Monday, July 25, 2016

Merkava 4 with Fibrotex camouflage system

Photographs of a Merkava 4 main battle tank (MBT) fitted with a new camouflage system have been uploaded to the internet. Apparently this system is designed to reduce the tank's thermal, near-IR, and UV signature; it will also absorb a major part of the solar energy without transfering most of the heat onto the tank. This results in a lower interior temperature and thus greater crew comfort.

The thermal camouflage system is made by the Israeli company Fibrotex. It covers most of the roof area, the gun barrel and the sides of the hull except for a distinctive cut-out section for the engine exhaust vents. The thermal cover appears to have an outer layer made of some cloth-like material which is painted in some form of camouflage pattern in sand color and light brown tones. Thin straps cover the lower hull section at the sides and rear, which are apparently made out of a different material with a rubber-like texture. This material is probably elastic in order to not restrict the tank's mobility - it might in theory even be rubber.

Unlike competiting systems such as the Barracuda MCS from SAAB or the Solar Shield system from Rheinmetall, the surface of Fibrotex' material is rather smooth. In certain regions at least this might have a negative impact on the optical camouflaging characteristics of Fibrotex' camouflage design compared to the other system. The coverage of the tank also appears to be rather low, which specifically in combination with the camouflage pattern makes the current implementation of the thermal camouflage system on the Merkava 4 somewhat poor at actually hiding the tank. It has to be noted that the current Merkava tank versions as used by the IDF usually do not have any camouflage pattern at all. However the website of Fibrotex also includes photographs of another prototype implementation on an upgraded Merkava 3. This appears to have slightly better coverage (but still far from perfect) and a different camouflage pattern with more  contrast.

Interestingly Fibrotex also offers a thermal camouflage system for the Leopard 2A4, which includes rather thick add-on elements. These appear to be designed to reduce the tank's radar signature, development on this topic was popular in NATO during the mid-1980s. This resulted in a number of stealth demonstrators based on existing tanks such as the AMX-30, Leopard 1 and Chieftain MBT.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

LAND 400 Phase 2 and 3 contenders update

The Australian Army is currently looking for replacements of the ASLAV and M113AS4 armored fighting vehicles (AFVs).

Phase 2 of the LAND 400 program seeks a replacment for the 13.2 tonnes ASLAV. The ASLAV is used by the Australian Army as scout vehicle, armored personnel carrier (APC), command vehicle, armored ambulance and also as support vehicle. It is either armed with a 25 mm Bushmaster chain gun (in case of the ASLAV-25 scout vehicle) or with a heavy machine gun on a pintle mount or on a Kongsberg remote weapon station (RWS). It transports up to either six or seven soldiers depending on version. Unlike current American and Canadian LAV versions, the ASLAV is only protected by thin steel armor providing protection according to STANAG standard 4569 level two or three.

Currently there are four contenders to replace the ASLAV: The AMV 35 CRV from Patria and BAE Systems, the LAV (CRV) from General Dynamics, the Sentinel II from Elbit and ST Kinetics and the Boxer CRV from Artec (a joint-venture between Rheinmetall and KMW). Originally more contenders including Raytheon and Nexter (offering the VBCI with French T40 turret) were looking for a LAND 400 Phase 2 contract; after considering their chances of meeting the Australian requirements - in particalur the military-off-the-shelf (MOTS) requirements - they withdrew.

While the offer from Patria and BAE Systems - consisting of a Patria AMV fitted with the E35 turret of the CV9035 - was known very well for the past weeks, a lot of new details have emerged on the other contenders. Supposedly Patria isn't offering the latest AMVXP with increased payload and performance, but the a version of the original AMV hull with higher compliance with the MOTS requirements.

As far as the other contenders are concerned, first and foremost of there is the LAV (CRV), a version of the Canadian LAV 6.0 upgrade modified to meet the Australian requirements. The LAV 6.0 itself is a modified and upgraded version of the old LAV III infantry fighting and scout vehicle.
The LAV (CRV) has the lowest gross vehicle weight of all contenders, sitting at just 28,600 kg. It is fitted with the unmanned MCT-30 turret from the Norwegian company Kongsberg. It features 8 smoke grenade dischargers (in 4 banks of 2 each), the Mk 44 Bushmaster II gun chambered in the 30 x 173 mm caliber from Aliant Techsystems (ATK), a low-profile version of the CROWS RWS and a laser warning system. An interesting side note is that the MCT-30 turret is fitted with the WAO sight from Airbus Defence, which is also used on the German Puma IFV. The US Army prefered to use a different - supposedly cheaper - sight unit for their Stryker upgrade with the MCT-30 turret. The fully stabilized WAO includes a daylight camera, a thermal imager and an eyesafe laser rangefinder.

The LAV (CRV) is also fitted with a 360° surveillance system consisting of three cameras. One is mounted on a mast above the rear ramp, while the other two are located on the frontal hull section. It uses a double-V hull desgin (like the late generation Stryker ICVs of the US Army) for advanced protection against mines and IEDs. For ballsitic protection the LAV (CRV) is fitted with ceramic composite armor on top of it's steel hull. However the ballistic protection of the LAV (CRV) is not able to keep up with the competition, offering only protection according to STANAG 4569 level 4 (all-round protection against 14.5 mm armor-piercing ammunition from 200 metres distance) on the hull. The turret is even less armored, not able to meet the level 4 requirements. According to General Dynamics the vehicle can be fitted with special deployment kits for increased ballistic protections, but this is expected to negatively affect mobility and payload, thus taking away the plattforms growth potential.

The Sentinel II has been a mysterium for quite a while, but ST Kinetics and Israeli company Elbit Systems have showcased their vehicle solution to the public for the first time. It is based on the current Terrex 3 vehiclee from ST Kinetics, but numerous technologies and components from Elbit and it's partners have been utilized. Frankly, due to the Terrex 3 being originally designed for high performance on water during amphibious operation, which are not possible with the heavier Sentinel II. The Sentinel II is fitted with the MT 30 (Manned Turret 30) from Elbit. This turret can be used in either manned or unmanned configuration and is equipped with a 30 mm Bushmaster II chain gun, a co-axial machine gun and a pop-out dual-launcher for Spike ATGMs. Like all other candidates, the vehicle is fitted with a digitial fire control system and stabilized gun to enable accurate firing on the move. The commander is provided with Elbit's COAPS (Commander Open Architecture Panoramic Sight), which includes a thermal imager, a CCD camera and a laser rangefinder. The gunner is provided with a similar set of optronics.Two banks of four smoke grenade dischargers are mounted on either side of the main gun.
Ontop of the turret two launchers of the new Iron Fist LC (Light Configuration) from IMI. This active protection system (APS) was first presented at Eurosatory 2016 and is a scaled down version of IMI's already existing Iron Fist APS. It launches a high explosive (HE) grenade onto an incoming threat that has been spotted by the radar. While the original version of Iron Fist has some anti-APFSDS capability (when the HE warhead fuzes at the right time, it can cause the APFSDS to tilt), the light configuration uses smaller warheads that are most likely inable to affect APFSDS. With only four interceptors ready for defeating RPGs and ATGMs, the Iron Fist LC is not suited for longer engagements, but is a useful asset in assymetrical warfare.
At the front and the rear of the turret a total of four laser warners are installed. These can detect when the vehicle is lazed by a rangefinder or beam-riding missile and may be connected to the APS or the smoke grenade dischargers.
A camera system located at the hull provides 360° close-range vision of the near terrain. The implementation is quite reminiscent of Rheinmetall's SAS 360° system, which has been installed on the Boxer CRV and other vehicles such as the Advanced Technology Demonstrator tank. It consists of three sets of each three cameras, that are set at different angles. On the rear there are only two cameras, while a further camera is located at the frontal hull - these cameras are possibly meant for the driver only.

Like the LAV(CRV) the Sentinel II fails to meet the original Australian requirements for ballistic protection. It only reaches STANAG 4569 level 4, depsite being the second-heaviest candidate for the phase 2 of the LAND 400 program. This is the result of the huge overall dimensions of the Terrex 3 hull, on which the Sentinel II is based. In fact the Sentinel II is the widest and tallest
While it is possible to boost the protection level to the levels protect against 25 mm and 30 mm ammunitions, this is only possible at certain, limited areas and not along the whole frontal arc like required by STANAG 4569. Furthermore this requires to reconfigure the turret into an unmanned configurations and reduce it's armor protection to STANAG 4569 level 2 only - which means being vulnerable to 7.62 x 51 mm NATO AP ammunition or equivalent and larger calibers. A designated marksman rifle or battle rifle would be enought to penetrate the armor and potentially knocking out the Sentinel II's weapon systems by damaging the fire control system, ammunition feed system or turret drives. Due to being designed as a manned turret, the MT 30 is not optimized for unmanned operations and wastes a lot of space and thus valuable weight, that could have been used for increasing the protection.

Overall the Sentinel II has three major drawbacks. The lackluster armor protection does not manage to meet the Australian requirements. Also the missile launcher is not decoupled, so that vibrations will be passed onto the missiles. On the long term this will cause issues as the missile can be damaged or rendered completely used in a not decoupled launcher, so the Spike ATGMs in Eblit's MT 30 turret would need to be stored at other places and only be fitted into the launcher before going to battle/on a mission.
The biggest problem of the Sentinel II is that it seem to completely fail the military off the shelf of the Australian Army. It seems to be an agglomeration of unproven and new parts: the hull is taken from the new Terrex 3, which is still unproven and not in service with any nation. The turret is a new design that has yet to be used on a series produced vehicle. Even the large version of the Iron Fist APS has yet to be fielded on a tank or any other type of vehicle - the brand new Iron Fist LC version is even more of a risk. Arguably the only proven systems are the laser warners, the COAPS sights (which have been chosen for the Argentinian TAM upgrade), the smoke grenade launchers and the Bushmaster chain gun.

Previously some basic infromations on the Boxer CRV have been written here aswell, thus only the newest developments seem to be worth mentioning. Photographs of a Boxer CRV with new features have been published on the internet. The Boxer has been fitted with a version of the ADS (Active Defence System), formerly known as AMAP-ADS. In the configuration as used on the Boxer CRV it includes at least 26 sensor units (maybe even more if the rear is also protected by ADS). Unfortunately this version of ADS appears to be incorporated into the additional armor modules on the side of the vehicle, which doesn't allow accurate counting of the exact number of ADS countermeasures; usually there is at least one countermeasure per sensor unit, in some cases even two.
ADS is capable of intercepting RPGs and ATGMs in all known versions, while the heavier versions are also capable of defeating explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) and large caliber APFSDS ammunition. With an estimated 26 countermeasures, the ADS on the Boxer CRV is much better suited for longer combat operations than the Sentinel II with it's Iron Fist LC APS, however restocking the ADS might take longer.

The Boxer CRV also has been fitted with a dual launcher for Spike ATGMs, which is in contrast to the Sentinel II's launcher decoupled and allows long-time storage of the missiles directly in the launcher.
A new RWS fitted with a 12.7 mm M2 Browning heavy machine gun is located on top of the turret. Unlike most other types of RWS, this specific one does not have an own set of optics, but is rather slaved to the commander's periscope located on top of the turret. Such a weapon station design design was used on some other vehicles already, most noticable the Russian T-90MS main battle tank. Rheinmetall calls this a "killer-killer" functionality (in contrast to the hunter-killer functionality) and claims that this an unique feature of the Lance MTS among medium calibre turret thanks to the so called "Main Sensor Slaved Armament" (MSSA) technology. Most likely the RWS can be folded down, otherwise putting it on the Boxer CRV turret wouldn't make much sense, as the commander's sight was specifically modified to be retractable in order to reduce the overall height of the vehicle.

A rather curios move was made by Rheinmetall for the Phase 3 offering. The vehicle purchased under the phase 3 of the LAND 400 project is meant to be the replacement for the M113 variants in service with the Australian Army, most notably the  While it already is part of the PSM joint-venture offering the German Puma IFV for LAND 400 Phase 3, the German company has decided to make another offer with the Lynx. While Rheinmetall representatives and websites have tried their best to describe the vehicle as a new development and kept their lips sealed on the true nature of the Lynx, it is understood that this vehicle is just a heavily upgraded Marder IFV. A company now owned by Rheinmetall originally build the Marder, several hundred Marders were bought back by the industry and saved from scrapping.

The suggested APC version of the Lynx is fitted with a RWS and the ROSY smoke protection system
The Lynx is fitted with the same Lance MTS (modular turret system) turret as the Boxer CRV, however with slightly different armament. While it also includes a decoupled twin-launcher for Spike ATGMs, it was presented with a larger 35 mm autocannon as main gun and Rheinmetall's three-barreled RMG 7.62 machine gun. Unlike a gatling gun the latter weapon is fitted with three barrels to reduce barrel wear and it is possible to switch to another barrel within less than 5 seconds. Rheinmetall claims that this enables the user to switch to a cold barrel in the middle of combat, which leads to a higher accuracy and sustained rate of fire. The Lynx is fitted with Liebherr engine (depending on versio delivering either 750 hp or 1,050 hp), segmented rubber tracks from DST and a NBC protection. Iversionst's armor seems to be largely identical to the late version Marder IFV (1A3 and follow-up ), which utilized spaced steel armor for ballistic protection against up to 30 mm rounds. The side armor of the Lynx appears to be different, the spaced armor and storage boxes of the original Marder 1A3 were replaced by plates of steel or composite armor. The ADS has not been fitted, but according to Rheinmetall it is an option.

The armored recovery version of the Lynx vehicle is fitted with a crane
An interesting suggestion is creating two versions of the Lynx, one of them utilizing a stretched chassis. While as previously noted all existing offers for the Phase 3 have only a 3 + 7 configuration (assuming realistic amounts of internal storage space), the Lynx is offered as KF 31 and KF 41; the latter has a sligthly strechted hull (but the same number of roadwheels) to provide seating for a crew of three and up to eight dismounts, while the shorteer KF 31 has is designed for only six dismounts. Aside of the lower price compared to more expensive offerings such as the Puma IFV, this might be the main selling point of the Lynx IFV.
In general Rheinmetall claims that the Lynx armored vehicle family is making use of a modular approach - how modular this is exactly is not known yet. While the description from Rheinmetall - speaking of separate Base Vehicles and Mission Kits- is suggesting a concept similar to the Boxer, the Lynx doesn't appear to be compatible with Boxer mission modules. It also remains questionable if it is possible to change the mission kit of a Lynx during it's lifetime without major factory-based (re)work. The Lynx will be offered as turreted and non-turreted version for the different roles of the vehicles replaced under LAND 400 Phase 3.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Future Leopard 2 improvments?

Despite the Leopard 2A7 being a relatively new tank - it was introduced into service in 2014 - the German Army is looking for further upgrades to it's main battle tank (MBT). When the Leopard 2A7 was being developed, the prototypes already included a number of features that had to be excluded from the series production version in order to keep costs at a reasonable level. The FLW-200 remote weapon station (RWS) and the close proximity surveillance system (consisting of CCD cameras either mounted to the turret or hull) and the dozer blade were among the left-out features of the Leopard 2A7+. 

Leopard 2A7+ UrbOps prototype with FLW 200 RWS, applique armor and close-proximity surveillance system
Already in the news articles on the handover of the first Leopard 2A7, a number of details on the Leopard 2's future were disclosed. The German Army had already initiated the development of the next iteration of the Leopard 2 tank before the handover. Two points for the next upgrade were mentioned: upgraded optronics ("sighting systems") should be installed into the tank and the lost agility (due to the weight increases and reduced ground clearance) should be restored to the level of the original Leopard 2 tank.

Under the name Leopard 2A7V (v for "verbessert", German for "improved") an upgrade for the current German variants is being developed. Once adopted, the designation is expected to be changed most likely to Leopard 2A8. Currently the German Army is operating three models of the Leopard 2 tank (the Leopard 2A6, 2A6M and 2A7), while still having about 100 old Leopard 2A4 tanks in stock, which are scheduled for upgrade in 2017 or later.
Operating three or even four different models of a tank is a logisitcal burden, which is why in the near future all tanks should be upgraded to one single configuration. Currently proposals for the future Leopard 2A7V are under way.

With a planned introduction as early as 2018, not much new technology can be accepted, that has not undergone the test and qualification phase of German Army procurments. The qualification phase for new technology in Germany is usually at least three years - this implies that mostly off-the-shelf components will be utilized. In theory some components might have been tested by the German arms procurement office in the past, but were never adopted for high cost or other reasons. Such components might be integrated into the tank without being well known to the public. There also might be an option for a special fast qualification procedure (this is only speculation though).
  • improved mobility by installing a more powerful engine
  • fitting a turret independent remote weapon station
  • improved mine and IED protection
  • passive or reactive protection against RPGs and ATGMs
  • installing an active protection system (APS)
  • automated target recognition and tracking
  • increased lethality (in particular armor penetration)
  • anti-UAV capabilities
  • improved networking 
  • an electronical 360° surveillance system
  • long range optics with improved thermal imagers
If any upgrade cannot be implemented by 2020, it shall be reapporached at a later point of time.

For improving the Leopard 2's mobility a number of factors need to be considered. While the Leopard 2A7 has a 15% higher weight than the original Leopard 2 from 1979, the ground clearance has been decreased considerably after adding the anti-mine plating of the Leopard 2A6M. Thus just replacing the engine might not be enough.

Space savings of the EuroPowerPack demosntrared on the Strv 122
An already existing upgrade option would be the EuroPowerPack, consisting of a MT883 engine from MTU and a Renk HSWL 295TM transmission. While usually running at only about 1,100 kilowatt (1,500 hp) on most applications (such as the tropicalized Leclerc and the Merkava 4 tank), it can run at 1,200 to 1,250 kW (1,630 to 1,700 hp). The smaller size of the MT883 engine would free about 1,000 mm of engine compartment length, space which could be utilized to fit more ammo, more fuel, a larger APU or computer systems belonging for example to an APS.
A slightly better, but also more expensive option would be the newer MT890 series from MTU. A successor to the MT883 engine was projected, but never fully developed. It would offer an output of about 1,200 kW, but at a further reduced size with lower fuel consumption. Overall the MT890 V12 engine would save approx. 20% space and 30-40% weight compared to the EuroPowerPack.
Another attempt to increase mobility could be made by adopting newer roadwheels and tracks. These could provide a larger contact area while being made of more weight-efficient materials.
For increasing the ground clearance the only options seems to be adopting a new suspension. This would be rather expensive and seems not to be feasible within the expected budget.

Leopard 2A5 with MUSS
For the active protection system there seem to be at most four options, assuming that no foreign active protection system has finished the testing and qualification phases of the German arms procurment agency to such a degree that it would be ready for series integration in 2018. The only really safe candidate is the MUSS softkill system, which has been incorporated into the Puma IFV. A prototype of the MUSS system was already tested on the Leopard 2A5, so integrating it into the Leopard 2A7V should be no issue. MUSS makes use of an IR jammer and a multi-spectral smoke screen generated by specialized smoke grenade dischargers to blind and confuse incoming anti-tank guided missiles. MUSS detects incoming missiles using optical UV sensors and laser warners. It is currently being considered by the British Army. The biggest drawback of MUSS is the inability to defeat "dumb" RPGs and kinetic energy penetrators (such as APFSDS),

AVePS launcher at a defence exposition in 2013
Diehl's AVePS is a modern version of the AWiSS hardkill protection system, which has been developed following studies for the German military in 1997. AWiSS used radar to track incoming missiles and RPGs and then launches a hardkill countermeasure at it. This consits of a small missile/fin-stabilized grenade with a high explosive warhead with hit fragmenting. The warhead detonates at a pre-calculated time and thus creates a cloud of metal fragments flying towards the incoming anti-tank missile. Between one and two launchers can be fitted on a vehicle, depending on type with either three or four barrels. 
AVePS is a more sophisticated version of AWiSS and is very similar to the Iron Fist APS from IMI, which is the result of cooperation and technological transfer between IMI and Diehl under the Mutual Active Protection System (MAPS) project. AVePS uses HE-blast grenades instead of HE-frag grenades, which pose less danger to nearby infantry. At the same time optimized blast grenades can be used to defeat APFSDS ammunition by exploding close the rod during flight, tilting the penetrator and effectively reducing the penetration by a large amount. AVePS is offered for tanks with two launcher units, each with four barrels. 
Both AWiSS and AVePS have been successfully tested by the German Army. AWiSS destroyed a MILAN-2 ATGM in trials during 2006, while AVePS managed to defeat RPG-7 and Panzerfaust-3 rounds in different tests in 2011.

ADS sensors and countermeasures fitted to Rheinmetall's Advanced Technology Demonstrator tank
The last known option would be ADS, developed by a joint-venture of IBD Deisenroth and Rheinmetall. ADS (active defence system) was formerly known as AMAP-ADS. Unlike most other types of APS (including AVePS), ADS uses a box-based countermeasure instead of a launcher-based approach, in which the countermeasure is delivered as missile or grenade. This gives ADS two major advantages: it can intercept incoming threats fired even when fired from shorter ranges (there is no launcher that needs to be rotated) and it poses less danger to nearby infantry.
ADS uses a larger number of optical sensors to accurately track the incoming missile, which then is engaged by one of the countermeasures. Unlike other APS, the ADS system doesn't require reloading after a few shots, as all countermeasures are ready to be fired at all times. 
The true nature of ADS' countermeasures has yet to be revealed. According to the manufacturer, it does not utilize a blast warhead, but is fragment free. Instead ADS would utilize "directed energy" to defeat ATGMs, RPGs, APFSDS projecitles and even EFPs (a capability currently unique to ADS). In theory ADS might launch fragment-free composite plates at the incoming missiles or use a DIME-like approach (launch "tungsten powder" at extremely high velocities).
On Rheinmetall's Advanced Technology Demonstrator tank, there are only nine countermeasures, all of them located on the turret. But this is apparently only a proof of concept, a real implementation would icnlude a much larger number of countermeasures.
On a side note, old presentations of MUSS suggested that integrating a hardkill system into MUSS would be possible and would be investigated in the future. At this time only AWiSS existed, so this was used in the presentation. It was suggested to fit an IR jammer to each hardkill launcher, fit the tank with the optical sensors of MUSS and newly developed radar systems. Thus MUSS could be used in combination with AVePS most likely ADS also. 

ROSY_L three times launcher
Last but not least, there is ROSY_L, a smoke obscuring system from Rheinmetall.It is not really an active protection system in the current configuration, but it is understood that this system can be automated to become an APS. ROSY_L was designed as a modular system and can be integrated with sensors already existing sensors on the vehicle. 
Such a ROSY_L APS would act similar to MUSS, using an array of 40 mm multi-spectral smoke grenades to create a smoke screen, that can stop TV, EO, IR, laser and SACLOS-guided weaponry. Compared to MUSS, such a ROSY_L system would offer some benefits in terms of available countermeasures, smaller countermeasure size (due to the smaller caliber, more smoke grenades can be carried inside the vehicle for reloading) and a complexity (using multiple fixed launchers instead of fewer rotatable launchers). However ROSY_L does not include an IR jammer and tries to compensate this with some IR-jamming and decoy capabilities in the countermeasures.
A total of 500 ROSY_L systems and more than 50,000 matching smoke grenades were purchased by the German Army in 2013.

Leopard 2 PSO
For passive protection there seems to be a wider array of options, given the relatively large amount of companies developing their own armor solutions. The Leopard 2A7 was originally presented with passive armor from KMW, which was designed to provide high levels of protection against shaped charges and EFPs. This armor solution dates back to the Leopard 2 PSO (peace support operations) testbed and has been fielded in a modified version on the Canadian Leopard 2A4M CAN. As several versions of this armor have been tested on different Leopard 2A7 prototypes, this should be available for the Leopard 2 upgrade. In fact the Leopard 2A7 is already designed with a common interface to easily accept the new armor.
IBD Deisenroth Engineering has developed a wide array of armor solutions, of which many are in service with the German Army. The Leopard 2A7V might adopt a version of their AMAP package, in particular the AMAP-SC composite armor might be suited to provide the desired levels of protection. AMAP-SC is claimed to have a mass efficiency of 8 to 10, which means that compared to conventional steel armor of the same weight, 8 to 10 times as much protection is provided.
In theory other suppliers of armor solutions - including non-German ones - might be able to participate in a tender for the armor, if their products have already been tested by the German military procurement office - at least RUAG is known to have supplied armor for the Fennek armored scout car in the past. While this armor was RUAG's SidePro-KE ceramic armor for ballistic protection, this might indicate that other armor solutions from RUAG, such as the SidePro-ATR and SidePro-CE armor have also been tested in Germany.
An interessting note is that German sources claim that the CLARA ERA of the Puma is also considered for the Leopard 2A7V. CLARA (composite lightweight adaptable reactive armour) has been developed by Dynamit Nobel Defence for protection against RPGs and EFPs. In contrast to conventional types of ERA, CLARA does not include metal plates and is considered fragmentation-free, so it doesn't endanger nearby infantry. CLARA offers a relatively high level of protection against kinetic energy and has a mass efficiency of more than 10 against shaped charges, but in it's current form it doesn't protect against tandem warheads. On the Puma IFV with it's heavy passive armor and APS this might not be an issue, but the Leopard 2's side armor is thinner. In theory there might be an option to develop a special variant of CLARA that offers full protection against shaped charges with tandem warheads, but in it's current form it does not completely suit the Leopard 2A7V.

The most likely choice for the remote weapon station (RWS) is KMW's FLW series. The FLW 100 and FLW 200 are combat proven and operational with the German Army since nearly a decade. From the two, the FLW 200 seems to be the more likely option, as this has been fitted to the ealier Leopard 2A7+ prototypes and the Leopard 2 PSO technology demonstrator. The FLW 200 can accept machine guns up to the 0.50 caliber or an automatic grenade launcher (AGL). Each FLW includes an own sensor pod with integrated fire control system (FCS) and allows adopting further smoke grenade dischargers onto the unit.
It has been rumored that the FLW 200+ is being suggested as possible option for the Leopard 2A7V. The FLW 200+ can accept larger and heavier weaponry - most importantly it can be fitted with the dual-belt fed 20 mm Rh 202 autocannon (and 100 rounds of ammunition), which is still in German Army stocks in large numbers (being used on the Marder IFV and the Wiesel 1). Compared to the 12.7 mm M2 Browning, the Rh 202 offers greater range and armor penetration aswell as the ability to fire HE rounds with a greater effect against a wider target spectrum.

Not directly mentioned by any German source, but certainly an interessting option would be the Dual FeWaS from Dynamit Nobel Defence. This weapon station can accept two heavy weapon systems (such as 12.7 mm HMG and a 40 mm AGL) or one heavy weapon system and up to two shoulder-launched weapons. DN Defence has showcased the weapon station fitted with versions of either its RGW-90 or Panzerfaust-3 RPGs only; however in theory there should be the options to integrate guided weapons - Rheinmetall presented a special RWS to hold and fire up to six guided weapons such as the Stinger MANPADS or MMP ATGM at Eurosatory 2016.
With such an upgrade, the Dual FeWaS could meeting two of the German Army's demands: serving as tureret independent weapon-station with a machine gun or an AGL, while at the same time defeating UAVs using MANPADS.

Laser weaponry is not an option for tanks yet
Other anti-UAV measures aside of a MANPADS implementation are not really available; while Rheinmetall and MBDA have tested military laser weapons to defeat UAVs, these tend to have a too high power requirement to retrofit them into a tank. So unless the tank will get equipped with a Stinger-like system, the only options to counter UAVs are jammers.
The German Army's wish for UAV-defeating capability on the Leopard 2 MBT is the result of analyzing combat footage and other data from the Ukraine conflict and the Syrian civil war, where even civilian UAV systems have proven to be valuable for ambushes and targeting of high-value targets for air- and artillery-strikes.

The Attica GL can be used to replace the outdated WBG-X in the EMES-15 main sight
The most likely choice for upgraing the tanks optronics would be by integrating the new third generation Attica thermal imager into the gunner's sight. The Attica GL thermal imager already replaced the Ophelios-P in the Leopard 2A7's PERI R17A3 commander's sight. The EMES-15 sight for the gunner however was retained on the German tanks. The usage of the Attica thermal imager seems to be a given fact, because the German Army prefered this over other products such as the Saphir thermal imaging system. However the informations on the future Leopard 2 upgrade speak of optics for long range identification of target, thus it appears possible that another version of the Attica thermal imager with greater magnification and resolution might be installed. Improving the daysight optics might also be a possible upgrade path for the Leopard 2.
For the 360° close proximity surveillance system, there are again at least two different options. Krauss-Maffei Wegmann has used a system on some of the Leopard 2A7 prototypes, which consisted of CCD cameras either fixed to the hull or rotatable cameras located on small masts in front of the turret side armor. The supplier and exact designations of these systems are not known yet. In the eyes of the author Rheinmetall's SAS Situational Awareness System should be a more mature solution. For a 360° coverage, the system consists of up to four sensor units, which are fitted to the turret or hull of the vehicle. Two of the sensor units are fitted with three CCD cameras each, while the other two are using thermal imagers instead. This system provides the desired close proximity surveillance both during day and night, while not having moving parts (like some implementations of KMW's system), which might break down.

The 130 mm L51 gun is not ready for production yet
An interesting aspect is that the improved version of the Leopard 2's L55 smoothbore gun - the L55A1 - is supposed to be ready for series production in 2018 according to Rheinmetall. Together with new ammunition, the L55A1 is claimed to provide about 20% more performance than the current version. This matches the dates for the finished Leopard 2A7V development and would explain how the lethality can be increased despite the new 130 mm L51 gun still being in development.

At Eurosatory 2016 KMW presented a new version of the Leopard 2A7, which appears to be a prototype proposal for the 2A7V upgrade. The tank itself appears to be a modified version of the same Leopard 2A7 tank that was already presented at the Eurosatory 2014.

This tank is fitted with new passive armor on the front of the hull, improved optics (understood to include the Attica GL in the EMES-15 primary gunner's sight) and the Spectus night vision system from Airbus for the driver. This tank still lacks an APS and a RWS. Further armor at the sides can be installed thanks to a modular protection concept.
A slightly more powerful APU - delivering up to 20 kW instead of only 17 kW - has also been installed on the tank. Such a move would be required for the adoption of an APS in the near future. KMW is expecting an order of this variant by 2018, however to this point of time further components might be fitted to the tank.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

QinetiQ to test MUSS APS for British Army

The British Army has contracted QinetiQ to evaluate the options for active protection systems (APS) for use on British military vehicles. In the £7.6 million ($9.89 million) contract, QinetiQ is obligated to deliver a number of MUSS based systems for evaluation. These systems will be tested against different weapon systems and will also be tested as "applique integration" on the British Challenger 2 main battle tank (MBT) from BAE Systems.

The "multifunctional self-protection system", MUSS, is a protection system developed by the Franco-German company Airbus (formerly EADS) in cooperation with the companies KMW and Buck (a subsidiary of Rheinmetall) on behalf of the German Army. The development started in 1995, but the APS was first adopted on the Puma IFV in 2015. MUSS is a soft-kill active protection system, which uses a jammer and multi-sprectral countermeasures to prevent air-launched and ground-launched guided weapons of hitting the vehicle.

Leopard 2A5 testbed with the MUSS APS
The APS has been tested on the Boxer MRAV and on the Leopard 2A5, but was only adopted on the Puma. Presentations from EADS mention a number of further vehicles onto which MUSS was proposed, mounted or tested. These include LAV, Pandur and the Leclerc, although on the latter only the warning sensors were mounted, not the active countermeasures.

Combined missile and laser warners on the German Puma IFV
For detecting missiles, MUSS utilizes optical sensors and laser-warners. Originally the PMILDS missile warner, an improved version of the EADS-developed AN/AAR-60 missile warner used on many aircrafts including the F-16 "Fighting Faclon", the UH-60 "Black Hawk" and the Eurocopter Tiger, was used in combination with separate laser warners. EADS developed a system combining both missile and laser warner into a single package. Each of these sensors can cover about 95° in azimuth and elevation. The version tested on the Leopard 2A5 tank used only two sensor units, which were covering only the frontal arc. On the Puma IFV however MUSS is equipped with four sensor units, which together provide a 360° coverage in azimuth.

For deflecting the guided missiles, MUSS uses two components: a jammer and launched countermeasures. The rotatable jammer is aligned with the path of the missile by the computer system. It creates a modulated and focused IR beam to defeat SACLOS-type missiles. In 2002 it was estimated that more than 70% of all ATGMs could be jammed via such an IR beam.
Following the detection of an ATGM, the system can automatically launch the active countermeasures. These are located in smoke grenade dischargers, which can be rotated into the direction of the missiles. Unlike conventional smoke grenades, the MUSS countermeasures create a cloud of multi-spectral smoke, that blocks IR, UV and laser beams. This is believed to be an effective way of disabling fire-and-forget missiles. On the Puma IFV, there are eight countermeasure ready to fire.

The compact version of MUSS
A stand-alone version of the MUSS APS, called "MUSS 360° Compact System" by EADS, has been developed as drop-in solution for existing vehicles. This sounds a lot like the British press release speaking of the "applique integration" of the MUSS active protection system into the Challenger 2 MBT.

Old presentations on the MUSS APS suggested the integration of radar panels and hard-kill countermeasure launchers into the system. At the time, this was the AWiSS protection system developed by Diehl Defence for the German Army. It is not known if this suggestion has ever been realized, the current version on the Puma IFV at least lacks any hard-kill components.

The contract with QinetiQ is part of the MEDUSA Technical Assessment Programme of the British Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.  This program can lead to a major boost in the protection of British vehicles and soldiers in combat, but one has to keep in mind that a research program doesn't have to lead to the adoption of such systems in the near future, specifically given the economic havoc caused by Cameron's Brexit referendum.