Early in August, Australia announced that the DoD had chosen to shortlist the Boxer CRV and the AMV 35 CRV for the LAND 400 Phase 2 project to replace the outdated ASLAV wheeled fighting vehicle as "Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle" (CRV) of the Australian Army. This effectively eliminated the LAV (CRV) and Sentinel II (Terrex 3 with Elbit MT-30 turret) from the tender. 225 Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles are expected to be purchased by Australia.
The Boxer CRV from Rheinmetall/ARTEC is the high-end solution. It supports the largest gross vehicle weight and is the only vehicle meeting the higher protection level demanded by the Australian Army (STANAG 4569 level 6/6+). It was one of only two candidates offered with an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) launcher and an active protection system (APS). Compared to the Sentinel II, it's missile launcher is dampened, so that a long-term storage of the missile inside the launcher is possible. It is also the only vehicle that has been fitted with an remote weapon station (RWS) ontop of the turret. The Boxer's Lance turret can be equipped with either a 30 mm or 35 mm autocannon, offering a greater versatility than all other offerings.
The US company Northrop Grumman is responsible for integrating their C4ISR equipment into the Boxer CRV. C4ISR stands for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The British Supacat will assure that the Boxer CRV meets the AIC requirements and will help Rheinmetall set up the corresponding facilities in Australia. The Australian industry capability (AIC) requirements for LAND 400 demand local facilities for development, manufacturing and support of the vehicles with a long-term impact on the capabilities of Australia's industry.
The Patria AMV 35 CRV is offered by Patria in cooperation with BAE System. It mounts the E35 turret (from the CV9035) ontop of a Patria AMV chassis. Compared to all offerings it is the most proven solution, combining a combat proven chassis with a combat proven turret. On the downside however the currently known prototypes of the AMV 35 CRV happen to have the least amount of advanced features compared to all other original contenders for LAND 400 Phase 2. It currently has no APS, albeit Rheinmetall's ADS has been fitted to some AMVs for international defence exhibitions. The Ukranian Zaslon APS was proposed in a special lightweight version for the Polish Rosomak (a version of the Patria AMV with the HITFIST turret from Oto Melara). Currently there is not a single type of ATGM launcher available for the E35 turret, the development of such a launcher has to be funded by the Australian Army. The current prototypes seem to lack an remote weapon station. Bofors Lemur RWS was offered on the CV9035 for the Canadian Close Combat Vehicle (CCV) project, but this combination has not been adopted by another country. While different versions of the Combat Vehicle 90 have been fitted with Kongsberg's Protector RWS, this has not been installed on a CV9035 with E35 turret yet.
The biggest benefit of the Patria AMV is that it is supposedly a lot cheaper than the Boxer. Polish-made AMVs have been sold for as low as $1.1 million per vehicle to Slovakia. Meanwhile the Lithuanian Boxer IFVs costs more than €4.4 milion per piece (although the contract probably includes development and support costs).
The Patria AMV 35 CRVshould be considered a cheap, but less capable option compared to the Boxer. The Boxer CRV is the "we put everything possible in the vehicle" solution, while the AMV 35 CRV seems to be based on a more reasonable cost-to-benefit ratio. However, aside of lower armor and lack of advanced features, there are a few more aspects about the proposal from Patria and BAE that are not so ideal. Not offering the latest configuration of the AMVXP, but an older chassis with only 30 metric tons of payload (still three more than the original 8x8 AMV could handle) is sub-optimal for a vehicle meant to stay in service for several decades to come. The commander's indepent optronics are integrated into the cupola, making hunter-killer options possible, but more cumbersome than utilizing a proper panoramic sight like the Boxer CRV or the Sentinel II.
Some people are wondering why General Dynamics didn't offer the newer Piranha 5 vehicle instead of the LAV (CRV), which is based on the LAV 6.0 upgrade for the Canadian Army. The LAV 6.0 is based on the old LAV-III fitted with current upgrades including a new suspension.
However supposedly one of the main points of criticism of General Dynamics LAV (CRV) was the unmanned turret: the LAV (CRV) was fitted with the Kongsberg's Protector Medium Calibre Turret 30 (MCT-30), the only pure unmanned turret offered for the LAND 400 Phase 2. An unmanned turret offers reduced situational awareness and lower ergonomics compared to a manned two-men turret. This is very important, because the Protector MCT-30 is the same turret used on most Piranha 5 infantry fighting/scout vehicle prototypes to this day.
In so far there is reason to assume that a hypothetical Piranha 5 CRV also would have been fitted with the MCT-30, when offered to Australia for the LAND 400 Phase 2. So it would have been disliked by the Australian Army aswell. The MCT-30 turret can only be armored up to STANAG 4569 level 4, thus this most likely Piranha 5 CRV configuration still fails to meet the protection level required for the LAND 400 Phase 2.
In general the MCT-30 turret also provides less features than the options offered by Rheinmetall and Elbit/ST Kinetics. While the unmanned turret has been presented on a number of different defence expositions fitted with a single Javelin ATGM without dedicated launcher unit, this is understood to be a mere mock-up and no ready-for-production feature. Furthermore the SAAB LEDS hardkill active protection system has been fitted on soome Piranha 5 prototypes with MCT-30 turret. This APS provides some advantages over the Iron Fist LC system fitted to the Sentinel II (in particular it has three times as much countermeasures in the launchers ready-to-fire), but also comes with it's own unique disadvantages. The launchers are very tall which impacts the ability to travel under bridges and in tunnels, while they also reduce situational awareness by blocking parts of the field of view of turret-mounted sights.
The only manned turret that has been fitted to the Piranha 5 is Rheinmetall's LANCE modular turret system on a prototype for the Canadian Close Combat Vehicle program. This program penultimately resulted in the creation of the LAV 6.0, after the budget for purchasing new vehicles was cut. While there is no actual proof for this, it seems possible to assume that Rheinmetall won't be interested in cooperating with General Dynamics and won't let GD use the Lance turret.
|The Steyr SP-30 turret|
General Dynamics itself is not producing many turrets suited for the Piranha. While there is the old Delco turret (developed by GM Defence, a company acquired by General Dynamics) used on existing vehicles of the LAV family, this turret is outdated, undergunned and barely protected compared to the Australian requirements. Hence this turret is not suited for LAND 400. Aside of the Declo turret, GM Defence developed a number of other turrets before being acquired by General Dynamics, but none of them ended up being used on a series vehicle.
The only medium calibre manned turret that General Dynamics currently has on offer is the Steyr SP-30 turret of the ASCOD infantry fighting vehicle (IFV). This turret is armed with a 30 mm autocannon (just like the Kongsberg MCT-30 turret) and can be fitted with ceramic armor for protection against 30 mm AP(FS)DS from 1,000 metres (essentially STANAG 4569 level 6 protection, however this standard didn't exist at the time of the SP-30's development). The base turret offers only protection against 14.5 mm API ammunition. However there is a major problem within GD's decision making that rendered this option pretty much impossible: by favoring marketing the existing Piranha family - even the older models - instead of also pushing the slightly more modern Pandur II family of vehicles, together with General Dynamics strategy to encourage local licence-production of the Pandur II (probably done in order to evade the higher wages and taxes in Austria), General Dynamics started the downfall of the Vienna-based Steyr-Daimler-Puch company. With little to no design and manufacturing capabilities for Steyr turrets left (the adoption of the Lance turret for the Scout-SV Ajax says a lot), General Dynamics seems to have pretty much lost capabilities to produce an IFV or CRV based on military-off-the-shelf (MOTS) components on it's own.
Even if a version of SP-30 was an option for LAND 400, General Dynamics still would suffer from a prominent lack of certain key technologies: the turret has only been fitted with Rheinmetall's MK 30-2 autocannon, which is a gas-powered weapon system - unlike the electrical-driven Mk. 44 Bushmaster II chain gun from Aliant Techsystems. Thus if Rheinmetall decided to not cooperate with General Dynamics, there would be issues as the externally-powered Bushmaster II will require more internal volume. Also the fire control system of the Ulan (the Austrian ASCOD version) relied on thermal imagers supplied by the Israeli company Elbit, which teamed up with ST Kinetics to offer the Sentinel II to Australia. Another blocking options for the competition.
Depending on source the Piranha 5 has a maximum gross vehicle weight of 32 or 33 metric tons, although the original press release from the reveal of this vehicle speaks only of a maximum 30 metric tons. It seems that the higher maximum weight is the result of further improvments to drivetrain and suspension. Back when the Piranha 5 was chosen as the winning bid for the wheeled plattform of the British Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) project, the Piranha 5 version with the IOC (inital operational capability) demanded by the British Army was expected to have a combat weight of 26 metric tons. As the protection requirements of the British Army were less strict and their Piranha 5 version was expected to have a machine-gun-armed RWS instead of a medium calibre turret, it seems overall unlikely that the Piranha 5 chassis can accept STANAG 4569 level 6 armor with a manned turret. The heavier (and newer) Sentinel II wasn't able to meet the demanded STANAG 4569 level 6 protection at a gross vehicle weight of 35 metric tons.
In so far, even if General Dynamics had offered the Piranha 5 chassis and this was considered to be compatible with the MOTS requirements of the Australian Army, it most likely still wouldn't have been chosen. It offers less than the Boxer CRV (protection, firepower, payload, features), but is more expensive and less proven than the AMV 35 CRV. The main difference between a Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle (emphasis on the combat) and a normal scout vehicle is being able to combat enemy units and arm or. Thisrequires protection and a turret armed with a gun capable of punching through opposing forces' armor. If the turret doesn't work as intended or does it's job badly - which apparently was the result of the Australian evaluation of the LAV (CRV)'s MCT-30 turret - the CRV concept will fail.
If a CRV is a concept of sense and reason is another topic, that won't be discussed here yet.
The Sentinel II was also rejected, despite being the second heaviest option after the Boxer CRV. It consisted of a MT30 turret mounted ontop of a Terrex 3, which itself is a Terrex 2 with increased payload. The Terrex 3 chassis from ST Kinetics and the MT30 turret from Elbit Systems have revealed a number of unique and common shortcomings. Most importantly they are completely unproven at the time of the Australian down-selection, but it also suffers from relatively low protection (not being better armored than the five tonnes lighter Patria AMV with 35 mm gun turret). While the hull's armor can be improved by converting the turret into an unmanned configuration (with reduced protection), it still fails to meet the original LAND 400 Phase 2 requirements for protection. The supposedly poor reception of the Kongsberg MCT-30 unmanned turret also might imply a general dislike of unmanned turrets. This would mean that the Sentinel II was restricted to STANAG 4569 level 4 protection at best. The huge physical size of the Sentinel II, a result of it's Terrex-2 ancesty, meant that more surface needs to be armored, hence the gained protection per added is a bit smaller than on some of the other contenders.
The Sentinel II was meant to be an high-end offering, just like the Boxer CRV. The LAV (CRV) and AMV 35 CRV appear to be more budget oriented offerings, lacking some of the more advanced components for a lower price. Australia's choice of the AMV and Boxer seems to combine the better high-end vehicle with the better budget oriented vehicle, so that the changes to the budget still while deliver a good vehicle; if only the two bidders with the more expensive vehicles had been shortlisted, budget cuts could result in the end of the LAND 400 Phase 2 program. This way however, the most capable vehicle options remain open.
Aside of the aforementioned protection, the Sentinel II suffers from a number of minor and major drawbacks compared to the Boxer CRV, which is why it shouldn't be considerred the better high-end offer. The Sentinel II has no RWS options integrated into the vehicle. It also has only a non-dampened launcher for the Spike ATGMs. A non-dampened launcher does not stop the vibrations of the vehicle from being transported onto the missiles. Such vibrations can damage the the internal guidance electronics and thus prevent longer storage of the missiles in the launcher. Instead the missiles can only be loaden before a mission or during a mission.
A further issue might be the Iron Fist LC's launcher configuration. The Iron Fist Light Configuration (LC) active protection system is located ontop of the turret and hence increases overall vehicle height, reducing the ability to travel through tunnels and under bridges. This apparently has been a concern for the LAND 400 program, at least Rheinmetall made sure that the commander's sight could be retracted and the RWS folded down, so that the vehicle height when traveling is barely affected by these components. A bigger drawback of Iron Fist LC is however the amount of ready-to-fire countermeasures and launchers. The system has only two launchers, each having two barrels for countermeasures. This means the APS can engage at most two threats at the same time (a simple solution for insurgents and soldiers would be to overpower the APS by attacking with three RPGs or ATGMs at the same time) and has to be reloaden after four engaged RPGs/ATGMs. While at least some versions of Rheinmetall's ADS can defeat EFPs, Iron Fist LC is incapable of doing so.
As reported by Jane's IHS, the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) is giving the two remaining bidders the flexibility to modify their proposals and utilize technology from further companies. The marketing manager of Rafael's land systems division, Yiftach Kleinman, claimed that the DoD might select sub-systems not chosen by any bidder and is confident about Rafael's products having a good chance of being accepted: in particular the Samson Mk. 2 remotely operated turret, the Trophy active protection system and the Spike ATGM would be of Australia's interest.
The Spike ATGM is understood to be favoured by the Australian Army and has already been integrated on both of the CRV prototypes fitted with ATGMs. However it seems extremely unlikely that the other systems from Rafael will be adopted. Trophy does not offer any performance advantages over Rheinmetall's ADS, SAAB's LEDS or the Iron Fist LC system from IMI - in fact the nature of Trophy's countermeasures (using multi-EFP warheads) and the launcher design (one single-countermeasure launcher per vehicle side; a launcher can only rotate by ~200° in the horizontal plane) make it appear considerable worse than all other menionted active protection systems.
The Samson Mark 2 RWS has been chosen by the Lithuanian Army for integration into their future Boxers. With Samson Mk 2 RWS the vehicle is called "Vilkas", Lithuanian for "wolf". However aside of having the same "unmanned" issues as found by the Australians on the LAV (CRV) with the Kongsberg Protector MCT-30 turret, the Samson Mark 2 RWS also suffers from poor armor protection and lower features compared to pretty much all other mentioned products. It is understood that the Lithuanian choice of the Samson Mk.2 RWS was the result of reducing the price of the vehicle, as they previously had tested the more expensive (and more capable) Boxer IFV with Puma turret. The Samson Mk. 2 turret can be at most armored up to STANAG 4569 level 4 and thus fails to meet the Australian requirements. It has the same type of non-dampened launcher as installed in Elbit's MT30 turret, but lacks it's laser warning system. There are no smoke grenade dischargers and there is no option for a MG armed RWS ontop of the turret. No APS has been integrated on the Samson Mark 2 turret.