Today modern armor is a much more powerful beast than it was 70 years ago. Day and night vision equipment gives modern tanks a big advantage over their WWII equivalents. A Tiger tank’s powerful gun could finish off one of today’s light armoured vehicles. But it would be impotent against a modern battle tank. In the battles of the future, the tanks may be unrecognisable from the Russian T34 and German Tiger that did battle at Kursk. Military technology has reached the point where unmanned tanks – a land drone – are now possible. All of this means big business for those companies that produce tanks and bigger trouble for guerrilla combatants who are seeking to fight against a tank foe. Any cursory view of social media videos from the on-going conflict in Syria attest to the sheer firepower of the Syrian Army tanks against rebel forces. But the allure of armor still exists. Today armor still remains a key part of most militaries. The continued purchase and use of the tank in different conflict zones raises powerful ethical issues. AOAV research has demonstrated that as many as 90% of victims following the use of explosive weapons in urban areas are civilians. Armor plays their role in this terrible figure. With time, countries will continue to improve armored and mechanized combat, and possibly through this, secure peace throughout the world.
The BTR-94 (Bronetransporter, model 1994) is an Ukrainian 8×8 amphibious APC proposed solely for export and produced in 1999-2000.
It was largely based on the BTR-80 produced at Arzamas (GAZ), Nizhniy Novgorod. After the split between Russia and Ukraine, the former launched a brand new model, the BTR-90, while the Ukrainian army chose to develop a new version similar to the BTR-82 (an IFV modernization of the BTR-80). At that time Ukraine had 456 BTR-80/82 and variants in service. In fact 50 of these were modified by the Malyshev Factory with a new turret, gaining the denomination BTR-94 after their initial design phase (1994), in active service in 2000. The BTR-94 was solely exported, to Jordan (which passed on its vehicles to Iraq later).
Externally, the BTR-94 very much looked like a BTR-82. The hull, drivetrain and most equipments are still similar to those used by the mass-produced BTR-80, but the turret ring was enlarged to house a brand new BAU-23×2 turret. Indeed, this remotely operated turret uses a powerful twin 23x152mm 2A7M cannon (the same used on the ZSU-23-4 Shilka SPAAG), coupled with a 7.62 mm PKT machine gun. The twin arrangement procures a maximal rate of fire of 850 rds/min., and there are 200 rounds in store whereas The PKT coaxial machine-gun has 2,000 rounds in store. The 2A7M is assisted by the combined optical sight 1PZ-7-23. This turret could be mounted as proposed by the manufacturer, on the BTR-70 or even Ratel IFV. In addition there is a target illumination device, a radar antenna for ground and air target detection, upgraded targeting devices, and for concealment two banks of three smoke dischargers are mounted either side of the turret.
The compartmentalization remains unchanged with a crew of three, driver, commander and gunner, plus ten infantrymen exiting from the side doors, the usual BTR-60/70/80 lineage feature. Amphibious characteristics and full NBC protection remains standard, the armor layout also, but the level of protection could have been upgraded (it is classified), although externally there are no signs of add-on armor and the overall known weight of 13.8 tons. The multi-fuel diesel powerpack is a dependable V12 conceived in Ukraine which develops 300 hp, already used on the BTR-80UP. In addition there is a centralized tire inflation system to cope with soft ground. Ground clearance is 47 cm.
The BTR-94 in Service
So far, the BTR-94 was not adopted by the Ukrainian Army but delivered instead to Jordan, receiving them in 1999 to February 2000, together with a supply spare part contract. In 2004 they were donated to the Iraqi government to beef-up the Iraqi new Army Mechanized Police Brigade. Actually, only the BTR-3 was mass-produced and is in service with the Ukrainian Army (and was largely exported). The BTR-94 remains a one-off intermediate export design to take advantage of the large availability of the BTR-80, on par with the BTR-80UP conceived with Poland for export.
The state-owned company, Elliniki Viomihania Ohimaton (“Hellenic Vehicle Industry”) was founded in Thessaloniki in 1972 to produce locally Steyr-Daimler-Puch models after an agreement with the Austrian company. It was known originally as Steyr Hellas S.A. and manufactured motorbikes and farm tractors before focusing in the 1980s on military vehicles. A license to produce the 4K 7FA was secured and the vehicle was to be known locally as the “Leonidas” after the Spartan king. When the first production was achieved, followed by exports, the company was renamed ELVO in 1986, embarking on the all-improved Leonidas II.
The latter was much more a local product than the first. In 1988, development started with Steyr for a new IFV -which development was pursued with Spain to give birth to the Pizarro/Uhlan instead. The company indeed left the development, which was resumed in 1998 with a local IFV, the Kentaurus, revealed but not followed by any order. The company also produced 140 Leopard 2 HEL MBTs under a KMW license but accumulated losses. The company should have been dissolved in 2015 but this was frozen by the state.
Design of the Leonidas I
The first two prototypes were ordered from Austria in 1981. Few modifications were made to the 100 vehicles to follow, which were initially to be built locally, but gradually locally-manufactured parts found their way into the manufacturing process.
Largely based on the Saurer 4K 7FA, already largely treated, the first Leonidas did show some detailed modifications like the exhaust vents and left muffler, the shape of the hatch, hull fasteners and handbars, even the main gun-shield with a set of smoke grenade dischargers behind the gunner’s seat. The basic version was an APC with a prismatic hull and a drivetrain comprising six roadwheels, front idlers (where the engine was) and rear idlers.
Suspensions were torsion bar units with shock absorbers on the first and last roadwheels units. The all-welded hull made of steel RHA is prismatic, with a front engine compartment and transmission (STEYR 7FA, inline 6-cylinder water-cooled diesel, producing 320 hp at 2,300 rpm.). The driver was located behind to the right-hand side, followed by the gunner/commander in its open turret, a shielded cal.50 12.7mm M2HB heavy machine gun. Behind was located the troop compartment, without pistol ports but with roof hatches and rear doors. The Leonidas 1 was produced from 1982 to 1983.
Development of the Leonidas II
In 1986 the Leonidas 2 was developed as an improved version with added Greek components. 56 were manufactured, 40 by Greece and 16 by Austria, all purchased by Cyprus. In 1987 the Greek government ordered 344 of this version, all manufactured in Greece. it met the final selection, meeting the Army’s operational needs in March 1987 and was designed as an Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV).
This version had a new turret, weighed 18.8 tons (4 ton heavier), was propelled by a 450 hp (instead of 320 hp) engine coupled with a ZF 6 HP 500 automatic transmission (instead of the ZF 6-S80 manual transmission with 6 gears forward and 1 reverse), and its top speed was 70 kph (instead of 63 kph). The first phase of the program cost 22 billion drachmas and it was also stated its price was 8.5% lower than the Leonidas 1 mostly built from Austrian parts.
The turret ring was made compatible with a large array of weapons systems, like A 20-30 mm autocannon turret, a 90 to 105 mm Cockerill cannon turret (at the rear), or 81-120 mm mortar. In practice, the turret was unarmed or received the same cal.50 as in the Leonidas 1. This turret was partly enclosed and the smoke dischargers were located on each side. The other modifications were additional automatic fire suppression system, commander’s rotating periscope and better smoke grenade dischargers, but overall a more powerful engine and better performances.
Production was maintained in 1993-95 (141) for Cyprus and a last Greek batch of 57 vehicles in 1998, and ten more for Macedonia (FYROM) in 2001 with a new automatic transmission. The general total figure given is around 900 vehicles, of which 503 were in service with the Greek Army (most active today), and 197 for Cyprus. The Austrian proposal for a joint development in 1998 was eventually rejected (Elvo built the Kentaurus instead) but also a Leonidas 3, as it was argued the type was already obsolete.
In 1966, the Bundeswehr (German Army) was looking to replace its now redundant American-supplied M42 Duster Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns (SPAAGs). Two projects were investigated. These were the ‘Matador’ (designed by Rheinmetall, AEG, Siemens, and Krauss-Maffei) and the ‘5PFZ-A’ (designed by Oerlikon, Contraves, Siemens-Albis, Hollandse Signaalapparaten and Kraus-Maffei/Porsche). In 1971, it was finally decided that the 5PFZ was the better vehicle, and as such a test batch of four 5PFZs, with the designation of ‘B1’, were delivered. Another pre-series batch of twelve 5PFZ-B1s were delivered in 1973.
By September 1973, the vehicles had received the name Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard (often shortened to Flakpanzer Gepard. Gepard meaning Cheetah in English). The first order for the vehicle totaled 420 units. After the first 195, the remaining 225 were equipped with a Siemens Laser Rangefinder. These Gepards were given the B2 identifier.
The Gepard has served non-stop since its introduction and has only started to see retirement in 2010. It has served with a number of countries.
A Fearsome Feline
Like its World War II namesake, the Flakpanzer 38(t), the Gepard was based on the hull of an existing tank. The tank chosen was Germany’s own Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank (MBT). Entering service in 1965, the Leopard 1 is one of the most famous tanks of the Cold War and Modern Era. It was lightly armored, but extremely mobile and armed with the potent British L7 105mm Rifled Gun.
After countless upgrades and derivatives, the tank was replaced in the Bundeswehr by 2003, by its successor, the Leopard 2. However, it continues to serve around the world in countries such as Turkey, Brazil and Greece.
The Gepard’s hull remained almost identical to the Leopard original, aside from a slight increase to the distance between the third and fourth road wheels. This also resulted in a slightly longer hull. The engine deck was also extended to house an additional six 24 volt batteries. Under the engine deck is the same the 830 horsepower MTU MB Ca M500 diesel engine used in the Leopard. This propelled the vehicle to 40 mph (65 km/h). The SPAAG was also equipped with a secondary Daimler-Benz OM 314 4-cylinder diesel to supply energy to the tank’s electrical systems. This engine is located in the front left of the hull where the original Leopard had an ammunition rack and works through 5 generators that power the turret’s traverse, gun elevation, and radar systems. The exhaust for this motor runs along the left-hand side of the hull.
The Gepard is operated by just 3 crew members consisting of a Driver, a Gunner and the Commander. The Gunner sits on the right-side of the turret with the Commander on the left. The driver remains the hull. The Gunner and Commander stations are equipped with stabilized panoramic sights which are incorporated into the turret roof. The sights can be paired, or ‘slaved’ to the tracking radar. The Commander is equipped with hand held viewing equipment when operating open-hatch. Both of these men share a large one-piece hatch in the turret roof.
Turret and Weaponry
The turret is the major change from the Leopard and houses the equipment that, at the time of its creation, made the Gepard one of the most deadly Anti-Aircraft vehicles ever built. The Gepard’s primary weapons are dual 35 mm Oerlikon KDA autocannons which are 90 calibers (3.15 m, 10 ft 4 in) long. As well as the full 360 degrees rotation of the turret, the guns can be elevated to almost a 90-degree vertical angle. The muzzle of the guns are fitted with a projectile velocity sensor. Each gun has a 550 rounds per minute rate-of-fire, with a combined rate of 1,100 rounds per minute. The cannons are chambered for 35×228mm standard NATO issue rounds. These include SAPHEI (Semi Armor-Piercing High-Explosive Incendiary), HEI (High-Explosive Incendiary) and FAPDS (Frangible Armor-Piercing Discarding-Sabot).
The vehicle carries a mix of these ammunition types, holding 620 rounds in total. This amount is split equally between the guns. 40 Anti-Tank rounds are carried near the breaches of each gun for quick loading should the vehicle have to defend itself from attacking enemy tanks or IFVs (Infantry-Fighting Vehicles) in an emergency. The rounds are fed in by disintegrating belts. When fired, the links and spent cases are ejected from the elevation hub of the guns.
The cannon’s work in conjunction with the radar systems and a laser rangefinder. The Gepard started out with Doppler Radars. These work by using the Doppler effect to calculate velocity and distance data of a selected target. The same technology can be found in the speed guns used by Police. An MPDR-12 Doppler surveillance or ‘Search’ radar is mounted on the rear of the turret. This revolves 60 times per-minute and has a range of 15 kilometers (roughly 9 ½ miles). It is mounted on a swinging arm. When in use it is raised, when it’s off it is lowered. This radar searches for targets in the assigned airspace. When an aircraft is pinged and identified as hostile, the Doppler ‘Tracking” radar mounted on the nose of the turret takes over. This radar can rotate 180 degrees left and right and also a range of 15 kilometers. Once it is locked on, it automatically tracks the target in azimuth, elevation, and range.
Over its career, the Gepard received a number of upgrades to its electrical systems. Some upgraded vehicles have a digital FCS, these were designated B2Ls. The Doppler radars were replaced as well. The Search radar was replaced with an S Band Radar (S band: Part of the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum covering frequencies from 2 to 4 gigahertz (GHz), used by NASA and in Bluetooth and WiFi devices). The Tracking with a Ku Band radar (Ku band: Part of the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum covering frequencies from 12 to 18 gigahertz (GHz), originates from the original K band used by NATO). These upgraded radars retained their 15-kilometer range.
In operation, the Gepard would often be deployed with Stinger Surface-to-Air (SAM) teams to take advantage of the scanning range of the Gepards equipment. In later models, the Gepard was equipped with attachment points on the gun elevation hubs for dual tubed ManPad (Man Portable Air Defence) SAM launchers. This was not very common and was surpassed by SAM armed Ozelot Light Flak vehicle, based on the Weasel Light AFV.
A version of the Gepard 1A2 was also proposed with two Stinger missiles attached to each of the guns. However, it was not accepted by the Bundeswehr. The Flakpanzer Gepard turret was also proposed for mounting on the French Leclerc MBT. The demonstrator also has the missiles mounted. However, nothing more came of it.
As already stated, the Flakpanzer Gepard started to be phased out in the late 2000s. It is in the process of being replaced by the MANTIS (Modular, Automatic and Network-capable Targeting and Interception System) gun system.
The Netherlands was the second largest user of the Flakpanzer 1, receiving 95 of the vehicles. In Dutch service, it was renamed Pantser Rups Tegen Luchtdoelen or PRTL. Translated to English, this literally means ‘Armour Track Against Air Targets’. It was often pronounced as ‘Pruttel’ (meaning ‘Sputter’) by its crews, perhaps as a result of the sound of the cannons when fired.
The Dutch Army did modify the scanning equipment of the Flakpanzer. They switched the Search Radar to X band, part of the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum covering frequencies from 7 to 11.7 gigahertz (GHz). The Tracking radar was replaced with Ka Band, Part of the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum covering frequencies from 26.5 to 40 gigahertz (GHz). Like Ku, Ka band is a further development of the NATO K band.
The PRTL has begun to see retirement in the Dutch Army with only 57 currently remaining operational. Some of the surplus has been sold to other countries.
Brazil: 36 vehicles, still in operation. Jordan: 60 vehicles previously Dutch PRTLs. Chile: Only 4 ever received after the original order for 30 vehicles was abandoned due to financial issues. Belgium: Operated 55 vehicles, now withdrawn from service. Romania: 43 vehicles still in operation.
Eastern Cousin, the Type 87
The Japanese took great interest in the Flakpanzer Gepard, so much so that they built their own version based on the hull of the Type 74 Main Battle Tank. The vehicle was designated the Type 87. The weaponry was supplied by Oerlikon. To avoid patent infringement claims, the arrangement of the sensory equipment was altered. The Search radar remained at the back of the turret, but the Tracking radar was moved to the turret roof. The SPAAG is currently in service with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), who operate 52 vehicles.
9.54m (7.09m without gun) x 3.25m x 2.61m
(31’3″ (23’3″) x 10’7″ x 8’6″ ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready
42.2 tons (84,400 lbs)
4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader/radio)
MTU MB 838 10-cyl 37.4 L, 830 PS (610 kW)
Independent torsion bars
65 km/h (40.4 mph)
600/450 km (373/280 mi)
19-21 mm steel plus 10-70 mm RHA (0.75-0.83 + 0.39-2.76 in)
The Sheridan was one of these developments tailored to explore a tactical theory and put it to the test. At the time the perpetual chase between armour and weaponry seen lost in favour or the new ammunition, and the tactical possibilities introduced by lighter missiles met US Army Ordnance specifications for a new light tank. The previous M41 was too heavy, had a short range and inadequate weaponry already, so lighter models like the T71 and T92 were tested. None were amphibious however, and after reports about the new Soviet PT-76, the XM551 was built and tested. To meet all conflicting requirements the new design showed a combination of an aluminium hull with a steel turret, to keep the weight down while providing buoyancy and the required level of protection. The vehicle had yet another remarkable feature with a 152 mm gun capable of firing the MGM-51 Shillelagh AT missile.
The task of the designers of the XM551 was daunting. Providing an amphibious tank (none were built since the specialized World War 2 LVT families and DUKW and SEEP) light enough to be airlifted seemed only possible with a small model build from light alloys, but at the same time, mobility and range were to be greatly enhanced and moreover the armament needed to be enough to knock-out a 1960s main battle tank. This squaring of the circle resulted in the Sheridan. Since a “normal” gun powerful enough for the task would have needed a long barrel, large turret, and hull, the solution was to use missiles instead, which provided their own velocity and could be launched from a simple tube. At the end the solution was so unusual it was called an “Armoured Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle” but not a light tank.
Obviously the protection seemed to be sacrificed on this model. The aluminium hull and the steel turret could only hold against 0.5 inches fire (heavy MG) but remains vulnerable to grenade, ATGMs and mines. The hull was compartmented into lateral flotations screens, with a front “surfboard” made of wooden hinged folded layers. It could be deployed into a frontal sloping vertical surface, with canvas to cover the flanks, maintained by poles at the rear, sides, and high as the turret top. The system was directly taken from World War 2 DD tanks. The front “bow” comprised a plastic window for the driver which provided a mediocre visibility was later eliminated. The driver steered the tank blind, guided by the Commander towering above his cupola. In all, the tank was only 15.2 tons which was light enough to be airlifted by “heavy duty” helicopters like the Boeing Ch-47 Chinook and the Ch-58 Sea Stallion and most air transporters. There was sufficient buoyancy to allow the tank to swim at at 5.8 km/h (3.6 mph), rather than just sink like most MBTs to cross deep rivers. Therefore it was amphibious and NBC-proof, like the Soviet PT-76. This swimming characteristics, lightweight hull allowing air transportation combined with a top speed in excess of 70 kph gave an excellent strategic and tactical mobility, at least on the paper.
The aluminium hull was entirely welded, with some cast elements at the front and rear. Armour thickness ranged from approx. 8 mm to 13 mm at the front. The Detroit Diesel (General Motors) 6V53T, 6 cylinder, turbocharged diesel gave indeed an output of 300 hp (220 kW), and a favourable power/weight ratio of 19.7 hp/tonne. The driver train reused standard roadwheels and tracks (five doubled rubber-clad roadwheels per side, suspended by torsion bars) but there were no return rollers and the drive sprocket and idler were both specific to this model. The crew of 4 comprised the driver, located in the center, with his own hatch and three vision blocks, and two headlights/blackout lamps protected by armoured covers. The commander, gunner and loader were all located in the center fighting compartment, in a rather cramped turret. The latter was relatively flat and was given extremely sloped sides to maximize the effective thickness of the armour. The commander cupola was located on the right hand side, and was given a cal.50 HMG ring mount. The loader’s hatch was located at his left. There were also two banks of height electrically fired smoke dischargers on each side.
The armament was remarkable as a lightweight solution which could deliver a potentially killer blow. The M81E1 Rifled cannon was a short barrel, able to fire either missiles or tailored ammunitions for fire support. Due to the unfavourable velocity ratio, only traditional HE rounds were fired, for infantry support, while the AP capability was entirely provided by the new Shillelagh missile system. The latter was developed in 1958 by Sperry and Ford Aeronautics (Later Martin Marietta) as the XM13, produced in 1964 as the MGM-51. It was 152 mm in diameter with the winglets folded, and 290 mm wingspan unfolded, with a solid-fuel rocket and a 15 pdr shaped-charge (6.8 kgs) warhead. Guided by infra-red signals it could fly at 1,060 feet (320 m) per second. This was sufficient to defeat 150 mm of RHA plate at a 60º angle at the range varying from 2000 to 3000 m depending of the models A, B or C. 88 194 of these were produced until 1971. It was also deployed by the M60A2 “Starship” and the first prototype of the MBT-70. This weapon was completed by a roof-mounted cal.50 M2 (1000 rounds) and a coaxial M73 LMG with 3000 rounds.
Production & Variants
Production started on 29 July 1966, and the Sheridan entered service in June 1967. In all 1,662 M551s were built between 1966 and November 2, 1970 for a total cost of $1.3 billion for the entire program. However problems with the M81 gun quickly showed, as cracks developed near the breech after intensive firing, later linked to the Shillelagh “key” running in a slot cut into the barrel. The modified M81E1 introduced a shallower slot and matching modification to the missile. Still, the gun was criticized for having too much recoil for the vehicle’s weight and frail construction. The blast was enough to lift-off the second and even third road wheels. Experimental 76 mm guns were also tried but never adopted.
The M551 in Action
In June 1967, the first batch of Sheridans entered service with 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment at Fort Riley. At that time, the concept was ready to be battle tested in Vietnam although there was no immediate use for the cavalry unit. This came in late 1968 when General Creighton Abrams met with Colonel George S. Patton IV and his 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (11th ACR Blackhorse) as despatched in Vietnam (and remained the only cavalry unit in service here). These tanks were evaluated by the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, and the 1st Squadron, 11th ACR from January 1969 to the fall of 1970. These suffered badly from mines and RPGs, always fatal contrary to the M48 “Patton”. Sheridans there assumed reconnaissance, night patrol and road clearing duties and totalled 39,455 road miles and 520 combat missions with a combat readiness of 81.3%. Reports were enough to decide to equip all other cavalry squadrons with this tank. However it was also detected that the caseless 152 mm main gun rounds used were easy to ignite when the tank was hit by a mine.
This was demonstrated in late 1969 when three out of the nine Sheridans of the 4th Squadron, 12th Cavalry detonated on mines when crossing a river near the DMZ, being total losses. On march 1971, five (11th ACR) were lost in a row by a Vietcong ambush operating RPGs. In all these cases, the Sheridan just “melted” due to the heat intensity and aluminium nature, gaining a sinister reputation. However their mobility was excellent in mud and in general all terrains. They were found very effective in infantry support, bursting M657 HE shell or the M625 canister round which launched a devastating bunch of flechette rounds, despite their slow reloading time. Their low ammunition stock was compensated by their combination with combination with ACAVs (M113s) that carried extra rounds.
By May 1970, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment entered Cambodia. Most vehicles has been modified with a large steel shield (“ACAV set”) to protect the commander when firing the 12.7 mm HMG buttoned-up in his open cupola. The driver was given a modified rotating hatch and an extra layer of bolted steel was applied to the belly to protect against mines, but mostly protecting the front part of the belly due to weight issues. The 11th Cav. also participated in Operation Dewey Canyon II in support to ARVN Lam San 719 Operation, taking heavy losses in the process.
The Army began to retire the Sheridan in 1978. But due to the lack of suitable replacement some units like the 82d Airborne Division retained them until the 1990s (1996 for the 82 AD). Another task was found to keep them active: Doing the bad guys in training, modified to resemble mock T-72 and T-80s. These vehicles were active at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California in the 1980s. They were retired at the end of 2003, and either scrapped, ended as targets, given to collections or dumped into the sea. During the invasion of Panama (Operation Just Cause) in 1989, fourteen M551s were deployed, among which four were transported by C-5 Galaxys and ten air-dropped by C-130s (two Sheridans destroyed upon landing). They were attached to TF Bayonet (193rd Infantry Brigade) part of TF Gator, taking part on the attack on the Commandancia and later provided support to JSOC elements inside Panama City. Height fought at Torrijos-Tocumen Airport. Their performance received mixed reviews.
First Gulf War (1990s)
Fifty-one Sheridans were deployed by the 82nd Airborne Division during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Their role was limited to reconnaissance and possibly six or fewer Shillelagh missiles were fired on anti-tank guns or T-55s in operation, the only operational use of these ordnance among 88,000 missiles produced. These were deactivated after the war. Attempts to provide them a standard NATO 105 mm failed. In fact replacement came with the M1128 Mobile Gun System variant of the Stryker. So the Sheridan was perhaps the last of American light tanks.
In November 1984, US firm Teledyne Continental Motors (now General Dynamics Land Systems) part of Chrysler Defence, was awarded a contract to upgrade the T-54 for the Egyptian Army, still in large stocks in its arsenal. Among the origins of this idea was the Israeli Tiran conversion, which seems quite satisfactory for Tsahal…
The original project was to be called T-54E (the “E” standing for Egypt) but was subsequently renamed Ramses II, from the most famous conqueror Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, and third sovereign of the Nineteenth Dynasty. The first prototype was sent to Egypt for extensive firepower and mobility trials in January 1987, until late 1987. By 1989, a technical assistance agreement was signed with Teledyne Continental Motors for additional modifications in the process of more extensive Egyptian testings, commencing in the summer of 1990.
However by 1998, these additional upgrades had still not led to any production. This second phase, which took years to complete, was accompanied by much more modifications than originally planned (focusing solely on mobility and firepower), and ended with a tank which only superficially bears some resemblance to the T-54 and had in fact more in common with the M60A3, the most current Egyptian tank in service then.
From the basic conversion idea, the Egyptians obtained, in the process of nearly twenty years, a completely new breed of MBT which focuses attentions of world’s experts about the feasibility of radical modern conversions (based on a design first drawn in 1946-47) of a main battle tank, much more demanding than for a specialized variant. Besides the chassis front and turret, everything else was taken from the M60A3 and tailored to fit in, resulting in a strange post-cold war hybrid which would have been unthinkable before the globalization.
Hull & Armour
The hull was at first not modified much, but to accommodate the less compact M60 engine, the rear part was lengthened almost by a meter, while the lower part of the chassis was completely modified to support smaller roadwheels, with consequently one extra pair. However the armour seems to receive little upgrades. It is unknown how much the NBC lining have been upgraded, but is collective and helped by overpressure. The amphibious capabilities seems to have been extended by better sealing. No ERA blocks provision had been made so far. However some armor protection has been added, and armored side skirts. A modern fire detection and suppression system was installed in the engine compartment, new final drives, fuel tanks, Blair Catton tracks, and a brand new air filtration system.
Turret & Armament
The new FCS is a SABCA Titan Mk.1, coupled with a modified Avimo TL10-T sight and laser range-finder with an integrated in-eyepiece CRT alphanumeric graphic display (ballistic computer). The fire-control system includes SABCA’s double digital processor, magnification night sight, atmospheric sensors, automatic attitude and associated controls.
HR Textron provided the gun and turret stabilization system. The main gun is the 105 mm M68 ordnance (common with M60A3s), but the original DT-10T breech is kept modified as well as the recoil system for a better fit into the turret. A muzzle reference system and the M60 day/night searchlight are mounted over the gun. IR vision periscopes are provided for the gunner and driver, while the commander have an image intensification system. The turret receive also a new storage basket and completely modernized communication systems. Banks of four electrically operated smoke dischargers are also mounted on each side for active protection.
Engine, Transmission, Drive train
The new power pack consists of a TCM AVDS-1790-5A turbocharged diesel (908 bhp) which have 80% commonality with the M60A3 powerplant. It is coupled to a Renk RK-304 transmission. New exhaust pipes are fitted on either side of the hull rear. The suspension is provided by General Dynamics Land Systems, with six Model 2880 in-arm hydropneumatic suspension units fixed on doubled M48-type roadwheels. The original idlers are kept, but the rear drive sprockets are new, and there are two standard track-return rollers per side. New US-patented tracks are replacing the old ones.
Production & Service
Egypt purchased spare parts for its large M60 fleet and in 1997, thirty M60 series engines from General Dynamics Land Systems ($5,943 million apiece), with more for the conversion of the T-54 fleet into Ramses-II MBTs. Eventually, the design was sanctioned by a full conversion of a first batch of 260 units in 2004/2005, followed by the set-up of a local conversion in an Egyptian tank plant, with some technology transfers. This second phase saw an additional 165 vehicles being locally converted.
By 2013, an addition conversion of some 160-180 more is planned. The overall weight of these converted tank is now 48 tons. With an estimated 700 M60A1, 1016 M60A3 in service, 1000+ US and locally-built M1 Abrams, and now these US-based conversions, the part of soviet armour in the Egyptian inventory has rapidly dwindled in the course of twenty years. The only known active engagement of the 400+ Ramses II in service is the actual events linked to the 2011 “arab spring”. Indeed, Israeli media reported that the 9th, 2nd, and 7th Divisions of the Army had been ordered into Cairo to restore order during the “revolution”.
Ramses II Specifications
35.43/24.6 x 11.48 x 9.51 ft
(10.8 oa/7.5 m x 3.5 m x 2.9 m)
Total weight, battle ready
55 tons (11,000 lbs)
4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader).
British Leyland diesel BL 40, 450-650 bhp, later BL 60, 695 bhp
48/30 km/h road/cross-country (29.82/18.64 mph)
500 km (310.6 mi)
One M48 105 mm (4 in) main gun
Coaxial 7.62 mm L8A1 (0.3 in) machine-gun
Turret front 7.6 in, glacis 4.72 in, sides 1.37 in (195/120/35 mm)
Germany/Netherlands (2000) Light Recce – 700+ built
Early development started in the early 1990s as a tri-national project, with France, Germany and the Netherlands. Eventually, comparisons between
the Zobel prototype and the Panhard/MaK VBL turned at the advantage of the former and France withdrew from the project. However the Zobel was modified with DAF/Wegmann and quite different from the final prototype which won the competition in 1994. Notably the driver\’s position was much further back. Eventually the design was refined throughout 1995 to 2000 leading to a front compartment.
The LGS (which stands for “Leichter Gepanzerter Spähwagen” or “light armoured reconnaissance vehicle”, was a Bundeswehr project aimed at replacing older vehicles in service (like the Lynx), whereas the Royal Netherlands Army had similar specifications. Therefore, under their governments blessings, Dutch Special Products Aerospace joined in KMW (Krauss Maffei Wegmann), initially contracted, for the joint production, and later Turkish FNSS Defence Systems intervened for providing armament modules.
In April 2000, KMW prototype was ready and achieved its trials the next year in december, when a combined Ducth/German order was placed. 410 for the Dutch Army and 300 for the Bundeswehr. First deliveries began in 2003 and were extended up to 2015 for the German Army. However in 2004 SP Aerospace was bankrupt and replaced by a newly created company, Defence Vehicle Systems, which had the task to achieve the production for the Dutch Army.
The 4×4 Fennek (A small desert fox) was an agile, powerful and compact vehicle, not too small for allowing a large array of combat modules to be fitted in, and all sorts of configurations to be easily set in place. The hull is made of all-welded steel RHA with STANAG 2 level protection (small arms fire, shrapnel, anti-personal mines) and collective NBC with an air conditioning system. Its drive system comprises a selectable 2 or 4 wheels traction, a central tire inflation system to adapt to all kind of terrain configurations, and is capable of a 115 km/h speed on flat thanks to a powerful and proven (240 hp – 179 kW) Deutz diesel engine at the rear. Access is granted by side doors. Natural light is provided by five bulletproof glasses, two narrow on the sides and the three-faced front driving compartment.
The great specificity of the concept, which enable superior reconnaissance abilities, is the 2nd generation restricted observation system comprising an extendable observation mast, which could be raised roughly at 2 m above the roof (3.80 m total), allowing the whole vehicle to stay concealed. This mast comprises thermal imager, daylight camera and an eye-safe laser rangefinder which are in relation with the vehicles GPS and central inertial navigation system. The observer can pass on spotted targets (10 km line of sight), mark points of interests and transmit the data to the HQ and other vehicles and helicopters, which can be displayed on their own battlefield digital displays. In addition there is the ground sensor equipment location and identification which allow monitoring on unseen points by the crew. The mast can be dismounted, and fixed on a tripod for a use at some distance of the vehicle with a remote control and display unit. Bundeswehr’s vehicles also have Aladin miniature UAVs in complement (10 km range). In addition Fenneks can serve as artillery spotting vehicles with the command and weapon control system Adler II.
The armament range is normally limited to a remote-controlled M2HB 12.7 mm machine gun (Dutch version) on the right side or a Rafael Spike or MRAT ATGM, and a Rheinmetall MG3 which can be replaced by a Heckler & Koch GMG 40 mm grenade auto-cannon (German version). There is a Dutch AA version equipped with a Stinger Weapon Platform, with a provision of 18 Raytheon Stinger built by the Turkish company Aselsan. This system can be used also dismounted, remotely. There is also a set of 2×3 smoke grenade launchers at the rear.
The Fennek in action
Both countries deployed their Fenneks in Afghanistan in support of ISAF from 2004. One German vehicle was hit in 2007 by an IED in Uruzgan, killing one and wounding two of the crew. Another was hit by a SPG which metal jet get through but the spall liner protected the crew that only suffered light injuries. The Bundeswher had its Fenneks deployed in quick-response Joint Fire Support Teams (JFST) from 2008, following its experience in Afghanistan, combining the skills of forward observer and the Forward Air Controllers. There is also the engineering corps (24 vehicles) in a variant known as “Engineer Management/reconnaissance vehicle”. Dutch provision included 202 reconnaissance, 130 MRAT (medium range antitank) and 78 general purpose versions while the German versions included 222 recce, 24 CIV, and 20 JFST.
During its long and protracted border wars with Namibia and Angola, South African Forces developed an expertise in mine-resistant vehicles, since mines were a very common and widespread, low-cost weapon in these border areas. The type was proper to South Africa before the 2004 conflict in Iraq erupted, with a subsequent coalition forces deployed over a large areas to patrol against Islamic insurgents and terrorists. IEDs were the possibly the most nasty of these devices, claiming the lives of hundreds and destroying in the process several tanks and numerous Humvees, that, as designed for a conventional cold war scenario, were ill-prepared for this new kind of attack. In effect, the US Army/USMC investigated for a new way to deal with the threat while pursuing the missions, and several companies, including those manufacturing the Casspir, were contacted. 68 Casspirs were ultimately acquired by the US Army.
About Force Protection Inc.
The former Sonic Jet Performance, Inc. (a California speed boat company founded in 1997) became after the one-eleven attacks at the instigation of its chairman, Franck Kavanaugh, the Force Protection, Inc. specialized in protected vehicles for the Army and private companies. The insolvent company Technical Solutions was acquired, as well as its two prototypes, the Cougar and the larger Buffalo, both MPVs. The company was refunded, scaled-up, rationalized, the team being reinforced by an internationally recognized blast expert, Dr. Vernon Joynt. F.P. presented the Buffalo to the Army and earned a contract in 2002. Others followed, and the Buffalo has been delivered to around 700 vehicles so far.
Contrary to the Casspir and to ease ground pressure, the Buffalo is six-wheeled. The other blatant difference, not only with the former but also all MRAPs/MPVs on the market, is the use of an articulated, hydraulic arm at the front. This feature was to provide a way to deal safely with all mines and IEDs at safe distance and in general ordnance disposal. This proved a well-thought idea that helped secure other contracts over the years and make it irreplaceable.
As the MPV, the hull of the Buffalo is relatively high over the chassis (Ground clearance is 15 in or 410 mm), affecting the characteristic V-shaped armoured belly. This monohull welded RHA construction was blast-tested and proven against small arms fire, shrapnel, and even RPGs now with the addition of the extra British LROD cage armor, well used in urban combat. Windows glass are bulletproof, at 6 inch thick, and the tires are of the run-flat system. There is a single crew compartment, with the driver/co-driver at the front and up to four men can be seated inside with their full gear.
Access is provided at the rear with a door and a ladder to climb in the vehicle. The rear bucket platform is generally used to fasten additional gear and hold a storage box. There is also two cage storage boxes welded on the rear hull sides. There is a total 3900 lbs (1.95 short tons) payload capacity. The engine is a Mack ASET AI-400 I6 330 KW (450 HP) coupled with an Allison HD-4560P automatic transmission. The Buffalo is a massive vehicle, at 27 feet long, 13 high for 45 000 lbs (8,20 m long for 20 tons). Fuel capacity is 85 US. gallons, for an operational range of 300 miles (483 km), and a top speed on flat of 65 mph (105 km/h), showing its value as a rapid reaction force vehicle.
The equipment comprised infrared technology to detect the presence of dangerous ordnance, and a 30-foot long robotic arm at the front right of the massive bumper, fixed on the chassis. It uses a claw, operated from within the armoured hull thanks to a mounted camera and sensory equipment. The Buffalo is normally unarmed. There are six roof hatches but no pistol ports, that can be use for firing, but yet no kit for a machine gun was offered to be fixed on the roof.
The Buffalo H is the standard vehicle, declined into the A1 and A2 variants. The A1 appeared in 2004 with an order for $10 million and after further orders and a production of 200 vehicles, a new version came out in 2009, the A2. The range of modifications includes new Axle Tech rear axles, a Cat C13 engine, Cat CX31 transmission and improved suspension, new bumpers, hood and HVAC system. So far 450 of this version were delivered to the US Army.
Until 2005, the production was constantly improved to sustain a higher rate of delivery. Indeed, due to constant delays in the first order, the United States Department of Defense fined Force Protection more than $1.5 million. But at the same time, only 12 workers were responsible for the two models. Over time the personnel grew to 1000. Now the company\’s product line comprises also the Cheetah, Cougar, and Ocelot.
The Buffalo A1 and A2 has been used by the US Army (750 vehicles total in June 2014) in Iraq, but the H version had been delivered to Canada (19), 5 to France (Delivered by the USMC from November 2008. The annual unit maintenance cost in 2013 was 30,262 euros) and 6 to Italy, and the UK (18, delivered in 2009), apparently all based in Afghanistan. Some were used as JERRV, a rapid-deployment vehicle specialized in mine-clearing operations.
The M113 is a fully tracked APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) that was developed by Ford Machinery Company (FMC). The vehicle was first fielded by the United States Army’s mechanized infantry units in Vietnam in April 1962. The M113 was the most widely used armored vehicle of the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War, earning the nickname ‘Green Dragon’ by the Viet Cong as it was used to break through heavy thickets in the midst of the jungle to attack and overrun enemy positions. It was largely known as an “APC” or an “ACAV” (armored cavalry assault vehicle) by the allied forces. The M113 introduced new aluminum armor that made the vehicle much lighter than earlier vehicles; it was thick enough to protect the crew and passengers against small arms fire but light enough that the vehicle was air transportable and moderately amphibious. In the U.S. Army, the M113 series have long been replaced as front-line combat vehicles by the M2 and M3 Bradley’s , but large numbers are still used in support roles such as armored ambulance, mortar carrier, engineer vehicle, and command vehicle. The army’s heavy brigade combat teams are equipped with around 6,000 M113s and 4,000 Bradley’s.
The M113 was developed by Ford Machinery Company (FMC), which had produced the earlier M59 and M75 Armored Personnel Carriers. The M113 bears a very strong resemblance to both of these earlier vehicles. The M75 was too heavy and expensive to be useful; its weight prevented amphibious capability, and being transported by air. The lightened M59 addressed both of these problems, but ended up with too little armor, and was unreliable as a result of efforts to reduce its cost.
The army was looking for a vehicle that combined the best features of both designs, the “airborne armored multi-purpose vehicle family” (AAM-PVF). of all-purpose, all-terrain armored fighting vehicles FMC had been working with Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Company in the late 1950s to develop suitable aluminum armor. It was known that use of this armor could produce a vehicle that provided the protection of the M75, and the light weight and mobility of the M59.
Food Machinery Corp. responded with two proposals; two versions of the aluminum T113—a thicker and a thinner armored one—along with the similar but mostly steel T117. The thicker-armored version of the T113, effectively the prototype of the M113, was chosen because it weighed less than its steel competitor, while offering the same level of protection. An improved T113 design, the T113E1, was adopted by the U.S. Army in 1960 as the “M113”. A diesel prototype, T113E2, was put into production in 1964 as the “M113A1”, and quickly supplanted the gasoline-engined M113.
The M113 was developed to provide a survivable and reliable light tracked vehicle able to be air-lifted and air-dropped, by C-130 and C-141 transport planes. The original concept was that the vehicle would be used solely for transportation, bringing the troops forward under armor and then having them dismount for combat; the M113 would then retreat to the rear. Entering service with the U.S. Army in 1960, the M113 required only two crewmen, a driver and a commander, and carried 11 passengers inside the vehicle. Its main armament was a single .50-caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning MG (machine gun) operated by the commander.
On 30 March 1962, the first batch of 32 M113s arrived in Vietnam, and were sent to two Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) mechanized rifle companies, each equipped with 15 of the APCs. On 11 June 1962, the two mechanized units were fielded for the first time. During the Battle of Ap Bac in January 1963, at least fourteen of the exposed .50 caliber gunners aboard the M113s were killed in action, necessitating modifications to improve crew survivability. Soon, makeshift shields formed from metal salvaged from the hulls of sunken ships were fitted to the carriers, which afforded better protection. But, finding that this material could be penetrated by small arms fire, subsequent shields were constructed from scrapped armored vehicles.
The ARVN 80th Ordnance Unit in South Vietnam developed the shield idea further and commenced engineering general issue gun shields for the M113. These shields became the predecessor to the standardized armored cavalry assault vehicle (or ACAV) variant and were issued to all ARVN mechanized units during the early 1960s. The ARVNs had modified the M113s to function as “amphibious light tanks” and not as battle taxis as U.S. designers had intended. Instead of an armored personnel carrier, the ARVN used the carried infantry as extra “dismountable soldiers” in “an over-sized tank crew”. These “ACAV” sets were eventually adapted to U.S. Army M113s with the arrival of the army’s conventional forces in 1965. The vehicles continued to operate in the role of a light tank and reconnaissance vehicle, and not as designed in theater. Still, the M113 could carry 11 infantrymen inside, with two crewmen operating it. The U.S. Army, after berating the Vietnamese for flouting battle doctrine, came out with their own ACAV version. This more or less standardized ACAV kit included shields and a circular turret for the .50-caliber M2 machine gun in the track commander (TC) position, two M60 machine guns with shields for the left and right rear positions, and “belly armor”—steel armor bolted from the front bottom extending 1/2 to 2/3 of the way towards the bottom rear of the M113. The two rear machine gunners could fire their weapons while standing inside the rectangular open cargo hatch. This transformed the M113 into a fighting vehicle, but the vehicle still suffered from its lightly armored configuration, having never been designed for such a role.
The basic M113 armored personnel carrier can be fitted with a number of weapon systems. The most common weapon fit is a single .50 caliber M2 machine gun. However, the mount can also be fitted with a 40 mm Mk. 19 automatic grenade launcher. A number of anti-tank weapons could be fitted to the standard variant: the U.S. Army developed kits that allowed the M47 Dragon and BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile systems to be mounted. In the case of the M47, the system mated to the existing machine gun mount, without having to remove the machine gun. This allowed the commander to use both weapons. A large array of turrets and fixed mounts are available to mount high explosive cannon ranging from 20 mm to 105 mm on to the M113 series, making them function as assault guns and fire support; while in many cases still having room inside to carry dismounted infantry or cavalry scouts.
The M113 is built of 5083 aircraft-quality aluminum alloy, which gives it some of the same strength as steel at a slightly reduced weight, as the greater thickness allows structural stiffness. The M113A3 was designed to provide protection against 7.62mm threat, and this proved not to be enough when tested in combat.
In comparison, modern APCs like the Stryker have an all-around 7.62mm armor-piercing protection, plus 14.5 mm protection on the front, sides, and rear. Also protection against antipersonnel mines through the vehicle floor is installed.
Its weight allows the use of a relatively small engine to power the vehicle, a Detroit 6V53 V6 two-stroke diesel engine of 318 cubic inches (5,210 cc) with an Allison TX-100-1 three-speed automatic transmission. This allows the vehicle to carry a large payload cross-country and to be transported by fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. Original production M113s can swim without deploying flotation curtains, using only a front-mounted trim vane; they are propelled in the water by their tracks.
Type: APC (Armored Personnel Carrier)
Weight: 12.3 tonnes
Length: 16 ft tall (4.86 m)
Width: 8 ft 9 in (2.68 m)
Height: 8 ft 2 in (2.5 m)
Armor: Aluminum, 12-38 mm (0.47-1.50 in)
Main Armament: M2 Browning MG
Engine: Detroit Diesel 6V53T, 6-cylinder diesel engine