Obituary for the Main Battle Tank – or its Future

A guest post by Monty…

TD’s excellent series of articles on the future of armour under the title of ‘The Tank is Dead, Long live the Tank’ prompted a wide and interesting collection of responses. Some of the ideas presented deserve more ‘air time’ so I thought I would try and synthesise some of the key thoughts that emerged as well as adding a few of my own. In particular, many comments seemed to reflect a pessimistic crisis of confidence in modern armour, often for good reasons, while others defended tanks vigorously, presenting some convincing ideas for improving the breed.

What does a future tank look like?

Current Situation

According to recent RUSI estimates, there are about 108,000 main battle tanks currently in service across the globe. Of these, 10,000 are M1 Abrams belonging to the US Army, USMC, Australia and various ‘friendly’ Arab nations.

There are about 4,800 Leopard 2s in service with the armies of Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Singapore and Chile. (Holland is presently trying to sell all 400 of its Leopard 2s).

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are trying to buy 1,000 brand new Leopard 2s, which is fine so long as they remain allies.

Japan has 1,000 tanks consisting of Type 74s and Type 90s, plus 200 of the newer Type 10. South Korea has more than 1,000 K1 tanks. Israel can muster around 1,000 Merkavas of various marks.

France has 400 Leclercs and Italy has 200 Arietes. Britain has a mere 250 Challenger 2s (albeit with a further 200 in mothballs). In total, NATO and its allies could mobilise around 18,000 tanks.

That leaves more than 90,000 tanks that could potentially be ranged against us. The vast majority of these are older T-55, T-62, T-64 and T-72 models belonging to Russia, China, North Korea and various Arab states including Iran (which has a mixed fleet of 2,000 tanks including old American M-60s and British Chieftains).

In addition to substantial fleets of older tank models, China has recently deployed its new Type 99, adding to a formidable line-up of Type 96s.

The former-Soviet Union and its satellites have the newer T-80/ T-84 and T-90 at their disposal.

Of the total, it is estimated that Russia, China, North Korea and Iran have around 40,000 third-generation battle tanks. Approximately 20,000 are capable of matching the West’s best.

It isn’t clear how many potential enemy vehicles are fully serviceable, but allowing some adjustment for inaccuracies and unknown factors, the large number of tanks that could potentially be used to attack NATO and its allies cannot be ignored.

It is highly unlikely that the old Cold War scenario of massed armoured divisions roaring across the north German plains will ever become a possible risk again.

But we don’t know what kind of war we will have to fight next time: who could have predicted the Falklands Campaign, for example?

So even though massive armoured thrusts directed against NATO seem unlikely, we would be wise to say never say never. Who knows where North Korea’s posturing will lead us? When the people in charge are not rational human beings or, more commonly, hanging onto power at any cost, like Assad, all bets are off. Anything can happen. Of course, should large-scale armoured warfare ever be directed against NATO, the most effective response might be a tactical nuclear weapon as was envisioned in the 1980s.

What was true then remains true now: we would want to delay a nuclear response for as long as possible, if only to buy negotiating time.

That requires us to maintain tanks in our arsenals. In any event, what kind of future tank versus tank scenario is realistic? North Korea invading South Korea? China invading Taiwan? A Middle East war involving several Arab states and Israel? Pakistan attacking India? China making a land grab?

It doesn’t matter, the tanks remains a major engine of war, not because it may or may not be obsolete, but simply because so many are still in service. Like the US Navy’s behemothic battleships, we would use tanks because we have them and because our enemies have them too.

If the ongoing need to neutralise enemy tanks has been established, we need to decide what weapon system best fulfils our requirements.

History seems to suggest that the best means of eliminating a tank is another tank, but the ongoing development of simple to use hand-held systems, as well as increasingly powerful long-range ATGWs may have already shifted the balance.

Dismounted troops operating NLAW and JAVELIN are likely to be highly effective in neutralising large armoured formations. In short, modern anti-tank weapons have become a great tank versus infantry equaliser.

The attack helicopter is likely to become an increasingly important battlefield asset, but since they cost around 5-10 times as much as a main battle tank, the economic case for their use might not stack up in a protracted conflict against an enemy able to down our choppers with relative ease.

Similarly, as I’ve suggested elsewhere, strike aircraft cannot be expected to operate with impunity. Air superiority is one of the few strategic luxuries in counter-insurgency operations, but only until insurgents acquire sophisticated hand-held ground-to-air missile systems.

Moreover, as we all know, neither attack helicopters nor aircraft can hold ground.

Some people point out that counter-insurgency tactics may well define the way all future ground combat operations are fought.

As our recent deployment in Afghanistan shows, it can be extremely difficult to hold large swathes of terrain. How often have Taliban insurgents simply melted away when ISAF forces arrived in key areas only to reappear shortly after?

So why try and hold ground at all?

Why shouldn’t we employ the same type of COIN-style tactics used against us in large-scale warfare against an enemy who outnumbers us?

Arguably, the need to eliminate enemy forces is more important than simply holding ground. Let the enemy advance to the end of his supply chain, and then infiltrate him, ambush him, cut him off and systematically destroy his forces.

In modern warfare, there is no FEBA.

We’re talking about a new approach: highly mobile warfare with an abundance of light units moving quickly around the battlefield with light, yet powerful weapons ready to attack the enemy in unexpected places.

What makes this possible now rather than before?

Communication as much as mobility.

The point I’m really making is that the tank was designed for full-frontal, head-on attacks. We couldn’t go around the line of trenches that extended across Europe during WW1, so we protected ourselves from the barrage of shells and hail of machine gun fire and attacked through enemy positions.

This same tactic was used at Kursk and in Normandy. In theory, its what massive protection still allows tanks to do. However, history shows that in every case, the cost of head-on assaults was usually enormous.

Today, when it comes to destroying tanks, we have unprecedented AT firepower at our disposal.

Because our fleets of Abrams and Challengers have not yet been severely challenged in any conflict, we may have been lulled into a false sense of security. But the reality could be that our tanks have become sitting ducks. So the question I want to answer is not whether tanks still have a role, of course they do; but to explore how they need to evolve to be more effective in both defence and attack roles.

To explore at the future, let’s start by reviewing the past.


With the tank’s parentage attributed to both Leonardo Da Vinci and H. G. Wells, who separately envisioned land battleships sprouting guns from all sides, the first person to actually bring the concept to life as a viable battlefield weapon system was Ernest Swinton, a British Army staff officer and later a general, who, in 1916, convinced the British Army’s General Staff that an armoured box housing a field gun mounted on tracks could break the deadlock of trench warfare.

[TD interlude: and Sapper, surely!]

At the Battle of Cambrai in 1917, this promise was amply fulfilled when the earliest tanks achieved such a shock effect that a position which had withstood countless assaults and cost thousands of lives, was routed within an hour.

Tanks attack on Thiepval

Since that day tanks have been a major engine of war and the currency by which the military potential of every major army is now measured.

The milestones of tank design are easy to trace.

Walter Christie’s suspension system developed between the world wars endowed tanks with a substantially improved cross-country performance. No longer were tanks slow, lumbering beasts that could be used to travel long distances (for the time) and seize ground.

By the time Hitler’s invasion of Europe started, the German Army’s Panzer II set a benchmark standard.

Panzer II

Used by Guderian to perfect Blitzkrieg tactics, combined operations with infantry units mounted in Sd. Kfz. 253 half-tracks keeping pace behind them became the model for contemporary tactics using modern MBTs and MICVs.

By the time the Panzer II evolved into more advanced Panzer III and IV models, the Wehrmacht had conquered most of Europe. The Allied response and Germany’s counter response resulted in tanks with bigger guns and more armour. With an 88 mm gun, the Panzer VI, or Tiger, became a formidable weapon that could allow a single troop of three tanks to stop an entire tank regiment.


The most famous example of this occurred during the Battle of Normandy when German tank ace Michael Wittmann destroyed 30 vehicles within 15 minutes at Villers-Bocage.

The high watermark of German World War II tank design was arguably the Panther, although this copied some of the features of the most successful design of the period, the Russian T-34, both tanks achieved an almost ideal balance of mobility, protection and firepower although reliability was not the Panthers strongest point.


The superiority of German Tiger and Panther tanks lasted less than a year.

Perhaps the most important inflection point in tank evolution was the arrival of armour piercing discarding sabot (APDS) ammunition just prior to D-Day.

With the introduction of the allied 75 mm and 17-pounder tank guns, no tank was invulnerable.

With tank guns growing in size and accuracy, the increase in firepower vastly outweighed any corresponding development in armoured protection.

17-pounder AP shot in armour

Sherman Vc Firefly 1945 vl

Recognising the power of tank guns, when Germany developed the Leopard I after World War II, it eschewed protection for mobility. The theory was simple: instead of protecting yourself against penetration, go faster so you can avoid being hit.

The next major development occurred in the late 1970s with the arrival of Chobham armour. This was a honeycomb of ceramic plates applied over the main armour and was believed to be capable of withstanding the Munroe effect of all known shaped charges used in HEAT rounds at the time.

The advent of Chobham armour coincided with the development of 1,000 bhp diesel power units and together with new 120 mm guns (both rifled and smooth bore types) tank designers were once again able to achieve an ideal balance between protection, mobility and firepower.

By the late 1980s, most NATO MBTs used some type of advanced armour, had powerful engines and fired 120 mm guns. Most had also grown in size with an average weight in excess of 60 tonnes.

Operation Desert Storm

The parallel development of anti-tank weapons had done much to help infantry operating on foot to successfully engage tanks. The first indication that massed tank formations operating without supporting infantry could be stopped by ATGMs alone came in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War. A large number of Israeli tanks were neutralised by first generation Russian-made Sagger missiles.

Since 2002, the presence of older but still effective RPG-7s (together with the widespread use of IEDs) has forced NATO armies to develop a new generation of protected patrol vehicles although some of them have drawn on older concepts like stand off armour plate/bar.

Meanwhile, hand-held systems, such as Javelin, NLAW and RPG-29, have grown in sophistication and lethality.


NLAW Training Aid

Light Forces Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (LFATGW) Javelin

The emergence of explosive / reactive armour has been shown to further reduce the effectiveness of anti tank rounds. This in turn has led to the development of advanced ATGMs with double charges, one to detonate the reactive armour and a second to penetrate the armour behind it.


Fast forward to the present and cue video:

The tank featured is an older T-72 that was by and large obsolete by the late 1990s. The weapon used against it is a Russian RPG-29. The guy who emerges from behind the vehicle and then runs away is in fact the gunner. Blown clear by the initial blast, you can see that his trousers have been reduced to tatters and he probably suffered quite severe burns in the process. As he runs to cover, small arms fire strikes the wall from the insurgents who filmed the engagement. He is a lucky man, which is more than can be said for his fellow crew members.

This film is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, the ease with which this tank is reduced to a burning hulk by the RPG-29 shows just how effective the latest generation of ATGMs are.

The number of US M1A2 Abrams taken out by direct fire in Iraq suggests that the same weapon is likely to be equally effective against any NATO main battle tank currently in service.

US Abrams M1A1

As newer hand-held anti-tank weapons find their way into the hands of potential enemies, the question is whether we have reached a new inflection point where existing formula of mobility, protection and firepower is broken and needs to evolve?

Adding more armour is an obvious possible solution. The question this poses is how big can tanks get? It may be feasible to build a tank that weighs 120 tonnes and that can withstand all current anti-tank weapons. But how long would such an advantage last and what would it cost?

If we have reached an identical situation to the one that existed towards the end of World War II, where no tank was invulnerable, firepower and mobility may now outweigh the need for protection. Let’s not forget that the omnipotent status of the mighty German Tiger was overcome by the sheer number of inferior Allied Sherman tanks directed against it. Today, might we be wise to adopt a similar strategy and build a larger number of lighter and more agile tanks equipped with sufficient firepower to take out all other tanks?

There are a number of recent AFV designs that provide clues as to how we can save weight, increase mobility and enhance protection.

Engine forward configuration

The Israeli Merkava was the first modern tank to eschew that traditional tank layout and to mount the engine forward and the turret at the back. This facilitated the more efficient stowage of ammunition internally but also allowed a rear door to be fitted allowing the crew to evacuate the vehicle quickly and safely in the event of it being hit.


The engine forward configuration worked well with the CVR(T) family and allows a common chassis to be used for both tanks and IFVs.

The disadvantage of this approach is that the tank has an increased thermal signature across the frontal arc. However, since all tanks have a noticeable thermal signature wherever the engine is positioned, a forward-mounted engine should not be such a significant drawback. 

Central crew compartment

The UK and US collaborative TRACER / FSCS program was designed to develop a next generation tracked reconnaissance vehicle to replace the CVR(T) and M3A3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle. Ultimately, differences in opinion about the roles and capabilities of such vehicles led to the cancellation of the project, but not until two interesting prototypes had been developed: The Lancer and SIKA.

In particular, these introduced a single crew compartment with increased protection that positioned the driver, gunner and commander close to each other. All three crew members had excellent visibility over the frontal arc. The main armament was mounted in a remote turret above and behind the crew.

Placing the crew in a single armoured cell reduces both the weight and size of the vehicle. This approach provides a simple but effective means of protecting the occupants while enabling them to perform their primary combat tasks from within the vehicle. The major concern is to ensure that rearwards visibility is not compromised. One way to do this is to mount the main armament in between two raised supporting arms that cradle the gun, so that there is a gap below the gun through which the crew can look to the rear beneath it.

The Lancer and SIKA prototypes had a weight of 18 tonnes enabling them to be carried in a C-130 Hercules. Despite their small size relative to existing MBTs they provided a quantum leap in armoured protection.


Autoloaders dispense with the need for a fourth crew member while speeding up the reloading process. In theory, they are an excellent idea, but it has taken a while to produce a simple and reliable system.

The Russian T-72 has had an autoloader since its inception. The T-80 and latest T-90 designs also have autoloading systems, as do newer tank models from Japan, and China the Type 10, and the Type 99, respectively.

In all cases, an autoloader reduces the weight of a tank to around 45-50 tonnes verus traditional MBTs with 4-man crews, which weight 65-70 tonnes.

The French LeClerc tank is the first mainstream western battle tank to feature an automatic loader.

This has 22 rounds ready for firing and can reload within 5 seconds, or 12 rounds per minute.

Future tank concepts

Putting these ideas together, it may be possible to create a new kind of tank that is lighter, more mobile, better protected and less expensive.

Below are four different concepts that seek to define a vehicle that is much smaller and lighter than existing MBTS, but that still mounts a potent 120 mm gun.

In all cases, weight is saved by eliminating a traditional 3-man turret. This allows the crew to be housed either within a central compartment in the hull that offers increased protection or a smaller conventional turret. An engine forward design maximises frontal protection and also allows for a crew escape hatch to be fitted at the rear of the vehicle.

The main armament would be mounted in a cradle that supports it and allows the gun to be both elevated and depressed. In effect, the gun sits above the crew and they have all-round vision by virtue of being able to look out from beneath the gun.

The autoloader would feed rounds directly into the chamber from an armoured box magazine located behind it. This would be counter-balanced with the gun for fast and effortless elevation and depression. Only the autoloader and magazine would be protected. For all concepts, the aim is to ensure main gun and autoloader present the smallest silhouette possible. Magazine capacity would be approximately 25-30 rounds.

With a powerful engine mated to a suitable transmission along with a pneumatic suspension system and banded tracks, very high levels of mobility should be achievable.

Finally, the same chassis with a higher rear compartment could also be used to form the basis of an IFV. This would be able to carry a squad of infantry with the same level of protection as a tank.

Configuration  1

This concept is a 3-man mobile combat tank (MCT) with a 120 mm smooth bore gun mounted in a semi-remote turret. The driver and commander are located in front within an armoured compartment, while the gunner is located in a recessed turret. The commander and driver have excellent visibility across frontal arcs, while the gunner has both forward and rearward visibility. The engine is mounted forward. Fuel is stowed in the rear of the vehicle. 


The gun is mounted in a raised cradle and fed by a counter-balanced autoloader. The autoloader features an armoured magazine that sits directly behind it in a raised position. The magazine would be able to be changed quickly and easily. Different ammunition types could be selected, including APFSDS, HESH and HE. No tank ammunition is stowed in the hull. A coaxial .50 or 7.62 mm machine gun would be mounted next to the main gun. .50 tracer could be used as spotting rounds in the event that the main fire control system was disabled. Main gun optics are contained in an armoured box adjacent to it. This could also easily be changed in the event of battle damage.

The proposed tank would weigh approximately 30 tonnes. Protection could be increased via modular reactive armour panels to a maximum weight of 45 tonnes.

The tank would also have an optional bulldozer attachment that enables it to dig firing positions for hull-down engagements. It has a road speed of 100 kph using banded tracks.

Configuration 2

This configuration provides an alternative Mobile Combat Tank (MCT) concept. Again, it features an externally-mounted main gun with an autoloader. This time both the commander and gunner sit in the recessed turret, although they are positioned slightly higher than the driver.


Rear vision is possible due to the raised autoloader magazine, which enables them to look out from beneath it. Versus Configuration 1, this option improves all-round visibility, but requires a larger turret ring and more powerful traversing mechanism, increasing weight. As before, the modular nature of all major components would allow them to be easily replaced. As with Configuration 1, the vehicle has a lower height with armour protection focused around the hull instead of the turret.

A slightly larger vehicle might allow a second magazine to be stowed on the rear hull deck. It might also be possible to engineer a second magazine stored in the rear hull (separate from the crew compartment) that can be used to reload the autoloader without the crew exiting the vehicle.

Configuration 3

This configuration uses a traditional rear-mounted engine. The advantage of this is a more compact design and reduced frontal thermal signature.


As with Configuration 1, only the gunner is located in the turret. The gunner sits in a slightly raised position to improve visibility. The commander and driver are sat next to one another. This option achieves more focused protection by adopting a smaller crew compartment. The disadvantage is slightly compromised rear vision.

This same configuration could be used with a forward mounted engine. This might provide a more balanced weight distribution. The gunner is positioned in front of the main armament. it might be more expedient to position him to the side of the main gun.

Configuration 4

The final configuration uses a conventional turret with a two-man crew and an autoloader. This option provides excellent situational awareness / visibility for the crew, but results in a larger, heavier vehicle.


As with existing designs, main gun ammunition would be carried within the turret so a penetration of the vehicle could result in a catastrophic fire. This risk could be mitigated by creating a separate magazine within the turret bustle for the storage of ammunition.


Each of these designs seeks to balance weight / size / agility with situational awareness / all-round vision requirements.

The key advance proposed by these concepts is the separation of the crew from the vehicle’s armament and ammunition. This allows protection to be focused more around crew safety than vehicle integrity. The design assumes that any tank deployed will be vulnerable to ATGMs and therefore seeks to give the crew the best possible chance of surviving and escaping an ATGM attack.

The other major advantage is a significant increase in the power to weight ratio of the vehicle. The intent is is to create a vehicle that enables armoured units to deploy over long distances quickly, independently and efficiently. The MCT concept equates to a tank that is considerably lighter and smaller than existing MBTs and therefore more agile and better able to react quickly in fast-moving tactical situations.

Situational awareness could be aided by fitting the vehicle with elevated high resolution TV cameras. While technology might not quite be able to deliver image resolution that matches human vision through a periscope, it is perhaps only a matter of time before this becomes possible.

It may be possible to create a vehicle that needs only two crew: a gunner and a driver. Like an Apache Attack helicopter, the driver would probably be the commander. This would further reduce vehicle size.

The ideas expressed above reflect many existing ideas. In evaluating them, we need to ask whether they go far enough or whether the paradigm needs to be completely re-imagined.

The tank of the future may well not be a tank as we would recognise it today…








Anyone old enough to remember the RDF/LT 75mm ARES vehicle from the early eighties?

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April 9, 2013 10:30 pm

On one hand I must congratulate Monty for putting this together.

On another, there are some cringe-inducing errors that I really must address:
1) When talking about APDS you mention it being fired from 75mm guns and I’m pretty sure that it was never used in that calibre during the conflict. It was used in 17pdr and also 6pdr guns in all roles, both in tanks and in anti-tank mounts. You then go on to show a full-bore projectile stuck in armour plate (rifling marks on the driving band are a give-away). It took a while for APDS to develop from this point to the primary AT round because of the problems developing a Sabot that fell away cleanly. Until this was sorted, full-bore rounds were still used because the APDS shot was inconsistent and sometimes wildly inaccurate.
Heavy armour persisted until the introduction of the shaped charge warhead some 15-20 years after the end of the second world war.

2) The Misznay-Schardin effect was not the standard effect for HEAT warheads. The Munroe effect is how pretty much all direct-fire shaped-charge warheads at the time and still work. The only use for platter charges are stand-off weapons like the sensor fused weapon, bonus or smart155 area effect smart submunitions and maybe some top-attack ATGW. Everything else used the Munroe effect. Chobham is primarily effective against the Munroe effect.

3) RPG-7 did not lead to the development of new (sort of) protected patrol vehicles, it was the widespread use of IEDs.

4) ERA is not new. It is primarily effective against chemical energy rounds (specifically HEAT) but subsequent generations are also effective against optimised kinetic energy penetrators like APFSDS.

5) Neither the RPG-29 nor any other weapon based on the munroe effect fire a jet of molten copper anywhere, unless you are playing very fast and loose with your definition of molten. The RPG-29 is credited with putting a hole in a Challenger 2 but the rapidity a Soviet designed tank blowing up does not necessarily relate to the survivability of a Western tank. For a comparison, the VC citation for Johnson Beharry notes that his Warrior was hit and penetrated multiple times by RPG-7s without suffering catastrophic damage. There was also a US M1 Abrams that was struck in the side by an unknown shaped charge warhead that cut across the turret and disabled it by destroying a junction box on the far wall. The jet grazed the gunners flak jacket but none of the vehicle crew were injured.

6) Quantum leap does not mean what you are using it to mean. A central crew compartment reduces the weight needed to protect the crew but compromises situational awareness, the ability to maintain the guns, reversionary capability and increases the height of the hull. Oh, and it also puts your crew access in front of the main and coaxial weapons.

I’ll come back to this…
For now I should stop and go to sleep.

7) A balanced gun and autoloader is difficult to achieve when you have more than half a tonne of ammunition to account for or not, depending on the stage of the battle.

8) Front mounted engines provide better crew protection but compromise the protection of the mission capability of the AFV by necessitating the inclusion of vents and louvres in the frontal arc protection.

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
April 9, 2013 11:01 pm

Got a laugh at ” Panzer II set a benchmark standard” – and that was before I noticed the picture was a panzer I. . .

May post a more detailed critique later but in the meantime, in configuration 3 put the Commander in the turret, not the gunner. The gunner can go anywhere in the hull since he doesn’t need a direct view of the battlefield whilst it’s a good idea for the commander to have one.

Think Defence
April 9, 2013 11:16 pm
Reply to  Pete Arundel

Pete, the Panzer I/II cockup was me not paying attention

Mr F, have done a bit of silent editing on behalf of Monty

ALL Politicians are the Same
ALL Politicians are the Same
April 9, 2013 11:21 pm

@ TD

Thank god you posted that, have spent the last 5 minutes trying to work out why it was not a Panzer II only to find out you have changed it.

April 10, 2013 12:16 am

Well, I’ll begin with the history section, because even though it’s now a picture of a Panzer II, there’s still nothing benchmark about it, rather the Panzer II was almost out of date by the time it ever saw use, despite how many of them Germany had. The Panzer III and IV it evolved into were also used in the invasion of France, though admittedly the IV wouldn’t get its long 75mm till 42. I think you also meant the Sd. Kfz. 251, not the 253 which was the observation post version.

Also the Panther/T-34 thing is just too big to talk about here, but the 75mm and the 17 pounder most certainly did not make armour obsolete. At the time of its introduction the 75mm on the sherman the Tiger had just turned up and was impenetrable to it from all but close range side shots. Later on the armour of the Panther proved invulnerable from the front to anything but the 17 pounder at close range (think 200m ish for the front glacis, more if you aim for the turret or use APDS) though side shots with just about anything, at just about any range, and almost any angle went through it fine (this is one of the reasons that actually, the panther wasn’t that great, unless pointing directly on all of it’s armour went to waste. The Tiger 2 on the other hand was invulnerable to anything, from any range head on (there are no records of the front armour of a tiger II ever being penetrated by anything in combat, though the soviets found that the shoddy built ones actually fell apart if you fired 122mm shells at them).

I’ll get onto the subject of my own thoughts on what the state of play in modern tank development is in the morning.

Think Defence
April 10, 2013 12:26 am
Reply to  Ashley

Tough crowd….

Ashley, nice to see you back around these parts

Wooden Wonder
Wooden Wonder
April 10, 2013 1:38 am

Thanks Monty and TD interesting stuff – I think the configurations mentioned certainly crop up a lot when people discuss the future MBT. There are a few areas of development that will be key in defining what the MBT will look like:

Urban v non-urban – more specialised vehicles?

Gun v missile (is direct fire still king? or will VLS style boxes of soft launched Brimstone type missiles rule – obviously driven by is it a multi-purpose assault vehicle? or a tank v tank beast?). At least with missiles you can put them all in rear trailer – peer at the target from a mast – ripple or multi fire – then get a new trailer hitched when empty). Or even park the trailer somewhere else. I suspect until we go directed energy (at some point), missiles will rule for now – as long as you can keep the cost per shot sensible.

Soft and Hard Kill Protection Systems – if you can stop the missiles and most direct fire – are you back to guns due to the lower cost per shot?

Wheeled v Tracked – still liked tracked but wheels are catching up.

Diesel v Electrical Drive

Manned v Unmanned

Armour Types – lots of options here still and they don’t all required 60 ton behmoths.

Still lots of hope for the MBT – but does it still have a role in HMF? Sad if they didn’t but could quite see a future where they didn’t – certainly see a risk-taking-cash-reduction-exercise (sorry…capability holiday) plastered all over C2’s future.

Jeremy M H
April 10, 2013 3:46 am

Like others I will applaud the effort first. A lot of work went into that…

And with that said some thoughts.

Minor, factual issues…these are more minor quibbles and disagreements with your methodology, I will save the big issues for the end.

1. The biggest problem with your assumptions is the idea that 90,000 tanks could be arrayed against NATO or anyone. The vast majority are not only old but they have no crews and may/may not be rusting in storage depots in the former Soviet Union. A much better number to look at would be the active numbers of tanks currently up and running for various nations. Anything beyond that is pretty theoretical in my view, particularly the old Soviet stuff.

2. I would be very curious how you get to the 20,000 tanks capable of matching the best the West has to offer. What tanks are we counting for this? How many are really operating? I just don’t see a way to get to that number.

3. I am curious why one discounts the ability of helicopters and aircraft to influence a battle yet seems to gloss over the fact that infantry operating with anti-tank weapons are going to have to contend with artillery and survive to do their job. In an urban environment that is not as much of an issue. But that has been the case from the dawn of tanks that taking them into urban environments events the odds a bit.

4. You claim a number of tanks taken out in Iraq by anti-tank weapons but don’t really give much information. How many losses against what weapons? How many unsuccessful attacks were launched for every success? If I take out 5 tanks but lose a few thousand guys trying to do it that is not a great exchange ratio. You need more information here.

Ok, minor stuff aside a few major problems with your article. I think you miss most if not all of the major important issues with tanks moving forward.

1. You simply cannot address the future of armor or tank protection without addressing active protection measures against ATGM’s. That is a major missing piece of your article. Engine forward, engine back is almost irrelevant compared to this issue. Active protection is here or coming and it will be a really big deal in regards to these issues. More than that in open terrain, where one really wants to make use of tanks, man portable ATGM’s are not a great proposition. Too vulnerable to artillery and other suppressive fire. There is a reason they put all those missiles onto IFV’s after all and it wasn’t for yucks.

2. You address exactly none of the downsides of auto-loaders. The conclusion seems to be that it saves weight and therefore is good. First you take a guy out of the tank crew for maintenance and provisioning purposes. Tank’s at their best are testy pains in the ass. During heavy contact the commander may need to get out to talk to other commanders. Someone has to load new shells. Someone might have to fix a track. Someone might have to do a quick re-alignment on the gun. One less set of hands is not a good thing. Let alone your suggestion to go down to two guys.

Secondly auto-loaders have some major drawbacks. You know those Russian tank’s that go boom in the RPG-29 video? There is a reason that tends to happen when they and the auto-loader has a lot to do with it. Now you can build auto-loaders that get around this but it tends to cause its own set of problems. And again, I am not aware of any advantage in having a 45-55 ton tank vs a 55-65 ton tank. Who cares?

I would not object to a safe and effective auto-loader in a new western tank but I would still not take someone out of the tank. I think that is going in the wrong direction. In addition to the maintenance issues I mentioned above you are likely to see remote weapons turrets proliferate in tanks. Someone has to make use of them. More than that I think the future of tanks is also one were they are important nexuses for battlefield information. If I could eliminate the loader I would rather have an assistant gunner to assist with target acquisition and operating a remote turret that would free up the commander to manage the battle and input information into tactical data links to create a more comprehensive picture of the battle for everyone involved.

I just don’t see the benefit of getting a guy out of the tank. To me it is a false economy for a variety of reasons and even with an auto-loader I can think of a lot of things for that 4th guy to do.

3. I think your whole premise based on the man portable ATGM is fundamentally flawed. These threats are well known and the counters for them are well established. That is why you have infantry and artillery that support tanks in the field after all. At the same time I think your dismissal of the air threat posed by choppers and fixed wing aircraft is completely off base. They represent the biggest threat to massed armor formations as they are presently known. CBU-97s, Brimstone, an AH-64’s are incredibly dangerous and can kill tanks in huge numbers very quickly.

If one wants to have a productive discussion about the viability and future use of tanks I think it has to start with acknowledging the fact that without air superiority it is becoming increasingly unlikely that one will be able to concentrate a large armored force.

That is why I think an armored brigade for a nation like the UK is so important. Given the investment in attack helicopters and brimstone the UK can with a single brigade force a choice on the opposition. Concentrate your armored forces and risk them against a very dangerous air threat or disperse them and basically concede the field to a heavy force. Yeah, they can go cower in a city and take the fight to the street but that is not really a winning strategy. That is simply avoiding losing.

April 10, 2013 5:31 am

@ Monty – A very good post with lots of detail.

@ Jeremy H

“The biggest problem with your assumptions is the idea that 90,000 tanks could be arrayed against NATO or anyone. The vast majority are not only old but they have no crews and may/may not be rusting in storage depots in the former Soviet Union.”

Just imagine how many carbon credits the axis of evil would have to buy to move that many tanks onto the European border :-)

In all serious though just look at the logistics chain it took for the UK to move 125 or so C2 to the Gulf in 2003 then times that by 720. I think the ability of weapons such as brimstone and sensor fused munition make massed tank formations a thing of the past. Not to say they are not very useful today but they are an increasingly niche capability and one that we only need in relatively small numbers. Any potential adversary would have to work out how to gain air superiority over NATO forces before considering using large tank formations and air superiority over NATO in Europe would be a very difficult thing to achieve.

April 10, 2013 7:22 am

Interesting read. I think the future potential conflicts listed make a valid and clear point why the UK needs to retain armoured capability. Though apart from invasion of the UK mainland which would be a defensive affair I cannot see a situation whereby we would fight an armoured conflict apart from being a small part of an multi national alliance. Therefore, building new MBTs should not be on the top of any of our lists.

Essentially, I think the original purpose of the tank still holds true today:
– Platform for mounting large / heavy weapons on.
– Protection in high threat environments
– Speed of engagement

However, I would say that this really covers all armoured vehicles be they tanks, APCs or scout vehicles. Therefore, in my view the next generation of vehicles should be based on a common platform that can be quickly adapted for the role required using modules. I see the platform as having the front compartment of the tank with the driver, the track and under carriage (inc engine and fuel) with a flat bed at the back.

Make the platform light enough to fit in a Hercules / be lifted by a Merlin and also amphibious then you’ve covered all the main ways it could be inserted into a war zone.

Lastly, the commonality of the platform will reduce support effort and increase training efficiency.

April 10, 2013 7:28 am

I think most commentators here have already pointed out the integrated battlefield and combined arms effect on infantry using ATGMs in a pure anti-tank role, so I won’t belabour the point.

Another point I would like to point out is that ATGMs are not really that effective against MBTs, most of them are direct fire weapons, with only 3 I know worldwide that “may” utilizes top attack profiles to target weaker armour, the rest have to force themselves through the main armour belt. Admittedly, now that top-attack is shown to be viable, more ATGMs will probably follow suit, but for now, the number of one shot tank killing ATGMs remain very low. If I was facing an MBT with a LAW or RPG, the tracks would still be the best bet followed by the main gun. Then run like hell.

I believe I also previously pointed out that the number of ATGM squads per company of men is also very small, somewhere along the lines of 2-4 units per company as more of a self-defence capability than an attack capability. Attack capability against armour is still done by air strikes or armoured/mechanised vehicles that are much more maneuveable and faster on the battlefield than leg infantry.

And I would love to see the reasoning that the “Battlefield of the Future” would not involve an FEBA. Fail to hold a defensive line against a formation enemy and you are likely to see MBTs and 8x8s rampaging through your supply dumps and ammo storage depots. Not every battle is a COIN you know, and most insurgents shy from hard bases due to lack of firepower. Against a peer enemy, the rear bases are a much more viable and valuable target.

April 10, 2013 8:09 am

So, in a nutshell… the MBT is dead?

Just as well we’re reducing our inventory of the 1200hp fuel guzzlers.

I must admit I’ve never really understood the point in the MBT in modern times. Too prone to attack, too large a target, too slow, etc.

Is the future going to see a smaller, more agile vehicle with automatic defence systems (like a CIWS) dominate the battlefield. Even better if it’s also a troop carrier.

April 10, 2013 9:46 am

Good effort Monty. I have no doubt that it took you time to put the article together.

Auto loaders and remote turrets? A strong possibility for the future, but one that needs a good deal more work. When Challenger II reaches it OSD, who knows. The issue is building a ROBUST autoloader that a tank crew can have confidence in.

Losing the 4th tank crewman is certainly an issue on the current generation of technology, but if you could you off set it by increasing the size of you’re LAD?

What about sensor fusion and the sort of situational awareness that aircrew enjoy for armoured crewmen? Automated target tracking?

What about technologies like electric motors, fuel cells, high density batteries? Will the next generation of technology allow for a complete retink of the layout of armoured vehicles, particularly tanks?

Nicholas W.
Nicholas W.
April 10, 2013 10:07 am

What are the merits/disadvantages of smooth bore vs. rifled when it comes to tank guns? Being a shooter I’m well aware of why my rifle barrel is rifled. But why do different nations prefer different set ups?

Mike Edwards
Mike Edwards
April 10, 2013 12:53 pm

The key themes to any future Armoured Vehicle will be (not in order of importance)

1. Logistics
2. Availability (Robustness in the Field – Easy maintenance and part replacement)
3. Deployability (Having OSH KOSH Transports for 60T monsters increases the Logistics tail – Plus the lighter it is the easier it is to Air Transport it to theatre and get it where it’s needed)
4. Suvivability

Things that are clouding the issue

1. Counter Measures to ATGM (utter nonsense – Non-Viable and too expensive especially to volley fire cheap RPGs and IEDS)
2. Adapative IR camo etc (Non-viable too Expensive)
3. Crew of 3….(No go – Crew of 4 allows for rotation and rest – Prolonged Ops = problems)
4. Autoloader (Mechanical Complexity Weight, also problem and Dynamic variable Round Loads e.g SABOT to HESH to CANNISTER to THERMOBARIC ).

There is far too much *Blue Skies thinking* in these Future Tank Designs. The truth is any future design will be very conservative and will not be a radical departure from past Tanks.

We are talking Evolution, rather than Revolution. All these designs will be far too expensive and carry massive risk into the future. These Armour designs look more like a Tracked AGS Stryker than anything else.

April 10, 2013 1:05 pm

the next generation of vehicles should be based on a common platform that can be quickly adapted for the role required using modules. I see the platform as having the front compartment of the tank with the driver, the track and under carriage (inc engine and fuel) with a flat bed at the back.

Agree. And combine this with the question: do we need a tank main gun optimised for killing tanks, or would it be better to think in terms of something like a super-Bradley, with a box (or VLS) full of ATGMs, and a smaller gun optimised for other things like firing HE to kill infantry in bunkers and breach walls?

I am sceptical, however, about thinking of the AH as a flying tank. It isn’t. It’s a horrendous bastard cross between a tank and an attack aircraft, with all the worst features of both, and it only exists because a turf war between the US army and the USAF ended up with the army banned from operating fixed-wing ground attack. A fixed-wing platform is better at everything an AH does – longer range, faster, more robust, more reliable, more payload. The only thing it can’t do is land on a helipad. But our AHs these days are so valuable that we pretty much only fly them from proper airbases anyway.

I am also sceptical that a bloke on foot with an ATGM is better as a tank-killer than a tank. For a start, he’s essentially a static defence. He can’t move fast to reposition, and he can’t kill tanks in the offensive. And the question “can an ATGM kill a tank?” is the wrong question. The right question is “Can blokes with ATGMs stop a tank attack, or can they just kill a couple of tanks before being swept aside?”

April 10, 2013 1:19 pm

@a: I suspect you might find some disagreement regarding AH’s. I’d aver they are far better at CAS than any fixed wing plane, since they can loiter nearly out of sight for recce, then strike, rather than whiz past at 500mph and hope to hit the right target only with extensive FAC help. They can also be based far closer to the FLOT, and are a much better choice for transport helicopter escort as they fly at the same speed.

That being said, while 1991 showed deep strike to be possible (Task Force Normandy), I suspect 2003 made it clear that when they try to emulate fixed wing aircraft in deep strike operations, they tend to become unstuck

April 10, 2013 1:56 pm


I’ve been too busy to post, but rest assured I never went anywhere.

Still have to disagree with you over the Panzer II. While yes it was a pretty damned good design for 1936 (French tanks of the time like the H35 and S35 had better armour and a bigger gun, but one man turrets, Britain was still using the almost useless light and medium tank series), by the time of 1939 it was not nearly as useful, merely available in large quantities. By the time they were rolling through France Britain had cruisers and Matildas with three man turrets and 2 pounder guns, numbers and tactics won out in the end over raw quality though the use of Panzer 38(t)’s certainly helped. The tanks of the hour in 1939/40 was in fact the Panzer III, though limited numbers meant it wouldn’t come into its own till the desert war and barbarossa.

Also the 75mm never had any APDS, it did have APC, which did a bit better than AP but not by much. The round was an american design, even though it was used by the QF 75mm (which is actually a 6 pounder bored out to 75mm with a muzzle break) and they never developed APDS for their guns.

On the Tiger 2, I’ve no doubt that many were destroyed, just not from the front. On paper it’s possible an APDS from a 17 pounder at close range may have done the trick, but this never happened. as with the panther though the side armour was, compared to the front, very thin and with a 76mm or a 17 pounder rather easy to put a hole in.

On tandem warheads (as dual warheads are known) the old brick style of reactive armour has been entirely defeated, the first, smaller charge will set them off and the main warhead will go straight through without problems, as whoever decided to put them on the nose of the chally 2 discovered (they were quickly replaced with a block of Chobham). The reactive armour bricks as glued to every tank in the world that isn’t western (particularly Soviets and Israeli’s) is only effective against pre-tandem warhead charges such as your bog standard pg-7v (tandems started turning up about 1990’s ish to give you a time period). As for the more modern stuff like Kontakt-5, odds are good the ball is back in the reactive armour court, though these blocks are big enough that you can’t stick them everywhere, so there’s a reasonable % chance that you’d hit somewhere not covered anyway.


Smooth bore guns are used because a HEAT warhead that is spun has dramatically less penetration power than one that isn’t. Pre-reactive and Chobham armours HEAT was the good stuff and put holes in anything (this is a massive over simplification, but it’ll do) so tanks started using smooth bores. APDS can still be used by sticking fins on it and calling it APFSDS. The British are different because we never switched to smooth bore because we put the chieftain into service with a 120mm rifled gun about 3 years before smooth bore turned up. However we didn’t care because we were using HESH (still are) and that has to be fired from a rifled gun if you want to hit anything with it, we also decided that if we needed HEAT then we’d put a band on it and it’d still work from a rifled gun.

In short, rifled can fire HESH, smobore can fire HEAT, considering they’re both almost useless against modern tanks the point is now moot.

April 10, 2013 2:02 pm

A few thoughts;

– First off, congrats Monty. I know how much of a bugger these things can be to write, but even people disagree with them completely, they promote debate on a different subject.

– Not sure I’d want to trust the continuing combat power of the vehicle to an autoloader. Just an added point of failure.

– Loaders proved quite handy in German tanks of WW2. 1) the loader spot was an easy entrance point for young recruits, which didn’t require as much skill as the other tasks and allowed them to be broken into Tank operations gently. 2) every extra pair of eyes in a vehicle like a tank is useful. 3) because the loader often had the least to do on a road march, he was a prime candidate to pull the first local security detail at stops. 4) Having a fourth crew member made every task easier; concealing the tank at stops, setting up the crew area, cooking, performing maintenance on the tank etc.

– Infantry ATGW teams are basically the modern analogy of the old anti-tank guns (as light ATGW vehicles are to Tank Destroyers). Fine on the defensive, indeed excellent on the defensive. On the offense though they historically experience more trouble, becoming more useful as a measure of defence against counter attack.

– The ATGW itself poses some problems for tanks, but counter measures are in the offing. Weapons like Javelin are likely to be susceptible to future soft kill measures, as well as hard kill. The Russians have already made a start on soft kill defence for tanks. How long before we see chaff designed specifically to overcome weapons like Brimstone? It’s that cat and mouse game again.

– IFV’s as tank replacements don’t really make sense. They’re far more vulnerable to a wide range of weapons than a proper tank. If you’re relying on something like the Stryker MGS for your tank provision then you’re in trouble, because now your “tanks” are vulnerable to every gun carried by enemy IFV and scout vehicles. Hell, your tank is now vulnerable at certain angles to 0.5″ machine guns. I’m not sure if there’s an anti-tank round for the 40mm GMG, but if there isn’t now then you would expect one to be developed soon if you go down that route.

– Tanks have always been vulnerable to air attack, it’s just the precision of the air attack that has improved, along with the detection capability. Again, development of soft kill measures can mitigate that some what, as can better use of air defence assets. It’s not something we seem to invest in heavily, because we rarely find ourselves on the short end of the air superiority game. The latest Russian mobile AA units designed for protecting armoured formations are much more comprehensive however, and still pose an ongoing risk to attacking aircraft.

– Helicopters are not tanks, but they are very useful close support aircraft. Their high mobility regardless of terrain make them ideal at responding quickly to armoured attacks, as well as providing far reaching flank security. GW1 demonstrated the immense value of the helicopters ability to land and re-arm/refuel at forward staging areas, held by ground units like the 101st airborne (or in our case would probably be 16AAB).

– Generally there will always be a use for tanks in the forseeable future. No other unit combines the protection, mobility and firepower of the tank on the offensive. Both gulf wars demonstrated the phenomenal penetration capability of armoured warfare.

air defence of armoured formations.

Jeremy M H
April 10, 2013 2:44 pm

Sorry but there is a massive world of difference in operating a very light recon vehicle like the FV107 and operating a MBT and there is a particular difference in how forces operate now vs how they did when thing like the FV107 were really in style. A three man crew in a recon vehicle that operates two weapons systems is not that big of a deal. Tanks are different beast from a maintenance standpoint and I think the battle field has evolved well beyond what was envisioned when those type of recon vehicles were the norm.

@Mike Edwards

I tend to agree with your assessment that development will be evolutionary rather than a major overhaul. I would disagree on active protection systems. I do think they are coming in some fashion for ATGM’s.

I fully expect the US to do the M-1A3 with the following changes:

L-55 Gun replacing the L-44 gun. Same caliber, same ammunition but more hitting power. In production so it is no risk. Should be an easy upgrade.

Possible power pack replacement with something other than a turbine engine (50/50 on this).

Further electronic enhancements for situational awareness.

Upgraded/redistributed armor to whatever they are doing now.

Quick Kill/Trophy active protection.

That is about it. Otherwise it will look very much like the current M-1. Anything more than that will be a waste of money and too risky to be approved for not enough potential gain. Anyone expecting an all new tank layout in the near future is way off base in my opinion.

Nicholas W.
Nicholas W.
April 10, 2013 2:53 pm


Thank you. Quite a fundamental difference between allies.

Ace Rimmer
April 10, 2013 2:56 pm

Monty, good article, anything that stimulates debate must be….

One thing that seems to be missed (or have I missed it?) is that of utility. The things I like about the Merkava, and therefore the front mounted engine, is the size of the rear compartment. Apart from allowing a quick getaway for the crew (at ground level, offering more cover than ‘over the top’), it also allows other crews to be carried if their tank is hit, or carry specialist teams if need be. This alone has got to be a plus. Also, a high elevating gun wouldn’t go amiss, allowing the MBT to fulfill an indirect artillery role.

I would definitely put these on a future tank design wish list.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 10, 2013 2:57 pm

Just a couple of passing thoughts, and not meant in any way to try to pull apart anyone else’s observations or opinions above.

I always found that situational awareness from Challenger 1 was completely rubbish (I came from 10 years of medium recce before, so was unused to being bottled up and almost always closed down, so had been a bit spoilt).

The noise a tank squadron gives off is enormous, and at the low sound frequency, travels great distances. Not very covert. Of course, they need big engines because of their weight.

Perhaps it is time for a long hard look at the protection element, and we should seek to achieve it using other means. Armour is – in my opinion – more and more losing the ability to defeat various missiles or other methods of attack. How about focussing on protection through DAS, and NOT trying to pile on more and more armour, no matter how clever?

So, my preference would be to go for an IFV chassis, 120 gun, and 4-8 missiles of 2-5 km range, along with good DAS and SA (extending mast probably needed). You should be able to do that in under 40 tonnes****, so half the size of engine, half the noise, and much greater mobility. That is no longer recognisable as a tank, but it is the function that is important, not the format. It is pretty similar to FRES SV or the Stryker MGS. Tracked or wheeled is another debate.

Another big issue is strategic deployability. Our tanks are not where we might use them, and currently, shipping is the only answer. The one thing we always had ruled out by our political masters during the FRES SV programme was the idea of forward-basing them. A Battle Group in hangars on Diego Garcia with a rotating maintenance crew is a possibility, with an enabling contract to an ferry company to always have a ro-ro within 2 days sail of DG takes a full week out of the current 14 day minimum period it takes to get a BG to the Middle East from the UK. How much would that cost? £50 million to build, £20 million to operate annually. Can’t be more than that.

**** without at this stage yet knowing if 120-levels of recoil are compatible with IFV turret rings, or thinking too much about CoG – those could be issues, I acknowledge.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 10, 2013 3:57 pm

@ Ace R,

re the “high elevating gun” idea.

I can see a superficial attraction, but I think there’s probably a good reason – several – why it seems an idea that is often considered, then ruled out.

1. You end up increasing the height of the turret (to allow for recoil of the breech block downwards to the turret floor).

2. Who is doing the fire control? Presumably an FOO / recce wagon, or even a UAV GS these days. So you are into control / coordination issues.

3. Indirect fire works best when massed, and unless you give the tank “an app” containing the full NABK and GPS position and up to date met, you are back to the old days of lining up in straight lines and introducing ghastly Gunner practices such as WOs in combats with red or white SD hats on.

4. Ammunition selection. You travel around with a round loaded, which can only be fired, not unloaded. It will almost always be APFSDS. Volley firing 14 of those boys in a ballistic trajectory might be fun, but they’ll fly much further than a HESH-type shell, so you’ll need to do the FC calculations again.

5. Ammunition stowage. Tanks are for killing other tanks (mostly), so if you have 10 rounds of HE onboard, you have 10 fewer rounds of fin.

6. Response times. Tank squadrons are either moving, in ambush positions, or in a leaguer doing maintenance or kipping. Having to have a minimum of 2 people per crew on instant notice to become the RA cuts into that time.

7. Effectiveness. I think the maximum range for Challenger HE or smoke was about 8 kms. Not much more than an 81mm mortar. Our AS90s fire out to about 30 kms, possibly more these days.

It seems like a lot of compromises to make for laying down some 120mm HE.

All of that said, there was a Battlegroup at BATUS in which the Warrior commanders had a 51mm mortar on the turret roof next to them**** with a slack handful of smoke bombs, and they were adept at almost instantly laying down pretty good smoke screens. Simply rested the mortar on the glacis plate, and chucked off 3 or 4 smoke rounds in less than 15 seconds. 48 x 51mm smoke rounds coming from a company in 15 seconds is a pretty good smoke screen, and much quicker to arrange than an artillery smoke screen. The company commander simply said into the radio “smoke the northwest corner of the wood, now!” and 48 rounds came piling down. No need for grids, as they were all together and could see the woods. Good anti-ambush drills.

**** clearly, a bit brave. You wouldn’t want a 51 smoke round being detonated on your turret roof by a stray burst of MG fire, but then it’s a risk business,

April 10, 2013 4:14 pm

Chris, re 40mm GMG rounds, yes there are shaped charge versions. Penetration is rather poor though, only about half an inch or so, but this is the Low-V version, maybe the MV one works better?

a, I’m more a fan for putting an anti-tank gun on a tank for a very simple reason. You can blow up an enemy position with a 30mm easily, but against tanks it becomes slightly more problematic, on the other hand, a 120mm blows up both with equal facility, at least if you don’t need to use the enemy strongpoint later on. If you need suppression, which is the one thing a 30mm is better than a 120mm for, you can always use the co-ax.

RT, 40 tons or 60, armour is always noisy, not only the engine, but also the squeaking of the tracks which is one of the push factors to the wheeled 8×8. I do agree we seem to be hitting the upper limits of armour loading, which means that more protection would come only via DAS, Active defence systems or advance camo. or a combination of the 3. How it plays out? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 10, 2013 4:27 pm


In Gulf 1 we had a single loose Chinese Type-59 Iraqi tank come charging into the rear of a squadron flank guard position we were holding, 4 troops up, GW troop in overwatch, and looking north. We assume the tank was a runaway from a stonking the Staffords and Irish Hussars were giving the Iraqis on Objective Lead 5 miles behind us.

After a quick reconfiguration, we had a troop box it in, and the troop opened fire with 30mm, primarily to try to smash optics or maybe take a track off it. Blow me if 60-odd Rarden rounds did not eventually penetrate somewhere in the hull at the track level, and the thing blew itself up.

The troop leader did well on that one – he knew the T-59 had no ability to fire accurately on the move (although it was spraying 12.7mm MG in every direction, and did manage to take out one of our SQMS’s M548s), so he got his troop to fire in threes. Whenever the T-59 stopped, the CVR(T) it was threatening took off smartish, jinking like buggery, while the others laid in to the static target. It was a real case of British bullying, but all is fair in love and war.

April 10, 2013 5:38 pm

OK, I felt compelled to finally set my low signature propellant text free. I suppose it does contribute essential technology-related input for a discussion on future tanks:

TD; let me know when I do too much house advertising with links here.

April 10, 2013 5:40 pm

RT, I know the med-calibre quick firers can penetrate, the Yanks used their Bushmasters to good effect in GW2, but as you pointed out, it takes a bit before you get a penetration, which is why I said slightly more problematic, not impossible. A 120mm on the other hand, you probably only need one round.

Would that encounter that you mentioned turn out so well if the stray was an up to date T-80 with modern FCS?

Which is why I’m not fond of the idea of replacing 105-120mm main guns with 20-40mm rapid fire cannons on MBTs or MBT successors. Think of it as a security blanket. As you said, all is fair in love and war, and no one is going to yellow card you if you pulled out a 120mm while the other guy only has 30mm pea-shooters. Just make sure you are not the guy with the pea-shooter when someone else pulls out the 120mm though.

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
April 10, 2013 6:06 pm

” But yes, strange as it may seem, the Panzer II DID set a benchmark standard, because there was nothing to match it in the early stages of the war – by time the T-34 and Sherman arrived, most of Europe had been conquered. Not the best of the breed by any means, but in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. That’s why it was significant.”

Can’t let this one pass. The Pz II was a contemporary of the Czech 38t, the Russian Bt series, the British cruisers and the american M2. It’s armour was vulnerable to AT rifles and HMGs while it’s own gun was a little 20mm cannon. In terms of fighting power and protection it wasn’t significantly better than a Light MkVIb! If it was significant in any way other then the way it was tactically employed it is in it’s welded construction.

Anyway, enough of history, the interesting thing is the future . . .

April 10, 2013 6:11 pm

@ Observer, re; 40mm GMG.

Ah lovely. Half an inch of penetration isn’t great, but in volleys it certainly has promise. Kind of thing a tank would laugh at, but an IFV would be crossing its fingers over.

April 10, 2013 6:36 pm

BTW, I’m sure the author thought of the Pzkpfw III, not II.

40×53 mm HEDP is typically rated for 25 to 90 mm RHA penetration (DM12: 90 mm, source Jane’s). This low ratio of calibre to penetration (rule of thumb for modern HEAT is 7.2) is a result of spin stabilisation, improper stand-off and the multi-purpose character (bazooka-type ammo labelled “multi-purpose” often only penetrates half or a third as much as dedicated HEAT does, too). 90 mm RHA (~ 300 mm bricks) is good enough for walls, shields, BTRs, BMDs and normal BMPs and it is more than typical DPICM offers, so it may penetrate many AFV roofs in urban combat.

“British and American Tanks of World War Two” / Peter Chamberlain and Chris Ellis:

“77 mm Ordnance Quick Firing MK II (…) known at first as Vickers HV 75 mm gun (…) Calibre and shot were the same as for the 17pdr.”

April 10, 2013 6:38 pm

The 6pdr is 57mm calibre. The British 75mm was based on the 6pdr but not, AFAIK, ever equipped with APDS.

Moving on to the concepts:
Crew in the hull reduces their field of view by placing them closer to the ground. As noted previously you are also putting them in front of the main armament and coaxial weapon(s), not to mention any smoke launchers or DAS you might have on the turret or the laser rangefinder (which are not particularly eye safe at close range)
The oscillating turret means that you cannot reload under armour. It also limits your elevation range by putting more length behind the gun.
You will need a fairly hefty support structure to deal with the recoil, especially if it’s high enough to see under.
Can you fit band tracks to a 45t vehicle and expect to make 100kph? Would you need to?
If this is your MBT, then it’s your fighting tank – if you want strategically mobile then have a light tank, don’t try and force your main fighting capability to do that job as well.
Removing your crew from the armament, what do they do if there is a feed malfunction?

In considering remote observation, large oscillating turrets and the like, might I ask why you have not considered hybrid drives? By using electric motors to drive your vehicle, the power generation can be split and moved to a number of different locations around the vehicle, allowing you to bring more generator sets on line as your power demands grow. This also increases redundancy and hence survivability. A shot to one engine will not disable your AFV.

Also, why the drive to make it a lightweight do-anything platform? I thought that we had put that idea to bed, at least for a while, with the abject failure of the FRES and FCS projects. If you want a light tank, make a light tank. Let’s not go riding roughshod over the laws of physics again, pretending that you can replace armour plate with a small box of electronics.

Given your reasoning, I would suggest that you do not understand MBTs at all. You castigate them for being slow and clumsy but is that true in real terms? Are you thinking that you can dodge gunfire or outrun missiles? An MBT will be faster of some types of ground than, for instance, a landrover. More prone to attack, and larger than what? An 8×8 troop carrier? Not so much.
Hard Kill Defensive Aid Suites may improve the protection of a light vehicle, but the same also works for heavier vehicles. The heavier vehicle can carry more HKDAS shots and can carry more passive armour so that it does not have to expend its finite supply of ammunition on anything but the heaviest threats.
If your vehicle is a gun vehicle and a troop carrier, you can expect it to be huge and lightly armoured for its weight.

Red Trousers,
An IFV chassis with a 120mm gun AND Missiles for under 40t? That has to be maxing out the lethality side of the triangle – what suffers? Protection or mobility? DAS isn’t a substitute for armour, it’s an augmentation. Any half-competant opposition will adapt tactics and equipment to exploit the limited depth of a DAS, probably by resorting to older, less optimised technologies. No need for an APFSDS if your opponent only has 100mm RHA equivalent. Just use AP shot that is so massive that the DAS can’t do anything to it.
Fitting that much firepower onto a 40t platform is possible though. 120mm guns can be installed on 30t class vehicles.

Fitting a small mortar into the roof seems like a useful idea to project smoke, HE or illum to particular places on the battlefield without resorting to main armament (and the consequent demand on main armament ammunition stowage). A thought: is having 51mm mortar bombs on the roof or a stowage pannier a worse danger than the eight 66mm grenades on the front of the turret?

April 10, 2013 6:58 pm

First of all thanks Monty for a fascinating post – tanks are always interesting, brings out the kid in us (what you’ve never wanted to drive one down your street!) – especially the future tank section. I for one hadn’t seen those designs before.

Secondly, welcome back to the army crowd – we’ve missed you. See it’s not all frigates on here.

No mention of Hellfire/Brimstone armed UAVs? Bit of an oversight I think but a minor criticism of a packed post. Might beefier IFVs, more readily and quickly deployed, come to replace MBTs – how long will the Treasury bods fund both types? Also, I wonder if a greater reliance on reservists with less opportunity to train might also lead to a greater use of IFVs rather than MBTs.

paul g
April 10, 2013 7:17 pm

Top post monty,
Although it’s currently one of the most expensive tanks in the world, the south korean K-2 black panther answers a lot of the questions posed (IMHO) on the thread. there several videos on youtube worth watching.
It has the active kill for AT missiles, a 1500bhp engine which is going to be replaced by an 1800bhp (possibly hybrid) samsung has put one of the smallest APU engines in the world in it and my personnal favourite in the videos, the active suspension which can put it on it’s belly (ie a lowering of about 2ft) so no need for a blade. Thing is these are things (engine,suspension active kill pods) that could be relativly inexpensive upgrades (in MOD terms) for chally 2.

As a BTW i still think the ct-cv 105mm turret stuck on post SDSR 2015 surplus warriors would make good inf support hoofing just behind the 40mm CTA warriors added bonus it comes with a proven barrel fired AT missile, again inexpensive refit

paul g
April 10, 2013 7:20 pm

Oh and a BTW to the BTW seen on sols blog (honest td i’m not on a commission) is the rafeal low profile turret, think salomon pink trousers might like that!!

April 10, 2013 7:51 pm


The most agile, low-cost platform available? As far as I can tell that’s a vehicle with a 105mm gun in an assault gun configuration with manual elevation and traverse, no fire control, thermals or rangefinder, maybe band tracks and a large engine and limited to no armour. Perhaps we could remanufacture some FV432 hulls.

Or perhaps some second hand T55s. They would fit the criteria quite well.

Remote controlled vehicles are all very well, but consider the bandwidth issues associated with a score or two of tanks – you’ll need to be streaming back three HD video feeds from each vehicle, plus telemetry. Autonomy on the ground is a lot harder than in the air – it’s being worked on but I’m not sure it will be anything like a human crew for a very long time. Even if it could be would you want it to be?

The CT40 is, at best, a 40mm Bofors in a smaller package. I don’t see it as a game changer even if it does take off beyond this sceptre’d isle.

Why use IFVs when you could make a light (or medium) tank for the same weight with better protection, smaller profile and a better gun?

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 10, 2013 9:37 pm

Monty – well done! Always a brave move to step one’s head above the parapet. You’ve done well and answered with aplomb.

As has been pointed out the future of the tank should not be taken out of context. The tank is an indispensable part of a combined arms grouping. What history has shown, repeatedly since 1916, is that tanks operating outside of a combined arms grouping or infantry, or artillery are all extremely vulnerable. What struck me watching the attack on the Syrian tank was “where are the infantry?” Armour is highly effective in close and complex terrain such as urban areas, but only as part of a combined arms grouping. The history of the Normandy campaign is very illustrative in this regard.

While British tanks have recently been optimised against other tanks this is a relatively recent development, Chieftain and since. Contrary to popular perception the best defence against a tank has not been tanks, but has always been anti-tank capabilities, whether AT guns & ATGW (Jim Storr’s ‘The Human Face of War’, chapter 6).

I think in looking at the future of the tank we would have to understand the role that tanks are to play and normally have played – that of providing heavily protected firepower in direct support of infantry operations. This is the bread and butter of most tank work, occasionally, by exception, they stray into the realm of ‘the clash of titans’ – armour versus armour. Tanks should be capable of the latter but probably optimised for the former, especially when considering the issue of Main Armament – the current Challenger 2 main armament is not very good at non-armoured targets, lacking a good HE capability.

I would be interested in a debate on the Infantry Fighting Vehicle (TD?) a class of vehicles that have been developed to meet no tactical or doctrinal requirement and seem to have developed a life of their own – and I speak as an ex Warrior Armoured Infantry commander!

Think Defence
April 10, 2013 10:36 pm
Reply to  Callum Lane

When I looked back to the old article series Monty refers to I noticed I never got round to doing Part 6 so I owe you guys one!

Callum, yes, I think something on the MICV is well overdue.

I like the Namer and CV90 Armadillo, this is where the vehicle should go, driven and commanded by RAC crew, supported by an infantry support vehicle. Bit of a throwback what!!!

April 11, 2013 7:11 am

TD – You joke but I could see this happening for heavy armour.

In my head I can Chally/Warrior/etc being replaced by two groups of armour:

– Heavy Armour (~ 70T) – a family of platforms based from current MBTs (e.g. Namar) to provide a heavy force for assault operations against well defended targets. The UK would have approximately 3 battle groups worth probably driven by the RTR)

– Medium Armour (~ 20T) – a family of platforms dervided from something like VCBI or a up armoured LAV V. The UK would have approximately 3 small armoured brigades worth.

April 11, 2013 8:17 am


“…providing heavily protected firepower in direct support of infantry operations…”

I can’t see this being of much use in an urban environment – as demonstrated by the vid of the T-72. I’d favour agility and passengers here.

I can’t see this being of much use in an open environment – can’t demonstrate this but any vid of an A10 or Apache doing its thing would do. I’d favour speed, and large numbers of smaller vehicles here.

So what kind of environment does suit the tank? Jungle? Forest? North Korean Mountains?

Where do you need accurate firepower other than armour-on-armour battles?

April 11, 2013 9:05 am

Last year the Dutch army decided to get rid of the last 60 Leopard 2A6,they are being “replaced” by the CV9035 and the AH-64.
It was more of a financial decission than a military one because no one in the army agreed to doing this.An AH 64 will not stay on the front line very long and the CV90 is not as well protected as the LEO 2 .
I am surprised the all new Japanese T-10 was not mentioned here,it is very modern and compact,has got “only” 1200HP,it looks like a more evolutinary step.The Japanese spent some $500 milion+ on that new tank and it has a “normal” lay out.The crew still sits high in the vehicle as far away as possible from the ground,the reason for this being that the most effective anti tank weapon is a mine,not anther tank or atgm or whatever.referring to the Normandy expirience I thought that more than 60% of vehiles being knocked out was due to mines,that is pretty impressive for a weapon that does not require looking after,but correct me if I am wrong on this one.


April 11, 2013 11:16 am

Simon, the Israelis use tanks in urban combat and didn’t do too badly, so it might be a matter of training and doctrine than equipment limitations.

As for air support, I can’t see an A-10 or an AH-64 doing any better in urban combat or in contested airspace, the american experience from what I hear is that unless it is unit intergrated indirect fire support, it can take up to 30min to get a plane to that area of the battle.

As for terrain, I can see tanks being used in open fields, forests, jungles and urban terrain. And before someone brings up the airstrike boogyman, I’d advise you to kick the RAF out of bed and into the great outdoors to provide some air cover first. After all, that is what they are supposed to do.

April 11, 2013 4:12 pm

@Mr fred – Because they – light/medium tank – can’t transport your infantry, you’d have to pay for an IFV as well. The people who write the cheques like multi-role, not dedicated platforms. You might see the need for both, but you have to convince them to pay for it.

April 11, 2013 5:56 pm

If you had a light tank you would get a light APC to go with it rather than an IFV. An APC and a light tank separately will each be lighter and smaller, hence easier and cheaper to run.
Multi-role is more costly. Granted you need more, but that hasn’t been a particular problem for the CVR(T) family; or, for that matter, regular IFVs still go about the place with MBTs in support. All I propose is avoiding the half-arsed solution of having IFVs pretending to be tanks.

What is it that you mean by ‘agility’? How does this ‘agility’ help an AFV avoid being hit when it is attacked whilst in laager? The video with the T72 in it demonstrates very little other than AFVs in complex terrain with no or insufficient infantry support is vulnerable. I don’t think anyone should be surprised by that.

Accurate firepower allows you to stand-off from beyond the range of weapons like the RPG-29 and still put a shell into that room or hit a field fortification

Tom, Monty,
I agree. Heavy and light AFV families, each with troop carrier and fighting vehicles, supported by engineering variants and indirect fire platforms. I would suggest the lighter family be about 20t baseline with the capacity to add armour and systems to 30t max. The Heavies would weigh in at 50t baseline with optional protection increases to 60-70t.

The light vehicles could be, at baseline, protected against IEDs, regular artillery shells and heavy machine guns* and the upgrade would allow protection against submunition bomblets, light AT weapons and the like. Armament could feasibly be 76-105mm class weapons, plus other vehicles equipped with ATGW that can be fired from behind defilade at targets designated by the front-line vehicles or dismounted infantry.

The heavier vehicle would be analogous to current MBTs with a matched troop carrier and support vehicles. At a minimum the baseline should have protection against the current crop of automatic cannon and, if possible, light AT weapons like the RPG7. Up armour modules would allow tailoring against specific threats

*provided that they are dedicated role vehicles, not IFVs

April 11, 2013 6:45 pm


A very interesting article. I am not well educated in the arts of land warfare but I could follow that fairly well – even if the subsequent torrent of techy arguments lost me at about the third post.

What I would say is that the idea of fast, fluid operations where the idea is NOT to hold ground but rather strike at selected objectives is something very familiar to me. Ship To Objective Manoeuvre is basic reading in the RN and embodies exactly that idea. The problem from our end of course is that the pursuit of STOM requires an ever more expensive spiral of larger, faster transports to get your troops and/or effects to where you want them – hence the Osprey and the newly released Bell V-280 Valor concept.

April 11, 2013 7:10 pm

Mr fred, IFVs were actually an evolution against scout tanks/APCs, during the Cold War, more and more vehicles (BTRs, BMPs etc) ended up carrying autocannon or ATGMs, and against that, the old M113s have the life expectancy of a snowball in summer, hence the need to up armour and up gun APCs. This evolved into the IFV of today.

I’m not really sure if I want to go back down the “rolling metal box” route of the M113 APC, it is way too fragile. At least the IFV has a fighting chance against light armour. The fact that it can do infantry fire support as a side effect is just a value added bonus.

April 11, 2013 7:30 pm

Observer; IFVs go back to WW2. The demand was there, the improvisations were there, but there was no time to build one from scratch.

The German use of half-tracks with powerful armament in support of armoured recce or mechanised infantry troops was the early shape of the IFV idea. There was a firm preference for what an IFV should be capable of by war’s end, and it was attempted to realise this ASAP sans the AT-weapons-proof glacis requirement (HS.30). I actually cited those pre-1955 requirements on my post challenging the widespread preference for IFVs.
The Russians/Soviets had similar experiences and drew similar conclusions.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 11, 2013 8:17 pm


Infantry are very vulnerable in the urban environment, much less so with armoured support and vice versa. What a tank is designed to do is give firepower, protection and mobility in sufficient quantity within one platform to enable manoeuvre to be conducted. Armour supports infantry manoeuvre, infantry support armoured manoeuvre. Infantry remains decisive because only infantry can take & hold ground and control population.
Experience on operations since 1916 show that in the same way that tans are very useful in urban environments they are also equally useful in jungle (Japanese & Brits in WW2, US in Vietnam, Sri Lanka conflict to name but some), but only as part of a combined arms grouping.

You need accurate firepower any time you want to engage a target effectively. What type of engagement system depends on the type of targets you not end to engage. CR2 was incredibly useful in Basra and the sighting system worked well. Could they have managed without a stabilised system? Possibly, but more versatility with it. Thermal is a must.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 11, 2013 8:38 pm


Interesting points. Every time I visit this site I learn something new!

MICVs. Conceptually I have no problem with Armoured Personnel Carriers / a Protected Mobility capability. I have no problem with such a capability fitted with weapons. The problem I have is with infantry fighting vehicles. Why? Because in a high threat environment we do everything except fight them. A look at current UK and US doctrine for armoured infantry shows that they do not fight per se, they are simply armoured taxis. So I look at the ‘bigger better MICVs’ with stabilised weapon systems and I think ‘why?’ An MICV has neither the firepower or protection of an MBT, and normally does not have the mobility. It is therefore only of use in relatively low threat environments current doctrine makes this explicit in that MICVs are only committed after heavy armour has cleared the area in high threat scenarios. This was also the experience in Basra so why are we making MICVs bigger et al when we have MBTs – unless we are going to get rid of MBTs…

April 11, 2013 8:48 pm

The whole article is worth a read:

But it was the last bit that caught my eye:

“The British Army will leave behind a lot of friends and goodwill in Germany, but crucially it will also leave behind its massive training areas.

It was these that helped keep it poised for war and just as importantly the ability to deploy major armoured formations.”

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 11, 2013 8:53 pm

Callum, may I take some issue with your view on IFVs in British doctrine or even practice not fighting?

I can only go on my own experience of working with Warriors, and possibly your own experience points in the other direction, but I have seen several examples of Warriors acting very much in a fighting role, often to great effect.

Gulf 1. There were a total of 17 full blown Battle Group attacks and 4 Brigade attacks on prepared positions conducted (see official history), and 2 of them I witnessed up close (normally we Divisional Recce farts had cleared off and gone elsewhere pre-attack, but not on every occasion). In those days, the TTPs were for the close support tanks – typically 50 yards ahead of the Warriors – to push through the first line of trenches and to then suppress the depth trenches with everything they had, and the Warriors to stop literally on the first line of trenches, debus the boys, who would then get stuck in. The Warriors would drive onto the trenches, and then start grinding their tracks to break down the rigidity of the trench, and often crush the inhabitants to death. Literally, blood flowing through the tracks, and body parts flung off as they moved onwards. Another trick was to pull up short, and take advantage of the deep depression offered by the chain gun (about -40 degrees, something like that) and to hose an entire trench with 200 rounds of 7.62 from a 5 yard range. It’s a little bit shocking, but that’s the point. They fought the vehicle as well as the fire-teams.

In a different context, in Bosnia, we used Warriors as rams to break down road blocks, we sniped 30mm Rarden from Warriors into sniper positions or to take out a mortar crew.

I think you are wrong to state that the IFV in British hands does not earn its’ place as a fighting vehicle.

paul g
April 11, 2013 8:55 pm

, that very thought crossed my mind, I wondered i it was feasible/possible in a typical coalition U turn way to keep open fallingbostel, purely as it sits on one of the best range training facilities, already has a huge REME wksp and tank sheds etc etc, with rail links to the ports at hamburg/bremerhaven. It could be a BATUS lite. troops will get pissed off training on SPTA all the chuffing time

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 11, 2013 9:15 pm

Paul G,

Gordon Bennett, you want to keep Effing B? I’ve spent nearly 15 years of my life there, as a boy and a serving officer. It is about the last place in the world you want to sentence people to. It’s a complete social desert as well, by the time you include the inevitable Brigade hangers-on such as the military filth and the Screechers in their Mess.

I don’t think there’s anything special about training areas in Germany (or even the newer ones in Poland). Not very big, and not very varied, being mostly all pretty much areas of heathland and a bit woody. As for the ranges, well we all know that the first target on 7A is at 830 metres, and the Hitlerhof 11.3 kilometres on 5200 magnetic from 13C.

The one thing we don’t have in the UK is the ability to 443 temporary areas, such as “Somerset” and go training there. We probably should do that.

April 11, 2013 9:23 pm

Regardless of where IFVs come from, they come at the cost of weight and price. An IFV will be about 5t heavier (at least) than an equivalently protected APC that carries more dismounts. If you seek to make a light vehicle, then having a quarter of that go into fitting a turret seems unnecessary.

For the sake of comparison, look at the ASCOD and the Stormer APC. The former carries eight dismounts and three crew, weighs 28t, is 12ft wide and 26ft long. The latter carries eight dismounts and three crew, weighs 13t and is 8ft wide and 18ft long. The difference is that the ASCOD has a 30mm gun in a turret. 15 tonnes, 4ft width and 8ft length is needed to fit that turret. If you eschew troop carrying and fit a turret, the Stormer 30 light tank is 13t and as well protected as the ASCOD (roughly) and as well armed.

The Stormer doesn’t lend itself particularly well to substantial protection upgrades as it lacks engine power or suitable running gear. However, if you spend five tonnes adding a bigger engine and more capable running gear, you are still only at 18t.

The Chaingun is coaxial with the RARDEN. It cannot point anywhere that you cannot point the main armament. If you got more than 20 degrees depression on any turret mount like that I would be very, very surprised.

Jeremy M H
April 11, 2013 10:08 pm

Regarding IFV’s I think it is telling that I have never really read nor encountered a mechanized infantry officer who said something along the following lines.

“You know, what I really would like is this Bradley sans the gun and missiles”.

IFV’s have often proceeded behind behind tanks because in the conflicts the west has fought since they came into mass use we have had that kind of luxury. That may/may not always be the case. I can’t think of an infantry man who does not appreciate having the organic fire support offered by his IFV.

Frankly I think IFV’s have done very well considering the doom and gloom most attached to them when they came into service.

April 11, 2013 10:10 pm

@Mr.fred: isn’t Stormer made of aluminium rather than steel? More to the point, I think you’re making the case for remote since CVR(T) mk2 is based on a Stormer chassis.

@RT: my 20 mins on an MCV80 prototype in 1984 tell me you definitely can’t crank the gun to -40 :-)

April 11, 2013 10:22 pm

“An IFV will be about 5t heavier (at least) than an equivalently protected APC”

Ah, but it is NOT equivalently protected! It is equivalently “armoured”. Big difference. The gun itself is a form of protection. If you are talking about 13 ton APCs, then the M113 would be a classic case, but with only a 0.5 cal MG or 7.62 GPMG to defend itself with. With such an anemic weapon, any scout tank or IFV can simply take it apart at leisure. At least with a 20-40mm, you can put some performance pressure on the enemy, either he kills you fast or you’ll get him.

Guess we’ll just have to chalk our differences down to preference, you prefer a pure AFV/APC seperation, I prefer the added firepower of the AFV/IFV and am willing to sacrifice troop capacity for it.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 11, 2013 10:26 pm

Red Trousers

The way you describe fighting the Warriors fighting is the same way I trained to fight my 423 platoon with GPMG turrets and the same way I fought my Warrior Company and the same way I fought my Bulldog company with RWS.

3 different platforms, very different weapon capabilities and yet same tactics – that is very telling in itself.

Is 30mm cannon nice? Sure? Is it needed? No – because we don’t fight in a way that it is needed. My concern is that by making MICVs more like tanks we start thinking of them as and using them like tanks – which they are not.

MICVs are a weapon system that has no doctrine for it – so why do we have them? If after 30 odd years of use we still have not figured out in what way their use differs from the Kangaroo APCs of World War 2 then one has to question just what they do that APCs cannot?

Looking ahead why the hell do I want a stabilised 40mm system on my MICV when they way we fight them tells me that if I need a 40mm stabilised system my plan has gone very badly awry?

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 11, 2013 10:45 pm

Jeremy M H

“IFVs have often proceeded behind tanks because in the conflicts the west has fought since they came into mass use we have had that kind of luxury.”


The reason that IFVs follow on behind tanks is because that is what doctrine teaches for their use. The reason that doctrine decrees that is because IFVs lack the firepower and protection to go in first (or without) the armour in high threat scenarios.

Red Trousers

Sorry, I should have been clearer in my last but one post. IFVs are fought, but not in a way that differs to any significant extent from APCs and not in a manner that relies upon their main weapon systems. The way they are used the armaments are nice to haves, not must haves.

April 11, 2013 10:51 pm

Surely Warrior was the answer to the Warsaw Pact BMP-x but arrived to late? If the West no longer faces massed but has these systems available that have over whelming fire power to destroy non-peer enemies without some poor infantryman debussing then surely the MICV is a blessing? All that has happened is that instead of the gun supporting the infantry, the infantry now support the gun? And surely the lesson of 1940 is that massed armour operating within the enemy’s OODA loop, an unmechanised and/or poorly coordinated and controlled enemy even if they are fielded in much greater numbers, then the massed armour will win? That the modern MICV is in affect a light tank then that is no bad thing. How many men does the PLA field again?

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 11, 2013 11:03 pm


i’m not entirely sure we are disagreeing; possibly using different words and coming from slightly different perspectives, but that’s all negligible.

Simple cavalryman, me. I don’t really see much of a difference between an IFV and an APC in mechanical terms***. One’s got a turret with some form of weapon, the other probably not, except perhaps a gimpy. As you say, little difference from the 60s to the late 90s in the BG assault TTPs. Smart commanders simply made more use of whatever weapons were available.

But where I do see a difference was in thinking what Infantry Bns (not BGs) were able to do with IFVs, particularly in places like Bosnia, short of war but still occasionally bloody hairy. IFVs gave our operational commanders so much more flexibility than sending a proper BAOR or Gulf-style BG, complete with Challengers. Problematic Serbian checkpoint? Put six rounds of Rarden over their heads from a couple of wagons while 2 race up and bust the barricade. Emergency flank guard? Detach a company of the Micks in Warrior to cover 10 clicks of desert in overwatch, and the boys in the back pretty much unaffected. Can’t do that with 432.

Where I would probably completely agree with you is that Infantry establishments did not keep up with the possibilities. 3+8 never ever fits into the ORBAT of a light role battalion redeploying to Germany as AI, there’s a whole trade structure to cram in, and the simple fact that some infanteers think of tactical bounds as 15 yards, and some armoured (AI or Cav) can’t think in terms of less than 400 yards, or greater. There’s a bit of a road crash if you take (e.g.) a decent Guardsman onto senior Brecon and post him to Germany. The pace and scale and distances of armoured warfare are just too much for him to comprehend when his whole career has been in moving about in concealment and at 50 yards from OPFOR. Obviously, some do make the leap, but it must be difficult.

***I’ll also confess as to never understanding why only infantry can “hold” ground, and no other arm can. Seems to me that it’s a question of bloody-mindedness, not kit. But, every time I ever raised this, even tremulously, I was shouted down from great heights and my CR marked accordingly. I learned to keep quiet. But most of those doing the shouting down never themselves made much of their careers and so my respect remains limited, and no logical argument was ever calmly advanced to explain simply their thinking.

April 11, 2013 11:24 pm

If you watch the very first couple of seconds of this video you’ll get a flavour of what RT is talking about with regards to depressed guns on the objective;

Regarding IFV’s in general, we’ve known since about WW2 that having a vehicle that can deliver machine gun/heavy calibre support to infantry before, during and after their attacks, without having to really worry about rifle/machine gun fire in return, is a very valuable thing. The ability to knock out similar enemy vehicles is also a good thing.

Jeremy M H
April 12, 2013 1:09 am


Your analysis seems limited to the offensive only when tanks front is the typical deployment. But the IFV has a ton of utility in many roles, particularly when a mechanized force is put on the defensive. A good IFV, particularly one equipped with a stabilized gun that can kill other infantry vehicles and AT missiles that can reach out and take out a tank, allows you to have some ability to hold ground without committing tanks. It gives the infantry mobile fire power and the ability to shoot, displace quickly and shoot again 500 meters further back.

I mean the effective math here is that everyone accepts that infantry needs to be protected from artillery and small arms fire and moved into battle. You can either provide them fire support with another system or you can take a few out of the APC and make it an IFV. Personally I think the IFV works out pretty well. A stabilized cannon, high end thermal optics and ATGM’s is worth another few infantry soldiers. They can get more done with that support in most environments than they can alone.


April 12, 2013 7:05 am

“The reason that IFVs follow on behind tanks is because that is what doctrine teaches for their use. The reason that doctrine decrees that is because IFVs lack the firepower and protection to go in first (or without) the armour in high threat scenarios.”

The decision whether infantry, APC/IFV or MBT be first and who’s next and so on depends entirely on circumstances such as terrain and enemy.
Back in ’44 and partially during the Cold War several army doctrines and practices emphasised deploying infantry 300 m in front of enemy positions and letting them screen against portable AT weapons.
Similarly, APCs were sent forward by Israelis in face of ATGMs which were able to penetrate a MBT just as easily as an APC (APCs don’t blow up, though).
At other times passive protection was more trusted and infantry followed in order to keep casualties low, with tanks even engaging the enemy with their tracks.

The choice who has to go first is thus one that depends on the situation and one that may change within a day. I have observed in several German and American field manuals that this isn’t properly reflected. Doctrines are based on assumptions, but don’t detail them. The recipes laid out in doctrines fit approximately to the assumptions, but are 180° wrong in other cases.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 12, 2013 8:08 am

@ SO
Sending infantry forward to screen armour has always been accepted best practice in close terrain. However sending IFVs not necessarily. As you rightly pointed out it is threat dependent. MBTs have greater levels of protection then IFVs so why would you send IFVs into an environment which is high threat for MBTs?

The UK Army admitted in its own AGILE WARRIOR series exercise URBAN WARRIOR 5 findings that it does not yet have armoured infantry doctrine for Major Combat Operations. This would tend to imply that we have a capability for which we have not yet identified a requirement…

Are IFVs versatile in Operations Other then War (OOW) such as Peace Support & Peace Enforcement? Definitely. But my worry is that we are upgrading IFVs after 30 years experience when we still cannot articulate the difference between an IFV and an APC! Infantry need protected mobility. Protected mobility with a fire support capability is great. But nobody that I can see can articulate why infantry need a fighting vehicle capable of stand alone action against equivalent or lesser vehicles in a Major Combat or high threat environment.

April 12, 2013 8:27 am

Lane and Monty, in that case, the problem really isn’t with the equipment, but with training and doctrine would it not? The equipment is delivering up the capabilities, it is the usage and tactics which have not kept up. And if someone thinks putting a gun on a track means it is an MBT, then that too is a problem of mentality, not equipment.

When SO said send in the APCs, he means sending in the armoured infantry.

And we have been articluating why IFVs need to stand up to equivalent vehicles in a high threat environment. It also helps keep the workload for the MBTs down. If the MBT is the only thing in the Combat Team that can kill IFVs and MBTs, it is very likely he can get overwhelmed while concentrating on MBTs, even an IFV can cause a mobility or firepower kill if left alone long enough, or worse. If IFVs can take on another IFV, they can support the MBTs in an armour vs armour confrontation too. So in short, an IFV is positioned in the mid point between supporting infantry and supporting armour, and a 20-40mm is appropriate for this role.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 12, 2013 8:29 am

@ Red Trousers

I think we are in danger of agreeing violently here…

IFVs give flexibility in OOW, but are purchased with MCO in mind. Now if we said IFVs are to be used like light recce vehicles (CVR(T)) which is in line with the tasks you mentioned then I could understand it better. Instead we seem to be saying (judging by the Warrior upgrade) that IFVs should be used more like MBTs…

I violently agree with you as to what you say about the establishments and especially the ethos of light role versus armoured, and I have done both. Light role infantry think in terms of reach and speed of their dismounted infantry. Armoured infantry have to think further and faster – much like the armoured corps. It is a very hard transition to make.

As to only Infantry can hold ground – a whole other debate there! In essence it boils down to the fact that you have to physically occupy the ground to prevent it being occupied and infantry are much more effective at this (especially in close and complex terrain) then any other branch. likewise to clear ground effectively prior to holding it you have to dismount. Armour tend to be better at dominating ground. It is an interesting one – I can feel an article for BAR coming on!

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 12, 2013 12:02 pm

It seems a bit chicken and egg here, in terms of what comes first, the doctrine or the capability.  Generally the process is iterative.  The tank is an example of a capability developed to meet a clear operational requirement and as such it’s initial capabilities were develoed to meet the requirement and the supporting doctrine was in place when the equipment was introduced.  The IFV is a capability developed to meet an unclear requirement and where, 30 years after introduction we still as an army have not thought of a way to use it where it’s capabilities are necessary.  The equipment appears to be delivering capabilities that are not necessary.

Taking your example of “If the MBT is the only thing in the Combat Team that can kill IFVs and MBTs , it is very likely that he can get overwhelmed while concentrating on MBTs” is this happens it is because either he has got his estimate wrong in the attack (generally we attack only when the balance of combat power lies with the attacking force) or has been overwhelmed on the defence.  Now legitimately in the defence I can see the IFVs being useful in such a regard.  So IFVs useful in defence and in extremis – yes.  In the offence I still cannot see what logic would take you to willingly place the more vulnerable vehicles of your in harms way at a time and place of your choosing.  Our doctrine is to suppress, neutralise and then engage with infantry to complete the destruction, clear and hold.  You appear (and I could be wrong) to be saying that there is a role for IFVs to fight in an environment where the main threats that overmatch them have not been neutralised.

April 12, 2013 12:18 pm

Monty says “The Commander”

And that’s one of the problems putting current British practice to one side, where should the command team (OC and sergeant) be? Sitting in the turret playing “tankee” or ready to instantly spring out onto the ground when the objective is reached? The only place in a MICV to gain full situational awareness is the turret. And then who command the platoon’s MICVs once they are in contact after dis,ount? Where is the best place for the command team to be? They can’t be “commanding” armoured vehicles and pepper-potting up to the enemy so to speak. Where the doctrine puts them is an indicator of importance of the capability, vehicle and gun vs men on ground.

As for MICV as tank. True they are different tools. But there is a level of convergence; that is what technology does . A Warrior is more tank than most of the tanks that fought WW2. Most of the time its immediate threats (the infantry ones) are just the same as the latter stages of WW2, heavy machine guns, rifles firing intermediate cartridges, and RPG (Panzerfist-wotsits) etc. China (and Indian for balance) have armed forces that technology for all their super-hi-tech projects have armoured forces that more match the latter description than are comparable to US or (a good portion of) Western forces. How “armour” is employed is as important as the armour itself. Look at 1940. Look at GW2 where US Marines in softskin vehicles actually couldn’t keep up with the destruction being wrought by precision munitions and massed fires. I don’t care if the enemy’s 80s era MBT is killed by APDS from a 120mm smooth bore or from ATGM from a turret of a MICV. And that is without considering what APC or the MICV the opposition are fielding.

For me it is a firepower, violence of action, and command and control. It is better if the enemy can be smashed with Mrs Jone’s son only having to fight motion sickness and not get out putting himself at risk so he can stick his rifle’s bayonet into somebody.

April 12, 2013 12:39 pm


Yes, the Stormer is made of Aluminium. It’s good stuff.
CVR(T) Mk2 is a Spartan chassis with a Scimitar turret, not a Stormer. The angled corners between the sides and roof give it away.

Armoured then.
However, the turret makes no difference against artillery, IEDs or ambush*, only a direct fire fight. With ten tonnes up-armouring capacity the APC could have enough protection to be proof against significant direct fire. With a laser designator or an ATGW strapped on it would be capable of putting up resistance against other AFVs. Or you can take the cost and logistics savings and deploy light tanks in support. Any weapons system deployed without consideration for combined arms will be taken down at leisure.
Such light APCs would be deployed in place of softskins, on low-intensity operations and for protected mobility roles.

On a heavier vehicle, the addition of an overhead weapon station or turret that can be accessed from under armour to maintain weapons or provide reversionary capabiltiy would have less impact and make more sense as the ability to keep the enemy at a stand-off range is also part of the protection.

A light APC could be fitted with an OWS if desired to provide a light IFV, but stabilised turrets are costly and trying to fit your whole army with such things will end up with soldiers trundling around in softskins again.

* other than the threat of retaliation.

April 12, 2013 12:41 pm

“Sending infantry forward to screen armour has always been accepted best practice in close terrain.”

Sometimes APCs are the only armour, and were used in front of infantry in close terrain. See the up-gunned M113 ACAV in Vietnam.

I also remember reports about Mathilda 2s in New Guinea featuring them up front, not behind infantry (in the jungle).

Again – it depends on the casualty aversion, the vehicle loss aversion and the confidence in one’s armour plating.

“MBTs have greater levels of protection then IFVs so why would you send IFVs into an environment which is high threat for MBTs?”

Sure, to get the job done in a conflict which warrants the casualties.
I would not send either in a stupid war in a distant place. I do insist on insensitive ATGM munitions in either case. HEAT -other than the biggest, sheer explosive power warheads – does not do terribly much damage behind thin plating with spall liner unless there are major secondary fires or explosions. A penetrating RPG may be as (little) dangerous as a zero distance sawed-off shotgun flechette shot on a soft vehicle. To score such a penetrating hit may be quite difficult, though.

ALL Politicians are the Same
ALL Politicians are the Same
April 12, 2013 12:59 pm

” Doctrine is the last refuge of the unimaginative”

They just love that quote at Shrivenham :)

April 12, 2013 1:06 pm

Lane, an IFV is hardly a vulnerable piece of equipment, unlike the very thin skinned M113s where even a hand grenade could poke holes in the armour. Even using the Stormer as an example, it is proof against anything up to 0.5 cal which is what most infantry use and LAWs against the frontal arc.

Different doctrine I suppose, but for a deliberate assault, our army does use IFVs on the line, buntressed by MBTs on the side and in the middle of the line. Their priority targets are dug in infantry support weapons while the MBTs concentrate on any heavy armour, with usage similar to what RT described above, a rush onto the objective, debussing the infantry directly into the trenches then joining back up with the MBTs to force the defenders off by pressure.

RT’s war time experience shows that there already is a semi-formal doctrine in place for the usage of the Warrior, so why go back to the APC? Its another program, along with a companion light tank, more areas for cost overruns. Why not use what you have? Which isn’t bad actually.

Mr fred, then to use the APC with support, you would need 1 APC and 1 light tank, with a crew of 4-6, as opposed to a single IFV with a crew of 3? 2 armoured vehicles for the same job when one will do is not an efficient use of manpower, and the benefits if you went 2/2 is even more pronounced, you carry more infantry with 2 IFVs than an APC/LT combo.

April 12, 2013 1:48 pm


Only if you were to use equal numbers. By being a tank and not tied to an infantry section it can cover more areas. Being as most militaries are quite happy to field large formations of troop carriers with no tank support, having a light tank would be an advantage. If you try to make all these APCs into IFVs, then each vehicle costs the same as a tank of equivalent weight but is less armoured and like as not less well armed. APCs are cheaper.

If you want a fighting vehicle like an IFV, then go the whole hog and have a decent weight vehicle rather than try to make do with a lightweight compromise.

April 12, 2013 1:51 pm

I don’t get where the idea has come from that the IFV has no purpose, no role?

Tanks need infantry support. That support needs the speed to keep up. That support also needs the protection to resist at the least 14.5mm machine gun fire, and preferably up to 30mm across the frontal arc. That support also needs the ability to suppress infantry positions, either to aid movement or as part of a close assault, hence the co-axial. That support also needs a larger calibre gun to defeat similar enemy vehicles and to take on better protected enemy positions, hence the 30mm (soon to be 40mm) main gun.

As the video posted above of Warriors doing a live fire demonstration on Sailsbury Plain shows, the British Army clearly has a concept of how to use Warrior, one that tallies with what RT was talking about in GW1.

Where is the struggle here?

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 12, 2013 1:57 pm


Current doctrine & practice does not show Warrior going in first or alongside the lead tanks. It does show them going in with intimate support tanks (normally a troop for a conpany attack) and after the assault tanks.

What you describe is the infantry operating with intimate support tanks, not operating as part of the initial assault echelon. The reason being that IFVs lack the protection to survive in a high threat environment.

RT’s combat example does not illustrate the necessity of a 30mm or 40mm stabilised weapon system. The Warrior in the example given are doing nothing that a Kangaroo could not (and did not) do in WW2.

April 12, 2013 2:08 pm

It’s called “Ole Days of Yore” Chris. :)

I for one would not want to go back to the M-113, if Mr fred thinks the Warrior is underarmoured, he’s going to kneel over from shock at the M-113’s protection.

As for platform weight, well, that applies to everything across the board, hardly only IFVs. Most 8x8s are now pushing similar weight envelopes to the old T-54/55 tanks, and those are still used as MBTs by some countries.

April 12, 2013 2:18 pm

Lane, YOUR current doctrine. I fail to see how what I describe is not part of the initial assault considering that the IFVs FORM LINE with MBTs in the first assault wave? You just need to position them where their weaknesses are covered, i.e the flanks covered by MBTs, not positioned right in the middle where the strongest counter-fire is etc.

Anyway it really is moot, if you don’t want to use the 30mm, then don’t, no one is forcing you to use it, and if you want to use it similar to an old APC, go right on ahead, nothing wrong with that.

April 12, 2013 2:19 pm

@Callum Lane: surely a bunch of armoured vehicles *without* self defense are a liability on a battlefield?

I would have thought a 30/40mm cannon is complementary to 120mm and coax as well, rather than a competitor, with a higher rate of fire than the former and the ability to shower airburst.

Think Defence
April 12, 2013 2:25 pm
Reply to  wf

Must admit to be on the Callum side of the debate here

Will have to have a think how to expand this interesting discussion.

My current nutty professor thinking is around surplus CR2 hulls with a remote 40mm CTA, pack of LMM’s and an elevating sensor mast, no turret.

Infantry in heavy APC’s like the CV90 Armadillo with RAC crew

April 12, 2013 2:37 pm

Then TD, the CR2s will be an IFV since it has a 40mm.

If you wanted to go back to the APC, it can only have a maximum of a 0.5 cal MG. :)

And since the idea of an APC is that of a battlefield taxi, why even have that in the first place? People might use it as a, heaven forfend, tank!

Irony of it was that when the M-113 was introduced, a pure taxi was not what most people ended up using it for, they made all sorts of conversions to turn it into an IFV, including a ~70mm main gun for one variant, which shows that, if nothing else, people expected more from their APCs.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 12, 2013 2:58 pm


“YOUR current doctrine” – well only insofar as it is the extant UK army doctrine (AFM Vol 1, Part 2, Battlegroup Tactics). The UK doctrine is that Warriors form line with the Intimate Support tanks and assault the objective after the Assault Tanks. They may be first on the objective (often the Assault Tanks do not go onto the position) but they are not the first to close with and engage the objective.

I’d be interested in what your doctrine is.

It is not really a moot point. We are trying to establish the absolute requirement for the IFV and I don’t think we have. We’ve established that it is a nice to have for some environments, but not a must have for any environment.

At the moment the UK plans to upgrade Warrior considerably. But when you consider Warrior as a system operating within the combined arms system it is not exactly clear why this upgrade is taking place. With money tight could resources be better used elsewhere.

As an ex Armd Infantry commander I think having a stabilised 40mm system would be great. I just don’t think I need one. The difference between wanting or liking, and needing is considerable.

April 12, 2013 3:13 pm

@ Callum,

– If you attack a fixed position that has armoured infantry support behind it (BMP), then what happens when that support arrives and you only have a 0.5 cal to return fire with, especially if your tank support is being dealing with enemy armour?

– If you deliver your troops onto the objective and there happens to be a second line position, say a reasonably well dug in pillbox type structure, providing over watch, how are you going to cope with just a 0.5 cal? What if there is a building or wall that has people firing through a loop hole for example? You don’t have all day to pummel it down progressively with machine gun fire, you need something more powerful and you need it now.

– So you’re following through behind the tanks and you’re now in more open country, at which point enemy BMP’s show up in a counter attack. You’re johnny on the spot and need to protect your forces until more help arrives. Would you rather have a 30-40mm, or a 0.5″?

– In TD’s post about the history of the FRES program he brings up an interview with two UK commanders by a US major. One of them recollects the activities of CVR(T) in the Falklands, where at night they teased the Argentine defenders with the co-axial, prompting them to return fire thinking it was just a suppressing GPMG position. At which point the much heavier main guns pitched in. Apparently the Argentines quickly learned not to respond to machine gun fire so aggressively, which hampered their later defensive efforts. Can’t really achieve that same effect with a 0.5″.

– Watch any video of Canadian, Danish or various other nations troops who deployed heavy vehicles like IFV’s or scout vehicles to Afghanistan. Anytime the infantry came up against fire from sturdy compounds, the best solution they had available was a 30mm gun right on the spot, ready and able to pound the living bejesus out the enemy without having to wait 20 mins for air support to arrive. That kind of supporting fire can make a real difference for the infantry, something that a 0.5″ can’t replicate.

– And so the list goes on, from WW2 to the present, where the provision of well protected heavy firepower on demand has massively increased the effectiveness of infantry in the attack and defence, and where heavy infantry have worked with armour to maximise each others strengths and minimise each others weaknesses.

April 12, 2013 3:26 pm

“Tanks need infantry support. That support needs the speed to keep up. That support also needs the protection to resist at the least 14.5mm machine gun fire, and preferably up to 30mm across the frontal arc. That support also needs the ability to suppress infantry positions, either to aid movement or as part of a close assault, hence the co-axial. That support also needs a larger calibre gun to defeat similar enemy vehicles and to take on better protected enemy positions, hence the 30mm (soon to be 40mm) main gun.”

There are some breaks, this was not a unquestionable logical line of requirements.

Combined arms tactics require infantry. Vehicles give mobility to infantry to move them into battle freshly and in time. These vehicles -or at least some of them- should be protected against at least the most common threats (normal bullets, fragmentation).
Anything beyond this point sacrifices infantry quantity for vehicle capabilities, and the latter is almost entirely a substitute or complement to MBT capabilities.
The optimal trade-off between infantry strength and infantry vehicle firepower is dependent on circumstances and not self-evident or agreed-on at all.

Hint: The Israelis see no use for an autocannon on any AFV.

ALL Politicians are the Same
ALL Politicians are the Same
April 12, 2013 3:30 pm

Now I hesitate to get involved in this debate as it is most definitely outside my area of expertise but I have a few points. (see could not resist).

1. Whilst my earlier quote about doctrine was semi tongue in cheek it does have a certain ring of truth to it. We should be thinking about how can we use the vehicles extra capability not simply thinking that the book does not tell us how.

2. Capability breeds flexibility exactly the same as it does with ships. The more capabilities the platform has then generally the more you can use it for. Look at use of IFVs in Afghanistan etc and also in former Yugoslavia.

3.The auto cannon in the turret is useful, for starters everyone else’s IFVs has them or similar so you retain the capability to face them down in non combined Arms Ops without having to deploy tanks, e.g. Former Yugoslavia.

4. A turret with a gun on it has a certain intimidation factor. Especially in a Mali type operation, the turret intimidates in a manner that non turreted APCs simply do not.

5. Following on from my point at number 4 and Mali. We can deploy them by air in small numbers if required at the pointy end. 1 or maybe 2 in a C17 and 1 in an A400M? (not sure what post upgrade weight will be).

April 12, 2013 3:31 pm

“My current nutty professor thinking is around surplus CR2 hulls with a remote 40mm CTA, pack of LMM’s and an elevating sensor mast, no turret.”

Israelis get away with this sort of thing because Israeli army bases are their start line. They have no depth. They don’t have to pack up the regiment and load it onto a ship to go to war. No way could we afford whole battalions in really heavy MICV. Israel equipment is a one off. (Even though how they use it in say urban environments can teach things to others that might be useful.)

I thought the MoD were quietly cutting up surplus CR2 hulls?

April 12, 2013 3:37 pm

APATS said “Following on from my point at number 4 and Mali. We can deploy them by air in small numbers if required at the pointy end. 1 or maybe 2 in a C17 and 1 in an A400M? (not sure what post upgrade weight will be).”

Why would would you want to send two or three anywhere?

A UK armoured battalion has/used to have 45 Warrior, 11 Warrior Milan, and 25 FV432. That doesn’t include about 15 or so Spartan/CVRT/Sultan light tracked vehicles.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 12, 2013 3:40 pm

@ Chris B

There’s a lot of ‘ifs’ in your scenario.

The infantry on any position in your scenario should according to current doctrine have:
Intimate support troop
Over watch troop
Assault troop
All able to bring effective fire to bear quickly if not immediately.

“…from WW2 to the present, where the provision of well protected of heavy firepower on demand has massively increased the effectiveness of infantry in the attack and in the defence”. I agree 100%. What you are referring to us the combined arms team of infantry and armour acting in concert.

Unfortunately the current and projected range of IFVs are neither well protected nor possessed of massive firepower.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 12, 2013 3:45 pm


Careful!! We are in danger of agreeing violently here unless we are careful. I agree with your last post entirely less the provision of the 30mm/40mm armament. This capability I see as already being provided by the heavy armour acting in concert with the infantry. Hence my “this capability is nice but not necessary” line.

April 12, 2013 3:49 pm

30mm cannon are all very nice to have , but if they come at a cost of £1m each or more, plus up to 10 tonnes in weight and a seat or two for the infantry.

The APCs can still carry shoulder-launched weapons for their dismounts for dealing with hard targets. If that doesn’t work then introducing a light tank with a 90-105mm gun will do the job much better than a 30-40mm cannon will.

As part of an armoured battlegroup, light autocannon firing airburst rounds would provide a suppressive function that MBTs might be considered to lack. At this point, shouldn’t the infantry vehicles be as well protected as their consorts?

ALL Politicians are the Same
ALL Politicians are the Same
April 12, 2013 3:50 pm


Note what I said about looking at ways to use you capability. Now if we had established an airhead in Z land from which we wanted to conduct either peace keeping or other Ops but we had a threat from rebels/Terrorists then being able to fly in 2 or 4 or 6 warriors to use as mobile security, convoy escorts etc would be bloody welcome would it not?
Obviously whilst we wait for the RN to ensure the safe deployment of the rest of Percys kit for him. :)


Is the current doctrine correct though and does it properly reflect the best way to use an IFV utilsing the lessons that ourselves and our Allies have learnt from Iraq and Afghanistan?
It is ok to question the machine now and again.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 12, 2013 4:02 pm

@ All Politicians:

1. There are an awful lot of ways we can use the capability and we do. But all these ways are tangential to the main business of the IFV which is delivering infantry to the fight in a high threat environment. The problem I have with making the Warrior bigger and punchier is that it does not matter how big and punchy we make it, relatively speaking it is never going to be as big and punchy as a MBT, therefore it’s use in a high threat environment is not going to change. So why make it bigger & punchier? What we have now is fine. Doctrine is a guide and most in the British Army know their doctrine and even fewer understand it. I am not necessarily saying I can do either.

2. Yes, but capability costs. In both money up front and in training resources.

3. Agree, but a circular argument. If you didn’t have auto cannon you would deploy tanks.

4. Agree.

5. Agree. You get strategic mobility, but the pay- off is at the expense of firepower & protection.

Perhaps what we should do is go back to first principles – what kind of combat do we expect to get involved in and what would give us the most bang for buck? Do we need MBT if all we think we are going to be doing is Afghanistan / Mali type stuff and where in extremis we can call on other nation’s heavy armour?

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 12, 2013 4:06 pm

@ x

Anything with an elevating sensor mount gets my vote!

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 12, 2013 4:16 pm

@ All Politicians

I have spent a large amount of my undistinguished professional career questioning the machine. A cynic might say that there is a correlation between the two. I Red Team on as part of the ‘awkward squad’ on occasion too. That’s why I like sites like this – it makes me think.

I think the problem with both Iraq and Afghanistan is neither op was high threat and high tempo compared to Major Combat Operations. So we are applying lessons from one environment and scale of operation while trying to remain capable for another. Are we taking on the lessons? Yes. Are we translating them effectively? I am less certain – but there again we never know what is next.

Interestingly one of the key lessons from Iraq for both US and UK was the much increased vulnerability of IFVs operating in urban environments in high intensity ops without MBT support. Even in Basra we would get punched in to Basra through an armoured sleeve of CR2 for strike missions.

April 12, 2013 4:23 pm


After I posted I thought I was being a bit prescriptive because having C17 we can fly Warrior anywhere we want Warrior. I could see the need as you for limited security role for a very specific job under a very specific set of circumstance. Perhaps support for special forces in say a hostage situation at less than secure location like a Third World airport.

I like the idea of airmobile armour but only as an idea, and really only as an argument for more ships because to do anything worthwhile means lots of everything which can only be moved by ship. It is intriguing. The Soviets lifting ASU57 by helicopter over mountains in Africa to cut off the escape of their ally’s enemy etc. And if UK operated CH53 we could have some Wiesels to lift ashore. Or the RAF Regiment could have similar as they used to have for operating on very large, very open spaces. . It is more about firepower and mobility and not so much protection. But I think it all comes under nice to have not essential. And probably smaller than what is being discussed here.

April 12, 2013 4:38 pm

@ Callum

Yes. I have wondered here many times about telescopic mounted sensors for looking over and around the high mud walled mazes of Afghanistan. Yes robots both flying and ground based have appeared over there. But it seems to be have been very much a 2D affair. Given the West’s technical edge it shouldn’t have been so. Not in age where webcams can be picked up less than a £5 at the supermarket.

I think the Israeli heavy APC/MICVs are marvellous beasts. I have wondered about them too at one time or another. Most often in a tank brigade scenario of 2 x MBT regiments plus 1 x armoured infantry in a tank derived MICV. Just to specific for our needs. I think that is from where my thoughts on concentrating all our armour into one brigade of 1 x MBT, 3 x armoured inf (Warrior) originated. Everybody in Warrior. Warrior picking up some of the MBT workload. Especially if Warrior was to be outfitted with a turret mounted ATGM. Not ideal. But as I keep saying with airpower, PGM from artillery, violence of action. etc. it would be enough considering our armoured campaigns don’t last long. We certainly don’t need 3 x brigades basing all their training armour for a once in a decade occurrence. But neither is that an excuse do away with armour. We need to hone skills and our technological advantage.

All good fun

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 12, 2013 5:54 pm

Just an idle Friday evening thought.

The 30/40mm cannon, stabilised or not is like tits on a fish for the very major full on armoured assault. Useless, and worse, distracting for the IFV turret crew whose primary role is threefold.

1. Driver told to stick like glue 50 yards back from the intimate support troop of tanks, and hold his distance from other Warriors. No further instructions given just get on with it.

2. Gunner told to spray anything enemy like with coax. Take full control of the turret.

3. Commander, Eyes on stalks taking in every bloody nuance of SA about the enemy position, describing it in endless detail to the boys in the back so that when the wagon lurches to a violent halt, they know to debus left or right, what their first target is, etc.

Conversely, the 30/40 mm is very useful for lots of other things not involving a full on assault.

Of more interest to me are the two breeds of infantryman you need. Not so much an issue of cap badges, more of career path. You need armoured-savvy vehicle crews for the IFV, and Glasgow’s worst to get out of the back. I once looked into the back of an RHF Warrior, and the foam / spall lining on the inside of the troop compartment roof was completely shredded and hanging in great tufts. The boys had been stabbing it repeatedly with fixed bayonets as they ‘physched themselves up for the blood letting allowable when they were uncaged. That’s just what you want in a dismount.

I think Callum Lane and Chris B and I could also go off on a tangent about the complete uselessness of current AI doctrine around Zulu Musters. What a waste of capability.

April 12, 2013 6:54 pm

RT said “describing it in endless detail to the boys in the back so that when the wagon”

What you need are windows and a walk through cabin……..

April 12, 2013 7:22 pm

Windows are all very well as long as you are not attempting to stop any large projectiles, or any projectiles that come in large numbers.

A repeater screen for the commander’s sight would suffice, I would think.

April 12, 2013 7:43 pm

It is curious isn’t it.

Both sides of what used to be the iron curtain both armies were getting ready for all Hollywood high concept armoured clash. And both ended up fighting a series of low concept dirty coin wars IN the same country!

However they seem to have come to different conclusions.

The Ruskies started all this with the BMP. But in reality heavy machine gun etc were being strapped to half tracks in ww2, and the Germans had plans to build a 38t based fully tracked vehicle with a 20mm cannon.

The west seems to be biased towards the armoured taxi.

Ultimately they can’t both be right, can they?

With all the armour around the battlefield, arming an apc with something to take out light armour and machine gun nests, (does a modern battlefield still have those)? Seems to make sense.

However I still maintain that the latest BMP BDM etc are so over armed, that if menaced by one, I would suggest running around in circles disabling the vehicle coz the crew would be having a fist fight over which weapon machine guns (3) cannon 100mm gun, or missile, to use.

April 12, 2013 7:48 pm

@ S O,

You’re not going to leave people at home just because your vehicle can’t hold a full section. You just bung the fellas into another vehicle. Four Warriors to a platoon, so everyone gets a ride and now you have four large guns to provide support. The Israeli’s meanwhile are a) geared far more for urban combat after their recent run ins, hence the tank-esque weight of their APC’s and b) get away with having less organic firepower for their infantry on account of the ridiculous amount of tanks they have available (think it’s 3-4 regiments to a brigade, they seem to take the old school approach to concentrating armour).

@ Callum,
If there is one thing that seems to be almost guaranteed when the British Army deploys, it’s that the results tend to look very different from how it was drawn up on paper. Referencing that paper from earlier, where the Royal Marine colonel was talking to a US major about the unconventional CVR(T)’s in the Falklands, he himself had a similar tale to tell; because he wasn’t expecting to face much in the way of enemy armour he converted most of his anti-tank troop into additional recce elements.

The one thing our army always seems to never do is to operate according to the peace time doctrine, apparently favouring ad hoc-ness over anything else.

So, you complain that the scenarios presented don’t reflect the doctrine, but the doctrine seems to be one of the first things out of the window. And surely the additional provision of heavy calibre weapons provides are forces with significantly more flexibility and firepower in the field, at a relatively modest cost.

I would also have to fervently argue that vehicles like Warrior are well protected and well armed. A 14.5mm gun is not going to cut it against a Warrior, and across the frontal arc and turret at least nor are some of smaller calibre IFV weapons. With add on packages which they’re more than capable of handling, many anti-armour weapons will struggle too. You’re essentially forcing the enemy to bring the biggest weapons they can muster (and probably in small numbers) in order to bring the Warrior down.

In return Warrior will be up-gunned with a 40mm gun that will be able to engage and defeat almost any IFV in the world, and a great number of the older types of tank. It will also have the ability to pump out HE rounds at the rate of 4 a second to quite significant ranges. I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of one, whether in a vehicle or out in the open.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 12, 2013 7:52 pm

Mr Fred,

you are quite close there to a good Pareto solution. Or more accurately, an aid.

I left in 2003, so I don’t know what has happened since then in terms of providing SA into the back of the Warrior, but there was lots of discussion around el cheapo COTS video cameras and the (then) newish flat screen computer monitors, which could easily be mounted onto an internal bulkhead with some PC World cabling and a couple of jubilee clips. Clearly, daylight use only, but costing £1000? per wagon. Scale that up to £20,000 for a Thales Optronics designed day / II repeater fed from a sight, and it’s still a bargain.

Go Pros already offer offboard monitor capability, for about £400.

Maybe Callum or Chris B can report what happened on that front after 2003?

April 12, 2013 7:55 pm

@ TD

I would give them a virtual reality helmet networked off cameras on the vehicles hull. Imagine shoving 4000k imagery into the fovea.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 12, 2013 8:01 pm

Chris B,

an under-remarked vulnerability of IFVs is the tendency for sights to be smashed with deflections and ricochets from strike, even from small arms. That’s probably something we can’t avoid, given all of the other issues with designing the armour (apart from putting bullet catchers below the sights, an obvious move). What we could do something about is making the changeover of sight assemblies a 10 minute task, not the 1 hour job it is on CVR(T), and (I am told) a 2 hour job on Warrior. And no spare sights held at 1st line? Stupid. There should also be “an app” for battlefield bore sighting rather than CABF.

Paul G I think was an optronics man in the Reems, he’ll have a view worth listening to.

April 12, 2013 8:03 pm

I think our current armoured brigades with C2 and upgraded warrior will be fine. Fres SUV to replace cvrt. I think the only potential gap is for the paras and rm as reaction forces, what do they have with a decent gun that is mobile and can look and be impressive in small scale intervention ops. I am thinking of a wheeled AFV with a decent gun.not a huge buy but an OTS option?

April 12, 2013 8:36 pm

@ MickP

This is what I would buy for 3Cdo….

This Patria 8×8 with the BMP-3 turret 100mm/30mm. “We” would proably go with the new 40mm gun with a co-axial 7.62mm. Other turrets available…

A proper amphibious Stormer (a la PT76) would be nice too.

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 12, 2013 8:42 pm

Challenger, Abrams and Leopard designs are specialised for tank-on-tank warfare against the Soviets. The closest that that generation of Western tanks got, or ever will get, to fighting the conceptual battle they were designed for was Gulf War 1.
Desert Storm pitched Western tanks against Soviet equipment in the air/land battle that NATO had planned to fight in the 80s. Though there are discrepancies in military estimates and reporting, around half of all destroyed Iraqi armour was taken out during the air campaign. During the land phase, Apache, Warthog and other aircraft continue to account for a significant portion of total tank kills. Of destroyed Iraqi armour attributable to US forces, it is widely reported that Bradley TOW accounted for more armoured vehicle kills than Abrams. In Gulf 1, the armoured war that NATO tanks were designed to fight, and which was often cited as disproving the myth that tanks became obsolete the moment Knight Rider brought down the Berlin wall, tanks did not dominate the kill statistics as one might expect.
Since ’91 huge leaps have been taken in terms of battlefield information and anti-tank weapon systems. Our Challengers, a design specialised for tank warfare, are an anachronism. What use is a 120mm gun when our future enemies will most likely be transported by flip-flop, scooter or pick-up truck? Our tanks were designed for a two dimensional land battle, where weapons and sensors are line-of-sight only, but technology has moved on.
It is easy to make the argument for heavy armour; it is not so easy to see the case for heavy armour with a primary specialisation in tank-on-tank warfare – at least not in the British inventory.

April 12, 2013 8:44 pm

Chucking COTS gear onto military platforms seems like a brilliant idea, but the trouble is that COTS gear is only rarely built to survive the environments that military gear goes through. Plenty of devices claim MIL-STD-810 compliance, but it is usually selected aspects. The full gamut goes from -30 to +50 celsius, impact, severe vibration, condensing humidity, chemical and biological attack and sand and dust ingress.

Protection for IFVs is an interesting subject. The British are infamous for not citing protection levels – the most I’ve seen for Warrior is “HMG and Artillery fragments”. Other nations are less circumspect*; the ASCOD is described in wikipedia (and elsewhere – no idea what the original source is) as being proof against 14.5mm at 500m and 7.62mm all round.
Uparmoured Warriors in Iraq were repeatedly holed by RPGs (as you’d expect – the RPG7 is good for at least 300mm and the up-armour does not cover all aspects.)
Well-protected is relative. Compared to a FV432, the Warrior is very well protected. Compared to a Chieftain it is scarcely better than an armoured land rover. Compared to a Challenger is it is an aluminium drinks can.

* Or employing misdirection

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 12, 2013 8:52 pm

Hi, x.
Something to consider with the Marines is their dual role as both our amphibian brigade and our mountain brigade. The light and manoeuvrable Viking is perhaps a necessary compromise for their snowy adventures; indeed, the French bought them for their alpine brigade.

paul g
April 12, 2013 8:54 pm

sorry RT i wasn’t a windowlene worker (our term for the inst tech) but your right i did help getting the sights out in situ on ops and BATUS and it was a bitch! particularly in the cold of canada.
I was primarily tels, just loved the CVR(t) harness and i’m sure callum will remember the main junction box in the warrior required a turret lift not just to replace to confirm it was u/s. I called it once at the staffords LAD and the mechs told me if it wasn’t broken, armed with a one shade shoe they would kick seven diferent shades out of me!!

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 12, 2013 9:03 pm

Mr Fred,

great sense in what you say, and indeed “professionally”, I would endorse it (after, my company makes our living from doing defence integration work to an extraordinarily high level of multi-standards based and engineering-evidenced level, for air and maritime platforms, with all of their particular demands). But, the old soldier in me still thinks – as the icing on the well-engineered cake – that for the final £1,000 per wagon as a final UOR delivered in theatre, I’d rather the boys in the back of a Warrior had a cheap Sony camcorder and a Korean flatscreen TV, lashed up with some 9 volt batteries, and not expected to survive more than a couple of days. “It was good while it lasted”. Don’t forget that even a basic infantry soldier costs £100K to train, and he’s bugger all use if he jumps out of the back of the Warrior and turns in the wrong direction and is cut down by OPFOR.

April 12, 2013 9:15 pm

“You’re not going to leave people at home just because your vehicle can’t hold a full section. You just bung the fellas into another vehicle.”

I wouldn’t, but army leaderships and politicians DO so quite often.
Look at how infantry count in armoured and mechanised infantry brigades dwindled over time. A big part of this loss is linked to the move towards less dismounts per AFV.

In other words; once you move towards less dismount seats in your AFVs, there are not going to be the guys that one might leave at home.

German Panzergrenadierbataillone get three companies 14 Puma + HQ 2 Puma; 44 Puma.
That’s 264 to 308 (with commander dismounting) infantrymen per battalion. Armoured brigades are supposed to have only one such battalion.

There is no excess personnel strength, so 20% sick and on leave might yield less than 250 infantrymen for an entire armoured brigade! Add a few dozen casualties for a brigade and the armoured brigade would be utterly incapable of a closed terrain fight. Mechanised infantry brigades have wise as many Panzergrenadierbataillone, but that’s a far cry from satisfactory.

The attention and money gets spent on fancy turrets with autocannon and sensors, not on infantry. This hurts our brigades more than those autocannons help them (even taking into account that they might serve as auxiliary SPAAGs).

Think Defence
April 12, 2013 9:15 pm
Reply to  Red Trousers

Could I just draw your fine gentlemen’s attention to this post, fresh off the press

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 12, 2013 9:19 pm

Paul G,

I recall Scorpion had an unusual gunner’s sight fitting mechanism, that could either be removed from the top or bottom (Scimitar was more sensible), but the two were not the same set of bolts. It required someone to hold the nut still, while someone else twiddled the bolt loose. Naturally, the only time I had to do this was on my Troop Leader’s course, with another stupid young Rupert from the QDG on the other end of the spanner. Do you recall that scene from Fools and Horses where the wrong chandelier is unscrewed? It was similar. He untwiddled all of the bolts, I held the nuts still, expecting him to then hoist the sight upwards and away from the outside of the turret. He finished untwiddling and the sodding thing collapsed onto my thighs and crashed to the floor of the turret.

April 12, 2013 9:49 pm

@ SO,

We must be lucky over here then, because we have more armoured infantry battalions (paper strength; 650?) than we do the so called Heavy Protected Mobility (Mastiff). The plan according to the shiny 2020 brochure is to have two warrior battalions and one Mastiff per armoured brigade.

April 12, 2013 9:57 pm

Red Trousers,

After the couple of days, what happens? Try and get replacements? Chuck it aside?

Think Defence
April 12, 2013 9:59 pm
Reply to  Mr.fred

Durability v Cost is always an interesting debate

Do you over engineer so they are (literally) bullet proof or do you accept a lower level of durability but just make them semi disposable and buy a shit load

April 12, 2013 10:06 pm

@ Brian Black

I like Viking/Bronco and as troop carriers, mortar vehicles, ambulances, command wagons, etc. OK.

But I think for cavalry roles I think one hull plus turret is better than two hulls. Bringing the weapon to bare is the most important of the system.

Above I mention I spent a some time a while back thinking about heliborne armour. I thought about BV206 as it fits into Chinook. I thought about recoilless guns in the front cab. Male and female gun trucks; .50mg and 40mm grenade launcher variants. Though I stand by it is how armour is used as much as the vehicle I don’t think either of those latter weapons are heavy enough. (Saying that in WW2 the tank’s co-axial machine gun was a very important weapon. But…) Pop up to turrets and RWS as well. 10cm shaved off here and there to make turrets fit etc. And it didn’t work.

The German Wiesel is better but could be an inch or two bigger all around. How much longer the hull could be before it hampered the vehicle fitting into Chinook. I looked at S-Tank, Soviet ASU family of vehicls, and M113 Lynx as well. And then I am still not sure.

Then there are weights to consider too.

All that lead me back to Viking as gun truck which I suppose for fighting on the flanks and in Third World against non-peers is enough. Well while the campaign is still fresh and the natives haven’t started to deploy IEDs.

April 12, 2013 10:10 pm

And the BMD-1 too. I looked at them as well.

April 13, 2013 8:33 am

Think we might have gone off topic here, guess we all agree the MBT is here to stay, just that some of us have doubts about IFVs vs APCs.

April 13, 2013 9:53 am

Depends. The MBT may easily change a lot, up to entirely different armament and concept of protection.

What’s going to stay is the concept of a combat vehicle meant to be useful even in face of many and diverse threats thanks to good survivability, mobility and firepower.

April 13, 2013 10:05 am

Interesting thread but does the UK still have the ability to transport these behemoths when they get to a foreign port or the bridging support equipment to allow them to move around the battlefield and the logistics to support them in an high intensity operation. And as this high end tank warfare will only ever be conducted with coalition parts and almost definitely when the yanks are present are these what a coalition would want or need the UK to deploy?

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 13, 2013 10:33 am


tactical mobility (ie bridging, logistics) of our tanks are the least of our concerns: what we really need are the strategic enablers such as shipping. For a long campaign****, we also need the engine and barrel reconditioning turnaround facility. whether that is simply a loggie depot or something approaching a small little factory-let is up to someone other than me to judge.

**** Small factoid. CR2 “should” have a barrel change after 230 APFSDS rounds. It can probably do a bit more, but it’s a grey area. A standard battlefield day is 38 rounds of APFSDS. Can our logistics system cope with changing a CR2 barrel every 6 days, when you may have a Division deployed? Can it buggery. Are there even enough spare barrels to swap out 200 CR2 barrels? err…. no.

Red Trousers