Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Czech Army prefers Puma, searches T-72 replacement and miscellaneous

In August an article on the Czech IFV program was published here. A long period of writing and more recent news from the Czech Republic have made the speculation and information on the possible contenders outdated. The Czech government asked a total of nine contenders to participate in the tender for the BMP-2 replacement. Apparently neither the Šakal IFV or the Wolfdog were considered by the army as proper replacement for the BMP-2s. The following IFVs were seen as possible replacement, which is why the manufacturers were invited to participate in the bidding process for the contract:
  1. BAE System's CV90
  2. General Dynamics European Land Systems' (GDELS) ASCOD 2
  3. The Puma from PSM, a joint venture between KMW and Rheinmetall
  4. Rheinmetall's Lynx
  5. The PMMC G5 from the German manufacturer FFG
  6. Otokar's Tulpar
  7. The Kaplan-20 from FNSS (FNSS is a joint-venture by BAE Systems and Nurol Holding)
  8. The Namer developed by the Israeli Ordnance Corps
  9. Oto-Melara's Dardo
The Italian and Israeli companies did not respond to the Czech request - or at least not until the deadline was over. It must be noted that both the Dardo infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) and an IFV variant of the Namer probably would have lost due to their performance characteristics not matching the standards set by the competitors. By current standards, the Dardo has poor armor, lacking firepower - only a 25 mm chaingun plus outdated TOW missiles - and lower mobility than the other options, while the Namer is too heavy and is fitted with an outdated powerpack, that delivers not enough horsepowers while consuming more fuel than more recently developed diesel engines. The fact that air-transportability and the compability with existing infrastructure might be factors for the purchase of a new IFV makes the Namer a very unattractive option.

The Namer was recently showcased with a new unmanned turret
It also should be noted that at the time of the tender request, the latest version of the Namer fitted with an unmanned turret had not been presented. At that time the only available infantry fighting vehicle configuration of the Namer was limited to a few prototype vehicles fitted with the Samson Mk 1 remote weapon station (RWS). This RWS is also used on the Czech Pandur IIs and features a 30 mm Bushmaster II autocannon, a machine gun (MG) and a launcher for two Spike-LR anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). Using this RWS instead of a proper unmanned turret has one major drawback: it is essentially unarmored and can in worst case be disabled by machine gun fire, because the ammunition feed system and parts of the electronics are not covered by any sort of armor.
On the first of August the IDF presented a new IFV version of the Namer fitted with an unmanned turret specifically made for the vehicle. This infantry fighting vehicle would have been far better, but probably was still in development at the time of the request. The turret is not an off-the-shelf option from Elbit Systems or Rafael, but incorporates technologies from multiple companies and is designed by the IDF. It features two set of Elbit System's COAPS sights, the Trophy-MV active protection system from Rafael - a lighter variant of the Merkava's APS known as Trophy-2 during the development - and a relatively wide variety of armament, consisting of a 30 mm Bushmaster II chaingun, a coaxial machine gun, a pop-up ATGM launcher and an internally mounted 60 mm mortar.

The G5 PMMC was rejected by the Czech Republic
Based on the technical specifications of the vehicles, the G5 protected mission module carrier (PMMC) was eliminated before the actual testing of the offers started. It's technical characteristics - the low supported maximum weight of only 26.5 metric tons, the small 560 hp engine and the limited protection options - were too much to be compensated by the lower price point. FNSS' Kaplan-20 "new generation" armored fighting vehicle (NG-AFV) suffered from the same issues, but it also came with a big pile of potential political troubles due to the relations between the EU and Turkey being on a historically low level. Based on the latter factor, the Tulpar IFV from Otokar, which based on weight, armament and protection level might have been considered a serious alternative to the offerings from the established manufacturers, was eliminated together with the Kaplan-20 from the Czech tender.

A Puma IFV climbs a slope during the Czech trials
This meant that only four vehicles - the ASCOD 2, the CV9030 (in two variants), the Puma and the Lynx - remain in the competition. These four vehicles were tested during a longer period of time in the Libava military facility in the Czech Republic. The trials lasted a total of six weeks and included firing trials, high speed driving on roads, traveling cross-country, climbing over walls/barriers, crossing ditches, wading through deep bodies of water and other tests. The first set of static and dynamic firing trials was done against targets in a distance of 700 m, 1,200 m and 1,800 m. An exact list of tests has not been published yet. The performance data of the vehicles was gathered before proper requirements were issued by the Czech ministry of defence, which is a rather uncommon approach.
According to Czech sources, the German Puma IFV indirectly won the evaluation of the Czech Army. While at the time of testing no official requirements were released - a suggestion for possible requirements was scheduled too be send by the army to the Czech ministry of defence (MoD) at the end of August - the Puma proved its "technological dominance" as described by a the Czech website Armádní Noviny. What exactly is meant with this statement is not exactly clear, aside of the Puma apparently outperforming the other contenders. As stated by German sources, the Puma IFV managed to hit "by far" the highest number of targets during the firing trials. It seems likely that the superior level of protection of the Puma is also part of this "dominance", but it is possible that the high power-to-weight ratio in combination with the advanced hydropneumatic suspension allowed the Puma to outrun the competition during some of the mobility trials - in tests by the engine manufacturer MTU, the Puma outrun a Leopard 2 tank.

Puma IFV wading through water as part of the trials
Regardless of what the exact reasons for the Puma outperforming the other vehicles were, the Czech MoD has stated interest in buying this infantry fighting vehicle rather than one of the cheaper offerings, according to Czech websites Armádní Noviny and The Puma is the favored solution, but due to its high unit costs a vehicle with rubber band tracks is also considered as option; given that all three other vehicles - ASCOD 2, CV90 and Lynx - were presented with rubber band tracks, it is not clear what other IFV is meant - in theory one could also create a lighter variant of the Puma with rubber band tracks. A first meeeting was held between the German PSM and the Czech state-owned company VOP CZ to discuss details on a possible Puma purchase. VOP CZ had made agreements with all of the four final bidding companies for a possible deal regarding local assembly and production of components. Aside of PSM, the companies KMW, Rheinmetall, Hensoldt Optronics, MTU Friedrichshafen, Jenoptik Advanced Systems and Dynamit Nobel Defence were also taking part in the talks. PSM supposedly already showed technical documents regarding possible non-IFV variants of the Puma suited for the Czech Army.
The Czech  MoD has allocated a budget of up to 50 billions koruna (€1.916 billion) for the purchase of 210 new IFVs and other vehicle variants based on the same chassis with an option to later order a further 100 vehicles. This would be enough to buy 210 Puma IFVs for the cited unit price, about €7 million according to the Czech sources, but only half the bugdet is actually meant to be used on purchasing the new vehicles. The other half of the budget is meant for logistics, infrastrucutre and training, is meant for purchasing spare parts and simulators, setting up training facilities and repair plants. This means currently the Puma is too expensive!

Puma production line in Germany
In order to deal with the high unit costs, different possibilities are examined. PSM is offering to set up a full production line in the Czech Republic, which would reduce costs (e.g. the wages in Germany are on average more than 3.5 times as large as the ones of Czech workes) and would create jobs, resulting in people paying more taxes in the Czech Republic and thus indirectly reducing costs further. All Puma IFVs for the Czech Army could be made within the Czech Republic and if desired even some of the components for the German Army vehicles could be manufactured there - currently some of the cables and sensors for the fire supression system are made in this country already.
Alternatively there is an option of getting financial support for the arms purchase thanks to the new EU Defence Fund, which were created in 2017 after first plans were made a year before. This fund has an annual size of up to €5.5 billion and can be used for research and development, aswell as arms acquisition; EU member countries can request support and submit a project, which then might receive additional money from the fund. Based on speculations on Czech-language websites, it seems that this money can only be spent on equipment from European companies - but all four companies (even GDELS in Madird) - have their headquarters in EU countries.
Last but not least, there are suggestions for buying two different vehicles at once: the Puma would then serve as IFV only, while according to either the ASCOD 2 or the Lynx would be used for the support vehicle roles, eg. as an armored ambulance vehicle (MedEvac), as a command post vehicle, as a reconnaissance vehicle and as an armored recovery vehicle (ARV). The drawback of this approach would be the added logistics, infrastucture and training necessary for operating two new vehicle types.

3D model of the Puma's turret with MELLS launcher
In theory would be possible to make all vehicles in Germany, because the initial order for the German Army will be finished in 2020, the same year when the production for the new Czech infantry fighting vehicle is planned to start; by 2024 all new Czech IFVs should be finished according to the army's demands. In such a case the German production lines would never be closed and just continue making the hypothetical Czech Puma model, which is expected to feature several modifications compared to the German varaint (such as local radio units, a machine gun already in use with the Czech Army and other minor differences at least).
While the German Army is expected to place an order for a second batch of Puma IFVs, there is currently no projected schedule for this to happen. The German federal audit office has recommended to wait until the vehicles meet all of the original user requirements, of which many still have to be met - such as the integration of the MELLS Spike-LR launcher and TSWA secondary weapon, which has recently been contracted. Until the second batch is finished, the Marder will continue to soldier on in the German Army side-by-side with the Puma. Therefore up to 200 Marder IFVs will be upgraded with a new night vision system for the driver, a third generation ATTICA thermal imager and a variant of the MELLS launcher for the Spike-LR ATGM.

The Lynx in an IFV version in the Libava military facility
Not mentioned by as a possible secondary vehicle to serve alongside the Puma is BAE System's CV90 family of vehicles. In a previous post, we mentioned that this vehicle offers less payload in terms of supported weight and internal volume compared to the other options, which might be the reason for not considering the CV90 as platform. Alternatively it might be related to the procurement costs; while originally designed to be cheap and reliable - the key factors that lead to its widespread adoption, the each successive version of the CV90 became more expensive after adding more technology.
A further aspect speaking against the CV90 might be the lower involvment of the local industry. While always looking for local partners, BAE Systems had kept the production of the hull in its own facilities; only the turret and several sub-components can be made by the industry in the user's country. 

The hulls of all exported CV90s were made by BAE Systems
It is worth mentioning that the CV90 is a great vehicle, but its main advantage doesn't seem to be superior performance. The fact that is has been adopted in so many different countries shows the adaptability of the design, the many different versions also show that an evolution of the concept was possible. The CV90 started its success during a time, when all major Western militaries already had designed and adpoted their infantry fighting vehicles a decade before, thus not offering new high-end solutions too compete against the CV90 on the international market. Vehicles purely meant for export, such as the Panzer unter minimalem Aufwand created by Krauss-Maffei in the 1980s, the TH-495 from Thyssen-Henschel, various main battle tanks from Vickers (Vickers Valiant, Vickers Mk 7) and the GIAT (AMX-32 and AMX-40), have a tendency of not being purchased due to potential issues with logistics, training and the availability of spare parts.
Given the military cooperation between some of the user countries of the CV90, the purchase was to some extend an avalanche - one country choosing to adopt the CV90 resulted in the vehicle having an advantage in the next trials.

Swiss CV9030CH infantry fighting vehicles without applique armor
The CV90 was chosen Switzerland after a total of eight vehicles was considered for the Schützenpanzer 2000 program, three of which - the CV9030, the Marder M12 and the Warrior 2000 - were tested during a period of six weeks in the Alpine country. The Marder M12 was an upgrade to the German Marder IFV, based on a refurbished Marder 1A3 chassis fitted with the E4 turret from KUKA.While achieving a high level of protection and featuring an excellent turret, this offer suffered from the old hull not being upgraded otherwise - the relatively primitive protection solution - spaced steel armor - resulted in a weight of 34.1 metric tons - too much for the original powerpack to keep up with the Leopard 2 (a key requirement from the Swiss Army). A Marder M12 with more powerful engine and/or more weight efficient ceramic armor would have been a better option.

CV90, Warrior 2000 and Marder M12 in the Switzerland
The CV90's hull was received with mixed feelings, some aspects were considered positive, while others were seen negatively. The small hull size was considered as advantageous for survivability - a low profile is less likely to be spotted and less likely to be hit. Also the separation of fuel from the crew compartment, not found on the other offers, and the easy to adapt add-on armor was seen as an advantage of the CV9030. This add-on armor consisted of MEXAS (ceramic) composite modules with a thickness of up to 70 mm (depending on location) and could be mounted within a few hours. Last but not least the running gear with seven roadwheel pairs (instead of six) proved to provide better in deep snow.
The small size of the hull however meant that the vehicle was cramped and ergonomics were poor compared to the Marder and Warrior variants.
The turret of the CV9030 was however the worst one offered, resulting in lower than average firepower. The problems were mostly related to ergonomics and the fire control system (FCS), which wasn't fully digitized. The FCS did not include an independent optic for the commander or a proper auxiliary sight, while relying on a single, outdated first generation thermal imager for night vision.

The Warrior 2000 IFV featured a redesigned hull mated with a turret manufactured by Delco
The Warrior 2000 performed best in the Swedish trials. Its turret - delivered by the US company Delco - was the most advanced turret on offer. Not only featuring modern sights for both commander and gunner, it also included advanced software functions such as fully automatic target tracking. The basic structure of hull and turret of the 31 tons heavy vehicle was made of aluminium, resulting in a relatively light weight given its size. Additional spaced armor - possibly simple steel - is bolted ontop of the aluminium construction for an increased level of protection. The Warrior 2000's larger size resulted in the best ergonomics of all tested vehicles.
Being a new vehicle design - based only to a very limited extend on the British Warrior IFV - the Warrior 2000 suffered from some teething issues which negatively affected the reliability of the vehicle. The manufacturer of the most advanced IFV offered to Switzerland - the British company GKN - told the Swiss Army that all these issues could be fixed, but sold its defence subsidiaries to Alvis plc, the same company that owned the CV90-maker Hägglunds and later became part of BAE Systems. Alvis plc had not much motiviation to keep two different product lines for the IFV market, which ultimately resulted in the end of the Warrior 2000.

The Swiss Army opted for the CV9030 because it offered the best price-to-performance ratio, not because it was the most capable vehicle! Unsatisfied with the original CV9030 tested by the military, a number of changes were demanded before purchasing the CV9030CH. The original engine was replaced by a larger 670 hp Scania engine meeting the Euro II emission standard for trucks, while the hull was enlarged: the hull roof at the dismount compartment was raised by 100 mm, while the vehicle was also stretched by 200 mm in order to reduce the issues with ergonomics. The rear doors were replaced by a single rear ramp for easier entry and exiting of the vehicle by the infantry squad. A second-generation thermal imager was installed into the gunner's sight instead of the outdated previous model. The FCS' computer system was exchanged and local equipment (machine guns, radios, smoke grenade launchers) were fitted to the IFV. Only forty armor kits were purchased, leaving the majority of the vehicles unprotected against medium calibre ammunition.
Further changes were planned - such as adopting a separate optic for the commander for hunter-killer capability - but deemed to be too expensive.

In 2002, Germany tested an ímproved variant of the Swiss CV9030CH, which was fitted with a more extensive applique armor kit including a mine protection plate. Germany had halted the development of the next-generation NGP vehicle family due to the recent developments in assymetric warfare and international peace-keeping/peace-making operations. The NGP was too heavy for air-lifting, being designed with a weight ranging from 51 metric tons (in the base configuration) up to 77 metric tons with a full armor kit.
Several options were evaluated, but in the end the CV9030 was rejected, ending up on the last place of all tested vehicles! The German Army considered the poor protection against anti-vehicle mines, the high weight in relation to its protection level and the low growth potential of the chassis to be key factors speaking against buying the CV90. Because none of the vehicles met the German requirements, the Neuer Schützenpanzer project was started, which reused some of the technologies and concepts of the NGP; later it was renamed multiple times - Panther, Igel and finally Puma.

The CV90 offered for the Scout-SV program
Likewise the UK tested a variant of the CV90 for the Scout Specialist Vehicle (Scout-SV) program, which itself was part of the FRES project of the British Army. BAE Systems decided to reduce the overall size of the CV90 for the Scout-SV offer in order to implement a higher level of protection. According to claims from the manufacurer, this variant of the CV90 met the British protection requirements and had a level of mine protection "equivalent to a MBT". The United Kingdom prefered to buy a number of variants of the ASCOD 2 from GDELS, despite BAE Systems being a local company - the  larger size and greater payload of the resulting vehicle being a key factor.

Why this short recapitulation of the times the CV90 was not chosen? Because its widespread adoption makes some people believe that the vehicle is inherently superior to all other options and buying something else must be related to lies and corruption. BAE Systems created a number of presentations - both in the Czech and in the English language - on the development of the CV90, its advantages and why the Czech Army should buy it instead of the other vehicles. These presentations were available in BAE Systems' online resource center, but after they have been posted in multiple forums, BAE Systems added a password protection for these files. They might not have been meant to be available for the public.

According to the documents, the fifth-generation of the CV90 is protected according to STANAG 4569 level 6 (30 mm APFSDS from 500 metres distance) ballistically and has mine protection meeting the STANAG 4569 level 4a/4b standard - a 10 kg TNT charge located under the track or the hull; this is currently the highest standardized level of mine and ballistic protection. Protection against shaped charges such as RPGs, additional roof armor aswell as active protection systems are available, but not fitted to the CV9030CZ in the Czech trials. 
According to the documents from BAE Systems - the manufacturer of the CV90 - the older versions of the vehicle provide ballistic protection equivalent to STANAG 4569 level 5 "plus" or "plus-plus", while the CV90 Mk III is the only older variant with mine protection, reaching the STANAG 4569 level 3a/3b - this is an expected level of mine protection for such a vehicle, it's the same level of mine protection achieved on the Marder 1A5 IFV and believed to be also equivalent to the that of the Bradley with the BUSK. 
While not related to the Czech IFV procurement plans, the problem remains that there is no official, standardized data for the protection levels "level 5+" and "level 5++". All that is confirmed, is that the ballistic protection requirements for STANAG 4569 level 5 are met and exceeded. A further problem is that there are different volumes of STANAG 4569  and the corresponding AEP-55 standard for the testing procedures. The earliest edition of STANAG 4569 required only protectiton against APDS in order to reach the level 5 of ballistic protection and didn't feature a level 6. The later revisions require protection against APFSDS ammo aswell. So what does "level 5+" and "level 5++" mean? Does it relate to a requirement for protection against 25 mm APFSDS ammo, because the updated standard didn't exist back then? Does it relate to a requirement for protecting against 30 mm APDS ammo or APFSDS ammunition? What exact 30 mm calibre would that be -  30 x 165 mm, 30 x 170 mm or 30 x 173 mm APFSDS? What is the range and the impact angle? Is the STANAG 4569 level 6 simply not mentioned, because it didn't exist at the time these vehicles were designed?

STANAG AEP-55 required armor coverage by protection level
One example of a vehicle exceeding STANAG 4569 level 5, but failing too reach the level 6 requirements for ballistic protection is the Austrian Ulan IFV, a version of the ASCOD with MEXAS applique armor. This vehicle is protected against 30 mm APFSDS of unknown type fired from a distance of 1,000 metres along the frontal 30° degree arc - so essentially +15° and -15° from the vehicle's centerline. While in this case the difference in frontal protection might not be very much, the difference in required side armor is much bigger. Modern 30 x 173 mm APFSDS rounds from manufacturers such as Nammo and Rheinmetall can perforate in excess of 110 mm steel armor at 1,000 metres distance, the estimated penetration at 500 metres would be somewhere in the range of 120-130 mm steel armor. A 29 mm steel plate is enough side armor to stop a 30 x 173 mm APFSDS at a range of 1,000 metres and an impact angle of 15° - effective plate thickness will nearly quadruple at this angle. STANAG 4569 level 6 requires however protection against a 30 x 173 mm APFSDS at at a range of 500 metres and an impact angle of up to 30° - therefore one needs at least a ~60-65 mm thick steel plate or more than twice as much side armor to meet the NATO STANAG requirements! In the end both BAE Systems and the Norwegian Army claim that the latest Norwegian model - on which the CV9030CZ is based - features upgraded armor protection over previously existing CV90 variants and has the highest level of protection of the vehicle versions. Photographs of the fifth generation CV90 and previous models show increased armor thickness - at least at certain places.

The T-72M4Cz is due to be replaced by a new tank
The new Czech IFV is to be manufactured in the timeframe from 2020 to 2025 - in this period of time, the Czech military also plans to replace the T-72M4Cz, probably the most capable T-72 upgrade operational within NATO, with a more capable solution in reponse to the latest Russian tank developments. According to Czech-language sources, there are only two real contenders: the Leopard 2 and the Israeli Sabra tank. The M1A2 Abrams, the South-Korean K2 Black Panther and the Japanese Type 10 main battle tank (MBT) are all in production, but too expensive - the Abrams consumes too much fuel and spare parts, while the huge physicial distance to the Asian countries would negatively affect the price of spare parts and training exchanges. The Italian C1 Ariete, British Challenger 2 and French Leclerc tanks are all out-of-production and made in very limited quantities only.
New build Leopard 2 tanks are likely too expensive for the Czech Republic
 The Leopard 2 should be considered the favorite option for a new MBT. The tank is in widespread use and a large number of companies - such as KMW, Rheinmetall, RUAG and Turkish Aselsan - are offering different types of vehicle upgrades. The Leopard 2 has access to various types of technology and can be offered with a number of unique advantages over the Sabra and other existing tanks, such as a long-barreled L55 smoothbore gun from Rheinmetall. With three out of the four neighbour countries operating the Leopard 2, adopting the Leopard 2 MBT would be advantageous for logistics.
However there is a big problem with funding the purchase of Leopard 2 tanks; buying completely new tanks is too expensive. But even buying older tanks and upgrading them to a decent configuration - a 1980s Leopard 2A4 will provide no real performance boost over the T-72M4Cz - might be rather costly. Czech sources speculate about using the EU Defence Fund for purchasing the tanks.
Only about a hundred tanks in a decent condition are left on the market, but aside of the Czech Republic, the militaries of Bulgaria, Croatia and Poland are interested in buying them.This could result in a bidding war, driving prices higher. Alternatively it could be possible to lease Leopard 2 tanks from another European country, but the question remains from whom the tanks would be leased. The neighbours Germany and Poland are increasing their tank fleets, thus unlikely to hand over tanks to the Czech Army.

The M60T is based on the Israeli Sabra upgrade
The Israeli industry was expected to offer the modern Merkava 4 tank, but decided - after investigating the Czech requirements and operational environments - too offer only the Sabra tank, supposedly in its latest version. The Sabra tank is an upgrade of the obsolete M60 tank, which has been adopted in Turkey as the M60T. It must be noted that while the Merkava is only operational in Israel, it has been offered to multiple other countries in the past decades, including Switzerland (early variant - either the Merkava 1 or 2) and Sweden (Merkava 3 during the 1990s); Sweden had very good relations with Israel, sharing tank technology in some cases; e.g. a Swedish delegation was insturcted on the modular armor concept of the Merkava 3, but the tank was still rejected for not being competitive compared to the European and US offers.
The Sabra is a cheaper option compared to the Leopard 2, which might provide beneficial. However due to the fact that it is made by Israeli companies, it might not be possible to use EU money from the defence fund for purchasing the tanks. Depending on variant, the Sabra can be better than the Leopard 2 - at least the old 1980s models without extensive upgrades - in terms of firepower and potentially also in regards to armor protection. It is unlikely that the Sabra can compete with more modern Leopard 2 versions in regards to performance in any important category. The upgraded M60 main battle tank is protected by hybrid armor - a combination of explosive reactive armor and passive composite armor - and sometimes also by the Iron Fist hardkill active protection system from Israeli Military Industries (IMI). The gun is replaced with a 120 mm smoothbore gun, while the Knight III fire control system from Elbit Systems allows the vehicle to be used at night, fire on the move and operate in a hunter-killer configuration. The latest version of the Sabra - the Sabra 3 - is supposedly  fitted with armor derived from the armor modules fitted to the latest variants of the the Merkava series.

The choice of the M60 as base for the Sabra upgrade is questionable. On one hand, the M60 tank is widespread and rather cheap - that's good; on the other hand however the M60 is probably one of the worst tanks for upgrading: it is already rather heavy thanks to the use of thick, but weight-inefficient steel armor, and it is one of the tallest main battle tanks, therefore installing applique armor yields less gain in protection. The tank also lacks proper compartmentation, storing the ammo inside the crew compartment without blow-off panels. The mobility of the Sabra tank is worse than that of a Leopard 2 or other modern MBT due to its poor suspension and small 1,000 hp engine, which isn't really enough for a 60 ton tank.

A light tank variant of the ASCOD 2 offered by GDELS

A further option that is being considered by the Czech Army is buying a light/medium tank based on an IFV chassis. The CV90105 and CV90120-T are well known examples of such vehicles, but there also have been different light tank variants of the ASCOD design. The Lynx could be used as a medium tank according to Rheinmetall representatives and as demonstrated by various Marder light/medium tank projects - the Marder medium tank offered to Indonesia is a prime example. Retired US Colonel MacGregor is suggesting a medium tank variant of the Puma (or an equivalent IFV) for his concept of a Reconnaissance Strike Group; he claims that the possibility of creating a Puma armed with 120 mm smoothbore gun was confirmed by the manufacturers.
The big problem is that such a light/medium tank is not a one-to-one role replacement of the T-72M4Cz; none of these vehicles has enough frontal armor to withstand impacts of large calibre APFSDS ammunition or tandem charge ATGM warheads. In so far buying such a vehicle requires changes in the training and doctrine.

Meanwhile news websites have reported more on the Polish IFV project, after various options were showcased at the MSPO 2017. According to Jane's IHS, the basic steel hull of the Borsuk IFV offers ballistic protection according to STANAG 4569 level 2 only - so essentially the same level of armor protection as the old BMP-1, that is meant to be replaced by the Borsuk. When fitted with ceramic or composite armor modules, the hull protection is boosted to level 4 ballistic protection - which is given the weight of about 30 metric tons a rather unimpressive - some 20 tons vehicle reach this level of protection, but the focus on IED/mine protection and amphibious requirements take their toll from the Borsuk's design. The Borsuk and the older Anders IFV both are fitted with hydropneumatic suspensions based on the hydrops from the British company Horstman. 
While being developed following a contract of the Polish Army, it is not decided that the Borsuk will actually enter service, which is why the Anders, the ASCOD 2, CV90 and Lynx are apparently all also offered to the Polish military.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

New Polish AFVs revealed at MSPO

At the currently ongoing MSPO 2017 defence exhibition in Poland, a number of new combat vehicle prototypes were presented for the first time to the public. These vehicles include new main battle tank (MBT) variants, the Borsuk infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), that is currently being developed for the Polish Army, aswell as various wheeled vehicles such as proposed variants of the Rosomak (locally produced Patria AMV).

The PT-91M2 is a further upgrade of the PT-91 Twardy, incorporating many features of the PT-91M Pendekar
The PT-91M2 is an upgraded variant of the Polish PT-91 Twardy tank, although some sources suggest that the T-72 left in Polish Army service might be upgraded to this new configuration. Unlike the Polish Army PT-91 model, the PT-91M2 makes used of the Sagem SAVAN-15 fire control system from the French manufacturer Safran. This is also used on the Malaysian PT-91M Pendekar, currently the most advanced PT-91 version in service with the military of a nation, and is related to the SAVAN-20 system used on the French Leclerc MBT.
The system consists of a new primary sight for the gunner, a ballistic computer and sensors for the gun stabilization and automatic lead. The gunner's optic with two axis stabilization includes a direct daylight optic with 2x and 10x magnification, a thermal imager with two magnification levels and electronic zoom, aswell as a laser rangfinder. According to the manufacturer, the SAVAN-15 fire control system offers a high accuracy with a first-round hit probability of more than 90 percent and can also be used to fire at moving targets while the tank itself is moving.

The SOD is placed above thee OBRA-3 laser warning system
The protection of the PT-91M2 is enhanced by the use of a new version of the ERAWA explosive reactive armor at the frontal arc and most of the sides of the tank. The tank is covered by a mixture of the new ERAWA-3 ERA and the old ERAWA-1 armor, though the latter ERA tiles are apparently not used on the turret frontal section. Slat armor is used to protect the rear section of the MBT against simpler types of rocket propelled grenades (RPGs). The OBRA-3 laser warning system from the Polish company PCO SA is used to alarm the crew when being targeted by an ATGM launchers or by an enemy combat vehicle. Ontop of the OBRA-3 sensors, the modules of the new SOD situational awareness system are mounted. This system is similar to Rheinmetall's SAS and the Turkish YAMGÖZ close-range surveillance system (used on the Altay), consisting of multiple modules featuring thermal imagers and/or daylight cameras to observe the surroundings of the tank.

The SAVAN-15 gunner's sight
Aside of using a new FCS, the PT-91M2 offers another firepower enhancment. It is fitted with a new 125 mm smoothbore gun, which according to a spokesperson at MSPO is more precise than the previously used one. The exact model of the gun was not disclosed at the time of writing this pasage, it could be either a KBM-1M/KBA-3 gun from the Ukrainian company KMBD Morozov or an improved version of the 2A46MS of the Slovakian manufacturer ZTS Špeciál. Due to the limitations of the T-72's autoloader design and the still quite limited pressure and barrel length of said tank guns, the PT-91M2 is still not capable of reaching armor penetration levels similar to tanks fitted the latest 120 mm smoothbore guns; this is the reason why the PT-16 and the PT-17 exist as more potent upgrade and export options.

At the right side of the rear hull, an APU is installed.
The PT-91M2 is powered by the S-12U diesel engine from the Polish company PZL-Wola. This four-stroke multi-fuel capable engine has twelve cylinders and is watercooled. At a (dry) weight just below one metric ton, it provides 820 or 850 horsepower output. In the rear section of the tank at the right side, a new auxiliary power unit (APU) is located, which has been claimed to provide an output of 8 to 10 kW. This additional power system can provide electricity for the tank's electronics even when the main engine is not running, thus reducing the fuel consumption and enhancing the PT-91M2's thermal and accoustic stealth characteristics for ambushes.

The PT-17 is a new tank variant broadly similar to the PT-16 prototype from last year.
A more severe upgrade for the T-72 and PT-91 designs is the new PT-17 main battle tank. This tank is the result of a closer cooperation between a number of Polish and Ukranian companies. While the hull seems to be still largely based on last year's PT-16's hull, the PT-17 features a new turret compared to its predecessor.
While some web-forums claim that this turret is identical to that of the T-72-120 prototype, there are several reasons to question such statements. It rather appears that some of the T-72-120 components were taken and integrated into a barebone PT-91/T-72 turret. For example the lack of roof-mounted ERA (aswell as the lack of mounting points for such armor tiles), the different shape of the add-on armor and the fact that the tank is fitted with composite armor rather than explosive reactive armor are all indicators for this not being the turret of the T-72-120 prototype. Furthermore four modules of the Obra-3 laser warning system from PCO SA are installed on the turret, which can detect the laser wavelengths commonly used in rangefinders and for laser-beam guided missiles. 

The gunner's sight of the PT-17 is made by the Polish company PCO SA
The PT-17 utilizes the same optics and fire control system as the earlier PT-16 prototype MBT. This means the commander is provided with a GOD-1 Iris sight mounted ontop a small and fixed mast on the turret, while the GOC-1 Nike serves as the gunner's main sight. The GOD-1 Iris is an independent optitc for the commander with 360° traverse, which also provides (depending on configuration) -20° depression and +60° elevation in the vertical plane. It includes a thermal camera (operating in the 8 to 12 µm wavelength), a set of daylight TV cameras and an eyesafe laser rangefinder. The digital camera offers two field of views (FoVs), a wide 10.7° by 8° field of view (WFOV) for target spotting and a near 3.3° by 2.5° field of view (NFOV) for better aiming and target identification. According to the manufacturer, these sights allow detecting tank-sized targets at 5,500 and 12,500 metres distance (WFOV and NFOV respectively), recognizing the targets at 1,800 and 4,800 metres and identifying them at up to 900 and 2,500 metres distance respectively. The thermal imaging unit provides two similar, but slightly smaller field of views: a wide 10° by 8° and a near 3.1° by 2.5° option. The ranges for target detection, recognition and identification are slightly smaller, sitting at 4,950 & 11,000 m, 1,600 & 4,800 m and 800 & 2,400 metres respectively. The thermal imager sensor array has a resolution of 640 by 512. The laser rangefinder has a wavelength of 1.54 µm and a maximum range of 10,000 metres, while its accuracy is ±5 metres. The gunner's GOC-1 Nike is fitted with the same thermal imager, day TV camera and eyesafe laser rangefinder as the commander's Iris sight.

The KBM2 tank gun is compatible with NATO standardized ammunition.
The PT-17 is armed with a 120 mm KBM2 smoothbore gun of Ukranian origin. This tank gun is chambered in the NATO standardized 120 x 570 mm calibre and has a barrel length of 50 calibres (6,000 mm), being slightly longer than the average 120 mm L/44 (M256) gun barrel. The maximum supported chamber pressure at 7,200 kgf/cm² (706 MPa) is however just average, other modern tank guns such as the Rheinmetall L/55 gun can sustain higher pressures. In order to install the KBM2 tank gun in a T-72-like turret, the recoil mass and recoil path have to be limited. This is why the smoothbore gun offers a recoil path of 260 to 300 mm, with a hard stop at 310 mm. The recoil path of a Rheinmetall L/44 and L/55 gun is slightly longer at 340 mm, which should result in slightly lowered effects from the recoil force.
The KBM2 gun is fed by a bustle mounted autoloader, which can store up to 22 rounds of main gun ammo. The ammunition magazine is separated from the crew, thus a penetration of the turret armor is less likely to result in a lethal explosion and a flying turret due to ammunition cook-off. The secondary armament of the PT-17 appears to be identical to the PT-16. Aside of a coaxial-mounted machine gun, a further MG is located in a remotely controlled weapon station (RWS). In theory this RWS can also accept a 30 mm or 40 mm automatic grenade launcher.

The PT-17 tank has a roof-mounted RWS (covered under tarp)
Like the PT-16, the PT-17 is offered with various engine configurations. The variant on display at the MSPO 2017 is supposedly powered by a S-1000R diesel engine from PZL-Wola; the same engine is also found on the Malaysian PT-91M tanks. This engine provides an output of 1,000 horsepower, but other powerpack alternatives with an output of up to 1,200 hp are also possible. In case of the PT-16, it was mentioned that engines from the German manufacturer MTU and from the Swedish company Scania can also be used on customer's demand. The engine is coupled to an unspecified German-made transmission, but it is most likely a ESM 350 transmission from SESM/Renk, which would be the same powerpack as used on the Pendekar.

Armor coverage is poor at the center of the turret.
In some aspects the PT-17 appears to be a downgrade compared to earlier Polish main battle tanks. The amount and type of smoke grenade launchers - a key reason why people believe it uses the same turret as the T-72-120 - is different from the PT-91 and PT-91M(2). The PT-17 has only two banks, each holding six smoke grenade launchers (one at the left and one at the right side of the turret), which are covered by sheet metal. Compared to the Polish and Malaysian PT-91 variants this is a clear step back; those tanks offered 24 smoke grenade dischargers spread in two groups, each group containing two banks of six grendes. The Leopard 2A5 and Leopard 2PL, the backbone of the Polish Army, both offer 16 smoke grenade dischargers, using four banks of four smoke grenade launchers.
A further questionable aspect of the PT-17 is armor protection; while probably better than the PT-91(M2) based on thickness and coverage, the tank appears to be worse armored in several aspects compared to the previous PT-16 prototype. The PT-17 is protected by Ukranian-made composite armor on the turret and unknown - probably Polish-made - applique armor on the T-72-derived hull. The new turret armor is thinner than the PT-16's armor; although it must be noted that thickness alone doesn't say anything about armor protection. However it doesn't include a composite armor module for the gun mantlet and has a very large and weird cut-out at the turret front, leaving a large zone of the tank's center with inferior protection. The new armor modules also don't extend as far back as on the PT-16, covering less of the turret sides.

The Borsuk features a dual-launcher for Spike-LR ATGMs aswell as a 30 mm autocannon.
The Borsuk is a new infantry fighting vehicle currently being developed for the Polish Army by OBRUM. First 3D renderings of the design already found its way on the internet last year. At MSPO 2017 the first prototype of the Borsuk (Polish for badger) IFV was presented to the public for the first time. The new vehicle is meant to replace the Soviet-designed BMP-1s (locally known as BWP-1) in the Polish military.
The Borsuk is one of the few modern IFVs designed with amphibious capabilities, using two sets of water blades for propulsion in water. This key requirement of the Polish Army affects all other aspects of the vehicle's design. The Borsuk has a rather larger hull with a larger UFP and a relatively high roof height, in order to provide enough buyoancy for swimming through water. Moreover the weight of the vehicle is limited to only between 24 and 25 metric tons in the amphibious configuration. In order to achieve a lower weight, the vehicle can be fitted with rubber band tracks, which save about one metric ton of weight compared to conventional steel tracks. The Borsuk is fitted with the unmanned ZSSW-30 turret from HSW, which provides further weight reductions compared to a manned turret. The vehicle is manned by a crew of three (commander, driver and gunner) and can transport a six men infantry squad.

The ZSSW-30 turret being installed on the Borsuk prototype hull
The ZSSW-30 turret is fitted with variants of the same GOC-1 Nike and GOD-1 Iris sights as found on the PT-17 main battle tank, allowing the vehicle to fight at night and in a hunter-killer mode. The main armament consists of a 30 mm Mk 44 Bushmaster II chain gun made by the US company Aliant Techsystems. This gun has a rate of fire of 200 rounds and can be altered to fire the more powerful 40 x 180 mm Super Forty round by swapping out the barrel. The turret contains 200 rounds of ready-to-fire ammunition in the 30 x 173 mm calibre, aswell as 400 7.62 mm bullets for the coaxial UKM-2000C machine gun. A twin launcher for the Spike-LR anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) is mounted on the right side of the turret, allowing the Borsuk to combat even heavily armored vehicles.

The Borsuk has a very high bow
The new Polish IFV is powered by a MTU 199TE20 six-cylinder engine coupled to an automatic transmission with four forward and two reverse gears. The Polish defence news website claims that this powerpack is providing an output of 600 kW (~804 hp); however there seems to be a conversion or writing error, as MTU's own database mentions an output of only 450 kW, which is equal to approximately 600 horsepower. The Borsuk's drivetrain consists of six pairs of roadwheels and a suspension of currently unknown type.

The current Borsuk prototype lacks any sort of modular applique armor
OBRUM has not released any data on armor protection yet, however the unmanned turret is protected only according to STANAG 4569 level 2 in the basic variant. The version used on the Borsuk is fitted with bolt-on armor, which can boost the protection up to level 4 (all-round protection against 14.5 mm AP ammunition from 200 m distance). The hull of the prototype is fitted with no add-on armor modules at all and therefore might not even feature special armor on most of the surface; only the lower front plate seems to be fitted with an armor module or attachment points for such. It seems likely that the basic configuration of the Borsuk reaches only ballistic protection according to STANAG 4569 level 3 or 4 at most. The high ride of the vehicle and the belly plate are designed to increase protection against mines and IEDs, but no performance data has been revealed yet.
The Polish Army recently decided to shift the focus of new vehicles more towards armor protection, affecting the Borsuk development. Therefore an additonal armor package making use of materials such as resin and ceramic can be installed on the vehicle, boosting the weight to 30 metric tons. Active protection systems of unknown type are also considered for installation on the vehicle, though no system has yet been fitted. The vehicle is designed with a further growth potential of two additional tons.