The infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) is pretty much a concept that invents itself.
In some of the first ever tank operations it was not possible to take advantage of objectives gained since the vehicles had outpaced the infantry.
Later conflicts were to demonstrate that armour was vulnerable to infantry at close range and that it was imprudent for armour to operate without infantry support.
The infantry needed some means to keep up with the tanks and the obvious solution was a vehicle of their own.
Such a vehicle needed cross-country mobility at least equal to that of the tanks, so half-track and latter fully tracked infantry carriers were devised.
Some protection against snipers and shell fragments was desirable so these vehicles were armoured.
It was also logical that the vehicle should have some means to protect itself and the capability to provide support fire for dismounted infantry. The earliest carriers were armed with machine guns, although they were often accompanied by variants mounting infantry guns, light howitzers or anti-tank guns.
The modern infantryman desires carrier armament that has some capability against buildings and vehicles as well as personnel.
The role of the infantry fighting vehicle is often misunderstood, however.
They are not light tanks with passenger seats, nor are they a sort of mobile pillbox from which the infantry can fight.
Like any other personnel carrier, their primary role is the transportation of FOOTSOLDIERS.
What armament they have is intended for defence or to support the operations of dismounted infantry.
Many Western IFVs lack a sufficient assortment of different weapon types to effectively do this, which is why IFVs are sometimes dismissed as being no more effective in practice than machine gun-armed APCs.
An IFV needs to have weaponry sufficient to give it an anti-tank/vehicle, anti-personnel and demolition capability.
Three possible configurations of armament suggest themselves for maximum versatility and effectiveness:
The Type 2 configuration is also suitable for a dedicated vehicle-destroyer while the Type 3 would be useful for a combat engineer vehicle.The most useful turret configuration I see for an IFV is a one-man turret with:
Helicopter-missile systems can engage vehicles at ranges exceeding six kilometres. This is beyond the effective range of current and proposed IFV cannon armament.
Use of better protected front-line combat vehicles such as heavy-IFVs and TPCs is likely to increase. These will be too heavily armoured to be vulnerable to IFV autocannon, and will require anti-tank weapons to engage.
There is little point in fitting larger calibre autocannon on IFVs if there is not practical advance in performance or capability.
If we accept that the IFV autocannon cannot engage distant aircraft and well-armoured vehicles, we may optimize our choice for the roles it will be used for. This suggests that a weapon using the LW30 30x113Bmm round such as the M230/XM914 chain gun, Venom LR or the ASP-30.
The LW30 has adequate power to demolish rock sangars or damage civilian building structures. Penetration of brick can be expected to be similar or better than that of a 40mm HEDP grenade.
A LW30 round has ample power against lightly armoured and soft-skin vehicles. The M789 HEDP round can penetrate a BMP-1 or BMP-2 series vehicle out to 4,000 metres.
With air-burst capability added to ammunition, the “LW30-ABM” round will be effective against entrenchments, infantry in the open and small airborne target such as drones. A proximity-fused round is already offered for the anti-drone role.
The M230/XM914 and ASP-30 are lighter and more compact than most alternate choices, allowing more effective use of vehicle interiors. The weapons are lighter than most smaller calibre cannon.
The LW30 ammunition is also more compact, allowing more rounds to be carried.
While the LW30 round lacks the impressive muzzle velocity of some other cannon rounds, muzzle velocity is close to that of a .50 calibre machine gun bullet and effective ranges of 2,000 to 3,000 metres are possible, with 4,000 to 4,700 metres claimed as a maximum.
Engagement ranges for an LW30 and a supposedly more powerful 30x165mm are the same in actual practice.
Since the HEDP round relies on its explosive content for effect, penetration and lethality do not significantly decrease with range, unlike some alternate choices.
The HEDP is multi-role, so only one type of ammunition need be carried. This eliminates the mass and complexity of a dual-feed mechanism.
An air-burst ammunition capacity requires a laser rangefinder, so a sighting system that automatically compensates for the LW30’s trajectory would be practical.
This is the only data on the net Ive been able to find:
Basically the ASP-30 can fit any mount that will take a .50 BHMG including the M3 ground tripod.
Weapon weight is 52kg (114lb). Cyclic rate of the ASP is 400-450rpm. The ASP-30 uses the same ADEN/DEFA 30x113B ammo as the M230 Chain Gun. In US service the most common 30x113B rounds are the M789 HEDP (HEAT-Frag), M799 HEI and M788 TP. Muzzle velocity is 2,690fps (820m/s).
As can be seen from the image below the ASP can be mounted on light vehicles such as the M113.
Report from Desert Storm on the performance of 30x113Bmm weapons mounted on AH-64 Apache Gunships:
The 30mm gun systems were very lethal and destroyed targets at ranges out to 4 kilometers when accurate. One T-72 turret (rear portion) was penetrated by 30mm HEDP rounds.
The M789 HEDP round can penetrate a BMP-1 or BMP-2 series vehicle at ranges out to 4,000 metres.
Sadly, the 30mm ASP never got past preproduction. I believe a European company may have offered a similar weapon at around the same time, but this also was not adopted.
Many forces now use large numbers of light and protected mobility vehicles. Most of these vehicles cannot mount weapons larger than automatic grenade-launchers or heavy machine guns. One would think a weapon like the ASP would be considered again, particularly if given air-burst capability.
I suspect South Korea or China will offer something like the ASP in the near future.
Programmable fusing involves the shell having a timed fuse which can have the delay set just before the round is fired. A laser rangefinder determines the distance to the target and the fuse is told to explode the shell so many metres from the gun’s muzzle.
Current term for rounds using this technology is ABM or Air Burst(-ing) Munition.
This is the system proposed for the OICW and OCSW and installed in the 40mm Mk47 Striker Grenade launcher.
ST Kinetics of Singapore offers a kit that will convert any 40x53mm AGL to fire such rounds.
The system has also been successfuly demonstrated in high-velocity 30mm cannon rounds.
An ABM-HEDP round should be suitable for most targets.
A mortar shell could be used for high-trajectory shots. This would have just enough propellant to cycle the action, the rest of the case being taken up by the high-capacity warhead.
Both the ABM-fused 30mm ammo and 30mm mortar shells already exist or are in trial phase.
The co-axial machine gun will probably be a 7.62mm weapon, though it could also be the proposed .50 Hose firing flechettes and sabotted penetrator rounds.
The mountings for the rocket packs and ATGW tubes could be constructed as pylon mounts, so a variety of other configurations are possible.
At least one vehicle in each infantry company will probably carry a pod of Stinger-type SAMs.
Other weapons such as mini-guns, smoke-laying GMGs or flame-projectors are also possible.
The rockets would probably be based on the 2.75" FFAR.
Current models of FFAR are designed as aircraft armament.
The Mk66 rocket motor gives an initial velocity of 148 fps which rises to a maximum of 2425 fps at 397 metres. Fuses such as the M423 arm at 43 to 92 metres while the M439 used with flechette and MPSM rounds does not operate until at least 500m from the launcher.
Such settings are fine for airborne or artillery applications but for direct-fire from combat vehicles a rocket with a fast-burning motor to give a higher initial velocity and fuse with a shorter minimum range would be desirable.
Ground direct-firing may allow a shorter maximum-range, allowing warhead size to be increased.
Rockets with flechette warheads will give the vehicle capability against both personnel, light-vehicles and helicopters.
It may be possible to construct packs of rockets that fit inside existing ATGW tube designs.
Laser-guided versions of FFAR rockets are now available.
The FFAR rockets were originally developed as air-to-air weapons to bring down bombers.
The 1950s F-94C fighter was armed with 48 FFARs instead of guns: a 12-round pod on each wing and 24 in a ring around the nose.
What is interesting is that these rockets were fired from blind-ended tubes. The FFAR is robust enough to withstand the pressure of firing this way.
This suggest that FFARs could be fired from ground vehicles without backblast, meaning less risk to nearby dismounts.
The section contains my more recent thoughts on the subject of including anti-tank guided weapons (ATGW) in the armament of an IFV/APC. Older ideas are in the sections below.
The primary role of a carrier is transport, not destroying tanks. Obviously, this statement is about personnel carriers, not specialist anti-armour variants.
If a tank must be engaged, SLMs and ATGW may be fired from the roof-hatch of the troop compartment. Better tactics are for the ATGW team to dismount and keep the carrier hidden.
Having the option of being able to launch a missile from under armour has some merit, however. For example, some ATGW have variants with thermobaric, anti-bunker or blast-fragmentation warheads. These have an obvious application for anti-ambush or defence suppression.
Including an anti-tank missile system in the armament of a carrier must be weighed against cost, added complexity and likelihood of use.
Notably, many Russian APCs that mount missiles use infantry-ATGW systems such as AT-3 Sagger, AT-4 Spigot and AT-5 Spandrel. Missiles may either be fired by the vehicle, or by dismounted troops. In contrast, the few Western APCs that mount ATGW tend to use heavy systems such as TOW.
Rather than mounting heavy missiles such as TOW or Hellfire, a better approach may be to design into the turret the option of fitting a mount to fire infantry-ATGWs. Spike-SR/MR/LR may be a suitable system for this purpose.
A missile system with a fire-and-forget mode has obvious advantages for mounting on an APC/IFV. If engaging a tank “shoot-and-scoot” is preferable to fire-and-follow.
The ATGW system will have one, preferably two missiles ready to launch.
This could be TOW but a higher velocity weapon with some anti-helicopter capability will be better (see later).
It is also possible that the vehicle could carry a mix of terminally-guided, fire-and-forget and top-attack munitions.
The ATGW tubes could also launch an unguided rocket with a HEAT-MP-Frag or HESH warhead and a fast-burning motor for high acceleration.
The missile-launcher rockets fill a similar tactical role to recoilless-rifles, being intended for close-range anti-tank and demolition.
Fired at higher trajectories, they may have a useful longer range role.
We cant really consider IFV armament without some consideration of turret design.
Most MG-armed APCs and some IFVs with heavier armament have a crew of two: driver and vehicle commander. The commander also serves as the gunner.
The commander fires in support of the dismounted infantry and directs the driver to manoeuvre to facilitate this.
In most armies, the most senior soldier in a mechanized squad is the leader of the dismounted element.
Some APC/IFV designs have a position for the squad-leader when he is mounted, with his own hatch and vision blocks.
This is most obvious on variants of the M113 such as the Turkish TIFV, Korean KIFV/K2000 and United Defense/FMC AIFV.
These have two cupolas side by side, the one for the vehicle commander usually fitted with gunshields or a one-man turret.
The BMP-1 and British Stormer also have positions for the dismount team leader.
Things get less clear when a vehicle has a two-man turret. The turret is a good position for the squad-leader to occupy since it lets him view the lay of the land.
Theoretically, there should be no reason why a vehicle with a two-man turret cant fight with a two-man crew in the same manner as a vehicle with a one-man turret.
In many armies, however, vehicles with two-man turrets are always operated with both seats filled. In the Bradley platoon the platoon leader rides in the turret but when he dismounts his seat is taken over by a fourth crewman, the assistant gunner.
The likelihood of battle damage and crew attrition means that it is probably prudent if two-man turrets are designed so that they can be operated by a single crewman. This means that both positions should have identical controls and equal access to sensor systems.
One potential disadvantage of the two-man turret is that some designs limit the space available for a large roof hatch over the troop compartment.
A large roof hatch has often proved useful on the vehicles that have them.
A large hatch allows relatively bulky weapons such as SLMs or MANPADS to be brought quickly into action.
A large hatch also allows the occupants of the troop comparment to observe or fire towards different quadrants at the same time.
In the past, 60mm gun-mortars have mainly be used on armoured cars or APCs. They have considerable potential if paired with the automatic cannon of an IFV.
Gun-mortars can deliver high-explosive, smoke and illumination rounds to support mounted and dismounted operations.
Some combinations of weapon and ammunition have a range of 6,000 metres.
The gun-mortar can share ammunition with any 60mm platoon mortars that the infantry unit has.
There are several rounds that have been created especially for use from a 60mm gun-mortar.
The HEAT round has a penetration of 200mm against RHA or reinforced concrete and a direct-fire effective range of 500 metres.
The APFSDS round has a penetration of 25mm RHA, a velocity of 800-900m/s and an effective range of 1,000 metres.
The canister round contains 132-135 8 to 9mm balls and has a range of around 60 metres. At 50 metres range the pattern covers 25 square metres. The canister round can safely be used to backscratch lightly-armoured friendly vehicles.
The next generation of Bradley or Warrior-weight IFVs will probably mount larger-calibre guns, one likely choice being a 35mm weapon such as the 35/50mm Bushmaster III, Rheinmetall Rh 503 or South African LIW EMAK.
The Bushmaster III has a cyclic rate of 200rpm and uses the same 35x228mm ammo as the Oerlikon KD series (KDA, KDF etc) so muzzle velocity will be around 1,400m/s for APDS and 1,175m/s for HEI.
The AHEAD round is an anti-aircraft shrapnel round using programmable air-burst fusing and will probably see numerous applications against both ground and airborne targets.
AHEAD would be a useful round against small flying objects such as anti-tank missiles and UAVs.
The 35x228mm KDA cannon is an effective anti-aircraft weapon used in systems such as the Gepard Flakpanzer, Marconi Marksman turrets and a single-barrelled mount with associated air-to-ground firing systems is being developed for vehicles lighter than MBTs.
Twin 35mm Oerlikons have been demonstrated mounted on light tracks such as the M548 (M113) and the weapon is also used in the GDF guns used in systems such as Skyguard.
The KDA has a cyclic rate of 550-680rpm and there are obvious advantages to having ammunition common to both IFVs and ADA vehicles.
The Rheinmetall Rh 503 weapon has a rate-of-fire that can be varied from 150-400rpm and can be operated manually as a single-shot weapon in the event of power failure.
All of the weapons designated 35/50mm are designed to use bottle-shaped 35x228mm but can be converted to use cylindrical 50x330mm Supershot rounds by simply changing the barrel and a few minor components.
The 50x330mm round occupies the same space as the 35x228mm round, so the same number of rounds can be carried and they can be stowed and handled in the same way.
What is interesting about the Supershot is that not only is the APFSDS round sabotted, but so too is the proposed HETF-T round.
This feature, combined with the larger case capacity and a tractor sabot, means that switching to the larger calibre does not mean a reduction in velocity or increase in time-of-flight. These characteristic are in fact likely to be improved.
The intention seems to be for the HETF-T round to have programmable-fusing as a standard feature, giving the gunner the option of air-bursting shots to attack targets behind cover and increased hit-probability against fast-moving targets.
The setting of different rounds in a burst can be varied to give a wider pattern of coverage.
It is possible that we will also see some full-calibre rounds for this weapon such as canister and HESH.
Rheinmetall claim their 50x330mm APFSDS-T round has 50% more power than their 35x228mm APFSDS.
The 50mm APFSDS-T fires a 640gm tungsten penetrator at a muzzle velocity of 1,600m/s.
A short burst of such rounds will probably neutralize lightly armoured MBTs such as the widely used T-72.
HESH and canister loads for this weapon might also become available.
Ive just been informed that the British-made Starstreak missile has been successfully fired against ground targets and has shown sufficient penetration and destructive capabilities to make it a very effective anti-MBT system.
In brief, the Starstreak darts are claimed to each penetrate over a metre of armour at a range of 6,000m: nearly twice the range of a TOW.
While TOW takes 21 seconds to reach 3,750m, Starstreak takes less than 5 seconds to reach 6,000m.
Mounting Starstreak on a APC or IFV instead of TOW gives a considerably more capable and versatile system that can kill tanks, jets, armoured helicopters and destroy buildings.
Starstreak has nearly twice the range and a fraction of the flight time, making it harder for the target to deploy countermeasures or counter-fire.
The turret of a vehicle that mounts Starstreak will need to have a laser. Correctly designed, this can also serve as a range-finder for a OCSW or an autocannon using ABM ammo.
Such a laser can also designate targets for laser-homing projectiles such as FFAR, Hellfire, Copperhead, Paveway or Maverick.
Minimum range of the Starstreak is given as 300m, although whether this is an arming range or control range is not stated.
Given the high launch velocity of the Starstreak (0 to Mach 3 in under a second) it probably still has sufficient accuracy and kinetic energy to prove effective against targets closer than 300m.
For close-range operations such as MOUT, an idea that does suggest itself is dumb-streak;: using the Starstreak motor to propel an adapted 120mm tank or mortar shell.
The one-man turret system proposed above would integrate nicely with the Tank-CIWS system that has been proposed.
The Tank-CIWS would be mounted behind the troop hatch and be raised up on a stalk for a 360° field of fire.
The LIDAR, millimetric radar and thermal seeker of the Tank-CIWS would search for targets or threats while the systems on the one-man turret would be used to attack and designate.
On his webpage Carlton Meyer reports that AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles have been successfully launched from ground vehicles. For trials purposes, a modified HMMWV was used but for combat a vehicle such as a M113 or Bradley would be more useful.
Carlton points out that Fire Support Team Vehicles (FIST-V) already have laser-designators for guiding helicopter-fired Hellfires so it should be practical to launch Hellfires from launching racks on a FIST-V so they could destroy tanks or any targets up to four miles away, including attack helicopters.
For some missions, a missile-armed vehicle can be more effective than an expensive helicopter that can be shot down.
An advantage of the Hellfire is that is has a Lock-On-After-Launch (LOAL) mode that allows it to fired from a vehicle that only exposes itself momentarily and it then homes in on a target designated by another unit.
There is also now available the Brimstone missile, a fire-and-forget version of the Hellfire using a millimetric seeker.
Laser designators are likely to become standard equipment on many forms of combat vehicle so it is likely that we will see increased use of missiles such as Hellfire in a ground-launched role.
Bill Clarke writes:
I like the idea of vehicles mounting both cannon and missiles. I would mount the Hellfire ATGM in 2x3 cell launchers on GAU-13 equipped tankitas, but would also have IFVs with only this gun (for purposes of weight and cost).
PW: Since more GAU-13s would need to be produced, I suggest they be built with shallow rifling, a sort of semi-smoothbore to work better with the 30mm APFSDS rounds you have suggested.
BC: Also, the GAU-13 is an externally driven weapon, its ROF could be easily set to a level that would be within the capabilities of the firing platforms recoil capacity. On a heavier tankita, it could be set to the max. of 2,100rpm. On a LAV-sized vehicle, you could set it for around 800-1000rpm.
Also, it has a dual feed mechanism, so separate ammunition drums could be attached, giving the gunner the flexibility to engage with the appropriate ammunition type. Checked on the dual feed with an A-10 crewchief. Not used on the A-10, but it is a feature of the weapon.
I think I would use twin 1,170rd A-10 type ammo drums for tankitas, and a single 1,170rd ammo drum for a IFV. I would estimate that a 1 second burst (35rds) of 30mm 2:5 ratio (14 HVAPDSDU, 21 HEDP) would be more than enough against a T-80 or older tank, which would result in the ability for the IFV to kill up to 33 tanks with one drum- out to a range of about 1,500M. Surely, a 1 second burst would decimate any fortification that may be encountered. Remember, the HVAPDSDU rds also carry an incendiary effect, due to the pyrophoric nature of DU238.
Also, theres no question of the effect such a mix of ammo would have against personnel, light vehicles, and aircraft of all types. Not even an A-10 could withstand 35 hits of the above mentioned ammo.
PW: Such a high rate of fire may be unnecessary when firing in a ground to ground role. Id be inclined to experiment with a ten round burst mode.
BC: Also, since I have proposed such an IFV be based on the excellent, and readily available M113 (with suitable armor upgrading), which holds 11 infantrymen, I do not think a 55gal. sized drum of ammo would be size restrictive. The M113 could still easily hold an 8 man dismount squad. I also prefer the concept of a remotely operated gyro-stabilized turret. This would keep weight to a minimum, and really help to keep the vertical profile to a minimum. I would think the same wep./turret package, but with twin 1,170rd drums, would be highly effective and desirable for a two-man M-551 based tankita.
Further, I would arrange my force structure into teams, with 3 IFVs operating with 2 tankitas. This would give each plt/section 5 GAU-13s, 12 Hellfires, and 24 dismount infantry. I believe this would be a very powerful mix of forces/weapons.
A GAU-13 equipped AFV would CLEARLY outperform either a 75mm, a 75/120mm, or a 30mm or 40mm single or twin gun design against tactical attack fighters. When you lack a dedicated AA targeting system, there is simply NO substitute for ROF. A GAU-13 equipped vehicle has the ROF to hit an airborne target without needing serious computer/radar assistance.
A GAU-13 @ 2,100RPM and 4,200fps (or 4,400+FPS with your proposed shallow-rifling), with a 2nd GEN.FLIR is CLEARLY the best choice against fast movers. It would also easily eclipse any of the other primary armament configurations for target (infantry) suppression as well.
One final consideration that leans heavily in the rotary cannons favor is the huge psychological impact that 5 30mm gatling cannons would cause to the enemy. Having seen actual A-10/Avenger live-fire demonstrations, I can say that the sound is terrifying and LOUD!
PW: The 30x173mm gatling is probably well capable of anti-tank or demolition roles. Personally speaking, I think the 30mm PP-ASP/ATGW/FFAR is a better option for the M113, for weight considerations if nothing else. For a vehicle of Warrior or Bradley weight, or a tankita the GAU-13 does have more appeal. I can easily see a Bradley hull mounting an unmanned turret with a podded GAU-13.
Many new IFVs and upgrades are proposing single-barrelled 30x173mm weapons such as the Alliant Technical Systems Bushmaster II or Mauser MK 30. [
The 30x173mm round is the same round as used in the GAU-8, GAU-13 and Oerlikon KCA.
Muzzle velocity is in the region of 1,035m/s for HE-T and 1,450m/s for APFSDS.
The Bushmaster II can also be adapted to use the 30x170mm ammo used with the L21 RARDEN and Oerlikon KCB.
As an aside, it is worth remarking that the design philosophy behind the RARDEN was somewhat different to that of most automatic cannon.
Whereas most weapons can be considered to be overgrown machine guns, the RARDEN was designed with accuracy as a priority and is more of an SLR on steroids or a supersize anti-tank rifle.
By the Author of the Scrapboard :
Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence
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