Challenger 3 or Leopard

AVRE

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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249 Responses

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. @ 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

  4. 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 :-)

  5. many thanks to TD for padding out and correcting a rough draft. It was designed mainly as a think for the future (in ref to fedaykin point) to put that in perspective as a spotty hormonal young army cadet i looked in awe at the polystyrene mock up of the FLA at the army show at rushmoor arena, since then i’ve finished school and 22 in green and it’s still not in service so how soon is too soon!

    Also it was to offer a solution to the problem of the surplus after the SDSR re-org, mainly spurred by the recent story in the media about how we were going to pay to keep MBT’s in sheds in germany (how come i didn’t put this in thread, what a dummy) I would like to avoid that and the points about sold off to museums/corperate day out businesses.

    If we went down the leopard route it would take a while to thrash it out (mainly after the media start the “outrage” campaign)but there would be scope to either loan/lease 2nd hand chassis to get a nucleus of instructors or even be detatched to oversea arms (obviously the germans) to gain experience. I like chally, but we need to catch up and to start the ball rolling now we have actual numbers can’t be a bad thing .

    oh and a BFO gun for the AVRE means a Big F**k Off!!

    PS as a lot of armies operate the leopard think of export potential if we come up with any improvements, cummins are UK based not to mention our tech expertise in optical sysytems

  6. 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.

  7. @ 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.

  8. 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!

  9. (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.

  10. 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)

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. @ 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. @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.

  19. @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.

  20. @wf

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

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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

  26. @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.

  27. @Jeremy M H

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

  28. 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!

  29. 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.

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

  31. 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

  32. @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.

  33. @Monty

    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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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

  36. @ 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.

  37. @ 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.

    :-)

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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

  41. loader also used to do all the freq changes on the radios (clansman days) and the NBC control panel was on his side of the turret. iie he was the odds and sods man while the commander got on with the important stuff.

    @gareth i’m sure (although it’s been 20 odd years) that leopard 2 is longer than CR2 saw them side by side on the ranges at fally, and the figures researched for the post seem to back that up, and C2e is mentioned in the post, crazy decision not to upgrade to that engine.

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

  43. 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

  44. @bob i agree the leopard as a straight replacement for CR” isn’t a good idea, however as i’ve tried to put over in the post, we’re going to have a lot of spare tanks soon hence the start was on what to do with the spare ie be a bit more proactive rather than sticking in them in pres,in case of WW3 (somewhat akin to the fabled knights king arthur has hidden in a mountain waiting to save england).

    Then as a study now we know hull numbers, and smaller means less costs think to the future, as we know the speed these projects trundle on at. The suggestion of the leo chassis is simply because it’s proven it’s good because the germans lets face are bloody good at mechanicals think VW,BMW,porsche audi four sprung pork technique and all that!! So, there’s a chassis no costs on R&D, and a factory with the jigs already set up (ok it’s not the UK but hey ho) now we’re good at the armour side of life and, to put a label on it “turret tech”.

    So to summerise let’s go CAD crazy have a chally AVRE, hells bells why not even an AA version every detractor of armour says a tank reg would be decimated by air so let’s get some oto 76mms and starstreaks successor on a chassis beg borrow and steal some leo chassis and have a small team at lulworth looking at a LOW COST upgrade, just develop a turret that goes on the top.

    stuff it i’m rambling, maybe i’m suffering a boris britain is great type moment.

    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!!!

  45. 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?

  46. @ 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.

  47. @ 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. @ 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.

  51. 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.

  52. @Martin

    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.

  53. @ 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

  54. @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.

  55. 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.

  56. @ 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.

  57. @Martin

    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.

  58. @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

  59. 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!

  60. 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.

  61. 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?

  62. @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.

  63. 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.

  64. 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!

  65. @Martin
    @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.

  66. 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.

  67. ” 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.”

  68. 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.

  69. 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

  70. some facts on the L9 165mm gun

    Royal Ordnance L9 is a British short-barrelled 165 mm calibre gun used for combat engineering, particularly the demolition of defences.

    The gun is capable of firing a 64 lb (29 kg) High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) demolition projectile distances up to 2,400 m (2,600 yd)[1]. It was mounted on Royal Engineers AVRE versions of the Churchill tank post-Second World War and the Centurion tank.

    The gun’s primary purpose is for clearing obstacles such as walls, fences, roadblocks, bunkers, etc. or for destroying buildings. [2]

    The HESH round included 40 lb of C-4 explosive

    for that last line alone i demand we build some new AVREs and then go and blow shit up!!

  71. 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.

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

  73. 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?

  74. @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

  75. 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?

  76. 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?

  77. 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!

  78. 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!

  79. 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.

  80. 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.

  81. 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?

  82. @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 :-)

  83. 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.

  84. wf

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

  85. “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.

  86. @Martin
    “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).

  87. “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

  88. 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.

  89. 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?

  90. @ 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!

  91. 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.

  92. 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.

  93. @ 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

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

  95. @ 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.

  96. @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.

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

  98. 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.

  99. @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?

  100. @ 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.

  101. @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.

  102. @Monty – 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.

  103. @martin: 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

  104. “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.

  105. 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.

  106. “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?

  107. @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.

  108. 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?

  109. 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.

  110. 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

  111. @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 :-)

  112. 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.

  113. 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.

  114. 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.

  115. 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.

  116. 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.

  117. 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.

  118. @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.

  119. @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.

  120. 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.

  121. @ 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?

  122. “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.

  123. 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.

  124. 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.

  125. 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

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

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

  128. @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?

  129. 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 ?

  130. 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.

  131. 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

  132. 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.

  133. “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.

  134. @ SO,
    “At the end of the day, the French tank force was defeated with many burnt hulks littering the battlefield.”
    — Thanks to the 88’s brought along. I’m not sure littered is the best analogy.

    The T-34 was a medium tank like the Panzer IV. It also, in the early stages, had a significant number of issues such as the Commander having to double as the tank gunner as well as chronic problems with communications (like many tanks not having any).

    In South Africa most of the tank killing was done by Olifants (Centurion) and anti-armour weapons like missiles.

    “Getting torn a new one” on exercise is an incredibly dubious metric, as the details of Millenium Challenge ’02 show compared to the popular reports.

  135. “recent track records … seems to favour the heavyweights”
    Can’t really imagine the Americans entering Baghdad in anything lighter than Abrams. How far would their thunderruns have gotten, rolling up in something like Centauro?
    Maybe a heavy tank designed today should be a much lighter base model though, with more use of applique armour all round. You could then better tailor your tank to the task in hand – favour heavy protection in the frontal aspect for theatres where you expect a clash of tanks, or more balanced all aspect protection for urban areas and against irregulars.

  136. @Chris.B.:
    No, I don’t refer to Arras where 88s intervened. I refer to Flavion.

    T-34 may have been a “medium”, but it was much heavier than Pz 4, had superior armour and superior firepower and superior mobility. The title doesn’t mean as much as does the relative strength, thus I used the example.
    After all, my point was that raw strengths are not decisive in themselves – and they weren’t.

    About South Africa; much of the tank-killing was done in a high-grown green bush with less than 50 m line of sight. We’re not talking about the same battles if you think ATGMs played a role.

    Ask some old American tankers if you don’t believe about their experience with pitching new M1s against M60s.
    Fact is that the skill is much more important than the hardware, and troops of the same army having enjoyed same training still getting owned by predecessor tanks repeatedly is the best test for that thesis possible.

  137. I’m with Brian Black on the future direction of tanks, at least in the protection design. A relatively lightly armoured hull (although still pretty heavy) with mounting for applique armour all round so it can be optimised for the area of operations. Since armour tends to be optimised for particular threats you can have different sets for different enemies. Against insurgents there’s no point having something effective against large bore KE threats, so optimise against shaped charges and blunt fragments.

    Height adjustable suspension so you can run high where IEDs and mines abound and low profile for when people are trying to shoot you.

    Training and skill is clearly important. That’s why modern AFVs have a whole host of systems intended to make training easier. It is also irrelevant when considering heavy protection versus light. To make a rational comparison all else should be equal.

  138. “Training and skill is clearly important. That’s why modern AFVs have a whole host of systems intended to make training easier. It is also irrelevant when considering heavy protection versus light. To make a rational comparison all else should be equal.”

    I disagree (although I’m usually a fan of ceteris paribus).

    Low skill vs low skill the heavies will tear through the mediums with difficulties, heavily influenced by chance.

    High skill vs. high skill both sides will get shot at primarily from ambush sites negating the heavy armour advantage, for even non-penetration hits can be disastrous to heavies (whose TCs thus avoid being hit about as much as medium MBT TCs).
    Last but not least, high-skilled forces might forego the tank-on-tank fight even in the heavy vs. medium scenario, for the real purpose of a tank is to win battles if not campaigns, neither of which does necessitate the nullification of similar threats.

  139. @ SO

    So you’re only picking battles where your ideas apply and discounting the other relevant examples for no reason? Fair enough.

    “Fact is that the skill is much more important than the hardware” – Generally I’d agree, but part of skill is taking advantage of capabilities. There was very little the Iraqi tankers in 1991 could do about their lack of night optics. Maybe some sort of combination of flares, fires and camo, but it would have been one hell of an effort.

    “About South Africa; much of the tank-killing was done in a high-grown green bush with less than 50 m line of sight” – it was an extensive campaign over a wide variety of terrain. You’re not doing it real justice.

    “Ask some old American tankers if you don’t believe about their experience with pitching new M1s against M60s” – Shooting someone with a laser in a wargame is one thing, actually punching through that armour is something else. Not to mention that wargames have a tendency to be unbalanced in favour of one force or another in order to teach specific lessons. I think it’s Fort Irwin (?) for example, where they heavily out number the “blue” force, with the basic assumption that blue force is going to die, but learn a lot of good lessons in the process.

    “T-34 may have been a “medium”, but it was much heavier than Pz 4, had superior armour and superior firepower and superior mobility” – Just doing a quick follow up investigation, the Panzers didn’t have anywhere near the level of success you’re suggesting, mechanical failure being a much greater factor in Soviet tank losses.

  140. You don’t expect me to look through several books to unearth accurate accounts of battles won against the superior raw power of T-34s clearly by skill, right? There were enough, but it would still take an hour or so to find and type quotes and it would still face off with your unspecified research.
    A few quicks link are feasible, though: http://www.achtungpanzer.com/panzer-statistics.htm#stat
    http://operationbarbarossa.net/Myth-Busters/MythBusters2.html#an_3

    A handful of Iraqi crews WERE competent enough to defeat American tanks. They merely had to know enough about infrared optics and about how to avoid a treacherous signature. They left their engine cold and their warm head hidden, waited till Abrams tanks had passed by and opened fire from the flank. This handful of good TCs did not change the course of battles, though.

    Concerning South Africa/Namibia: Keep in mind what I wrote:
    “Cuban and Angolan T-55 forces faced South African armoured cars with 90 mm guns, the latte[r] only enjoyed a mobility advantage. The T-55s were ripped apart.”
    It’s irrelevant whether Centurions did more killing in other battles. The point was to provide an example of how crews of superior skill could and did succeed against tanks of superior raw power. That point was delivered an Centurions in other battles are as irrelevant to the example as foreign tanks on another continent are.

  141. I think we all appreciate the value of skill, training, morale, unit cohesion, effective tactics etc but there are limits to that, which is exactly why the best trained armoured forces in the world, the ones actually with most practice as well, prefer to be shod in 70 tonnes of heavy metal

    There will always be exceptions to any rule but that doesn’t alter the underlying rule

    Is this argument going down a bit of a rabbit hole anyway?

  142. This argument is about appreciating the less visible factors that influence the performance of tank forces, and about not over-emphasizing the obvious characteristics as it is usually done.

    This is actually very relevant for anyone who’s interested in military affairs. Every procurement scenario should be considered in competition with a scenario that pays more attention to the training and spare parts budget instead.

    Overt characteristics such as supposed protection rating of the turret front (which is confidential with all modern tanks anyway) are competing with less obvious characteristics such as a few per cent difference in readiness rates after a week of campaigning or with how well the TC cupola is designed.

    This discussion was so far only overtly about mediums and heavies; in reality it’s about appreciating what’s really important about tank forces – and that’s not the difference between a medium’s and a heavy’s maximum RHAeq rating.

  143. @ S O,

    I’m going to have to commit an unforgivable sin here…. and quote Wikipedia. There are obviously other sources, most of which would corroborate this, because it’s a generally widely accepted fact. Except in Germany apparently.

    “On the rare occasions when SADF Ratels encountered enemy armour, such as the Soviet-made tanks encountered in Operation Protea (1981) and Operations Modular, Hooper, and Packer in 1988, they achieved successes through manoeuvrebility and only at very short ranges. The 61 Mechanised Infantry Battalion Group found that each enemy T-55 and T-62 required multiple shots from the 90 mm guns to disable it, and that the SADF vehicles had to attack in groups, fire from point-blank range, and hit the tanks in the engine vents, turret rim, or similar weak points in order to have an effect, the 90 mm shells being otherwise ineffective against the Soviet tanks’ armour. For this reason, the SADF’s Olifants tanks were considerably more effective than Ratels or Elands against Soviet armour”

    If I knew how to do html I would add Emphasis to “rare”, “very short ranges”, “required multiple shots”, “had to attack in groups”, “fire from point-blank range”, “vents, turret rim”, and “being otherwise ineffective against the Soviet tanks”. And “Olifant tanks were considerably more effective”.

    Compare that to your – “The T-55s were ripped apart”

    “You don’t expect me to look through several books to unearth accurate accounts of battles won against the superior raw power of T-34s clearly by skill, right?”

    — No. Especially when for some bizarre reason you opted to post a link that crumbles your position like a paper bridge having boiling water poured on it. I’m presuming you quoted the OpBarbaross.net article because you consider it authoritative to some degree and a credible source?

    If that’s the case then you might want to re-read it. In fact, let me pick out some quotes for you;

    — “they had major ammunition supply problems”
    — “Many T-34s had little or no armour piercing ammunition”
    — “Many T-34s were abandoned and lost due to breakdown, being bogged down or simply out of fuel. The Red Army’s tank divisions, already short of tractors, had little to no recovery vehicles or even time to recover these tanks”
    — “The T-34/76’s one great weakness was its fire control efficiency. It suffered from the same two-man turret syndrome as other Soviet tanks in this period, namely that the tank’s commander, gun aimer, gun firer and platoon commander (if a platoon leader), were all the same person”
    — “Exacerbating this was the fact that the T-34/76 had relatively poor main gun optics quality, no turret basket, a very cramped and low turret (the gun could not depress more than three degrees severely restricting use on a reverse slope or at close range), poor turret drive reliability, no radios, and generally poor target observation and indicator devices (including no turret cupola and only one vision periscope for the tank’s commander.”
    — “In summary, the T-34/76’s inherent fire control efficiency was so bad that even well trained and experienced tank crews were put at a severe disadvantage. For inexperienced tank crews, with no radios and probably no organised combined arms support, it was a disaster”.

    Let me repost that last one, for emphasis.

    — “In summary, the T-34/76’s inherent fire control efficiency was so bad that even well trained and experienced tank crews were put at a severe disadvantage. For inexperienced tank crews, with no radios and probably no organised combined arms support, it was a disaster”

    So what were you saying?

    In other words, the medium tanks did (some) damage against the heavies only because the heavies had vastly inferior fire control systems, ergonomics, training, organisation, supply, and just about every other important factor.

    So yes, invest in medium tanks….. And hope that every enemy you meet is completely incompotent in every manner, and stays that way for the entire duration that you’re fighting them. We can count on that happening? Right?

  144. So…….. Challenger 3 for the next twenty years, or Leopard 2 A8(UK) ?????

    Have I pissed you all off, or is the question too boring ?

  145. Chris, the tanks WERE ripped apart by the South African armoured cars. You should pay attention to your own quote, which says nothing about kill ratios or losses. Nobody claimed that it’s easy to defeat a much sturdier tank that way; the claim was that skill and the inherent advantages of lighter vehicles actually overpowered raw power.
    ______________________

    You are lacking in concentration this late in the night.
    Nothing of what you writes actually refutes my point about Pz IV versus T-34:

    “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.”

    “T-34 may have been a “medium”, but it was much heavier than Pz 4, had superior armour and superior firepower and superior mobility. The title doesn’t mean as much as does the relative strength, thus I used the example.
    After all, my point was that raw strengths are not decisive in themselves – and they weren’t.”

    You don’t seem to get my point at all.
    I was arguing against the perception that the difference in passive protection between a medium and a heavy MBT would inevitably put the medium at a grave disadvantage.
    The stuff that you quote actually reinforces my point – every single line. Many, many more factors are in play and they as a whole dwarf the difference that armour makes (or other easily visible characteristics such as calibre or length of gun).

    I was arguing against this
    “The meeting of heavies and mediums in battle has previously seen horrendous loss ratios for the mediums.”,
    as I perceived it as a statement that would be considered by other readers to have universal validity. I did so by providing entirely correct examples which showed that the difference in armour and firepower is not that decisive.

  146. I would say Challenger 2.1 for the next 20 years or so, with the caveat that the world stage doesn’t change too much. This period should see trials and possibly introduction of an improved engine, improved sights/sensors and fire control and possibly pool with the Indians to develop 120mm rifled projectiles (which would demand tungsten for the KE rounds)

    Since we have mothballed a large number of vehicles, we should have plenty of test beds for new technology in a heavy platform.

    Towards the second decade, we should start looking at a vehicle to replace the Challenger 2/Warrior combination for the front-line armour combination. It could be one or two platforms with significant commonality, looking into hybrid drives and optimised modular armour solutions and GVA to ensure the most flexibility in choice of ancilliary equipment. That way the vehicle can be offered for sale abroad without the MoD gold-plate driving the cost up.

  147. @ Dave

    I am hoping that if the BAE EADS merger goes through BAE will sell its ship yards to the Koreans.

    Perhaps then Portsmouth could start building tanks…. :)

  148. I don’t think that funds will be available for a K2. Challenger 2 will last for a decade or two more unless something untoward happens. By the time we need a replacement the K2 will be older than the CR2 is now. I don’t see the advantage.
    On top of that, will the K2 be compatible with our standards and requirements?

  149. @ S O

    “Chris, the tanks WERE ripped apart by the South African armoured cars”
    — Ripped apart? They had to close to practically point blank range, en masse and fire multiple volleys, with their rounds being described as otherwise ineffective. How is that considered “ripping apart”? That’s called “shit, if we live through this it’ll be a bloody miracle”. The vast bulk of the tank killing was done by proper tanks.

    “Many, many more factors are in play and they as a whole dwarf the difference that armour makes (or other easily visible characteristics such as calibre or length of gun).”
    — The problem I have is this. You’ve picked a ridiculous example, where the Russians barely had any armour piercing ammunition, and are trying to use that as an example of mediums surviving in combat with heavies, as if we’re going to build heavy tanks here in the west and then not put APFSDS rounds in them.

    The only example you can come up with relies on a massive weight of negative factors all combining into one. It’s not exactly representative.

    Perhaps I should have put a caveat on my statement to avoid it being taken to the ridiculous bloody extremes; “The meeting of heavies and mediums in battle has previously seen horrendous loss ratios for the mediums – providing the heavies actually have ammunition,”

    There, are we happy now?

    @ Jed,
    — Probably Challenger 2.5. New engine, tranny, gun, optics etc, and let the hull soldier on for a bit. Trouble is cutting tank numbers dramatically, so now isn’t likely to turn around and say that we’re going to splash billions on a new design.

  150. @Dave

    You do know that

    1) The K2 is only very recently nearing it’s production date and that it’s mostly still a prototype?

    and

    2) It’s in the World Records. For the world’s most expensive tank?

    @Chris

    As much as I think that SO’s analysis sometimes has flaws, I’m with him on this one. Skill plays a great part in any engagement. To paraphrase the words of one of our old Chief of Defence here, “A skilled man with a pistol is more deadly than a monkey with a machine gun.”

    This was really brought home to me when I was an umpire at one of the “exercises” that you say are biased. The Opfor was beautifully skilled, I saw one of their units randomly fire a round to get a column of tank’s attention, then race around a switchback in the road. As the column of tanks tried to pursue the “fleeing” enemy, they hit the bend only to find the other guy waiting for them at minimum range and with clear shots at the side armour of the tanks. First 2 tanks in the column were deemed kills, and while they jammed up the rest of the convoy, the Opfor got clean away.

    Their vehicle? A land rover with a 106mm RR.

    You want more evidence that skill plays a part with reference to World War II? Look under the term “shot trap”. A shot trap is a spot on a vehicle that instead of deflecting a round, actually “traps” the shot into hitting a weak spot in the vehicle. Skilled gunners go for these shots which can destroy a heavier opponent. Can’t remember if it was the Panther or Tiger, but allied gunners aim for the turret ring just above the driver’s compartment. The sloped armour there had a tendency of bouncing the round into the driver’s hatch.

    Or allied gunners with guns that could not penetrate the frontal armour of later German tanks hiding in ditches or trying to “bounce” the round off the ground under the tanks to hit the unarmoured underbelly of the tanks.

    So yes, heavy armour helps. Skill helps even more.

  151. Reference manouverability and skill does anyone remember the Top Gear episode where Clarkson had to get from one point to another without the Ch2 getting a bead on him.
    The terrain offered hills etc to hide behind tracks and some light woodland. Surface was dry mud. He was driving a Range Rover Sport with 300BHP and 0-60 in under 8 seconds. The tank kept its main gun on him for a lot of the time.

  152. TOC, one of the very interesting questions I have for the “next-gen” MBT design is if it’s going to be engine in front or engine at the back. Putting the engine in front makes the engine more vulnerable, but allows the back to be a “mission bay” for all the bells and whistles like active defences, motars, infantry bay, STORM and C4I equipment.

    So. More protection or greater flexibility? That is the question. :)

  153. There’s a possibility the future design won’t be a traditional drive train.

    Instead, generator positioned *somewhere* inside the main hull, electric motors in easily replaceable modules along with wheels/tracks.

  154. @ APATS,
    Yeah. And it looked a lot like they could have hit him well before they eventually “fired”.

    @ Observer,
    I didn’t say all exercises were biased. Just that the US routinely seems to run exercises biased to the OpFor. That’s not even a bad thing. I imagine making a blue commander fight a force three times his size teaches you a lot about him and his men.

    And your case with the Range Rover emphasises the point I was trying to make; on exercise the vehicles were “killed”, because they were judged to be that way. Using that as proof is difficult, because in a real shooting war the weapon might have glanced off the target, it might have damaged it lightly, it might have failed to detonate?

    As for the general point about experience, I am not and never have doubted that experience personnel make a difference. But look at the various examples given about medium vehicles overcoming heavy.

    The list of things wrong with the heavies is as long as your arm and the list of measures that have to be taken by the mediums to even stand a chance is just as long.

    Just because skilled crews can, with the help of a nice dollop of providence, overcome some heavy vehicles in some limited circumstances is not a platform upon which to begin advocating for medium vehicles.

    It’s a platform to begin advocating for better equipment for the well trained men.

  155. @TD

    Is that a 127/64 on there? ;)

    But yeah, that kind of blue-sky layout wouldn’t surprise me at all.

    Sol posted a good video on his blog about RWS and the advantages provided to internal space:

    (Video set to start 1m40s in at the point recommended by Sol)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2qq8efFGak&t=1m40s

    (How do you embed videos in comments here).

  156. ChrisB, now you’re making a strawman argument by writing about “no” ammo.
    The T-34s had AP ammo, even the source only claims that some had few ammo. This “few” coupled with the fact that they didn’t tend to begin to return fire quickly or fire quickly means the issue wasn’t that big anyway.
    Besides, German tanks on the Eastern Front were often only equipped with about half of the normal ammo load or less – and this was true not only in 1941 as in the T-34 case, but for most of the war.

    We could discuss medium vs. heavy better with a ceteris paribus case of heavier front armour as only difference, but such a ceteris paribus case doesn’t exist, and even if such vehicles were constructed there would still be a weight difference with accompanying differences in acceleration, deceleration, fuel consumption, ground pressure and thus soft soil performance and durability of dynamic components.
    Yet, even if we agreed all the differences caused by weight we would still end up with medium tank TCs that adapt to their weakness and emphasise non-head on fights with the consequence that most fights would happen under circumstances that nullify the armor advantage.
    Losses would be horrendous, but for both sides.

    Anyone who thinks that a heavy front armour avoids horrendous losses fools himself.

    Finally, heavy front armour doesn’t mean there will be no penetration with a frontal shot. The head-on enemy could still use top attack munitions such as STAFF, Bill2 or various designs of gun-launched missiles that climb and then descend while employing a guidance.
    It’s also possible to penetrate the heavy armour outright, as happened with Kontak-5 ERA-protected T-80s in tests facing munitions as weak as a 105 mm RPG-29, or with our MBTs facing the latest 125 mm munitions during the late Cold War (heavy frontal armour was generally very dubious during the Cold War up to ~1980 because of HEAT effectiveness, too).

    In the end, it’s simply foolish to trust heavy armour very much. It’s only fine when you face 2nd grade opposition, or 3rd grade opposition as in ODS and OIF.

  157. @ S O

    “ChrisB, now you’re making a strawman argument by writing about “no” ammo. The T-34s had AP ammo, even the source only claims that some had few ammo. This “few”…”

    — Strawman? Read your source again;

    “they had major ammunition supply problems” “Many T-34s had little or no armour piercing ammunition”

    – MAJOR supply problems.
    – MANY T-34”s had LITTLE OR NO armour piercing ammunition.

    Somewhat different to what you present. And on that note…

    I had a bit of a read further down today when I came across an interesting table that he produced. You’ve been lauding the 75mm armed Panzer IV, yet according to that chaps table that weapon accounted for little more than 10% of the T-34 kills, barely 1 in 10. The primary weapon, reaping over half the kills, is the “50mm long” as he put it, which can only mean the 5cm Pak 38 which was regarded as one of the few AT guns that could kill Russian tanks consistently. That scored over 50% of the kills.

    It was then that I noticed in addition that your man is not comparing Panzer IV’s versus T-34 in battle, he’s comparing total losses of these vehicles to all causes against each other. Thus your characterisation of the Panzer IV as some frothing T-34 killer would be well wide of the mark.

    Further study of the T-34 shows that many were considered inadequately armoured, on account of having poorly made armour plates, connected with poor welding (during tests in the US, water routinely leaked into the tank during wet weather) and with inadequate depth on the face hardening. A far cry from the much higher quality control exercised on modern tanks.

    “We could discuss medium vs. heavy better with a ceteris paribus case of heavier front armour as only difference, but such a ceteris paribus case doesn’t exist…”

    We have something close, which occured on both the Western and Eastern fronts later in the war. In these circumstances Tigers enjoyed as much as 10:1 kill ratios in the west and in some cases even higher in the East.

    “In the end, it’s simply foolish to trust heavy armour very much. It’s only fine when you face 2nd grade opposition, or 3rd grade opposition…”

    — Sorry, what are you smoking?

    In all the examples above medium armour only stood a chance by facing very poor quality opposition and by being forced to go to ridiculously extreme lengths to survive, and even then the results are highly debateable. On the other hand we have recorded accounts of heavy armour cutting through medium enemies, of decent quality, like a hot knife through butter.

    But somehow you think that favours the medium tank? Interesting.

  158. The Western Allies should have used T34 as a template and built it properly. Better than the Sherman which several of my relatives nearly got cooked in during WW2.

  159. “To paraphrase the words of one of our old Chief of Defence here, “A skilled man with a pistol is more deadly than a monkey with a machine gun.” – I’m not usually one to speak up for my lesser evolved cousins, but that CoD clearly had very limited imagination; imagine yourself in a crowded lift – which is more dangerous now? ;-)

    @TOC – I was just scrolling my way through the comments thinking: “I’m going to ask about lasers/directed energy weapons on tanks” when I came across your comment and laser link. But actually, I was thinking of replacing the main gun. I guess we’re still along way off from that.

  160. Chris, further discussion is pointless. You have entrenched and there’s no use in repeating arguments or spending time for adding more. That effort would be wasted on you, and I figure other readers tend to get my point with what was written already.

    Have fun asking yourself why the Russians with all their combat experience did not move towards producing only heavy tanks post-WW2. Their heavy tank prototypes were no doubt impressive, after all.
    Also have fun asking yourself why the Western heavy tank models of the 50’s (M103, Conqueror) played such a minor role.
    Last but not least; ask yourself why the Japanese build medium tanks (Type 61, 74 and 10 and Type 90 wasn’t that heavy either).

  161. Are you both not talking past each other? SO seems to be conceiving of a heavy tank which is in a heavy class of its own, ie heavier than the main fleet; and the main battle tank which is simply heavy in a weight sense.

  162. Phil,

    Well said mate, I do not really understand the heavy v medium thing. The modern MBT has surely been proven to be the best of both worlds.

    SO

    The Japanese are hardly the varsity on tank type matters.

  163. @WiseApe

    How far off depends on the target effects.

    LaWS can work well now for missiles and artillery because you’re looking at a thin shell protecting propellant, explosives and sensors/fuses.

    Output would need to be cranked up to deal with an opposite MBT.

    Wonder how long until we’re seeing projectiles, aircraft, ships and tanks being coated in protective layers (tiles, ablative coatings, etc)? We’d also probably have to deal with international treaties banning the oven-cooking of crewmen.

    We’d need to go up yet another order of magnitude for explosive surface effects of sufficient result.

    But remember the power levels being discussed in the link above. 10kW for 2s to 3s dwell. Not a lot of power when you consider where we’re currently sticking a gas turbine capable of MW levels of output (T45/T26/F-35/A400M/etc).

  164. The CA2 will easily meet the UK’s armour needs for the next 20 years if not longer. Issues like a replacement engine are relatively simple and the work has alredy been done. The ammunition problems can be dorted out and like many countries we do need to replace are DU rounds with modern Tungsten alloy types as developed by the Germans. The CA2’s fire control is excellent as are many of the on board systems and the basic chassis is sound.

    In fact unless you listen to the “We are going to fight Russian and China” brigade the CA2 can defeat almost anything it can reasonably expect to face in the next 2 decades and against superior numbers. Remember the US had to bolt on DU armour to get the M1 near the CA2s protection level and the Leo2 still isn’t there. The latest 125mm, russian or copies are outperformed by western 120mm by a large margin event with their ATGW capabilities.

    We can always generate a bogeyman to support the need for bigger and better weapons systems but people need a sense of realism. I know many countries have bought Russian SUs but with the exception of China the numbers are small. With regards to MBTs, Russina MBTs still sell because the are CHEAP compared to western models are are more than suitable for the needs of customers but this does not include fighting western armies.

    The main issue is if a country currently being supported by the west shift its stance whist being equipped with western tech. Even then however hardware is not the whole equation, training plays a major part and is the west real force mutiplier. Nations have realised that they cannot take the west head on as to do so is a very bad idea. Post 2000 the Russian think twice about their capabilites after seeing western forces in GW1 even though the Iraqis were using export models.

    So we DO NOT need a new tank. We need to invest in the CA2 and spend funds elsewhere in the Army’s AFV fleet.

  165. Chris B

    The whole WW2 tank thing on both fronts is very complicated.A lot of what was published at the time and soon after was frankly rubbish. After all if your performance against an enemy, was pretty crap, ‘they had better tanks than us’, is a very conveniant get out.

    Eg

    Now widely recognised that the German invasion in the west was carried out by an inferior number of often inferior tanks on the German side.

    The Germans 37 mm antitank gun was knick named the ‘Door knocker’ by its crews as the shot through hatch covers on tanks to stop them. Hittler described the P3 as a failure as a tank.

    In the east in the early days there was far more parrity than is often acknowledged, the T34 and KV 1 were only encountered, later in the intial invasion stage and in relativly small numbers, until the moscow counter offensive.

    Particularly when upgunned in middle and later stages, the p4 was the equal in pretty much all realistic combat terms of the t34. Not necessarily in pure armour and firepower terms, but its superior ergonomics, made it a much better fighting tank.

    The German heavy tanks were, far less effective than is often assumed at the time. The ‘Tiger terror’ was psychological condition in western tank crews. Proper post battle anaylassis, showed that in both the west (including the desert)and Lesser extent east, the largely defensive battles fought on the german side, were far more a factor than heavy armour. Indeed the Stug 3 has been described as the most effective vehicle the germans had.

    The Russian evaluation of the German heavy tanks was pretty dismissive, talking of poor quality armour welding and where as their units were encouraged to take on P4 and stug type vehicles, when captured. They were expressly forbidden to do so for tigers and panthers.

    A lot of the experienced professionals in The Wermacht in post ww2 reports were very fed up with the ‘big cats’ there lack of mobility, fuel consumption, and above all totaly shit reliability.

    We came up with the ‘Main battle tank’. The Germans having just come throught the same war would have been very happy with a t34/85 with, a turret basket optics etc. indeed the Leopard 1 was very much in the ‘Properly made Panther’ area, than Tiger 2.

    After all captured German tankers had only one joke.

    ‘One of our tanks is worth 10 of yours’… ‘Unfortunalty you always have 11’

    Quantity has a quakity all of it’s own.

  166. Quantity has a quakity all of it’s own.

    Damn my Dslexia…. but what a concept- a seriously heavily armoured Duck.

  167. @ S O
    “Chris, further discussion is pointless. You have entrenched and there’s no use in repeating arguments or spending time for adding more”
    — Pot, meet Kettle.

    “Have fun asking yourself why the Russians with all their combat experience did not move towards producing only heavy tanks post-WW2”
    — The T-55 was 10 tonnes heavier than the T-34. The T-72 bulked up with another 5 tonnes. The T-80 put on another tonne. The T-90 has added another 5 tonnes.

    @ APATS,
    “The modern MBT has surely been proven to be the best of both worlds”
    — I’m coming from the angle that the modern MBT is effectively a heavy tank, and that really the Challenger and Abrams are the modern equivalents of super heavy tanks. If that helps.

  168. “I’m coming from the angle that the modern MBT is effectively a heavy tank, and that really the Challenger and Abrams are the modern equivalents of super heavy tanks. If that helps.”

    Yes indeed. Whilst SO keeps referring to tanks like CONQUEROR which were a heavy class in their own right.

    You guys seem to be in a definitional war of words. I personally think the term MBT has evolved into a term in common usage to describe any type of tank which is not clearly some sort of light tank. If we used older labels then indeed a heavy tank today, ie a class heavier than the main fleet, would indeed be some sort of hundred ton monster and probably of far less utility relatively speaking than a heavy tank was back in the 40s, 50s and early 60s.

    For the record, CR2 will do us just fine for some time unless the balloon goes proper up and they all get brewed up.

  169. Yes Challenger 2 is fine for now, but I would like to see a little seedcorn money for a prototype of something newer, just in case.

  170. “The T-55 was 10 tonnes heavier than the T-34. The T-72 bulked up with another 5 tonnes. The T-80 put on another tonne. The T-90 has added another 5 tonnes.”

    Seriously, mobilize some concentration!
    “Heavy tanks” ain’t the same as “increasingly heavy”.

    The Soviets had a line of actual heavies from KV (1940) to T-10 (1960’s) and gave it up after keeping its numbers relatively modest compared to their medium line (from T-34 to T-90).
    Compare the medium tank T-55 (36 t)to the heavy tank T-10 (52 t), not T-55 to T-34.
    The Soviets gave up their medium tank range, and even today their T-90 hasn’t even reached the weight of our Chobham generation MBT basic variants.

    Your whole reasoning is totally useless for a discussion. You’re in a attack fury without any clear thought about the subject.

  171. Is this the future?

    http://images.gizmag.com/inline/bae-systems-concept-vehicles-5.jpg

    ” CHARGER: described as a “highly specialized lethal effects vehicle”, the CHARGER is a cross between a tank and a bulldozer. Apart from it’s ability to punch through walls, the 30 tonne vehicle could be equipped with vertical launched missiles, mortars and/or cannon depending on the target. It would also employ actuated spaced armor options designed to create space between the vehicle and it’s shield. This could include using electro-magnetic magnets that could be deployed to “float” above a vehicle in a threatening situation.”

    http://www.gizmag.com/bae-systems-future-vehicle-concepts/17361/

  172. @SO

    Forget it, no point in going round in circles.

    @ST

    Wot? No laser cannon? :)

    @Wiseape

    Moral of the story then is “don’t get on lifts with monkeys carrying machine guns”. :D On a more practical note, heavy metal armour tends to work extremely well as a heat sink. Other than structurally supporting the area hit to thermal expansion, the rest of the armour also helps to wick away heat to other parts of the hull, so cooking a tank hull is magnitudes more difficult than cooking an artillery rocket, even if it’s a half sized runt scout tank. Might be good for cooking ERA plates though, but do you really want to go to war with a main weapon that can only cook the enemy’s outer armour?

    @TOC

    Isn’t the gas turbines that you allude to mounted on platforms that mass 3-6,000 tonnes as opposed to a poor 60 ton “heavy” MBT? As amusing as it would be to have a 3,000 tonne MBT, I think that might be too heavy for it’s own suspension and the roads. It would make a really good transportation denial unit though, just run it over a road a few times to make it unusable.

    @John H

    What would be really funny is if the UK defered additional research expenses thinking to buy any new German MBTs… and the Germans defered new MBT research thinking to buy any new developments of the CR2. :) But for now, economic recovery 1st. No point planning to spend money you don’t have yet. Chickens before they hatch thingy.

  173. Playing devils advocate, I think it would be cheaper overall to ditch Chally 2 and but second Leopard 2

    We are only to have 3 x 56 tank regiments = 168, so add on 32 in deep maintenance / spare = 200 plus maybe turret less driver training vehicles. My contention is that this number is too small to be economically viable in terms of procuring unique ammunition and investing in required upgrades (engine, transmission, optics, fire control have all been suggested up thread).

    Some might respond that if we purchase second hand Leo’s then we would have to pay to upgrade them too. Yes, accepted, but Germany, Denmark, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Greece to name just a few, will also need to upgrade theirs, and so it is economically feasible for commercial manufacturers to make their own R & D investments with the prospect of making a return on the open market. Ammo, spares and upgrades, all major elements of total through life costs thus become cheaper.

    Could we find a market for our used Ch2 – Jordan might take some as is, or put their smooth bore gun equipped Falcon unmanned auto-loader turret on the chassis. Oman might add some more to their modest fleet, and our remaining stockpile of CHARM3 rounds would be much more meaningful to their smaller numbers – if we could export them.

    I say let’s act now and ditch our expensively unique fleet and join the “Euro Standard” club :-)

  174. @jed

    It is a viable option, but it really would be funny if the Germans were to go “ditch the Leo and buy CR2s!”. That would mean when the time comes for a new MBT, America would cleanhouse. :)

    That also does not include the “worry” factors, for example:

    External supply source.

    Is the British public so accepting of giving up control of their main supply chain to an entity outside of the UK? And what if it became “politically sensitive” for country X to supply parts for your MBTs due to “excessive intervention in country Y”? For other countries who don’t produce MBTs/FJs, external supply is a fact of life, but for those who have and lose, it might feel a lot different.

    Job losses.

    Let us be honest, some defence companies are so inefficient that the main reason they even still survive is due to government handouts. And why would the government keep throwing money at a bottomless pit? Other than the need to keep certain industries local and to retain capability, there is also the need to keep people employed, especially with the economy in the shambles it currently is in.

    Close these industries for German tanks and the effect cascades all down the line. Never mind assembly line workers, what about the steel mills that supply the factories? The optics manufacturers? The engine maunfacturers? It’s all interconnected. Cut the whole chain off and who knows what else will collapse. If you want to close the line, you’ll have to do it slowly to give the industries time to find other buyers.

    EuroMBT is a good idea overall, but other factors currently turn it into a non-viable proposition at the moment. And for the love of God, keep governments out of the design process or you’ll end up with requirements all over the place. Defence companies collaboration only.

  175. @ S O
    “Seriously, mobilize some concentration! “Heavy tanks” ain’t the same as “increasingly heavy”.” – “Compare the medium tank T-55 (36 t)to the heavy tank T-10 (52 t), not T-55 to T-34.” – “Your whole reasoning is totally useless for a discussion. You’re in a attack fury without any clear thought about the subject”.

    — I hate to have to remind you oh wise one, but it was YOU that first brought up the T-34 as an example of a HEAVY tank. Or are you forgetting that now? Interesting.

  176. @Chris

    Actually, he didn’t. He only mentioned that the PanzerKuf Mk 4 was outclassed by the T-34, especially in terms of frontal armour, and was comparing the situation to the inability of medium tanks to kill heavies through the front, as well as suggesting that tactics, skill and usage compensated for this shortcoming. Slight misunderstanding when the words are flying all over the place.

    @TOC

    I’ll imitate Mr Burns from the Simpsons.

    “Interesting…”

    4x 10 kW lasers means that there is going to be a decent bit of power left for other stuff. Wonder what’s the catch. :)

  177. “SO define a modern heavy tank and a modern medium tank then?”

    A modern heavy tank was designed* with the ability to withstand all hits on its frontal (at least turret) armour and with the ability to penetrate all hostile front armour in mind. Mobility was a secondary development concern.

    A modern medium tank was designed* with the ability to defeat all tanks and the ability to withstand almost all** hits on its frontal (at least turret) armour in mind. Substantial sacrifices were made to enhance mobility***.

    *: Not necessarily with lasting success or even mere initial success.
    **: Including common, but not the most powerful AT munitions.
    ***: This is rather about soft soil performance and choice of bridges than top speed.

    These (unofficial) definitions show why I think mediums aren’t at a major disadvantage: The heavies lose their edge to technological progress quickly, while the medium’s advantages are more persistent.

  178. How many fairies can dance on the head of a pin?

    Does anyone use these definitions in the realms of defence or defence industry? The vast consensus seems to be that a modern (since 1980) MBT is a tank of around 50-70 tons armed with a 105-120mm cannon all of which have various blends of armour / firepower / mobility with none particularly emphasising the other as engine power and armour effectiveness has increased.

    The distinction between a ” heavy” tank and a “medium” tank seems to have been left behind some time in the 60s.

    There’s MBTs in the every day regular sense and there is everything else.

  179. @Observer – you ilucidated my reservations about a laser/particle weapon replacing the main gun; so how about a secondary weapon designed not to cook the crew but the opposing tank’s electronics; a sort of directed charged particle beam, knock out a tank’s fire control system, engine management system, communications, etc. I wonder how far away such a weapon might be. Again, I imagine the problem will be manageable power generation (just picture the first mobile phones with the massive batteries).

    I thought you answered Jed’s point about ditching our own tanks for Leopard very well – same argument for aircraft, ships, missiles, volume car production…oh!

    BTW cunning monkey got on the lift last.

  180. Phil, reduce the lower bound to 42 t in order to fit the T-80 in and you’re correct. That’s the range of MBTs.

    “Medium” and “heavy” are merely descriptions of different design philosophies.

    The difference between these philosophies lost attention when during the late 70’s public discussions about a numerical conventional superiority of the Warsaw Pact began and inventories of artillery pieces, tanks, combat aircraft, combat helicopters and qty of soldiers were summed up for the purpose of quantitative match-ups.

  181. Observer
    Britain in the early 30s was broke, but the air ministry found a few thousand to get the early work on what became the spitfire going, thank god.
    I am not suggesting spending £500m+ on some super shiny prototype.
    Just a couple of mill on keeping knowledge up to date, just in case.
    I would like to see, low key, ongoing research on the XM-360 electrothermal gun. Came in 120mm, 135mm & 140 mm. A joint 135mm electrothermal for tanks & naval guns, would be the next leap forward. A NATO development with the US,UK, France & Germany would probably be the affordable way of doing it.

  182. Observer pondered front or rear engines earlier.

    The rear positioned engine in Leopard, Abrams & Challenger is part of a dated Cold War design. It may protect the engine compartment during a symetrical tank-on-tank engagement with the Soviets, but against asymmetric enemies the rear engine is no longer the advantage it once was. As Iraq showed, the local flip-flops quickly grow tired of dying in frontal attacks against tanks and begin to exploit the tanks weak spots, whereever they may be. Tha Abrams rear protection seemed particularly vulnerable when they first went into Iraqi cities.

    Also, when we do face enemy armour again, it won’t be the all-or-nothing battle of the Cold War, we’ll be more sensitive to casualties. Having a front engine will offer better protection to crews, if at the expense of potentially losing a few vehicles.

    Front engines also allow for a couple of passengers to be carried in the back. An obvious problem was shown up in Iraq, that if your tanks have fought their way into a city and then are immobilized, then the crew is buggered. If it took a tank to get that far in to the shit, then you need a tank to get them out – but have no passenger space. I’ve read of American crewmen being wounded as they’re carried out of Baghdad city on top of other Abrams, exposed to incoming fire.

    Once you have a passenger space, you can also do what the Israelis have done, and field the ‘tankbulance’. A tank equiped as a fully fledged ambulance, and able to take stretchered casualties. Forgoes any treaty protection by carrying a big gun, but if you’re increasingly going to be fighting irregulars who may not recognize such nicities, then a good idea.

    Someone mentioned they’d like to see the Korean K2 in British service, but that is pretty much in the same Western, Cold War family as C2, Leopard, Abrams etc. just a little updated. That’s fine for Korea where the Cold War is still going strong, and the same old Soviet tanks are lining up to get killed, but Britain’s moved on. If we fielded the K2 tomorrow, it would immediately be 20 years out of date. I should imagine that if we designed a new tank in this country, it would look more Israeli than Korean – designed to combat new asymmetric threats while retaing the ability to fight the traditional retro style tank battle.

  183. Weapons have been mentioned, and perhaps the secondary weapon needs consideration too. Challenger’s inacurate 7.62 co-axle chain gun might be fine for spraying suppresive fire in the direction of dismounted, RPG-wielding Soviet infantry, but perhaps not the optimum choice today.

    A co-ax 20mm cannon, able to be laid accurately onto a target at range, would probably give better choices for dealing with the modern Toyota mounted insurgents than the stark choice between 7.62mm and 120mm. Complimented by an accurate 7.62 RWS too for fleshy targets.

  184. Mark,

    I could link a video of the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot to make the point that all surface attack aircraft are moot.
    Very unfair fights are very unfair, but they don’t tell us much about much less unfair fights.

    John Hartley,

    please no NATO R&D clusterfuck.
    Multinational development programs involving France as a pain in the ass and often about to see the French leaving partially or entirely. The Americans can’t develop anything on schedule or on budget, and much of what they develop falls short on performance. Add more foreign procurement bureaucracies and the mess grows exponentially.

    The way to go is to trust one somewhat competent bureaucracy with overseeing a development project and asking them to take into account the needs of their allies. The developing company must not make profit on the development, but ought to pay a substantial share of it (in order to motivate them to develop a good, competitive product). The outcome can then be marketed in the alliance if not the world.

    Brian Black;

    you have it backwards. Protection of crew, not of the quickly exchangeable engine is the priority and was so. Front engines add to the frontal protection (highly popular) as in Merkava, but the forward position has huge problems. Weight distribution, drivetrain issues and since the 80’s also the thermal signature to the front are the reasons why front engines are rarely employed in AFVs other than those with a dismount element (rear door).

  185. SO
    Multinational efforts can be an expensive bureaucratic disaster, OR you get a small team of dedicated engineers/scientists who potter away in sheds on amounts of money too small for the snouts in the trough bureaucrats to bother with.

  186. @Wiseape

    The latest Chinese MBTs are reported to use lasers to cause interference with hostile electronics. Details are classified but I suspect something along the lines of using them to blind TI/NV/Rangefinders.

    @SO

    Think protection of crew was what BB was saying is an advantage, reference to the comment on being sensitive to casualties. As to thermal signature, it’s a null issue, most TIs or at least the ones I used, pick up the heat differential between the metal hull and the environment, the whole tank glows white, so engine front or back really doesn’t matter.

    As for engine problems due to location, is that speculation or documented? I’ve never heard of outsstanding problems with any front drive engine before, especially since most APCs are front engine.

    @Phil

    I insist we bring back classifications like the “cruiser tank” and the “support tank”! :) If there are units retained because of “history” I insist classifications are also retained on the basis of “history”. Otherwise, all we’ll hear is “herstory”. Oh wait, too late.

  187. @BB

    Another technological solution offered what is not a technological problem but one of tactics and employment. Tanks will always be vulnerable in some respects, one that aren’t are known as forts or defensive positions.

    You solve the problem of the INS getting around the arse of a tank by using tanks properly – ie with supporting infantry. Seen Saving Private Ryan when at the end you see a Tiger tank advancing with two columns of Landsers behind it doubling? That’s how you protect the arse end of a tank from infiltrating and flanking enemy.

    You have to accept trade offs and you have to accept that technology is not the final word in solutions.

    Those Thunder Runs in Baghdad could very easily have turned into the experience the Russians had in Grozny when they first entered it in 1995 I think. The US commander then pushed his luck and whilst risk is needed to win wars, he could just have easily been up in front of the Man explaining why he went against every rule in the book.

    Use what we have properly and there’s less problems. Tanks ride forward with MICVs slightly back, the tanks hit problems and you then maneouvre your MICVs, dismount your infantry and they go forward to winkle out the enemy with the support and HE of MBTs.

    Mutually supporting combined arms operations.

  188. @Phil

    Actually it was supporting infantry that was probably the driving factor in the Merkava design, the Israelis have long memories and remember what Sagger AT teams did to their tanks in the Yom Kippur war. There was a report I read long time back that indicated that they deployed motar teams to the armoured units on the fly to suppress the AT teams after the initial losses to AT infantry. One of the reasons why they tend to retain the practice of having tanks with motars, and the inclusion of a fireteam in their tanks.

    Can’t say they don’t learn from their “mistakes”, though I’d hardly call being surprised by new tech a mistake.

  189. Observer,

    “Think protection of crew was what BB was saying is an advantage, reference to the comment on being sensitive to casualties. As to thermal signature, it’s a null issue, most TIs or at least the ones I used, pick up the heat differential between the metal hull and the environment, the whole tank glows white, (…)”

    The contrast of the sensor element is usually good for discerning contrast between fractions of a Kelvin, but the display screen is usually in a mode that shows such a large bandwidth to make this sensor capability moot when the target employs IR countermeasures such as netting and special paint.

    Pattern recognition software may help, but so far I haven’t seen it being used for this purpose yet. It would be quite challenged by corresponding silhouette-manipulating IR countermeasures anyway (certainly still useful against moving targets, though).

    @Phil:

    “Seen Saving Private Ryan when at the end you see a Tiger tank advancing with two columns of Landsers behind it doubling? That’s how you protect the arse end of a tank from infiltrating and flanking enemy.”

    Actually, infantry within 50 m of a tank is a very poor technique and forbidden in several field manuals.
    Tanks are shit magnets and produce a lot of bouncing bullets and RPG fragments. A tank’s main gun (105 mm and larger) has a danger zone of up to 150 m even when firing HEAT shells (blast). A discarding sabot is even worse (= also a problem with APFSDS and APDS used by IFVs!).

    Proper technique would be to have infantry or a tank about 100 m behind a tank, and a possible tank-supported infantry assault ought to happen on a different axis with normal smoke for concealment (or APCs/IFVs advancing close to objective and dropping infantry there).

  190. “Actually, infantry within 50 m of a tank is a very poor technique and forbidden in several field manuals.”

    It was a metaphor for using infantry in close co-operation with tanks.

    And forbidden or not, when advancing over open terrain its human nature to huddle around a big bullet proof object which is moving in the same direction you want to go. Field Manuals also forbid bunching but as anyone who has operated with infantry know, it’s instinctive to bunch and a constant battle to get soldiers to keep their spacings.

  191. @Mr.Fred @Observor @Brian Black

    @ Fred – With the K2, clearly the South Koreans have shown they are prepared to do deals on the technology and already the Turks are using it as a basis for their Altay MBT. There is no reason why we could not do so and save a number of development costs. Lets be fare and think that we are talking of a tank which will be 34 years more modern than the Abrams or Leopard2 when it enters service in 2014. The problem with the Challenger2 is it might become more obsolescent more quickly because of its 120mm rifled barrel and the cost of developing ever more advanced munitions to defeat opposing armour.

    @ Observer, I heard those rumours so I looked up the costs:

    K2 Black Panther – $8.5m+
    M1A2 Abrams – $8.58m (2012prices)
    AMX-56 Leclerc – €9.3m ($11m+)
    Leopard2A6 – $5.74m (2007prices)
    Challenger2 – $6.7m

    and it would cost a huge amount to develop an indigenous replacement.

    @Brian

    The K2 is advanced as the Merkava MK4 in fighting asymmetric threats. Lets not forget this is the type of war they’d actually find themselves fighting against the North Koreans. Not only does the K2 have both soft and hard kill anti missile defences, but also a Missile Approach Warning system and both radar/laser warning and radar jamming. It can be upgunned with a 140mm weapon or even an electrothermal-chemical gun as is completely net-centric with C4I, IFF/SIF and Battle Management systems, designed for rather than retrofitted into. There are even plans to include a URV into the production model to provide a remote scouting capability as a result of their experiences in Iraq.

    I really don’t think it will be even close to being out of date. At a certain point you can only update an existing tank before having to go back to the drawing board. the K2 is not in that position.

  192. I was saying, as Observer picked up, that protection of crews has only increased in priority.
    On the thermal signature of tanks, an APU must be beneficial. Allowing the engine to be shut down as soon as possible once you’ve parked up (as well as powering systems during your stay, without guzzling all your fuel).
    I’m wondering also whether the start-stop systems of many modern cars could be used in MBTs. Have the battery or a small APU power your tank automaticaly whenever you stop. The engine would have to be at normal operating temperature for it to kick in, but it should stop excess heat being unnecessarily thrown out – as well as improving fuel consumption.

  193. Rolf Hilmes, a prolific German writer on tank technology and technical expert / bureaucrat for the German MoD, has mentioned about a decade ago that development of a new MBT would cost 600 million. Not sure if it was still DM era or already EUR.

    Anyway, this is obviously not what it costs to develop a MBT in the U.S. – they spend billions on a new tracked AFV model and then they cancel it after a few prototypes.

  194. @SO

    There was an incident in Serbia during their civil war when the Serbs managed to set up a killing field with a pair of SAWs across an open field. No infantry could get through and they had to bring in a T-80 to root them out. Guess how the infantry advanced? No, not 50m. They went in right behind the tank, within physical contact range. Your manuals may say 50m, but given the choice between an open killing field and hiding behind the nearest bulletproof object, even if it is a bullet magnet, I know which one I’ll choose. I’ll rather bend a field manual rule than bend the flight path of a 5.56mm.

    This also happened in Op Cast Lead, Israeli infantry hid behind MBTs when the enemy used massed RPG fire to generate lots of blast and fragments to incapacitate infantry, an interesting and novel use of RPGs as supression weapons.

    I have my suspicions that the spacing around MBTs now is primarily due to the increased use of ERA and partially due to much more powerful main gun. If an ERA plate took a hit and blew, any infantry standing nearby is going to have a bit of problems.

  195. Hi, Dave. I may have used a dash of hyperbole in describing the K2 as 20 years out of date; however, most any sensor, FCS, or defensive system that might be found on the K2 could potentially be fitted to a much older tank – whether that would be cost effective or practical for any particular fleet is another issue. So yes, it comes with all the latest bells and whistles – but conceptually it’s still part of the existing Western family of tanks that I mentioned.
    I would point out three features though. As you said, designed for a larger gun, so inherently flexible in that respect. An APU, which should be part of any new tank design. And the fancy S-tank style suspension, allowing it to crouch hull-down, or to increase elevation and depression of the gun – a major advantage in mountainous terrain.

  196. @Observer;

    incompetent techniques work against even more incompetent enemies.

    Check on parapet defensive positioning and you’ll see competent machinegunners would have killed them all behind the tank.

    http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA393163&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

    “I have my suspicions that the spacing around MBTs now is primarily due to the increased use of ERA and partially due to much more powerful main gun. If an ERA plate took a hit and blew, any infantry standing nearby is going to have a bit of problems.”

    Some types of ERA do not fly away (the behind plate of the ERA tile is the one responsible for most of the effect). A HEAT grenade explosion in itself is already dangerous way beyond an offensive hand grenade’s explosion. Fragments of ordinary HEAT ammunition (such as the rocket’s stabilising fins) can be lethal in a large radius.

  197. @SO

    First time I heard anyone call the Israeli Army incompetent. Anyone not on an anti-Israeli rant in the first place at least.

    And that was a warning poke at you for implying that anyone not agreeing with you is incompetent, especially when the people like the IA have better credentials and more experience than you. Easy to say “do XYZ” from an armchair. Much harder when lead is flying over your head.

    ERA that doesn’t fly away is called NERA or NxRA. Or maybe the SLERA.

    “A HEAT grenade explosion in itself is already dangerous way beyond an offensive hand grenade’s explosion.”

    I do disagree with this, for training, most of the live rounds we use are HEAT on the premise that the blast radi is smaller so in case of accidents (which does happen once in a while), casualties would be reduced. Sucks if you were on the receiving end of the penetrator jet, but the people around you would be safer.

  198. SO

    There’s absolutely nothing incompetent about using cover and concealment to advance onto an objective. Quite how you think infantry moving in the open are less of a bullet magnet than a tank I don’t know.

    Whatever the manuals say, common sense will prevail on the day and if it is dangerous being near a tank it is probably more dangerous to be running around in the open. This is why it is called combat and not sports.

    Bullet magnet you may be and a tank may be, but at least the tank stops the bullets.

    Certainly on some occasions it will make sense to be out of the way of the tanks to give them freedom to maneouvre and so you don’t end up eating ATGWs and 125mm rounds but there’s a time and a place and whatever works will win the day. Manual or no manual.

  199. Observer;

    “First time I heard anyone call the Israeli Army incompetent. ”
    Actually, the Israelis themselves were very blunt and unusually outspoken about their incompetence after the disappointing recent Lebanon War from conscript to general.

    “I do disagree with this(…)”
    Are you sure you read my line entirely? Remember an offensive hand grenade! Those are the ones without fragment shell. About 300 g TNT. When did you see a HEAT shell with so little blast power the last time? Must have been some ADEN munition or similar, for even M72 has much more bang.

    @Phil:

    “There’s absolutely nothing incompetent about using cover and concealment to advance onto an objective.”
    The problem is that there’s only C&C forward, while a competent defence (and attack) threatens from more than one direction.
    I’m all for CCD for the assault element, but a tank body does not provide nearly enough unless all opponents are incompetent enough to be massed in one spot (the classic lone farm assault scenario).

  200. @BB

    Another feature is the ability to delay firing a round when the gun trigger is depressed if the tank hits a slight bump preventing a miss occuring by linking a small laser emitter and receiver which if slighty misaligned will prevent the round from being fired until it quickly realigns at which point the Fire Control fires without any further action from the crew. Even the Leclerc doesn’t have this. No current tank has the C4I capability apparently at the moment

    It has also been reported that the tank can be operated by a single person with the Fire Control System automatically spotting and track vehicles and receiving firing instructions from other friendly vehicles.

    Which sounds a fundamentally useful feature to have.

  201. @SO

    Now you’re just arguing for the sake of arguing. The Israelis were outspoken on how things could be done better, NOT that the whole lot of them were incompetent. This twisting of words is very deceitful of you and very immoral.

    “Remember an offensive hand grenade! Those are the ones without fragment shell.”

    You sure you got the right item? All “offensive” hand grenades I know comes with a frag shell (HE/HEAT/HEDP). The only ones that I can think of without are smoke, flashbangs, incendiary and concussion grenades. You must be talking about flashbangs or concussion grenades.

  202. @Dave

    Still an experimental system, production of the K2 was only slated to commence late last year? This year?

    As such I’m sure it will have it’s fair share of in service bugs. As for the alignment firing system, I can see some potential problems, like firing over rough terrain, will the gun keep hangfiring? Hopefully they would have solved this before deployment or I’ll be able to tell you when the best time to fight the Koreans will be. When they are travelling on a rocky/bumpy road. :) Should be interesting to see how well it does.

  203. @Observer:
    Watch into a mirror and read your last comment loudly, especially the
    “Now you’re just arguing for the sake of arguing.” part, for I never claimed that “that the whole lot of them were incompetent.”
    That meaning only appeared in your fantasy.

    I called the action (Israeli infantry hid behind tank) incompetent and mentioned that “incompetent techniques work against even more incompetent enemies”.

    The whole projection of incompetence on the entire IDF army is your conjecture.

    Besides, they blundered in Lebanon quite hardly, and the problems were systemic. They did a lot of mistakes – from reservist call-up to lack of combined arms efforts. The word “incompetence” was being used by Israelis as well as others.

    They benefit of not being exposed to Godwin’s law when discussing their countries’ problems and are actually quite good at doing a critique of their military:
    http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/east-side-story/israel-is-not-prepared-for-the-next-war-1.447178

    ” “Four hours of driving training for a tank driver in the regular army – that’s what the troops got ahead of Lebanon. That betrayal of the troops can’t be repeated. To send untrained soldiers into battle is a moral betrayal,” Bar says. ”

    ” Between 2000 and 2006, neither the regular army nor reserve units engaged in any training to speak of. During the second intifada, the whole focus was on Palestinian terrorism. Regular-army soldiers in those years also entered reserve units with far less expertise, “other than in how to arrest wanted individuals and how to disperse demonstrations – they’re world champions in that,” a senior officer says.

    The current reserve units, most of whose members are around 30, are responsible for many missions and tasks. Training in the regular army, though more rigorous than in the recent past, doesn’t match the level of 20 or 30 years ago, especially in the Armored Corps. ”

    ” “In the armored battalions, there’s a training exercise only once every two years. Training exercises in the Armored Corps are far more expensive because of the cost of munitions and fuel. We haven’t decreased allocations for their training any further because we can’t go any lower,” he says.”

    So yeah, it’s totally reasonable to dare to criticise any infantry group that’s clogging behind a tank in combat. Even Israelis. It’s a technique that only works against incompetent or otherwise badly overpowered opponents.

    And thus we’re back at what I brought forward a while ago: Options for future procurement of tanks should be considered as being in competition with the armour branch’s training budget.

  204. “You sure you got the right item? All “offensive” hand grenades I know comes with a frag shell (HE/HEAT/HEDP). The only ones that I can think of without are smoke, flashbangs, incendiary and concussion grenades. You must be talking about flashbangs or concussion grenades.”

    Yes, I’m sure.
    Defensive hand grenade = frag
    Offensive hand grenade = concussion (blast)
    Look it up at wikipedia or Jane’s Infantry Weapons yearbooks or anywhere else.

    Examples:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_grenade#Concussion
    “The Elviemek EM 02 offensive hand grenade is designed to produce a blast with minimum fragment hazard. It has a danger area of 2 to 3 m and is constructed entirely of plastic.”
    http://articles.janes.com/articles/Janes-Infantry-Weapons/Elviemek-EM-02-offensive-hand-grenade-Greece.html

    This is how to memorize it:
    When you attack you’re exposed and don’t want to get hit by large frag radius effect.
    When you defend you got cover; frag effect helps but does not hurt you.

  205. “Actually, the Israelis themselves were very blunt and unusually outspoken about their incompetence after the disappointing recent Lebanon War from conscript to general.”

    -quoted from source. Wonder who?

    And you’re quoting from haaretz, a site that is famous for raging on the Israeli government. They even have an article calling for the installation of lasers at towns that suffer from rocket attacks in place of the Iron Dome anti-missile system, never mind that lasers are totally experimental, no one has ever yet fielded a practical version of it and the inability to handle more than one target at a time, so you can guess my opinion of the practicality of their brainless suggestions.

    “So yeah, it’s totally reasonable to dare to criticise any infantry group that’s clogging behind a tank in combat. Even Israelis. It’s a technique that only works against incompetent or otherwise badly overpowered opponents.”

    So you’re the kind of person who when caught in an open killzone behind a tank, is going to step out from behind it because “the manual says so”? And I thought Muslim radicals were suicidal. No point arguing with you, you would espouse suicidal, brainless tactics just to support your point, no matter how weak it is. I agreed with you that training compensates for and triumphs over “bigger gun, moar armourz!!”, but your emphasis on the book over practical and even basic life preservation steps means you’ve taken “the book” too far.

  206. 1st time I heard of anyone classing frag grenades as “defensive”. It’s so defensive it does wonders clearing rooms and trenches.

  207. /facepalm

    I went to the reference of “defensive/offensive” grenades and found out why I’ve never heard of it classed like that before.

    The reference is “Ukranian” from a fansite….

  208. Dave, as I said “most any sensor, FCS, or defensive system that might be found on the K2 could potentially be fitted to a much older tank”.
    The delayed firing gizmo is something that tweeks the already capable gun stabilization. Hardly a reason to buy a new tank.
    I don’t doubt that the K2 has a bunch of new gadgets – and probably cup holders, ipod connection and vibrating butt massaging seats too. It’s irrelevant to the point I was making – that it is conceptually a Cold War tank, while for the UK the Cold War has ended. The UK envisages different kinds of warfare – a tank design that took that into account would be very different to that family of Western, Cold War tanks.

  209. @BB

    Actually I won’t go so far as to call it a “Cold War” “obsolete” tank, just a different design philosophy, which is still valid in some cases. Is it “bad” or “wrong”? No, not really, just “different”. The Koreans, like most mass conscription army, tends to have more trained personnel than equipment, so there is a slightly higher priority in equipment survival, hence engine at back. Not PC to say it outright, but different needs. Israel ended up with a MBT/IFV hybrid due to their unique history and experiences. Like above, is it “bad”? No, just “different”.

  210. Observer, no matter how much you twist and ignore what I wrote; I did never write what you asserted in this quote:

    “The Israelis were outspoken on how things could be done better, NOT that
    the whole lot of them were incompetent.”

    The part that you quoted can and should be interpreted differently than you do.

  211. Coming back after a weekend away, I’d like to weigh in on the medium vs. heavy conundrum.
    As I recall, the exchange started with the suggestion that a 60t+ tank could be replaced in all roles by a 30t+ tank, specifically a large gun-armed ASCOD. In the ensuing conversation, the 30t+ platforms were termed “medium” while the 60t+ were termed “heavy”
    If we are to step outside this informally derived definition and look at the historical heavy tank classes, it becomes a somewhat different argument. Looking specifically the Conqueror as I know a bit about it, this was a 60t+ tank whilst the contemporary MBT, Centurion, was 50t+. It mounted a 120mm gun against the 88mm 20pdr on the service Centurion. It was a big tank and put tremendous strain on the automotive technology of the time. It used some ridiculous amount of grease for the suspension units, measured in lbs/mile. The consumption was such that each troop needed to be followed around with a vehicle carrying a trailer full of grease. It was less mobile than the Centurion, the weight of the gun strained the gun control equipment and the size of the gun meant that it could not match the Centurions elevation and depression limits. Frontal arc protection was little different to the Centurion and with the advent of the 105mm L7, the older US 120mm did not have a significant advantage in firepower. In that sense the additional 10 tonnes of the Conqueror was just too much for the automotive technology of the time and compromised the capability and logistic support versus the MBT.

    The modern comparison is not the same. Modern automotive systems mean that the 60t+ Challenger 2 does not surrender much, if anything, to the 30t+ ASCOD whilst having a huge advantage in protection, especially over the frontal arc.

  212. When is the Out of Service Date for Challenger 2, it’s got to be later than 2025 surely, therefore this is well beyond the horizon for now.

    I cannot see a Leopard 3, it would be a derivation of a 50 year Design. It would be time for a complete re-design, I would suggest that a New Tank project will be launched across Europe, given the success in Europe and Globally of LEOPARD 2, the UK would be foolish to strike out on our own again.

    An electrical Tank is not out of the Equation, Heavy Armour has huge logistics footprints and with modern type KERS systems, and Electrical Motor Assist, I could see an Efficient small form Diesel Generator setup hooked upto an Electrical drive system, with Electrical everything. The efficiency range and fuel economy, combined with reductions in weight will be very interesting indeed.

    Shoot me down, as I am no expert on AFV but with Warships now being IEP (Integrated Electric Propulsion), I can only see Electrical vehicles becoming more common in future. Your thoughts.

  213. Sounds good to me. 120mm Electric Rail gun maybe? Aim to be in service from 2030.

    Put the diesel gen forward and an acess hatch at the back and the same basic hull can be used for both Tank and AFV. Use bolt on modular armour to give a variety of mobility / protection combinations.

    Across UK, France, Italy, Germany you could eventually be looking at couple of thousand units.

    The industrial logic would be compelling, except everyone would want an assembly line in their own country: Eurofighter and Atlas all over again. :-(

  214. Do the normal Division of Labour….E.g UK makes Engines, Rheinmetal makes turrets, Frogs make the Hulls? Buy the Components and assemble them with a License, it would make more sense as Individual countries would want their own Comm’s and sensor fits but the Key components should come as a Package. Could be rather like how you make a Desktop PC?

  215. Hi Mike Edwards,

    I come to the party very late (having disappeared for three months without a trace; some urgent projects to attend to), but I must say that I see the future much like you.

    If you look at the “obsolescence” date attributed to Ch2 by the NAO report, it is 2025. But that is obsolescence, not being obsolete, and many incremental investments have been pointed to on this thread that could keep Ch2 going as long as Abrams (the US plan extends to 2040 currently).

    What you start with has already been proved in the SEP design, admittedly a much lighter AFV. Even though someone might say it is “Swedish” it was BAE in the end who was the Design Authority, and the most complicated item, the drive train for the electric arrangement was sourced from another British company.

    To look beyond what technologies might be driving the next design, the K2/ Altay model (neither country from Europe, so why should the project be exclusively between European countries) meant that the Turks took the gun & control combo off-the-shelf, call it best-of-breed approach, and bested the protection element.
    – indeed, they did such a good job that some European Leo customers are now looking to them for upgrade packages, not the original manufacturer
    – and when Leo needed to be updated for mine protection, Sweden was ready to pitch up with money and testing, so NATO countries with the same need gave the project leadership to a non-NATO country

  216. Why not buy M1 turrets from US and just install them in the chassis of Challenger II? You can always buy used M1Abrams and implement the modernization programs they develop for the tank. You will have full commonality of spare parts and ammo with the Americans. After all you go to war with the Americans. The Europeans just follow you two.

  217. One issue with a joint programme across a multitude of nations is that the requirements vary so much between different nations armed forces. Compare a Challenger to a Leopard to a LeClerc. Then you have issues with people trying to protect their national interests and vying for a greater proportion of the workshare.

    Might I ask the justification for the proposed workshare? The Europack engine is currently favoured (not British), The French do not have any notable prowess in building hulls and the Rheinmetall turrets do not impress me. If you determine who does what before you have determined what needs to be done then that seems to be a recipe for a compromised product. If the optimum company to produce the hull isn’t French, for example, then do you take a sub-optimum solution or try and re-negotiate the contract, with the consequent delays and cost increases?

    The Leopard 2 has been successful, it is true, but does anyone know why? Suggesting that it is simply the best does not necessarily ring true when compared with most governmental procurements, so is there other reasons? My personal opinion is that they were built in large numbers – over 2,000 – for the Cold War. When that ended and West Germany was re-united with East, they suddenly had need for lots of money, and had a big stack of superfluous, modern tanks lying around coupled with a running production line. Normally in procurement you can pick two out of cheap, fast and good, but this situation allowed for a choice of three, with the added bonus that the source was centrally located in Europe, allowing for good access to repairs and logistics. Compare with the contemporary Challenger 1, 420 built. Or the later Challenger 2, at 386 and any exports would have been new builds.

    I may have mentioned it before, but there is going to be a whole bunch of surplus CR2 hulls which would surely be ideal for a series of technology demonstrators to introduce new technology in increments rather than trying to do it all at once.

  218. A great article. However, the British army will be retaining the Challenger 2 for the foreseeable future. It’s already practically unbeatable, proven in Iraq 2003. Unless there is a drastic change in conventional warfare, there really is no need to change it.

  219. A good idea is to have an 140mm rifled electrothermal gun with a coaxal 20mm cannon. The armor will be the dorchester but with extra layers of crystalised steal (the japanese use it in there type 10 tanks) with a thick core simmiler to the to the du one in the abrams but made of du,tungstion,cabon nanotube in a granite casing. The active protection systems will be a lazer dazler and explosive armor similar to relikt with multiple layers of steal and explosives built in but also a small defence simmiler to the arena active protection system. The chasses will be based of the merkava but with a new turret based of the the one in the challenger2 as it can have a 140 mm cannon. The engine is a 2500hp hydrogen engine. There will also be a xm806 and a xm302 in remote weapon stations. The chasses will alo be used for a 180mm artillery piece ising telescoped amunition, a an apc,ifv,fire support varient which will hold 13 people a turret with a low velocity 90mm or a 105mm gun with a coaxal 40 or 57mm chaingun and a 7.62 mm minigun. The chasses will be extended to acomadate all this. An AA version will have 2 35mm cannons and a version of the rapier 2000 antiair missiles. A version of the trojan with a 90mm morter and mine destuction equipment. A bridge layer and an armored repair and recovery vehicle.

  220. @MrFred – Justification for workshare is nothing but the current trend in all defence and Commercial projects. Individual countries in Europe do not spend enough on defence to sustain cutting edge defence or Research / Hi-tech companies. They cannot compete with the US Defence Industry and equally cannot produce something of equal or better quality on their own/

    Hence – AIRBUS with components made all over Europe, to rival Boeing. CVF Consortium – THALES, BAE, BABCOCK et Al. EUROFIGHTER and all the other myriad of High-end, High Expense, High Risk defence programmes. AUGUSTA-WESTLAND etc etc etc.

    If we think the UK could make a world beating product on our own, then we will condemn ourselves to have Kit which on paper is great – But ends up with inferior components (like Leyland Engines in the Chieftain!).

    Whatever we go for, due to the global consolidation and Multi-Nat nature of modern Defence Contractors it will be built Collegiality – Then we will probably assemble the components in our own Country with technology intergrator companies for country specific components and requirements. The LEOPARD 2 has been an outstanding success.

  221. Mike Edwards,

    Specifically why should France build hulls, the UK build engines or the Germans build turrets? What justification is there for any of those countries to build those particular components?

    The Leopard 2 has been successful. Why?

  222. Being ex Merchant Navy I cannot come close to you guys’ on this forum in your knowledge of tanks. However, it seems to me MBTs are destined to enter the same retirement fields of the war-horses from the distant past. It won’t be too long into the future when a single infantry soldier will have within his kit a hand-held weapon capable of taking out any super-tank – and that is a pending fact! I’m sure the likes of the US, Russia, China and the rest are beavering away to produce such weapons, and I cannot see BAe being left behind. So do we really need to keep up producing ‘mens’ toys for doing battle on some god-forsaken arid middle-eastern ground? Best spend our credits on kitting our guys’ with tank-busting ‘handhelds’ – much cheaper in the long run. Two hundred paras chuting to earth with such weapons could be devastating – no huge logistic back up required – just a rapid stealth-like deployment – wham bam quick as you can! Oh no! I here you say – just a thought fellas!

  223. The demise of the tank is oft cited (once per decade at least, since their inception) but so far has not come to pass.
    While you may be able to equip, at great expense , every man with an anti-tank weapon, each man is still vulnerable to machine guns and artillery fragments. Assuming your 200 paras (shall we make it 300 for a similarly fated military endeavour?) get past the air defence systems of your adversary, what’s to stop the opposition from fixing them in place with machine guns and then hammering them with artillery? Infantry has little to no mobility and are very fragile when not dug in.
    Tanks, in some form, provide protection from hostile fire. They carry heavy weapons and can go farther and faster than infantry. It might be that the 70tonne gun tank in the guise of the current MBT is not the way of the future, but equally that sort of weight capacity allows you to carry more modern passive, reactive and active armour systems.

  224. William, in certain conditions, it is as you say, for example in urban areas or dense jungle, but straight up vs a tank, a man is dead. Infantry is very fragile, even getting the area around them hammered with machine gun fire makes them lose effectiveness (suppression). The way infantry wins against tanks are 1) attacking from ambush where they are not shot at initially or 2) hit the tank from out of their MG range, which involves EO/fibre optic missiles from about 4 km away and really heavy systems.

    This is in addition to the fact that designers are not idiots, Russian tanks have long since had active anti-missile defences and reactive armour that distorts any missile blast. In addition, there is combined arms tactics that involve infantry deploying alongside tanks to flush out anti-tank infantry.

    Hard to see how a tank can become obsolete in the near future.

  225. Hey Fred, loosen up my friend! I’m only joking. Or may be we should send in a million paras’ in stealth suits, armed with Flash Gordon ray guns n’ things – one of them is bound to get through! Maybe the answer lies in using a tactical neutron bomb, kill all the guys’ on the ground and confiscate their tanks. But, looking at it from a more serious angle, the UK no longer has large chunks of global real estate to look after. After all, we are a small island nation. All our tank battles have been in some one else’s back yard, and needed a huge logistical exercise to get them there – taking weeks or months or even longer. Future conflicts will be short and deadly affairs, fought with robotics and drones, our leaders firmly entrenched in a UN Assembly wine bar. Whoever loses the battle buys the other guy a pint – but I don’t think they will go for it – so may be we should keep our tanks – satisfied now, Fred = Cheers! enjoying the forum you guys’ Take my comments with a pinch of salt.

  226. You overestimate drones. Haven’t seen one with situational awareness worth a damn, which is also the reason they keep crashing. The US lost half their deployed UAV fleet in Afghanistan before. From crashes. Luckily those things are (relatively) cheap. A single manned fighter will rip through any UAV like it was nothing.

    Flash Gordon guns? Doubt it’ll work. I fail to see how shooting Flash Gordons at tanks are going to stop them. :)

    The reason why people keep shipping tanks even though they are a pain to move is because not much on land can actually kill them. Slow them down or stop them yes, but kill? A bit difficult. The best benchmark is the information from the Israelis where most reports indicate that even when a tank is “killed”, usually by poking a hole through the armour and injuring the crew, given a few days of repairs, it’s ready to be redeployed into the field again with a new crew. Total losses are very rare. Unless you happen to be Russian. Their tanks come with a slight design flaw. Unsafe ammo in the turret. Tends to cause “catastrophic failure” when the hull is breached. Which is another fancy way of saying “it blows up very spectacularly”.

  227. Obs – shades of the Sherman in British service in the latter years of WW2 – they were infamous for their explosive reaction to any sort of hit, resulting in the tank ‘brewing up’. The British soldiers nicknamed them ‘Ronsons’ after a company that manufactured cigarette lighters. Why that nickname? Because of the Ronson company’s advertising slogan of the time “Lights first time every time!”

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