Tag Archives: armor

M9 Armored Combat Earthmover

The three primary missions of the Engineers in combat are mobility, counter-mobility, and force protection. Rather obviously, this means ensuring our freedom of maneuver, by improving roads and reducing obstacles, both natural and man made; emplacing obstacles to slow, channel or turn an enemy force; and digging or building positions for friendly forces.

As you might expect, a large portion of this can be accomplished by earthmoving. As a mechanized Infantryman mounted on a Bradley, my most common interaction with the Engineers was when we had a D7 bulldozer dig fighting positions for our vehicles.

Merely pushing a berm in front of the position does little to offer protection for fighting vehicles. While it might defeat HEAT rounds, kinetic rounds hardly notice a dirt berm before passing through the frontal armor, engine block, turret basket and troop compartment and then exiting the rear ramp armor. So the position is dug deep enough to fully conceal the vehicle. But the vehicle also has to be able to fight from the position, so there is a step on the front half of the position that the Bradley can drip up on, exposing only the turret, giving it a field of fire. Pop up, shoot, scoot back, scan for the next target. In gunnery terms, this is known as a “berm drill.”

While the D7 bulldozer is very, very well suited for digging said positions, it is not without its drawbacks.

http://media.dma.mil/2013/Apr/17/2000016071/-1/-1/0/080708-A-YG824-020.JPG

First, it is completely unarmored. If the position isn’t completely secure, the operator is at an unacceptable risk. But failing to construct the positions then places the fighting vehicles at a completely unacceptable risk.

Secondly, the D7 is rather slow, with a maximum speed of around 7 miles per hour. That means it has to be transported from location to location on a heavy equipment trailer. That also means the trailer is restricted to relatively good terrain. The truck and trailer also are unarmored, and add an additional logistical, manning, and maintenance burden.

And so, starting in the late 1980s, the Army began fielding a lightweight vehicle known as the M9 ACE or Armored Combat Earthmover. A relatively lightweight tracked vehicle with a bulldozer blade on front, it was proof against small arms fire and artillery fragments. The driver was protected. The hydropnuematic suspension allowed it to travel cross country, and on roads at a respectable 30 miles per hour or so. Maybe not enough to keep up with Bradley’s and M1 Abrams, but enough that the wait for ACE shouldn’t be too long.

Light weight is a disadvantage for a bulldozer, though. The tracks need significant weight on them to increase the dozing ability. So the M9 can actually also act as a grader/scraper, and load a ballast compartment just behind the blade with earth to improve its earthmoving ability. When it is done, it can also eject that earth. In between missions, that space can be used to carry cargo or engineer supplies.

My experience with the M9 is very limited. I have heard that some dozer operators didn’t like it, and felt it was a rather poor earthmover, especially those who had previous experience with the D7. It has also had a long, long history of maintenance issues, primarily associated with its complex suspension system.

What’s especially interesting is the long development time of the M9. As I mentioned, the Army didn’t start buying the M9 until the late 1980s. But that doesn’t mean it was a new design. Its design actually dates back to the early 1960s.

With a few minor changes, the UET would become the M9. So why the 20 year gap between design and fielding? First, just as the Army was finishing development, Vietnam happened. And the money that would have gone for the UET instead went to fighting that war. In the years after Vietnam, the Army’s funding priorities were on the Big Five, the M1, M2/M3, UH-60, AH-64, and Patriot missile. It wasn’t until those programs were well in hand that other priorities could be addressed.

11 Comments

Filed under armor, army

Javelin vs. T-72

We’ve posted other versions of this video before.

Possibly the greatest weakness of the T-72 series tanks is the storage of its main gun ammunition. The 2A46 125mm smoothbore tank gun uses an autoloader. It fires sabot rounds, High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) and High Explosive Fragmentation (HEF) rounds. The ammunition is separate loading, with the autoloader first loading the projectile, then a separate propellant charge. The ammunition is held in a horizontal position on a  carousel at the bottom of the turret basket.

The FGM-148 Javelin missile, using a fire and forget imaging infrared seeker, has a two stage tandem HEAT warhead. The first smaller warhead is to detonate any Explosive Reactive Armor, while the second warhead is intended to actually penetrate the main armor.

File:1-20 Javelin missile..PNG

You’ll note that the Javelin flies a lofted trajectory when used in the anti-tank role. Among other benefits, this means it is attacking the top armor of the tank, virtually always the thinnest armor of any tank.

If I had to guess, I’d say the explosive jet from this particular shot actually struck either a HEAT or HEF warhead in the carousel. Virtually any HEAT warhead penetration will usually set off the combustible propellant cartridges in the carousel, causing complete destruction of the T-72, but that usually doesn’t result in the utter devastation seen here.

As a contrast, the M1 series of tanks, while it uses semi-combustible propellant charges for its main gun ammo, places that ammo in the rear of the turret bustle. There are blast resistant doors separating the storage from the inside of the turret. On top of the storage are blow-out panels designed to fail and vent any explosion up and away from the crew in the turret. The vehicle might be destroyed, but the crew would have a good chance of escaping with their lives.

8 Comments

Filed under armor

Afghani Armor

Spill pointed this out to me last night. The Afghani National Army has a tank battalion. Where did they get the tanks? They’re leftovers from the Russian invasion. The T-55 and the T-62 are archaic and obsolete compared to US armor. But facing an enemy lacking modern anti-tank weapons, they do bring considerable firepower to bear. When they can manage to get them running.

Here at the 111th Division’s base, the Afghan National Army’s lone tank battalion has about 44 T-55 and T-62 tanks that are in some kind of working order. About 20 to 25 can actually be started and used at any one time. In early July at least eight tanks were deployed against Taliban forces in nearby Kapisa province, officials said.

“These tanks are useful for the terrain of Afghanistan because Afghanistan is mostly a mountainous country,” said Col. Ali Reza, commander of the division’s quick-reaction force. “And if the enemy is stationed in the higher areas, these tanks are quite useful to eliminate them.”

The T-55, first introduced in the early 1950s, was a mainstay of Warsaw Pact forces through much of the Cold War. Its simplicity, reliability and powerful 100 mm gun also made it popular with Third World armies that found it difficult to maintain and operate more sophisticated machines. The T-62, a development of the T-55 with a smoothbore 115 mm gun, followed in the 1960s.

We’ve driven the Type 69 tank, an even more austere version of the T-55 built by China and operated by the Iraqi Army during Desert Storm. We would not like to have to fight from one.

As the article notes, there simply is no supply of spare parts, nor even ammunition, flowing into the country. The have to scavenge and scrounge for parts. And while there are hundreds of derelict tanks in the country, that’s still a finite source of parts. Getting half of the battalion’s 44 tanks up and running is quite the respectable accomplishment.

1 Comment

Filed under Afghanistan, armor, army

Joint Light Tactical Vehicle

Way back in 2008 we talked about why the current Humvee was marginal at best in an environment full of IEDs.  In that same post, we mentioned some of the shortcomings of MRAP trucks as well. At the same time it started buying off the shelf existing MRAP designs, and producing up-armored Humvees, the Army and Marines also started a design program for a replacement vehicle, one designed specifically to have excellent mobility, armor, and survivability in an IED enviroment. This program, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, has quietly been moving along. Oshkosh, AM General and Lockheed Martin have each built a handful of prototypes, and turned them over to an Army/Marine test.

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have finished testing prototypes of the Humvee replacement known as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

But results of the evaluations haven’t been released and manufacturers are still waiting for the program office to issue a request for proposals — initially expected this month — to begin the next round of competition.

Defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin Corp., truck-maker Oshkosh Corp. and Humvee-maker AM General LLC each delivered 22 JLTV prototypes to the Army for testing under engineering and manufacturing development contracts signed in 2012. Now, the companies are competing against each other to build 17,000 of the vehicles under a much bigger low-rate initial production contract.

First, no one in their right mind would buy a truck from LockMart. But Oshkosh and AM General both have sterling reputations for delivering quality trucks to the services.

http://topwar.ru/uploads/posts/2013-08/1376102936_autowp.ru_oshkosh_m-atv_7.jpg

Oshkosh JLTV prototype

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c7/AM_General_BRV-O.jpg

AM General JLTV prototype

http://www.lockheedmartin.com/content/dam/lockheed/data/mfc/photo/joint-light-tactical-vehicle-jltv/mfc-jltv-side-01-h.jpg

LMT JLTV prototype

For old times sake, here’s an uparmored Humvee.

File:M1151.jpg

At its heart, it’s still the same old Humvee, not intended to serve as a fighting vehicle. Its flat bottom and wheel wells trap the blast of explosions underneath. Contrast that to the three prototypes above. Each one uses some shaping to better disperse blast overpressure. The uparmored Humvee is also pretty much at the limit of growth capability for payload, and for electrical power. There simply isn’t room to add any more protection or mission equipment. Its off road mobility is already severely compromised compared to its original unarmored configuration.

The JLTV is designed to address those issues.  Of course, that won’t come cheap. I don’t know the unit cost for a current production M1151 Humvee. But I do know that a vanilla base model in 1982 was about $22,000. That’s about $52,000 adjusted for inflation. So my guess would be that a full up model, with armor and engine, transmission and suspension enhancements would probably run three to four times that, around $150,o00 to $200,000. The JLTV is looking to price at about $250,000 for a bare bones truck, and around $400,000 total unit cost including government furnished equipment.

1 Comment

Filed under armor, army

S-Tank Weapons Trials

That’s S-Tank, not “stank.”

The Swedish Stridsvagn 103 was a very unique design. When you think of the classic tank, you think of an armored hull on tracks, and a turret mounting the main gun.

The S103 instead dispensed with the turret, and fixed an auto-loading 105mm main gun to the hull. The gun was aimed by the driver/gunner by pivoting the tracks, and elevated or depressed via the hydraulic suspension system. This provided a relatively low profile vehicle. The drawback was that it could not fire accurately on the move, but since the Swedes saw its use as primarily defensive, that was not a terrible shortcoming to them.

While the design stressed avoiding being hit, attention was also paid to mitigating the effects of the vehicle being hit. And did they ever shoot the heck out of some prototypes to test it.

Be sure to hit the “cc” button for closed captions.

The S103 was developed in the early 1960s and entered into service in the late 1960s, with production ending in 1971 after 290 had been delivered.

Not content merely to have one weird major design feature, the S103 also had a very unique powerplant. A base diesel powerplant was used for slow movement and for aiming the gun. For higher speed operations, a gas turbine was also installed to boost power.

Retired in 1997, the S103 was replaced by a modified German built Leopard 2A5 known as the S122.

3 Comments

Filed under armor

TOW Missile Live Fire

A platoon of Bradley’s from 2-12 Cav conduct a TOW missile live fire at Graf in Germany.

 

That’s a heck of a lot of missiles. Back in my day, you’d be lucky to be allocated one missile, maybe two, for an entire platoon.

You’ll notice a small pop just before launch. When the gunner squeezes the trigger, that sends power to the missile, spins up the missile gyros, and activates the thermal battery to provide internal power to the missile.

It’s also pretty cool to see the guidance wires strung out, and the automatic wire cutting function. The impact fuze not only detonates the warhead, but it also sends the wire cut signal back to the launcher.

Comments Off on TOW Missile Live Fire

Filed under ARMY TRAINING

The Armored Multipurpose Vehicle

The M113 entered service as the primary Armored Personnel Carrier for mechanized infantry formations around 1960. It also quickly became clear that its fundamentally sound design would be useful for many, many other roles, either in specialized variants or just for general usage. For instance, there are ambulance variants, and command post variants. The M113 was replaced as the prime carrier of the mechanized infantry by the M2 Bradley beginning in the early 1980s, but the M113 still soldiers on in these support roles. In fact, in the Armored Brigade Combat Team of today, there are more M113 variants in use than there are tanks or Bradleys.

http://media.defenceindustrydaily.com/images/LAND_M1064_Mortar_Carrier_lg.jpg

M1064 120mm Mortar Carrier based on the M113A3 chassis

But even though the upgrade of the fleet to the current M113A3 standard greatly improved the mobility of the carrier, it is rapidly becoming clear that the power, speed, cross country mobility, and ability to support command and control systems has reached the practical limit. It is time for a replacement vehicle.

The Army sees a need for roughly 3000 new vehicles. They want a new general purpose carrier, a mortar carrier, an ambulance, a command post, and a couple other versions.

What the Army doesn’t want is a clean sheet design, leading to a long, drawn out development program. The Army’s Future Combat System and Ground Combat Vehicle programs were disasters, costing billions of dollars in development, but not leading to any actual production contracts.

In fact, the Army knows exactly what it wants. It wants the basic hull and machinery of the Bradley, minus the turret.  A simple armored box, into which the appropriate mission equipment can be mounted. This stuff isn’t rocket science. In fact BAE Systems, the maker of the Bradley, has been trying to sell the Army various Bradley derivatives for years. And the basic Bradley chassis is quite sound, also serving as the basis for the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System. Further, Bradley suspension and powertrain components were used to upgrade the AAV-7A1 Amtrac fleet, and are upgrading the M109A6 Paladin Integrated Product improved self propelled 155mm howitzer. Sharing that basic platform eases the supply and logistics train.

Of course, the DoD acquisition system is a nightmare. The Army can’t just pick up the phone and order what they want from BAE. They instead have to go through the internal acquisition process justifying the need for an M113 replacement, which takes time, manpower and money to realize something that everyone already knows. Then comes the fact that, when you start talking about spending a couple billion dollars, you have to take bids for contracts. So the Army published a Request For Proposals, or RFP. And in spite of very narrowly tailoring the RFP to pretty much say “we want to buy turretless Bradleys from BAE” the Army still ran into some trouble. General Dynamics, makers of the Stryker family of vehicles, protested to the Army that the RFP unfairly excluded Stryker variants from the competition. And they do have at least some point. At least one heavy BCT deployed to Iraq with Stryker ambulances in place of its M113 ambulances. But while a Stryker ambulance might have been suitable for Iraq, the Army can very easily see scenarios where such an ambulance would not be able to keep pace with tanks and Bradleys. That’s the whole point why it wants turretless Bradley vehicles.

General Dynamics has recently decided it won’t tie up the issue with a protest to the GAO (which would tie the program in knots for years). Instead, it will likely lean on friendly representatives in Congress to at least give them some small slice of the pie in future budgets. After all, the Army may want turretless Bradleys, but it can only buy what Congress tells it to.

Here’s the original “industry day” flyer on what the AMPV objectives were.

 

5 Comments

Filed under armor, army