Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Eastern European AFV program updates

The military of Slovakia has chosen the Patria AMVXP (extra payload) as the new 8x8 wheeled vehicle. The AMVXP is an improved variant of the original Armored Modular Vehicle (AMV) with a raised maximum gross vehicle mass of up to 30 metric tons according to Patria's current data sheet, 13 tons of which are payload that can be used for installing heavier armor packages, mission kits or new weapon stations. Other sources mention a larger maximum gross vehicle mass of 31 or 32 metric tons. The vehicle is powered by a 450 kW (603 hp) Scania diesel engine linked to a 7+1 gear automatic transmission. It features a fully independent double wishbone suspension, an integrated terrain control system and a central tyre inflation system.

Patria AMVXP in an APC configuration
The Slovakian Army will use the AMVXP as an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) fitted with the Turra 30 turret from local manufacturer EVPÚ. This unmanned turret is armed with a 30 mm autocannon - either a Soviet-design 2A42 gun or a Mk-44 Bushmaster II from Aliant Techsystems - a coaxial machine gun and a dual missile launcher for anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). Self-defence is provided by limited amounts of passive bolt-on armor aswell as eight smoke-grenade dischargers. The Turra 30 features a single main optic incorporating a laser rangefinder, a camera and a thermal imager. There is no independent optic for the commander, thus the turret is not enabling operating in a hunter-killer mode. This turret was also offered on the BVP Šakal modernization for the BMP-2.
The unmanned Turra 30 turret will be fitted to the vehicle
The Slovakian military has plans to order a total of 81 AMVXP vehicles, that will be delivered between 2018 and 2024. Prime contractor for the deal is Konštrukta Defence A.S., other contractors include Patria Land Systems and EVPÚ. Previously the country had ordered about thirty AMV vehicles in a variant made under licence by the Polish company Rosomak S.A.. These vehicles also were set to recevie the Turra 30 turret and were nicknamed Scipio; maybe this name will be retained. The deal was canceled for unknown reasons, apparently the Patria AMVXP hulls will be manufactured in Finland rather than in Poland.

227 Piranha 5 vehicles will be operated by the Romanian military in the future.
The Romanian news website has reported that the German company Rheinmetall is still trying to sell the Agilis vehicle to the Romanian military. Previously there were no details revealed on the state of this program - following the decision of the Romanian government to start the licence production of 227 Piranha 5 vehicles in the Uzina Mecanica Bucuresti plant in Bucarest, a site operated by the state-owned company Romarm, one had to consider that this possibly meant the end of the Agilis.

The Agilis APC is fitted with a Lance MTS turret
Rheinmetall plans the production of about 400 of the Agilis vehicles via the company Romanian Military Vehicle Systems S.A., a joint-venture between Rheinmetall (50%) and the Ministry of Economy (50%) of the Eastern European country. Originally more than 600 Agilis vehicles were planned, but the adoption of the Piranha 5 reduces the required number of new vehicles. The factory of Romanian Military Vehicle Systems S.A. is located in the town of Moreni and would also assemble MAN military truck, if Rheinmetall's bid to provide the next truck system to Romania is successful. The Agilis contains 87% locally manufactured components, some of which are derived from the previous SAUR vehicle projects - the design is said to also include some features from the Dutch-German Boxer vehicle; only the engine, transmission and some parts of the Rheinmetall-designed drivetrain have to be imported. The chassis is expected to be assembled in the Moreni plant. The fact that all intellectual property of the vehicles remains in Romania is one of the reasons why the Agilis could be easily exported to other countries.
The Agilis program could create a further 420 jobs in the Romanian defence industry; 120 jobs in the joint-venture and up to 300 jobs in the Moreni plant. While Rheinmetall is still pushing for the Agilis, the final decision has to be made on the side of the Romanian government. At the end of the year the Romanian Ministry of Finances has to agree with the funding for the Agilis development, which would take some €234 million for a period of three years. The first vehicles could then be delivered in 2020, after a public tender would be held and a contract would have been signed. Local production would last until 2029, if no follow-up contract is signed. The vehicles are then expected to last to 2055 or beyond.

At least six variants of the Agilis are planned
According to current projections, the Agilis 8x8 wheeled vehicle will serve in at least six different variants within the Romanian army. These variants are an armored personnel carrier (APC), which however is expected to be fitted with a 30 mm gun turret and therefore might be considered to be an infantry fighting vehicle instead, a mobile command post variant, a medevac ambulance vehicle, a CBRN variant, a recovery version featuring a 3 metre long crane cabale of lifting a 5 ton heavy object and two 11 ton hydraulic winches, and a mortar variant with a 120 mm mortar located in the rear compartment.

Features of the Agilis
The Agilis vehicle is 8.02 metres long and 2.99 metres wide (excluding the side-view mirrors) while being 2.5 metres tall in the APC variant. The vehicle is powered by a 612 horsepower diesel engine from the German manufacturer Liebheer, that is linked to a ZF transmission. The ground-clearance is projected to be 430 milimetres. The top speed of the Agilis is expected to exceed 100 kilometres per hour on road, while the road range is more than 800 kilometres. The vehicle can climb 60% slope and drive on 30% side-slope. The vehicle is designed with a turn radius of 9.5 metres. The Agilis is an amphibious vehicle, although depending on armor package and mission kit the vehicle might loose this capability.

The Agilis is fitted with modular armor providing a limited amount of protection in the basic configuration.
The vehicle is protected by modular composite armor, although the basic armor package is designed to provide ballistic protection against small arms fire only - earlier sources suggest protection according to the STANAG 4569 level 2 or level 3 standard. The high ride and a composite floor plating are to provide decent protection against mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) of unspecified size. While it has not revealed which type of armor is to be used on the Agilis, it seems reasonable to assume that Rheinmetall's own VEHRA (Versatile Rheinmetall Armour) or the AMAP/ProTech composite armor designed by IBD Deisenroth, which is manufactured by Rheinmetall Chempro, is to be used to protect the vehicle. 
While the older Agilis designs saw the APC/IFV variant armed with a 25 mm gun only, the latest suggestions include a 30 mm autocannon with 150 rounds of main gun ammo and a 7.62 mm machine gun with 400 rounds ready-to-fire ammunition for the APC/IFV. These weapons are located in Rheinmetall's two-men Lance Modular Turret System (MTS), which is fitted with two set of SEOSS sights - while the graphics show only a SEOSS for the gunner, the text speaks of an independent optic for the commander aswell. The Lance turret is also offered on the Boxer CRV/IFV and the tracked Lynx IFV. It was chosen a few years ago by the Spanish marines for use on the Piranha IIIC. The digital SEOSS sight includes a two-axis stabilization, a third generation SAPHIR thermal imager, a laser-rangefinder and a daysight CCD camera.
The APC/IFV variant has a crew of three (commander, driver and gunner) and carries seven dismounts. The command post variant has a crew of two and carries five dismounts/further soldiers. All other variants have a crew of four.

As detailed by the Czech military news website/blog Armádní Noviny, the negotiations on buying the Puma IFV are going on. The main German companies responsible for developing and manufacturing the Puma have met with representatives of more than 30 potential Czech partner companies in the Diplomat hotel in Prague to discuss possible work-share and future cooperation in the military vehicle industry. According to PSM Projekt System & Management GmbH, the joint-venture between Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall that manages the Puma project, a cooperation in the manufacturing process of the Puma IFV would result in a gain of know-how and could also lead to future cooperations in projects like the Boxer APC, the Leopard 2 main battle tank and the Panzerhaubitze 2000, vehicles that the Czech Army might want to buy in the future.

Puma IFV during the Czech trials.
Czech sources mention that in theory about 35 billion Czech koruna (about €1.3 billion) worth of contracts could be awarded to local companies in case of the Puma being chosen as new infantry fighting vehicle. Given that the Puma supposedly outperformed all other alternatives, the key problem remains the budget - the acquistion of new IFVs is planned to cost only half of the 50 billions Czech koruna (€1.916 billion) budget, but the price for 210 new Puma IFVs, spare parts, training, simulators and other services is understood to exceed this amount of money.