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30 octobre 2015 5 30 /10 /octobre /2015 08:30
photo Rafael

photo Rafael

 

October 26, 2015: Strategy Page

 

Israel has recently made available a lightweight (200 kg/440 pound) version of its Trophy APS (Active Protection System) called Trophy LV. This is intended for MRAPs (heavily armored trucks), IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles) and other heavy vehicles that are lighter than tanks. The regular Trophy weighs about a ton and is one of several APS models on the market but it is also the one with the most impressive combat record.

 

By 2012 Israel was convinced sufficiently to equip all the Merkava tanks in an armor brigade with the Trophy APS. In 2010 the first battalion of Merkavas was so equipped. Then in 2011 Trophy defeated incoming missiles and rockets in combat for the first time. This included ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missile), possibly a modern Russian system like the Kornet E. This is a laser guided missile with a range of 5,000 meters. The launcher has a thermal sight for use at night or in fog. The missile's warhead can penetrate enough modern tank armor to render the side armor of the Israeli Merkava tank vulnerable. The Kornet E missile weighs 8.2 kg (18 pounds) and the launcher 19 kg (42 pounds). The system was introduced in 1994, and has been sold to Syria (who apparently passed them on to Hezbollah and Hamas). A few weeks before the ATGM intercept Trophy defeated an RPG warhead (an unguided rocket propelled grenade fired from a metal tube balanced on the shoulder). All this came a year after first equipping Merkava tanks with APS. As it was designed to do, Trophy operated automatically and the crew didn't realize the incoming RPG warhead or missile had been stopped until after it was over. That is how APS is supposed to work and Trophy has proved to be the most reliable and effective APS out there.

 

This first combat use is a big deal because APS has been around for nearly three decades but demand and sales have been slow. The main purpose of APS is to stop ATGMs but on less heavily armored vehicles, stopping RPG type warheads is important as well. This is the main reason for developing Trophy LV.

 

The Israeli Trophy APS uses better, more reliable, and more expensive technology than the original Russian Drozd (or its successors, like Arena) APS. This includes an electronic jammer that will defeat some types of ATGMs. For about $300,000 per system, Trophy will protect a vehicle from ATGMs as well as RPGs (which are much more common in combat zones). Israel is the first Western nation to have a lot of their tanks shot up by modern ATGMs and apparently fears the situation will only get worse. Trophy protected several Israeli tanks from ATGM and RPG attacks during the 50 Day War with Hamas in mid-2014. The Israeli manufacturer of Trophy also partners with American firms to manufacture Trophy and Trophy LV for the U.S. market.

 

Israel first encountered ATGMs, on a large scale, in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. But these were the clumsy, first generation missiles that turned out to be more smoke than fire. More recent ATGM designs have proved more reliable and effective but no nation, except Israel, has yet made a major commitment to APS. That may now change, simply because effective APS like Trophy are available and RPG and ATGM losses are growing.

 

Most APS consist of a radar to detect incoming missiles and small rockets to rush out and disable the incoming threat. A complete system weighs about a ton. There is also a Trophy Light (weighing half a ton) for lighter, often unarmored, vehicles and now the even lighter Trophy LV for vehicles as small as a hummer.

 

Russia pioneered the development of these anti-missile systems. The first one, the Drozd, entered active service in 1983, mainly for defense against American ATGMs. These the Russians feared a great deal, as American troops had a lot of them, and the Russians knew these missiles (like TOW) worked. Russia went on to improve their anti-missile systems but was never able to export many of them. This was largely because these systems were expensive (over $100,000 per vehicle), no one trusted Russian hi-tech that much and new tanks, like the American M-1, were seen as a bigger threat than ATGMs.

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18 septembre 2015 5 18 /09 /septembre /2015 22:35
Attack Copters Wipe Out Chinese Tanks in Simulated Battle

 

September 18, 2015 by Robert Beckhusen - War is boring

 

War game underlines armor's weakness

 

Recently, a Chinese tank company with the Nanjing Military Region went on the attack. The mission — punch through an enemy defense, press forward and eliminate any resistance along the way.

This was, of course, an exercise. And the exercise was going well. The armored beasts busted through their objective … when two enemy helicopters armed with anti-tank missiles arrived.

Within moments, the helicopters effectively “destroyed” the whole company, according to a July 25 article in the Chinese military newspaper Jiefangjun Bao Online. The paper noted the helicopter counter-attack “set off an uproar in the brigade.”

The U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office took note of the exercise in its monthly journal OE Watch. “It was … apparent that commanders were not staying abreast of recent changes in warfare,” the journal stated.

 

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2 juillet 2015 4 02 /07 /juillet /2015 16:50
photo Europe & US MoD/DoD

photo Europe & US MoD/DoD


2 July 2015 By Marco Giulio Barone * for International Security Observer (ISO)
 

What risks are Europe’s leading military powers taking by substantially cutting their armored forces? Marco Giulio Barone worries that the decision could hamper future defense coordination and create severe vulnerabilities for the security of the entire continent.


This article was originally published by the International Security Observer on 16 June 2015.

 

Shrinking armoured forces in the four most important countries in Europe looks like a strategic adjustment to contemporary geopolitical scenarios. However, the excessive reduction of armoured assets in key countries and the absence of coordination amongst them could create severe vulnerabilities for the future defence of the whole continent.

The establishment and the expansion of the European Union reshaped the geography and politics of Europe with the consequent merge (and sometimes contrast) of multiple political, economic and social stakes coming from EU members. Nonetheless, some countries – Germany, Great Britain, France, and Italy – have kept their prominent role in European affairs and, today, they keep influencing deeply the international relations between Europe and the world. Their approach to defence matters has changed in terms of perceived threats and strategic planning, thus influencing European security policies according to their strategic needs (or wished). One of the most evident effects of this on the military is the progressive reduction of armoured assets. During the Cold War, armoured assets would have been the protagonists of warfare and their role was to face Soviet armoured divisions. Therefore, the core capabilities of western forces relied on big armoured complexes whose features were extreme tactical mobility and strategic pre-positioning across the foreseeable fronts. Instead, in the post-Soviet era the security threats to western European countries changed and became farer and asymmetric, thus requiring – in theory – high deployability, strategic mobility and limited logistic footprint. The armies of the four countries having taken this into consideration have become lighter and more deployable.

Germany, Great Britain, France, and Italy have traditionally coupled their economic relevance to a proportional military power made of big armies, more or less well equipped. Today, such proportionality is no longer linear for two main reasons: first, symmetric threats (read a state enemy at the gates) have objectively declined and second, national politics in today’s Europe have priorities other than defence expenditures.[1] Concerning the armoured assets, the reduction of Russian armoured forces and East European countries embracing the Atlantic treaty have stressed once again the loss of importance of the main threat. In addition, until 2010, rapprochement policies between the EU and Russia made the hypothesis of strategic confrontation even more unlikely.

Following the crisis in Ukraine the problem of strategic conventional deterrence has appeared once again as strategic priority, thus finding Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy not ready to respond promptly and adequately. In fact, despite of the tough headlines of the hottest phases of the Ukraine crisis, Russia has not deployed armoured assets in Crimea and at Ukrainian eastern border, rather using motor rifles and light units.[2]

To sum up, a traditional strategic race between west European countries and Russia is unlikely because both parts would be unable to sustain it at both economic and military level.[3] In particular, during the second round of negotiations in Minsk, Germany and France had to leverage on U.S. indirect deterrence – Obama raised the tones a few hours before the beginning of the talks – rather than on their own military power. In short, the two European countries, although politically and economically significant, were unable to look independent at strategic level.[4] A feature that Putin does not like, as he cannot consider west European stakeholders as an independent subject from Washington like it used to previously.

The hottest and biggest spot for the four EU lead countries is the southern front made of MENA (Middle East North Africa) countries and the Sahel. Great Britain, France and Italy are committed to multiple theatres with different coalitions, but their overall impact at the political and military level is limited. Nevertheless it is likely that these countries – even Germany, will be called to raise their commitment southward.[5] In those theatres power projection is usually based on a mix of light and medium forces, sometimes supported by a few mechanized assets. Such a mix is often considered the most suitable to counter elusive enemies organized in small formations. Furthermore, the limited logistic and economic footprint of such units in comparison to armoured ones makes them more sustainable in theatre for prolonged periods. In fact, lighter means, ammunitions and equipment are easier and cheaper to transport to and from the theatre of operations, while their strategic mobility allows expeditionary forces to cover big areas with limited logistics. As a consequence, the four countries have been reshaping their armed forces to become lighter and more flexible. However, the U.S. experience in that area demonstrates that, in case of major high intensity campaigns armoured assets have unmatched firepower, resistance and tactical mobility. Considering that conflicts in MENA countries keep growing in both size and intensity, major campaigns might be required in the near future.

In Europe, diminishing capabilities in leading high intensity conflicts by the four biggest countries modifies even the internal balance of forces amidst the EU and NATO. In fact, Poland and the other East European countries are moving in the opposite direction, and their armoured forces are increasing in size.[6]

At the political level this encourages the shift of the geostrategic axis eastward and implies more attention towards eastern European members and Russia.

At the military level, the weighted relevance of France, Germany, Great Britain and Italy will be decreasing in favour of those countries that welcome U.S. troops and bases and contribute every day more to the defence of the continent. As a consequence, the European defence agenda will likely be established progressively less in Berlin, Paris or Rome and more in Warsaw.[7]

As of today, at the operational level, the sum of the armoured forces of the four countries is adequate to the foreseeable level of threat, but quantities are next to the minimum below which credible operational capabilities in the field might be lost. In particular, the main problem is fragmentation: each country adopts its own doctrine and heterogeneous assets (Main Battle Tankss, Infantry Fighting Vehicles, Artillery) that are not deployable directly as a whole, nor being supported by common logistics.[8] As a consequence, the overall importance of each national force in Europe is constrained, while miscellaneous forces can difficultly merge as a whole in case of crisis. In short, the sum of numbers remains credible but the lack of interoperability makes its true strategic value critically low.[9]

Finally, the waste of know-how due to risible numbers and poor training downgrades the capabilities previously reached in the field.[10] In case of need, the rebuild of such operational capabilities would require time and fresh money, two features often lacking when sudden threats appear.

Armed forces are built around the “what if” paradigm and their structure depends on the expected threats. As a consequence, the detriment of armoured forces reshapes the military potential of the four countries, strengthening some features and weakening some others. Taking into account the current trend and the possible future challenges, there are four highlights to take into account.

First, a symmetric threat would find the four most powerful countries in Europe with insufficient armoured units, with Germany as the only exception. On the one hand, such a threat would not be sudden and would take a few years to manifest. On the other, this timeline might prove too short for readjusting the military for conventional warfare.

Second, despite of the reassurance the U.S. provided to east European countries by redeploying its EUCOM (United States European Command) troops on their territory, it is clear that the European theatre will be increasingly less relevant to Washington. This can bring two opposite outcomes: the empowerment of EU countries within the NATO framework, as often wished by the U.S., or, rather, the confirmation of the current trend – regardless of the U.S. disengagement – and the progressive decline of overall European military capabilities, as the armoured divisions continue representing the backbone of the strategic relevant armies.[11] Eastern countries, which are experiencing a reversing trend in this sense, might even choose alternative frameworks for collective defence, other than NATO and EU, and regardless of the economic importance of Paris, Rome, Berlin, and London.[12]

Third, in case of slow worsening of one or more crises at Europe’s gates a stronger power projection might be required. Such eventuality is considered far from the four governments of the countries explored in this piece, but the acceleration of the current trend that sees the continent challenged on its southern and eastern fronts might represent a pushing factor for reversing the current decision at strategic level, including the reduction of armoured forces.

Fourth, the current tendency will likely cause decreasing capability of projecting and developing tracked armoured vehicles (especially tanks) in the mid term. In fact, there are few or no programs for replacing current tanks and tracked IFVs (paper tanks do not count). Today, no country in West Europe possesses the resources for running its own program. Furthermore, the over constrained demand for such assets do not allow economies of scale that would ameliorate the overall industrial efficiency (including lower unit costs).[13][13] Whether this trend will be positive or negative for industry depends on the evolution of geopolitics in Europe as well as on foreign and defence policies to be adopted in the near future.


Notes

[1] The trend that sees defence spending as a secondary priority in today’s national agendas in Europe is well explained in the study below, that takes into consideration the case of the small Slovakia: despite of favourable economic conditions, the country has not invested more in its armed forces, rather cutting further its budget for a number of arguable reasons actually common to several European countries.

Suplata, M., Save the Defence: Why investing in the armed forces matters, Central European Policy Institute, November 26, 2014 http://www.cepolicy.org/publications/save-defence-why-investing-armed-forces-matters.

[2] Bowen, A.S., Chicken Kiev – Will Russia risk an all-out invasion of Ukraine?, Foreign Policy, March 15, 2014: http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/03/15/chicken-kiev/. See also, Bowen, A.S., Military Modernizatsiia and Power Projection – A strong and modern military is the cornerstone of Putinism, The Interpreter, October 10, 2013: http://www.interpretermag.com/military-modernizatsiia-and-power-projection/.

[3] Francis, D., Don’t Trust NATO’s Plan to Counter Putin, The Fiscal Times, August 28, 2014: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/08/28/Don-t-Trust-NATO-s-Plan-Counter-Putin.

[4] Erlarger, S., Shrinking Europe Military Spending Stirs Concern, The New York Times, April 22, 2013: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/23/world/europe/europes-shrinking-military-spending-under-scrutiny.html?_r=0.

[5] Darling, D., Europe’s Defense Retrenchment Appears Over, but What Comes Next?, Forecast International, September 11, 2014: http://globenewswire.com/news-release/2014/09/11/665398/10098266/en/Europe-s-Defense-Retrenchment-Appears-Over-but-What-Comes-Next.html.

[6] Larrabee, S.F. et alii, NATO and the challenges of austerity, RAND – National Defence Research Institute, 2012, pp.76-80. http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2012/RAND_MG1196.pdf

[7] Bender, J., Only the US and Estonia are meeting NATO’s defense budget goals, Business Insider, February 27, 2015: http://www.businessinsider.my/only-us-and-estonia-meeting-nato-budget-goal-2015-2/#m73QBA97CA6u0eHt.99.

[8] “We have to share our military and industrial capabilities”, Briefing of the European Defence Summit, May 03, 2013: https://www.securityconference.de/en/news/article/we-have-to-share-our-military-and-industrial-capabilities/.

[9] Flanagan, S.J., A Diminishing Transatlantic Partnership?- The impact of the financial crisis on European Defence and foreign assistance capabilities, Center for Strategic and International Studies, May 2011, pp. 18-20: http://csis.org/files/publication/110427_Flanagan_FinancialCrisis_web.pdf

[10] Today there are about 1100 MBTs of four different models, 1425 AFVs (at least 6 models) and 470 tracked howitzer (3 models) in service. During the Cold War there were about 6239 MBTs, 11389 AFVs and 1343 tracked howitzer.

[11] Carpenter, T.G., NATO, European Spending and U.S. grievances, Aspenia online, May 12, 2015: https://www.aspeninstitute.it/aspenia-online/article/nato-european-spending-and-us-grievances.

[12] Larrabee, S.F. et alii, ibid.

[13] Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, A New Deal for European Defence – Implementation Roadmap for Communication COM (2013) 542; Towards a more competitive and efficient defence and security sector, Brussels, June 24, 2014, pp.6-14.


* Marco Giulio Barone is contributor at the International Security Observer (ISO). He is also a Contributing Analyst and subject matter expert at Wikistrat, Counter-Terrorism and East Asia divisions. He is also project leader and columnist at “Il Caffè Geopolitico”, an Italian online journal about geopolitics. His research and analysis activities focus on counter-terrorism, geopolitics, East Asian and MENA countries defence and security matters.

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2 juillet 2015 4 02 /07 /juillet /2015 16:35
VN1 vehicle launched bridge

VN1 vehicle launched bridge

 

June 7, 2015: Strategy Page

 

China recently offered (for export) another new variant in its line of ZBL 09 8x8 wheeled armored vehicle; the VN1 vehicle launched bridge. This is an old concept that goes back to World War II. What it amounts to is a 15-20 meter (46-66 foot) bridge than can quickly be deployed from the vehicle over obstacles allowing similar (in size and weight) vehicles to quickly cross.

 

China introduced the ZBL line of armored vehicles in 2006 after more than a decade of development. The first model was a personnel carrier but other variants quickly followed. For example the ZBL 09 ST1 is equipped as a tank-destroyer with a high velocity 105mm gun. This appears to be a variant on the 2007 version that had a lower velocity 105mm gun that was intended to give infantry front line artillery support. The Germans called this an “assault gun” when they invented the concept (as the “Sturmgeschütz” during World War II. These vehicles are particularly useful for infantry attacking as an assault gun could quickly take out enemy opposition with one or two shells.

 

The assault gun version of its ZBL 09 had a smaller turret than the ST1. The larger turret of the ST1 is apparently to hold the additional recoil and fire control equipment for the more powerful and longer range 105mm gun. In 2009 there was already an artillery version of the ZBL 09, carrying a 122mm howitzer in a larger turret similar to the one used by the ST1.

 

Since 2012 the Chinese Army has been using the ZBL 09 with the turret and 105mm gun as a wheeled light tank. That appeared to indicate that an anti-tank version was already in the works. The ZBL 09/105mm assault gun could, with some extra training, be capable of shooting up other armored vehicles. The 105mm gun carried is not powerful enough to destroy most modern tanks, but could knock out most other armored vehicles.

 

The basic ZBL 09 is a 21 ton vehicle that has a crew of three and carries seven passengers. The ST1 apparently has a crew of four and weighs over 25 tons. All ZBL 09s are 8 meters (25 feet) long, three meters (9.2 feet) wide, and 2.1 meters (6.5 feet, to the hull roof) high. It's amphibious and has a top water speed of 8 kilometers an hour. On roads, top speed is 100 kilometers an hour, and max road range on internal fuel is 800 kilometers. The infantry carrier version has a turret with a 30mm autocannon.

 

The infantry version of the ZBL 09 entered service in 2009, and a growing number of combat brigades are being equipped with it, to operate somewhat like the American Stryker brigades. China has been developing new wheeled armored vehicles for over a decade. Until recently, these were all based on Russian designs. The ZBL 09, however, borrows more ideas from the West. Still, some of the more recent (since 2009) Russian type designs were interesting and instructive.

 

The Chinese have observed NATO success in Iraq with the Stryker and LAV wheeled combat vehicles. Chinese designers eventually concluded that the roomier internal layout of Western vehicles did serve a useful purpose, and the ZBL 09, and all the electronics installed in it, are an example of what the Chinese learned.

VN1 vehicle launched bridge

VN1 vehicle launched bridge

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1 avril 2015 3 01 /04 /avril /2015 11:40
Armor: Why The T-72 Survives

T-72B3 - photo Military-today

 

March 31, 2015: Strategy Page

 

A Russian motorized infantry brigade in Western Siberia recently received fifteen modernized T-72B3 tanks. This is a modernized version of T-72 with an improved fire control system and next-generation communications equipment. The delivery was of the Russian effort to modernize its armed forces. Russia has over 5,000 T-72 tanks in use (2,000 in active service and 3,000 in reserve) and most of them are Cold War (pre-1991) vintage and seriously out-of-date compared to American, European and Chinese tanks.

 

The T-72 is a Soviet second-generation tank that entered production in 1971. About 20,000 T-72 tanks were built, making it one of the most widely produced post–World War II tanks, second only to the T-54/55 family. The T-72 was widely exported and saw service in 40 countries and in numerous conflicts. Improved variants are still being built for export customers. The T-72 was the most common tank used by the Warsaw Pact from the 1970s to the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was also exported to other countries, such as Finland, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the former Yugoslavia, as well as being copied elsewhere, both with and without licenses.

 

Licensed versions of the T-72 were made in Poland and Czechoslovakia, for other East European countries. These tanks had better and more consistent quality of make but inferior (to Russian made models) armor, lacking the resin-embedded ceramics layer inside the turret front and glacis armor. The Polish-made T-72G tanks also had thinner armor compared to Soviet Army standard (410 mm for turret). Before 1990, Soviet-made T-72 export versions were similarly downgraded for non-Warsaw Pact customers (mostly the Arab countries). Many parts and tools are not interchangeable between the Russian, Polish and Czechoslovakian versions, which caused logistical problems.

 

The T-72 shares many design features with earlier Soviet tanks. Some of these are viewed as deficiencies in a straight comparison to NATO tanks, but most are a product of the way these tanks were envisioned to be employed, based on the Soviets' practical experiences in World War II. The T-72 is extremely lightweight, at forty-one tons, and very small compared to their Western counterparts. Some of the roads and bridges in former Warsaw Pact countries were designed so that T-72s can easily use them while NATO tanks could not pass at all, or only at very low speed.

 

The basic T-72 is relatively underpowered, with a 780 hp (580 kW) supercharged version of the basic 500 hp (370 kW) V-12 diesel engine block originally designed for the World War II-era T-34. The 0.58 m (23 inch) wide tracks run on large-diameter road wheels, which allows for easy identification of the T-72 and descendants (the T-64/80 family has relatively small road wheels).

 

The T-72 has a comprehensive nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) protection system. The inside of both hull and turret is lined with a synthetic fabric made of boron compound, meant to reduce the penetrating radiation from neutron bomb explosions. The crew is supplied clean air via an extensive air filter system. A slight over-pressure prevents entry of contamination via bearings and joints. Use of an autoloader for the main gun allows for more efficient forced smoke removal compared to traditional manually loaded ("pig-loader") tank guns, so NBC isolation of the fighting compartment can, in theory, be maintained indefinitely. Exported T-72s do not have the anti-radiation lining.

 

Armor protection of the T-72 was strengthened with each succeeding generation. The original T-72 turret is made from conventional cast armor. It is believed the maximum thickness is 280 mm (11 inches), the nose is about 80 mm (3.1 inches) and the glacis of the new laminated armor is 200 mm (7.9 inches) thick, which when inclined gives about 500–600 mm (20–24 inches) thickness along the line of sight. Late model T-72s feature composite armor protection.

 

The T-72A featured a new turret with thicker but nearly vertical frontal armor. The cast steel turret included a cavity filled with quartz or sand. The T-72M (export version of the Soviet T-72A) featured a different armor protection compared to the T-72A: it had a different composite insert in the turret cavity which granted it less protection against HEAT and armor-piercing (AP) munitions. The modernized T-72M1 featured an additional 16 mm (0.63 inch) of armor on the glacis plate, which produced an increase of 32 mm (1.3 inch) horizontally against both HEAT and AP. It also featured a newer composite armor in the turret with pelletized filler agent.

 

Several T-72 models featured explosive reactive armor (ERA), which increased protection primarily against HEAT type weapons. Certain late-model T-72 tanks featured heavy ERA to help defeat modern HEAT and AP against which they were insufficiently protected. Late model T-72s, such as the T-72B, featured improved turret armor, visibly bulging the turret front. The turret armor of the T-72B was the thickest and most effective of all Soviet tanks; it was even thicker than the frontal armor of the T-80B. The T-72B used a new "reflecting-plate armor" in which the frontal cavity of the cast turret was filled with a laminate of alternating steel and non-metallic (rubber) layers. The glacis was also fitted with 20 mm (0.8 in) of appliqué armor. The late production versions of the T-72B/B1 and T-72A variants also featured an anti-radiation layer on the hull roof.

 

Early model T-72s did not feature side skirts; instead the original base model featured gill or flipper-type armor panels on either side of the forward part of the hull. When the T-72A was introduced in 1979, it was the first model to feature the plastic side skirts covering the upper part of the suspension, with separate panels protecting the side of the fuel and stowage panniers.

 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. and German analysts had a chance to examine Soviet-made T-72 tanks equipped with Kontakt-5 ERA, and they found this ERA impenetrable to most modern American and German tank projectiles. This sparked the development of more modern Western tank ammunition, such as the M829A2 and M829A3. Russian tank designers responded with newer types of reactive armor, including Relikt and Kaktus.– Ryan Schinault

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4 février 2015 3 04 /02 /février /2015 08:50
Armor: Poland Produces Their Own APFSDS

 

January 11, 2015: Strategy Page

 

Poland has ordered 13,000 120mm APFSDS (Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot, for smooth bore guns) tank gun shells from a local manufacturer for delivery by 2017. These are for Poland’s recently acquired forces of 237 second hand German Leopard 2 tanks. Poland bought some German APFSDS shells initially, but since the Cold War ended Poland has been producing APFSDS for the 125mm guns used by its T-72s, which the Leopards are replacing. Polish ammo plants will buy new manufacturing equipment to produce the 120mm APFSDS but will be able to build the shells at lower cost, and comparable quality to other nations and thus be able to grab some export business. Poland still has some locally upgraded T-72s (the PT-91) and continues to manufacturer 125mm APFSDS for these.

 

APFSDS weigh about 23 kg (50 pounds) and tend to be about  is 900mm (35 inches) long and use 8.1 kg (18 pounds) of slow burning explosives to propel the shell out the 120mm smooth barrel to a top speed of 1,555 meters (5,100 feet) a second. The sabots fall away after the shell leaves the barrel, leaving the 10 kg (22 pound), 25mm diameter (and 800mm long) depleted uranium or tungsten penetrator to continue on to the target (up to 5,000 meters away).

 

Most modern 120mm tank guns fire a shell that uses a smaller 25mm “penetrator.” The 25mm rod of tungsten (or depleted uranium) is surrounded by a “sabot” that falls away once the shell clears the barrel. This gives the penetrator higher velocity and penetrating power. This is the most expensive type of 120mm shell and already comes in several variants. There is APDS (Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot) and APFSDS (Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot, for smooth bore guns). The armor piercing element of discarding sabot rounds is less than half the diameter of the shell and made of very expensive, high density metal. Its smaller size enables it to hit the target at very high speeds, up to 1,900 meters (5,900 feet) a second. This is the most common type of anti-tank shell and is constantly being improved. Thus in the 1970s depleted (nonradioactive) uranium was introduced by the U.S. to replace the slightly lighter tungsten penetrators. The depleted uranium penetrators were more effective.

 

About twenty armies now have 120 mm and 125mm smoothbore guns which can obtain slightly more penetrating power using depleted uranium instead of tungsten. While composite armor was developed to defeat APDS but it was not always successful. HEAT (High Explosive Anti Tank) rounds have fallen from favor because their success depends on hitting a flat surface on the tank. Modern tanks have few flat surfaces. On the plus side, HEAT shells must be fired at lower speeds, are good at any range, and many are now built with a fragmentation capability to make them useful for anti-personnel work. The AP type shells are less effective at longer ranges. Similar to HEAT, more expensive and still in use, is the HESH (High Explosive Squash Head) shell. This item hits the tank, the explosive warhead squashes, and then explodes. The force of the explosion goes through the armor and causes things to come lose and fly about the inside of the tank (the spall effect). The vehicle may appear unharmed, but the crew and much of its equipment are not. Works at any range but is somewhat defeated by spaced and composite armor.

 

Then there is the controversy over the health issues associated with depleted uranium, which is a metal that is one of the heaviest known. It is very effective at punching holes through enemy tanks. It is so named because all the harmful radiation has been "depleted" from it as a by-product of manufacturing nuclear fuel.  But because it's still considered a "nuclear" material it is controlled by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In effect, these anti-tank shells are technically "nuclear weapons." U.S. export laws had to be changed to allow the export of depleted uranium ammo.

 

Early on there were rumors that depleted uranium created dangerous levels of radiation when handled or used. In reality, depleted uranium is no more toxic than tungsten and other heavy metals. It is true that when depleted uranium penetrators go through armor, and come under enormous stress, they do produce brief, but high, bursts of radiation. This seems to be because a chunk of depleted uranium will absorb most of the radiation it produces through normal decay, which it cannot do once shattered. However, it is unlikely that the resulting "pulse" of radiation will cause injury or illness, particularly given the damage produced by the explosive effect and shell fragments inside a vehicle hit. The Poles don’t have any depleted Uranium, so they will be using tungsten.

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1 avril 2014 2 01 /04 /avril /2014 15:20
U.S. Army M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank, Company C, 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division

U.S. Army M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank, Company C, 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division

 

April 1, 2014 Strategy Page

 

Although the United States Army still owns 7,000 M1 tanks, less than 20 percent of them are actually in service. That’s the 1,288 M1 tanks in 92 M1 companies with 14 tanks per company. There are no more tank battalions. Instead there are Combined Arms battalions in Heavy Brigades. Each of these battalions have two tank companies (and two infantry companies). Meanwhile the army is continuing its downsizing, going from 16 armored brigades (64 M1 companies) to ten (40 companies). The Army National Guard still has seven armored brigades (28 M1 companies). The reduction will remove 24 M1 companies leaving 952 M1 tanks in service.

 

Each crew has four men, giving the U.S. 3,808 M1 tank crewmen. The army is hustling to retrain all these tank crews for conventional combat. During the last decade many tank companies were used as infantry or to operate MRAP vehicles. The army is using lots of simulators to retrain the tank crews and this cuts costs a lot. These simulators have become more common since the 1990s and have proved to be very effective in quickly and cheaply teaching useful skills to tank crews. After lots of simulator time, the crews perform very effectively when they take the tanks out and do all the moving and firing under realistic (or even combat) conditions.

 

All those additional M1 tanks are there if there is a major war. With all the simulators it is easier and quicker to train more crews than it is to build more M1 tanks.

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19 mars 2014 3 19 /03 /mars /2014 08:30
Israeli Armor, Artillery Corps Shifting Emphasis

 

Mar. 9, 2014 - By BARBARA OPALL-ROME – Defense News

 

Revamp Agendas in Common Bid To Boost Firepower, Maneuver

 

TEL AVIV — Tighter budgets and changing threats are forcing specialized Israeli Army corps to temper parochial ambitions to bolster a smaller, fire-fortified, combined arms maneuvering force.

Just a year ago, Israel’s Artillery Corps was crafting a new mission statement and doctrine to transition from its traditional role of fire support to the leading ground force provider of standoff attack. Its Fire2025 master plan aspired to one-shot, one-target accuracy at increasingly long ranges, with saturation fire relegated to second-tier status.

At the same time, the Armored Corps was championing its own agenda to sustain outyear production of main battle tanks, mitigate downsizing and preserve its capacity for conventional war.

But reassessments in recent months are accenting a more interdisciplinary strategy for training, organizing and equipping Israel’s future ground force, seeking benefits beyond corps-specific parochial agendas, officers here said.

“In the end, we determined that as an integral and central component of the ground forces, we needed to view ourselves first and foremost as a supporting organization to enable the Army to achieve its objectives,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Riftin, commander of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Artillery Corps. “In parallel, we will build capabilities to enable accurate means of standoff attack.”

In a late February interview, he acknowledged that the return to traditional support priorities “was not easy to swallow” by members of Israel’s gunner community.

For years, artillery proponents, including Riftin, had envisioned network-enabled ground-based systems as an option to airpower for a spectrum of scenarios demanding precision standoff attack.

“We’re still pursuing the vision,” Riftin said of revamped plans. “But in the end, I understood that the Corps will be much more significant if we continued to accent the element of support.”

Brig. Gen. Shmuel Olansky, IDF chief armored officer, conceded similar resistance among the close-knit armored community to downsizing armored reserve forces by several brigades. He also acknowledged that plans to infuse all armored battalions with organic infantry capabilities optimized for urban war has sparked accusations that the Corps was sacrificing its capacity for conventional war.

“It’s emotion and a matter of pride. ... I meet often with critics — many of them are my former commanders — and I admit there are no guarantees that what we’re doing now is correct,” Olansky said. “But I’m confident that the direction we’re going in today is most appropriate for reasonable scenarios.”

Nevertheless, Olansky noted, “If, in 10 years, we face concerted, mass attack from a combination of armies...” He intentionally declined to complete the thought.

 

Accent on Combined Arms

By the end of 2016, each active-duty armored battalion will have its own organic specialty company composed of reconnaissance, observation and mortar platoons. An identical plan will be implemented later for the reserve force, Olansky said.

New combat support specialty companies will replace older-model tank companies slated for retirement. They’ll be trained to operate “shoulder-to-shoulder” with main battle tanks as an integral part of armored forces optimized for maneuvering in urban and heavily forested arenas.

“We don’t need to build a force only for mass maneuvering war, but for what we call war between wars where the enemy is less visible, less likely to engage us directly, yet lethally equipped with advanced anti-tank missiles,” Olansky said. “This means our future force must be flexible to transition rapidly to different warfare scenarios. It means we need more precise tank rounds and the ability to respond in real time to targeting data coming from various sources.”

Col. Nadav Lotan, commander of the IDF’s 7th Armored Brigade, said new capabilities provided by specialty mortar platoons extend the battalion’s operational envelope.

“Mortars will be able to reach ranges that the tank doesn’t have. It’s a significant boost in operational effectiveness,” Lotan said during a recent interview in the Golan Heights.

Plans call for equipping the Armored Corps’ organic mortar forces with infantry-operated Keshet, an M113-based 120mm recoil mortar system by Elbit Systems.

Riftin is evaluating upgraded infantry maneuvers with Humvee-mounted ELM-2106 Windshield tactical radars, the IDF’s choice over the US AN/TPQ-48. Radar producer Elta Systems, a subsidiary of state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, is expected to deliver demonstration radars by summer, and Riftin’s Artillery Corps is forming teams to operate the system alongside Keshet against rocket and mortar threats.

 

Good-Enough Precision Rockets

The Artillery Corps has designated a new precision rocket by state-owned Israel Military Industries (IMI) as its weapon of choice for bridging immediate needs with future plans for standoff strike.

Known here as Romach, the rockets are designed to strike within 5 meters of targets some 35 kilometers away. Once fully deployed, Romach will offer an accurate alternative to unguided rockets and artillery shells whose use — while legal under international law — is increasingly ill-suited for urban war.

Launched from a standard multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), Riftin hailed Romach as “an excellent, pragmatic solution” to shift from so-called statistic weaponry, which constitutes 95 percent of his force and is much more prone to inflicting collateral damage.

“Our need to operate in built-up areas demands across-the-board shift from statistic weaponry toward a new inventory based on precision,” Riftin said. “But since the best precision weaponry is very expensive, we need to go with cost-effective capabilities that may not be the best, but are good enough.”

Multiyear plans call for mass procure-ment of the IMI-developed system. The firm is working on supplying some 1,000 rockets to support deployment of the IDF’s first Romach battery in November.

Riftin said his organization is crafting the operational concept for Romach operations following its successful conclusion of rigorous field tests.

“It’s proven itself in terms of precision,” he said. “The range is a little shorter than we would have liked, but it still fires more or less to the boundaries of a division. And since it uses a common MLRS launcher, we don’t need to change platforms or people. The only thing we’re changing is the certification process.”

He said Romach meets parallel requirements to provide fire support for maneuvering forces and for accurate targeting of two-story structures in urban, anti-terror operations. “It’s the ideal ‘good enough’ option that allows us to straddle both worlds at a reasonable cost.

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5 juin 2013 3 05 /06 /juin /2013 12:30
Zulfiqar (Zolfaqar) main battle tank

Zulfiqar (Zolfaqar) main battle tank

June 4, 2013 armyrecognition.com

 

The Iranian Army has equipped its tanks and armored vehicles with a smart system to divert incoming enemy missiles, an army commander said on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Lieutenant Commander of the Army Ground Force General Kiomars Heidari told FNA that the new generation of home-made Zolfaqar tanks has been designed and manufactured.

 

As regards the features of the new tank, Heidari said, "Reactive body is one of the specifications of Zolfaqar tanks."

 

He explained that reactive body is part of the tank's body which is smart and is capable of defusing the impact of incoming enemy missiles.

 

"The system will be mounted on all armored vehicles of the Army Ground Force," Heidari announced.

 

Zolfaqar is a second generation of Iran's main battle tank (MBT). The test prototypes of the tank were evaluated in 1993. Six semi-industrial prototypes of the tank were produced and tested in 1997. The tank has a distinctive box-shaped, steel-welded turret of local design. Zolfaqar combat weight is reported to be 36 tons and has a 780 hp diesel engine; the tank has a 21.7 hp per ton ratio.

 

Zolfaqar is operated by a crew of three personnel. The automatic loader is believed to be the same one from the T-72 tank.

 

In February, Commander of the Iranian Army Ground Force Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan said that Iran's newly unveiled optimized home-made tank has higher capabilities compared with Russian T-72 main battle tanks.

 

"Today, Zolfaqar has outpaced T-72 tanks in some specifications after it was optimized in various aspects," Pourdastan said in a ceremony to unveil two optimized versions of home-made tanks at the time.

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25 avril 2013 4 25 /04 /avril /2013 07:50

25 April 2013 Defense Studies

 

Eight of the SAF's Leopard 2SG MBTs and four of the Bundeswehr's Leopard 2A6 MBTs were involved in the joint live-firing exercise at the NATO-Bergen Training Area, Germany  (all photos : Sing Mindef)

Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen visited the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) troops participating in Exercise Panzer Strike at the NATO-Bergen Training Area, Germany, on 23 April 2013.

During his visit, Dr Ng was briefed on the conduct of the exercise and witnessed a successful bilateral live-firing involving the 2nd Company of the 48th Battalion of the Singapore Armoured Regiment and their German counterparts from the Bundeswehr's 33rd Panzer Battalion. Both armies had been engaged in rigorous training and exchange of pointers in the lead-up to the joint exercise, which involved the execution of tactical manoeuvres.
 


Speaking to the servicemen at the visit, Dr Ng emphasised the importance of overseas training in providing realistic and challenging training opportunities for the SAF to hone its operational readiness and extended his appreciation to them for their professionalism and dedication. Giving his thoughts on the exercise, Dr Ng said, "I think all servicemen recognise and realise that they have to optimise these very precious training resources. It makes a big difference for them, they know that that once they have done this, they are very confident that they can fire accurately on the move and they are confident as a crew. I think that is something they have achieved that cannot be taken away from them - that they feel very confident of themselves."

 


Exercise Panzer Strike is the fifth in the series and has included a bilateral live-firing component for the second consecutive year. It will involve more than 1300 armour personnel, 14 Leopard 2SG Main Battle Tanks and 11 Bionix I Infantry Fighting Vehicles. These training opportunities in Germany have helped build up the professionalism and capabilities of the SAF Armour. Due to a recent agreement, SAF Armour will now be able to double their training time in Germany.

(Sing Mindef)

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25 avril 2013 4 25 /04 /avril /2013 07:35
ZBL09 IFV (VN1 Export) 8x8

ZBL09 IFV (VN1 Export) 8x8

 

April 24, 2013: Strategy Page

 

Four years ago China revealed an assault gun version of its ZBL 09 8x8 wheeled armored vehicle. This version has a small turret containing a 105mm gun, for providing direct fire support for troops. There was already an artillery version, carrying a 122mm howitzer in a larger turret. There are several other versions, and apparently more on the way.

 

The Chinese Army has been recently referring to this vehicle as a wheeled light tank. It’s unclear if this means a new doctrine about how the ZBL 09/105mm is to be used, or if the vehicle remains assigned to infantry support work with some extra training for shooting up other armored vehicles. The 105mm gun carried is not powerful enough to destroy most modern tanks, but could knock out most other armored vehicles.

 

The basic ZBL 09 is a 21 ton vehicle that has a crew of three and carries seven passengers. The vehicle is 8 meters (25 feet) long, three meters (9.2 feet) wide and 2.1 meters (6.5 feet, to the hull roof) high. It's amphibious, and has a top water speed of 8 kilometers an hour. On roads, top speed is 100 kilometers an hour, and max road range on internal fuel is 800 kilometers. The infantry carrier version has a turret with a 30mm autocannon. There are also artillery versions carrying either a 105mm or 122mm howitzer.

 

The ZBL 09 entered service in 2009, and some combat brigades are being equipped with it, to operate somewhat like the American Stryker brigades. China has been developing new wheeled armored vehicles for over a decade. Until recently, these were all based on Russian designs. The ZBL 09, however, borrows more ideas from the West. Still, some of the more recent (five years ago) Russian type designs were interesting, and instructive.

WMZ551 of the Sri Lanka Army Mechanized Infantry Regiment

WMZ551 of the Sri Lanka Army Mechanized Infantry Regiment

Back then, for example, the 18 ton, 6x6 WMZ551A model was given a new turret. The vehicle has a crew of three and can carry nine more troops. Using technology and weapons obtained from Ukraine, the new vehicle has a 30mm autocannon, instead of 25mm. More importantly, the new turret has an improved fire control system (containing a laser range finder, and a vidcam that shows the vehicle commander what the gunner sees.) This is apparently related to earlier Chinese efforts to upgrade its BMP1 tracked infantry fighting vehicles, with BMP3 turrets from Russia. These also have the 30mm cannon. The main problem with all these upgrades was money. The government wanted Chinese-made weapons to be used, as they are cheaper, and supply is more assured. But the Chinese manufacturers didn't want to move up to the 30mm autocannon design just yet. Many Chinese generals believed that the Chinese 25mm autocannon was sufficient. All that has changed.

There was always agreement that an improved fire control system was a good thing. But there was not much space available inside a BMP. Some export models of the BMP3, when equipped with a thermal imager, had to mount some of that gear on the outside of the vehicle. There was also agreement that wheeled armored vehicles for the infantry might be a better investment.

The Chinese have been observing NATO success in Iraq with the Stryker and LAV wheeled combat vehicles. Chinese designers eventually concluded that the roomier internal layout of Western vehicles did serve a useful purpose, and the ZBL 09, and all the electronics installed in it, are an example of what the Chinese learned.

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