Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Karrar tank revealed to be upgraded T-72

Iran's new Karrar main battle tank (MBT) is apparently just an upgraded T-72S Shilden tank with a few add-ons. This has been speculated since the first days after the reveal  of the Karrar tank in official Iranian video footage. These speculations have been confirmed by different sources in the past weeks.

A user of the Armored Warfare forum, Reforger_OS,  already pointed out several similarities between the Karrar's rear hull and the corresponding areas of a T-72 hull a few days after the first footage of the Karrar was published. Apparently the Karrar uses the same quick release and mounting mechanism for the additional fuel barrels, which are a common feature of the Soviet era main battle tanks.

Comparison between Karrar and T-72 rear hull
In general this doesn't mean that the Karrar is not based on technology or components transfered from Russia or another country with the aim to create a new tank (or upgrade existing tanks to an improved configuration) that appears to be similar to the Russian T-90MS. In theory the fuel barrel mounting system or other parts of the T-72 tank could have been recycled for the development of the Karrar in an attempt to reduce infrastructure constraints, aswell for easier maintenance and training. However it is actually not possible to say much about the Karrar just based on this short analysis of the Karrar's hull rear alone. It just shows that it is not based on a T-90 or T-90MS hull, but instead uses a T-72-like fuel drum mounting mechanism.

In the past days however further evidence on the Karrar's true nature has found it's way on the internet. A photograph of a video, which is showing a partly disassembeld Karrar MBT, has been posted on several forums and blogs after originally being published via Twitter.

The Karrar is just an upgrade of the T-72S. It is fitted with new explosive reactive armor (ERA) at the hull front, the hull sides and supposedly at the turret. The rear is protected by slat armor, while side skirts made of rubber with a wave-shaped pattern are installed at the hull sides below the ERA. The tank is also fitted with a new remote weapon station (RWS). There are currently no indications that the fire control system (FCS), engine or the base armor composition have been upgraded or altered. 

Iranian M60 fitted with similarly sized ERA
Speaking for the Karrar being a local development instead of an upgrade using Chinese, Russian or Ukrainian technology are a number of obvious factors. The tank is still based on the old T-72S with cast turret, while Russia and the Ukraine have discontinued the production of tanks with cast turret. The shaped and size of the new ERA doesn't match with existing solutions for MBTs from Russia, the Ukraine or China. Why would for example Russia develop a new type of ERA just for export, when the Kontakt-5 and Relikt heavy ERA are proven and available? The lack of upgrades to engine and fire control system also speaks for this most likely being a local development based on the limited technology available to Iran.

Zulfiqar 3
Overall it seems reasonable to assume that the Karrar is purely a local upgrade and does not consists of technology based on the similar looking T-90MS from Russia. While the similarities in appearance between the Karrar and T-90MS are undeniable, this seems to be result of Iranian tank designers attempting to copy the designs from other countries for unknown reasons. Originally there seemed to be an easy explanation for the similarities between the Iranian Zulfiqar 3 main battle tank and the M1 Abrams: by making the Zulfiqar 3 look like an Abrams, the tank's survivability against Western weapon systems would be indirectly increased. In case of a war against Iran, US/NATO aircraft wouldn't target the Zulfiqar 3 in order to prevent accidental blue-on-blue attacks (friendly fire) against Abrams tanks. In the same manner, US/NATO ground forces most likely would check twice when seeing a Zulfiqar 3 tank instead of immediatly shooting or calling for artillery/air strike. Unless the Iran considers a war against Russia in the near future as remotely possible, there doesn't seem to be much tactical sense in making the Karrar tank look similar to the T-90MS. It could be a pure propaganda measure, but honestly this seems to be quite a bad choice. Maybe it is a new approach to the proverb "form follows function" based on trying to reverse-engineer other tanks using the few technologies available to the Iranian tank designers. An advantage of this behaviour could be, that one can be sure somebody with more experience in main battle tank development put some thought into designing the original tank earlier. Well, at least they didn't put a T-55 turret on a M47 hull this time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chinese Armor at Zhuhai

At the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition (Airshow China) 2016 in Zhuhai, the Chinese military and the state-owned defence company Nornico, which manufactures pretty much all Chinese armored fighting vehicles, have presented a number of current and new vehicles.

VT-5 tank fitted with ERA and slat armor

Among the vehicles is a new tank, which has supposedly been designated VT-5. This appears to be an export designation, it seems to be very unlikely to be the final designation for the Chinese Army version, if it chooses to adopt the VT-5. Supposedly the VT-5 is the export version of the Chinese light tank currently only known as the ZTQ light tank. Usually a tow-digit number should be added behind the na,e- The ZTQ has been operational with the Chinese Army in Tibet for an unknown amount of time. First photographs of the ZTQ started to appear beginning in 2011, but the existence of the tank was first officially confirmed in 2016 - the exact name is still unknown to Western media. The new Chinese light tanks are supposedly weighing only 35 metric tons - about as much as a fully loaden Boxer A1 - and are claimed to be optimized for fighting in mountainous terrain.

The VT-5 features two additional fuel drums for extending the road range
The VT-5 is armed with a 105 mm rifled gun, which can penetrate up to 500 milimetres of steel armor at unknown range (most likely 2,000 metres) with APFSDS ammunition according to Chinese sources. It is currently not known, if the VT-5 is fitted with an autoloader or is crewed by four men. It is also fitted with a coaxial machine gun (MG) of unknown calibre and a roof mounted independent weapon station, which might accept (heavy) MGs or automated grenade launchers. The VT-5 has an advanced fire control system (FCS), which features separate sights for gunner and commander. The commander's fully traversable independent periscope should give the tank the capability of operating in a hunter/killer configuration.

ZTQ tank in China

Different armor configurations have been used on the VT-5 and the ZTQ. The current version of the VT-5 transported to Zhuhai is fitted with a TUSK-like armor package consisting of slat armor and explosive reactive armor (ERA), that covers the sides of the vehicle aswell as the hull front. On most of the hull sides and the hull front, relatively thick ERA tiles are installed. The turret sides, aswell as the hull flanks at the engine compartment are protected by slat armor only, which seems to be a rather odd design decision. This might imply, that the ERA provides sufficient protection to resist some types of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and anti-tank mines which utilize explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) to penetrate the vulnerable side armor of armored fighting vehicles. Most types of conventional ERA fail to protect against EFPs.
Another explanation might be that the lower hull is used to store the ammunition in a carousell autoloader and hence it requires additional protection for better crew survivability - however there is no known application of carousell autoloader for unitary 105 mm ammunition known to have entered service in China or anywhere else. The ERA and slat armor at the front and sides of the hull and turret should provide protection against rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and to some extend against anti-tank guided missiles, which are fitted with a single stage shaped charge warhead.
The turret front of the VT-5 is not fitted with ERA nor with slat armor, which implies it is fitted with composite armor offering enough protection to resist most types of single-warhead RPGs. Three dual-banks of smoke grenade launchers on each side of the turret further enhance the tanks survivability.

ZTQ tank with ERA at the wedge-shaped turret front

The ZTQ tank of the Chinese Army has been fitted with a different armor package. The turret is fitted with a wedge-shaped applique armor module, onto which ERA bricks are mounted. If the wedge-shaped module is made of some type of composite armor or a simple steel plate to allow mounting the ERA at the ideal angle is unknown. While the hull front is fitted with apparently the same ERA type as the VT-5, the side hull is not fitted with ERA, while the side of the turret is not fitted with slat armor. The original batches of the ZTQ photographed in 2011 and the following years had simple steel armor at the hull side and no side-skirts. Later photographs featuring the tank show a layer of bolt-on armor at the hull sides of unknown nature aswell as relatively thin steel side-skirts.

In terms of mobility, the VT-5 and ZTQ light tanks are supposedly performing better than the heavier Type 96 and Type 99 tanks. The lower weight can lead to a higher power-to-weight ratio when fitted with a decent engine. The light tanks are fitted with the same type of steel tracks with optional rubber pads as the Type 96 main battle tank and at least the VT-5 can be fitted with two additional fuel drums at the rear of the hull; most likely this feature is also found on the ZTQ tank. The drivetrain includes six roadwheels, which probably are fitted on a torsion bar suspension, and three return rollers.

Rumors claim that the ZTQ light tank didn't perform as expected by the Chinese Army, so it would not be introduced into service and hence was cleared for export. However it seems that these rumors are most likely wrong, given that photographs show a larger number of ZTQ tanks in Chinese service - enough for one or multiple companies at least. China has been willing to export tanks and other equipment that is one par or in some cases even superior to the current equipment used by the Chinese Army. This seems to be the same case with the VT-5 tank.

VN-12 fitted with ERA

Another vehicle that made it's appearance at the Airshow China is an upgraded version of the VN-12 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV). The VN-12 was first presented at Zhuhai two years ago in 2014. It is an improved export version of the Type 97 (ZBD-97) or the upgraded ZBD-04A, fitted with a different turret and bolt-on applique armor. It is not known if this armor is a kind of (ceramic) composite armor or consists of (spaced) metal plates. This might enough to provide ballistic protection similar to STANAG 4569 level 4 or 5 at the front and level 3 or 4 all-round. According to Chinese sources, the ZBD-04A is proteted against 30 x 165 mm API ammunition fired from 1,000 metres distance along the frontal arc and against 14.5 mm API ammunition from 200 metres distance at the sides - the VN-12 might have the same protection level. A new feature of the VN-12 vehicles at Zhuhai is the addition of explosive reactive armor at the hull front, sides and at the turret. This should be enough to protect against most types of RPGs and ATGMs with single-stage shaped charge warhead, but it seems unlikely that the ERA is capable of defeating tandem charge warheads.

VN-12 without ERA in 2014

The turret of the VN-12 might be the main difference compared to the Type 97/ZBD-04A. Instead of using a BMP-3-like turret, the VN-12 is fitted with a turret that is conceptual closer to the BMP-2's turret or the ones used on Western IFVs. The tandem arrangement of 100 mm low-recoil gun and 30 mm autocannon has been dropped in favour for a single 30 x 165 mm autocannon. The turret includes a coaxial machine gun, an advanced fire control system with separate sights for gunner and commander enabling hunter/killer operations, aswell as twelve smoke grenade dischargers (six mounted on each side of the turret) and two launchers for the Red Arrow HJ-73D anti-tank guided missile. This missile is an upgraded version of the old Soviet 9M14 Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger) with new SACLOS guidance, an improved warhead and propulsion.

ST1 (left) and two VN-12 IFVs (center, right)

Another version VN-12 seems to be fitted with the turret of the Type 86G IFV, an upgraded version of the Type 86 (the local production variant of the BMP-1). The Type 86G turret is also armed with a single autocannon chambered in the 30 x 165 mm calibre, but it seems to be a considerable downgrade to the VN-12 turret in other aspects. It has a lower protection level, features a worse fire control system and is only fitted with half as much smoke grenade and ATGM launchers. The gun is not fitted with additional external bars for stabilization when firing on the move.

Type 96B with RWS
Also at the Airshow China are the current Chinese export tank, the MBT-3000, and the new Type 96B main battle tank, an upgraded version of the Type 96. Both these tanks have been fitted with a new type of remote controlled weapon station (RWS), which can accept weapons at least up to a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun. Usually such weapon stations are equipped with a CCD camera, a laser rangefinder and a thermal imagers. The main feature of the Type 96B compared to the previous Type 96A is the improved Type 150 engine with a maximum output of 1,000 horespower. In Chinese nomenclature, a Type 150 engine uses cylinders with a diameter of 150 mm; the original Type 96 and the Type 96A already featured "Type 150" engine's of different construction (based on further developments of the T-34's engine), but offered only 730 and 800 horsepowers repsectively. The Type 96B's engine is developed from the engine of the Chinese premier tank, the Type 99. As of September 2016 only an initial batch of just twelve Type 96B tanks was in service with the Chinese Army.

Type 96B (left) and MBT-3000 (right)

The MBT-3000 is based on a further evolution of the MBT-2000 export tank, which itself is a highly modified Type 90-II tank. The MBT-2000 is also known as VT-1(A), while the MBT-3000 is also known under the designation VT-4. Thailand decided to purchase the MBT-3000 following continuous troubles with the previously ordered T-84M Oplot-M tank, while Pakistan has tested the MBT-3000 and the T-84M Oplot-M. The MBT-3000 is featuring technology from the Type 99(A) and Type 96A tanks, supposedly it might be better than the Chinese Type 96B in some aspects - it is at least somewhat more mobile, featuring a more powerful 1,300 hp engine. Like the Type 96B, the MBT-3000 is protected by composite armor and explosive reactive armor at the frontal arc. The turret sides are protected by slat armor and ERA, while the side hull is protected by steel-reinforced rubber skirts. The MBT-3000 can supposedly be fitted with the GL5 softkill active protection system. Both tanks are equipped with 125 mm smoothbore guns and autoloaders.

Also present at Zhuhai are a number of already existing wheeled and tracked vehicles. These include the amphibious ZBD-2000 light tank, a number of wheeled mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) four-wheeled vehicles, 8x8 wheeled vehicles, artillery systems and self-propelled anti-aircraft systems. The ZBD-2000 has been in service for quite a while, but being a modern light tank with 105 mm gun that is amphibious makes this vehicle unique for the modern day military forces.

At least two wheeled 8x8 vehicles with large calibre guns are on display at Zhuhai. One of them is apparently the ST1, a vehicle based on the eight-wheeled VN-1, the export version of the ZBL-09 vehicle. The Chinese Army itself operates - among others versions - the ZTL-09 and PLL-09, both based on the ZBL-09. The PLL-09 is fitted with a 122 mm mortar, while the ZTL-09 is fitted with additional armor and a 105 mm rifled gun. The ST1 is either fitted with a 100 mm smoothbore or (more likely) a 105 mm rifled gun and based on the VN-1 export vehicle. The turret of the ST1  appears to be identical to that used on the WMA301 "Assaulter" operated by the Djiboutian Army. .

The other interesting 8x8 vehicle is a new wheeled gun system, which is apparently based on the new VP10 chassis. It features bolted-on applique armor, which suggests a level of all-round protection comparable to STANAG 4569 level 3 (protection against assault rifle and normal sniper ammunition) or most likely STANAG 4569 level 4 (protection against 14.5 mm armor-piercing rounds from 500 metres distance) at least. Supposedly the older Chinese ZBL-09 might reach the level 5 protection requirements (protection against 25 mm APDS) along the frontal arc when fitted with applique armor. The exact designation of the new wheeled gun system is currently unknown. It is supposedly armed with the new 125 mm L/60 gun, which has been developed by the 127th Ordinance Institute of the Chinese Central Northern University. This smoothbore gun was revealed last year and can achieve muzzle velocities of up to 2,000 metres per second firing unknown ammunition. It was assumed that this gun was just developed for research and ballistic tests, so in theory the new VP10-based vehicle could also mount a 130 mm field gun. Another option would be a conventional 105 - 125 mm tank gun. An odd design decision is the inclusion of firing ports and small windows in the rear sections of the hull. This either means that the new gun system is just a mock-up based on an APC or IFV version of the VP10 - or that the vehicle is indeed intended to be a mobile gun system (MGS) with dismount capacity!

Both the ZBL-09 and the VP-10 are amphibious vehicles

Sources like Defence-Blog.com have reported that China has developed an 8x8 tank destroyer with the new 125 mm L/60 tank gun. However there are numerous noticable differences between the tank destroyer and the VP10-based MGS: the gun length appears to be different (albeit this might be a result of different chassis size), the chassis is not fitted with applique armor, the spacing of the wheels aswell as their size is different and the shape and location of the turret is different. Based on this the VP10-based MGS is not said tank destroyer fitted with the 125 mm L/60 gun, but China might use the same gun for multiple vehicles.

Not seen yet at China Airshow 2016, but certainly worth mentioning, is the CS/VN3C 4x4 scout vehicle first seen at China Airshow 2014. While being relatively small and lightweight, the vehicle is fitted with a 30 x 165 mm autocannon, a 5.8 mm coaxial MG and six smoke grenade dischargers (three mounted at each side of the turret). The vehicle can be fitted with the Red Arrow 73C ATGM according to Army Recognition. The CS/VN3C is protected by welded steel armor and can be fitted with bolt-on armor for a higher protection level. Carrying a crew of three, the vehicle is still capable to transport up to four soldiers - based on the small physicial size there probably is not enough space for four soldiers according to NATO standards - which can use two firing ports to engage enemy infantry.

The CV/VN3C vehicle is amphibious, but this might not be the case for the variant with improved armor protection. It can be airlifted by an Y9 aircraft, implying a weight of (significantly) less than 25 tonnes. No actual details on armor protection have been released, but it seems likely that at least a protection level comparable to STANAG 4569 level 3 can be achieved when fitted with additional armor.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Ukraine develops the Otaman family of wheeled vehicles

At the Ukranian Arms and Security 2016 (Зброя та безпека 2016) exhibition, the new Otaman 6x6 and 8x8 wheeled vehicles were presented for the first time. The two vehicles have been developed by the company Practika.

The Otaman concept was first presented in March at the Indian Defexpo 2016 by the Ukranian state-owned military agency UkrOboronProm. The Otaman concept takes existing military trucks such as the ones manufactured by GAZ, KRAZ, Ural or Zil and adds a protective plating made of armor steel (RHA) and an internal kevlar liner to it. According to Army Recognition's coverage of Defexpo 2016, this would allow to transform a typical 4x4 truck into a 7.5 tons heavy APC with a crew of two and a capacity of up to 12 soldiers. The vehicle would be powered by a Hyundai D4DB engine with only 130 horsepower maximum output and be protected in accordance with the STANAG 4569 level 2 certification; optionally this can be raised to level 3. Another option for the 4x4 Otaman concept was adding a manually or remotely operated weapon station with a heavy machine gun as armament for self-defence.

The six wheeled version of the Otaman was presented in the configuration as self-propelled 122 mm gun. According to Russian sources the gun is the old Soviet-designed 2A18 howitzer from the 1960s, which has also been used on the tracked 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled gun. This gun has a range of about 15 kilometres with conventional and 21 kilometres with rocked-assisted ammunition. It is suited for general fire support operations, to take out fortified positions and to engage lightly and medium armored vehicles.

The combat weight of the six-wheeled Otaman version is 16,000 kilograms. It is not clear if this is a reference to the specific variant with 122 mm gun in a turret or the baseline vehicle. Unlike the 4x4 and the 8x8 versions of the Otaman, the 6x6 Otaman seems to employ a newly constructed chassis. The baseline variant of the 6x6 Otaman is meant to be a pure armored carrier vehicle. The vehicle is powered by a German Deutz engine with an output of 290 or 320 horsepower. According to the datasheets of the exhibition, the engine is linked to a transmission manufactured by the Alission - this might be a typo and refer to the US company Allison instead, which provided transmissions for various military vehicles.

The vehicle's protection is provided by it's welded steel construction. This protects against small arms and assault rifle ammunition only. The interior might be fitted with a spall-liner made of kevlar or other poly-aramides. Via the installation of an applique armor kit, the ballistic protection can be raised to meet STANAG 4569 level 4 (all-round protection against 14.5 mm AP ammunition from 500 metres distance).
Aside of the self-propelled gun and the armored personnel carrier, the specifications sheet from Arms and Security 2016 also mentions a possible infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) variant, an armored recovery vehicle (ARV) variant, a mobile command post vehicle aswell as a mortar carrier.

The 8x8 version of the Otaman is apparently based on a rebuild BTR-60, but is also offered as modernization option for the BTR-70. The Otaman 8x8 is offered with the same Deutz engine and Alisson (Allison?) transmission as the 6x6 variant. It is however lighter, with a combat weight of only 13 metric tons. The 8x8 is not offered with an optional applique armor kit. Apparently the drivetrain and/or suspension of the BTR-60 is not capable as supporting as much weight as the counterparts used on the six-wheeled chassis.

The Otaman 8x8 was presented in the configuration as mortar carrier with a 120 mm mortar mounted in the rear compartment. The same six variants as available on the 6x6 Otaman - APC, ARV, command post vehicle, mortar carrier, IFV and self-propelled gun - are also offered based on the 8x8 vehicle.

Rebuild BTR-70 in 2015
Already one year earlier a rebuild of the BTR-70 was presented at the Arms and Security 2015 exhibition. The vehicle was known under a different name and apparently made by a different company. Apparently the Ukranian defence industry is not capable of designing new vehicle by itself or the budget is too limited for it. Instead Ukrainian companies and volunteer units like the Azovets brigade, keep upgrading and redesigning old vehicles.

Russia is mass producing the improved Svinets-1 and Svinets-2 ammunition

Photographs and video footage of a visit of a Russian ammunition manufacturing facility have been posted to several different web forums. Apparently a government delegation accompanied by a number of journalsits or at least a photographer has visited the site.

It seems that Russia is mass producing a version of the Svinets-1 or Svinets-2 APFSDS. This fin-stabilized armor-piercing ammunition with sabot is meant to penetrate heavily armored vehicles such as main battle tanks (MBTs). The development of the original Svinets ammunition (without numerical suffix) was started in 1985 and lasted until at least 1991. It is not known to have entered service with the Russian Army. The original Svinets round uses a penetrator made of depleted uranium (DU) with a length of 546 and a diameter of 25 milimetres in order to penetrate an estimated 600 to 650 milimetres of steel armor at a distance of 2.000 metres; some people suggest this estimated penetration is based on performance against 60° sloped steel, which is usually 10% to 20% higher than the penetration against unsloped steel plates. Compared to the Svinets-1 and Svinets-2 ammunition, the original design has a shorter overall length of only 635 mm in order to stay compatible with the older autoloaders of the existing Soviet tanks.

Partly assembled projectiles
The Svinets-1 and Svinets-2 APFSDS ammunition is supposedly in development since the late-1990s or early-2000s. Some sources proclaim that it has been ready for series production since 2002 or 2005.  While it has been known for quite a while that both the Soviet Union and Russia have been working on the development of more advanced APFSDS ammunition for the T-72, T-80 and T-90 tanks - a number of different types of prototype ammunition has even been pictured - many recent photographs confirm that most of Russia's tanks are still supplied with old ammunition from the mid-1980s, probably taken from former Soviet stocks. Other users of tanks armed with 125 mm smoothbore guns of Soviet origin, among others countries such as the Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slowakia, have already adopted more advanced ammunition based on local development projects or Israeli technology.

125 mm APFSDS prototypes from the mid-1990s designed for the T-72
There is a factor of secrecy involved in the production of tank ammunition. In so far it seems possible, albeit not very probable, that Russia has been producing the improved Svinets ammunition since a few years already. If these rounds were ready for series production in 2002 or 2005, as claimed by some sources, it would be interesting to know when exactly the series production of this ammunition started and what the key factor to start the production at this time was. Are the delays related to some funding issues? Is the introduction of the T-14 Armata with the new 2A82 tank gun the key factor for the Svinets production? Has it something to do with delays during the development of Svinets-1 and Svinets-2?
An explanation might be related to the autoloaders of the older Soviet-designed MBTs; these cannot handle ammunition parts longer than approximately 640 milimetres. Thus Svinets-1 and Svinets-2 are too long for the average T-72 and T-80 tank. Supposedly at least the T-90A features an upgraded autoloader design capable of supporting longer parts, but the original production model of the T-90, which largely relied on the old T-72B chassis, might not have been fitted with an improved autoloader. This might result in the newer ammunition being only useful with a limited number of tanks, which would result in a lower production volume and higher per unit costs. The Armata with new gun and autoloader is most likely capable of handling the Svinets-1/2 APFSDS rounds and larger ammunition.

The Svinets-1 APFSDS is using a tungsten penetrator, while the Svinets-2 APFSDS is fitted with a depleted uranium (DU) penetrator. Both of these rounds could mean a major boost in anti-armor capabilities for Russia's tank force. Supposedly the Svinets-1 has the designation "3BM-59", while Svinets-2 is designated "3BM-60". They utilize an aluminium sabot with three points of contact - this is rather unique, as most other types of APFSDS sabot use only two points of contacts. If and how this affects accuracy and barrel wear is currently not known.
Despite the increased length of the sabot, the projectile length for the improved Svinets ammunition is still limited to at most just 680 - 700 milimetres based on the older photograph of Svients-1 and -2 (above), but this still is a decent improvment over the older Mango (3BM-42) and Vant (3BM-32). 

Compared to the 3BM-32 Vant APFSDS with a 380 mm long DU penetrator, the two types of new ammunition have an approximately 79 to 84 percent longer projectile, which should lead to a significant increase in penetration power.
The 3BM-42 Mango relies on an outdated pentrator design, using two relatively short tungsten rods inside a steel body. The greater parasitic weight (as steel penetrates armor less efficiently than a high-density heavy metal alloy) and the construction lead to rather poor performance against steel and specifically against more complex armor arrays. A problem of one and two-piece heavy metal penetrators sheathed by steel body is that during penetration of ERA, spaced armor or composite armor, the penetrators can become unaligned; when the two penetrators don't hit the same spot, the penetration is significantly worse.

Unfortunately a lot of data for a proper assessment of the penetration performance is still missing. The exact shape and construction of the penetrator aswell as the muzzle velocity and deceleration play a major role in the process of penetrating and perforating armor. Still the general length of the penetrator suggests a penetration of some 650 to 750 mm against homogenous armor steel sloped at 60° at a distance of 2,000 metres. Against conventional armor arrays, the Svinets-2 might be penetrate about as much armor as the current US M829A3 APFSDS; against composite armor targets and those protected by heavy explosive reactive armor (ERA), the M829A3 might have significantly better penetration due to the nature of it's constructions, which might utilize an approximately 4 inch long steel tip to penetrate heavy ERA and NERA, a feature which is not known to be existing on the improved Svinets ammunition. 

Some photographs might also show parts of the longer Grifel APFSDS, which supposedy has been developed exclusively for the 2A82 gun of the T-14 Armata. While the sabot length in most photographs is clearly too short for the Grifel, there appear to be at least two different types of penetrators; one of them is thinner and longer.

Monday, October 10, 2016

US armor programs at AUSA 2016

Aside of the Griffin, other vehicle upgrades and propsals have been presented at the AUSA 2016. In particular the current status of the AMPV and Bradley programs are interesting. The M8 Armored Gun System was also present, but apparently still identical to the version presented last year at AUSA. It is quite obvious that the Griffin and AGS are meant to compete with each other for possible adoption with the US armed forces.
Apparently the US Army is looking for a Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle with a weight of up to 32 metric tons (as reported by Jane's IHS), clearly disagreeing with a TARDEC workshop containing members of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division and the 10th Mountain Divison. The workshop favoured lighter vehicles, designed to be compatible with the C-130 aircraft (thus at most 22 metric tons of weight) with lower armor protection. While the minimum required firepower is at least a 50 milimetre cannon, the US Army is supposedly not interested in introducing a new ammunition calibre into it's inventory, meaning that most likely a 105 or 120 mm tank gun has to be mounted.

The current weight of the Griffin prototype is sitting at 28 metric tons, but another metric ton should be shaved of the design, resulting in a final combat weight of only 27 metric tons. The Griffin is fitted with a new turret based on the Abrams turret. This turret weighs only about a third of the Abrams turret, which implies a weight of 7 to 8 metic tons. It seems to be not fitted with composite armor and is made out of aluminium. Apparently it seems to be a modified Abrams turret design without composite armor. These factors leads to a number of changes in the general shape and layout of the turret.
The turret lacks a bustle-mounted ammunition rack with blow-off panels as found on the Abrams main battle tank (MBT). Instead the ammunition is stored in the hull, probably without any additional safety features. This is the common way of storing ammunition in light tanks based on IFV hulls such as the CV90-120 and ASCOD 2 Direct Fire variants. The Griffin features an external bustle rack that can be used to store crew equipment.

In the presented form, the Griffin offers protection against heavy machine gun and small arms ammunition only. However it's protection can be augmented with the installation of modular armor packages or active protection systems (APS). The prototype however seems to lack any sort of mounting mechanism or interfaces for such. The main gun of the Griffin has been confirmed to be the XM360 smoothbore gun, which was originally developed for the Mounted Combat System of the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program of the US Army.

The Bradley will receive new hand stations.
Some details on the ongoing development of the M1A2 SEP v3 main battle tank also have been released at the AUSA 2016. Currently there are seven full-scale prototypes undergoing testing. In the next twelfe months, the US Army is expected to make a decision on what exactly will be part of the third System Enhancement Package (SEP). The series production is expected to start in the first quarter of 2018, about the same time when the Leopard 2A7V and Challenger 2 LEP upgrade are expected to be ready.
The M1A2 SEP v3 upgrades moves the APU under armor and the inertial navigation system into the turret for increased performance. The digital screens for gunner and commander will be upgraded to a 1080p resolution and support third generation thermal imagers. Further upgrades to the armor protection and weapon station are also included. Initially 45 M1A2 SEP v3 tanks will be made in the first year. This rate will increase to a maximum of 60 tanks per year for the following years.

Old AMPV prototype
The AMPV is meant to replace the outdated M113 plattform and is based on the Bradley design. While original concepts saw General Dynamics using a rather unmodified Bradley hull without turret (but raised roof at the rear compartment), the final AMPV design however uses a newly (re-)designed chassis, which is largely based on the Bradley technology. It relies on a number of components common to the Bradley and M109A7 self-propelled gun, thus reducing development and life-cycle costs. The AMPV is heavier and significantly larger than the original Bradley hull, offering increased protection against mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The current version of the medical evacuation AMPV at AUSA 2016
Nine variants of the AMPV are being made; one of them is already being assembled, while the welding of the hulls for the other eight variants is underway. The variants include a medical evacuation vehicle, a medical treatment vehicle, a mortar carrier, a mission command vehicle and a general-purpose vehicle. The US Army plans on buying 2,907 AMPVs for replacing the obsolete M113 variants in the Armored Brigade Combat Teams (ABCTs) for an estimated cost of $10.233 billion. A further 1,922 M113 needs to be replaced at echelons above the brigade level, but as of 2016 the US Army has not established the requirements for this program - it seems likely however that the AMPV will also be used for this. In 2014 BAE Systems was awarded a $382 million contract of 52 months for the development of the AMPV. This contract includes the option of a 289 vehicles low-rate initial production (LRIP) for a total value of $1.2 billion. For the fiscal year 2017, the president budget request saw a $184.2 million funding for research, development, testing and engineering (RDT&E) of the AMPV. It is intended to support the assembly, support and shipment of 29 prototypes to government test sites for a 1,500 miles testing. The budget was backed by house and senate.

The distribution of AMPV demand is the following: 520 general-purpose AMPVs are needed to replace exisiting M113A3 GP (general-purpose) vehicles, 991 AMPVs are required to replace the M1068A3 mission command variant of the M113. 384 AMPV mortar carriers will phase out the M1064 mortar carrier, while 788 AMPVs replace the M113A3 medical evacuation variant. Another 214 AMPVs will follow the M577 vehicles for medical treatment. That is a total of 2,897 AMPVs, leaving a further 10 vehicles for the purpose of testing and developing. About nine to ten percent of all AMPV's are meant for the US Training and Doctrine Command as well as testing of the vehicles.
The Bradley Next-Generation has been presented at AUSA 2016 alongside the AMPV. The main feature of the Bradley Next-Gen is the increased belly protection against anti-vehicle mines and IEDs. The roof has been raised by seven inches (178 mm) in order to accept soldiers up to the whole 95th percentile of height. The fuel and ammunition such as TOW missiles (previously stored below the crew seats) are moved outside the crew compartment. For this two triangle-shaped sponsons have been added to the rear of the vehicle, located at each side of the rear door of the Bradley. At least the TOW missiles can still be accessed from inside, allowing to reload the missile launcher without the need of completely exiting the vehicle.

The Next-Gen Bradley has a new rear storage and a raised roof
The Bradley Next-Generation features improvments to the mobility in form of installing the same engine as used on the AMPV and Bradley ECP2 upgrade. Together with a new high-efficiency transmission, the Next-Generation Bradley has essentially 200 additional horsepower compared to the current US Army model. The upgraded Bradley proposal also features new tracks and a new suspension, which is set higher (already a feature of the ECP upgrade proposal) and which uses a different torsion bar design. The new torsion bars won't ease and detach upon blast impact, so they won't penetrate the vehicle's floor and kill the soldiers inside. The vehicle still utilizes only six roadwheels, not seven as incorrectly claimed by some early sources.

Bradley with MCT-30 turret at AUSA 2014
The Bradley Next-Gen is still fitted with the original turret and the old 25 mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun. No upgrades were made to the turret by BAE Systems beyond the already planned ECP upgrades. The US Army has tested the Kongsberg Protector MCT-30 turret fitted with the 30 mm Mk 44 Bushmaster II chain gun in 2014 as possible upgrade path for the Bradley, but no further informations about this project have been surfaced in the last year. In the past decades, the Bradley has been fitted for tests and trials with a larger number of different turrets and guns, including the 35 mm Bushmaster III chain gun, the 40 mm Bofors cannon aswell as 40 mm CTAS case-telescopic armament system. It seems possible that fitting the MCT-30 turret to the Bradley might be just another BAE-funded prototype that is not meant for US Army service.

A major issue that both the Next-Gen Bradley and the AMPV share, is the outdated armor design. The base armor of the Bradley and the AMPV consists of a welded aluminium construction with bolted-on steel plates, which were added to the Bradley beginning in 1988. On the original production models of the Bradley, the aluminium alloy 5083 was used for most of the structure except some of the sloped roof sections of the hull side, where the aluminium of the alloy 7039 was utilized. The aluminium plates used for the assembly of the hull are supposedly one inch (25.4 mm) thick at the sloped front and the flat sides. The side armor of the hull also included an array of two spaced 0.25 inch (6.4 mm) steel plates to provide enough protection against 14.5 mm armor-piercing (AP) ammunition by tumbling the impacting projectiles. The frontal third of the hull bottom of the original Bradley was fitted with a 9.5 mm steel plate for enhanced protection against anti-personnel mines and grenades.

Around 1986 the development of an armor-upgrade was initiated, after being already demanded by different officials even before the Bradley entered service. The armor upgrade was adopted in 1988 and consisted of steel plates with a thickness of up to 1.5 inch (38 mm), although some sources suggest a slightly lower maximum thickness of only 1.25 inch (32 mm). The steel plates are connected via large bolts to the hull and turret. The size and amount of bolts differs depending on location and plate thickness. The side armor module consisting of spaced steel plates were replaced by a single solid steel plate at the upper part and two thin steel plates at the lower section. The only modern aspect of the Bradley's armor is the usage of Armor Shield-R reactive explosive armor developed by the Israeli company Rafael. There are different configurations of Armor Shield-R that have been used on the Bradley in the past with different protection levels, but the Next-Gen Bradley and the AMPV seem to feature the latest variant. According to Jane's IHS, this still cannot defeat tandem charge warhead arrangment and thus protects only against older and light rocket-propelled grenades.

Aluminium of the alloy 5083 is known to provide little to no weight savings over conventional armor steel. Depending on thickness and projectile shape, tests from the US Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory (BRL, renamed to Army Research Laboratory  in 1992) show an increase of protection by 8% in favour of aluminium compared to steel in best case, to a 22% decrease in protection compared to steel in worst case. The British Professor Richard M. Ogorkiewicz, who worked for/with the British MoD, noted that the main benefit of  (alloy 5083) aluminium armor is the greater structural stiffness resulting from the thicker aluminium plates compared to thin steel plates providing the same level of protection. Thinner steel plates have to be reinforced with bars or have to be ribbed in order to provide additional strucutral stiffness, leading to a slight increase of weight. In general one has to assume that the original hull and turret construction of the Bradley provide essentially no weight savings over steel armor. The addition of further (weight-inefficient) steel armor and the large overall profile of the M2 Bradley might mean that it is the most inefficient infantry fighting vehicle in regards to armor protection per weight.

Ceramic composite armor of the K21 IFV: This is what AMPV and Bradley need
More modern infantry fighting vehicles such as the ASCOD Ulan and ASCOD 2 Ajax, the Bionix, the later batches of the CV90, the K21 and the Puma IFV utilize ceramic composite armor for ballistic protection. Compared to high-hardness steel armor, the ceramic amror can in extreme cases offer more than four times as much protection for a given weight. When it was presented in 2014, the AMPV design (then still based on a slightly lighter, less modified Bradley hull) weighed 27.6 metric tons. It seems likely that the AMPV could have a total weight of close to only 20 metric tons if it was making use of more weight efficient armor (such as ceramic composite armor) and manufacturing methods, such as using a glass-reinforced plastic hull like the K21 or a base steel hull made with thin metal bending technology. Likewise the Bradely would probably weight about 25 metric tons when manufactured with more modern technology.
The only downside of this suggestion would be the increased costs, but these might be nullified by the lower fuel consumption, lowered wear of engine and tracks aswell as the overall greater tactical and strategic mobility. In the end the Next-Generation Bradley is meant to provide a solution to the US Army to last until 2030, when the decision is made to procure a new IFV for the US Army. The AMPV is meant to be operated beyond 2030. How well armored will the AMPV and Next-Gen Bradley be at this point of time? Does it make sense procuring outdated armor in the 2017 to 2025 timeframe, which is meant to serve until beyond 2030, when much more modern alternatives are already existing? Luckily the Next-Generation Bradley is just a proposal; the AMPV on the other hand seems extremely odd...

Puma IFV armor and upgrade speculations

The Puma infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) is the latest German combat vehicle; it entered service in 2014. It has been claimed to be one of the most advanced and the most protected IFV in the service, based on the relatively huge combat weight of up to 43 metric tons in the maximum armor configuration. Only the T-15 Aramta IFV at about 45 metric tons, which was revealed at a later point of time, seems to have comparable or better armor protection in certain areas (but apparently it's unmanned turret is rather poorly protected).

This post, originally made in slightly modified form in a forum, but I decided to post here about the topic with a bit further details added. Due to lack of motiviations, a lot of work for my job and other reasons I failed to meet my plans with this blog in the last month(s), so here is this rather speculative piece, just posted in order to not end with only one or two post per months this time. I'd like to note that all photographs used in this article are available to the public and no classified information has been used.

Puma armor protection layout

The Puma can uses a modular armor approach, where the protection can be adjusted according to the threat level. This also enables the Puma to remain air-transportable via the Airbus A400M aircraft, while being higher protected than other vehicles: for each three Pumas transported with a A400M aircraft, a fourth carrying the modular armor packages is required. 
Furthermore the modular armor allows replacing damaged sections much easier, a design that has been used on some applique armor kits for military vehicles since the 1990s. The weight of a Puma ranges from about 31.5 metric tons to up to 43 metric tons in the heavy combat configuration with all-round protection against medium calibre rounds and RPGs.

Side armor without ERA, parts of the ceramic applique armor have been dismanteled.
The hull side armor of a Puma hull consists of steel, onto which up to two layers of applique armor are mounted via shock-absorbing bolts. These two layers of passive armor, most probably ceramic composite armor. According to Rheinmetall Chempro, one armor manufacturing subsidiary of the German company Rheinmetall, the Puma IFV utilizes AMAP-B among other types of armor. AMAP-B is composite armor designed by IBD Deisenroth, which offers up to four times as much protection per weight against kinetic energy projectiles as conventional and high-hardness armor steel.

Ceramic armor layout
The light and medium versions of AMAP-B, designed to offer protection in accordance with STANAG 4569 level 1 to 6, are utilizing nano-metric high-hardness steel and nano-ceramics. These are modern materials with modified microstructure (in case of ceramics, the grain size is less than a micrometre and hence in the margin of nanometres), which results in higher hardness and less shattering upon repeated impact of armor-piercing ammunition. Based on the appearance and protection requirements, the Puma's side armor modules are most likely nano-ceramics glued onto a flexible aramid backing covered with a splinter foil or steel plate. The ceramics appear to be supplied by CeramTec-ETEC GmbH.
It is possible that just one of the two passive armor layers is required for protection against 14.5 mm AP ammunition and the second layer is part of the additional armor for protection against medium calibre ammunition. Against which calibre exactly the Puma's armor is meant to provide protection is unknown, but it is at least resistant to 30 mm APFSDS rounds according to statements from the manufacturer. Rumors suppose that the actual level of protection is noteworthy higher. The engine vent is also fitted with an additional armor module, which is made of sloped and spaced metal plates (presuambly high-hardness armor steel is used instead of non-ballistic mild steel).

During it's development the Puma's hull side armor has gone through four or five iterations. Originally on all of the initial five prototypes it consisted only of thick passive composite armor. When the production of the first proper pre-production/low-rate intial production vehicles was announced, the Puma instead used another type of passive armor with greater thickness and a more box-shaped appeareance. These vehicles also featured slat armor extending further to the center of the roadwheels. Then there were two versions which seemed to be using explosive reactive armor (ERA) only. The final configuration utilizes ERA at the upper portions, passive armor in the center and slat armor in the lowest sections (i.e. to the roadwheels). The rear section of the vehicle is also covered by slat armor.

The Composite Lightweight Adaptable Reactive Armour (CLARA) ERA is supplied by Dynamit Nobel Defence (DND) and uses fibre-composite plates without any metal content, in order to reduce the danger for nearby infantry of being hit by deadly metal fragments. According to an interview with the head of business development of Dynamit Nobel Defence, the ERA provides at least ten times the protection per weight as "conventional armor" (which probably is meant to be normal armor steel), but cannot defeat tandem warheads on it's own. Based on DND's patents, it might be a multi-layered ERA construction using two reactive layers and a passive one. There have been light and heavy versions of the CLARA ERA; apparently the Puma uses the heavy one based on the thickness and weight of the ERA tiles. This also uses Ultrax plates from Verseidag Indutex, a company which might be part of Rheinmetall Verseidag nowadays, to protect against 30 mm APFSDS and explosively formed penetrators (EFPs).

Puma turret being assembled. The composite armor plates are not fitted yet-
The Puma's remote controlled turret is made from aluminium plates, which are welded together. The aluminium has to be welded a constant temperature, which suggests that they are using a more advanced alloy than the standard aluminium 5083 alloy used on the M113 and M2 Bradley. The 5083 alloy offers essentially no weight savings over steel, requiring in some cases more than three times the thickness of steel armor for the same protection level.

The company Aleris claims that it supplied aluminium armor for the production of the Puma's prototypes in it's defence brochures; given that the brochure is older, from a time when the series production had not started, it seems plausible that Aleris also supplied the aluminium alloy armor for the final production models of the Puma. Possible alloys that are manufactured by Aleris and could have been used for the Puma turret include the AA 2519 and AA 7039 aluminium armor alloys, which both offer a weight saving of 15 to 20 percent over the 5059 aluminium for the same level of armor protection. Alloy 5059 aluminium already offers a major increase in armor protection over the old 5083 alloys.

Further plates of AMAP-B composite armor are mounted upon the aluminium turret base construction. For protection against 14.5 mm AP ammunition only a single plate is used, but a further layer of composite applique modules can be mounted for protection against 30 mm ammunition.

Details of the Puma's glacis armor

The Puma glacis armor seems to consists of a highly sloped layer of non-explosive reactive armor (NERA), aswell as composite armor modules bolted on the steel hull. The NERA layer is spaced above the main composite armor. NERA usually consists of two metal (steel, aluminium or titanium) layers with a confined/compressed layer of an elastic material such as rubber sandwiched inbetween. Upon impact, the rubber will expand and the armor will bulge. This is highly effective against shaped charge jets, which are used on rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). The bulging moves more material into the path of penetration and has a disruptive effect, which will weaken the shaped charge jet. Only one NERA layer can be seen on the available photographs, but in theory there could be multiple spaced layers. Most likely the Puma's NERA doesn't utilize dumb rubber, but a modern composite material. In research papers a material made by IBD was tested for application on NERA, which reduced the penetration of a ATGM to only 15 to 22 milimetres, while the same armor array using an elastomer (such as rubber) reduced the penetration to 107 mm in the worst case only.

Non-explosive (inert) reactive armor (b) damages a shaped charge jet (d) by the same mechanism as ERA (a and c)
According to Rheinmetall Chempro and IBD Deisenroth Engineering, the Puma IFV is fitted with AMAP-SC composite armor, which provides between 8 and 10 times as much protection per weight against shaped charges than conventional armor steel. The composite armor modules bolted on the hull below the NERA most likely utilize nano-ceramics as well. According to Professor Richard Ogorkiewicz, who worked as Defence Scientific Advisory Council for the British Ministry of Defence, ceramic armor provides more than twice as much protection as steel against shaped charges.

Puma hull being constructed
The Puma hull is made from steel. Welding and bending the steel plates together took four months on the initial models (pre-production or low-rate initial production). Parts of the hull are constructed with the "Dünnblech-Biegetechnologie" (thin metal bending technology), which also has been used on the Boxer multi-role armored vehicle. Instead of using multiple steel plates and welding them together, the plates are rather bend. This allows to use thinner steel plates (increasing the weight efficiency when fitted with composite armor) and creates less weak-spots and breaking points against AP ammunition and shock blasts such created by mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The lower hull compartment houses some components for the drivetrain/transmission/etc., but based on some older CAD graphic, this only covers the uppermost part. It is quite thick and has enough space for advanced armor arrays consisting of multiple NERA panels and ceramic layers.


The actual thickness of the Puma frontal hull armor (without slope) can be seen at the photo above. On the completed vehicles, the vision blocks of the driver extrude from the glacis, the steel edge in the photograph is not visible. The Puma's frontal hull is protected against medium calibre ammunition (such as 30 mm APFSDS rounds), explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) aswell as RPGs with shaped charge warheads. Accounting the slope, there should be considerably more than 300 mm of space for armor. Although it should be noted that probably about half of this might be empty space required for the disruptive effect of the NERA to kick in.


The basic Puma turret provides all-round protection against 14.5 mm AP rounds from heavy-machine guns and anti-materiel rifles. The Puma turret can be fitted with additional armor to provide protection against medium calibre ammunition, larger fragments of artillery rounds and large artillery bomblets with EFP or shaped charge warhead. Except for a smaller curved section behind the gun (which moves when the gun is elevating), the add-on armor for the roof consists of "Igelpanzerung" (hedgehog armor), which utilizes many rubber-spikes to damage the shaped charge warheads of artillery bomblets. Below the bomblets there is additional passive armor on same cases (supposedly ceramic armor), while the hedgehog armor above the ammunition compartment is spaced for some unknown reason. Above the crew positions the roof armor appears to consists of thicker composite plates or two thinner ones. Artillery submunitions with shaped charge warhead can penetrate more than 200 mm of armor steel.
Sketch of the sepculated upper hull armor layout
Most likely the Puma is currently the best protected IFV in active service; depending on exact armor thickness and composition, the T-15 Armata might rival or beat the Puma in terms of protection. The Puma comes with a higher protection level than any infantry fighting vehicle currently in service. For protection against ATGMs the Puma is fitted with the MUSS active protection system, that is being trialed in the United Kingdom for adoption on the Challenger 2 and other combat vehicles. Specifically the protection of the roof section, something often overseen when upgrading older vehicles, is not rivaled by existing vehicles. Still the Puma falls short on the requirements from the original NGP development (which later was cut and modified to the Puma), which called for a modularily reconfigurable vehicle with modular armor package and a weight ranging from 51 to 77 metric tons depending on armor package. The NGP demanded heavier-than-MBT protection for the MBT and IFV variants.

Further upgrades

The Puma still needs to be fitted with the MELLS multi-role missile launching system for the Spike-LR ATGM, but there have been numerous delays with it (beginning with the original missile failing to meet the German requirements for accuracy during the first series of trials, then the launcher had issues and now the budget is used for other things). The TSWA turret-independent secondary-armament still needs to be fitted, but it has been modified in the past year; the original design saw the usage of six 76 mm grenades (lethal and non-lethal) with a relatively short range; the system has been extended by a ring containing about 24 low-velocity and medium-velocity 40 mm grenades with air-burst capability.


Furthermore there are other upgrade plans. There is a tender for replacing the 5.56 mm MG4 machine gun with a 7.62 mm MG; apparently Heckler & Koch (MG5) and Rheinmetall (with the three-barreled RMG 7.62) are interested in the contract. The Puma also should be fitted with a situational awareness system, probably Rheinmetall's SAS 360 system. Furthermore there are plans for enhancing the computer system, allowing to operate unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). Shephardmedia wrote in this regard: "The aim is to have operation of UGVs integrated into the vehicles." It is not entirely clear what this means. Will is be possible to convert the Puma to an UGV? Is a modified version of the Puma used to operate multiple UGVs, by using the dismount compartment to house the equipment and seats for several UGV operators? Or will every Puma (while still being a somewhat conventional IFV) be capable of operating one or multiple UGVs? In the latter case one has to wonder who would operate the UGV when the infantry is dismounted: the gunner, commander or driver all have their own tasks to do.

Interestingly the Puma is being offered to Australia for the Phase 3 stage of the LAND 400 program with the upgrade option to the larger and 50% more powerful 35 x 228 mm calibre. It is not known if they would keep the Puma's unmanned turret, but modify it's interior or utilize a completely new turret. Krauss-Maffei Wegmann has developed the IWS-35 remote weapon station using the same optronics as on the Puma IFV, which is fitted with a 35 mm Bushmaster III chain gun and a 0.50 cal heavy machine gun as coaxial armament. The externally-powered Bushmaster III can be upgunned to use 50 mm "SuperShot" ammunition, by replacing the gun barrel and a few other parts. If the optional Puma configuration offered to Australia is using the IWS-35 with the Bushmaster III gun, it would be quite ironical, as the original German requirement for the NGP infantry fighting vehicle called  for a 50 mm calibre gun.