The B-52 Of Armored Vehicles

#1
The B-52 Of Armored Vehicles
by James Dunnigan
August 17, 2009

The U.S. Army is having a really hard time figuring out what it's next tank will be like, and that's turned into a major problem. Recently, the Department of Defense forced the army to cancel its $150 billion FCS (Future Combat System) because it was too expensive, too vague and not very convincing. FCS included a replacement for all current armored vehicles. Now the army is pleading for a chunk of the lost FCS billions so that it can get to work on replacements for M-1 tank and the M-2 (IFV) Infantry Fighting Vehicle. The big problem is that the army really doesn't have a design for either of these replacement vehicles. The even bigger problem is that armored vehicle design has hit something of a plateau. There's really no exciting new, game-changing, concepts to justify a new tank or IFV.

Step back a moment and consider the brief history of armored fighting vehicles. These beasts are only about a century old (if you count armored cars, the tank didn't show up until 94 years ago.) The first tanks were crude, but in the 1920s and 30s, much progress was made. By the time World War II broke out in 1939, you would recognize the tanks. They had the same shape and function as today's tanks. All that's happened in the last 70 years is that tanks have gotten twice as heavy, and main gun caliber has gone from 50mm or 75mm, to 120mm or 125mm. Tanks got faster, and acquired computerized fire control, laser rangefinders and thermal imagers (to see through dust, smoke or darkness). As was the case during World War II, some armies had better tanks, while their opponents often simply had more. During World War II, and since, it's been learned that crew quality is crucial. The side with the better crews usually wins, even if they don't have the most powerful tanks.

Right now, the United States has one of the best tanks (the M-1) and the most combat experienced and well trained crews. How do you improve on that? As the army discovered with FCS, it's not easy. In fact, so far, it's been impossible. But he army is asking for five months to come up with an acceptable plan (and vehicle designs). The Secretary of Defense is inclined to let them try, but the army is facing long odds here. If you believe in miracles, the army has a shot. If you can perform miracles, the army needs you right away.

Otherwise, the army will continue refurbishing, and using, its 16,000 M-1s, M-2s and other armored combat vehicles. The 12,000 recently acquired MRAPs are armored vehicles, but not combat vehicles. The Department of Defense spent over $20 billion on MRAPs, to deal with a weapon (roadside bombs) that doesn't win wars, but does make it dangerous for American troops to drive around hostile neighborhoods. The MRAPs are only three percent of the army's vehicle fleet, and are likely to be given away or scrapped before they die of old age. The army doesn't want to use its M-1s and M-2s until they expire of old age, but unless there's a breakthrough in armored vehicle design, the M-1 is destined to become the B-52 of armored vehicles. It's hard to improve on, if not perfection, then very adequate.
http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/The-B-52-Of-Armored-Vehicles-8-17-2009.asp
 
#3
Do what we do. If it works keep it for 50 years. The M1 is a cracking piece of kit than can defeat anything. Any replacement is bound to be disappointing.
 
#4
No need. Have you ever seen Uncle Sams G4 chain?

Mahooosively impressive.
 

maguire

LE
Book Reviewer
#5
as a layman in these matters, would not a vehicle like the Merkava be a good choice for the urban operations that are being undertaken at the minute? would an infantry team carried by that be better protected from IED strikes, or would they be disadvantaged by being not as aware of their surroundings?
 

Schaden

On ROPS
On ROPs
Book Reviewer
#6
Merkava isn't actually designed to take a full section of infantry - it's rear door thingy was basically there to allow it to do the following.

Load ammunition quickly - big problem in 1973 with Centurions and M-60's
Provide easy pickup of crews of disabled armour
Can be set up as a mini ambulance carryong 3-4 stretchers
Command unit with lots of comms gear.
Easy escape for crew in case of it all going tits up.

Personally I think the stage will be crew under hull armour - ie turret made smaller carrying ammo and auto loader - crew size reduced and optics allowing them to fight the tank from postions in the hull.
 
#7
Maybe a purpose designed IFV with Chally 2 /Abrams/Leo2 level of protection, but carrying 8-10 inf like a Warrior, with the 40mm CTW cannon in the turret? The Israelis have the Achzarit, converted from a Centurion as an Urban APC...
 
#8
Bradstyley said:
Maybe a purpose designed IFV with Chally 2 /Abrams/Leo2 level of protection, but carrying 8-10 inf like a Warrior, with the 40mm CTW cannon in the turret? The Israelis have the Achzarit, converted from a Centurion as an Urban APC...
Would be cheap, effective and quick to field... naaaawh, never!
 
#9
EX_STAB said:
M1 rebuilt with a diesel engine would be the obvious thing for them to do.

And a BV
 
#10
Schaden said:
Merkava isn't actually designed to take a full section of infantry - it's rear door thingy was basically there to allow it to do the following.

Load ammunition quickly - big problem in 1973 with Centurions and M-60's
Provide easy pickup of crews of disabled armour
Can be set up as a mini ambulance carryong 3-4 stretchers
Command unit with lots of comms gear.
Easy escape for crew in case of it all going tits up.

Personally I think the stage will be crew under hull armour - ie turret made smaller carrying ammo and auto loader - crew size reduced and optics allowing them to fight the tank from postions in the hull.

Only one problem with the Merkava concept, Hizbullah very quickly found that the back door is the weak link in it's armour and started targetting them in 2006 with rather pyrotechnic results as the ammunition cooked off..
 
#11
Bradstyley said:
Maybe a purpose designed IFV with Chally 2 /Abrams/Leo2 level of protection, but carrying 8-10 inf like a Warrior, with the 40mm CTW cannon in the turret? The Israelis have the Achzarit, converted from a Centurion as an Urban APC...
Achzarit is actually a T-55 conversion. The Israelis do have Centurions converted to APCs and armoured engineer vehicles- the various types are called Puma, Nagmachon and Nakpadon. Then there is the Namer, which is a heavy APC built on a Merkava chassis.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IDF_Achzarit

http://www.israeli-weapons.com/weapons/vehicles/engineer_vehicles/nagmachon/Nagmachon.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puma_(IDF)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namer_(vehicle)
 
#12
duffdike said:
Do what we do. If it works keep it for 50 years. The M1 is a cracking piece of kit than can defeat anything. Any replacement is bound to be disappointing.
There was a new gas-turbine engine in the works. Not sure what happened to it, something like 50% less fuel.

A Bradely IFV replacement should have greater priority than Abrams.
 
#13
I'm inclined to agree with the idea of the Bradley needing a replacement first.

I can think of a number of improvements to the M1, it is, after all, predominantly upgraded 1970s technology, but the fundamental design is very sound. The largest change I might make to it is changing from hydraulic to electric turret controls. Otherwise, most else could be incremental.

NTM
 
#14
I dare not think what would have happened if the US Forces carried out their blitzkreig advance on Bagdahd in British tanks. The REME would still be recovering them now.
 
#17
Bradstyley said:
Maybe a purpose designed IFV with Chally 2 /Abrams/Leo2 level of protection, but carrying 8-10 inf like a Warrior, with the 40mm CTW cannon in the turret? The Israelis have the Achzarit, converted from a Centurion as an Urban APC...

In fact the 1979 Long Armour Infantry Course at the Armour Centre designed just such a vehicle, the Wyvern, a three man crew all in the hull and a rifled high velocity 105mm gun with auto-loader in an unmanned sponson above the hull. It also had a dedicated resupply vehicle which allowed for the crew to be resupplied ammo & fuel without dismounting (and I'm sure we could have fitted in a Bv too!).
 
#18
duffdike said:
I dare not think what would have happened if the US Forces carried out their blitzkreig advance on Bagdahd in British tanks. The REME would still be recovering them now.
Excuse me? Clearly someone under the impression we still use Chieftain. Admittedly not as comfortable for the crew as the M1 (With the exception of the driver and the new seat is just divine for getting your nap on) I'd rather go blitzkrieging in Chally any day of the week.
 
#19
Paymaster said:
In fact the 1979 Long Armour Infantry Course at the Armour Centre designed just such a vehicle, the Wyvern, a three man crew all in the hull and a rifled high velocity 105mm gun with auto-loader in an unmanned sponson above the hull. It also had a dedicated resupply vehicle which allowed for the crew to be resupplied ammo & fuel without dismounting (and I'm sure we could have fitted in a Bv too!).
A la UDES XX, then!
 
#20
The M1A1 has a BV fitted - The Aussies also have a fridge on theirs.

I've just started the turret maint course and I have to say many of my preconceived criticisms with the M1A1 are being dispelled. The turbine engine runs on almost anything - the Aussies run it on diesel and it still has 1500 hp. The gun is fantastic - no gas recuperator, just a big spring within the recoil mech (around the barrel). Maintenance wise, the gun seems to be very simple - for crew and gunfitters.

Agree with C-T regarding the move to electric turret - that is one of the negatives, the other being no independant commander's sight (the M1A2 has one).
 

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