The Department of National Defense (DND) revealed to the Press recently that they were studying the possibility of acquiring more medium-sized armored vehicles to augment their forces. The DND said that such vehicles would fit well into any Urban Warfare scenarios like what happened in Marawi.1
For these vehicles, the DND noted some specific characteristics that they are looking for, and these are:
– Should weigh no more than 20 tons;
– Armed with a medium caliber cannon capable of breaching concrete walls.
Not sure why they specified a 20 ton maximum limit, it may have something to do with limiting the cost and complexity of the vehicle, and/or it may be related to our infrastructure’s ability to support the weight of such vehicles.
I also noticed that while the article I referenced above was titled, “DND Might Acquire Medium-sized Tanks”, the DND itself did not necessarily use the word “tank” but the more general term “armored vehicles” in their statements.
This could mean that wheeled vehicles are also being considered since a Tank is defined by general references as, “any heavily armed and armored combat vehicle that moves on two endless metal chains called tracks.”
’Medium Caliber Gun’
Regarding the “Medium Caliber Gun” requirement, some armed forces like those of the United States (US) generally define it as at least 20 mm but less than 105 mm in caliber.2 If we follow that definition, then we do have a number of such guns already on our vehicles, the most powerful of which are the Cockerill Mk 3 90 mm Low Pressure (LP) guns mounted on the LAV-300 vehicles of the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC).
The High Explosive Anti Tank – Tracer (HEAT-T) round of the Mk 3 can penetrate a 130 mm thick Rolled Homogeneous Armor (RHA) plate inclined at 60 degrees at all ranges.3 The priority of course is breaching concrete, but there is no straight up data on exactly how much Reinforced Concrete (RC) it can penetrate.
However, I think a rough approximation can be made based on how a weapon like the M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon System (LAW) is able to penetrate both RHA and RC. The M72 can penetrate 300 mm of RHA or the equivalent of 600 mm of RC4 for a ratio of 2 mm RC for every 1 mm of RHA, which works out to around approximately 260 mm of RC penetration for the Mk 3.
If our armed forces wants a more powerful gun, then there is the new Cockerill Mk 8 90 mm Medium Pressure (MP) which doesn’t have a HEAT-T round, but does have an Armor Piercing, Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot – Tracer (APFSDS-T) round which can penetrate a 150 mm thick plate of RHA inclined at 60 degrees (or roughly 300 mm of RC) at 2,000 meters,5 more at nearer distances.
The Mk 8 also does have the capability of firing the Falarick 90 Semi Active Laser Homing (SALH) guided missile which has a maximum range of 4,000 m and can penetrate 550 mm of RHA or approximately 1,100 mm of RC.
’Wheeled or Tracked?’6
Whether wheeled or tracked, each system has its own advantages and disadvantages. Tracked vehicles have the advantage of greater mobility since they can travel both on roads and rough ground.
However, for the same given weight they are reportedly more expensive to operate than wheeled vehicles, typically having 50-100% less range and slower by around the same margin. They also offer less comfortable rides for their passengers since their suspension systems are not as efficient and thus cause more felt vibrations. This becomes a factor more during long distance rides.
Wheeled vehicles on the other hand are cheaper to operate by up to half as much as they have up to twice the range of tracked vehicles. They also have better suspension systems allowing for more comfortable rides by their passengers. But they can’t travel as well on rough terrain because their wheels have up to more than twice the pressure on the ground per square area than the tracks on tracked vehicles.
It seems that tracked vehicles are best employed for short to medium range missions on rough terrain while wheeled vehicles are best for long range missions on paved or flat surfaces.
Now if the aim is to use these vehicles for combat in urban areas where roads are common, then it may be worthwhile to go with wheeled vehicles instead, although that means it may not be able to cross some rough terrain in some situations where they might be needed.
’Number of Wheels?’
If the government does decide to go with wheeled vehicles, the next question would be, how many wheels should the vehicle have? Generally the more wheels a vehicle has, the more survivable it is against mines. If a mine takes out just one of the wheels of a four-wheeled vehicle, for example, then that vehicle won’t be able to move anymore.
But if a similar thing happens to a six or more wheeled vehicle, then there is still a chance that it will be able to limp back slowly to its base or at least to a safer place. However, the more wheels a vehicle has, the heavier it gets and it will have higher maintenance costs due to the additional number of wheels.
By the look of things, it seems that a six-wheeled vehicle hits the “sweet spot” of the DND’s requirements in that they are lighter and more easily meets the under 20 ton requirement, have less maintenance costs than eight or more wheeled vehicles, and still has enough wheels to be more survivable than four-wheeled vehicles.
As for the vehicle’s armor protection, this can be covered by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Standardization Agreement (STANAG) number 45697 which specifies the level of protection of the occupants of Logistical and Armored Vehicles. The first edition was released in 2004, and it is now on its second edition released in 2012.
What’s nice about this standard is that it specifies protection from three main weapons threats to armor, namely Kinetic Energy (KE, or direct fire projectiles), Artillery and Mines. And there are up to six levels of protection for KE and Artillery, starting with KE Protection Level One which specifies 360 degree protection from 5.56 and 7.62 mm Ball ammunition fired from 30 meters and 155 mm artillery burst from 100 meters.
The highest KE Level Six on the other hand specifies protection from 30 mm Armor Piercing (AP) ammunition fired from 500 meters and 155 mm artillery burst from 10 meters. There is also a separate protection level for Mines which goes from Level One against Hand Grenades and similar devices all the way up to Level Four against Mines with 10 kg of explosives.
But the main threat to armored vehicles in Marawi were Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) which uses Shaped Charge or High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warheads, and unfortunately STANAG 4569 does not specify protection against those. But the S4569 standard armor can still be used in combination with specific Anti-RPG armor like Slat Armor (or also known as Cage Armor).
Slat/Cage Armor are basically bars of metal usually placed horizontally and spaced at a distance that is smaller than the diameter of an RPG round, which is at least 70 mm in diameter. It works mainly by deforming the Conical Liner of an RPG thus preventing an optimum plasma jet to be formed and penetrating the armor,8 and it has proven to work very well in actual combat conditions in the Middle East.9
Aside from the LAV-300 mentioned above, another AFP asset that fits into the DND’s description would be the FV101 Scorpion vehicles of the Philippine Army (PA), but these use the less powerful L23A1 76 mm Low Pressure (LP) gun.
The PMC only has around twelve units of the LAV-300,10 which could be one reason why the DND is looking for more vehicles like it. For the FV101 on the other hand, around 27 were active as of 2011,11 although no update on how many are still active now.
’Wheeled Vehicle Options’
Both the LAV-300 and FV101 are now out of production, but there are a lot of options available now for wheeled armored vehicles, although most of them are eight wheeled versions and over 20 tons in weight.
Some of the options that would fit the DND’s requirements include the six-wheeled PTL-0212 (also known as the WMA301) and the eight-wheeled ZTL/PTL-0913 made by China. Both are armed with a higher caliber 100+ mm guns, although their specific models and capabilities are unknown.
The PTL-02 has an all-around equivalent of S4569 KE Level Three (against 7.62 mm caliber AP Tungsten Carbide ammo) protection while the PTL-09 has the same level of protection, but only in the front. Its sides, roof and rear has a lower S4569 KE Level One (against 5.56/7.62 mm Ball ammo) protection. As a bonus, both vehicles are fully amphibious.
For those allergic to China, there are the Badak14 and Tarantula15 vehicles in service with the Indonesian armed forces. Both are armed with the same Mk 3 gun as our LAV-300 vehicles, and both have S4569 KE Level Three (against 7.62 mm AP Tungsten Carbide Core ammo) protection all around. The Tarantula is fully amphibious, but the Badak is not.
Mine protection level for all of the above mentioned wheeled vehicles are unknown, though.
’Tracked Vehicle Options’
Tracked vehicles armed with big guns that are under twenty-tons in weight are not as common, most are well over that weight limit at around 28-38 tons. One of the few around that meets the specs is the BMP-316 thanks to its use of Aluminum as material for its hull and turret.
It is in service with the Russian armed forces and has impressive armor protection of roughly equivalent to S4569 KE Level Six (against 30 mm caliber AP ammo) at its frontal arc and KE Level Two (against 7.62 mm caliber AP Steel Core ammo) for the rest of its body. As an added bonus, it is fully amphibious, and has a 30 mm gun as its secondary weapon.
Its 2A70 100 mm caliber gun though only fires High Explosive Fragmentation (HEF) rounds, which can only penetrate 25 mm of RHA or 50 mm of RC.17 But the 2A70 can fire SALH missiles like the 9M117M which has a range of 4,000 meters and can penetrate up to 600 mm of RHA or 1,200 mm of RC.18 The BMP-3’s Mine level protection is unknown, though.
A wheeled vehicle gives our armed forces more model options to choose from that will fit the specs, and is more economical and seem more ideal to use for urban operations. But it only has limited mobility as it can’t travel as well on certain types of rough terrain.
A tracked vehicle on the other hand can travel almost anywhere, but are more expensive to operate and not as many model options are available out there as of now that will meet the specifications.
If that 20 ton maximum limit is retained, then we might have to trade off to a lower level of protection if an all-steel construction is used for the vehicle.
Personally, I think that a vehicle with at least six wheels and armed with at least a medium caliber gun will be ideal for urban operations. At any rate, I am hoping to see this acquisition for our armed forces push thru, and soon.
URBAN WARFARE | DND might acquire medium-sized tanks,
Small and Medium Caliber Ammunition Production Support,
Cockerill CSE 90LP,
M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon System (LAW),
Cockerill LCTS 90MP,
Wheels or Tracks? On the ‘Lightness’ of Military Expeditions,
STANAG 4569 (Edition 2) – Protection Levels for Occupants of Armoured Vehicles,
McCurdy’s Armor™ vs. RPG,
Stryker slat armor protects troops,
Philippine Marine Corps to upgrade turrets of its armored fighting vehicles,
Philippines army to upgrade Scorpion tanks,
ZBD 09 Snow Leopard,
Badak FSV 90mm Fire Support 6×6 Armoured Vehicle,
Tarantula 90 mm Fire Support Vehicle,
BMP-3 Fighting Vehicle,
Tulamashzavod 3UBK10M missile,