Tuesday, June 30, 2015

PMMC G5 - the ultimate M113?

The protected mission module carrier (PMMC) G5 from the German company FFG Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft mbH seems to be an ideal replacement for the M113 and similar APCs adopted for multiple specialized roles . At least in their video the G5 seems to be an impressive vehicle, even if you try to filter out all the marketing talk.

General characteristics

The PMMC G5 essentially seems to be the answer to the question "How would a company create a modern version of the M113 from the sketch?". This is not really a surprise, considering that FFG's history in the AFV market is mostly limited to maintenance and upgrading the M113, with delivering (or maintaining) more than 1500 vehicles to Germany, Denmark, Australia, Lithuania and Norway.

The G5 is designed to fit into the exact role currently occupied by the M113 in many armies around the globe. It can be used to transport troops, as mortar carrier, as command post, and for many more tasks. It is one of the multi-purpose designs, which aren't directly intended to take hits, but do all the
other tasks at the frontline. The usage of many (military and civilian) "off the shelf" components reduces costs.
The G5 is larger than the M113, with a total of 14.5 m³ armored interior volume and a maximum payload of 8.5 metric tons. The gross vehicle weight is 26.5 metric tons.

According to FFG, one of the main features of the PMMC G5 is the high level of protection, which includes integrated protection against (I suppose smaller) mines and IEDs. Armor protection with applique armor is offered against RPGs and heavy machine gun calibres.

The G5's powerpack
The vehicle utilizes a 410 kW (550 hp) MTU high-density power engine coupled with a ZF Friedrichshafen transmission. The G5 is fitted with rubber band tracks, supposedly it has a lower noise level than comparable AFVs.
The rubber band tracks of the PMMC G5

A further area of improvments over the M113 and many other older light/medium AFVs is the improved vision concept. The driver is located in a dome extruding from the vehicle front. He has a large field of view thanks to several windows of armored glass, which seem to cover approximately an arc of 180°.
Different versions of close area surveillance systems/cameras can be mounted on the G5. The commander is provided with a cupola.

Modular design

One outstanding feature of the FFG is a modular design. While not being as modular as the Boxer from Artec GmbH or the (canceled) Splitterskyddad enhetsplattform, it is still a serious advantage for multi-purpose vehicles to be (semi-)modular.

The modular concept of the G5 - module being taken out of the vehicle (CGI)
The idea: The vehicle uses mission modules (hence the name PMMC), which consist of a floor and roof panel and everything inbetween. The mission module does not contain anything relevant to the normal characteristics of the vehicle like the suspension, the driver's place or the engine.
It should be possible to develop another chassis (e.g. a wheeled chassis or a better protected one), which could support the same modules as the PMMC G5.
When not in use, the mission modules can be stored in standard ISO containers.

One vehicle can be fitted with various different mission modules
FFG has proposed a number of different modules, which can be seen as CGI in their videos and brochures. These include an armored personnel carrier, a command post vehicle, an armored recovery vehicle, a mortar carrier, and an ambulance vehicle.


The original G5 prototype was either demonstrated unarmed - it appears likely that this version was able to install a pintle-mounted machine gun - or later with a FLW 200 remote weapon station from KMW. The FLW 200 can be fitted with 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm machine guns or alternatively with a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher.
PMMC G5 with FLW 200 (mounting a 40 mm AGL)
Later a prototype with the improved FLW 200+ remote weapon station was demonstrated. The FLW 200+ RWS is able to accept larger weapons including the RH202 20 mm autocannon of the Marder IFV.
The FLW 200 was fitted on the left side of the hull, directly behind the driver's dome. The FLW 200+ however was mounted in the center of the vehicle (or even a bit to the right side of the hull). It is located on a extension to allow further gun depression.
The PMMC G5 with FLW 200+ RWS

Armor protection

It seems that different armor sets have already been adapted for the G5. The basic G5 vehicle is an all-welded construction of metal - most likely aluminium or steel. In the FFG promo video for the G5, a version fitted with spaced applique armor can be seen.
A screencap from FFG's promo video shows a spaced armor configuration
A further version applique armor fitted to the G5 was presented during Eurosatory 2014. This applique armor is mounted with a different type of bolts, which seems to be identical to the bolts used on the M1117 or the LAV III, when fitted with MEXAS ceramic composite armor. Hence I would assume, that this version of the G5 is fitted with MEXAS or AMAP ceramic armor.
Tests of the mine protection kit of the G5
The vehicle is fitted with protective plating against mines and IEDs. Additional "lightweight" protection against rocket-propelled grenades can be adapted on the G5. It seems that this is a type of slat or net armor.

G5 presented with Barracuda camouflage

The G5 has also been fitted with the Barracuda MCS from SAAB.

However the vehicle still seems to have a number of drawbacks worth mentioning:
  • the weight increase over the M113
  • the higher roof makes the vehicle taller than the M113 and some other tracked APCs
  • the seats inside the vehicle seem to not be decoupled from the interior, which results in less protection against mines and IEDs
The seats don't seem to be shock-proof

Unfortunately the only known evaluation in which the G5 participated, was the Danish evaluation for a M113 replacement. While FFG had strong ties with the Danish government (i.e. by delivering several upgrades for the M113), the Danish army decided to go for a wheeled APC with the 8 x 8 Piranha 5.

Author's opinion: As previously mentioned, the G5 is not perfect. It lacks mine protected seats as used on the German Puma IFV or the Boxer. The vehicle is also not amphibious, which limits the market to which it can be sold.
Recently a lot of companies have offered multi-role vehicles based refurbished or new production Infantry Fighting Vehicles in the medium weight role. This includes BAE, which offers the CV90 Armadillo and the Bradley AMPV (as selected by the US Army), Rheinmetall (offering the Marder APC) and General Dynamics European Land Systems offering the ASCOD 2 APC.
With Denmark having chosen the Piranha 5, while Germany and the Netherlands are using the Boxer to replace most of their M113s, the market situation for the PMMC G5 is not ideal.
However there are still numerous versions of the Fuchs, M113, VAB, FV432 and the AIFV that should be replaced in the next decade - that is the chance for the PMMC G5 to shine.

There still seem to be hopes of selling the G5 to Germany, at least during a recent presentation in mid-May, a mobile command post version was demonstrated.

On the other hand, the G5's ancestors, the M113 G3 and M113 G4 upgrades would probably do the same job just a tiny bit worse, but for lower costs. The defence spendings in Europe have risen following the Ukraine conflict, but this money is focused on tanks and IFVs.


  1. http://www.ffg-flensburg.de/leichte-fahrzeugsysteme/pmmc-g5/ 
  2. http://www.army-technology.com/projects/protected-mission-module-carrier-g5/

Amored Warfare Early Access Phase 3 starting tomorrow

The third phase of the early access programme from Armored Warfare is starting tomorrow on 1st of July.

The new version will add a new top tier (tier 8), improved settings and code optimizations, decals for all vehicles and the PVE mode.

I am looking forward to play PVE.

Source: aw.my.com

Monday, June 29, 2015

China sells tank destroyers in Africa

Djibouti recently paraded a WMA301 "Assaulter" tank destroyer. The WMA301 is a product of Norinco from China. The vehicle is known in a slightly differnt version in Chinese service as PTL-02 tank destroyer and is based on the chassis of the WZ551 6 x 6 APC.
The vehicle is already in service in Chad and Cameroon. 

Chinese AFVs available for export as presented on Eurosatory 2012
The WMA301 Assaulter seems to feature slightly different turret than the PTL-02. It is armed with a 105 mm (rifled) gun - probably an improved Chinese copy of the famous L7 tank gun - which is fitted with a multi-slot muzzle brake to reduce recoil - and a 12.7 mm machine gun on top of the turret. A total of sixty rounds of main gun ammunition are carried.
It is understood from the author, that the armor of the WMA301 and the WZ551 provides protection against small arms fire only (i.e. 5.56 mm, 7.62 mm) and can be penetrated by heavy machine guns and pretty much all types of RPGs. Two groups of smoke grenade launchers - mounted in clusters of 2 x 2 increase the vehicle's survivability.
The chassis of the WZ551, on which the WMA301 and the PTL-02 are based, seems to be a designed with features from the French VAB and the German Fuchs (at least it looks more closer to these two vehicles rather than the BTR series of APCs).

DjiboutianWMA301 Assaulter tank destroyer on parade

"The Djiboutian Armed Forces (FAD) displayed a single Norinco WMA301 Assaulter tank destroyer during the country's independence day parade on 27 June.
The Assaulter is comprised of the hull of a WZ551 6x6 armoured personnel carrier armoured with a 105 mm gun mounted in a three-person turret. It has similar firepower to a tank, but is more affordable and easier to maintain, albeit at the expense of armour protection.
The FAD does not currently have any tanks, but has Ratel-90 and AML-90 armoured vehicles that can be used in the fire-support role.
The Assaulter is already in service with Cameroon and Chad, both of which deployed them during operations against the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram.
The FAD also displayed M109 self-propelled howitzers and Cougar mine-resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, both of which were seen for the first time in the 2014 parade."
Source: Jane's IHS

Author's opinion: China again manages to claim further costumers in the global AFV market. While the WMA301 is not comparable in terms of performance to the latest generation of wheeled armored fighting vehicles (even China seems to favor the more modern 8x8 VN1A series), it is a very potent AFV for the African continent.
While it is no surprise that African countries cannot afford Western AFVs (due to high costs and political considerations), it is still disturbing to see China gain momentum on the global market for AFVs.

Friday, June 26, 2015

T-72 monkey models

In various discussions about the performance of the T-72 in recent and past military conflicts or in fictive combat scenarios, there is always that one key word that will be thrown out by either side "monkey model".

 People arguing against the performance of the US military in Operation Desert Storm will say "the US fought only against monkey models, real Soviet tanks were much stronger!". In the same manner people, who try to argue about how "weak" the Soviet Union was, will say "most of the tanks were monkey models, we know that they are no problem".

Actually the export versions of T-72 sold to non-members of the Warsaw Pact were nearly equal to those used by East-Germany, the ČSSR, Hungary and Poland.
The armor was the same as used on the original Soviet tanks (with the exception of the T-72M), on which they were based.
The main difference between a 'monkey mode' T-72 and a Soviet one is the date of production/introduction:

E.g. the T-72M1 entered production in 1982 (Soviet Union) and 1986 (ČSSR and Poland), but was a monkey model of the T-72A from 1979!

There are a lot minor differences and some downgrades between the Soviet tanks and export versions, but there were a total of 9 export versions compared to only 5 Soviet production models (of which the last didn't even receive an export model because of the collapse of the Soviet Union).

The 9 export versions of the T-72 differed by tank model and by features.

E.g. the Object 172M-1-E5 is the export model of the T-72M1 that was used in the CSSR, East-Germany, Poland and Hungary, while the Object 172M-1-E6 was sold to India, Iraq, etc.

The only difference between the Object 172M-1-E5 and 172M-1-E6 is however the NBC protection suite; armor, fire control, gun, engine, etc. are all equal.

The same applies to the Object 172M-1-E3 (for members of the Warsaw Pact) and Object 172M-1-E4 versions of the T-72M: armor, fire control, gun, suspension, smoke grenade launchers, opctics, engine and transmission are identical, only the NBC protection is different - both the Object 172M-1-E-4 and Object 172M-1-E-6 were using the NBC protection of the Object 172M-E1, which is the original export version from 1975.

The only tank that really deserves the description "monkey model" is the T-72M, which was a mixture of features from the T-72 and T-72A.

Soviet tank Export model Sold to Designation Notes
T-72 Object 172-E Warsaw Pact T-72 "export"
" Object 172-E1 Third world countries T-72 "export"
T-72A Object 172-E2 T-72M T-72A with the old 2A46 gun and steel turret
" Object 172M-1-E3 Warsaw Pact T-72M
" Object 172M-1-E4 Third world countries T-72M
" Object 172M-1-E5 Warsaw Pact T-72M1 T-72M with T-72A turret armor and suspension
" Object 172M-1-E6 Third world countries T-72M1
T-72B Object 172M-1-E7 T-72M1M Supposedly a single tank was found in Iraq following OIF
" Object 172M-1-E8 Third world countries T-72M1M1, T-72S Exported to Iran after collapse of Soviet Union


  1. M1 Abrams vs T-72 Ural from Steven J. Zaloga
  2. T-72 Main Battle Tank 1974 - 1993 from Steven J. Zaloga
  3. Kampfpanzer Heute und Morgen from Rolf Hilmes

Thursday, June 25, 2015

First Puma IFV handed over to German army

Yesterday, on 24th June of 2015, the first serial production Puma infantry fighting vehicles were handed over to the German army.

24 Jun 2015

Force protection and firepower: the future arrives with formal transfer of Puma infantry fighting vehicle to the Bundeswehr

Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) formally handed over the Puma infantry fighting vehicle to the German Bundeswehr today, the most advanced system of its kind anywhere. One of the world’s most ambitious projects in the field of army technology thus enters the utilization phase.
The Bundeswehr’s fielding of the Puma IFV gives its mechanized infantry a new main weapons system that will gradually supersede the Marder, first introduced over forty years ago.

The new German Puma IFV
Delivery of all 350 infantry fighting vehicles will take place by 2020. Awarded to PSM GmbH in 2004, the contract today is worth around €4.3 billion, including separately ordered additional equipment. PSM is a joint venture of Rheinmetall and KMW, each of which holds a 50% stake in the company.
In joining forces to create the Puma, German defence giants KMW and Rheinmetall have produced a weapons system that represents an entirely new dimension in armoured vehicle design. The Puma is the perfect solution for operational scenarios of every kind in every climate zone, and sets new standards in all relevant capability categories.
But it is not just technology that makes the Puma so impressive. Far more, this highly successful project is the outcome of intense cooperation between the armed forces, the procurement authorities and the defence industry. It enabled the participating parties to bring this extremely complex – not least because of changing specifications in response to knowledge gained during the development phase –project to the point where it was ready for full-scale production. Moreover, despite many countervailing factors, it proved possible to stay within the original budget parameters set out in the contract.

Performance characteristics of the Puma

  • Lethality. Thanks to its newly developed MK30-2/ABM 30mm automatic cannon and programmable ammunition, it can effectively engage a wide spectrum of targets, even behind cover.
  • Mobility. The vehicle’s hydro-pneumatic chassis and powerful engine make the Puma highly manoeuvrable even in the toughest terrain as well as enabling a top speed of 70 km/h. This means it can operate on the battlefield in tandem with the Leopard 2 tank.
  • Survivability. A modular protection system consisting of active and passive components protects the crew from mines, improvised explosive devices, bomblets, shrapnel and ballistic threats such as shaped charges and kinetic energy rounds.
  • C4I. Digitized command and control technology make it easier for the crew to operate the vehicle and its subsystems, simplifying command procedures and bringing the Puma directly into the networked operations loop.
  • Reconnaissance. Advanced optics, optronics and sensors give the crew maximum situational awareness around the clock, enabling early detection and high-precision engagement of emerging threats.

Puma joins the Bundeswehr

Now that the Puma has entered active service with the German military, the first step is to train the trainers, just as planned. This process is already underway at a German Army training centre in Munster, and runs to the end of this year. A special organization has been set up in Munster for the Puma, which provides mechanized infantry companies with three months of initial training in the new vehicle. The organization takes delivery of the vehicles from the manufacturer, outfits them with Bundeswehr-specific equipment and transfers them to the troops undergoing training there. Once they have completed the three-month course, the units return to their home base with their newly issued Pumas.
In the meantime, the Bundeswehr and PSM GmbH have concluded the necessary contracts for maintenance and technical/logistical support. Long-term support for the new infantry fighting vehicle from relevant German defence contractors is thus assured.
Source: Rheinmetall Defence

Author's opinion: The Puma infantry fighting vehicle is probably one of the best IFVs we have seen until this day. The extremely high level of protection, but also the new optronics and digital technology in combination with the programmable air-burst ammunition set new standards for infantry fighting vehciles. Being powered by a next-generation MTU engine, having an unmanned turret and fitted with an active protection system does also help.
On the other hand the lack of the missile launcher (expected in 2018) and the huge delays in the past years are the negative sides of the Puma, aswell as the extremely high per unit costs.

A number of changes have occured during the Puma development. The serial vehicles are (also?) fitted with reactive armor at some parts of the side hull, while the previous pre-series vehicles seemed to rely soley on passive armor. The rear is now covered by slat armor and the secondary armament - i.e. the elevatable grenade launcher has been fitted with 40 mm grenade barrels (not confirmed by photographs).

Don't use armor estimates from random websites

In many internet discussions about modern tanks, one will find people posting armor estimates (in form as RHA equivalency) being posted to compare tanks. These values should not be taken serious, as most of them are based on extremely limited and outdated sources.

One prime example are the armor estimations (called Armor Basics) from Paul Lakowski from SteelBeasts, which have found their way to Scribd. These values were reposted on J. Collin's table-top war gaming reference website (link death, use link with web archive to visit the site) and from their have found their way to Fabian Prado's The Armor Site! and even some of the worse written Wikipedia articles (yes, this is the Abrams' article).

Why are these values wrong and outdated? 

First of all, they are based on a faulty conception of modern armor design. The author believed that all Western composite armor was based on a relatively simple layout, consisting of steel plates, between which layers of ceramic and kevlar were sandwiched. In the same way Chobham armor was described during the 1980s.
We know however from literature, declassified documents from the development of Chobham armor, and from photographs of damaged tanks, that this is not the case. So the basic idea of his armor estimations is already wrong.

Damaged Merkava IV tank - note that this is not "kevlar + ceramic"
The second problem arrives when we take a look at the thickness values. The best example for this is the Leopard 2. According to Armor Basics the Leopard 2 has an armor thickness of 1000 milimetres at the turret corners and 1300 milimetres at the turret center, with a 700 mm thick mantlet!
However we do know that this is not the case, because on different Leopard 2 tanks people have used simple measure bands to measure the armor thickness.
It happens that the Leopard 2 has only about 860 milimetres of frontal armor, with an 420 milimetres thick gun shield (behind this is still a lot of steel from the gun trunion and the gun mount). So the thickness values to calculate the armor protection levels are also false.
Leopard 2 frontal turret armor - 800 mm without backplate!
Wen have seen that the idea for the armor composition is wrong and that the thickness values are wrong. As a result the conclusion of these two factors is also wrong: The armor density.
Calculating the density is a good way to estimate the armor protection of a tank, when you have a basic idea about how modern armor works. But when you already have wrong values for armor thickness, it is obvious that you will end up with either a higher or lower density than the real value.
In case of the Leopard 2, which has approximately 20% - 40% thinner armor than estimated, the density will be a lot lower than it should be. Hence in Armor Basics the Leopard 2 turret armor consists of "2/3 aluminum + SHS + AD-85 + Rubber", i.e. it is made mostly out of aluminium.
In reality however Paul-Werner Krapke, project manager of the Leopard 2 development, describes the armor to utilize different steel alloys of high hardness and ductility in combination with non-metallic and elastic materials, which by my understanding suggests NERA.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

T-90 upgrade incoming

Is Russia planning an upgrade for the T-90? At least Russian news have indicated so:

Russia’s T-90 main battle tank will become the quickest-firing of its kind, Defense Ministry officials said on the sidelines of the Army 2015 International Expo on Thursday.
The upgraded T-90 will boast a new turret module and a new digital fire control system ensuring record-short intervals between shots.
Also on Thursday Russia’s arm manufacturers showcased the powerful Sunburn flame thrower capable of incinerating enemy position within seconds.
Visitors to the Army-2015 expo, including representatives of more than 70 countries, looking to buy state-of-the-art Russian military hardware, also had a chance to enjoy a close-up view of the Pantsir S-1 short to medium range missile and anti-aircraft artillery system designed to shoot down enemy aircraft, precision munitions, cruise missiles and UAVs at low and extremely low ranges.
The Army-2015 expo opened on June 16, 2015 in Kubinka, outside Moscow.

Source: Sputniknews

As the author understand, the turret module will be similar to the turret of the T-90M. Depending on how far the T-90M turret module will be copied for the T-90 upgrade, this could be a considerable boost in combat performance.

T-90M technical data (in Russian)
The current Russian main battle tanks, the T-90 and T-90A, both utilize rather un-optimal turret designs. They follow the classical Soviet turret layout and have hence deficits in modern assymetrical warfare.
The original T-90 production model from 1992 is understood to utilize the turret from the late production T-72B fitted with the 1A45T fire control system. This 1A45T FCS is a modified form of the 1A45 fire control system, which was first introduced in service with the T-80U in 1985. It is outdated, as the low scores during international competitions (for example the Greek evaluation of the T-80U) and according to Russian sources the upgraded T-72B3 tank has a higher accuracy.
 Also the possible replacement of the Kontakt-5 ERA could be a huge improvment in terms of armor protection. Kontakt-5 is the current "backbone" of Russian tank armor, but it is also from 1985 and has been analyzed and tested by various Western nations. It is understood that it offers little to none protection against modern tandem warhead missiles and APFSDS ammunition.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

India to develop a new tank

India has send out a Request for Information (RfI)

State-of-art battle tanks to replace T-72
The Army is planning to replace its existing fleet of Soviet-origin main battle tanks, which have been in service since the mid-80s, with a family of modular armoured-fighting vehicles that would be developed in collaboration with the industry. “The Indian Army is planning to design and develop a new generation, state-of-the-art combat vehicle platform for populating its armoured fighting vehicle fleet in the coming decade. This vehicle, which will be called the future ready combat vehicle (FRCV), will form the base platform for the main battle tank which is planned to replace the existing T-72 tanks in the Armoured Corps,” a request for information (RFI) of the Army stated. The army envisions to begin inducting the new platforms by 2025-27. It is also planned to subsequently develop other need-based variants like bridge-layers, anti-mine trawlers, command posts, armoured ambulances, engineer vehicles, self-propelled gun platforms and recovery vehicles on this platform. The Army looking towards developing a new family of armoured vehicles also indicates that the main battle tank, Arjun, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) does not meet its future requirements, even though orders have been placed to equip some regiments it. The Army and the DRDO have been at loggerheads about the performance and capability of the Arjun. At present the T-72 and the T-90, both procured from Russia and assembled in India, are the mainstay of the Indian Armoured Corps. The T-72 has undergone several upgrades to enhance their capability. The T-90 began entering service in the last decades. The RFI also states that a ‘future’ combat platform design must cater to ‘future’ battlefield environment and technological possibilities. To address the future scenario and the envisaged force profile, the FRCV, which would be in the “medium tank” category, needs to be developed on a modular concept with a high degree of flexibility in a manner that, as a tank platform, it can address the varying requirements of different terrain and weather configurations. At the same time it can provide the base on which a ‘family of vehicles’, catering to the operational needs of various arms of the Army. The new tank’s firepower should be well matched to contemporary tanks in engagement ranges, all weather day/night fighting capability, depth of penetration and variety of ammunition. It should have very high all-round protection.

Source: Jane's IHS, The Tribune

Author's opinion: If the development of the new tank/multi-purpose vehicle will be another iteration of the flawed Arjun development, then I see bad times ahead.
Just recently news report mentioned that a staggering 75% of all Arjuns are grounded and honestly, even in the improved Arjunk Mk 2 configuration, the tank won't be competitive on the modern main battle tank market. The armor layout is limited, the ammunition storage questionable, the gun is under-performing and the engine is outdated.
Seeing India try again to develop a modern armored vehicle (not only a single one, but a multi-purpose plattform), while still habving troubles with their Arjun tank is not comprehensible.
 The Arjun's development started in 1974, first tanks entered service in 2007. So, I guess we will see how well the FRCV tank component performs in 2048.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Argentina buys Chinese APCs

Argentina has ordered 110 Chinese VN1 APCs. The VN1 is a 8x8 wheeled and amphibious armored fighting vehicle, which seems to be the export version of the ZBL-09 APC operated by the Chinese army.

VN1 APC - in this photograph fitted with a 30 mm autocannon in a turret
The Argentinan version will be armed with a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun. The vehicle's armor provides protection against 12.7 mm armor-piercing ammunition at the frontal arc and all-round protection against 7.62 mm armour-piercing rounds.

Source: Defensa.com

Author's opinion: The Argentine military uses a lot of really outdated equipment, so seeing them modernize their equipment and buying new APCs is not a surprise.
The fact that they went with the VN1 from Norinco however surprises me in multiple ways. First of all Chinese vehicles do have some kind of bad reputation and despite China's size and growing influence over the past years, they still lack noteworthy success on the export market.
Argentina has bought equipment from European and American companies, with the majority of the medium weight vehicles being based on Thyssen-Henschel's TAM plattform. 
It seems that the Chinese VN1 comes at a lower price than most of it's competitors, otherwise I would not see advantages of buying the VN1 instead of higher performance vehicles from the US or Europe. If this move was correct for the Argentinian army is questionable.

Monday, June 15, 2015

US Army adopts Barracuda

The US Army decided to adopt the Mobile Camouflage System (MCS) Barracuda from the Swedish company SAAB.

Defence and security company Saab has received an order for the production and delivery of camouflage equipment from the US Army. Deliveries will occur over the next six months.
Saab has global leadership in the design and manufacture of advanced camouflage solutions for the defence market and continues to attract new and existing customers around the globe. For decades in the US, Saab has been the leading supplier to the US Army within this product area.
“We are proud to be able to continue to deliver state-of-the-art solutions to the US Army. This order further proves Saab’s unrivalled position as the world-leader within signature management technology. It is also an important step forward towards sustaining a critical U.S. signature management industrial base,” says Brian Keller, President of Saab Barracuda LLC.
Saab’s advanced camouflage technology products have until now been exported to more than 50 countries. Saab offers a unique package of camouflage systems and force protection solutions with the purpose to decrease the enemy’s ability to detect and engage. These solutions protect camps, vehicles and personnel against hostile sensors and enemy target acquisition.

Source: http://news.cision.com/saab/r/saab-receives-us-army-order-for-camouflage-solutions,c9790487

M1A2 Abrams with Barracuda MCS
Apparently the US Army plans to outfit their M1A2 Abrams main battle tank with the Barracuda MCS, at least several photographs can be found online. These should not be confused with earlier photographs of Australian M1A1 Abrams tanks, on which the MCS was trialed.

Recently (in Novembre 2014) Germany already adopted Barracuda MCS on their Leopard 2A7 main battle tank, after other NATO countries like Denmark and Canada having used Barracuda MCS on their Leopard 2 tanks in Afghanistan. The first user of Barracuda MCS on a main battle tank was however Sweden.

Swedish Strv 121 with Barracuda MCS

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cold War MBT turret designs

This short article will try to cover the basic design philosophies of the modern main battle tank turrets. I have noticed three different philosophies from the predominant tank builders of the Cold War.

M1 Abrams

The Abrams' turret is massive. It is noticable wider than the turret of the Leopard 2 or Soviet tanks. Apparently the approximately one feet thick side armor covers the complete flanks of the turret.
Marked grey in this sketch is the approximate layout of the turret armor
At the right side, the thickness side armor cavities can be seen.
Photo showing the blow-off panles (center) and side armor (right) of the M1A1

Why does the M1 Abrams have such massive armor protection over it's turret bustle? It's quite simple. Unlike most other main battle tanks, the majority of the main gun ammunition is stored in the bustle (in case of the M1A1 all except six rounds). A penetration of the bustle would result in the tank being not able to continue combat.
The Leclerc with it's bustle mounted autoloader supposedly follows the same idea in terms of general turret armor layout.

Leopard 2

The turret of the Leopard 2 and some other tanks, follows a different design. While the frontal armor and the side armor covering the crew compartment are in terms of thickness similar to the M1 Abrams, the bustle armor is considerably reduced. Judging by different pictures, it seems to have only one third of the normal side armor thickness. 

Marked grey in this sketch (not very correctly) is the turret armor layout

Drawing of a Leopard 2 turret

Leopard 2 turret production. The bustle armor is thinner.

From the Leopard 2 designer's perspective, it seems that a penetration of the two separated compartmens (ammunition on the left, hydraulics on the right) was deemed to be a minor problem. Instead of armoring the turret bustle, more weight could be allocated to other parts of the tank (for example the roof armor or the frontal armor). 
Why is this possible? Redundancy. The turret hydraulics could be manually operated via hand pump (at a slower speed), while only 15 of 42 main gun rounds were stored in the turret bunker (with 27 being located in the hull).
Other tanks that follow the same general turret design include the Challenger 1 and Challenger 2, where the turret bustle is protected only by thin steel armor and external storage boxes.
Storage boxes at the Challenger 2's bustle

T-64 / T-72 / T-80 / T-90

Soviet tanks and tanks following the Soviet tank design scheme are utilizing a much different turret shape. The turret's frontal armor is wider than the rest of the turret, while the side walls are sloping "back". As a result the frontal armor can cover the whole turret along the frontal arc.

Patent drawing of a T-90A style turret. Note the thin side walls

T-72B tank. The heavy frontal armor is visible due to the welded cavity roofs

Turret of a T-90A after ballistic tests. Note: massive frontal armor, thin side armor

Why did the Soviet's opt for such a "minimalistic" design? Well, first of all they could make their turrets smaller thanks to the use of hull-mounted autloaders.
It also allows saving (probably at least a ton) of weight that normally would have been required to protect the sides.

Pro and contra

Each of the designs has it's pros and cons, otherwise the tank designers would have been stupid for not always choosing the same design.
The Soviet tank turret design is highly optimized for frontal combat - Soviet tanks are often claimed to be designed specifically for attack operations, the lack of side armor only supports those claims. The sides are covered by only 80 to 90 milimetres of steel armor, which makes them incredible vulnerable in assymetric warfare (how many tanks were lost at Grozny?).
The Leopard 2 and Challenger tanks follow a turret design that is also front optimized, but does have a hefty amount of composite armor covering the crew compartment. The bustle is rather unprotected, but this is supposedly no problem due to redundancy and the rather low probability to hit these areas.
The M1 Abrams has full protection along the turret bustle, but suffers from a less weight-efficient design, having to allocate approximately 20 to 30% more weight for turret side protection. Together with the overall huge size of the Abrams' turret, it seems unlikely that it can achieve the same level of protection with the same weight as the Leopard 2.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The armor protection of the T-72 tank

In this first real post I want to share some of the informations I have gathered about the armor protection of the T-72 including. I know that this is no secret - the armor and the estimated protection levels of the T-72 are all well known and can be found in numerous different books.

This article will only cover the armor layout of the original T-72 (Object 172M; also known as Ural) and the respective export models Object 172M-E and Object 172M-E1. Follow up articles will probably cover the armor protection of other tanks among them the Soviet T-72A, T-72B and T-80U tanks.

Turret armor

The turret of the original production model of the T-72 consisted of cast steel. The turret design follows the typical Soviet turret layout with thick frontal turret armor at the turret center and cheeks, but thin turret sides and rear.

The hardness of Soviet Cold War cast steel is said to be about 270 to 286 on the Brinell scale as measured on a T-55 tank (compared to approx. 300 BH for Soviet RHA). Unfortunately I cannot confirm any of this, but due to the person claiming this being rather knowledgeable on Soviet tanks and armor, I assume that this is correct.

T-72 with part of the turret armor cut away
According to declassified documents from the CIA, a measurement of the T-72 turret at the port of the coaxial machine gun revealed an armor thickness of 350 milimetres.
Based on a scale-drawing (probably taken from the T-72 manual) the turret armor was estimated to be 475 mm thick at the turret cheeks. This value is backed by the length of the machine gun barrel, which is represented properly scaled in the drawing obtained by the CIA.
Drawing taken from [2]

Hull armor

The hull of the T-72 is made from rolled steel plates, which are welded together. The glacis armor is fitted with a new type of multilayer armor, which first was used on the T-64 tank. The rest of the hull armor consists of rolled homogenous steel, which also serves a structural function. Two different types of skirts have been added to the T-72 during the Cold War.

Glacis armor 

The glacis armor array consists of a three or four layer laminate (depending on how one does count a layer). It is identical to the glacis armor of the T-64 main battle tank. The outermost and the innermost layer of the laminate are steel plates, between which stekloplastika is sandwiched. Stekloplastika is a type of glass-reinforced plastic that is a textolite.
The glacis segments from several Polish T-72M1 or PT-91 tanks
Why did I speak about three or four layers? Because the glass-reinforced plastic/texolite seems to be always to be evenly distributed in two layers instead of one twice as thick. I was told on a tank-focused web forum that the reason for this is the manfucaturing capacity.
In case of the original T-72 and the early T-64 versions, the outer layer was 80 mm thick, the two texolite had a combined thickness of 105 mm, while the inner steel plate was only 20 mm thick. The whole armor array is sloped at 68° from the vertical - which leads to a line-of-sight thickness of impressive 547 milimetres!
The above photograph does not properly reflect the armor layout, as it shows the slightly different armor array of the T-72M1 & Polish PT-91. A more appropriate reflection of the original T-72 glacis array is the shown in the following photograph - unfortunately the slope angle is not correct!
A part of the T-72 glacis armor - the steel has been painted red, while the textolite was painted grey
The lower hull front is protected by only 80 mm steel at 64° from the vertical.

Hull side armor

The flanks of the T-72's hull consists of rolled steel plates, which were welded together. The thickness of the upper plates (covering approximately 60% of the height) is 80 mm, while the lower section is covered by 20 mm thick steel plates at 60° angle from the vertical.  
This picture actually shows a T-64 hull, but it should be the same for the T-72
The initial product version was fitted with a special type of folding side skirts. The skirts were made of multiple rubber panels, which could be folded to certain angles to provide a higher standoff distance against shaped charge warheads like used by anti-tank guided missiles. However this came at the costs of coverage and these type of side skirts were abandoned in favor of normal steel-reinforced rubber skirts.
Visible in the front is the mounting/folding mechanism. 

Protection level estimates

The T-72 was initially designed to withstand 105 mm tank ammunition (as used by NATO) from close ranges (500 metres) and anti-tank gudided missiles along the frontal 60° arc.

According to CIA estimates the probability to penetrate a T-72 with a M735 APFSDS was 22%, while the TOW missiles was estimated to have a probability between 16 and 48%, depending on how effective the T-72's armor was.

There are some factors to keep in mind when looking at the description of the T-72's armor above:
  • cast steel (as used on the T-72 turret) is less effective than rolled steel, i.e. it does offer up to 20% less protection per thickness than RHA (in case of Soviet tanks, it should be between 5 and 15%)
  • the textolite used in the glacis armor array does provide less protection than steel of the same thickness - the thickness efficiency is claimed to be 0.41 against APFSDS and 0.55 against shaped charges 
  • RHA or RHS equivalency is not really a valid way to determine protection, as penetrators of different construction can be optimized against certain types of armor
Steven Zaloga estimated the T-72 armor to provide protection of 410 mm RHA equivalency against APFSDS and 500 mm against HEAT (see [4]). In "M1 Abrams vs T-72 Ural" however he does attribute the same tank with a much lower level of protection. There, the turret is said to provide protection equal to 380 mm against APFSDS and 410 mm against HEAT, while the glacis armor is said to provide 335 mm vs APFSDS and 450 mm vs HEAT steel equivalency of protection.
The considerable difference between the values has been discussed in different forums, it appears that the values from his later book might be directly taken from a Soviet/Russian report - however this report supposedly is talking about the protection when hit at 60°!
According to Rolf Hilmes the turret of a former East-German T-72 had a thickness of only 335 mm sloped between 65 and 80° (I guess from the horizontal). It seems that the turret was cut open at a place close to the coaxial machine gun port, as this is very similar to the CIA measurements. According to Hilmes, the turret provides protection equal to 280-380 mm RHA against APFSDS and 490 mm RHA against HEAT, while the glacis provides 400 mm against APFSDS and 490 mm against HEAT. As the ex-East German T-72 was a T-72M, the glacis armor is improved compared to the T-72.
The lower hull is attributed with only 250 mm RHA equivalent protection.

Declassified documents from the CIA show an estimated turret armor protection equal to 450 mm RHA against APFSDS and HEAT, while the glacis is attributed with 100 mm less protection against APFSDS. 


Just like every tank, the T-72 has a number of weakspots due to every tank design being a balance between limiting factors (weight, price) and favorable factors (protection, firepower, mobility). Due to the nature of "modern" special armor, it is not possible to fit every section of the tank with equal armor protection.
If you have to face a T-72 tank in Armored Warfare or SteelBeasts (and the tanks are modelled somewhat accurate), the following spots of the tank should be targeted:
  • the area directly below the driver's vision blocks (armor thickness reduced to make space for the driver)
  • the lower front plate (no composite armor there, see earlier photograph)
  • the gun mantlet and the area directly around it
  • the sides and rear of the tank, as long as you are outside the frontal arc 


  1. M1 Abrams vs T-72 Ural from Steven J. Zaloga
  2. The Soviet T-72 Tank - Performance (declassified CIA document)
  3. U.S. Intelligence and Soviet Armor (declassified CIA document)
  4. T-72 Main Battle Tank 1974 - 1993 from Steven J. Zaloga
  5.  Kampfpanzer Heute und Morgen from Rolf Hilmes
  6. Soviet Tank Programs (declassified CIA document)

My new blog "Below The Turret Ring"

I have decided to start a blog. As you most likely don't know me, let me tell you a bit about my experience with blogging or hosting my own websites:
I am usually quite enthusiastic about it on the first few days, but after a certain time I might get distracted and end up posting just once every few months. Maybe this blog will die after a weeks of posting, maybe it will stay here for a year or more. Let's see where this journey leads!

What is this blog about? 

This blog is about tanks and modern weaponry mainly. The whole topic might be cross-linked to the new game Armored Warfare from Obsidian, which is currently in the early access stage (and quite fun to play).
I try to write articles based on my amateur knowledge of modern vehicles, modern technology and politics. If I find some interesting news topics, I might post them here and discuss them.

Why the name? 

Well, obviously I am very unimaginative. I failed at coming up with a better name within the 15 minutes of deciding to start a new blog. I wanted some name that is a methapor for being inside the topic and this was the first idea that has anything to do with tanks. E.g. several tanks - like the Isreali Merkava and the British Chieftain - are designed to store potential sources of explosion (propellant charges and ammunition) below the turret ring to increase the chances of the crew surviving after the armor has been penetrated.
I don't know if this is possible with blogger, but in case of me finding a better name, I might rename this blog.

Anything else to know?

I am not a very fluent speaker or writer of the English language, as it is not my mothertongue. Please feel free to correct and criticize me when I make horrendous gramatical or spelling errors - otherwise I'll never learn to do it correct!

- blogger_mm