Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New Howitzer on the Block: M109 PIM

M109A7 PIM
US Army's Renewed Howitzer

M109A7 PIM

The replacement for the M109A6 in U.S. service is the M109A7 Paladin Integrated Management (PIM). The M109A7 shares common components with the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle such as the engine, transmission, and tracks. This creates commonality with other systems and maximizes costs-savings in production, parts inventory and maintenance personnel. 
The M109A7's on-board power systems harness technologies originally developed for the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon. The M109A7 can sustain a one round per-minute rate of fire and a maximum rate of fire of four rounds per-minute.

Non-Line of Sight Cannon NLOS-C
The one that got away...
The system as proposed looks to add capabilities that the current M109 systems do not offer. One of the proposed systems advantages is the ability to switch shell types quickly on a one by one basis allowing an illumination round to be followed by a point detonation round, to be followed by an area effect round. This would give the system the ability to fire different rounds as required by different fire calls or to change types of shells. For instance, destroying a building then engaging anyone fleeing the area with the next round.

The rate of fire in the proposed system would enable more rounds sent downrange in a given amount of time, allowing more firepower per system than is available with the current M109 system. Another capability offered by the NLOS Cannon is the 'multiple rounds simultaneous impact' mission or MRSI (pronounced mercy). A MRSI mission is where the cannon fires several rounds at different trajectories allowing the rounds to impact on the same target at the same time, resulting in little or no reaction time for the enemy to adjust its position. This is accomplished by including the autoloader from the canceled Crusader project which achieves the goals of a much improved fire rate with a reduction in required crew from 5 in Paladin to 2.


Getting back to M109A7 PIM

Although the system isn’t entirely new, the decades-old Paladin 155mm mobile howitzer system has undergone such a radical upgrade that “it’s managed essentially as a new program” Bassett said, in between outgoing rounds at the test range.

With wholesale replacements of the electronics gear and firing drive, and increased maneuverability, speed and crew protection, the new Paladin “is going to be the leader” of the platforms in the Armor Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), he said, “and the other programs are going to be struggling to keep up with where it has now gone.”

Beginning in August, the old Paladin chassis will begin to be shipped to the Anniston Army Depot, Ala., where they’ll be stripped of usable parts for the new system. The same engine, transmission, drives and tracks used on the most recently upgraded M2/M3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles will be incorporated onto the new vehicle.

The new Paladin also brings back the electric gun drive system from the Non-Line of Sight cannon canceled in 2009 as part of the scrapped $20 billion Future Combat Systems program. NLOS replaces the old hydraulic firing system.

Once those parts are harvested, the new Bradley chassis built at BAE Systems’ facility in York, Pa., will be sent to a new production facility the company is building in Eglin, Okla., for final assembly.

Using existing parts on new systems is a production method the Army is also employing on its Stryker V-Hull program — also at Anniston — and Bassett said “the idea of leveraging both our organic base and our commercial base together for a platform is really kind of the new normal. Most of the programs we run right now leverage both of those capacities.”

While weighing about 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor, the new Paladin — at 78,000 pounds — has been built with the capacity to grow to about 110,000 pounds while traveling at about 38 mph. That is actually faster than the previous model while being more maneuverable than the current Bradley, according to Adam Zarfoss, director of artillery programs at BAE.

The added speed and maneuverability “allows us to stay in pace with the rest of the ABCT” for the first time, said Lt. Col. Michael Zahuranic, the Army’s product manager for Self Propelled Howitzer Systems.

In October, BAE was awarded a contract worth up to $688 million to produce up to 66 vehicle sets, which includes the Paladin.

Overall, the Army plans to buy 551 new Paladins by 2027, with the first models starting production by March. The low-rate initial production award calls for BAE to deliver 66 Paladins along with their ammunition carrier vehicles, also based on the Bradley chassis, which will roll off the assembly line at a rate of three per month. The schedule calls for the work in Anniston to begin in May and York in June.

- US Army Breaking Out the Big New Guns, Paul McLEARY, Defense News.

©2014 Warfare Technology

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Image of the Day

Evolution of the Abrams Main Battle Tank

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Saudi Leopard 2 deal might be dead

No Leopard 2A7+ to Saudi?

Krauss-Maffei Wegman introduced the Leopard 2A7 at Eurosatory 2010, as an evolution of the Leopard 2A6 PSO (Peace Support Operations) main battle tank. 

Like the American M1 TUSK, the Leopard 2A7 is optimized for urban operations, with 

  • Optional explosive reactive armor, 
  • KMW FLW-200 Remote Controlled Weapon Station and sensor array
  • Improved mine protection
  • Upgraded suspension, drive system, brakes and tracks
  • Improved power generation system to handle its Advanced electronics
  • 3rd generation thermal imagers.

Those changes are normal for current generation tank upgrades, but the Leopard 2A7 also has a couple of innovations that set it apart. 

Its longer 55-caliber Rheinmetall L55 120mm smoothbore tank gun produces greater velocity than the L44 gun found on American M1s and earlier-model Leopard 2s, and can be combined with programmable fuze shells to kill infantry behind and within buildings.

Its most significant additions, however, may be its combat engineering attachments. In Israel, large armored bulldozers have been the IDF’s most valuable weapons in major urban fights. American operations in Iraq’s urban centers have featured heavy use of combat engineering prior to major city battles, and Canadian Leopard 1A5 and Leopard 2A6M tanks in Afghanistan have benefited greatly from attachments like dozer blades and mine ploughs. The Leopard 2A7 has learned from all of these experiences, and comes to the urban fight with new levels of flexibility for a tank.

An initial upgrade of 50 German Leopard-2 tanks to the 2A7+ standard is set to begin production of the type. If the reported Saudi sale goes through, Saudi Arabia would become the type’s first export customer.

That sale would represent both a market breakthrough, and a significant financial opportunity for German firms.

The Saudi Opportunity

It would be a market breakthrough, because until now, the Saudis have equipped some divisions with American equipment (M1 and M60 tanks, Bradley and M113 APCs etc.), and other land divisions with French equipment (AMX-30 tanks, AMX-10P tracked APCs, etc.). The comparably modern replacement for its older French equipment would be about 300 Leclerc tanks and 500 or so Nexter VBCI or local Al-Fahd wheeled APCs. On the other hand, rumors of deals with countries like Russia have suggested that this opportunity may be open to new entrants, and the Saudis have been lukewarm at best toward the recent French-led war in Libya.

The military and export opportunity question is which Saudi tanks the Leopards would replace. They could be used to replace older American M60s, in which case the opportunity to modernize the kingdom’s “French” divisions still exists in full. Or, they could replace the AMX-30s, leading to questions about next steps in replacing those divisions’ accompanying AMX-10P infantry carriers.

The industrial question, in contrast, largely answers itself. Germany has a history of selling surplus German tanks at fire-sale prices, in order to broaden its firms’ customer base and reap upgrade & maintenance contracts. Chile, for instance, bought its Leopard 2A4s at just EUR 250,000 per tank external link base price. A Saudi contract doesn’t help Germany position its firms as Europe’s heavy armor designers, but it would involve new-build tanks at EUR 4-7 million each, and the associated after-sale maintenance contracts would be even larger and more lucrative. The Saudis traditionally devolve most equipment maintenance duties to foreign contractors, and pay accordingly. A combination of manufacturing and maintenance work for the Saudis could go a long way toward keeping Germany’s key armored vehicle producers busy, while solidifying their financial position.

Controversies and Politics

If the Saudis have been shopping the globe for a non-French supplier, Germany is a surprising alternative. To this point, the Saudis have pointedly chosen second suppliers with a reputation for non-interference after arms are sold, and a record of independence from their primary supplier. Germany’s strict export conditions, and traditionally closer relations with the USA, make them an odd choice in this regard. Germany is quick to attach conditions to its sales, and is seen as likely to withdraw sales or support from areas deemed to be conflict zones.

Some of those tensions have already been on display in the German Parliament. The opposition Left Party is pushing its opposition to the deal by citing the use of Saudi tanks and troops to quell recent uprisings in Bahrain, at the invitation of Bahrain’s government.

On the other hand, German financing for Europe’s debt crisis bailouts has been taking a political toll on Merkel’s government, and economic wins have local political value. Germany already provides defense equipment to the Saudis, and is a major contributor to construction of the RSAF’s new Eurofighter multi-role jets.

There are also regional balance issues at work in the Middle East, which the German government is citing as justification for the sale.

Iraq will not be prepared to defend its borders when the US military removes its heavy ground forces, which means that its safety is likely to be guaranteed by some combination of perceived American resolve, and the willingness of the Gulf Cooperation Council to come to its aid. With the former in question, the latter becomes more important. Persistent reports have even said that Israel has supported the German sale, just as it quietly indicated its lack of opposition to the multi-billion dollar array of American military offerings announced in October 2010. In all of these cases, the Iranian regime across the Gulf is the real focus of local and Western concerns.

The long term issue for Saudi Arabia has to be support for its German weapons, if local conflicts escalate to domestic or international battles. The current CDU/CSU/FDP government has voted down opposition party attempts to block the Saudi sale, but its continuation in power beyond 2013 is uncertain, and the major opposition parties appear consistently hostile to the sale.

If German politics creates future problems, the Saudis could face real difficulties with a key segment of their tank fleet. Turkey’s sizable fleet of Leopard 2 tanks could offer an opportunity to have Turkish firms handle maintenance, but if Germany was opposed, the result from the Turks’ point of view would be a crisis in bilateral relations with one of Turkey’s biggest military suppliers. That would not be undertaken lightly.

The Saudis’ best approach would be to keep substantial spares inventories on hand, and insist on a larger share of local maintenance and assembly work using Saudi citizens. There is some indication that this kind of “localization” is becoming a concerted focus in Saudi Arabia. It remains to be seen whether similar arrangements might be true for any buy of Leopard 2 tanks. If, indeed, that buy materializes.

Latest news from April 13th, in the aftermath of an election that narrowly forced Merkel into a “grand coalition” with the left-wing Social Democrats, the Saudi tank deal is reportedly dead. SPD Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has reportedly refused to agree, effectively blocking any sale by Spain’s licensed producer GD Santa Barbara Sistemas.

That will probably make several other countries happy: France, Turkey, the USA, and possibly even South Korea. CDU/CSU Party members have taken that point a step further, arguing in public that the Economy Minister is burying German jobs, and saying that if Germany cannot export outside of NATO, there will soon be no German arms industry. It’s certainly true that external sales make it easier to build an industrial base that can equip German forces.

This is a deep and ongoing disagreement between the parties. The relevant question is whether this issue is seen as being worth the damage to the coalition that would be involved, in order to sideline Gabriel’s objections.

Defense Industry Daily, "http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/desert-leopards-germany-selling-heavy-armor-to-the-saudis-06993/"

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Maneuver Combat Vehicle 8x8 & Japan's New Defense Plan

New Japanese Armor:
Maneuver Combat Vehicle

Japanese 5 year defense planning as announced last December, highlights an increased emphasis on defensing remote islands.

It seems the effects of disagreement on disputed islands with China greatly shaped up the defense plans for the Japanese.

Disputed Islands

Two important items for ground forces in the 5 year defense plan are:

- A rapid deployment division and brigades
- Marine brigade

Japanese defense planners logically chose a rapid reaction capability, instead of trying to garrison all the remote islands. Thus using airborne early warning capability to detect a potential enemy landing force, and either interdict the enemy formation before they embark or retake the islands using rapid deployment forces and marines.

The shifting defense plans are also reflected upon the equipment of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces. 

Maneuver Combat Vehicle
One interesting equipment is the Maneuver Combat Vehicle, an 8 wheeled tank destroyer/fire support vehicle with a 105mm gun as the main armament.

Japan's Technical Research and Development Institute either developed or coordinated the development effort of this new 8x8. It is believed that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (manufacturer of Type 90 and Type 10 MBTs) will manufacture MCV.

MCV will be an important part of the rapid deployment capability which is air-transportable in the new Kawasaki C-2 transport aircraft.

MCV is a 26ton vehicle powered by a 570HP diesel engine satisfying 200 HP-per-ton and 100 km/h maximum road speed.

MCV dimensions are given below:

The turret has 3 crew members: commander, gunner and loader. The main armament is a rifled 105mm gun with a pepper-pot type muzzle brake. There is  a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun and another 12.7mm machine gun pintle mounted above the turret.

The commander seems to have an independent (panoramic) sight hinting on the hunter-killer type capability.

I liked the look of this vehicle. It gives an impression of a vehicle which is deadly and sleek.

I also realized the similarity in the design with Italian Iveco-Oto Melara Centauro 8x8.

©2014 Warfare Technology

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014


New TOW Turret

From Raytheon's website:

"Raytheon Company successfully completed an initial round of live-fire testing with a new U.S. Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicle Anti-Tank (LAV-AT) weapon system. The upgraded, highly mobile, anti-armor LAV-AT weapon system is designed to protect reconnaissance and light infantry. Its mission is to defeat threats at long-range, day or night, and in all weather conditions." Oct 23 - 2013.

USMC is the only remaining user for the Emerson 901A1 Tow Turret in their LAV-AT 8x8 vehicles.

The Emerson TOW turret entered US Army service in 1978 on M113's configured as M901and M981.

The turret was then integrated on the USMC's LAV 8x8 fleet designated as the LAV-AT.


The turret today is very slow and very difficult to maintain. There are difficult to solve obsolescence issues.

Enter Enhanced LAV-AT

In April 2012, USMC Program Management Office awarded Raytheon to develop a new weapon system for the LAV-AT platform.

The new TOW turret system will provide an enhanced capability over the existing sighting system in terms of the integration of an enhanced TOW system - TOW Improved Target Acquisition System (ITAS) designated as M41 Saber for USMC service. It will provide a second-generation forward looking infra-red, far target location and ability to acquire targets on the move. Turret has got high performance electric drives and folding capability for aerial transport.


Thursday, April 10, 2014


Snake on Wheels

Hawkei (An Australian Snake) is Thales Australia's new 4x4 armored vehicle developed for the Australian Defense Force's New Light Armored Patrol Vehicle programme - Project 121 Phase 4.

Project 121/4 is  1.1B$ programme to replace the Australian Land Rovers.

Hawkei has an integral monocoque Steel V-hull for increased protection against blasts from mines and IEDs. The floor is of floating type with the seats suspended to increase survivability in case of blast.

Hawkei can be crewed with up to 5 soldiers.

The power pack consists of a Steyr 3.2 liter six cylinder turbocharged engine giving 268HP coupled to a 6 speed ZF transmission. 

Suspension is AxleTech 3000 series fully independent progressive coil spring with double wishbone and outboard planetary reduction hubs.

The vehicle is offered with 3 variants so far.


Border Patrol

Special Forces

The dimensions of the vehicle are below:

Hawkei is a good looking vehicle and as the saying goes "if it looks good...." 

It seems like a good design balancing protection with mobility. 

I can easily visualize Hawkei armed with a medium caliber cannon inside a remote turret blasting in the wilderness.