Military Technology No. 4, 2010,
NEW "LOOK" OF ARMORED COMBAT VEHICLES
Author: Vadim Mikhaltsov
Vadim Mikhaltsov - head of department at RF MoD's 38th NIII Research Testing Institute, lieutenant colonel
The beginning of the 21st century saw a transition of the world leading nations from the armed forces of the industrial era to the armed forces of the information age. There has been a quantum leap in the performance of control facilities due to improvements in the information and telecommunication technologies, communications equipment, data processing, storing and transfer systems.
The “New Look of the RF Armed Forces” concept implies that in a military conflict the Russian army would first have to conduct active struggle in the information field, and only then employ its troops. This does not exclude border clashes, in which the territorial groups of general-purpose forces may generally be involved to achieve limited military and political objectives: territory capture and retention, area interdiction, peace enforcement on terms acceptable to us. In all cases the pace of weapons deployment and use, as well as the ability to quickly recover the destroyed infrastructure and communications will have a dominant influence on the outcome of war.
The transition to a three-level organizational structure - military district, operational command and brigade - streamlines troop command & control, thus increasing the speed of command and troop readiness. A key component of the new Armed Forces' look is placing all combat units on constant alert. In addition, a new unified command & control system and a unified information system of the military-scientific complex is being established. This will greatly increase the mobility of military units, as well as their ability to independently fight in various theaters of operations.
In line with the state armament program and state defense order, equipping and maintaining the Armed Forces battle-ready will focus on improving the armaments structure in favor of modern precision-guided weapons, “unmanned” warfighting technologies, equipping the units with the required armaments. For the Land Forces, changes in the structure, content and scope of the assigned tasks result from the changed forms and methods of the operational employment of force groupings. Their effective accomplishment depends largely on the makeup, condition and further development of the armored combat vehicle system.
Currently, the structure of the armored combat vehicle system is a set of armored vehicle models needed to equip the military units, combatant arms, special troops, and regional groupings of the Armed Forces and other forces. The technical basis of this system are the various types of tanks, infantry (airborne) combat vehicles, armored personnel carriers as well as combat, technical (armored recovery) and logistic support vehicles, and training facilities.
Recently, the steady trends toward diminishing the role of armored combat vehicles, and particularly tanks, in all kinds of operations have been observed in our country. The need for their further development and especially production is now questioned, funding of research and development work decreases. This situation may lead to the fact that in the near future we'll have to borrow technical solutions and new technologies from the foreign tank manufacturers, as happened with the automotive and some other industries.
The issue of the role of armored combat vehicles and ways for their development requires a systemic, balanced approach. The Land Forces should have available all
fighting components to handle the full scope of their combat missions. This has been confirmed by combat experience, practice of developing land forces in the industrialized countries, where the armored troops offering high fighting capabilities -striking force, firepower, mobility and protection - are widely represented.
The experience of local wars of our time confirms that none of them was conducted without the massive use of tanks: tank battalions accounted for almost half of all battalions in the units. Thus, more than 6,000 tanks were used by both sides in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and over 10,000 tanks were involved in the 1991 Gulf War. In combat operations in Iraq in 2003, air strikes and artillery fire also failed to achieve the main objective, and powerful armored groups of the general-purpose forces, which acted in several fronts simultaneously with aircraft strikes and use of precision-guided weapons, did play a decisive role.
In the West, there is no hint of curtailing the tank troops. On the contrary, the future NATO army development programs envisage further strengthening of the combat capabilities of tanks and other armored combat vehicles. For instance, the ratio of tank and combined arms units in the armies of major NATO countries is as follows: about 50% in the US, over 50% in Germany, and 75% in the Great Britain.
Relying on the likely scales of wars, one may state that the tank units must be the indispensable component of forces and their core element in the main directions. There is no alternative to them now and in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, armored combat vehicles are in fact the basis for the evolution of the forms and methods of conducting warfare by the land forces.
Currently, the Land Forces' armaments and military equipment include nuclear missile, armored and artillery armaments, automated command & control systems, air defense equipment, engineer equipment, etc. However, tanks, tank support combat vehicles, infantry (airborne) combat vehicles, armored personnel carriers and other combat and technical support vehicles still remain the backbone of this complex of equipment. Their high firepower, maneuverability and other fighting capabilities enable their efficient use both in defensive and offensive operations.
A new generation of the armored combat vehicles has several distinguishing features based on the design implementation of advanced technology achievements, particularly in microelectronics, robotics, communications and information technologies. Its impressive representatives are the T-72B2 and T-90A upgraded tanks, BMPT tank support combat vehicle, and upgraded BMP-3M IFV. In terms of combat capabilities, this generation is characterized by a new combat index - team controllability. In addition, they feature: automated navigation, data transfer and other systems for interaction within the unit; integration of onboard electronics into a single vehicle control system; new weapon control devices and methods (targeting, automatic target tracking, remote ammunition detonation); integration of target reconnaissance devices (thermal imager, radar, optics, etc); warfighting capability with a minimum crew size (up to two people); as to survivability, protection against detection is becoming more important than protection against attack.
Nowadays, armored combat vehicles are in service with the Land Forces, Airborne Troops and Marines. The armored vehicles' chassis are used to mount weapons and equipment of the missile and artillery, air defense, NBC protection and engineer forces, communications and command & control equipment. In addition, armored combat vehicles are operational with other law enforcement ministries and agencies (Border Guard Troops, Ministry of Interior Affairs, EMERCOM, etc).
The armored vehicles can be used as a basis for operational- and tactical-level weapon systems, dedicated technical and logistic support vehicles. The main principle in the development of new armored combat vehicles is the integrated families of vehicles of various protection levels on a common chassis, with a front or rear engine transmission compartment. Its implementation will solve the commonality problem and reduce the excessive diversity of equipment models. The development of a new generation of armored combat vehicles and a unified family of armored vehicles on their basis for the branches of service, integrated into the tactical-level armaments system, will make it possible to achieve information-and-energy uniformity of armaments and military equipment, a similar level of their mobility and survivability, and autonomy of the operations conducted by the combined arms units.
With a view to the current trend towards placing Land Forces' armaments and military equipment on the armored basis, a fundamental question arises: whether the decision is justified and whether it is contrary to the world tank industry trends?
A new doctrine of using NATO forces, in particular armored vehicles, provides for a quick response
to the emerging conflicts, which requires rapid transfer of necessary forces to the areas of their origin. In this context provision is made to develop vehicles capable of conducting sustained operations in any area of the globe with high effectiveness and at minimum material costs. To this end, it is planned to use a unified combat system comprising infantry fighting vehicles and unmanned combat vehicles, armored personnel carriers, command & control vehicles, fire support and protective vehicles.
Today the US army and the armies of other leading countries are undertaking efforts aimed primarily at in-depth upgrade of armored vehicles using new technologies. In this context, interest in electrothermal, electromagnetic and liquid propellant guns has revived. A tank of the future may have a combat weight of 42 to 57 tons, a 120- or 140-mm smoothbore high-ballistics gun, passive and active protection and an engine with the power-to-weight ratio of no less than 40 hp/t.
Studies of electromagnetic armor, modular armor complete with ERA and active protection systems are considered a promising area of research. It is viewed by western experts as the only reliable means of protection against advanced antitank weapons. The idea of using electric transmission and thus developing an “all-electric tank” is generating great interest among western tank designers.
Today, local wars and armed conflicts have become a kind of proving ground for testing new weapons, forms and methods of warfare. There is an entire system of modern requirements for not only single models of armored combat vehicles, but also for the system of military equipment models for tactical units. The major requirements are: the capability for independent actions as part of limited tactical groups in any climate, weather and time conditions; operational and tactical mobility; automatic control of various weapons; remote control; integration of armaments and military equipment into a unified system.
The main feature of using armored vehicles in today's conditions is that success in combat will be possible only when clear control and coordination is organized between sub-units, units and weapons and the information superiority is achieved over the enemy when preparing a battle and taking a more advantageous position.
Use of precision-guided weapons and other more sophisticated means of warfare by the warring parties increases the pace of battle. Under these conditions, more than ever, the question arises about the struggle to gain time, seize and retain the initiative, about the ability of commanders (HQs) to quickly assess the situation, make decisions, set goals for subordinates, firmly and continuously control the units in a rapidly and dramatically changing environment. So now, along with the traditional combat properties of armored combat vehicles, the need to develop team controllability through all-round automation of control of individual weapons and units as a whole is coming to the fore. This can be achieved provided that the armored combat vehicles are equipped with software/hardware systems based on high-performance computers, electronic security, communications, navigation, data collection, processing and transfer equipment.
A priority in the new “look” of the Armed Forces is given to automated command & control at the tactical level, with regard to attached, supporting and interacting forces and facilities. Therefore, the evolution of armored combat vehicles is moving towards the development of tank units' automated control systems (ACS) integrated with higher echelon ACS and other tactical-level weapon systems.
It is quite clear that significant growth in the combat and technical characteristics of armored combat vehicles can be achieved through new technical and technological solutions. Today, many countries are placing emphasis on developing key technologies and forming scientific backup for their future development.
Implementation of the new requirements for armored combat vehicles of tactical-level units will not only improve their basic capabilities, but will also create new types of armaments and military equipment, as well as forms and methods of warfare. Moreover, with the integration of modern weapons, reconnaissance and command & control assets into a single armament system, a need arises to develop automation equipment not only for armored combat vehicles, but also for other kinds of military equipment (air defense, artillery, engineer, CW, etc) attached to tactical units. This command & control automation equipment set should provide continuity of data gathering, processing and presentation in a form easy to analyze and make a decision. Such a set may include command & control vehicles of tactical units, logistic and technical support control vehicles, and control vehicles of the attached, supporting and interacting units.
The emergence of new types of weaponry changes the preparation and conduct of military operations, both at the operational and tactical level. For land groups, activities not only in one key sector, but simultaneously in several areas with the subsequent exploitation of success and rapid transfer of efforts where the enemy defense was breached, is becoming common. The role of fire damage, massive use of tanks, and active maneuvering of forces in the areas where fighting is conducted on the principle of “the front is everywhere,” is growing. Moreover, it seems particularly typical that a combined arms battle or operation is steadily acquiring a 3D air-land form. Under such conditions, along with powerful bombardment of the entire depth of the enemy formation with precision-guided weapons, air assets and missiles, armored thrusts against the first echelon troops are simultaneously launched.
Because of its highly maneuver-able nature, fighting will be characterized by a fast and frequent switch from one kind of action to another, simultaneous conduct of different types of action by a combined arms unit: for example, one part of the forces will attack, the other - maintain defense, the third - pursue the retreating enemy. The main thing is that the use of tanks, as in the past, proves to be a crucial factor of achieving success in the “land” phase of fighting. Tanks confirm their role as a versatile weapon on the modern battlefield
It should be noted that a war of modern technologies has moved today from the level of confrontation of individual weapon models to the level of troop and weapon control system in a new sphere of warfare, defined as the “cosmo-energy-information area”. Therefore, new-generation armored combat vehicles need to be adapted to these conditions, with their role assigned and their objectives specified. It is necessary to achieve stable, preferably asymmetric parity with the advanced foreign counterparts.
To address this problem, the armored combat vehicles that are part of rapid response brigades, should be first equipped with an integrated information management system, remote motion and fire control, IFF, jam-resistant communication and satellite navigation systems. We need to equip them with weapons firing “fire-and-forget” ammunition, introduce an automatic target detection and tracking system, with the ability of receiving designations from ACS interfaces. For new armored vehicles, it is necessary to establish batch production of modern armor steels, armor ceramics, and thermal imagers based on domestic circuitry components.
For each armored combat vehicle model, we need to develop a specific set of technologies that will define its technical configuration and basic characteristics. This necessitates a package of R&D efforts to develop the components, which subsequently will be the basis for new generation armored combat vehicle models. In the future, combat and support vehicles of wider range of types - highly protected reconnais-sance-and-fire, collective protection and command & control -should be available.
Along with the development of new weapons, R&D efforts should be undertaken on combat and technical support vehicles. The main areas of their development are: development of repair and maintenance facilities mounted on a common combat vehicle chassis; versatility by the kinds and types of supported armored combat vehicles; an increase in useful internal armored volumes and introduction of automatic towing hitches and advanced diagnostic tools on the recovery vehicles; optimization of maintenance facilities echeloning; improvement in the repair service structure; organization of multi-discipline repair, on-condition repair and upgrade & overhaul.
Thus, in a new “look” of the Russian Armed Forces, the armored combat vehicles should ensure the full autonomy of the military units, have a high level of firepower, mobility and survivability and be superior to similar models of the potential enemy in terms of combat and service characteristics, information support and control.