To the untutored eye one modern 8x8 armoured vehicle with a turret looks much like another but in the case of the Patria AMV35 that is contesting Project Land 400 Phase 2 there is a discernable difference – it mounts a larger, more powerful gun than its three competitors.
Julian Kerr | Sweden, Finland and Poland
The value of this 35mm cannon in the combat reconnaissance role is just one of many factors now being considered by Defence in assessing the responses to the Request for Tender (RfT) for 225 Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles (CRV) that was released in February 2015 and closed seven months later.
The CRVs will replace the army’s ageing fleet of 250 ASLAV light armoured vehicles that reach their life-of-type around 2021.
A downselect is anticipated in March 2016 for a minimum of two and a maximum of three of the contenders to undertake a year of risk mitigation activities followed by a final evaluation, with contract award in early 2018.
Competing with the AMV (Armoured Modular Vehicle) 35 proposed by BAE Systems Australia teaming with Patria of Finland and Saab Australia are Rheinmetall Defence of Germany with its Boxer 8x8 multirole armoured vehicle fitted with a Lance 30mm turret, and Elbit Systems of Australia offering Singapore Technologies Kinetics’ Terrex 8x8 with an Elbit Land Systems’ MT30 30mm turret.
Although General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) Australia has yet to disclose the platform it is proposing in conjunction with Thales, this is expected to be based on the LAV 6.0 upgrade of the GDLS LAV III 8x8 infantry fighting vehicle which, along with the in-service ASLAVs, mounts an ATK M242 25mm Bushmaster chain gun.
In the overall Phase 2 evaluation process, lethality ranks lower than protection but has a higher priority than mobility. This in turn is considered of greater importance than either sustainability, or command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities.
Introduced in the early 2000s and constantly upgraded, the AMV in a range of variants now serves with Poland, Sweden, Finland, Croatia, Slovenia and the UAE, and is entering service with South Africa as the Badger infantry combat vehicle.
In a series of briefings in Sweden, Finland and Poland, the AMV was presented as a versatile, adaptable platform which had established a strong combat reputation with Polish forces in Afghanistan (and anecdotally with the Taliban, who are said to have referred to the Polish AMVs as Green Devils because of their non-standard green finish, lethality, and quiet approach).
While the Polish vehicles are equipped with a 30mm Oto-Melara HITFIST turret, an impressive variety of other turret systems has been integrated onto the platform, either as proof-of-concept prototypes (e.g. Delco 25mm, Rheinmetall 30mm Lance, Kongsbeg 30mm remote weapon station[RWS]), or as fielded systems (Kongsberg Protector RWS, BMP-3 100mm, Denel LCT 30mm, and Patria NEMO single barrel and Patria Hagglunds AMOS twin barrel 120mm mortar).
This proven versatility facilitated the decision to offer the Australian CRV contender with the BAE Systems Hagglunds Mk 3 CV9035 35mm turret. This is now in service on the CV90 tracked infantry fighting vehicles of the Dutch and Danish armies, the latter having deployed the CV9035 to good effect in Afghanistan.
The turret features the ATK Bushmaster III 35mm cannon and a 7.62mm co-axial machinegun, a Rheinmetall muzzle programmer for airburst munitions, a Saab Universal Tank and Anti-Aircraft Sight (UTAAS) and fire control system, an independent sight system for the commander enabling him to search, engage or hand over targets to the gunner, and a Saab soft-kill active defence system. This integrates laser warning receivers with 76mm multi-spectral smoke grenades.
"Driving it hard around a waterlogged Finnish Army manoeuvre area that resembled the Somme on a bad day, finishing with a celebratory 'doughnut', was absurdly easy."
Steve Kinloch, a member of the BAE Systems Land 400 bid team (and a previous Director General Munitions) points out that the company decided against settling for the ATK Bushmaster Mk44 30mm cannon; the next generation of the 25mm chain gun equipping the ASLAVs.
The 35mm system that has been selected operates at a different level, retaining ATK’s electrically-driven chain gun technology but applying it to a larger, more lethal weapon that was derived from an Oerlikon 35mm anti-aircraft system.
“There are trade-offs such as weight, stowed kills etc to be considered, but on balance we selected the 35mm because we believe that it offers clear tactical advantages that will be important to Army users,” Kinloch explained.
The 35mm cannon delivers significant range advantages over both the ATK and Mauser 30mm cannon systems, and over similar weapons on 8x8 vehicles that are in service in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The 35mm also delivers significantly greater terminal effect and weight of fire than either of the 30mm systems. The 35mm programmable KETF (kinetic energy timed fuse) round, for example, contains 407 pre-formed tungsten fragments, 250 per cent more than the payload of the 30mm,” Kinloch notes.
In the anti-personnel role, this means that less than half as many 35mm rounds would be needed to kill the occupants of a two-man covered foxhole.
Ranging accuracy is significantly improved by the muzzle programmer that adjusts for round-to-round differences in muzzle velocity, while the 35mm Air Burst Munition could achieve mission kills by obliterating optics and sighting systems on platforms up to and including main battle tanks out to a range of 4,400 metres, he says.
With fewer 35mm rounds required to prosecute specific targets and barrel life supporting 30 per cent more full charges than a 30mm system, through-life costs could be lower while investment now in a 35mm system could avoid the expense of a future lethality upgrade.
BAE Systems says that rather than pursuing protection at all costs, the AMV35 balances mobility with protection. To ensure maximum manoeuvrability in confined areas, fourth axle steering on a relatively short wheelbase has been included.
Work on the European factory floor continues, with particular emphasis on the turret. Credit: BAE Systems
Gross vehicle mass is described as “about five tonnes lighter than the heaviest vehicle in the competition”, putting the AMV’s fully-loaded weight at about 30 tonnes. This includes baseline protection beyond STANAG 4569 Level 4 Kinetic (14.5mm armour piercing) and Levels 4a/4b Blast (10kg under wheel/under body).
Survivability can be further enhanced by the addition of optional appliqué armour and blast protection, a signature management system, anti-RPG nets, acoustic and thermal shot detectors to enhance the Saab soft kill defensive aids suite (DAS), and a hard kill DAS.
According to a product brochure, the optional appliqué armour provides ballistic protection against armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding-sabot projectiles of up to 30mm.
Despite numerous RPG and IED hits experienced by the approximately 100 Polish Rosomaks in Afghanistan there were no hull penetrations.
Tactical mobility is described as being in line with the current 8x8 market and features a maximum speed of more than 100 km/h, climbing capacity 60 per cent, maximum side-slope 30 per cent, vertical obstacle 0.7 metres, trench crossing two metres, and range of 600-800 km.
BAE Systems says it studied a number of potential 8x8 candidates before selecting the AMV and was most impressed by its agility, ease to drive, comfort levels, and quietness inside and out.
While this correspondent has no contender comparison by which to judge this statement, he can confirm that normal conversation without intercom is possible inside the AMV while travelling at 100 km/h on a sealed road, and driving it hard around a waterlogged Finnish Army manoeuvre area that resembled the Somme on a bad day, finishing with a celebratory “doughnut”, was absurdly easy.
Given that the AMV35 has an open digital architecture, BAE Systems has decided not to champion any particular proprietary Battle Management System (BMS) as part of its Land 400 offering,
Instead it will either bolt in C4ISR boxes, which it describes as a less than ideal solution, or host Army’s chosen software on the AMV35’s onboard hardware as a more efficient use of space, weight, power and cooling.
The stated intention is to manufacture both the AMV35 hull and the complex CV9035 turret in Australia, although no indication has yet been given by BAE Systems of where this would take place.
Credit: BAE Systems
Nevertheless, the company maintains that key enablers for effective support (intellectual property, technical information, engineering skills, and systems integration capability) would be mature in Australia well before Army accepted its first vehicles, scheduled in the RfT for May 2020.
In due course the Australian AMV35 production facility would be transformed into a central support hub that would play a key role through the life of the CRV capability, supported by a local systems integration laboratory.
Local AMV manufacture with full technology transfer was implemented in Croatia and Slovakia, continues in Poland and is about to get underway in South Africa. In each of these programs the first tranche of welded steel armour hulls was built by Patria in Hameelinna 100 km north of Helsinki during which time the customer’s workforce was trained.
Poland is the largest AMV customer to date with 570 domestically manufactured Rosomak variants in service and production of an additional 307 scheduled for completion in 2019.
Of the 238 vehicles on order for South Africa in infantry, command, mortar, anti-tank missile and fire support variants, 21 hulls will be manufactured on the Patria production line and the balance produced locally by Denel Land Systems.
Manufacture in South Africa and in Australia if selected, stands to benefit from the Polish experience, where production under licence to Patria began in 2005, less than 18 months after the transfer of technology, in the state-owned Wojskowe Zaklady Mechaniczne (WZM) facility at Siemianowice Slaskie about 90km northwest of Krakow.
What was apparent on a visit to the plant was the relatively low capital investment required to establish the production capability. This involved refurbishing existing but old facilities and an extensive technology transfer program since WZM had no direct experience of modern vehicle production.
The company’s name was changed in 2014 to Rosomak S.A. after the Polish wolverine, in recognition of the platform’s success. Steel (initially from Sweden but now sourced from Poland for the Polish production) is cut to patterns and the hull welded on jigs and then mated as a single assembly on to a pre-built (by Patria) underbody box chassis that includes all steering, suspension and running gear.
Key assemblies such as the engine, transmission and differentials are commercial automotive components. Turrets are assembled and integrated with the Rosomaks in adjoining areas of the same 46,000 square metre facility.
Key driveline components are all easily accessible under the vehicle. Since the chassis rails themselves can be readily changed out if damaged there is no need to lift a power pack to fix steering linkages.
"BAE Systems says that rather than pursuing protection at all costs, the AMV35 balances mobilitiy with protection."
Although Polish personnel were rotated through operational tours in Afghanistan the Rosomak fleet was retained in-theatre and maintained by a team of
20 company technicians. Some vehicles exceeded 50,000km over four years.
In 2015 about 250 production staff working a single 0600-1400 shift produced 65 Rosomaks although executives said that with the introduction of additional shifts, annual production could be increased to 192 vehicles.
Rosomak is now part of Patria’ s global supply chain and, in an unusual contractual relationship, is permitted to market and export its Rosomak variants in cooperation with Patria.
Commonality between phases
Hopes of some commonality between the CRVs that will be acquired under Land 400 Phase 2 and the 450 Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) sought under Land 400 Phase 3 would be met by a combination of the AMV35 and the CV90 that is being advanced by BAE Systems Australia in the Phase 3 Request for Information (RfI) that closes on 22 February.
Initially designed for the Swedish army, the CV90 is now also in service with Norway, Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark, and was used in Afghanistan by the Norwegians, Swedes and Danes.
The RfI describes the ideal solution as a tracked and turreted IFV utilising mature technologies with a robust technological growth and design path and capable of lifting an eight-strong infantry section; requirements met by the CV90 - and doubtless also by other Phase 3 contenders.
But with those 450 IFVs including eight different variants, the modular design of the CV90 should have its attractions as would utilising the same 35mm turret as the company’s CRV contender.
The same modularity has enabled a rolling series of upgrades, the most recent being rubber tracks to reduce weight and vibration. BAE Systems says such upgrades maintain the CV90 as the world’s most modern armoured vehicle in the 25-40 tonne class.
Disclaimer: Julian Kerr travelled to Sweden, Finland and Norway as the guest of BAE Systems.This article first appeared in ADM's February issue.