Unfortunately of the authors of the idea, problems with classification are far from the most serious difficulties of wheeled vehicles. tanks. At the level of their ideology themselves, they have a number of characteristic features that over the years have provoked active debate in military circles, as well as among experts and lovers of military equipment. Most often, wheeled tanks are compared with heavy tracked armored vehicles, which is why discussions very rarely end with the consent of the parties. Let's try to figure out what the wheeled BMWs are good and bad for, and also try to predict the future of armored cars with powerful guns.
First of all, it is necessary to understand the prerequisites for the appearance of the first wheeled tanks and the formation of their appearance. If their older tracked cousins formed to work in European conditions, where the largest wars of the last century took place, wheeled armored vehicles with cannon armament are to some extent a “product” of the landscape of other continents. As an example of the first wheeled tank, the French Panhard AML armored car is often given, one of the modifications of which carried an 90-mm cannon. The wheeled suspension of this armored car has proven itself in Africa during various wars involving France. As for weapons, the CN-90FJ cannon was effective against almost all the targets French soldiers had to fight. However, the main impetus to the creation of a heavy armored car with a serious gun were fighting in southern Africa. The South African military quickly came to the conclusion that the most effective in the local conditions would be wheeled armored vehicles with, at a minimum, anti-bullet protection and anti-tank weapons, such as a cannon or anti-tank systems. At the same time, the first ideas appeared with regard to the armored vehicles of the MRAP system.
Wheel chassis were considered the most promising because of their good resource. During the battles with the Angolan armed formations, South African soldiers very often had to make long marches along the roads. Caterpillars of classic tanks in this case quickly fell into disrepair and the vast majority of the new technology began to do on a wheeled course. In addition, affected the production capabilities and geographical features of the area. Due to the comparatively hard ground of the savannahs, the tracked tank maneuverability characteristics turned out to be excessive, which, however, had almost no effect on the track wear. Such an interesting approach to the selection of the undercarriage ultimately affected the entire look of the South African army - even full-fledged self-propelled artillery installations were made on the wheelbase.
As a matter of fact, it was the good road performance on normal roads, together with the high propulsion resource, that became the main reason that other vehicles of similar appearance began to appear after the South African armored vehicles Ratel FSV90. Over time, the number of heavy armored cars with cannon armament reached the size at which it was possible to talk about the emerging trend. At the moment, the French ERC-90 and AMX-10RC, the Italian Centauro, the American M1128 MGS and other cars of this class are widely known. Russian military and designers have not yet decided on the need for such equipment for our armed forces, but have already shown interest in foreign developments that can help form a general idea of the design features of a wheeled tank.
It should be noted, basically you will have to be content with only constructive details. The fact is that of the entire mass of wheeled tanks in real large-scale hostilities managed to participate only the South African Ratel FSV90. Other vehicles of this class participated in battles only in small numbers and only in small local conflicts, where they had to fight with a poorly equipped opponent. So, in 1992, eight Italian Centauro were sent to Somalia, where they participated in a peacekeeping operation. Almost immediately it became clear that the power of the 105-mm LR cannons was superfluous to combat the overwhelming majority of targets encountered by the Italian peacekeepers. Therefore, most of the missions concerned the observation of the terrain and the release of information to the patrols, for which new observation instruments proved to be very useful. Heavy weapons armored vehicles used only in some cases for self-defense. At the same time, it was not without complaints. First of all, the soldier did not accept the strength of the tires. The condition of the roads in Somalia was, to put it mildly, unsatisfactory: even the main highway of the country, Imperial Highway, had not seen repairmen for four years by the time of arrival of the armored vehicles Centaur, and on other roads the situation was even worse. Because of this, Italian peacemakers too often had to change wheels due to permanent damage. Over time, Centauro began to be equipped with more durable tires. More serious problem was booking. The body of the Italian wheeled tank was made with the expectation of shelling from a 12,7-millimeter rifle weapons, but in some cases during the ambushes the “Centaurs” were seriously damaged by the DShK machine guns. More serious weapons, such as RPG-7 grenade launchers, could simply destroy the armored vehicle. For these reasons, the Italians urgently had to order ROMOR-A dynamic protection kits from the UK. Due to the timely strengthening of protection, Italy has not lost a single wheeled tank in Somalia.
It is noteworthy that during the fighting in Somalia, all the main shortcomings of the wheeled tank concept emerged. Despite preliminary calculations, in practice, the wheel propulsion did not have much advantage over the crawler one. Large maximum speed in real conditions was impossible due to the lack of good roads, and off-road wheeled vehicles were often worse than those of tracked vehicles. In addition, the "Centaurs" with the first version of the wheels, as already mentioned, were subject to regular tire damage. As for the chassis resource, due to specific loads when driving on rough terrain, the actual wear of parts was much higher than estimated, just at the level of tank tracks. As a result, all seeming advantages associated with various aspects of movement were “killed” by the real situation. In the future, the Centauro armored car was slightly modified, in particular, the running gear life increased.
The second "Somali" problem was related to the level of protection. When creating the first wheeled tanks, it was assumed that this technique would assume the role of the main tanks in conflicts with a weakly armed enemy. Therefore, most armored vehicles with heavy weapons are not equipped with counter-armor booking. Nevertheless, the very first cases of using wheeled tanks in local conflicts demonstrated, at a minimum, the dubious nature of such a technical solution. Cars with anti-bullet reservation can adequately resist the enemy, armed only with small arms. But against artillery or tanks, they are simply useless. Here you can also recall the excess power of weapons, which appeared even in Somalia. The result is a rather strange machine with a wheelbase, powerful weapons and weak protection. Throughout stories armored vehicles developed along the path of the balance of weapons and protection. Wheeled tanks, in turn, tried to break this technical "tradition", but did not achieve much success. Moreover, the installation of a powerful tool in the case of some BMTV had very interesting consequences. Most wheeled tanks have a relatively high center of gravity (higher than the tanks of the classical scheme), which, if the turret is rotated at a large angle from the longitudinal axis, can lead to the machine tipping to the side. Tracked MBT do not have such a problem.
As already mentioned, the Italian “Centaurs”, while working in Somalia, received additional protection modules. Other countries have taken the same path. For example, the American wheeled tank M1128 MGS of the Stryker family is equipped with a whole set of tools to enhance the level of protection. All these armored panels and anti-cumulative grilles increase the overall weight of the vehicle, which impairs its driving performance. At the same time, almost all wheeled tanks have a battle mass of no more than 20-25 tons, which is significantly less than the corresponding parameter of any modern main battle tank. As a result, the transfer of heavy vehicles with wheeled vehicles becomes more simple than transporting tanks.
Possibility of transporting wheeled tanks for military transport aviation by the forces of the most common aircraft (C-130 and the like) is one of the main reasons that this class of equipment continues to develop and until it leaves the military "scene". The military conflicts of recent years have led to the formation of a new concept for the use of troops, implying a quick transfer to the area of hostilities. The military of some countries developed this idea into an interesting form: the first to arrive at the battlefield is relatively light equipment, like armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, and all the same wheeled tanks. Further, if necessary, heavier armored vehicles like full-fledged tanks or self-propelled artillery can be delivered to the front line. Thus, light and medium armored vehicles, including wheeled tanks, are given the functions of the main striking force of the ground forces, which has high mobility.
Yet the use of wheeled vehicles with powerful weapons requires the right approach to planning operations. For example, wheeled tanks should not be encountered in combat with tracked or artillery, otherwise the result of this collision is unlikely to be good for vehicles on a wheeled course. In this case, wheeled tanks must fight with lightly armored vehicles of the enemy, for example, with armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, without entering the zone of destruction of their weapons. This applies to high intensity armed conflicts. In the case of counter-terrorism, counter-guerrilla or peacekeeping operations, the use of wheeled tanks also requires proper planning, but it is no longer necessary to “protect” wheeled armored vehicles from encounters with tracked tanks and artillery. At the same time, guerrilla attacks of the enemy may require an appropriate approach to the protection of vehicles, which must be performed in accordance with the concept of MRAP.
For specialists, it has long been no secret that wheeled tanks with tracked ones have only one word in the title, besides unofficial, as well as a large caliber gun. However, from time to time, in a different context, the issue of crowding out the main tanks with wheeled armored vehicles with heavy armament comes up. As is clear from the above facts, in the current state of affairs, a wheeled tank will not only be able to fully perform all the functions of the MBT, but even just get close to the latter in a number of characteristics. In this regard, the replacement of tracked wheeled vehicles, even if only partially, is out of the question. As for the future of wheeled tanks, the further development of this idea is likely to go along the path of improving protection while maintaining a relatively small combat mass. Armament should remain the same, because the installation of even more powerful guns than, for example, the Italian "Centaur", is associated with a number of technical problems that are simply impossible to solve, while retaining the existing advantages of this class of technology.
However, the last word in shaping the appearance of the wheel tanks of the future still remains behind the realities of the recent military conflicts in which this technology participated. During the practical application of all existing BMTV a large number of claims to the design have accumulated, some of which have already been resolved. Nevertheless, a considerable number of problems remain and their correction can significantly change the appearance of wheeled tanks. But, most likely, in this case, they will not be able to completely supplant the usual crawler tanks.
Nikolsky M.V., Ilyin V.E. Wheel armored vehicles. - M .: Astrel / AST, 2001