US marines next to the VBCI French armored vehicle, which must be upgraded to be compatible with the future SCORPION armored vehicle family
After the end of the Cold War, the number of military equipment in many ground forces in Europe and other regions was significantly reduced, and programs to replace combat armored vehicles (BBM) were also curtailed. However, Russian activity in Eastern Europe and the ongoing wars in the Middle East have reawakened interest in acquiring the capabilities necessary to combat the full range of threats.
For many countries, this means investing in BBM, which in recent years has not been considered as a priority platform. Even the most seemingly advanced American military will operate in the foreseeable future, combat vehicles mainly the development of the 80-ies of the last century. As General Joseph Lanjil, head of the National Guard Bureau, said in December 2017, "it will take considerable resources and time to prepare again for the full range of combat operations."
Upgrade programs may be limited to adding one airborne system or may include comprehensive upgrades. The latter mainly includes the integration of more efficient, more reliable and lightweight systems and components in the parameters of the original base chassis and internal volume.
Currently, to meet even the most demanding operational needs with limited resources, a wide range of approaches and technologies is available - the international market for upgrading BBM is extensive and quite competitive.
Modernization of the integrated architecture of the machine allows access to information technologies and provides improved combat capabilities by increasing the level of situational awareness and implementing advanced network connections, both between on-board systems and between platforms. This type of work is often associated with large-scale rework, integration of the digital system, which in the future due to the open architecture will allow for modular upgrades. Similar improvements are also aimed at ensuring harmonization with the new BBM.
The United States Marine Corps (ILC) uses this approach to further develop its AAV (Amphibious Assault Vehicle) amphibious assault vehicle, manufactured by BAE Systems. “We need to turn analogous discrete units into digital, tied into a single network, the Marine Corps,” said a spokesman for the development of weapons systems for the Marine Corps.
Currently, SAIC is implementing as the main contractor a comprehensive SUP program (Survivability Upgrade Program) to improve the combat stability of the AAV armored vehicle, which first entered service in the 70-s of the last century. This will allow KMP USA to operate this machine effectively in online warfare up to 2035.
In the UK, the LSOA (Land Systems Open Architecture) land based system architecture - and the overall (standard) architecture for GVA (Generic Vehicle Architecture) vehicles - is used in most existing retrofit programs. For example, in the Warrior British Army's WCSP (Warrior Capability Sustainment Program) extension program aimed at extending the life of the machines of this family to 2040-s, the GVA-compatible Warrior Enhanced Electronic Architecture (BMI) will be used.
Other upgrades of machine configurations are step by step, mainly the integration of new onboard systems. The ground forces of most countries rely on them when upgrading their OBT. For example, the second-generation upgrade kit (SEP) V2 (System Enhancement Package - system improvement package) for the American Army’s M1-2 Abrams tank was implemented in 2000-x and allowed the entire machine to be digitized.
Initially, it was considered as an interim measure in anticipation of a major upgrade to the МХNUMXА1 standard. Meanwhile, the lack of funding and resources has led to the development of the modular SEP V3 update package with new diagnostic systems integrated into the GVA architecture, which will allow for the future adoption of electronics, updates and related software. This means that the new extended functionality is possible without the changes that were previously envisaged for the configuration МХNUMXА3.
The US Army followed a similar approach in upgrading its BMNUMX / M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, implementing several proposals for making technical changes instead of a comprehensive overhaul.
The improvement of vehicle electronics is an integral part of many machine architecture upgrades, implying the integration of displays and interfaces. Standards veteriki define the requirements for the human-machine interface, which are applicable to both new and updated BBM. They include the American Army Standard VICTORY (Vehicle Integration for C4ISR / EW Interoperability — the layout of the vehicle’s on-board systems for interoperability of operational controls, computers, reconnaissance and surveillance, and electronic warfare), the NATO GVA standard and the British LSOA. The American army integrates Vetronic compatible with VICTORY into its “Hummers” - HMMWV (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) armored vehicles.
The Combat Forces Command Platform system includes a multimedia messaging system that digitally receives, distributes and selects emergency and operational data.
Meanwhile, there is a significant need for BBM to operate as part of network operations, which require advanced automated battle management systems. An example of this is the French Scorpion combat information system developed by Atos Technologies. It is a key element of the BBOR SCORPION family being developed (the French acronym is “synergy of contact operations, enhanced by flexibility and information”). The system will also be installed when upgrading the French Army's Nexter VBCI 8x8 wheeled BMP, which will increase the levels of interaction and compatibility.
Similarly, the new German networks of automated control and command known under the designation MoTaco (mobile tactical communication) and MoTIV (mobile tactical information network) will also require the refinement of the current BBM. The process will begin with the first 50 of the Puma and Boxer operational control machines. According to the schedule, the new systems will reach initial combat readiness in 2023.
Many American Army armored vehicles were not originally intended to connect with automated command and control networks, but the solution was found in network situational awareness provided by the satellite device for tracking the position of their / Allied forces, which on a detailed map shows an almost real-time picture of their own and enemy forces. During the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the system became a standard in the coalition forces and was installed on the BBM of various types.
Based on this experience, the US Army is currently equipping its vehicles with the JBC-P system (Joint Battle Command-Platform — a military command platform with combined forces) and replaces outdated tracking devices.
Modernization of automated combat control systems integrated with the machine architecture will allow combat vehicles to use the so-called “Internet of Things”. As an example, smart batteries can be included that report the charge level and communicate with the central site via a wireless connection when charging or replacement is necessary.
The Swedish company Scania has installed a preventive maintenance program on 200 for thousands of its trucks. It allowed some of them to drive 150 thousands of kilometers before changing a remotely controlled engine oil, which significantly reduced operating and maintenance costs. The Internet of Things is offered as an embedded component of new BBM (for example, for the Ajax family of British Army vehicles) and as an upgrade to existing platforms. Still, its high prevalence in military systems is hampered by a high probability of cyber attacks and proprietary systems that lack a common standard.
When upgrading towers and combat modules, new weapons, sights, sensors and fire control systems are often introduced, which, as a rule, are compatible with some configurations and wind-driven vehicles. They allow you to increase the firepower of the platform without the need for major changes.
However, some lethality updates may include replacing the entire tower entirely. Among the many modernization programs with a similar approach, it is worth noting the British program to extend the capabilities of the Warrior WCSP BMP, according to which the 80 tower is being replaced by the Lockheed Martin UK, equipped with an XE-mm telescopic weapon system developed by the joint development of the UAE. Systems and Nexter.
During the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, upgraded turret systems and remotely controlled weapons modules (MSSA) were installed on many armored vehicles. The development of these systems now depends largely on countries seeking not only to meet their own operational needs, but also to be realized as a reliable supplier to the world market for their innovative products.
As an example, the Ukrainian military module Taipan and the Slovak EVPU Turra 30 mounted on a mini-protected JAIS armored vehicle can be cited; These modules are also offered for export. The Norwegian company Kongsberg was a pioneer in the development of MES, and its systems from the rather successful Protector family are well suited for both upgrades and installation on new machines.
Since 2014, there has been an increased interest in enhancing the power of weapons for armored vehicles due to the installation of new towers and a medium-sized CIDA, many of them uninhabited. This can be seen in the example of the American Army’s program for the modernization of Stryker armored personnel carriers based in Europe to the Infantry Carrier Vehicle-Dragoon (ICV-D) configuration. It consists of installing a Kongsberg DUMV armed with a stabilized 30-mm cannon, a paired 7,62-mm machine gun and Javelin anti-tank systems.
In accordance with this urgent modernization program, only a few weeks after the operational requirements were issued, the 81 machine was ordered in ICV-D configuration. In April, the 2018 stryker reconnaissance regiment conducted military tests and evaluation of ICV-D machines at the Hohenfels Training Center in April. Another addition to the armament of the European Stryker vehicles can be the anti-aircraft anti-aircraft gun, which is currently being tested.
The Nexter ARX25 DUMV, armed with the 25-mm M811 gun and Norinco's DUMV with the 4-mm gun, also allows for armor-piercing capabilities. When upgrading М30А1 Abrams SEP V2, a low-profile version of CROWS (Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station) will be installed.
On the safe side
The purpose of upgrading the protection system is to increase the survivability of the BBM while limiting the added mass. Modular booking projects offer special configurations for specific tasks, adding or removing protective modules from steel, composite or other modern materials. This approach is used in the previously mentioned AAV SUP armored vehicle and offers a level of protection against IEDs, which is currently achievable only in specialized platforms like MRAP vehicles. Another example is the modular security system developed by Roketsan for the Turkish national tank Altay.
During modernization, other protection systems are integrated into the basic BBM design. As an example, in the framework of the program of complete comprehensive modernization of the armored vehicle of the American army, the Stryker 8x8 receives a double V-shaped hull DVH (double-V hull), designed to repel a blast wave when it explodes a mine or IED. The first production machines in the new DVH A1 configuration were delivered in September 2017. The A1 configuration also includes the more powerful Caterpillar engine on the 450 HP. and reinforced suspension to compensate for the problems that may arise during the transition from a flat bottom to the configuration with a dual-frame DVH.
Additional protection is provided by dynamic protection systems whose task is to deflect a cumulative jet before it reaches the main armor of the vehicle. The return to Europe of the AST armored brigade groups in 2017 was accompanied by the installation of the M19 Abrams Reactive Armor Tile (ARAT) and M32 ARAT-2 dynamic protection kits.
However, the added mass (to protect the Abrams tank requires three tons of DZ blocks), the risk of premature explosions from small arms fire and the need to protect crew members leaning out of the car during detonation of DZ blocks - all this contributes to the fact that the US Army reluctantly considers dynamic protection systems as a durable solution.
The US military had practically never installed DZ systems to protect their BBM. Although the DZ in its present form was created in the 80-ies, the Brahley М2 / МЗ armored vehicles were not equipped with DZ kits until 2004, when they were included in urgent operational needs in Iraq; at the same time, similar systems on the BTR Stryker were installed even later.
The active protection complexes (KAZ), integrated with the sensors of the carrier platform, are capable of intercepting and neutralizing the attacking threats with their “anti-shells” of kinetic action. This concept began in the Cold War years, but the first “baptism of fire” of these complexes took place in Israeli tanks in 2011 year.
The company Rafael is currently promoting its active protection complex Trophy, which is currently installed on Israeli MBT Merkava Mk3 and Mk4 and Namer BTR. The developer also has in his portfolio solutions for the integration of KAZ Trophy on a number of modern tanks, including German Leopard 2 and Russian T-72.
The recently growing threats, including from Russia (which has its own KAZ technology), have forced the US military to invest in both ready-made systems and more long-term KAZ projects being developed to protect their BBM.
The Army and the USMC, in order to increase the level of security of their tanks, chose the Trophy complex as a ready-made solution. In September 2017, the army announced a contract with GDLS worth almost 10 million dollars to install the system on the upgraded M1A2 SEP V2 tank from the brigade group. "A trophy on Abrams tanks deployed in Europe will be installed by 2020, and maybe earlier," said the head of the American Army's KAZ program.
The decision on whether to purchase the Trophy for the entire army is expected to be made this year. The military are also considering the possibility of installing the KAZ Iron Fist from Israeli Military Industries on the Bradley BMP and Iron Curtain company Artis on the Stryker wheeled armored vehicles.
The modular KAZ of the American Army, Modular APS, is an experimental system with an open architecture that can be integrated with the onboard equipment of various types of BBM, starting with MBT and ending with a light tactical armored car. It will be able to use a variety of technologies to meet the rapidly emerging potential threats.
Other countries also implement the concept of modular KAZ as part of integrated complexes. The GL5 complex of the Chinese company Norineo consists of four radar stations (mounted on corners of the hull or tower of the tank) and four fixed “masts” installed either on the roof of the tower or on its sides. On each mast three trunks with protective charges mounted at different angles are fixed. The British Army is also developing a defense system for its Challenger 2 tanks as part of the Icarus research program. Multifunction Self-protection System developed by Hensoldt, installed on the German Puma BMP, was also adapted for the Challenger tank.
The modernized Iraqi tank T-72 (recognizable by the secure installation of weapons installed on the commander’s hatch) takes part in combat shooting at the Besmaya range
Last year, the British Minister of Defense announced a contract with Leonardo to work out solutions for integrating KAZ into new and modernized platforms.
The vulnerability of the BBM with closed hatches and crew members stuck out of the car has already been demonstrated thousands of times in past world wars and in conflicts in the Middle East. Therefore, one of the goals of ongoing upgrades is to improve visibility by increasing the level of situational awareness, an improved process of detecting, capturing and shelling targets.
Optoelectronic and thermal imaging devices connected to on-board image processing systems give the driver and commander a circular view of the 360 ° in any weather, covering the dead zones that somehow appear during observation from the car. For example, RFEL Trailblazer is compatible with the British GVA standard for these benefits.
Advanced thermal sights are one of the most important BBM systems. For example, such sights are included in the upgrade option for the M1А2 SEP V3 tank, whose deployment will begin at the end of the 2020 year; they are also included in the modernization kits of the T-72М1 tanks offered by Russia for export.
In July, 2017, the Indian Defense Procurement Council approved a program worth 36 million dollars to enhance the combat capabilities of its armored vehicles at night by installing an improved sensory kit produced by a local state enterprise.
A similar approach is being studied in the framework of the DARPA Management program called Ground X-Vehicle Technology, according to which sound locators, laser range finders and infrared technologies will be used to create a multispectral image in BBM. Trials to test this concept began in the 2016 year.
Valued for its mass
One of the most popular areas for the modernization of BBM is the installation of new power units with a more powerful diesel engine and improved transmission. Since many improvements lead to increased machine weight and power consumption, additional engine power is needed to maintain mobility. At the same time, users want high reliability, low operating costs and uniformity with existing engines. Given this, the new AAV SUP cars will be equipped with a Cummins VT903 diesel engine with 675 hp power, an improved transmission and a new power take-off. This ensures that their increased level of protection (similar to the level of protection of the MRAP machines) will not adversely affect the speed on land, while the speed on the water will increase due to axial propulsion.
The Ukrainian modernized armored personnel carriers BTR-4MB1 produced by the Kharkiv V. Malyshev Transport Engineering Plant in Kharkov were first introduced in October 2017. Thanks to the new diesel engine Deutz and the transmission of the American company Allison, the car retained its mobility and speed - 110 km / h on the highway and 10 km / h on the water - the previous options, despite enhanced protection and additional onboard systems that increased its mass by three tons.
However, modern BBM may require more power than the engine alone can provide. Technologies such as hybrid drives, improved batteries, and energy storage systems are among the solutions being considered for the modernization of military equipment.
The US military conducted tests of integrated generators from DRS Technologies on commanding armored vehicles HMMWV. According to reports, one such upgraded vehicle was able to provide the power that two HMMWV vehicles previously generated to power generators on 15 kW previously generated.
The negative impact of a larger mass can be reduced by developing suspension systems, tracks and wheels, which also helps to resolve the issue of vibration and minimize damage to the roadway. For example, after installing an improved protection system and a larger engine, the AAV SUP platform required a new suspension with turning dampers and updated torsion shafts, which increased ground clearance by 76 mm.
Alternatives to steel tracks are becoming more affordable. In October, Omsktransmash, a Russian manufacturer of tracks for heavy vehicles, announced a new line for the production of improved light tracks for the T-2017 tank and its modifications, which will also reduce maintenance labor costs.
Rubber tracks in their classic form have less rolling resistance, reduced noise and vibrations and last twice as long as steel tracks. These advantages led the British army to choose rubber tracks for their Warthog cars in Afghanistan.
Wheels for modern military vehicles are specially designed to withstand increased mass and power. Stryker armored vehicles, for example, are “shod” into the improved Michelin XML wheels. The GDLS Wheeled Combat Vehicle Demonstrator prototype features a number of potential upgrades designed for the Stryker series. One of them is the new 365 / 80 R20 mountable wheels with Hutchinson protective screens to reduce radar and thermal signs of visibility.
Modernization of the BBM provides the ground forces with an alternative to the new platforms, which, nevertheless, provides access to modern information technologies at the “front line” of combined-arms mechanized combat operations. This is particularly true for MBT, which, despite a limited number, is very important in such hostilities and, thanks to modernization programs, will dominate future battlefields before 2035-2050.
Although new, lighter BBMs will continue to be developed, most countries ’military people are not eager or have modest opportunities to develop and purchase a full line of new generation BBM with common architecture and onboard systems, as witnessed by the canceled program of the American Army Ground Combat Vehicle.
Although the time and money required for upgrades may complicate their implementation for many countries, they do offer a way to achieve critical operational readiness. As General Langil said: “We could not modernize our forces as we would like. But our high-quality military component must be restored. ”
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