Last year I got to browse a manual for the World War Two Churchill Infantry tank. Interestingly, the smoke grenade launcher was not the externally mounted multi-barreled device we are familiar with today.
This resembled a flare gun with the muzzle outside the tank and the breech inside. I’d guess the calibre was about 2.5" since that was standard for British grenades of this period. For an illustration of this system see Picture. 2" was the calibre of British grenade launchers in the interwar period, but I suspect the projector was in fact 2.5", but I may be wrong.
I’ve also encountered references to Tiger tanks having anti-personnel explosive launchers that could be reloaded from inside the tank. One form was similar to the Churchill’s grenade launcher.
A Breech Loaded Vehicle Grenade Launcher (BLVGL) might still be a useful piece of equipment. Smoke-laying could be left to the multi-barreled grenade launchers (MBGLs) while one or more BLVGLs could fire tactical grenades such a anti-personnel, CS gas and Illumination rounds.
The BLVGL would be 66mm calibre and capable of using the same grenades as the MBGLs.
The BLVGL could be fired at high elevations to drop grenades close to the vehicle for local defence. Some of the 66mm grenades should be capable of being hand thrown out of hatches for use as defensive “tanker’s grenades”. American 66mm grenades are based on British models, and some British 66mm grenades designed for use with the L1A1 riot grenade launcher can be hand thrown, so the mechanisms already exist.
The 66mm anti-personnel grenade would be a “magnum” defensive grenade, and may find other applications such as booby traps.
An entry in Jane’s Armour and Artillery Upgrades 2003-4 has a system called “Reactor” proposed by Thales, UK. Reactor is a four-barrel smoke discharger that is computer controlled for both traverse and elevation and reloaded by an automated under-armour system. Reactor can be linked to the vehicle’s threat detection system so grenades can be fired in the direction of a hostile laser designator or towards an incoming missile.
Reactor offers several advantages over existing vehicle-mounted discharger systems.
A vehicle fitted with Reactor could place smoke or anti-personnel grenades right on top of the enemy’s position or anywhere else they are wanted. Alternately Less-lethal riot gas or distraction grenades can be use. This latter capability may see Reactor being installed on vehicles other than MBTs. Fragmentation grenades for use with vehicle dischargers are by no means new, but it should be possible to create a munition that throws most of its fragments ahead of it on detonation. This would be less hazardous to friendly infantry close to the vehicle. It might also give the reactor some capability against incoming missiles and RPGs in similar fashion to APS systems such as Drozd.
Another useful round for Reactor would be a “backscratcher bomb”:a fragmentation grenade that detonates a few metres after launch, clearing the immediate area around the tank of hostile infantry. In an urban environment fragmentation grenades projected by the Reactor can be used to engage enemies on roofs or high stories that cannot be fired upon by tank weapons with more limited elevation.
The version of Reactor illustrated had only four-barrels. When such systems enter service it is likely that they will have between six and nine barrels and be ready loaded with a selection of smoke, flare, chaff, decoy and fragmentation grenades.
“See and Shoot” Boxes.
This is another close-in defensive system for vehicles such as tanks.
In this interesting article the author suggests that the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann driver’s backward driving system can be adapted to cover a tank’s blind spots and dead zones.
My modification is simple. Near each camera box mount an armoured box containing a self-loading shotgun loaded with flechette shells. The M1014 JSCS guns would be suitable for this role, and using them up for this would allow the infantry to acquire more effective weapons with box magazines. Each M1014 can hold seven 12g shells, each loaded with twenty 1.5" long flechettes. There are also shotshells that project a cloud of burning particles. At some locations more than one shotgun may be mounted. An aiming mark on the TV screen would cover one inch of the target for each yard of range, which is the approximate spread of a shotload.
If a camera can see an enemy in close proximity to the tank then he can be fired upon. There would probably be some form of “panic button” that fires all the guns on one side. In certain situations the shotguns can be loaded with less lethal rounds that fire clouds of tear gas (OC) or rubber pellets.
Rhodesian was involved in a long drawn out guerilla war. As well as gaining considerable expertise in anti-mine warfare the people of Rhodesian also developed some very effective anti-ambush weapons. Many of these are described in “Taming the Land Mine” by Peter Stiff.
The majority of these weapons used 10 or 12 gauge shotgun rounds, either in batteries or single barrels mounted where ever there was room.
A more novel device was mounted on many police cars and consisted of two captured AK-47s and a solenoid firing mechanism. The guns were mounted in the back of the car, one pointing to each side. A switch on the dashboard determined if the right, left or both weapons fired when triggered. In event of an ambush the driver put his foot down and allowed the AK-47s to hose the roadside.
The drawback of this device was that the standard magazines only had enough ammo for three seconds of firing. Once this was understood terrorists would stage several mock ambushes to exhaust the guns.
A modernized system could use two or more 22LR SMGs such as the MGV-176. The four-barrelled belt-fed weapon suggested here would be even more effective.
Such a gun system could be mounted on light vehicles, such as jeeps or larger vehicles such as trucks and APCs.
Another Rhodesian system carried a battery of aging bolt action rifles fitted with EY cup dischargers.
A similar effect could be gained by loading MBGLs with Anti-personnel grenades and mounting them on the sides of vehicles. Franchi have built a launcher that can fire a pair of rifle grenades and multiples of these could be used on vehicles. A similar device mounting about twelve Fly-K projectiles in three tiers was also produced. There are also MBGLs that use 40mm grenade cartridges.
The Daddy of Rhodesian Anti-ambush weapons has to be the Holland-Hale Organ.
This resembled a section of girder with 1.5" holes spaced along it. Each hole was a chamber that was loaded with rocket powder and a pound or so of chopped metal bar.
Each of the chambers was electrically fired, usually in a salvo, although side batteries might be rippled as the vehicle speeded through an ambush. Essentially the Holland-Hale organ delivered the 20th century vehicle equivalent of a broadside of grapeshot from a 18th century man-o-war.
The Holland-Hale was not a device that you would notice unless you knew what it was. Mounted on the front and rear of a vehicle it looked like a bumper and did not look out of place on a truck or wheeled APC. Mounted on the sides it looked like a step.
Ralph Zumbro comments:
In combat in RVN we kept losing TCs until we got it right. Lt Nolan took an RPG in the chest. Sgt Mitten wounded in the shoulder. Sgt Watanabe in the head, Sgt Bell in the neck. Sgt took an RPG in one of those vision blocks and it dished his brain out. I took over that tank.
The solution (partial) was to provide the TC with an large supply of grenades.
To ride infantry on the fenders and have them dismount and stalk along just behind the tank to clear snipers and RPG artists.
To mount claymores on the sides of the hull and turret and control them from inside. We fired them with the vehicle electric circuit, not the clackers.
We also tended to deal with attacking enemy infantry by buttoning up and clobbering each other's tanks with coax and canister, trying not to pierce the beer cooler.
I have several times in military expositions, suggested that command detonated ERA for infantry defense be developed. So far no takers. Putting a layer of BBs on one or two rows on ERA wouldn't degrade its Anti-HEAT capability.
Another nasty trick we had was to put a grenade on a spare antenna mount with a blasting cap that could be fired from inside. One TC put a pound of C-4 up there and wrapped it with barbed wire that he'd filed notches into.
Add grenade launchers that also throw frags.
By the Author of the Scrapboard :
Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence
Available in Handy A5 and US Trade Formats.