The Tank is Dead, Long Live the Tank – Part 5 (Future Protected Vehicles)

This is a multi-part look at the role of armour in recent conflicts, their relevance in the future and a look at current programmes;

Part 1 – Introduction

Part 2 – Selected examples of recent use

Part 3 – Looking into the crystal ball

Part 4 – SDSR, Army 2020 and the Challenger LEP

Part 5 – Future Protected Vehicle

Part 6 – A Few Ideas on the Future

The MoD, through DSTL, has a vision of what a future armoured vehicle might look like and initiated a research programme called Future Protected Vehicle Capability Vision.

We are looking for highly innovative ways of delivering the same capability as our current Main Battle Tanks, but in a significantly lighter package that is more easily transportable, fuel efficient and less reliant on the supporting military infrastructure.

A potential solution is the use of

Hybrid Electric Drive Technologies that can significantly enhance mobility over demanding terrain with the benefits of good fuel efficiency and high reliability. Creative ideas that will provide the overall systems architecture that will host all military vehicle functions should also be included. We will award a number of contracts to demonstrate proof of principle of innovative technologies and applications of technology that will improve the mobility and overall effectiveness of the Future Protected Vehicle.

Delving into some of the documents at the DSTL Event Call, click here the headline scope was;

An Electric 30 tonne Armoured Fighting Vehicle with the ‘punch’of a current Main Battle Tank

An electric 30 tonne vehicle which will embody the effectiveness and survivability currently associated with a Main Battle Tank but with high tactical mobility, reduced logistic footprint and strategic mobility of a rapidly deployable, air portable system

It will employ a modular, open architecture approach to underpin a future generation of mission configurable platform

A ‘Troop Carrier’ variant capable of carrying a fully equipped eight man section is to be the main demonstration focus

So the main focus was to be a troop carrier variant but the base vehicle was of a single type.

That is a pretty stretching objective, it being the point I suppose and a few interesting images and concepts appeared as part of the call.

Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle

Future Protected Vehicle (2)

Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle (6)
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle (6)
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle

It really was a sci-fi vision.

Responding to the programme BAE Systems also came up with a number of concepts;

BAE Pointer
BAE Pointer
BAE Raider
BAE Raider
BAE Wraith
BAE Wraith

There was also Safeguard and Atlas

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

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

In a press release, BAE stated

Overall, 567 technologies and 244 vehicle concepts were explored as part of the FPV Programme in collaboration with over 35 industrial organisations, universities and schools. From these, 47 were identified as having the potential for immediate exploitation to boost the effectiveness of lightweight armoured vehicles.

Bearer reminds me of the QinetiQ HED

More details on each vehicle type here

In 2010 the Future Protected Vehicle Capability Vision was revised (surprise surprise) and turned into ‘Virtual Phase’

The Future Protected Vehicle Capability Vision – Revised seems to have gone quiet and BAE haven’t been talking about it much either. The MoD turned it into a virtual programme in 2010 so the Experimental Operational Capability by 2013 seems a tad unlikely?

It sits within the Defence Technology Plan in the Systems – Land – Protected Mounted Operations segment. Click here to see a nice image and the funding pipeline (I will give you a clue, it’s small, the funding pipeline that is, not the image)

I suspect it will remain as a technology programme only and not progress beyond informing items like Generic Vehicle Architecture or fuel reduction work, for example.

The UK simply does not have the appetite, cash or even industrial research capacity to complete the vision so we might view the programme as a waste of money, accepting the spin off benefits to other programmes.

By the time FRES SV finishes its development programme the MoD will have spent over a billion pounds without a single production vehicle to show for it and FRES SV is hardly at the cutting edge, using an adapted design that has been in service over 20 years.

Clearly the MoD does not have pockets deep enough for an in hub motor, hybrid electric, articulating wonder tank straight out of the pages of a Star Wars paperback.

You have to admire the ambition though.

Meanwhile, in the real world

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Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
November 12, 2012 11:22 pm

I find the Charger concept interesting… Combination of gun (mortar?) and VL missiles. One for close infantry support and one for anti-tank? Obviously a concept but one which might work?

S O
S O
November 12, 2012 11:22 pm

They played “FCS” at least on the render artist level. I don’t see much else than this in it.

BTW, it does remember me of MBDA’s insistence that future infantry ought to hurls lots of small missiles and look decidedly sci fi-ish in body armour:
http://defense-update.com/products/c/conceptvision_31122010.html

Observer
Observer
November 12, 2012 11:57 pm

This is just playing with design and making things look futuristic. Totally no discussion on capabilities, protection levels, mobility levels, overmatch etc.

I might as well plug in a picture of the AT-AT here and call it the next-gen of armour.

And the next-next gen of armour is Japanese mecha.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
November 13, 2012 12:06 am

I see your Mecha and raise you titans…

http://img248.imageshack.us/img248/7034/chaostitanxjc9.jpg

Observer
Observer
November 13, 2012 12:23 am

Heretic scum!! Your daemons are no match for the Emperor of Man!

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
November 13, 2012 8:18 am

ST

Indeed one of these bad boys should do the job.

http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Imperator-class_Titan

Brian Black
Brian Black
November 13, 2012 10:54 am

I notice on the cutaway of that eight wheeled turreted vehicle, with the two crewmen seated right below the turret and the turret itself only big enough to carry the gun/mortar, there appear to be no reloads.
One pre-loaded shot only; that’s certainly one way of reducing weight!

Alex
Alex
November 13, 2012 11:58 am

An electric 30 tonne vehicle which will embody the effectiveness and survivability currently associated with a Main Battle Tank but with high tactical mobility, reduced logistic footprint and strategic mobility of a rapidly deployable, air portable system

isn’t that the original FRES concept with the word “electric” added?

more to the point, if all our vehicles are electric-drive and charge up from wind power or a deployable nuclear reactor (check out the left-hand side of pic 7), what are we doing fighting in southern Iraq? Check out the unmistakable landscape in pic 8…

…or is that meant to be somewhere on the southern coast of the Med, and the pylons are the Desertec HVDC lines?

Alex
Alex
November 13, 2012 12:12 pm

I mean, it was WSC and Jacky Fisher’s oil-isation of the Fleet (the Queen Liz ships being the icon, but the flotilla of DDs, light cruisers, and submarines fighting for the torpedo battle space being as important) that took us into the Middle East back in 1911.

Electrification of land mobility is at least as big a technology transition. You would expect it to cause unexpected changes in strategy.

Off the top of my head: the maritime and littoral domain is important, being full of giant wind turbines, wave generators, associated cabling, and very expensive specialised shipping. This is happening now. It will also be even more full of submarine telecomms cables than it already is.

Implies a renewed concern about home waters, in the large sense, including those to our North. In a platform sense, suggests we need OPVs and MPAs. oh. In a human capital sense, we need to master the technology. This implies thinking about securing infrastructure under the sea and recovering from the impact of big storms.

If we have allies to look after, we might need to secure this kind of area somewhere else in the world. Even if the fight isn’t about an offshore wind farm (but people fight over offshore oil claims!) the enemy might decide to attack it as an asymmetric strategy. Similarly, having enemies somewhere else, we might want to hold their stuff at risk. So whatever capability was generated would have to be deployable.

which suggests that any prolonged discussion on TD ends up being about PSV-derived ships.

Alex
Alex
November 13, 2012 12:20 pm

That’s if it doesn’t end up being about projecting a light footprint COIN capability into Bolivia to prevent disruption to the lithium mining industry and contain Chinese influence. Or maintaining a core heavy armoured-infantry force to wage war in the Mediterranean rim protecting Desertec.

Observer
Observer
November 13, 2012 12:28 pm

Alex, when they say electric, I think they meant hybrid-electric, not the plug in kind. :)

I hope.

And you really nailed it with the FRES. I know, we can get the FRES vehicles and stick a hybrid drive on them!!!

Oh wait….

… get the battery, then stick the FRES on them later?

Monty
November 13, 2012 7:33 pm

This is where it gets interesting. Let’s look at some of the themes that future AFV design could incorporate:

1. Wheeled combat vehicles.
Without wishing to start a brand new wheels versus tracks debate, there is no doubt that newer wheeled vehicles designs offer much greater off-road performance. Ultimately, wheels will not allow the same obstacle clearing capabilities as tracked vehicles, but they should be 80-80% as good rather than 50-60% as good as they are now. This means that for the most part wheeled vehicles can substitute tracked vehicles. Wheeled vehicles are cheaper to buy, easier to operate and maintain, have greater combat range, increased reliability and are lighter. Another important benefit is that wheeled designs lend themselves to the easier incorporation of V-hulls for mine protection.

2. Universal platforms.
Finally, the penny has dropped that infantry combat vehicles need to be as well protected as main battle tanks. This being the case, one basic design can provide the basis for both types of vehicles. Front-mounted engines make more sense because, in addition to providing increased protection across the frontal arc, allow for either a mid-to-rear-mounted turret or rear compartment to be fitted to a single chassis type. Future tanks and ICVs will look something like the Italian Centauro and Freccia with tracked vehicles resembling the Merkava or Scout SV. Infantry carriers, command vehicles and ambulances will have higher box-like compartments, while tanks / tank destroyer and artillery platforms will have lower silhouettes and turrets.

3. Unmanned turrets with autoloaders.
Guns with autoloaders are definitely the way ahead with the main armament and coaxial machine guns mounted in unmanned stations above the crew compartment. The ammunition for the gun is contained in an armoured magazine located above and behind it. Good situational awareness will be maintained through vision ports mounted around the turret exterior. Remote turret systems are smaller, lower and present a smaller target silhouette to the enemy. They need less protection because the crew are less exposed since they would be located deep inside the vehicle.

4. Central crew survival cells.
With remote weapon stations, the crew can be accommodated in a small survival cell located centrally within the vehicle. The German KMW Puma already uses this approach with the commander, driver and gunner all located together in the hull. The gunner still sits in the turret, but is primarily mounted below the weapon rather than alongside it. The crew have good front and side situational awareness, but rely on the infantry in the back to provide a rearward view.

5. Increased protection.
With crew protected by a small central armored box, increased frontal armour can be added while decreasing overall vehicle weight. The remote turret above the crew provides overhead protection. With the autoloader mounted in the turret the ammunition is is not stored within the vehicle so the crew are at less risk of being killed by the ammunition detonating. The universal platform approach also allows modular armour to be added to suit different vehicle types and roles. The increased use of carbon fibre / ceramic laminates for protection is providing armour that is lighter and stronger. One of the interesting things about newer carbon-based armored composites is their propensity to stretch before breaking. They can absorb significant energy. Not surprisingly, details of this new technology are highly classified. Once we figure out how to mass-produce carbon nanotubes, we’ll have a material that is 100 times stronger than steel but weights only one-sixth.

6. Hybrid electric drives.
The concept of a centrally mounted diesel engine linked to lithium-ion batteries serving as a power generator and storage for electric motors driving each wheel makes perfect sense. Electric motors are both small and light but can generate huge amounts of torque. This would endow an 8-wheeled vehicle with excellent all-terrain mobility. Wheel, suspension and electric motor units could be incorporated within a single assembly. In the event of a wheel being lost to a mine, the entire unit could be replaced. Moreover, the vehicle would be able to limp home even if it lost two or three wheels.

How much of this future technology we will see in the next generation of UK armoured vehicles remains to be seen. However, most if not all of the above elements are all likely to appear on future combat vehicles at some point in time. I agree that the FRES Scout SV is an old and outdated design that offers little utility over existing tracked armour currently in service, bar the fact that it is newer and thus less likely to breakdown.

The most important new vehicle procurement programme for the British Army is the 8×8 FRES UV. We are probably fortunate that Piranha V was cancelled. 8×8 design has advanced considerably in the last five years as V-shaped hulls become a pre-requisite. In many ways Piranha V was not much better than the US Stryker, which is fundamentally based on the same General Dynamics platform / drivetrain. While 8×8 Strykers are a much better way to go to war than 4-tonne trucks with wooden bench seating and canvas covers (that barely offer protection from the rain let alone small arms fire, RPGs, shrapnel and IEDs) they are not wheeled MICVs. In order to fit in C-130 Hercules, the armour requirement was reduced substantially. The Strykers has proved to be a ubiquitous, reliable and fast vehicle that can easily be deployed in large formations. Unfortunately, they have been used in situations that have exposed them to direct hostile fire from heavier weapons and many been destroyed. They are also vulnerable to IEDs. New slat armour has made a difference, but they need a quantum leap in protection before they are truly viable. Britain can only learn from the USA’s early adoption.

Now that the IED threat is understood, vehicles like the Foxhound provide an ideal blueprint for future wheeled combat vehicles. An 8×8 Foxhound that offered similar levels of protection but an improved off-road performance would be a very worthwhile addition to Warrior. I am certainly interested to see what we will get.

S O
S O
November 13, 2012 10:15 pm

:
“Without wishing to start a brand new wheels versus tracks debate, there is no doubt that newer wheeled vehicles designs offer much greater off-road performance.”

I disagree, albeit I suppose you meant something different (and more agreeable) than you wrote.
We can agree that wheeled drive technology improves and can ceteris paribus improve off-road capability substantially (I wouldn’t set the improvement this high, though).
The newer wheeled AFVs do hardly represent an advance in off-road mobility, though.
It had been consensus for decades that wheeled vehicles are supposed to be protected against rifle bullets and many 152 mm arty fragments from impacts about 15 m away (energy and size of fragments varies, with few being really powerful). Few had protection against 14.5 mm (mostly combat vehicles; few APCs), and this was often only partial. Few had decent mine protection.

Now all kinds of IED underbelly, IED side, EFP, HEAT, 14.5 mm protection requirements need to be met, and the gained weight increases ground pressure and degrades soft soil performance. It also compensates much of the engine power and gearbox efficiency gains.

The greatest improvements were made in the 60’s with wide tires, widespread introduction of CTIS and at least almost evenly spaced 6×6 designs. That was the reason for the widespread use of vehicles such as BTR series, OT-64, Fuchs, VAB, LAV-I and the likes.

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
November 13, 2012 10:26 pm

:

“6. Hybrid electric drives.
The concept of a centrally mounted diesel engine linked to lithium-ion batteries serving as a power generator and storage for electric motors driving each wheel makes perfect sense. Electric motors are both small and light but can generate huge amounts of torque. This would endow an 8-wheeled vehicle with excellent all-terrain mobility. Wheel, suspension and electric motor units could be incorporated within a single assembly. In the event of a wheel being lost to a mine, the entire unit could be replaced. Moreover, the vehicle would be able to limp home even if it lost two or three wheels. ”

I’d be very surprised if this sort of research wasn’t already ongoing. But to add a twist, most comments I’ve seen here only apply electric power to existing sprocket wheels for tracked AFV use. Why limit it to that? Why not have the road wheels driven on a tracked AFV? It would allow for redundancy in the event that one of the powered wheels is disabled, and would even allow for reduced mobility if a track is shed/destroyed (what with the powered wheels actually being in contact with the ground). Designed right, such a system could operate in a hybrid tracked/wheeled form (wheels for strategic movement, tracks for tactical) in the same manner as the original Christie tanks of the 1920’s . . .

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
November 13, 2012 11:21 pm

Usually come down on the side of the track but if the AHED concept progresses beyond the prototype I might change my mind – removes a few of the problems with conventional wheeled designs.

http://defense-update.com/products/a/AHED.htm

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
November 13, 2012 11:43 pm

The original concept for the US FCS was too sci-fi with satilite microwave power source (?!), but does resemble a vehicle combining some of Monty’s 6 points.

http://imageshack.us/a/img13/2915/fcsscreenshot10.png

It was intended to have a dual calibre EM multi-barrel cannon and VL missiles (which could be replaced with 2-4 dismounts?) – would a conventional gatling cannon in a unmanned turret and VL missiles be a useful, practical combo?

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
November 14, 2012 7:09 am

A couple of points:
The turret in Puma is unmanned. The gunner is situated in the hull with the rest of the crew.

Reducing protection of your main armament makes it easier to score a firepower kill and thus take your vehicle out of action.

Carbon fibre is a pretty poor ballistic material. It does not absorb much energy before fracture. Carbon Nanotubes may improve on this but we don’t have enough to make a test piece yet.

wf
wf
November 14, 2012 7:48 am

Carbon fiber has been used for gun barrels, but as external reinforcement to contain hoop stresses only.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
November 14, 2012 6:29 pm

wf,

Use as a gun barrel overwrap plays to the strengths of a carbon fibre composite as the intended load never reaches the point where it causes damage. Carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) really doesn’t handle damage well at all.

wf
wf
November 14, 2012 8:06 pm

@Mr.fred: you and I know that. I thought others might find it interesting. The ones I saw were very small calibre….

B.Smitty
B.Smitty
November 15, 2012 2:52 am

FWIW,

Here’s a recent CBO report on the US Ground Combat Vehicle.

http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/43699-GroundCombatVehicles.pdf

The GCV could be as large as an M1, and potentially heavier.

The study is an interesting read, IMHO and has a chart that breaks down the cost of a few modern US armored vehicles by component (pg 41).

It also has an interesting section on active protection systems.

paul g
November 17, 2012 12:19 pm

just a thought on this before bloody ships fill up the comments! (only joking) solomons blog has a little bit about the new turkish tank (in house designed and built although loosely based on the SK black panther) Now i’m not sayng buy this before anyone jumps in, but a couple of points caught my eye. Firstly the had to lengthen it by one road wheel ie from 6 to 7 so chally now one of the shortest MBT’s around (and i think the only western one with only 6 road wheels), perhaps something we should note.
More importantly and the reason for the comment they are going to “make do” with a 1500bhp engine for the first 2 batches before throwing in an 1800bhp engine that is being co designed with the south koreans. Now we are one of the few EU nations that has openly supported turkey joining the EU, so i reckon while on their good side see if we can throw some pennies their way and get in on this engine development. The MBT is built by the same company that does a family of wheeled IFV’s ie 4×4,6×6, 8×8. To be honest IMO 10 years time turkey are going to be big players and we should stay onside with them

http://www.military-today.com/tanks/altay.htm

Mike Edwards
Mike Edwards
November 20, 2012 1:24 pm

Many of the Concept designs are too far out and will never be adopted. What I could see is a 30 tonne MBT, fully electric drive, electric turret with Autoloader, 3 man crew plus some seats inside for grabbing downed crews etc. Rather like the merkava. Sporting a 120mm conventional gun (not a rail gun that is too far away even with 25 years of development and the capacitor bank needed + Generation just for a main gun is a none starter) probably a 20mm co-ax (could be worth investing in a 15mm Cannon for the extra power over a 12.7mm ?) with a 7.62mm co-ax. Throw in some Electric defensive counter measures and that adaptive IR Camo for night ops.

All of this achievable now, the problem with going for more outlandish designs is that the cost/Risk factor goes up. No one will pay money outlandish amounts to have *itanks* to coin a phrase. Just think of a redesigned fully electric Leopard 2 ? It would be a game changer….The Leopard is old now, but a re-design involving electric propulsion turret, conventional gun would be very popular from a Logistics standpoint.

I would also suggest that Infantry will have Drone Mules to carry ammo and heavy kit (Water, Ammunition etc) and that will make Infantry far more sustainable in the field and their endurance will be that much greater, and their ability to carry large amounts of AT missiles (Like Javelins across country) will be more likely. The tank will have a difficult time in future, but will adapt with new technology.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
November 20, 2012 2:13 pm

@Mike Edwards – Interesting ideas. Something similar to your 15mm HMG was designed:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/FN_BRG-15

Not sure why it was not pursued; I read somewhere it was because it was as heavy as a 20mm cannon but didn’t have the same firepower as it didn’t fire exploding shells.

Russians have 14.5mm HMG and the French have had a namber of tank designs with 12.7mm or 20mm as co-axial weapons.

Observer
Observer
November 20, 2012 5:47 pm

Well, I was always a fan of switching the co-ax guns to GMGs. Ammo count goes way down, but you no longer have to worry about missing something while firing on the move, the blast radii would really ruin an infantry squad’s day at minimum, messing up unit cohesion. And you no longer need to use the main gun to get rid of pesky snipers in a room, with some added ability for round corner damage.

Honestly, the Merkava is probably the best design currently to template something off for a heavy. A light/medium MBT would have to make some compromises, but there are areas which it might be able to hold its’ own if designed well.

At 30 tons, you’ve no choice but to sacrifice armour, but you can compensate for that to some extent with ADS. I’d try to make it 30-40mm resistant then slap an ADS on it, which should cover a fair spectrum of the potential threat range. This is probably the bare basics, anything else is open to whatever you want to do.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
November 20, 2012 6:46 pm

The trouble with ADS is that it has limited uses, it still weighs something and there are some threats it can do nothing about. As a method of dealing with the high-end threats that passive armour has difficulty stopping but are relatively rare on the battlefield it’s great, but it can’t replace protection against rapid-firing or numerous weapons. With that in mind, I would say that 30t is a bit light for an MBT. Not enough carrying capacity or protection to soak up the residual threats, especially if you start adding shiny additional gizmos.

Larger calibre coaxial weapons have been tried before and almost always end up being binned because they do not offer the ammo depth of rifle calibre MGs and do not offer enough improvement in performance against the majority of targets faced. Maybe modern fire control would make the difference

I agree that attempting to make the big jumps is going to end up with the MoD on the far side of the horse with its face in the dirt. Again. Introduce the technology in small increments and develop it.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
November 20, 2012 7:22 pm
Mr.fred
Mr.fred
December 3, 2012 9:25 pm

A further thought occurs that counts against the development of the AFV in the same manner as the naval ship:
The land battlefield is very much more complex than the naval arena so it is much more likely that opposing platforms will end up in a direct-fire fight. A parallel is the development of the Royal Navy’s carriers as the key AO was the North Sea where stand-up gun fights were much more likely than other regions, due to the surrounding land mass and inclement weather.

Mike Edwards
Mike Edwards
December 7, 2012 11:55 am

I wouldn’t describe the new CVF as designed for North Sea standup fights nor would I describe the old through deck cruisers designed for that? Unless by North Sea you mean holding open the Greenland-Iceland-Faroes Gap for the US Roll-over Convoys and their Carriers to get in the Norwegian Fjords? (this hasn’t been relevant for 23 years since the fall of the Berlin wall).

The CVF is about projecting force over the horizon, basically copying the US Carrier Diplomacy model, and having a Carrier Battle Group (albeit much smaller and less capable, but still a quantum leap ahead of what we have now).

Bring it back to AFV’s, we are forgetting all the basic rules on MBT’s from history, Sloped Armour over Slab sided for a gain in survivability. Combine this, with modern composites, Ceramics, Plastic, D3O shock absorbing material and this is all available now we could make huge weight savings. Just like getting to the moon, it’s all about weight. If we want better, more efficient, easier to maintain/use and supply AFV, we need lighter ones which do everything the Generation did before more effectively, offering greater protection and cheaper.

Every 1kg you add, means better heavier suspension, better drive train, better engine and the heavier and heavier the vehicle gets. It’s all about trade off, and I think the days of the 60 Ton/ £6million monster is pretty much done, especially as I can turn it scrap with my Man-portable Javelin missile. A lighter faster, more efficient AFV is what is really needed.

With respect to Co-ax armament, my thoughts are that Main gun rounds should be reserved for other MBT threats, all other vehicles such as IFV should be dealt with a more efficient armament like an Auto-cannon. Main Gun rounds are heavy, if you only take 30 into the field, fine, you still have 300 rounds of 20mm or whatever to deal with IFV’s and other targets and your GPMG for Infantry and softskins.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
December 7, 2012 1:34 pm

I intended to reference the carriers built up to and during the second world war. The British opted for armoured flight decks (AIUI) because in the North Sea and Northern Atlantic, weather and geography conspires to prevent carriers keeping their area of operations clear, allowing a gun-armed warship to close to range without interference from aircraft.
A carrier can project force as long as it can detect things within it’s area. On the ocean this is pretty easy as there is scarce place to hide unless you are a submarine and sparsely populated. Because the land environment is so much more complicated you can hide something that can threaten an AFV quite easily. Therefore the ‘carrier’ concept will need to be able to defend itself in a direct fire fight.

AFVs and the rules of history (more like lessons learnt by previous endeavour rather than rules) but I don’t think that we are necessarily forgetting much, more like remembering some of the others. Modern composites give weight savings but at cost in monetary terms as well as difficultly of repair. Are the weight savings huge? Can this be proven or is this wishful thinking that forgets the object lessons of FRES and FCS?

Looking at past examples, the T34 (sloped armour) was 26.5t versus the PzIV at 25t and that’s comparing the model 41 T34 with a 1943 vintage Ausf-H panzer. The composite-armoured Challenger was 62 tonnes against the 55 tonne Chieftain. Past experience tells us that tanks get heavier, not lighter, as new protection technology is introduced.

I agree that we want all these advances but we must also be cognisant of what can be done. Given unfettered reign, the end user will demand something that weighs nothing, costs nothing and is available so that he was using it yesterday. Such things are to be striven for but you cannot expect to get there in one bound, or possibly even at all.

The days of the tank have been numbered for nearly as long as the tank has existed. Anti-tank guns did it, the shaped charge did it, the anti-tank guided weapon did it, the top-attack bomblet did it, the attack helicopter did it, airpower in general has done it several times and there are still large AFVs on the field. That should be a lesson in itself. If the 60t/£6m vehicle is dead, surely the 30t/£3m vehicle is also just as dead. You can afford 2 to 1, but the 30t vehicle needs twice the crew and twice the maintenance, even if it is easier. I would argue for 50t as a target mass because this then allows you to keep within existing infrastructure without resorting to pixie-dust to maintain useful protection. I would also expect a growth capability to 60t or more just incase it is needed to uparmour.

Regarding co-axial cannon on MBT, this is also something that has been tried before and subsequently dropped. Maybe its time has come and this time around it will be a success. However, past experience indicates otherwise. A cannon will be 100kg or more. Ammunition is about 1kg per round. Space for the weapon, ammunition feed and spent case disposal will make the mass up further. Deleting this gives you capacity for enough rounds to deal with however many light AFVs you might bump into before resupply.

Mike Edwards
Mike Edwards
December 20, 2012 11:52 am

I agree with much of what you have said above, except for the weight issue. This is a logistics issue pure and simple, heavy armour has a ridiculous logistics footprint, it is expensive, unwieldy and requires a huge tail to keep it moving and supplied.

Reducing the weight of a vehicle reduces everything, from the HP required to shift it at a decent speed to all of it’s suspension, engines, fuel consumption, fuel tank, tracks road wheels etc, etc.

The reason for having a lighter tank, is not that it’s more survivable, or even that it is more capable than a heavy tank, it is simply more employable. Almost all military organisations globally want Capability at much reduced manpower and unit cost, the days of huge logistics trains (like in the Cold War) are just not viable. The need for thousands of Fuel bowsers, hundreds of Ammo trucks, repair/maintenance units huge supply dumps and all the personnel need to keep a Modern Tank battalion or even a Squadron in the field is astonishing. It’s almost exponential because all the support elements supporting the tanks in themselves all need support, security and supply of their own. The whole thing is almost exponential in nature.

The cost in terms of resources and manpower is enormous, and just not feasible in peacetime. A lighter armoured vehicle, with a vastly reduced logistics footprint is what’s needed. If you are going to have a 60 ton monster running around it’s still going to need a hell of alot of a fuel even if it is Electrically driven. Reduce it to 30 tonnes and you are well on your way to reducing that huge logistical tail. Tactics win’s Battles, Logistics wins wars.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
December 20, 2012 2:01 pm

The loss of heavy armour and the substitution of light armour, for all those good reasons, has been tried before by the British. Twice, by my reckoning.
The first time was post Great War and pre-WW2. The lighter British Cruisers got pretty well shot up by more heavily armed and armoured Panzers and pretty much any ATG the Germans had. The trend was not reversed until the RAC got sufficiently armed and armoured vehicles with sufficient numerical advantage (the last point being critical) and then were frequently rebuffed from attacks on German positions with heavy casualties.
They did not get that numerical advantage until the Germans started going down the route of the Uber-tank – essentially taking the operating weight beyond the automotive and manufacturing capacity of the time – but there is evidence there against going too heavy.

The second time is the debacle shared with the US, the FCS/FRES shenanigans. The idea of these lightweight, super-electronic OODA-loop-smashing basically fell flat on its arse in the light of the laws of physics. The heavy protection and resilience of larger vehicles was still needed on the streets and deserts of Iraq because you cannot control the actual modern battlefield as well as the models predicted.

This is not to say that there isn’t a niche for a 25-30t AFV, but it is not going to completely replace a larger and heavier vehicle, because it doesn’t have the capacity to fight through the opposition.