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A successor to the AMX 13: the Mars 15.

A Successor to the AMX 13: The Mars 15

By way of a curtain-raiser, before the Satory Exhibition Creusot-Loire Industrie's Special Engineering Division has presented the first two prototypes of the new Mars 15 family of light armoured tracked vehicles: developed for the export market, the family belongs to the 15-18 tonnes weight category in full combat order, depending on the version.

Creusot-Loire has invested FF 40 million in the development of this new tracked vehicle, to which various subcontractors have to a greater or lesser degree contributed different components.

While sticking to the concept that made the success of the AMX 13, of which it is worth noting that 7700 units have been built since 1950 and 3400 exported to no less than about thirty countries, CLI has applied new technologies to the Mars 15 that make for easier operation and maintenance than its predecessor. It enjoys improved armour protection, greater mobility in rough terrain and reduced lifecycle costs.

The new family is built round a standard armoured carrier vehicle common to all the models and of which only the upper part of the rear section differs from one version to another: it can, however, be adapted to a large variety of weapons and equipment to suit different battlefield missions, whether in conventional combat or in a NBC environment.

Creusot-Loire presented an Infantry Fighting Vehicle and a 90 mm gun-armed tank: these two initial vehicles are to be followed by a number of others whose development will be determined by the needs of the market - an APC, an artillery observation vehicle, command vehicle, surveillance radar carrier, anti-tank vehicle, ambulance, anti-aircraft system, recovery vehicle, etc. The third prototype, which should be completed next year, will be a tank armed with a 105 mm NATO standard gun which would give it the same firepower as that of the Leopard 1 and M48, but a greater speed as its combat weight is not due to exceed 18 tonnes. A self-propelled 155 mm howitzer is also on the drawing board.

In order to afford more interior space, and also to respect the "family" design, the various components of the oleopneumatic suspension are all mounted on the outside of the chassis. Eschewing the traditional torsion bar design gives more free space. The suspension, which was designed and developed specially for the Mars 15, was the sole responsibility of SAMM (Societe d'Applications des Machines Motrices). The engine, a supercharged, front-mounted 400 horsepower diesel, was supplied by Baudouin. The automatic transmission (six forward and three reverse gears) combines the gear-changing, steering and braking functions and comes from the West German firm Renk. Valeo supplied the cooling system. Two final drive, running gear and track systems were chosen - one developed by the Swedish firm Hagglunds, the other by George Blair in the UK, Thanks to its average power-to-weight ratio of 25 HP/t, its long-travel suspension (350 mm) and its automatic gearbox with torque converter, the Mars 15 can attain a maximum speed of 75 km/h and has a good cross-country agility. By virtue of its oleopneumatic suspension, which smooths all obstacles, the crew has a more comfortable ride and the vehicle suffers less when moving cross-country.

Its weight and dimensions, with a width of less than three metres, give it good tactical mobility. Even the heaviest versions of the Mars 15 can be airlifted by Transall and Hercules. Carried on tank transporters they remain within the limits of commercially acceptable outsize loads, requiring no police authorization or escort, and carried by rail they impose no restrictions on traffic.

Special research has been devoted to simplifying the operation and maintenance of the Mars 15. An ergonomically designed driver's compartment eases the problem of driving, while maintenance is made easier by quick-dismantling systems (e.g. the powerpack can be exchanged in less than an hour), and fitting the vehicle with test terminals permits the rapid analysis of any malfunction with the aid of an electronic kit.

The armour protection of the Mars 15 family has benefited from Creusot-Loire's state-of-the-art developments in the fields of extrahard armour steel, composites and architectural design. Frontally, the vehicle is protected in a 60 [degrees] cone against hits from armour-piercing 14.5 mm munitions at 100 metres' range and 7.62 mm munitions at all distances, even in the case of top attack. The crew compartment is proof against 20 mm armour-piercing munitions at 200 metres' range.

The hull design makes it simple to install add-on armour, and adaptable turrets which might not afford the same armour protection as the hull can be up-armoured by Creusot-Loire.

The front-mounted engine, interior bulkheading and the mounting of several armour plates on the outside of the vehicle, which act as baffles, have enabled the designers to enhance the safety of the crew.

Creusot-Loire Industrie used laser-beam techniques in the machining and welding of the new-generation armour steel. This particular technique assures an uniform ballistic protection of the hull: by using more traditional techniques ten percent of the overall surface would have had a lower resistance to hull penetration because of the weakness of the weld seams (over-heating, heterogeneous composition due to the admixture of metal in the welding process). Quite apart from this, laser-beam techniques, due to the laser's pinpoint accuracy, enable production costs to be reduced by eliminating the need for making finishing touches, as with more traditional methods.

A number of systems help to ensure the Mars 15's survivability (anti-Molotov cocktail device, an ultra-rapid optical fire-detection and extinction system, reduced infrared, optical and radar signatures, etc.). On all the versions a hatch in the rear of the chassis permits an emergency bail-out protected from frontal fire.

The modular design which distinguishes Creusot-Loire's Mars 15 family is illustrated by the two prototypes that have been presented. The first is an Infantry Fighting Vehicle equipped with the two-man T 25 Creusot-Loire Industrie turret mounting a 25 mm M 242 Chain Gun and a coaxial 7.62 mm machine-gun; the second is a gun-armed tank equipped with the GIAT TS 90 turret mounting a 90 mm gun and 7.62 mm machine-gun. Creusot-Loire is prepared to consider the adaptation of all other types of turret to suit customer requirements, within the vehicle's carrying capacity.

Creusot-Loire has chosen a highly flexible marketing strategy for the Mars 15: it can either be built in the firm's St. Chamond factory or under license in other countries. Its procurement cost should not exceed that of the AMX 13.

PHOTO : The two mars 15 prototypes. The tank in the background is equipped with a 90 mm gun.

PHOTO : Two large doors provide easy access to the infantry combat vehicle version.
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Title Annotation:light armored track vehicles
Publication:Armada International
Date:Jun 1, 1990
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