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Urbe et bellum.

Urban combat is probably one of the most dangerous forms of warfare today. Not only has collateral damage to the civilian population become a very sensitive consideration, but rogue combatants, by not taking those considerations into play, have also increased their asymmetrical pressure to the extreme, blending into the population and using innocents as shields. Times when a city could be flattened by air raids in total impunity are well over.

Insurgents know perfectly well that they are almost invisible in a city, and should they be identified, they also know that there are very little chances that counter-fire will have opened up on them due to the presence of the civilian population within which they hide. And should an attack against them result in civilian casualties, they are quick to react to stir up worldwide propaganda, as was recently the case in Afghanistan when a Nato air raid unfortunately claimed the lives of 45.

Some may point (and have pointed) to the fact that urban warfare is not new. Granted, but what "human correctness" has really sparked off since the conflict that tore former Yugoslavia apart is for peacekeeping forces to minimise collateral damage--not only to civilians, but also to buildings and infrastructure. The essential difference with past conflicts is that an urban environment should still be urban when the conflict is over, not a heap of rubble. Those who visit Dubrovnik today will surely appreciate the nuance.

At some point it was claimed that one should not even try to enter a city with armoured vehicles. The sad truth is that there really is no alternative. This means that armoured vehicles have to be adapted to fight in such conditions until a new generation of fighting vehicle hits the streets. Vehicles now need all-round fire capability, meaning that machine guns slaved to a slow training turret (coaxial guns) have become something that confines with uselessness.

As a consequence, there is a growing tendency for vehicles to put on a tremendous amount of weight. Where one would normally use a 15- to 20-tonne armoured vehicle, now one has to think 25 to 30 tonnes. And the trend is still on the rise--including for troop transports, as evidenced by the numerous new generation 4 x 4s displayed at the Abu Dhabi Idex exhibition in early 2007. Prime responsibility for this embonpoint is a direct response to the proliferation of IEDs--Improvised Explosive Devices. We shall later touch the subject of drones in this survey, particularly when used as scout vehicles; however, in the context of explosive devices one may wonder why drones are not more extensively used to gather something that legal forces seem to be lacking in a most bitter manner, namely intelligence. Indeed, adding protection to a vehicle may well bring a victory in round one against IEDs. However, insurgents, who typically use artillery rounds or unused stocks of aircraft bombs to manufacture their booby traps, will soon learn that two 1000-pounders instead of one will eventually do the job to win round two.

Another trend that is evolving very rapidly is the development of active, hard-kill, self-protection systems for vehicles. The Russians (then Soviets) had pioneered the concept in the 1980s with the Shtora, but other less hazardous systems for a vehicle's immediate surrounding are currently being developed in Britain, Israel, France, Sweden, South Africa and Northern America to name but a few nations. They will eventually mature toward the end of this decade, and these systems already appear to stand a good chance of resolving the threat from anti-armour warheads. Sadly, there still is no cure against the phenomenal blast created by an improvised device as a short clip that can be seen on the Internet proves: it shows a Stryker being lifted and tossed over to its side after passing by a civilian vehicle packed with explosives. A compact sedan can carry as much as 250 kg of explosives, an up-market saloon twice as much. Another, clearer, clip shows a Stryker suffering the same treatment from what appeared to be a buried bomb (

In the meantime--and particularly since 2001--a number of vehicles and weapons are being adapted until a new generation rolls into service, not to mention aircraft to carry them.

The Stryker

In May the US Army's 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division deployed to the town of Tarmiyah in Iraq as part of an American military 'surge' intended to reduce insurgent violence in the Baghdad region. This was the scene of a concerted attack by insurgents on a US base in February that cost the lives of two US soldiers and wounded nearly 30 more. A press release from the public affairs office described the brigade's mission as, <<a tug-of-war with insurgents in the town,, in which <<the people of Tarmiyah are the rope.>> It is an apt description of a fierce counter-insurgency battle in a crowded urban environment. As Darpa director, Dr Tether noted, it is imperative that military forces identify their enemy and use an appropriate response to neutralise or destroy the enemy, while avoiding harming civilians or inflicting collateral damage. This is particularly important in security and stabilisation operations such as those underway as part of the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Equipped with the General Dynamics Land Systems 8 x 8 Stryker vehicle the new Stryker Brigade Combat Teams are infantry-laden and thus well suited for urban operations being able to put more 'boots on the ground' than the army's heavy brigades. The 4-2 Team is the first to deploy with the Stryker 105 mmarmed Mobile Gun System. The Stryker medium armoured vehicle programme comprises two main variants based on the General Dynamics--Canada LAV III: the Ml128 MGS (Mobile Gun System) and the Ml126 Infantry Carrier Vehicle, which also serves as the baseline for eight specialist configurations. The role of the MGS is not to engage tanks but to provide close support for dismounted infantry by destroying bunkers and punching holes in walls to provide access. Each Stryker infantry company will eventually include a platoon equipped with three MGS vehicles.

The Stryker will carry three types of 105 mm ammunition: the M393A3 high explosive plastic-tracer (Hep-T) round, the M456A2 high explosive anti-tank (Heat) round and the M1040 canister round. The M393A3 Hep-T round is designed for use against bunkers and urban targets. A key performance parameter is the ability to smash an opening in a double-reinforced concrete wall. The BT Fuze division of L-3 Communications is the prime contractor to the US Army for the production of the M393A3. The US Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (Ardec) awarded L-3 Communications a $ 22 million firm-fixed-price contract in March 2007 to produce M1040 canister rounds designed for use against infantry at ranges of 500 metres or less. The M456A2 Heat round gives the MGS the ability to engage any light armoured vehicles that might be encountered.

The Stryker teams have other weapons optimised for urban combat. When it became apparent that technical problems associated with the external gun and autoloader would delay the fielding of the MGS the army's Program Executive Office--Tactical Missiles funded the development of a bunker-buster warhead for Raytheon's BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-traced Wire-guided (Tow) missile for use with the Ml134 Stryker Anti-Tank Guided Missile variant. Each team has an anti-armour company of three platoons each with three Stryker ATGM vehicles armed with an elevating twin Tow missile launcher. An accelerated twelve-month joint government/contractor effort produced a new warhead that could be fitted on a modified Tow 2A missile without affecting the weapon's range or other flight characteristics. The project leveraged work that was done in developing a blast-fragmentation warhead for the army's Hellfire missile. The first production contract, awarded in June 2005, covered 50 missiles for qualification testing, 50 for field tests and 500 operational missiles. The US army expects that a series of improvements will keep the Tow in service through 2025.

Stryker infantry platoons are also equipped with the shoulder-launched Javelin medium-range fire-and-forget missile, produced by the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin Joint Venture. In service since 1996 this top-attack missile is fitted with a tandem warhead with two shaped charges optimised to defeat main battle tanks fitted with explosive reactive armour.

The army plans to integrate the Javelin with the Kongsberg Protector Remote Weapon Station fitted on its Ml126 Strykers. Production of the improved Block 1 missile and CLU (Command Launch Unit) began in September 2006. It features an enhanced rocket motor that reduces the missile's time of flight and includes improvements to the launcher, software updates and increased warhead lethality against a wider range of target sets. Future enhancements include an extension of the missile's range (which also presupposes a serious increase in the launcher's sighting system).

The Javelin has been sold to nine countries--Australia, the Czech Republic, Jordan Ireland, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Taiwan and Britain--and further sales are being negotiated.

Other vehicle companies are now working on entirely new solutions. The Gefas from Rheinmetall could even be considered an outright revolutionary design. It even may look very futuristic, yet a 17.5-tonne demonstrator is expected to get its wheels turning as early as Spring 2008.

Designed entirely around the crew protection concept, the vehicle is modular--truly modular, that is. Front (motors and wheels), followed by the engine module (410 hp MTU diesel and ESW electric generator), cabin and its panels, and rear (again motors and wheels) modules are fully detachable and replaceable by a team of three in between one and one-and-a-half hours.

By the time these lines are printed, the central V-hulled module (which can accommodate six men) designed in cooperation with IBD Deisenroth will have been submitted to a preliminary protection test in Meppen. Although it is a fairly large vehicle with a 5.5-metre wheelbase in the basic 4 x 4 configuration (which can be grown to 6 x 6 and 8 x 8 by simple addition of modules), its turning circle of 13.6 metres is comparable to that of a saloon car.

Because of its electric drive (each wheel being driven by a motor via a short shaft) there is no bulky transmission or transfer case. The suspension was designed by Timoney.

Precision Engagement

More than 3000 Lockheed Martin Hellfire II missiles have been fired from US helicopters and Predator drones in the War on Terrorism. <<,Because of the confined battlefield geometry and extremely complex urban terrain, Hellfire was the weapon of choice for its precision and effects: it minimized collateral damage while still achieving the ground commander's intent. We owe a great deal of our success at Tall Afar to Hellfire,>> wrote an AH-64 Apache pilot of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in September 2005.

The Hellfire II family includes three warheads:

* the AGM-114K Heat missile, which can defeat all known and projected armoured threats, this according to the manufacturer

* the AGM-114M blast fragmentation missile, which defeats soft targets such as ships, buildings, bunkers and light armoured vehicles

* the AGM-114N metal augmented charge (Mac) missile designed for use against enemy forces in buildings, bunkers, caves and other enclosures.

The Hellfire II AGM-114N Mac was developed to meet a urgent US Marine Corps requirement following the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan for a Hellfire II warhead optimised to attack multi-room structures, bunkers and caves. The missile is fitted with a 3.63-kg thermobaric warhead which creates a sustained pressure wave. The missile uses the same guidance and control section and propulsion section as the AGMll4K/AGM-114M missiles and incorporates the same electronic safe, arm/fire device as the AGM-114M.

The Department of Defense approved the AGM-114N Mac missile for accelerated full-rate production in August 2005 and the army issued a $ 90 million contract for 900 AGM-114N Mac, 180 AGM-l14K missiles and the conversion of 100 AGM-114K missiles to the Mac configuration. "Early versions of the Mac-configured Hellfire have already been combat proven in Operation Iraqi Freedom and have been cited by the administration as meeting an urgent requirement to suppress terrorists in urban areas. This missile is capable of reaching around corners to strike enemy forces hiding in caves, bunkers and hardened multi-room complexes. Coupled with Hellfire's highly accurate semi-active laser seeker, the Mac warhead gives our forces the ability to take out threat targets in urban environments with high lethality and minimal collateral damage," Ken Musculus, Program Director for Air-to-Ground Missiles Systems at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, told Armada.

In mid-2007 Nammo is expected to deliver prototype 70-mm Multi-Purpose Penetration Warheads to the Army's Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center (Ardec) at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey. The warhead is already used on Danish and Norwegian fighters and British Army AH-1 Apache attack helicopters. Under the American Foreign Comparative Test programme funding Ardec is evaluating the rockets to confirm whether they would give the AH-6J helicopters of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment 'a significant new capability to defeat hardened targets such as buildings and bunkers'. The 70-mm MPP, a derivative of Nammo's RA79 warhead, will be used on the service's 2.75-inch Hydra rocket.

Rafael developed the Spike to meet the demanding requirements of the Israel Defense Force for an anti-armour family of weapons that could be used in the dismounted role, on ground platforms and on helicopters.

The family consists of the 800-metre-range Spike-SR, the 2500-metre Spike-MR (previously known as Gill), 4000-metre Spike-LR and the 8000-metre Spike-ER (previously known as NTD Dandy). The fire-and-forget Spike-MR and Spike-LR share the same launcher and missile, although the Spike-LR can also be supplied with a two-way fibre-optic datalink. Although developed with a shaped tandem charge warhead to defeat tanks and their reactive armour, Rafael markets the Spike as a 'multi-purpose' missile. Although it has been decades since the Israel Defense Force has engaged tanks or other fighting vehicles in combat it routinely uses helicopter-launched missiles as the weapon-of-choice to attack insurgents in urban areas. Rafael has completed development of its Penetration, Blast and Fragmentation (PBF) warhead for the Spike-ER 'to fulfil the needs of its customers for an effective/minimal collateral damage weapon system for urban and anti-terror warfare, low intensity conflicts and high-value targets'. The Spike has been sold to the Czech Republic, Italy, Finland, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Spain and unspecified customers in South America and elsewhere.

France's Delegation Generale pour l'Armement, on behalf of the French and German governments, is supervising the testing of MBDA's new Milan ER (Extended Response) missile and new ADT (ADvanced Technologies) firing post. Ruag of Switzerland had developed a new dual-purpose 115-mm warhead that is able to pierce more than 1.1 metres of armour protected by reactive armour or smash a hole through 2.5 metres of concrete (this division of Ruag has since been taken over by Saab). Both the French and German armies are considering acquiring the Milan ER to replace their earlier generation Milans. Selection by either, or both, customers would be an important order for MBDA, whose original Aerospatiale Missiles firm has produced more than 10,000 firing posts and 360,000 Milan wire-guided medium-range missiles for 43 customers since 1974. Although the Milan ER retains the weapon's wire-guidance system it extends the range from 1950 to 3000 metres. The ADT's integral thermal imager enables targets to be tracked and engaged in almost all weather conditions, while a video input/output system enables remote operation. This is a very important feature in an urban environment as not only does it enable an operator to remain concealed and away from his weapon, but also to comfortably use the sighting systems as an observation post. The fully digital ADT incorporates built-in test facilities, improved maintenance and a training system. The new missile remains compatible with the earlier launcher, which gives the potential for existing operators to make a smooth transition over time to the all-new system.

The Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Systems Multiple Launch Rocket System was developed for the US Army and its European allies during the Cold War to rapidly saturate area targets such as artillery batteries, air defence units and command centres. The weapon, originally designed to 'clear grid squares', has now been dubbed 'the 60 km sniper' following the introduction of new precision-guided munitions. <<The GMLRS [Guided MLRS] Unitary consistently outperformed its circular error probable (CEP) accuracy requirements during combat operations in Ramadi, making it an effective weapon in the dense urban terrain,>> wrote a US Army artillery officer in Field Artillery magazine's March-April 2007 issue.

The XM30 GMLRS was developed under a 48-month System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contact awarded in November 1998 to Lockheed Martin, partnered with Diehl, MBDA and Fiat Avio. Using the extended-range MLRS as a basis the consortium integrated an inertial measurement unit and a global positioning system into the rocket, along with canards in the nose, enabling the rocket to deliver a warhead within a five-metre circular error of probability beyond 70 km. Low-rate initial production for the US Army of the M30 GMLRS, equipped with a cargo warhead carrying 404 M85 Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (submunitions), began in mid-2003. A point strike capability is provided by the M31 GMLRS Unitary, which features an 89-kg high explosive fragmentation warhead developed by General Dynamics under subcontract to Lockheed Martin. A new tri-mode fuze that can be programmed for airburst, point-impact and delay detonation is under development. Deliveries began in mid-2005 of a Unitary Urgent Materiel Release (UMR) rocket fitted with an interim point detonation/delay fuze. The weapon debuted in combat in Iraq on 9 September 2005 when eight GMLRS UMR rockets destroyed two insurgent strongholds more than 50km away. According to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment the weapon hit the enemy positions with "limited" collateral damage. This apparently had a psychological effect on the enemy in Tal Afar who was trying to provoke the coalition into an attack that would have inevitably resulted in the destruction of large areas of the city. The British Army became the first European customer for the GMLRS when it placed a $ 55 million order in mid-2005 for rockets equipped with unitary warheads.

To further improve GMLRS effectiveness against urban targets Lockheed Martin is developing a unitary Enhanced Blast Warhead (EBW). An over-pressurization warhead, it is designed to devastate enclosed structures with minimal effect on the target surroundings. The first test was conducted in July 2006.


This US marine in Al Saqlawiyah, Iraq carries a Saab Bofors Dynamics 84 mm AT4 slung on his back. The AT4 is the standard light anti-armour weapon in US service. Under the Foreign Comparative Test programme the US is buying the AT4CS (Confined Space) and is funding the development of an Enhanced Blast Tandem Warhead.

Chavis Turret

When a member of the US Air Force's 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron was killed by sniper fire in October 2006 while sitting in the turret of an M116-High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, maintenance technicians of the 447th Air Expeditionary Group decided their comrades needed better protection for urban operations. Using scrounged and cannibalised components they developed the Chavis turret, named in honour of the dead airman. The turret is made of the same ballistic steel used in the manufacture of armoured Humvee doors and standard 10 x 10-inch ballistic glass panels. The initial design was further refined by the engineers of the rapid prototyping section of the US Naval Sea Warfare Division, Crane Division who produced a prototype turret only 80 days after the airman's death. The first of 60 turrets was shipped to Iraq for installation in the field in April. (US Air Force)

To the Point

Australia's Defence Science and Technology Organisation developed the Off-Axis Viewing Device in 2004 for use by Australian troops in urban operations. Hundreds of units are now in use in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2006 Swedish company Aimpoint has manufactured the sight under license as the Concealed Engagement Unit. Two oval-shaped mirrors within the sealed system reflect the image from the weapon's optical sight to the soldier who is able to search for and engage targets while keeping his head and upper torso behind cover. When not needed it is rotated away from the weapon's standard sight. Aimpoint will launch an improved model later in 2007, and confirms that other unspecified countries are evaluating the unit.
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Title Annotation:Complete Guide
Author:Biass, Eric H.; Kemp, Ian
Publication:Armada International
Date:Aug 1, 2007
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