Monday, February 22, 2016

Saudi-Arabia has nukes...

So apparently Saudi-Arabia has acquired a number of nuclear warheads in the past years, despite having signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The nukes were supposedly delivered by Pakistan.

How can this happen? The West and Russia are trying to prevent every other nation from developing and using nuclear weapons. We finally managed to get an agreement on Iran's nuclear arms development program and have lifted sanctions. We have sanctioned and isolated North Korea a dozen times for trying to develop nukes. Now this?
How is Saudi-Arabia - as a non-democratic state with death penalty, which is also supposedly sponsoring terrorism - allowed to have nuclear weapons? Were are the sanctions now?

Sentinel/Terrex 1+ revealed at Singapore Airshow

After only computer generated images from the Sentinel - ST Kinetics' and Elbit's joint venture for the Australian LAND 400 combat reconnaissance vehicle (CRV) - have existed, the Terrex-1+ was revealed at the Singapore Airshow at the 17th February. The Terrex-1+ was painted in Australian Army camouflage patterns.

The Terrex-1+ being showcased on the Singapore Airshow
The Terrex 1+ is an upgraded version of the Terrex wheeled armored fighting vehicle (AFV), which is in service with the Singaporean Army and was offered to the Turkish Army (as Yavuz) and the USMC. It was used as demonstrator how the Sentinel CRV for LAND 400 will be configured. However the Sentinel will be based on the improved Terrex 2, which was downselected together with the BAE/Iveco SuperAV by the US Marine Corps for the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) program.

The "tracks over wheel concept" of the Terrex 1+
The Terrex 1+  is fitted with a MT30 turret from Elibt, which mounts a 30 mm Bushmaster II chaingun from ATK, a dual launcher for a top-attack ATGM (Javelin or Spike-LR most likely) and a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun. The commander is provided with a COAPS independent sight fitted with thermal imager, optical day channel and CCTV camera. The gunner is provided with a similarily equipped sight fixed to the left turret front. 
An unique feture of the Terrex 1+ is the ability to mount rubber band tracks over the two frontal wheels, which will help increasing the off-road mobility in bad drive conditions.

A scale model for the LAND 400 contender - note that this vehicle is amphibious, but earlier CGI from Elbit suggested otherwise
The Terrex 2 used for the Sentinel will have a better mine protection and a raised total weight of up to 30 tons compared to the 24 tons of the Terrex-1+. It is also fitted with a more powerful engine.

Elbit and ST Kinetics are a bit slower in coming up with details of their CRV contender or even a full prototype. Rheinmetall's Boxer CRV was pretty much existing before the LAND 400 program was started (since it's largely based on the Boxer IFV with Lance MTS), while Patria and BAE Systems simply adopted their existing E35 turret on their exisiting Patria AMV chassis, first "full" prototypes were already finished in December 2015/January 2016. General Dynamics will offer their LAV 6.0, an upgraded LAV III already in service with the Canadian forces.
On the other hand one has to say that the Terrex 2 is the newest vehicle of all known contenders, so this isn't much of a surpise. This also means that the Terrex 2 is the least proven vehicle though...

Friday, February 19, 2016

France looking to modernize more Leclerc tanks

According to Jane's IHS, France is currently considering to increase the amount of tanks to be modernized and kept in French Army service by 25, increasing the total amount to 225 Leclerc main battle tanks (MBTs).

The original contract for the SCORPION program was announced by the French state-owned company Nexter (formerly known as GIAT) on March 12 in 2015. Back then the modernization of 200 tanks and 18 Leclerc DCL armored recovery vehicles was ordered for a total of approximately €330 million (or about €1.51 million per vehicle). Nexter originally developed and produced the Leclerc tank for the French Army aswell as the export version with German MTU powerpack for the United Arab Emirates' Army. The upgraded Leclerc will have the "Standard F1". Originally the Scorpion program/Leclerc Standard F1 was announced in 2013, when a delivery in 2018 was expected. In it's press release, Nexter however mentions the delivery will happen beginning in 2020.

Nexter claims that the Scorpion program "aims to maintain this capacity beyond 2040", which seems to be a very optimistic estimation of the Leclerc's service life, given that France is known to be developing the new MGCS tank together with Germany, which is expected to enter service in 2030 to 2035

The Scorpion program adds a new radio system (called  CONTACT according to Nexter), the SCORPION battlefield management and command system and upgraded protection by use of interfaces, allowing the Leclerc to adopt different armor packages for protection against new threats, such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

This CAD model was shown when the Scorpion program was announced in 2013.

The new armor (green) covers the side and rear section of the tank's hull only. It appears to be similar or even identical to the Leclerc AZUR (Action en Zone Urbaine) that has been revealed in 2006. The frontal two thirds of the new armor seem to panels made of what seems to be reactive armor (either NERA or ERA) - this covers the whole crew compartment. The rear section of the hull and the turret is only protected by slat armor.
Four wire cutters and a new RWS (light brown) are added to the tank, two of the mounted on the turret roof and two on the hull section. Furthermore the number of the GALIX smoke grenade dischargers (yellow) has been increased dramatically - from 12 to 24. Two banks of 4 smoke grenade dischargers are mounted on the turret front, while the original GALIX launchers are increased in size (from 6 to 10 smoke grenade each). Laser warner sensors (red) also have been fitted to the tank, which could in theory work together with the GALIX system like a full softkill active protection system. The Leclerc Standard F1 is also fitted with a close proximity surveillance system (orange), consisting of three camera/sensor systems mounted at the turret sides and rear.

In the end one has to wonder about the Leclerc upgrade and the decisions of the French government. While Germany and the United Kingdom have announced future upgrades to their respective main battle tanks directly related to the appearance of the T-14 Armata MBT and the worsened relation between NATO and Russia, the French Army seems to upgrade their tanks for the wars of the past. Don't get me wrong, we will probably see a lot of assymetrical warfare and urban combat in the future, but that's not necessarily where the main focus of the tank upgrades should be put on in the future.
The turret of the scale model showing the Leclerc version suggested for Turkey.
Can the Leclerc's frontal armor survive being hit with a new 125 mm APFSDS from the high pressure 2A82-M1 tank gun of the Aramata or the 125 mm 2A83 gun, which might be used on the (final) production version of the Armata? While only being a prototype back then, the Leclerc was considered the weakest armored tank in the Swedish trials of 1993. Sure, the current Leclerc from the late production batches are quite a lot heavier (~3 tons) than the earlier prototypes/LRIP versions, but the old Leclerc in Sweden was fitted with additional armor modules developed by IBD and Åkers Krutbruk... so there is some reason to doubt that. 
Then there are also issues with the main gun. Germany has announced to develop improved performance 120 mm guns/ammuniton for the Leopard 2 and a 130 mm as mid/long-term upgrade plan. How well does the slightly shorter L/52 gun of the Leclerc perform against a T-14 tank using slightly shorter/older ammunition? It seems that there is also not much reason to assume that the Leclerc is fit to beat a T-14 tank in this specific aspect. The Leclerc needs further upgrades in the future to stay relevant until 2030/2040.

The Leclerc version pitched to Turkey - during the time when the Turkish Army was looking for a new tank to be produced in Turkey during 2005-2007 (in the end the K2 was chosen to become the base for the Altay tank) - seems to be very similar to the actual Leclerc Scorpion upgrade, despite the difference of about 10 years. The armor configuration of the Leclerc Standard F1 is already used on the UAE tanks in combat. On the French scale model, the GALIX system also received additional launcher (but lacked the additional two banks at the turret front). The armor was upgraded in a similar manner, laser warners and an actual softkill active protection system (with a IR/UV jammer on top of the turret) were also added. This is where I would say, that France slept a bit when it comes to keeping the Leclerc upgraded to the latest configurations.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Rheinmetall to develop 130 mm gun and upgraded 120 mm gun

A presentation from Rheinmetall's Capital Markets Day 2015, an outlook for the investors held in November last year, includes a few very interesting informations about the future of Rheinmetall Defence. Rheinmetall is developing an upgraded 120 mm high-pressure gun and a new 130 mm gun.

For the future of the Leopard 2 main battle tank (MBT), Rheinmetall is seeing a three step program:
  1. Modernization of the Leopard 2 with new technologies including an high-pressure 120 mm gun
  2.  Upgunning the Leopard 2 with the new 130 mm gun being developed by Rheinmetall
  3.  Replacing the Leopard 2 with the Main Ground Combat Systems
The modernization of the Leopard 2 suggested by Rheinmetall is pretty much identical with the MBT Technologieträger and it's new technologies. An interesting standout feature here is however the "new 120 high-pressure cannon and ammunition", which will offer a 20% increase in performance. This leaves a lot of room for speculations: One possibility could be that the "new" gun is refering to the already existing 120 mm L55 gun and this statement is related to the 103 Leopard 2A4 tanks, which were bough back from the German industry by the German Army in 2015. These tanks will be upgraded in the near future to work together with the 225 Leopard 2 MBTs currently in service, which are all in the 2A6, 2A6M or 2A7 configuration. It is known from data provided by Rheinmetall, that the L55 gun provides 15% higher muzzle energy than the shorter L44 when firing the DM53 ammunition; the 20% could be the result of a new type of main gun ammunition (then designated DM73), which has been confirmed to be in development in 2015.
Another possibility is an increase in barrel length, mentioned by, the first source to mention the 130 mm gun. is not a military related source, but they were invited to a presentation of the MBT Technologieträger prototype. According to them, an increase of 1 meter in barrel length is a possibility (but my original interpretation of their words was that they talked about switiching the Leopard 2 Revolution prototype from L44 to L55 gun). If this makes sense, given the drawbacks affiliated with a longer gun barrel, is questionable in my opinion.
A third option would be upgrading the L55 gun, but only by using more modern components instead of lengthening the barrel. As the barrel has to be replaced on a regular base (due to barrel wear), a cheap option would be the replacement of the gun barrel with a more modern one, which due to better manufacturing processes (such as a higher pressure for autofrettaging) and/or better metallugry can deal with higher pressure ammunition. This has been done in the past at least by the US and probably also by some Leopard 2 users.

Rheinmetall announced to develop a new/upgraded 120 mm and a new 130 mm gun
The development of the 130 mm gun is quite a surprise. When originally mentioned by, I assumed they had made a typo and refered to the original 140 mm NPzK tank gun being developed in the late-1980s and 1990s. Given Rheinmetall's plans to upgun the Leopard 2 with the 130 mm gun and the smaller calibre, it seems reasonable to assume that the new gun is physically smaller than the 140 mm NPzK tank gun, which proved to be too large for the original Leopard 2 turret (also due to requiring an autoloader). However it seems that the new gun will provide similar or even better performance than the canceled 140 mm gun: Given that a current DM53 APFSDS has an energy output of nearly 13 MJ according to Rheinmetall (or 0.2 - 0.3 MJ less according to calculations based on muzzle velocity and weight), the 130 mm gun (which according to the presentation provides 1.5 times as much performance), should provide a muzzle energy about 19.5 MJ at least - if the 1.5 times more performance is meant in relation to the "new 120 high-pressure cannon and ammunition", which already provides 20% more power than the current 120 mm gun/ammo - then a muzzle energy of 23.4 MJ could be reached! Just for reference, the 140 mm gun supposedly had a muzzle energy of about 20 MJ. How exactly the new gun will achieve such a big performance leap is unkown; making the ammunition larger without opting for an autoloader or two-piece ammunition is not possible. Using two-piece ammunition could enable the Leopard 2 to retain it's crew of four, as done on the Swiss prototype with RUAG 140 mm gun, which was manually loaded.
Rheinmetall has at least confirmed that the new gun will be marketed beginning in 2016, so we might see a few further posts about this topic in this year.

A possibility for both tank guns mentioned by Rheinmetall is also the use of new technologies, such as an ETC gun. Already in the year 2000 an ETC gun prototype managed to outperform a L55 tank gun using a projectile of the same weight. This was published in the European Forum on Ballistics of Projectiles, article "Status and Results of the German R&D Program on ETC Technologies". The LKE II (DM53 prototype) fired from the L55 gun reached a muzzle velocity of 1750 meters per second (mps) at 21° centigrade, whereas a projectile with the same mass, fired from the ETC prototype gun with 110 KJ of electrical energy added, managed to reach a muzzle velocity of 1822 mps and an energy output of 14 MJ.

Please note that this rendering shows a Leopard 2 Revolution
The new 130 mm gun is a precondition for the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS). The Main Ground Combat System is currently being developed by Germany and France as replacement for the Leopard 2 and Leclerc main battle tanks, although Rheinmetall is expected other nations to join into the MGCS development.
The contract between Germany and France for the development of the MGCS was signed originally in 2012, despite becoming only wider known after the new Russian T-14 Armata MBT was revealed in May of 2015. It is understood that the MGCS is currently in the conception phase; different concepts are being made and evaluated, while new technology is being researched and tested. The conception phase is expected to last at least until 2017.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Informations on LAND 400 Phase 3 candidates

The Australian Defence Technology Review has published an interesting article on the third phase of the LAND 400 program of the Australian Army. The LAND 400 program is the planned replacement of the currently outdated equipment of the Australian forces - such as the ASLAV and the M113 - with modern state-of-the-art vehicles.

Part of the phase 3 is the procurement of a planned 450 medium-weight tracked vehicles, of which 312 will be fitted with a turret in an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) configuration.
As of today, three contenders for this contract are known: The German company PSM (a joint venture of Rheinmetall and KMW) will offer their Puma IFV, BAE Systems is reportedly offering the CV9035 and General Dynamics is supposedly offering a vehicle based on the ASCOD 2.
The Puma is one of the latest IFVs, with the first Puma entering service in June 2015. It's probably the heaviest armored IFV available on the market and is fitted with a number of advanced features like a decoupled running gear with hydropneumatic suspension, third generation thermals, a softkill active protection system (APS) and a modern fire control system (FCS) with independent commander's sight. The Puma will be armed with a 30 mm MK-30/2 ABM autocannon with athe ability to fire airburst ammunition, a coaxial machine gun, a dual-purpose Spike-LR ATGM launcher and an independent grenade launcher mounted on an elevatable mast. The Puma has not been fitted with an remote weapon station (RWS) yet.
It is powered by a 10 cylinders MTU MT892 engine which is fitted in combination with a version of the HSWL 256 transmission from Renk. It provides an output of 800 kW.

The Puma IFV is the newest vehicle competing for LAND 400
It seems to be rather clear that the Puma should be able to fullfill all armor and protection requirements, given it's weight, the German requirements and the extensive amounts of armor.
Problems for the Puma are at least the lack of a turretless version for the non-IFV version, the rather huge price tag and the lower troop carrying capacity.

The ASCOD 2 is based on the development of the Ulan (pictured) and Pizarro IFV
Which version of the ASCOD 2 might be offered to Australia is unkown yet. The latest vehicle based on the ASCOD 2 is the British Army's Ajax, which will utilize the CTAS (case telescoped armament system) 40 mm gun (but the Ajax is not an IFV and transports no dismounts). The CTAS gun offers more punch than the 30 and 35 mm autocannons of the  Puma and CV90, but suffers from lacking commonality with the planned 8x8 vehicle (for this GD offers the LAV 6.0 with 30 mm Kongsberg unmanned turret). Thus the ASCOD 2 version for the Australia is expected to be offered with a 30 mm Bushmaster II gun mounted in either a manned or unmanned turret. The early ASCOD 2 prototypes utilized the same SP-30 turret as the Ulan of Austria and the Pizarro of Spain, the original ASCOD 1 versions. This turret is manned by a crew of two and mounts a MK-30/2 autocannon from Rheinmetall, the previous version of the Puma's gun. While the Ulan and the Pizarro have been fitted with different fire control system, it seems that none of this is hunter-killer capable, despite both providing separated sights for the gunner and commander. These two FCS (made by Kollsman/Elbit and Indra respectively) are the only known to be fitted to the SP-30 turret. The ASCOD 2 utilizes the MTU V8 199T21 engine, which provides an output of 600 kW (about 800 hp). The engine is used in combination with the HSWL 256B transmission from German company Renk.

An ASCOD 2 APC presented on Eurosatory 2014
However the original ASCOD design is lackluster at a few other places. Except for the current Scout-SV vehicles, such as the Ajax revealed last year at DSEI 2015, the ASCOD lacks a high performance anti-mine kit and heavy armor solutions. The basic ASCOD 2 is protected against 14.5 mm AP ammunition in accordance with STANAG 4569 level 4, although even the old flyers from several years ago mention the possibility of up-armoring the ASCOD 2 to level 5 (protection against 25 mm ammunition allong the frontal arc). No version of the ASCOD 2 has been presented with an RWS ontop of the turret, but a special APC version with RWS has been produced. The ASCOD 2 might also have issues with the 8-men squad requirement from the Australian Army - while the Ulan can carry 8 soldiers, the Pizarro (due to different interior arrangement and troop equipment) transports only a 7-men squad. The ASCOD 2 utilizes most likely decoupled mine-safe seats (like the Puma) and proper decoupled equipment storage, which makes it rather improbable that without deeper modifications an 8-men squad can be transported. Unlike the Puma, the ASCOD 2 will probably not offer an integrated ATGM without extra costs.

A CV9035 of the Koninklijke Landmacht
The Combat Vehicle 90 Mark III (CV9035) is the most proven of the three vehicles, being in service in the Netherlands, Denmark and was recently ordered by Estonia. The CV9035 uses the E35 turret armed with a 35 mm Bushmaster III gun from ATK. The same turret is also offered for the Patria AMV35 and thus the CV9035 would offer a great benefit in terms of commonization of parts and spares, if the AMV35 is chosen over it's competitors.
The CV 90 Mk. III is powered by a Scania V8 engine with an output of 600 kW. The basic vehicle is constructed from steel, providing protection against 14.5 mm AP and 23 mm API along the frontal arc. However like the ASCOD 2, the CV9035 is pretty much always fitted with applique armor to boost the protection level to STANAG 4569 level 4 and/or level 5 at least. Further armor kits and mine-protection kits for the CV9030 and CV9040 have been developed, it seems reasonable to assume that those armor kits can be modified to CV9035 compatability. While BAE's brochures claim that the CV90 has hunter-killer capability, it seems that this is dependent on the exact FCS version fitted, which differs depending on user's configuration.
The Armadillo APC is a turretless CV90
A turretless version of the CV90 is already existing with the Armadillo APC. Unlike the ASCOD 2 and the Puma, there is at least a version of the CV9030 fitted with an RWS ontop of the turret; the possibility of adopting the same to the CV9035 seems to be given. 
The CV9035 however is also the oldest designs and suffers from more drawbacks. Like the ASCOD 2, the CV9035 lacks an ATGM armament for fighting heavier armored targets and/or helicopters. While the 35 x 228 mm caliber of the Bushmaster III gun packs about 50% more punch than a 30 x 173 mm round of the MK-30, it's much larger physical size has a very negative impact on ammunition stowage. While the Puma and ASCOD 2 (with SP-30 turret) both can carry 200 rounds loaden at the gun, the CV9035 has only 70 rounds available at the gun. The total ammunition stowage is also much lower. Furthermore the CV9035 is also not able to meet the 8-men dismount squad requirement of the Australian Army in it's current configuration deployed by the Dutch and Danish armies.
Lastly the ballistic and mine protection of the CV9035 seems to be relatively low compared to that of the Puma and ASCOD 2. While armor packages are available, these might need additional reconfiguration to the exact CV9035 layout and

It is interesting what currently seems to be happening in the SEA region. Australia is planning to acquire huge numbers of state-of-the-art wheeled and tracked vehicles, while many NATO countries including the US have to cut back most of their military procurment plans due to funding issues. There are a number of issues and unkown factors with the Austrlian LAND 400 program still: We don't know if other contenders will or already have responded to the tender for the tracked vehicle aswell. Currently we only know that the Puma - apparently most likely in the standard German Army configuration - the ASCOD 2 in an unkown configuration and the CV9035 in a somewhat unkown configuration will compete for the contract. All three of the previous mentioned vehicles might have trouble with the Australian Army's requirement for transporting a 8 men squad of dismounts and have other individual issues each. From my point of view the Puma might be the best bet, but also the most expensive. In terms of protection, technology and the armament concept (once the integration of the Spike-LR and the grenade launcher are finished) seems to be the most promising. The lack of ATGM armament on the other vehicles would be a no-go for me, but we don't know what GD and BAE will change for Australia. But who knows what the Aussies want, in the end they happen to have one of the most scatterbrained and odd mechanized infantry concept out there.
The LAND 400 phase 2 will probably already be a preliminary decision, it seems likely that the winner of one contract will have a huge benefit in the other due to the ability of keeping parts exchangeable and cutting costs down.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

M829A3 APFSDS penetration power - common internet estimation failures?

The M829A3 is currently the latest type of APFSDS ammo in service with the United States armed forces. It replaced the M829A2 in 2003.
In the next year(s) the M829A4 will take over the place of the M829A3. It is already confirmed to have the same exterior dimension and general characterisitics as the M829A3, but utilize an improved penetrator designed to penetrate even newer types of ERA ("3rd Generation Explosive Reactive Armor").
The M829A3 APFSDS of the US Army
In order to estimate the penetration power of APFSDS different mathematical fomulas can be used, such as the formula developed by Lanz and Odermatt for the Swiss military procurment agency. This formula has gained most acception in also mentioned in different documents of the US Army Research Laboratoy. It is an empiric forumla, which means it's a mathmatical interpolation of actual tests results in dependence of the changed parameters (density, length, diameter, etc.).

The M829E4 is confirmed to have the same dimensions as the M829A3
On different forums such as Tank-Net, the WoT forums and for different software, such as the Steelbeasts simulator/game from eSim Games, people have tried to calculate/estimate the penetration power of the M829A3 APFSDS based on measurements on photographs and available data from the manufacturer's website.
However most of these people are assuming a penetrator length of 780 mm to sometimes even above 800 mm! This is solely based on the increased length of the in-flight projecitle and the assumption that the M829A3 uses a "stepped" tip assembly like the M829A2 APFSDS. This way, the estimated penetration of the M829A3 APFSDS from the 44-calibre long M256 gun against rolled homogenous steel (RHS) reaches or even exceeds the penetration of other types of ammunition fired from the longer Rheinmetall L/55 gun. Penetration values above 750 mm into RHS after 2 kilometres are commonly estimated for the M829A3.
Does the M829A3 possibly look like this?

However patents from Alliant Techsystems (ATK) show us a different possibility of the M829A3 design: instead of utilizing an elongated DU penetrator with conventional tip to defeat tanks fitted with heavy ERA by "brute force", it is suggested to use a special tip assembly to overcome ERA. The tip is a solid steel construction with a length "greater than 100 mm", while the main penetrator has a length of "about 630 mm, preferably greater than about 650 mm, and more preferably greater than about 670 mm". Specifically the last value is interesting, because this is very close to the reported length of the penetrators used in the previous M829A1 and M829A2 APFSDS rounds. Furthermore the thickness of the rod was increased from 22 to 25 mm, which result in a 67% higher bending stiffness (and thus better performance against ERA).
Such a penetrator design has a big benefit against targets protected by heavy ERA, which is what the main target of the M829A3 development was. The solid steel tip will punch a hole into the ERA, but is designed with a special weakpoint at the connection to the main penetrator; it will break of instead of transfering the stress created by the interaction with the ERA-plates onto the main penetrator. While the M829A1 was unable to defeat the contemporary Soviet tanks with Kontakt-5 heavy ERA, the M829A2 was designed as "brute force" solution against Kontakt-5 armed Soviet tanks. The M829A3 was the "elegant way" to defeat better armored tanks with Kontakt-5 or the follow-up ERA.

There are further reasons to assume that the M829A3 APFSDS follows the above mentioned design:
Unlike it's three direct predecessors, no M829A3 cut-through model has ever been displayed, while cut-through models of the earlier APFSDS types were presented while they were the latest stuff the US Army had. 
Furthermore there is the weight growth of the M829A3 compared to the M829A2. While the sabot material was changed - an improved compostion reduced the density - the overall sabot weight of the M829A3 is understood to be higher to due the much longer sabot petals. Values from the US laboratories responsible for developing/manufacturing (composite) sabots for the M829 series show that the sabot weight of the M829A3 should be 3 kilograms and that of the M829A2 should be about 2.4 kg. A 780 milimetre long DU rod with 25 mm diameter will already weigh 7.08 kg and thus be a contradiction to the 10.0 kg weight for the complete projectile assembly from ATK's brochures. A rod with a length of about 680 mm and a 25 mm diameter made from DU  however will weigh about 6.18 kg and thus leave about 0.6 kg for tracer, fin assembly and the 100 mm steel tip. Given that a 100 mm steel rod with 25 mm diameter weighs about 400 grams, assuming that the M829A3 uses a 680 mm DU rod with 100 mm steel tip seems to be very reasonable based on the weight.

The US Army had no problems showcasing a cut-through M829A2
What impact does this have on the penetration estimates mentioned earlier? According to the patents from ATK, such a design increases the penetration into RHS protected by an unkown type of heavy ERA by 20 to 30% compared to the same penetrator without solid steel tip. Against normal RHS not protected by any form of ERA however the penetration increased only by 5 to 10%, which is to be expected due to the steel tip also prodividing penetration.
The M829A3 might as well be optimized for fighting tanks with heavy ERA such as the main tanks of all potential enemies of the US/NATO - China, Russia, North Korea all utilize heavy ERA on their latest tanks. So instead of having some mind-boggling penetration (for an APFSDS fired with the short L/44 barrel) against all types of armor, the penetration against RHS/composite armor might be as low as ~660 to 700 mm; enough to defeat the main armor of tanks like the T-80U, T-90 and Type 99.
Penetration of APFSDS with steel tip vs conventional tip

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Germany and the Netherlands increase military cooperation

On the 4th of February, Germany and the Netherlands announced a closer cooperation of their militaries. This process was already reported earlier in late 2015.

German and Dutch Defence Ministers signing a letter of intent

About 3000 Dutch soldiers from the 43rd Mechanized Brigade of the Royal Netherlands Army will be integrated into the 1st German tank division, together with the last 16 Leopard 2 tanks from Dutch stocks. 2 further Leopard 2 tanks will be rented/bought by the Netherlands to get to the 18 tanks required for a tank company. All of these tanks are understood to be upgraded in near future to the latest Leopard 2A7 configuration.

The Leopard 2A7 tank entered service in late 2014
On the other side a 400 men strong mixed brigade will be put under Dutch command. This will include a German tank battalion to be stationed at Loheide/Bergen in Lower Saxony, Germany.

The closer cooperation of the German and Dutch land forces already started in 2014, when the 11 Luchtmobiele Brigade (11th air-mobile brigade) was integrated into the structure of the German Division Schnelle Kräfte.

Regarding naval forces, both the German and Dutch government have agreed upon a letter of intent, which includes plans of the German Navy being allowed to utilize the Dutch Karel Doorman support ship, while the German naval battalion will be integrated into the structure of the Dutch marine corps, but not be relocated to the Netherlands.

The Karel Doorman support ship
 Such European cooperation can be beneficial for all partner: Germany will probably not buy new support ships, despite originally planning to order two new ones; the Dutch Navy on the other hand had troubles affording the Karel Doorman, so German money will help out a lot.
Without the integration of the Dutch tanks into the German Army, the Netherlands would lack two tanks for having a whole company and the support structure related to using MBTs after retiring all Leopard 2 tanks a few years ago. On the other hand Germany has only enough tanks and soldiers to create the new 414th tank battalion thanks to the Dutch tanks.