 for that matter) was significantly better protected than M1 due to having Chobham armour and a national British bias toward protection in the “Iron Triangle” equation: the M1 was nearly impervious across the frontal arc (tales of rod penatrators sticking out of the front armour like needles in a pin cushion from GW1) but weak elsewhere, while the C1/2 could take serious hits from ATGW from all directions (perhaps not the rear – always a weak point in rear engined tanks?)

RE: Urban combat – as I pointed out in a earlier post with a link, a new AVRE would be a useful “Siege engine” with a 120mm gun-mortar, 50 cal’s/40mm GMG’s, slat armour and a dozer blade. Pic below is a modified Leopard 1 but you could do the same to a C2:

http://web.archive.org/web/20041213074434im_/http://www.sfu.ca/casr/fisher7-2.jpg

Introducing the 120mm gun-mortar might cause logistical problems so you could go for a “swan-off” 120mm gun, probably with reduced charge; as BB said, 120mm HESH is pretty good. Another pic of Leo 1 modified – imagine shorterned 120mm:

http://web.archive.org/web/20040222142216im_/http://www2.sfu.ca/casr/fisher9-3.jpg

If such a vehicle were part of the enginners it could share the maintenance with the RAC but be able to support all operations whethet the RAC were involved or not.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
September 12, 2012 11:59 am

I stand to be corrected, but I think you’ll find that the Chobham research output was shared with our friends over the pond.

Monty
September 12, 2012 11:59 am

Just a small note on carbon nanotubes. This new carbon structure was only discovered within the last decade and is immensely strong: it is 100 times stronger than steel but weighs six times less, i.e. 60 tonnes of armour would weigh ten tonnes. This means we will be able to create much lighter tanks with significantly greater protection. Right now, we’re looking at how to manufacture large quantities of it. It is the future. No question.

As has been pointed out, Challenger 2 is not invulnerable and can easily be penetrated by a variety of existing weapons. So tanks as we know them today wouldn’t last long in a future conflict. So, it is safe to assume that the current paradigm is broken. For this reason, it makes little sense to invest in new tanks, e.g. Leopard 2 when they incorporate a more recent iteration of the same basic technology.

Until we get new armour that can resist all existing weapons, we should keep Ch2 for as long as it works. If we need new vehicles, we should acquire ones that are fast, agile, and light. They need basic mine, cannon and RPG protection. They also need the ability to take out other existing heavy armour.

Mike W
September 12, 2012 12:16 pm

@paul g

I have come to this post rather late, Paul, but just wanted to say that it is a very good one, very thought-provoking.

The thought occurred to me that several contributors have made the point that there will be more fighting in built-up areas in the future. Some have also said that the long barrel of a 120 mm main gun would be unwieldy in such conditions. Others have implied that, although it has a short barrel, to bring back a petard-type mortar like the L9 165 mm would be either expensive or undesirable.

I do think, however, that we shall need a short-barrelled type weapon for FIBUA-type work in the future. I don’t know whether you ever heard mention of it while serving but the French, I believe, still use a demolition charge projector on their engineer tank. That would be far smaller than the 165 mm and far less expensive. I’ve got an idea that it works on a compressed-air basis and I think it could easily be fitted to the Trojan. Anyone know anything about it?

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
September 12, 2012 12:40 pm

@ NAB – Could very well have done; I was only stating what I understand was the situation but that could be completely wrong. I read somewhere that the US use a ceramic/steel sandwich for their armour while the Chobham is more sophisticated… Don’t know if thats right, happy to be contradicted.

B.Smitty
B.Smitty
September 12, 2012 12:55 pm

@Swimming Trunks

Chobham armor is just one of the first operational uses of so-called “composite” armor. All major western tanks now use a variant. The M1A2 SEP, Leclerc, Leopard 2A6+, and Merkava 4 are similarly well protected.

All are vulnerable to lower hull or glacis shots from top-end anti-armor
weapons (e.g. 125mm BM-42M/BM-46, Kornet). Turret fronts should still afford a margin of safety though. Of course as SO says, a hit can cause problems even if it doesn’t penetrate.

wf
wf
September 12, 2012 1:01 pm

@Swimming Trunks: Chobham *was* shared with NATO allies. I don’t think Dorchester was though

martin
Editor
September 12, 2012 2:20 pm

– I am inclined to agree that one of the first and major uses for either Graphene or Carbon Nano Tubes will be armour. That being said I think we are more likely to see sheets of it incorporated with existing armour rather than a tank built from the stuff. I think even R&D on such a concept is a decade away though. I also think we are more likely to see it in smaller vehicles than MBT’s and body armour. Something like this would be worth investing in a new tank project but I don’t see any near term need.
@ WF – I think you are correct about Dorchester not being shared. Did the M1A2 include an armour upgrade anyway? I thought it was just an electronics upgrade from the M1A1.

wf
wf
September 12, 2012 2:30 pm

: I think the M1A2 was mainly an “electronic” upgrade. However, the US variants utilised the HA (DU strengthened armour) chassis and turret that were used in some M1A1’s

S O
S O
September 12, 2012 3:39 pm

“This new carbon structure was only discovered within the last decade and is immensely strong: it is 100 times stronger than steel but weighs six times less, i.e. 60 tonnes of armour would weigh ten tonnes”

Hardly, mechanical strength depends on geometry as well.
Material advances rarely translate that directly into machine improvements.
A material of 30% better weight efficiency can easily lead to an only 5-15% lighter vehicle, for example. It happens already in broad daylight with carbon fibres in the automotive sector. There are numerous other examples of how material advances translate poorly into product improvements.

A twice as potent explosive used in a shaped charge was calculated to yield only about 20% more penetration, for example.

Actual performance gains are clearly below proportionality to material properties, but costs are typically exponentially related to material properties.

BTW, have fun with producing any kind of shape with ultra-strong material. You may end up using very expensive erosion processes (and thus lots of wasted raw material) because no tool cuts the stuff.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
September 12, 2012 6:13 pm

Monty,
“This new carbon structure was only discovered within the last decade and is immensely strong: it is 100 times stronger than steel but weighs six times less, i.e. 60 tonnes of armour would weigh ten tonnes”
That simply does not follow. Regular carbon fibre is substantially stronger than steel (depending on how you measure it) but it is a very poor ballistic material. Ceramics are weak compared to steel but are very good ballistic material.

Carbon nanotubes may be advantageous but to mandate them before you know strikes me as unwise. I could stuff pretty much any plastic full of C.N.T.s but it would not necessarily improve ballistic performance, it would just make it more expensive.
Worth looking at? Yes. A sure thing? Not yet.

Simon257,
Sadly OPFOR are rarely so accommodating as to allow you to reach the built-up-area unmolested, so even if your gun AVRE is intended to only fight in towns and cities it is inevitably going to end up fighting outside its specialised niche. At that point is it still worth the specialised logistics, training and development?

S O,
Only disadvantaged in a frontal fight? That’s a pretty big disadvantage! Especially if terrain or force density restricts mobility.
I can’t think of one post-ww2 tank that is proof against the oppositiion’s main guns from the flanks or rear. Even the WW2 tanks that were (Tiger, Matilda and KV1) were only dominant for a short period and generally compromised in other aspects.
Frontal arc protection is a big thing for AFVs. Without it you allow the opposition to use cheaper, lighter and more numerous weapon systems to take your heaviest armour down, from any angle they choose to approach from.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
September 12, 2012 7:13 pm

Both the 787 Dreamliner and the F-35 feature carbon nanotubes in a nanocomposite form.

WiseApe
September 12, 2012 7:19 pm

“Just a small note on carbon nanotubes… It is the future. No question.” – I think you’ll find that’s garlic bread mate :-)

Really enjoying the comments to this post, clearly some knowledgeable people on here; interesting the difference of opinion about the future value of medium vs heavy tanks; also the speculation about how future tank warfare might look. Was GW1 and GW2 the “last hurrah” for tank-on-tank in open country? Hard to imagine that scenario repeating. If the west was to invade Iran (perish the thought) would the Iranians repeat the Iraqi mistake and try to meet Abrams, Challys, Leclercs (more on this later), Leopards, etc. in the open, or would they hunker down in built-up suburban areas? How might we deploy our Apaches/Cobras/Tigers in such a situation? Could we use Brimstone-armed Typhoons/F35s in such places?

About the Leclerc – well done the French for naming their new MBT after the forger/village idiot from ‘Allo ‘Allo, shows a real sense of self deprecation.

Edit @TOC “Both the 787 Dreamliner and the F-35 feature carbon nanotubes in a nanocomposite form.” – is that confirmed, I thought it was just speculation re F35?

S O
S O
September 12, 2012 8:39 pm

@Mr.fed:
“S O,
Only disadvantaged in a frontal fight? That’s a pretty big disadvantage! Especially if terrain or force density restricts mobility.”

Not really.
Tanks can rarely attack over entirely open terrain and thus tank forces move such that they come into view at short distances (less than a km). The field of view of the tank commander, the training invested into the reaction drill and the turret traverse rate (and its acceleration) may easily be more important than the turret’s frontal armour under such circumstances.
Many hits on tanks are on the rather poorly-protected surfaces. Your tank’s best-protected areas are usually the ones that get hit when you (1) weren’t surprised yourself and
(2) didn’t surprise the “reds” well (or else you’d not get hit, after all).
That’s a rather small niche in the age of “I see you and that’s why ten seconds later you’re dead” tank combat.

Mediums can be protected against all but the most sophisticated light AT weapons (= make a RPG-29 look unsatisfactory). The advantage of heavies over mediums is not extreme if skilled crews meet each other.

Tubby
Tubby
September 12, 2012 8:49 pm

Presumably the only tank on tank battle in open country we be involved in would be if we faced a peer enemy and couldn’t achieve air dominance to allow our fast jets and attack helicopter’s free reign. After all its hard to see how a squadron of Iranian tanks in the open would last more than a few hours before we decimated them given the existence of weapon systems like brimstone.

With regard to the medium/heavy debate, while I think that since we already have Challenger 2 and cannot afford to introduce a FRES direct fire model any time soon, we have to consider that the cost of deploying Challenger 2 to Afghanistan seems to be a major reason why we left them at home, as their effectiveness cannot be questioned give the presence of other countries tanks in Afghanistan. So presuming we had a medium tank in service, would we have deployed it to Afghanistan or would it also have been ruled out on cost basis?

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
September 12, 2012 9:05 pm

Tubby, great point on the peer vs peer and air supremacy.

Anyone who is fielding anything other than front line MBTs will already have ceded air supremacy to western forces. This means in real terms that UAVs, satelittes etc will ensure that the Western tanks have a birds eye view of the battlefield and via information sharing systems allow mvre and engagements completely on their terms.
Combine this with elderly tanks inability to accurately fire in the move and you have a an overwhelming advantage that results in the sort of kill ratios seen in GW1 and 2. It is difficult to move for a flank shot when your every move is watched.
their only option would be to hunker down in urban areas where they can be bypassed and contained.
Modern mvre warfare is about firepower speed and armour but it is even more about information.

S O
S O
September 12, 2012 9:34 pm

APATS,
did nobody tell you that the RMA fashion is over already?

Seriously, it’s not THAT simple.

“The largest conventional tank battle of the war occurred on the morning of 3 April 2003 when elements of three Iraqi brigades consisting of no fewer than 100 armored vehicles and up to 10,000 soldiers converged on 3d Battalion, 69th Armor, as they guarded a critical bridge crossing the Euphrates River at Objective Peach. This type of large conventional force is the ideal formation that the extensive surveillance network operating in Iraq should have been able to detect. Lieutenant Colonel Earnest “Rock” Marcone, commander of 3-69 Armor, claims that “the Iraqi Republican Guard did nothing special to conceal their intentions or their movements. They attacked en masse using tactics that are more recognizable with the Soviet army of World War II.” LTC Marcone reported that, despite the large conventional force moving against him, “we got nothing until they slammed into us.” In fact, the battalion did not receive a single piece of intelligence from their higher headquarters to indicate that such a large attack was imminent. The
commander had terrible situational awareness that night in spite of the large array of airborne reconnaissance platforms that were supposedly watching his front. With almost no early warning, 3-69 Armor was able to successfully fight off the attack due to the unit’s quality training and superior armor protection and to the disjointed nature of the Iraqi attack.”
http://www.ausa.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/ILW%20Web-ExclusivePubs/Land%20Warfare%20Papers/LWP_53.pdf

wf
wf
September 12, 2012 9:36 pm

@Tubby: I suspect the “infantry mafia” made sure CR2 wasn’t deployed. It would be a tad embarrassing to have something tagged as “only of use for the Cold War” appear in Afghanistan :-)

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
September 12, 2012 9:52 pm

The Other Chris,
Do you know why?
I would hazard that it isn’t because of its ballistic properties.

S O,
May, perhaps, if.
Your scenarios could easily be turned on their head. If two armoured forces meet head-to-head where one can defeat the other’s frontal array but this is not reciprocal then who is going to win?
An AFV’s best-protected areas are those that are most likely to be hit in the majority of combat scenarios. Your front is towards the enemy. If it isn’t then it will be in a matter of seconds.
For mediums versus heavies, for every protective system you can put on a medium, I can put two an a heavy. You have a Active Defence System, fine. The next round is going to be a full-bore solid shot and we’ll see how that goes.

Now that is not to say that there is not an upper limit. I would suggest that 50t is a better target than 60t, but you have to have the growth capacity to reach 60 or even 70t, as long as the chassis remains capable.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
September 12, 2012 11:03 pm

I looked at my calendar today and it said 2012.
On a serious noterI am unaware of how we have advanced since 2003 in rems if ISTAR blue force tracking and picture sharing in the land environment but i am very aware of how we have advanced in the same areas sice 2003 in the maritime environment.
The difference is staggering. Al;l the intel in the world is meaningless without the ability to interpret it correctly but the advances in the last decade have been mind blowing.

S O
S O
September 12, 2012 11:46 pm

Mr fred;
“Your scenarios could easily be turned on their head. If two armoured forces meet head-to-head where one can defeat the other’s frontal array but this is not reciprocal then who is going to win?”

Unlikely, this is not how dissimilar opponents fight. They strive to adapt to the relative strengths and weaknesses.
You also gotta keep in mind that heavies actually have disadvantages in comparison to mediums, not just a protection advantage. Their mobility is clearly inferior and they require more fuel and may thus be forced to refrain from tactical manoeuvre in order to save fuel.

Apats;
keep in mind what didn’t change is our brain. We have still and will keep our amazing logical fallacies and other serious psychological defects. This is a long topic that deserves more than a soon-forgotten comment in a blog, though.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
September 13, 2012 6:34 am

S O,
Similar opponents also strive to adapt to their relative strengths and weaknesses. War being the confused mess that it inevitably turns into means that you are by no means guaranteed to get what you strive for. It is unlikely that heavy forces will let themselves be flanked quite so easily. The only way to do it is to have a huge mobility advantage, a significant numerical advantage or a definite command and control advantage. None of those are particularly likely.

The mobility of a heavy tank is far from being “clearly inferior” to common mediums. Over the vast majority of terrain a modern MBT is more mobile than most of the IFV-based vehicles half their weight. Yes they burn more fuel but they will only be constrained in tactical manoeuvre if their logistics have outright failed.

You can keep stacking up improbable events to give the advantage to the mediums but it remains that a heavier tank is more capable in the majority of battlefield engagements.

John Hartley
John Hartley
September 13, 2012 8:00 am

Umm, heavy Vs medium expeditionary armour. well if the mediums bring attack helicopters to support them, then my money is on the mediums.
2 interesting articles in Military Technology magazine (6, 2012) Reactive armour(Stefan Nitschke) & Main battle tank update (Malcolm Phillips). Must admit, I had never heard of high strength nanometric nitrogen steel that is 30% lighter than standard armour steel.
Oh & the Merkava IV has been operating with an add on V shaped belly armour package.
You can have a sharp V that raises height & stability issues or a shallow V that does not.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
September 13, 2012 9:53 am

There is an argument that Heavy tanks are best for defence and intial breakthrough in the offensive but medium tanks are better for all the other tank roles, and all things being equal, tended to be cheaper to produce and run. A WW2 German Panzer Division (and the allied tank forces as well I believe) were mostly medium armour.

The Post-war universal tank concept arose out of the merger of the cruiser and infantry tank concepts but I believe was supposed to be a medium tank; I vaguely remember reading that MBT originaly meant medium battle tank. The situation of the Cold-War where NATO was on the defensive led to tanks getting heavier, while the Soviet doctrine emphasised larger numbers of medium tanks for the offensive.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
September 13, 2012 10:17 am

Taking the defensive mentality to its extreme appears to be this Chimera/Goliath concept for a tank hunter, based on Chieftain/Challenger by the looks of it:

http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u162/ldshleopardcrew/chimera.jpg

http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u162/ldshleopardcrew/Goliath-1.jpg

Info from this model page:

http://www.network54.com/Forum/169232/thread/1226108485/Canuck+WOTIF+Build+Contest

S O
S O
September 13, 2012 10:26 am

@Mr.fred:
“It is unlikely that heavy forces will let themselves be flanked quite so easily.”

You should look at this in a 2D model with more than a one-on-one fight:
2 heavy tanks face 2 medium tanks. The latter split up with a spacing of 2 km. To attack one of them directly means to expose the heavies’ flank to the other medium.
A possible response would be to manoeuvre to the flank of both mediums before striking the more close one, but keep in mind the heavies are supposed to be inferior or at best equal in mobility.
Another option would be to split up as well, but then both heavies would be threatened by flank fire.

Second model for a 2on2 fight; no god-like foreknowledge. No detection of hostiles prior to contact. Now geometrical reasons lead to the conclusion that well-camouflaged defenders would typically get to shoot first and into the side of the attackers unless terrain features or specific tactics prevent this. The tactical response to the problem is never a 100% solution, though.

It’s tactical positioning that leads to flank threats, and this flank threat to at least some tanks is unavoidable on many terrains – especially if you want to advance at more than the speed of crawling.
The classic tactic to reduce flank threats is to have a flank security detail there, but we don’t use “cheap” force for this any more due to emphasis on force protection and to employ heavies as flank security would only reduce the main body’s flank security concerns while exposing said few heavies.

S O
S O
September 13, 2012 10:38 am

@Swimming Trunks;

no need for fancy models, there was in fact a Chieftain-based casemate tank test vehicle/prototype:

http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,1359.msg15495.html#msg15495

MBTs tend to stem from the T-34, which balanced firepower, protection and mobility and satisfied in all three categories when it appeared. The Leo2 up to 2A4 version clearly followed this recipe as well and was cheered for succeeding in it during the 70’s (see Jane’s).

Few post-war tanks followed the “heavy” recipe of much armour and a big gun as introduced by the Tiger (KV was earlier, but had no better gun than T-34); T-10, M103, Chieftain, to some degree also the 105 mm Centurion. Merkava was never equipped with a unusually big gun.

Few other post-WW2 tanks followed the “light” tank recipe of great mobility and inferior firepower/protection that probably goes back to M3 Stuart. These were mostly low budget tanks.

Brian Black
Brian Black
September 13, 2012 11:31 am

Hi, Tubby. If you find a squadron of Iranian armour out in the open, having the USAF on hand with BLU-108 (seeking cluster bomblets) would be handy. Used effectively in Iraq; individual bomblets are too light to be legal for British forces.

Not deploying Challenger to Afghanistan is because British infantry were operating with coalition partners’ armour, so they’re not required. If there is anything to infer from the absence of British tanks, it may be that sending a small number of tanks with a peculiar gun is not the preferential option from a logistics perspective.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
September 13, 2012 11:52 am

@ SO – thanks for the link – very interesting.

RE: Light tanks. I think they still have uses just not as battle tanks – recce, flank guard, rear area defence, etc. I read somewhere that mixing light tanks with heavier battle tanks ment they complimented each other, a bit like a Naval task group. I don’t know if this was ever tried in combat; perhaps the IFV with autocannon is a similar concept?

Brian Black
Brian Black
September 13, 2012 12:01 pm

“Modern mvre warfare … is even more about information”

Too much information though might cause its own kind of blindness. Once you think you know everything you need to know, you become very susceptible to the things that you don’t know about.
The April 2003 battle that SO mentioned was against Iraqi armour that had sneakily and unsportingly hidden amongst trees and under camouflage nets, thereby defeating the American’s hi-tech surveillance and reconnaissance efforts. We could get to a point where a commander is unable to believe accurate intel from one source because of his absolute faith in some particular gadget. Or where troops on the ground blunder unprepared into a situation, no longer expecting the unexpected, as their previous mission briefings had always been so accurate and assured when it came to the disposition of enemy forces.

S O
S O
September 13, 2012 12:08 pm

The IFV is a stupid concept that evolved on a brainless bureaucratic autopilot:
http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2009/06/challenging-ifv-concept-part-1.html
__________

To use more expendable tanks on the more risky and chance-driven tasks follows the same logic as do vanguard, rear guard, reconnaissance and security missions: You expose few in order to protect the main force and thus you strive to reduce your overall losses.
We don’t do this any more. Nowadays all troops are supposed to have a chance of returning home. The force protection emphasis is so evolved that it largely deleted the aforementioned pattern from the active repertoire of Western forces.

Brian Black
Brian Black
September 13, 2012 2:49 pm

Whether you want heavy or lighter tanks must depend on how you expect to use them. The current Western heavies -Challenger, Leopard, Abrams- are dated designs that anticipate incoming dumb artillery followed by a head-on tank battle. That’s not really what people expect of future warfare, whether against armies or insurgents.
If we designed a tank today it would certainly be different than either a Leopard or Challenger; so if we don’t need a new tank for another 20 years, I can’t see it being a C3.

S O
S O
September 13, 2012 3:09 pm

Brian, the “head-on” aspect of tank battles has always found more emphasis with tank developers than with tank commanders. Skilled TCs always seek to fight with advantage, i.e. with surprise and preferably from a flanking or even overhead position.

Western tank designers didn’t think much about arty or arty-laid mines either. Countermeasures to DPICM only appeared after 1990 (such as the rubber hedgehog defence mats or the appliqué roof armour tiles on PzH 2000), mine-resistant tank tracks were not adopted
http://ciar.org/ttk/mbt/armor/armor-magazine/armor-mag.1997.ma/2minetrk97.pdf
simple mine-clearing devices as the simple yet effective Soviet KMT series or dozer blades on MBTs were ignored by most Western armies and research about HE effect on tanks was still in its infancy even at the end of the Cold War:
http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2010/08/who-says-dumb-artillery-rounds-cant.html

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
September 13, 2012 4:40 pm

The old heavy vs light argument reminds me of the Battle Cruiser vs Battle Ship discussion and we all know how that turned out.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
September 13, 2012 5:03 pm

Yes – the battlecruiser turned in to the aircraft carrier and relegated the battleship to shore bombardment.

WiseApe
September 13, 2012 5:49 pm

@Paul G – I am intrigued with your notion of “pick and mixing” tanks, e.g. a Chally turret on a Leopard chassis. Is such a thing remotely practical – is there a NATO standard sized turret ring that I’ve not heard of? Don’t forget, our plugs don’t even fit in their sockets!

Re “jagdchieftain” – I’m no expert, but isn’t it bleeding obvious that a turret tank can lay it’s gun faster than a turretless tank; isn’t that one reason why turrets were introduced in the first place?

Jed
Jed
September 13, 2012 5:54 pm

Paul G – nice article, spawned lots of future looking stuff about fantasy guns, armour and medium tanks etc – all good fun.

To return to your question though, I think we need to address the following:

Chally 2:
1. Its ours, we already own it
2. We have some CHARM 3 left and the Belgians will oblige by selling us propellant charges
3. Do we have HESH stockpiled ? Is it still in manufacture ?
4. What else is obsolescent about it ? What needs replacing / upgrading to keep it viable for another 15 to 20 (!) years ?

Leopard 2
1. Almost a “NATO Standard”
2. Gun definitely a NATO standard, lots of potential competition to drive down prices of, and develop new types of ammo
3. Owned by so many countries, there are multiple commercially available upgrade offerings from different suppliers – thus no need to spend massive R & D effort on upgrades for even a small fleet.

So without the political dimension of “why are we binning perfectly fine British built tanks for second hand German ones….” etc to me it comes down to a matrix of Capability, Sustainability and Budget:

Looks like Capability might be a very close thing between non-upgraded Chally 2 and existing upgraded Leopard models.

Sustainability seems to be a clear win for the Leopard.

Budget – now this is the difficult one, as I dont know how much it would cost to buy 200 second hand Leopard 2, or how much it will cost to keep Chally 2 viable for 20 years…….

Any thoughts on this from the Author ?

x
x
September 13, 2012 5:55 pm

Brian Black said “unsportingly hidden amongst trees and under camouflage net”

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
September 13, 2012 6:10 pm

S O,

Tank developers like the various militaries who commission the things? Basing designs on operational analysis?
I guess they are all idiots. Might I ask what the DS solution is?

The 2 on 2 scenario. Unless this is a billiard table and assuming that the mission is only to kill the opposition, you take the two concentrated heavies and head in one direction, head-on to one of the flanking tanks and using terrain to mask from the other medium. Use the firepower advantage and frontal protection to storm the first medium and turn on the other. They won’t be that much faster than my heavies and I can set an ambush if they fail to move with proper caution. If it is a billiard table, I use smoke to screen one medium while I engage the other or force an engagement before they can open up the angle on my pair. At extended range my heavier frontal protection is even more telling versus KE and HEAT is easier to disrupt.

The thing that is missed is that the MBT is evolved from the mediums. Centurion and M48/M60 were backed up with the heavy tanks – the Conqueror and the M103. The MBTs got better and the heavies went out of favour. Chieftain, while somewhat better armed and armoured than the Centurion is not much heavier. The real jump in weight came with Leo2, Abrams and Challenger. Improved engines and running gear allowed them to retain battlefield mobility whilst being heavier. The current generation of mediums were designed to keep up with the modern MBTs.
They go as fast as track-laying can reasonably be expected to go. They can also go anywhere a lighter vehicle can go, with the exception of limited load-bearing ground and structures. In some cases the heavy will be more mobile. Centurion and Churchill tanks regularly traversed slopes that lighter vehicles could not.

Think Defence
Admin
September 13, 2012 6:56 pm
Reply to  Mr.fred

This whole Medium v Heavy thing is also interesting from a morale perspective

You are going to have to think you are nails to go up against a CR2 in a medium tank but then when reality bites cohesion will collapse and the psychological ascendency of the heavies will mean battle will be won well before they start

I like to look at recent track records as well, seems to favour the heavyweights

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
September 13, 2012 7:20 pm

Heavy vs Medium,

— Modern heavies are almost as fast as modern mediums,
— Modern heavies like Challenger 2 have ranges of close to 200 miles off road, which isn’t that bad,
— You can kill a medium with much smaller weapons like 40mm. You’d struggle to put down a challenger with one of those,

The meeting of heavies and mediums in battle has previously seen horrendous loss ratios for the mediums. When mass production is factored in, the medium can seize some advantage of numbers, but for regular modern day forces you’re unlikely to see those kind of production levels.

S O
S O
September 13, 2012 7:38 pm

“The meeting of heavies and mediums in battle has previously seen horrendous loss ratios for the mediums.”

Horrendous loss ratios in battle were always backed up by a difference in training and leadership quality.

A mixed force of Panzer I/II/III/IV was outclassed when it met a mixed force of French tanks that included many fine Somuas (superior firepower and armour, good mobility). The German tank tank regiment commander used his I and II models only as (acoustic) deception measured, manoeuvred with his III/IV force into flanks repeatedly. At the end of the day, the French tank force was defeated with many burnt hulks littering the battlefield.

Panzer IV with short 75 mm guns were on paper outclassed by early T-34s in armour, mobility and protection as was a T-55 outclassed by a Leopard2. The kill ratio was strongly lopsided in favour of the Panzer IV with stub gun. This was even true in steppe fights.

StUG III assault guns were inferior to T-34/85 in firepower, mobility and traverse and equal only in armour (though not in distance at which the other’s front armour could be penetrated). Again, lopsided kill ratio in favour of StuG III.

Cuban and Angolan T-55 forces faced South African armoured cars with 90 mm guns, the latte only enjoyed a mobility advantage. The T-55s were ripped apart.

The early M1 Abrams units got torn a new one on every exercise by seasoned national guard M60 Patton units (same gun, inferior mobility, inferior electronics, inferior protection).

Sherman vs. Tiger considered in isolation does not explain the realities of tank warfare.

Chris.B.