Sunday, November 15, 2015

Thailand's DTI presents new wheeled AFV: the Black Widow Spider

Thailand is developing a new 8 x 8 wheeled armored fighting vehicle, which has been named "Black Widow Spider". It was developed by Defence Technology Institute of Thailand with help from ST Kinetics of Singapore. It is said to incorporate technology from the Irish Timoney Technology Group, who already worked on other Asian wheeled combat vehicles such as the Taiwanese Cloud Leopard and the Singaporean Terrex.
The current version of it was presented on the Defence & Security 2015 military exhibition in Thailand.
The Black Widow Spider
The presented version of the Black Widow Spider is fitted with a remotely operated turret, which appears to be identical to the turret demonstrated on the ST Kinetic's Terrex II infantry fighting vehicle. The turret is equipped with a 30 mm Mk 44 Bushmaster II, a 7.62 mm NATO machine gun, optics for the gunner and an independent commander's sight, and a number of smoke grenade launchers.
A number of photographs of the vehicle were already shown on the internet several weeks before the 2015 exhibition. An earlier prototype was presented in 2013, which however was lacking a lot of the features of the current Black Widow Spider, such as the composite armor, the unmanned turret, the splash guard and the propeller blades for amphibious operations.

Older prototype of the Black Widow Spider seeing earlier this year
Side view of the Black Widow Spider
The Black Widow Spider presented at Defence & Security 2015 has a weight of 24 tons including the IFV. It is powered by a 450 hp diesel engine from Caterpillar. The vehicle has an operational range of 600 kilometers. Seating is provided for the driver, the gunner, the commander and up to nine dismounts.
The seats for the dismounts are not attached to the floor, which increases survivability against mines

 The battlefield management system (BMS) of the Black Widow Spider is made by ST Kinetics of Singapore. The composite armor used on the current version of the vehicle (previous prototypes lacked any sort of composite amor) is supplied by the Israel Military Industries (IMI). When fitted with the composite armor from IMI, the Black Widow Spider is protected against 14.5 mm armor-piercing (AP) ammunition in accordance with the NATO STANAG standard 4569. The gun used on the prototype IFV version is like the BMS also manufactured by ST Kinetics.

The battlefield management system in the BWS

The Black Widow Spider is the result of the Wheeled Armoured Vehicle Research and Development Project using the technical abilites and knowledge of the Thai army, the private industry and a number of research institutes in Thailand. The vehicle is an attempt of being less reliant on foreign manufacturers, which have shown to be problematic in some cases (such as the delivery of Ukrainian armor being troubled due to the conflict in the East-Ukraine).
Apparently no official requirement and order was made by the Thai army yet, but this might change after the Black Widow Spider went through field trials.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Belarusian armor upgrades

The Army of Belarus has presented upgraded versions of their main armored fighting vehicles such as the T-72B main battle tank (MBT), the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) and the BTR-80 wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC) as reported by the Russian-language website "Journal of Mordovia". The vehicles are part of the 120th Guards mechanized brigade which was visisted by the Belarusian president/dictator Alexander Lukashenko and a crew from the Belarusian TV channel/show "Arsenal".
The upgraded vehicles being presented for the first time to public
The turret of the BMP-2 shows a large central weakspot were no slat armor is installed
The BMP-2's lower front, turret and sides are fitted with slat armor.
It's unlikely that an RPG fuzes at the highly sloped upper front plate of the hull
The BTR-80's sides and turret are also protected by slat armor
Details of the slat armor installation
The upgrades consist of additional armor protection in form of slat armor, which is designed to crush the warheads of rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and hence prevent the shaped charge to form a armor-piercing jet. On the T-72B, currently the main tank of the Belarusian army, the slat armor protects the sides and rear of the turret at the places where no Kontakt ERA is mounted.On the BMP-2 and the BTR-80, the slat armor protects the lower front, the turret, the sides and probably also the rear section of the vehicles.
The slat armor mounted at the front section of the BTR-80
The new slat armor upgrade was developed this year following the poor performance of such vehicles in asymmetric warfare in Syria and Ukraine.
Details of the slat armor mounted on the T-72B turret
Details of the slat armor mounted on the T-72B turret
It is not yet known if these armor upgrades will be purchased for the Belarusian army on any larger scale.

Merkava 2 conversion into other vehicles

The Israel Defence Force (IDF) is converting a number of Merkava II main battle tanks (MBTs) to an armored personnel carrier version. The Merkava II MBT originally entered service with the IDF in 1983 as an improved version of the Merkava I tank. It features spaced armor (which subsequently was reinforced with composite armor on upgraded models), a 105 mm M68 tank gun and a 900 hp AVDS-1790-6A  V12 engine in combination with a Renk 304 transmission licence-built by Ashot Ashkelon.

The Merkava II APC is fitted with a fixed superstructure instead of the turret.
If the sources on different internet articles are correct, it was originally planned to base the Namer heavy APC on the older Merkava I and Merkava II tanks. The Namera prototype - which predates the custom-made Namer - was based on the outdated Merkava I.
Namera APC
According to Jane's IHS The IDF wants to use the converted Merkava II vehicles as "battlefield logistics carriers" (sounds like a cargo version), casualty evacuation (armored ambulance) and for use as a command post vehicle. At least two prototypes (one cargo transport vehicle and one casevac vehicle) are planned, of which the first has already been finished.
These new Merkava II variants are to replace the outdated M113 APCs which are still the backbone of the IDF.