On track: while wheeled vehicles offer more practicality in terms of deployment and running costs, although their tracked counterparts appear to be no more expensive to build and, for any given overall width, tend to yield more internal space.
Wiesel 2 Treading Lightly
The Rheinmetall Wiesel 2 remains the lightest tracked armoured vehicle in service with a combat weight of only 4.1 tonnes. In 2004 the company received a 31 million [euro] contract to supply the German Army with 32 Wiesel 2 Mobile Command Post vehicles with an option for a further 16. Deliveries will be spread over a two-year period from mid-2005. The digitised command posts will be used by the army's Division of Special Operations. This is the sixth version of the Wiesel 2 to be ordered by the Bundeswehr since 1996.
The Wiesel 2 builds on the success of the Wiesel 1, of which 345 were delivered from 1989 to 1992. Rheinmetall completed the prototype of the larger Wiesel 2 in 1994 as a private venture. With twice the internal volume of the Wiesel 1 the company anticipated the army would find a wide range of roles for the new vehicle. Germany's CH-53 helicopters are able to carry two Wiesel 1s or Wiesel 2s internally.
The first production order for the Wiesel 2 was in 1995 for the army's LeFlaSys light mechanised short-range air defence system. The order included 50 missile launch vehicles carrying Rheinmetall Asrad air defence systems with four ready-to-launch Stinger missiles, ten platoon command posts with the Ericsson Hard radar and seven battery command post vehicles. The army has since bought 20 Wiesel 2 ambulances, four combat engineer reconnaissance vehicles and two 120mm self-propelled mortar vehicles for trials. The service could order up to 94 mortar, 22 forward observer, 26 fire control, 23 command post and 45 ammunition transport vehicles.
Turkey Expands ACV
FNSS, a joint venture between United Defense and the Turkish Nurol Group, recently completed the last of 2249 Armoured Combat Vehicles, a derivative of the M113, for the Turkish Land Forces Command. The IFV variant has a one-man turret armed with a 25 mm cannon and a 7.62mm co-axial machine gun. FNSS has sold 136 vehicles to the UAE and 211 to Malaysia.
FNSS has since developed the ACV-Stretched. The seven prototypes built to date have included variations sporting an M2 Bradley turret modified to carry a 30 mm cannon, an anti-tank turret with four Hellfire missiles and the Thales Swarm stabilised weapon and reconnaissance turret armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun. At the Idex exhibition earlier this year FNSS exhibited an ACV-S fitted with the turret of the Russian BMP-3 (see Idex Show Report in this issue).
General Dynamics' Spanish subsidiary, General Dynamics, Santa Barbara, is scheduled to continue production of the Ascod for the Spanish Army until 2010, although production at Austrian subsidiary Steyr-Daimler-Puch will conclude in 2005.
The two companies developed the Ascod family of vehicles to meet the needs of the Austrian and Spanish armies. Later this year Austria will receive the last of 112 Ulans, the local designation for the Ascod, which were ordered in 1999. It remains to be seen if the army can secure funding for additional Ulans. Deliveries of Spain's initial 123 Pizarro (as the vehicle is known in Spain) and 21 command vehicles were completed in 2002. Deliveries of a follow-on contract for 170 IFVs, five command vehicles, 28 forward observer vehicles, eight recovery vehicles and one combat engineer vehicle are scheduled to begin this year and be completed in 2010. The Spanish Army is also currently seeking mortar carriers, anti-tank missile carriers and 105 mm-armed tank destroyers.
In the IFV configuration standard to both armies the Ascod has a crew of three and carries seven soldiers. The two-man turret is armed with a 30 mm dual feed, gas-operated Mauser Mk 30-2 automatic cannon and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. The hull and turret are constructed from all-welded steel armour that defeats 14.5 mm AP rounds over the frontal arc and 7.62mm all round. Additional ballistic protection can be fitted to defeat up to 30 mm APFDS rounds over the frontal are and 14.5 mm AP ammunition all round.
The Ascod can be fitted with a variety of 105 mm turrets, such as Oto Melara's 105 Low Recoil Force Turret and General Dynamics Low Profile Turret. The Rooikat turret is being fitted to 15 vehicles ordered for the Royal Thai Marine Corps. This order, which also includes one command and one recovery vehicle, is the first export sale of the Ascod.
The Dardo (see subtitle picture) was developed by Consortium Iveco-Oto Melara to operate alongside the Ariete tank in the Italian Army's heavy brigades. The initial production order placed in 1998 covered 196 IFVs equipped with the Hitfist turret for delivery from 2002 until 2004 and prototypes of four specialised variants: anti tank, 120 mm mortar, command post and ambulance. To complete the equipping of the three heavy brigades additional orders for 300 Dardos, including the specialist variants, are expected.
The standard 23-tonne Dardo carries a commander, driver, gunner and six troops. The Hitfist turret is armed with an Oerlikon KBA 25 mm dual feed automatic cannon and a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun, but can also be fitted on each side with a single Tow launcher. The vehicle's hull and turret are of all-welded aluminium armour to which an additional layer of ballistic steel is fitted. The Dardo is powered by the same Iveco 8260 V-6 4-stroke turbocharged diesel engine as the Centauro.
As an alternative to the 25 mm turret Oto Melara has developed a Hitfist turret armed with the ATK Gun Systems Mk 44 30/40 mm Bushmaster II cannon; this is the turret selected by Poland the IFV variants of its Patria AMV. Oto Melara has also developed as a private venture the T60/70A turret armed with the OTO 60/70 60 mm rifled gun. The objective is to produce a weapon that can defeat any armoured vehicle short of a tank. Tow launchers can also be mounted either side of the turret. The Italian Army might include Tow-equipped turrets in its anticipated follow-on order for the Dardo.
CV90 Conquers Europe
The BAE Systems Hagglunds CV90 is the most widely fielded West European-designed tracked IFV with 1125 vehicles ordered to date. The Royal Netherlands Army became the fifth customer for the Swedish-designed vehicle when it signed a 749 million [euro] order on 13 December 2004 for 184 CV9035s to be delivered between 2007 and 2010.
Development of the CV90 began in 1984 to meet the needs of the Swedish Army and the service has since ordered 549 vehicles in several variants. The most numerous is the CV9040 IFV equipped with the Bofors 40 mm L/70 gun. With a crew of three the 22,800-kg vehicle carries an eight-strong infantry squad in the troop compartment.
The other Swedish versions are the 40 mm-armed TriAD (Autonomous Armoured Air Defence) System, the CV90 Forward Observation Vehicle, the CV90 Forward Command Vehicle and the CV90 Armoured Recovery Vehicle. Since 2001 the army has fitted 55 vehicles with passive armour kits for international operations. Sweden is evaluating the Patria Hagglunds twin 120 mm Amos mortar on the CV90 chassis.
The CV9030, armed with an ATK 30 mm Bushmaster II Chain Gun, was developed for the export market. Norway became the launch customer when it ordered 104 CV9030Ns in 1994 and the army has an unfunded requirement for a further 20 to 30 vehicles. Deliveries are underway of the 186 CV9030CH vehicles, armed with the ATK MK 44 30/40 mm cannon, bought by Switzerland in 2000. Finland ordered 57 vehicles (designated the CV 9030Fin) also armed with the Mk 44 cannon in 2000 and placed a follow-on order in December 2004 for a further 45.
The CV9035 selected by the Netherlands is the latest development of the CV90. Armed with a Bushmaster III 35/50 mm cannon it offers enhanced firepower, survivability, mobility, ergonomics and advanced electronic architecture with integrated C4I systems. The commander has a rotating cupola for maximum visibility and both the commander and gunner have fully stabilised day and night sights with third-generation thermal cameras.
Greece regards the CV90 as one of the options to meet its army's need for a tracked IFV following the demise of Elbo's Kentaurus design. Denmark is discussing with the Swedish government the acquisition of the 50 to 60 CV9040 that may become surplus following cuts to the Swedish Army.
BMP-.3 Conquers the Rest
The other very successful tracked vehicle comes from the East in the form of the Kurganmashzavod BMP-3. This vehicle entered production in the late 1980s and has since been exported (over 600 units) to at least seven countries, amongst which are the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Cyprus and South Korea.
A recent variant, developed by Kurganmashzavod and Electromashina, was sold to South Korea and is expected to be adopted by the Emirates. In fact, the vehicle that was used for approval trials in Russia and in the Emirates was displayed at the Idex exhibition in Abu Dhabi in February 2005. Externally, the first element that catches the eye is the Transmash Shtora-1 anti-missile system that adorns the two sides of the turret (although the BMP-3 is also offered with KBM Arena-E active self-protection system that fires warheads in the path of incoming weapons). The gunner now has a Sozh-M sight with a laser rangefinder and anti-tank guided missile channel, a Vesna-K second-generation thermal sighting system and an AST-B automatic tracker to improve the on-the move firing of 9M117M1 missiles through the 100 mm barrel. Also new is the turret's missile autoloader, which cuts loading times by a factor of six. The commander now receives a TKN-A1 day and night sight with laser pulse illumination.
The BMP-3 also sees its performance substantially increased with the adoption of a UTD-32T turbocharged diesel that yields 660 hp (against 500 previously). The driver's workspace has also been improved with the installation of a TVK-1 day-night binocular sight and an automatic gear selector. For everyone's comfort, the vehicle carries a seven-kW KBM-3M2 air-conditioning unit (or the even more powerful KBM-3 for hotter climates up to 50[degrees]C) as well as a Raduga-2 fire extinguishing system.
BMD, but Now-4
The decision was taken in December 2004 to put the BDM-4 in production for the Russian airborne forces. A first prototype (as seen on our photograph) was displayed at the Russian Army exhibition in 2004 and is loosely based on the BMD-3. The latter was developed by the Volgograd Tractor Plant, but while having a new hull it basically had the same firepower as its predecessor, the BDM-2. KBP thus embarked on the development of the BDM-4 by adapting a totally new turret and substantially modifying the hull (in KBP's own words "the development was based on sub-assemblies of the BMD-3"). Featuring a 100 mm gun able to fire missiles the -4 basically follows the current worldwide trend of providing lighter vehicles with a firepower close to that of tanks. The BMD-4 carries over a number of features introduced into the turret of the BMP-3, particularly in terms of armour, electronic suite and fire control, but can operate at altitudes of 4000 metres and 'sail' in sea state 3. It is also equipped with a Glonas or GPS Navstar navigation system.
The stabilised 100 mm 2A70 gun (with autoloader) fires both 7000-metre range high-explosive fragmentation shells and 9M117M1-3 Arkan guided missiles. The latter is able to defeat heavily armoured targets (700 to 750 mm penetration capability) at a range of 5500 metres, and a 30 mm automatic gun firing Kerner armour-piercing subcalibre rounds completes the armament. The 13.6-tonne ship carries a crew of two plus five soldiers over a range of 700 km at a maximum road speed of 70 km/h.
Russia's Heavy Medium
Taking a totally opposite stance, and basing its argument of the fact that experience in Iraq has shown that the best way for infantry to follow a tank with proper protection is another tank, Uralvagonzavod has embarked on the design of an armoured fighting vehicle based on the hull of a T-72. Designated BMPT, it carries a low-profile turret armed with a 2A42 twin-barrel 30 mm canon mount fed by an 850-round magazine and flanked by two pairs of Shturm-SM missile launchers. The missiles can be equipped with Heat or thermobaric warheads. Completing the armament, two lateral sponsons each house a 1700 metre-range 30 mm AG-17D stabilised grenade launcher able to fire at +/- 30 degrees (each operated by gunners seated on either side of the driver. The 2A42 guns have an effective range of 4000 metres (but can hit a 3500-metre-distant helicopter) while the missiles are intended to knock out heavily armoured targets at 5500 metres.
The BMPT is only 1.95 metres high and carries a crew of five: the aforementioned driver and grenade gunners, plus the commander and the gunner. The latter uses a multi-channel sight with independent two-plane stabilisation that can detect point targets in daylight and at night. The armament is stabilised in two planes and is remotely controlled by electro-mechanical drives. At the disposal of the commander are 200-degree field-of-view viewers, and a day/night sight (as can be seen sitting at the top of the structure in the photograph).
Bionix Awaiting Export
The Bionix was developed by Singapore Technologies Kinetics to meet the requirements of the Singapore Armed Forces. The first production vehicle, a Bionix 25 IFV, was completed in 1997. This version has a two-man turret armed with an ATK M242 25 mm cannon and 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. A seven-strong infantry squad is carried in the rear troop compartment. This initial version was followed into production by the Bionix 40/50 APC, which has a cupola armed with a CIS 40 mm Grenade Launcher and a CIS 50 MG 12.7 mm heavy machine gun. The Bionix 40/50 has a crew of three and is able to carry nine infantrymen in the troop compartment. The Bionix 40/50 has a combat weight of 21,500 kg compared to the 23,000 kg of the Bionix 25. According to The Military Balance the SAF acquired 250 of each model. ST Kinetics also built Bionix recovery and bridge-layer variants for the army.
To allow a larger turret to be carried and increase internal volume ST Kinetics has proposed developing a stretched version. Moving in the opposite direction the company developed a lighter (16,964 kg) version of the Bionix in an unsuccessful bid to win the US Army's medium interim armoured vehicle requirement, and was prepared to use this as the basis for the nine variants required by the army. It is still being offered for export.
The Bv Series
The market leader in the field of tracked articulated all-terrain vehicles is the Hagglunds (now in the BAE Systems fold), which has produced more than 11,000 non-armoured Bv 206 vehicles for some 40 customers.
In the late 1980s Hagglunds developed the armoured Bv 206S (combat weight 7000 kg) and in the mid-1990s the larger BvS10 (combat weight up to 11,500 kg). The Bv 206S is basically an armoured version of the Bv 206 with two articulated tracked units linked together; it retains the amphibious capabilities of the non-armoured vehicle. When used as an APC the Bv 206S can carry four personnel in the front unit and eight in the rear. All-welded steel armour provides protection against 7.62 mm ball ammunition and shell splinters. The Germany Army has a requirement for about 200 Bv206S vehicles and placed an initial order for 31 ambulances in 2002. This was followed in December 2004 by the purchase of a further 75 vehicles worth approximately 58 million [euro] to equip Gebirgsjager mountain infantry units. The Bv206S has also been bought in smaller numbers by the armed forces of France (12), Italy (60), Spain (50) and Sweden (17).
Some 108 BvS10 were ordered in 2000 by the Royal Marines. The BvS10 is similar in layout to the Bv 206S with two articulated units, but offers much improved load capacity. The front unit accommodates four personnel and the rear unit ten. The Royal Marines are acquiring three variants: the basic troop carrying vehicle, a command vehicle and a repair and recovery vehicle. Deliveries are scheduled to be completed later in 2005.
Seeking to gain a share of this lucrative market Singapore Technologies Kinetics developed the amphibious All-Terrain Tracked Carrier (ATTC), know as the Bronco for export purposes, in the late 1990s. Like its Swedish competitor, the ATTC consists of two tracked units coupled by an articulated hydraulic joint. The front unit accommodates up to six personnel and the rear unit up to ten. To compliment the basic troop carrier the company has demonstrated ambulance, engineer and re-supply variants. It is proposing further models for such roles as command and control and weapons carrier. The Singapore Armed Forces has fielded an unspecified number since 2001 with some unconfirmed sources suggesting that as many as 500 could be bought.
In 2004 the Finnish Defence Forces conducted extensive trials of both the Bronco and the BvS10. In mid-year it awarded Patria Hagglunds a contract to study technologies for its Future All Terrain Vehicle requirement to replace its unarmoured Patria Vehicles NA series of ATVs that are used in a wide range of roles, including as weapon carriers. The study is scheduled for completion in March 2005.
Thick Skin for the Puma
Designed to be carried by the Airbus Military A400M, the new Puma will have a baseline weight of 31.45 tonnes at Protection Level A (Airtransportable) making it the heaviest purpose-built IFV in the world. This will protect against 14.5 mm attack and at least a ten-kg landmine blast. If the threat warrants armour modules can be added to the hull and turret to provide Protection Level C (Combat) to defeat handheld anti-tank weapons, 30 mm ammunition and top-attack bomblets. With this armour fitted the Puma will weight about 43 tonnes.
Low rate initial production of the Puma, described by industry participants as "the most important project of the German land systems industry", got the green light in December 2004 from the Bundestag's Budget Committee. The contract for this phase, valued at approximately 350 million [euro], will be awarded to Projekt System & Management, a 50:50-joint venture between Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. The army intends to acquire 410 Pumas, worth roughly 3.05 billion [euro], by 2012. The first Puma prototype, developed under a 2002 contract, is scheduled to be rolled out by end-2005.
To increase volume in the hull the Puma will have a remotely controlled turret for the new Mauser Mk 30-2/ ABM (Air Burst Munition) 30 mm dual-feed cannon. Two hundred rounds of 30 mm ammunition will be carried in the turret bustle and 500 rounds for the co-axial MG4 5.56 mm machine gun. The Puma will carry nine personnel: a driver; the commander and gunner seated side by side in the hull and six soldiers in the rear troop compartment.
Wheels or Tracks for Sweden and Britain?
With an anticipated budget of six billion [pounds sterling] the Future Rapid Effect System (Fres) project to acquire a family of medium weight armoured vehicles for the British Army will be the largest programme the service has undertaken and one of the most important AFV projects in Europe.
The British Army's Future Army Structure will consist of two heavy brigades, equipped with legacy systems such as the Challenger 2 main battle tank and the Warrior, and three Fres medium brigades, with each vehicle expected to weigh 20 tonnes or less. The service plans to acquire more than 1300 Fres vehicles with some variants to be deployed within divisional and brigade headquarters, and within the heavy battle groups. The army's need is particularly acute as three projects over the past 15 years--the Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles, the Tracer and the Boxer--have been cancelled.
The exact Fres mix of variants will be determined during the assessment phase. It was originally planned to field the first Fres variants around 2007 or 2008, however the protracted delay in developing a procurement strategy means that this date has already slipped.
The Swedish Splitterskyddad Enhets Platform (Sep--Multirole Armoured Platform) is considered a strong contender to meet the Fres requirement. The Sep project is intended to provide a family of vehicles that can operate alongside the Swedish Army's Leopard 2s and CV90s with baseline protection against 14.5 mm AP attack. In the first stage the army plans to acquire 540 vehicles.
The Sep design approach involves three modules: a tracked or wheeled chassis, a crew module and a mission module. The first Sep-Tracked prototype was delivered to the Swedish FMV Defence Material Administration in 2002 and was joined in 2004 by the first wheeled Sep prototype. This is a 6 x 6 configuration with an electric transmission and electric motors in the wheel hubs. The second Sep-Tracked prototype, which is larger than the first, is believed to be closest to what the British Army is seeking for Fres. Both the Sep and Fres projects require vehicles that can be carried inside a C-130, although some British officials now suggest that not all Fres variants will be required to meet this criteria.
Future Combat Systems
The US Army estimates that it will spend no less than $115 billion developing and fielding the Future Combat Systems (FCS) and associated command and control architecture to as many as 43 active and reserve brigade units of action by 2025. Senior service officials have summarised the aim of the FCS project as combining "the lethality and survivability of the heavy force with the deployability of the light force".
The FCS Family
The FCS will consist of a C4ISR backbone and 18 core systems in three categories: manned ground vehicles (MGV), unmanned air vehicles and unmanned ground robotic vehicles. Within the FCS family there will be eight manned vehicles, each with a top speed of 90 km/h and a range of 750 km:
* The Command and Control Vehicle (C2V) will have a two-person crew, carry four command staff and be armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun or Mk 19 40mm automatic grenade launcher.
* The Reconnaissance and Surveillance Vehicle (R&S) will have a two-person crew and carry four dismounted scouts. It will be armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun or Mk 19 40 mm grenade launcher.
* The Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV) will carry a two-person crew and a nine-strong infantry squad and be armed with a Mk 44 30/40 mm cannon.
* The Mounted Combat System (MCS) will have a two-person crew and possibly carry two passengers. Its armament will consist of a 120 mm gun, a 12.7 mm machine gun and/or Mk 19 40 mm grenade launcher. The main armament will be capable of providing both direct fire and beyond line-of-sight fire to a range of eight km.
* The Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C) will have a two-strong crew. It will have a 12.7 mm machine gun or Mk 19 40 mm grenade launcher for close defence but the main armament has yet to be determined. The concept technology demonstrator developed by United Defense is a 155 mm weapon that fired its first round at the army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona on 26 August 2003.
* The Non-Line-of-Sight Mortar (NLOS-M) will have a four-person crew and be armed with a 120 mm smoothbore mortar and a 12.7mm machine gun or Mk 19 40 mm grenade launcher.
* The Medical Vehicle, it is planned, will be produced in Treatment (MV-T) and Evacuation (MV-E) configurations. The MV-E will carry a four-strong crew and have the capacity to evacuate up to four litter patients.
* The Recovery and Maintenance Vehicle (RMV) will have a three-person crew and be able to carry up to three passengers or one litter patient.
The army has yet to decide whether the MGVs will be based on a tracked or 8 x 8 chassis and technology demonstrators have been produced of both. However, with the first MGV, the NLOS-C, now scheduled to be ready in 2008, a decision must be made soon.
Under the revised FCS acquisition strategy that was announced in July 2004, FCS technology will be incrementally fielded from 2008 in spirals, initially to an experimental brigade combat team. The first spiral is expected to include rocket and missile launchers and robotic ground sensors, and development of the Nlos-C will be expedited to permit fielding in Fiscal Year 2008 (FY08). The second spiral should introduce a new tactical communications system and drones in FY10. The third is expected to field autonomous ground robots in FY12. The fourth spiral in FY14 should see the FCS battle command system operational and the first experimental brigade unit of action equipped with FCS vehicles, two to four years later than previously planned.
While the M113 and the Bradley still are primary vehicles in a number of army inventories in spite of their age, these are no longer in production - and even if some are undergoing heavy rejuvenating surgery they would belong to a survey on vehicle upgrade. The same applies to the Warrior and the Marder. They are thus out of the scope of this supplement.