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British Army equipment for the nineties.

British Army Equipment for the Nineties

Our UK Correspondent Reports from Aldershot, England

Centerpiece of the Vickers Defense Systems pavilion, and probably the most important new product at the show, was the Challenger II main battle tank under development for the British Army. Eight tanks had been delivered by the time of the Show, with a ninth due to be ready by the end of June. In addition to these complete vehicles, the company is also supplying two extra turrets for trials purposes.

In designing the new turret, Vickers made use of a simulator, which it brought to BAEE. Trying out an aircraft cockpit in this way is commonplace in the aerospace industry, but had never been done before on a British tank. Examination of the simulator interior showed a clean appearance far removed from the clutter of a Challenger I turret. For example, all the gunner's controls are either on his handgrips, or on a single panel to his right. The commander's station was equally neat.

One feature borrowed from the world of aerospace was the system's force-activated controller on the right-hand control grip. Since this is sensitive to pressure rather than movement, using it to place the aiming mark on targets does not disturb the user's hold on the control grips and their built-in switches.

The system is optimised for the fast engagement of two targets. As the gunner engaged the first target given to him, your correspondent was able to use the commander's sight and force controller to align his aiming mark on another. When the gunner reported the first target destroyed, pressing a button on the lefthand grip activated the laser ranger. Pressing another switch on the left grip aligned the gun with the commander's aiming mark, and a squeeze of the firing button sent a round on its way about two seconds after the first target had been reported knocked out.

A force controller was also featured on another MBT fire-control system demonstrator - Marconi Command and Control Systems' Centaur. Other features have been borrowed from the world of the personal computer. These include automatic built-in test on switch-on, pull-down menus, and synthesised-voice prompts. The system is fitted to the Engesa OSORIO main battle tank being supplied to Saudi Arabia, and has been trialled on the Vickers Mk.5, Vickers Mk.7 and on a Pakistani T-59.

At a time when many nations face shrinking defense budgets, many visitors may have considered Royal Ordnance's new 105 mm Improved Weapon System (IWS) to be the most significant new product on display. Developed as a replacement for the widely deployed 105 mm L7 and M68 tanks guns. this uses technology developed from Challenger's XL30 120 mm CHARM gun to make the penetration capability of the smaller calibre weapon equal to that of current 120 mm guns.

Designed as a direct replacement for the 105 mm gun, the IWS fits the existing cradle, and can fire all current NATO patterns of 105 mm ammunition. Its extra armour-defeating power comes from a new fin-stabilised, armour-piercing discarding sabot (APFSDS) round. This has a tungstennickel-iron penetrator with a mass around 40 per cent greater than that of conventional 105 mm rounds, also a higher length: diameter ratio and higher density. Most of the case is combustible, but the brass stub case has a slightly thicker extractor rim which ensures that it cannot accidentally be fired from an L7 or M68 gun: the breech of the latter weapon will be unable to close behind the new round.

In all other respects, the IWS round is physically similar in size to the older ammunition, and roughly the same weight, so is compatible with current ammunition racks. This allows the new gun to be easily retrofitted to a 105 mm-armed vehicle such as the Leopard 1, M60 or Centurion. Like the L7, it could also be used to modernise T-series main battle tanks. To counter the recoil effects of the higher-velocity round so that the existing recoil system may be retained, the barrel is fitted with a four-port muzzle brake derived from the six-port design used on the lightweight 105 mm gun.

Last October the gun was demonstrated at Eskmeals in the United Kingdom. A slab of armour on the Royal Ordnance stand showed its capability. A German 105 mm DM33 round had failed to penetrate, but the IWS round had punched through the steel. A presentation would be made to the Leo Club soon after the show, said RO, and firings would be carried out in West Germany later this year. The company also disclosed an agreement with GIAT Industries and Rheinmetall under which the three companies will cooperate on the development of the next generation of tank main armament.

Horstman Defense showed its new Super-Twin suspension system. Designed to replace the bogie-type suspension units currently used on the Centurion and Chieftain, it uses the existing mounting points on the hull. The Super-Twin is intended to improve cross-country ride capability, and to increase kill probability when firing on the move.

The company also showed a rotary damper designed for use on the Soviet T-54, T-55, T-62 and the Chinese T-59 tanks. The existing design is filled with a glycerine/alcohol mixture whose viscosity deteriorates sharply with rising temperature. The Horstman design is based on technology developed for the Warrior IFV, and uses the same space envelope. It has been trialled in Pakistan, an exercise which the company hopes could lead to an order later this year for units to retrofit around 200 MBTs. Egypt is also showing interest in possible licence production.

All the main AFV companies are offering vehicles to meet the British Ministry of Defence's Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV) requirement. This involves light vehicles ranging in weight from 3.5 to 24 tonnes, and able to fulfil 13 identified roles and 50 sub-roles.

GKN has based its proposal on its own Warrior series and the Mowag Piranha 6 X 6 and 8 X 8 wheeled vehicles, the FMC chassis used for the Bradley fighting vehicle and MLRS rocket system, plus special-to-role combat engineering equipment from Krupp MaK. Royal Ordnance has linked with Krauss-Maffei in a proposal which would use the German company's Puma tracked vehicle for almost half the 50 sub-roles. Alvis has based its proposals on its own Scorpion 2 and Stormer vehicles, plus the Hagglunds/AB Bofors CV90 tracked vehicle, the Empresa BMR 6 X 6 wheeled vehicle, and the Societe de Constructions Mecaniques Panhard et Levassor VBL 4 X 4 wheeled vehicle.

If anyone wanted to give an award for the most spectacular and noisy exhibit, the honours would have to go to Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering, whose presentation of the private venture 155 mm Ultralight Field Howitzer simulated (complete with rotor down-draught, dust clouds and noise) a helicopter deployment of the new gun. It was an impressive example of movie-style "special effects". The gun is impressive too. Developed for possible US Army and Marine Corps use, it has already been sent to the USA for trials.

A long pallet on the Shorts stand showed the latest proposed mounting for the Starstreak hypersonic missile. The four-round unit is designed to be fitted to the AH-64 Apache or Franco-German PAH-2 helicopters, or on the Boeing Avenger wheeled vehicle. Avenger carries a machine-gun plus two pallets of Stinger IR-homing SAMs, but Boeing is considering replacing one Stinger pallet with Starstreak. This would allow Avenger to attack strike aircraft at longer range, before they have time to release their ordnance.

Matra's Mistral light SAM seemed to be an odd exhibit at an exhibition of British equipment, but the system on display on the Thorn EMI stand was fitted with a thermal sight supplied by the British company and now being offered by Matra for use on export model Mistrals. Developed at the request of Matra, the new sight is based on Thorn EMI's hand-held imager, and fits onto the existing dovetail mounting point in place of the normal day sight. According to Thorn EMI other missile makers are showing interest in adapting the unit to their weapons.

By the standard of BAEE exhibitions during the 1980s, the number of new products was smaller than normal. Even so, some companies were still able to make the traditional press-day announcements of new orders. Hunting Engineering revealed that the Sultanate of Oman had become the seventh nation to order the LAW80 light anti-tank weapon, and would field the system with its Royal Guard. Shorts announced that Pakistan had doubled its order for Shorland S 55 armoured personnel carriers. A total of 24 will now be supplied to the Sind police.

GEC Ferranti Defence Systems showed Mapcase, a tactical map display and message-handling system for AFVs. This links the vehicles in a formation by radio burst transmissions. If necessary, burst are repeated until successful, and auto-rebroadcast facilities ensure that if a direct link between two vehicles is not possible, others will act as relay stations to pass on the message. Mission orders can more easily be sent as graphics than text, argues Ferranti, since this will reduce the amount of time which commanders spend marking up maps. As a further aid to reducing the vehicle commander's work-load, Mapcase will automatically send a contact report whenever the laser range-finder is used.

A tall mast near the mobility demonstration area was the most obvious evidence that Alvis was displaying its new Visor day/night observation system. The masthead housing contains a charge-coupled device (CCD) TV camera and thermal imager, while the nearby vehicle holds the associated electronics. Targets seen on the cathode-ray tube (CRT) displays can be noted and identified, their range obtained by laser-ranging or triangulation, then logged on an electronic map, and sent on to higher command via a burst radio link. If a second observation is made of a moving target, a vector arrow will appear on the relevant map symbol. The current system is simply a technology demonstrator based on off-the-shelf hardware including a commercially available mast.

Marconi Defence Systems showed its Unattended Radar Jammer, a tripodmounted unit weighing less than 10 kg and designed for infantry deployment to protect support operations by friendly helicopters and light strike aircraft. The unit is battery-powered, and can be programmed to become active at a present time. An omnidirectional antenna coupled to the unit's receiver allows the radar emissions from hostile aircraft to be detected. A directional horn antenna is then used to transmit a jamming signal. This may be noise jamming, or could incorporate what the company simply describes as "complex modulations". Several technology demonstration units operating in different frequency bands have now been built and tested, and the unit on display was delivered to the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE) several years ago, but had been borrowed back to make its public debut at BAEE.

Racal-Comsec showed the magnetic sensor developed for its Racal Classic ground sensor system. Primarily intended to detect vehicles, but able to respond to the metal of man-carried weapons, the new sensor can be used singly as a detector, or in a pair to give an indication of target direction of approach. It has already been trialled by the British Army, and about a third of the 15 or so current Classic users have purchased small evaluation batches. Racal is now working on a seismic line detector, a sensor better suited to monitoring a perimeter than current seismic probes. Experiments are under way to establish the feasibility of a seismic line, in the hope that it will be possible for several hundred metres of line to be connected to a single small processor unit.

In 1988 a group of 15 British companies entered into a three-year collaborative agreement with the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (Chertsey) to develop an integrated fighting vehicle electronics system for demonstration purposes. Known as VERDI (Vehicle Electronics Research Defense Initiative), this resulted in the showing at BAEE of a Warrior tracked vehicle configured for the reconnaissance role equipped with two VERDI consoles.

Each crew station has two cathode ray tube (CRT) displays able to show data such as text, positional and navigation information, symbolic overlays and surveillance sensor imagery. VERDI-equipped AFV positions appear on the electronic map complete with an arrow marking indicating sensor direction. The system is menu-driven, the items on the menus being selectable either by high-lighting or by typing their number-techniques which would be familiar to any user of personal computers. Some console switches contain lamps which indicate their current function, while others incorporate a matrix of light-emitting diodes which provide two lines each of four alphanumeric characters.

VERDI crew stations may be remote from the hardware they control, a feature which would allow the crew of a future fighting vehicle to be located in the positions which offer the best ballistic protection or mutual communication. Since the consoles are identical, crew functions could be swapped from one position to another. The current pilot system is a static demonstrator. By the summer of 1992, a full vehicle-mounted system will be ready for field trials. To judge from the attention which the pilot system received at Aldershot, the new vehicle will be one of the highlights of BAEE 1992.

PHOTO : The 105 mm IWS (Improved Weapon System) has a combustible case.

PHOTO : In view of East-West detente the future of Vickers' Challenger II main battle tank could

PHOTO : be affected by further defence budget cuts.

PHOTO : GKN showed its Desert Fighting Vehicle, a Warrior derivative with twin TOW-armed LAV 25

PHOTO : turret and Bushmaster gun.

PHOTO : Horstman Defence Systems' Super-Twin suspension fits the existing mounting points on

PHOTO : Centurion and Chieftain hulls.

PHOTO : Marconi's mock-up of the TAMS (Tank Anti-Missile System) CIWS for tanks, developed with

PHOTO : RO and Lucas Aerospace.

PHOTO : Anglo-French cooperation: the export version of the Matra Mistral featuring a Thorn EMI

PHOTO : thermal sight.

PHOTO : An interior view of the Vickers Challenger II turret simulator showing the improved

PHOTO : uncluttered ergonomic layout.

PHOTO : A view of the Marconi Defence Systems Unattended Radar Jammer.

PHOTO : Astra showed the GECAL 50 Gatling mounted on a vehicle. Normally it is a shipborne or

PHOTO : heliborne weapon.

PHOTO : Bedford's new MT 15-18 4 X 4 shown towing a Light Gun up and over the "knife-edge" test

PHOTO : hill at BAEE.

PHOTO : Budge has re-engined the Alvis with a Perkins Phaser 180 diesel, almost doubling its

PHOTO : operational range.

PHOTO : BAe has a MoD contract to upgrade the Swingfire heavy anti-tank missile with new CLOS

PHOTO : guidance and tracker systems.

PHOTO : A picture of the VERDI (Vehicle Electronics Research Defence Initiative) crew station in

PHOTO : the cabin of a Warrior AFV.
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Publication:Armada International
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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