• ASCOD2. Credit: Friedrich Boehringer
    ASCOD2. Credit: Friedrich Boehringer
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Nearly 10 years after the first of three Requests for Information (RfI) for Project Land 400 was issued, the decision-making process that will create a shortlist of contenders for the most expensive element of Army’s most-expensive capability program is now under way.

Julian Kerr | Sydney

The RfI under Land 400 Phase 3 for 450 tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) closed on 22 February. The IFVs will replace 431 upgraded but elderly M113AS4 armoured personal carriers (APCs) – 140 of which are in storage – in the mounted close combat role.

Together, the Phase 3 requirement and the Phase 2 Request for Tender (RfT) that closed last September for 225 Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles (CRVs) to replace 257 ASLAV light armoured vehicles represent potential acquisition expenditure of around $10 billion.

Although an announcement was expected in early March naming the two or possibly three Phase 2 contenders who will progress to risk mitigation activities (RMA) leading to platform selection in 2017/18, a Phase 3 RfT is unlikely until late next year with Second Pass forecast for 2020/21 and entry to service around 2025.


 

"The Phase 2 tender was a standalone activity that would not benefit from any information provided in the Phase 3 RfI."

 


With the RfI process still open at the time this article was written, two teams (BAE Systems Australia and Rheinmetall Defence) had confirmed their participation and the platforms they would be proposing, and two others (General Dynamics Land Systems and Elbit Systems) had confirmed their intention to participate but had not disclosed with what.

Speculation about three other possible platforms (South Korea’s KT-21, Israel’s Namer, and an upgrade of the Singapore Technologies Kinetics’ Bionix) – remains exactly that; speculation.

Notwithstanding Defence’s stated interest in the possibility of some commonality between the eventual Phase 2 and Phase 3 solutions, the Capability and Sustainment Group (CASG) has emphasised that the Phase 2 tender was a standalone activity that would not benefit from any information provided in the Phase 3 RfI.

The practicalities involved in this were reinforced to ADM by Brigadier Gus McGlone, Director General of CASG’s Combined Arms Fighting System, who pointed out in mid-January that Phase 2 tender evaluation reports had already been completed; more than a month before the closing date for Phase 3 RfI submissions.

According to the RfI brief, the ideal solution would be a tracked and turreted vehicle with high levels of protection, mobility commensurate with the Abrams M1A1 main battle tank, and the ability to lift an eight-strong infantry section.

However, in order to better understand cost versus capability trade-offs and through-life ownership costs, information was also being requested on solutions based on tracked APCs and wheeled armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) in the IFV role.

BRIG McGlone makes no bones, however, about the desired outcome.

“We need to acquire IFVs that are most capable in meeting Australia’s future strategic need,” BRIG McGlone said to ADM

Acknowledging that the Phase 3 RfI requirements matrix did not include an Essential category, BRIG McGlone said this was to ensure that as much information could be gained in the RfI process to support robust decision-making and that a suitable contender was not unintentionally excluded if one missing capability could be compensated for by another.

“But that will be in the discussion with regard to the eventual Phase 3 tender; is one aspect more important than another? If so, by how much and how does it impact on the Army’s ability to meet the Government’s strategic need.”

Acknowledging the benefits of commonality between the two phases, BRIG McGlone confirmed the hull was an area of interest but stressed there were significant commonality benefits in using the same turret for both phases.

“Even if it’s not the whole turret there may be a whole bunch of common defensive and weapons systems associated with it, and at the end of the day this improves our through-life support situation and reduces the total cost of ownership to Australia.”

The requirement for IFVs to be air transportable by C-17As recognised that although deployment to another country would normally be by other assets – “the ability to recover a vehicle by air or to send one in quickly if there’s an urgent or a special requirement, provides the government with flexibility”.

Rather than the huge upgrade programs favoured in the past, the 30-year life-of- type sought for the IFV would be achieved by a rolling modernisation program that would keep the vehicles relevant to the threat, BRIG McGlone stated.Possible IFV contenders are (alphabetically):

ASCOD 2

The General Dynamics tracked ASCOD 2 is in service as an IFV with the Spanish and Austrian armies. Although the type lost out to the same company’s wheeled Piranha 5 as a replacement for the Danish Army’s tracked MII3 APCs, the ASCOD 2 was selected by the UK in 2010 (and subsequently renamed the Ajax) as the common base platform to be developed to replace the country’s Scimitar and Spartan tracked CRVs. The first prototypes are due for delivery this year.

The ASCOD 2 in the IFV configuration follows a conventional layout with driver on the front left and the power pack to the front right, a fully traversable electro-mechanical two-man turret mounting a 30 mm Mauser MK-30/2 autocannon and coaxial 7.62 machine gun,. A rear compartment will accommodate up to eight dismounts, but only when an unmanned turret or Remote Weapons Station is fitted. The standard all-welded rolled steel armour provides protection against 14.4 mm armour-piercing ammunition across its frontal arc and all-round protection against 7.62mm ammunition, although both the Spanish and Austrians have upgraded the protection levels of their vehicles. The level of anti-mine protection is not known.

Gross vehicle weight of 38 tonnes has a growth potential to 42 tonnes. The MTU 8V 199T21 engine provides an output of 800 hp, giving the ASCOD 2 a top speed of about 70 kph forwards and 35 kph in reverse.

BIONIX IFV

Singaporean military security is notoriously strict, yet unconfirmed reports continue to emanate from the island state of a highly classified program, now in its fourth year, to upgrade the ST Kinetics Bionix family of tracked vehicles.

Singapore’s 2014 budget did refer to the role of upgraded Bionix platforms in the country’s armed forces of 2030, but no subsequent details have emerged.

The Bionix entered service with the Singapore army in 1999 and the Bionix 2 variant was introduced in 2006. This retained the three-strong crew and features an ATK Mk44 30 mm Bushmaster autocannon with a day/night thermal sighting system and laser rangefinder, together with a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun and a 7.62 mm general purpose machine gun. Protection was improved and a digital battle management system installed.

The Bionix 2 has a combat weight of 28.4 tonnes and is powered by a 475 hp Detroit Diesel Corporation engine producing a maximum road speed of 70 km/h and maximum cross-country speed of 40 km/h. The compact design (length 5.97 metres length, width 2.78 metres and overall height of 2.77 metres) takes into account the narrow roads and flimsy rural bridges expectable in Southeast Asian countries, but limits the number of dismounts to seven.

It would be fair to assume a new upgrade would follow in general terms that undertaken to produce the 8x8 Terrex 2 proposed by Elbit Systems and ST Kinetics for the Phase 2 tender – and possibly as an alternative Phase 3 offer. Gross vehicle weight has increased from 24 to 30 tonnes with improved sensors, enhanced situational awareness and a larger, newly-designed hull offering increased payload capacity for weapons, armour and expendables. The amphibious capability offered by both Bionix and Terrex is not an ADF requirement.

BOXER IFV

The Boxer 8x8 produced by ARTEC, a joint venture of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall Defence, is not only a Phase 2 CRV contender but is also a possible but as yet unconfirmed Phase 3 entrant by Rheinmetall Defence. If so, it could end up competing with the tracked Puma IFV whose interests are being separately advanced by Projekt Systems Management (PSM), a joint venture of – KMW and Rheinmetall Defence. Currently deployed by Germany and the Netherlands in the APC and more specialised roles, the Boxer IFV variant (represented in the Phase 3 RfI by Rheinmetall Defence) was selected by Lithuania last December.

Offered with either a manned or unmanned Lance 30 turret, the platform’s flexibility was underlined by the Lithuanians’ decision to use the UT 30 Mk 2 turret offered separately by Elbit Systems. This will be armed with a 30 mm cannon and Spike anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) launchers. However, the two-man Lance 30 turret, armed with a stabilised Mauser 30mm Mk 30-2 Air Bursting Munition dual feed cannon and a 7.62 mm co-axial machine gun, is understood to be the contractors’ suggested option for both Phase 2 and Phase 3. When fitted with the Lance turret, under the current IFV configuration the number of dismounts is limited to six.

The welded steel hull, modular drive train and easily-changed mission-specific modules which fit into the base vehicle enables the vehicle to provide a very high level of blast protection. Although gross IFV weight is not disclosed, this is believed to be around 37 tonnes dependent on the weapons fit. The 720 hp MTU diesel engine produces a top speed of 103 km/h and a range of 1,050 km, although over what mix of terrain is not detailed. Length is 7.93 metres, width 2.99 metres, and height (turret roof) is 3.24 metres.

Some 38 German Army Boxers, primarily APCs, were deployed in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2014.

CV9035

Notwithstanding production beginning in 1993, thanks to a process of continuous improvements BAE Systems describes its CV90 as the world’s most modern armoured platform in the 25-40 tonne class. The latest developments include rubber tracks that dramatically decrease vibration and an active damping suspension system originally designed for F1 cars that is claimed to improve battlefield speed and handling.

Initially designed for the Swedish Army, the CV90 is now also in service in a number of variants with Norway, Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark, and was deployed to Afghanistan with the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish armies. The CV9035 variant proposed by BAE Systems for Phase 3 mounts the same BAE Systems-Hagglunds 35mm turret as the company’s Patria AMV Phase 2 contender, and also equips the Dutch and Danish CV90s. The vehicle has a three-strong crew and accommodates seven dismounts.

The turret features the ATK Bushmaster III 35mm cannon and a 7.62mm co-axial machine gun, 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.

BAE Systems maintains the 35mm cannon delivers significant range advantages over both the ATK Bushmaster Mk44 and Mauser 30mm cannon systems, including the ability to destroy the optics of a main battle tank at 4,000 metres. While upgrades to the CV90’s armour have seen its curb weight grow from 23 to 35 tonnes, the power to weight ratio has remained much the same due to more powerful diesel engines. Top Speed 70 km/h; range 1,000 km; length 6.55 metres; width 3.1 metres; height 2.7 metres.

KT-21 NIFV

Attempts to elicit information from South Korean manufacturer Doosan fell on stony ground. But unconfirmed information from various sources indicates the KT-21 NIFV (next generation infantry fighting vehicle) has a weight excluding combat loads of 26 tonnes thanks to a composites-constructed chassis, composite armour, a three-man crew, and accommodates nine dismounts. A two-man turret carries a stabilised 40mm cannon and a 7.62 mm co-axial machine-gun, with a pod of two undisclosed ATMG mounted externally on the left-hand side of the turret.

The 750 hp Doosan D2840LXE V-10 turbocharged diesel engine produces a top speed of 70 km/h and a maximum range of 450km. Many of the first batch of KT-21s delivered in 2009 under a US$387 million contract signed with the Defence Acquisition Program Administration in 2008 were reportedly flawed. Deliveries resumed in 2011 under a US$665 million Phase 2 contract signed in 2009, and production was expected to continue through to 2016 under a US$684 million contract signed in December 2012. Production numbers were not disclosed. Unconfirmed reports put the K-21’s length at 6.9 metres; width 3.2 metres and height 2.6 metres.

NAMER

The 60-tonne Israeli Namer is probably the world’s most highly protected IFV. Based on the chassis of the Merkava 4 main battle tank with which it shares an Elbit digital battlefield management system, the Namer carries a crew of three and nine dismounts protected by a composite matrix of laminated ceramic-steel-nickel alloy and underlaid reactive armour. The first Trophy hard kill protection system was installed in a Namer in January.

The IFV is armed with a Rafael Mini-Samson remote weapon station and a 12.7mm heavy machine gun or a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher, with secondary armament of a 7.62mm machine gun, a 60 mm mortar, and multiple smoke canisters embedded in the armour. A V-12 1,200 hp turbocharged diesel engine provides a top speed of 60 km/h and an operational range of 500 km. Overall, the Namer’s mobility and protection is considered the equivalent of the latest main battle tanks.

Who if anyone intends including the Namer in an RfI submission is unknown. The IFV is assembled by Israeli Defence Force Ordnance with some hull manufacture and integration sub-contracted to General Dynamics. Land Systems. The Namer was designed by stated-owned Israeli Military Industries (IMI), which now seems likely to be acquired by Elbit Systems.

PUMA

The first of 350 Puma tracked IFVs entered service with the German Army only last year, replacing the ageing Marder fleet. Manufactured by KMW and Rheinmetall Landsysteme, a subsidiary of Rheinmetall Defence, the highly-specified Puma is described as having tactical mobility comparable to that of a Leopard 2 main battle tank, with a top speed of 70 km/h and a 600 km range. This is achieved with a MTU 10-cylinder diesel/multifuel engine delivering 1,100 hp, a newly-developed power shift, reversing and steering transmission, hydro-pneumatic suspension, and decoupled running gear. Uniquely, a compact, full length crew cabin contains the driver, gunner and commander as well as a six-strong infantry squad, facilitating direct interaction. A two-man roof hatch at the rear enables the infantry squad to fight while moving.

The armour package is a mixture of passive and explosive reactive armour said to provide a higher level of mine protection than a Leopard 2. The baseline Puma weighs 31.45 tonnes to facilitate airlift but when fitted with its full armour package the vehicle’s weight is increased to 41 tonnes, with a stretch potential to 43 tonnes.

The Puma is fitted with a remotely-controlled turret armed with a stabilised 30 mm Mauser MK 3-2 cannon which can also fire airbursting ammunition, and a co-axial 5.56 mm machine gun to save weight, although this can be substituted with a larger-calibre 7.62 weapon. A two-missile launcher for the Spike-LR ATGM with an effective range of up to 4,000 metres is mounted on the turret. In addition to the special smoke-grenade launchers that are part of the roof-mounted active (softkill) protection system, a combined multipurpose grenade can be optionally mounted, at the back of the vehicle for close-in defence. Length 7.4 metres; width 3.7 metres (uparmoured); height 3.6 metres.

Comment: While BRIG McGlone was adamant that information received early in the Phase 3 RfI process would not be considered in selecting the Phase 2 shortlist, clearly the vehicles on that list and their performance in risk mitigation activities will influence the crafting of IFV tender requirements for mobility, protection and lethality linked to cost-effectiveness and commonality.

The program office has confirmed to industry its desire to establish whether it is setting the capabilities’ bar too high or too low.

In addition to obtaining information about cost points for tracked vehicles, the RfI will therefore also serve to identify what requirements can and can not be met within the Commonwealth’s preference for a MOTS solution, whether wheeled or tracked.

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