Friday, May 10, 2013

A quick glance at a new class of armored vehicle.

Otokar Arma 8x8 with Cockerill 105mm gun.

The Arma 8x8 with the Cockerill 105mm gun is the latest in a line of armored vehicles that is deserving of a new designation.

The US Army probably got it right when they called their big gun Stryker a Mobile Gun System...they set a trend but it was by accident.  The goal for the MGS was to make all associated weapon systems fit on the Stryker platform..finding the best vehicle to provide infantry support was a distant second or third thought.  But the Stryker MGS wasn't the first bite at the apple that the Army had for a MGS....

The Cadillac Gage LAV-600 was an independent venture that would have made a formidable gun system.  Mobility would have been outstanding and the 105mm, manned turret would have been a war winner.  Unfortunately this vehicle was developed before its time and despite the acclaim it found with armor enthusiast never found a buyer.

Many people overlook the South African Rooikat but its proven itself to be a powerful performer.  It has true out the box anti-mine protection and showed itself capable of traveling long distances in the S. African wilderness patrolling against marauding terrorists.  On this list it is probably the most proven vehicle in its designated role.  Additionally it's also one of the few on the list that is designed solely for its intended mission of highly mobile other words its not a big gun wedded to an APC chassis.

The ERC-90 has seen a revival in its fortunes due to its performance in the French Mali Intervention.  Its extremely lightweight and mounts what amounts to be a medium caliber gun but its strategic mobility and firepower against fortifications and infantry have made it relevant again in French formations.

The AMX-10 is another of those classic French recon vehicles that is finding its true calling to be a fire support vehicle.  Like the ECR-90, its finding new found fame in the Mali Intervention and with a series of upgrades having recently been done, it looks like its role into the future is secure...perhaps more secure than the LeClerc which has been noticeably absent from the fighting.

Unknown to many but the Russians haven't been left out of the mobile gun parade.  The above vehicles are BTR-60PBs.  If you ever served on Gitmo you got a brief on these vehicles.  Not too impressive unless you're part of a rifle company and you realize that you have no armor and help is hours away at best.

China isn't to be left off this list and although they list the PTL-02 as a wheeled tank destroyer, I feel comfortable labeling it a fire support vehicle.  The Chinese have too many frontline main battle tanks with the means to get them to any theater they're needed quickly to think that these wheeled beast will be out hunting our armor.  It follows conventional thinking and is simply a large caliber gun on an APC chassis.

Last but definitely not least is the Centaur.  Its big, its fast, its heavily armored and armed.  Of all the vehicles on this list, the Centaur is the one that would make me pause.  Its being upgraded (armor) and shows all the hallmarks of being able to slug it out in a gunfight.  Again, its listed as a tank destroyer but (again) I think its calling is as a real deal, 100% fires support vehicle.  Have a bunker you can't crack?  Air support hours away due to weather?  Regiment is screaming like a banshee because you're holding up the advance?  Roll up the Centaur and let the YAT-YAS (or whatever the Italians call there guys) boys take care of it.

The future is really clear.  A JLTV will cost 250,000 dollar a copy.  An IFV costs (if you're talking about a German Puma) about 10 million dollars per.  With those prices I don't want to even contemplate the cost of a NEW BUILD main battle tank with the latest tech.

I've talked about the end of the tank in Marine Corps service due to strategic mobility concerns.  The real threat to the tank (at least in the future) might well be cost.  Infantry Support Vehicle. I like the sound of that.  Get used to it.  From the look of things that's the new trend in armor.


  1. Everything thats old is new again Sol

    All off the same chassis

  2. There is also the V-300 which was actually ordered and is used by the Philippine Marines. They have 24 of which 12 are Fire Support versions armed with the 90mm Cockerill gun. Picture here:

  3. Everything old is new again. The revival of the armored car is in some ways an illusion as it never went away. Before WWII France had the Panhard 178 and shortly after the war was producing the 8X8 EBR (which owed something to the wartime German SdKfz 234) with a 75 and later 90mm gun. They then followed the EBR with the AML and eventually ERC Sagaie and by 1981 the AMX-10RC with a 105mm.

    The armored car in WWII was widely seen as useful for recon but wartime experience kept showing the need to replace lightly armored vehicles with more heavily armored ones which for many nations resulted in "light" tanks. By 1951 US light tanks (M41) were 23.5 tons with a 76mm. Light tanks eventually faded from most armies in favor of the MBT.

    While quite a few nations have developed modern 6X6 and 8X8 105mm arm cars it's really not clear how great an idea this is other than for light and possibly medium intensity conflicts and/or when strategic intervention in the Third World is the order of the day. Certainly those nations that have to deal with a possible high intensity conflict with their neighbors still mainly focus on their tank fleets.

    Calling a 105mm tank gun on an arm car a fire support vehicle in my view has always been problematic. Most of these vehicles are carrying a high velocity tank gun in a stabilized turret with a sophisticated fire control system to engage other AFV's. They carry a limited number of rounds. If the mission were infantry support they'd have a low velocity short barreled gun, without all the weight and expense of the tank gun, and enable all the rounds for infantry support. What we really have are AFV's designed to fight other AFV's that secondarily can provide infantry support. That's fine as far as that goes except these armored cars still run into the mobility, protection, and firepower equation.

    At best most of these armored cars, with additional armor, can defeat a 30mm from the front. They are in fact rather vulnerable. To defeat the mine threat they keep getting further off the ground and become too easily seen and have issues with rolling over. They're not tanks, but because they have the 105mm turret they're going to be used as tanks at times and it's not always going to work out very well.

    The general trend for most armies around the world is for increased armor protection on all vehicles. Trucks have become armored cars. JLTV is the perfect example. The role of heavy armor is not going away and if anything it's becoming more important. For centuries light cavalry has been extremely useful for many tasks but it's not a substitute for heavy cavalry (tanks). The consensus for the First World is that it's unlikely they'll need to deal with a high intensity conflict anytime soon and can thus make do with rather small armies equipped to fight what used to be called colonial wars. It's an assumption that carries significant risk.

    1. One of the things I would bring up that has created this necessity is the change to ROE. Under most Western nation ROE the BN commander has to personally approve all IDF or air delivered fires. Usually direct fire weapons are still directly under the control of the infantry commander.

      Personally I would rather have a low velocity gun between 75mm and 120mm firing high explosive shells at a lower velocity. Infantry will always need to kill other infantry that are in hardened positions, but I would never want to take a mobile gun system against a MBT. Either call for air to take it out or use a Javelin team.

    2. wow! spot on!!!! but i would add that no one produces the type of gun you're talking about today. the closest i can find that would match what you're talking about is the old demolition gun that was mounted on M-60 engineering vehicles.

    3. When i was a provisional rifle platoon commander in Afghanistan I would have been willing to do most anything for 2 old 75mm pack howitzers. The only ones left in inventory had been converted into museum pieces and there was no ammo but this is America and we have the capability to build shells and howitzers that use 1930s technology. What is really sad is a 75mm pack howitzer could be built for the cost of a single Cobra/Huey sortie that shoots a single AGM-114N Hellfire.

      Instead I watched countless infantry engagements where the platoon commander/convoy commander carefully holds fire and rations out the use of TOW/Javelin missiles that are used to kill 2-4 dismounts at a time. What these PBs, convoys, and OPs needed was an accurate closed breach weapon system capable of continously firing high explosive shells in direct fire accurately out to 1400 meters. A 75mm pack howitzer meets all of these requirements at a fraction of the cost.

    4. wait i thought the SMAW was suppose to take care of those type situations....or a Carl Gustav (if you could get your hands on one).....

    5. They are usually too short ranged and the best ammunition is also restricted, plus they are only given to 0351, so all your convoys and non infantry OPs are SOL. Trying to get your hands on the thermobarric rounds is hard. ROE once again.

      The other problem is range and accuracy. SMAWs are excellent at short range 300-400 meters, so the Taliban fights at over 600 meters most of the time. That leaves your SMAWs either out of action or not able to hit crap. SMAWs have a great reputation among the Iraq veterans and an ambivalent one among the Afghanistan veterans.

  4. Which is why Mobile Guns are the way of the Future for most Mobile forces such as Airborne units and Marine units. Even units such as the 82 Airborne Div and XVIII Airborne Corps can have a Mobile gun system that can be loaded up on a C-17 very quickly.

    1. i think you're right but the pushback is pretty intense. i think it has a bit to do with the "not invented here' syndrome but the idea has merit. i mean seriously we haven't had a pure tank on tank clash since Gulf War One and ground guys don't want to admit it but Western Air Forces killed more tanks than anyone, followed by Artillery then it was Tanks...if you have fighting in built up areas it will be an infantry play ground against armor unless you take off all restrictions and have total 100 percent unlimited warfare and if thats the case then you back off and level the place with artillery anyway.


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