Armor: October 25, 2004

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: Htarm IFV Diversification

One thing about IFVs like their predecessor, the armored personnel carrier (APC), they have proven to be quite versatile vehicles. The M113 APC probably set the standard for versatility. Not only did it spawn off numerous variants (anti-tank, ambulance, mortar carrier, command post, anti-aircraft, and cargo vehicle among them), it even became an IFV for Turkey, the Netherlands, the Philippines, and Belgium when a turret with a 25mm cannon was placed on, replacing the 12.7mm machine gun.

This diversification does four things for an army. First, it saves money by providing common components, creating an economy of scale. Unit prices go down as the quantity of an order increases. This is important when one is trying to make the case before the bean-counters. The second thing it does is allow for the vehicles to keep up with each other a mortar carrier that has fallen behind the main unit will not provide adequate fire support; an anti-aircraft system will be unable to defend the ground unit from helicopters and aircraft. The third thing versatility does is to allow for cannibalization in the appropriate circumstances. Vehicles damaged in a training accident can be stripped to increase the number of spare parts for the vehicles still functioning. Most importantly from a combat perspective, a versatile IFV has the effect of simplifying the logistics. It is much easier to say you need five engines, than to say you need three of one type, one of another, and one more of a third type.

The Bradley has shown itself to be a versatile platform. Among the new variants are the M7 Bradley FIST (coordinating artillery and air support), the M6 Bradley Linebacker (which replaces the twin TOW launcher with a four-round Stinger launcher), an ambulance (with more armor protection than the M113 ambulance), and its chassis is used for the M270 MLRS, M4 command post, and the M5 electronic warfare vehicle. More variants are probably inevitable.

The BMP also has become a diverse. The BMP-1 spawned command versions (BMP-1K and BMP-1K3), reconnaissance (BRM, BRM-1, and BRM-1K), a recovery vehicle (BREM- and BREM-4), and even a mobile training center (BMP-POO). The BMP-3 has similar versions, plus it served as the basis for the 2S31 120mm artillery system and a marine version (the BMP-3F). The airborne variant, the BMD, also spawned variants along the above lines.

The French AMX-10P also spawned numerous variants, including repair vehicles (AMX-10ECH), an anti-tank version (AMX-10P HOT), command (AMX-10PC), and artillery observation and support (AMX-10P with RATAC, AMX-10 SAO, AMX-10 SAT, and AMX-10 VOA). The Atilia artillery fire control system also uses the AMX-10P.

The British Warrior IFV has also spawned command post, artillery support, recovery, combat repair, and an anti-tank version with the Milan ATGM. Alvis has also created a 105mm light tank, a Desert fighting Vehicle with firing ports for the mounted infantry, anti-tank versions with other missile systems (TOW, HOT, and Swingfire being possible 
options), and anti-aircraft versions (with any cannon in the 20 to 40mm range, or surface-to-air missiles like Stinger and Starstreak).

Two IFVs, though, deserve special recognition for versatility: The Canadian LAV-25 used by several countries and the Marine Corps, and the Stryker. The former system has IFV, anti-tank (with the TOW), anti-aircraft (Stinger missiles and the same GAU-12 used on the AV-8B), logistics, command post, mortar carrier (with an 81mm mortar a new version, the LAV-EFSS will have a 120mm mortar), and recovery. The only variant the Marines have passed on are the assault guns (either 90mm or 105mm guns), since they have the M1A1 Abrams.

The U.S. Armys Stryker, which will equip the medium brigades, has rolled out with ten variants out of the starting gate. In addition to the slightly under-armed IFV (M1126), the Strykers variants include a reconnaissance version (M1127), a 105mm assault gun (M1128), a mortar carrier (M1129), command post (M1130), fire support (M1131), engineering support (M1132), ambulance (M1133), anti-tank (M1134), and NBC reconnaissance (M1135). The only missile variant, an anti-air variant, would have been redundant due to the presence of the Avenger, which is based on a HMMWV chassis. Strykers versatility will make it a top contender for when the Army needs to replace the many M113 variants when they wear out. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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