<XMP><BODY></xmp>Future Armoured Vehicles and Formations: A Russian View.

Added 21-7-17
Updated 24-4-18

Future Armoured Vehicles and Formations:
A Russian View

Many of the ideas on the Scrapboard are the products of logical deduction. It is therefore not surprising that others with the same data will reach similar conclusions. An interesting example of this is a paper that was sent to me recently. It is authored by Marshal of Armoured Forces OA Losik and Major General ON Brilev. The automated translation from Russian throws ups some novel turns of phrase but it is clear that many of the recommendations of this paper are consistent with ideas and concepts covered by the Scrapboard in the last few decades. Looking at some of the military hardware recently appearing in Russia there seem to be indications that at least some of the concepts in this paper may be being put into practice.

The following article looks at a possible structure for a near-future armoured force based on Losik/ Brilev and Scrapboard ideas. Attention is also given to Russian military systems that might be compatible with such an organisation.

The “front-line” forces of this model are based around two families of tracked vehicle. One family is based around a “mobile chassis” that is amphibious and light enough to be easily air-transported. The second family is based on a more armoured “heavy chassis”.

Certain formations exclusively use the mobile chassis. This includes rapid deployment forces such as the airborne forces and naval infantry. Army formations tasked with reconnaissance, raiding and rapid reaction also use the mobile chassis.

Heavy formations are equipped with mixture of heavy and mobile vehicles. These units conduct “conventional” offensive and defensive operations including the relief and reinforcement of gains made by more mobile formations. The heavy formations can be considered as intermediate between the more traditional Russian tank and motor rifle formations.

Mobile Chassis

The mobile chassis vehicles are both amphibious and air transportable. Specialist formations such as the airborne or naval infantry will be mainly equipped with the mobile vehicles. Heavier, more conventional forces will include elements equipped with mobile chassis vehicles. Mobile vehicles will be used for raids, reconnaissance etc. Losik/ Brilev states that these vehicles will either be in the 15 t or 25t classes, noting that due to buoyancy requirements the level of armour protection for both classes is likely to be similar. There seems to be some indications that Russia is developing vehicles in both weight classes. The Kurganets-25 IFV and APC seems to meet the army's needed for a mobile tracked vehicle. The Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) are a separate branch of the military. Most of their mobile chassis requirements are likely to be met by existing or proposed variants of the BMD-4, BTR-D or BTR-MDM, allowing more vehicles to be carried in each airlift.

Mobile Chassis Main Combat Types

Light Tank

A variant of the BMD-4 mounting a 125mm gun, a replacement for the similar 2S25, has already been exhibited. This may be one of the vehicles that fills the light tank role for Airborne forces. A Kuganets-25 mounting a 125mm gun is allegedly planned.

Infantry Fighting Vehicle

IFV needs may be met by either the Kurganets-25 (Army) or BMD-4 (VDV). The Naval Infantry may go for either system, with the Kurganets-25 possibly being the more likely.

Close Support Indirect Fire

VDV already use the 2S9 Nona SP gun-mortar for both direct and indirect fire support. The same system could be mounted on a K-25 hull.

Air Defence Artillery

Increased engagement ranges may see longer ranged missiles and larger calibre guns used for air defence. Vehicles mounting radar or other detection systems are likely, as are directed energy weapons. The VDV already use a number of BTR-D variants for air defence. These include 23mm SPAAG carriers and vehicles carrying MANPADS teams. The Russians have exhibited a BMP hull mounting a 57mm gun. A Kurganets vehicle with a 57mm SPAAG has been proposed. A K-25 with a Tunguska-type gun and missile turret is a possibility and has obvious additional applications against ground targets.

Anti-Tank Guided Weapon Carriers

The more lightly armoured mobile forces will need to increase their defensive capability by fielding a number of ATGM systems. Many of the more recent ATGW systems have non-line of sight (NLOS) and over the horizon capabilities (OTH), giving them additional roles as precision artillery systems. ATGM carriers based on the BTR-D are already in service with the Airborne forces and a K-25 variant could be created for the army or existing MTLB-based vehicles used. ATGWs could also be deployed by a light version of Thunderback and/or flatbed vehicles mounting VLS pallets.

Secondary and Support

The mobile chassis could be used to construct a number of vehicle variants in addition to the five primary combat types described above. These include:

Categories such as command, reconnaissance and engineering each might encompass a number of different variants.

For the supply role a flatbed variant of the mobile tracked chassis could be used to carry munitions, fuel or other supplies. If carrying pallets of VLS SAM or AGTM these vehicles may also serve as transporter-launchers. Flatbeds can also be used as the basis of artillery vehicles mounting howitzers, MBRL, mortars or other missile systems.

Certain mobile chassis vehicles would be used by the heavy battalions. Losik/ Brilev propose that a heavy battalion have a trio of reconnaissance vehicles of mobile class. These would probably be a variant of Kuganets-25 IFV equipped with battlefield radar and greater UAV assets. The heavy battalion would also have several mobile light-tracked vehicles to transport fuel and ammunition and as armoured ambulances. It is possible that a mobile chassis might also be used as one of the command vehicles of a heavy battalion.

Heavy Chassis

The “mobile” forces are complimented by more conventional “front line” forces that can reinforce and exploit opportunities created by the correct use of the mobile forces. Losik/ Brilev envision a combined-arms formation formed around a quartet of heavily armoured tracked vehicles. The T-14/ T-15 Armata chassis could potentially be used as the basis for these four vehicle types.

On the future battlefield MBTs will need the support of other vehicles to operate effectively. For these vehicles to survive to provide that support they will need a level of protection comparable to the MBTs.

Heavy Chassis Main Combat Types

Main Battle Tank

The first “heavy” vehicle that Losik/ Brilev describe is an evolution of a main battletank, with the crew all positioned in the hull. Weight would be around 50-55t. Commander, gunner and driver are located in the forward part of the hull. Two additional crewmen are located in the rear and their duties include operation of two machine-gun armed secondary turrets. A networked control and sensor system could allow any crewmember to operate any of the tank's systems. The additional crew members also offer the potential for the crew to work in shifts during extended operations, two or three crew operating the tank while the others rest.

Losik/ Brilev propose an unmanned main turret mounting a 140-152mm main gun. Personally I have some doubts that tank guns larger than 120-125mm are necessary or even prudent. One of the motivations for larger calibre guns is to produce more effective guided projectiles. A better approach may be to have the tank carry a number of ATGWs that are independent of the gun system. This allows missiles of a calibre greater than the gun to be used and simplifies updating such systems when necessary.

In future heavy forces tanks mounting large calibre guns may no longer be in the majority. We may see increased fielding of systems such as Thunderback or the Threat Suppression Vehicle.

Propulsion of the tank and other heavy chassis must balance performance and fuel efficiency. Worth investigating is a hybrid diesel-electric system that can be used in combination with a small gas turbine, the latter being employed when increased speed or power is needed. The above image shows a front mounted diesel engine and a gas turbine along one side of the vehicle.

In the Ukraine many T-64s and eight-wheeled BTRs were incapacitated by attacks against the radiators. The German army operated a number of vehicles with air-cooled diesel engines and found these performed well in extremes of climate such as the desert or Russian winters. Air-cooled engines might be considered for the lighter and unarmoured military vehicles. For heavily armoured vehicles water-cooling may be necessary although some air-cooling features may be beneficial in the event of radiator damage.

Heavy Infantry Fighting Vehicle

Infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) based on tank hulls are not a new idea, although previously the majority were conversions of older MBTs. Unsurprisingly, vehicles based on the latest MBT hulls, such as the T-15 variant of the Armata have began to make an appearance.

The IFV that Losik/ Brilev propose closely compliments the capabilities of the MBT. In addition to transporting infantry the vehicle is also tasked with the destruction of enemy anti-tank forces and lightly-armoured or unarmoured vehicles. In this respect it performs a similar combat role to vehicles such as the BMPT Terminator support vehicle. Losik/ Brilev expect the IFV to weigh about 48t.

Four of the mounted infantrymen are tasked with operating vehicle weapon systems. The vehicle has two automatic grenade launchers mounted at the front of the vehicle. Like the MBT there are two machinegun turrets at the rear. The main turret of the IFV mounts a 30-35mm automatic cannon and a 60mm gun-mortar. The turret also has a launch port for large calibre ATGWs. Four anti-tank missiles are contained in a magazine that projects down from the turret into the hull compartment. Additonal reloads may be stored in the vehicle.

Potentially other calibres of automatic cannon could be used. My preference for the 35/50mm Supershot weapon has been recorded in earlier articles. Technologies such as airburst cannon ammunition would increase capability against enemy infantry and anti-tank teams in cover. The proposal of arming an IFV with a 60mm gun-mortar in combination with a cannon is interesting. Previously 60mm gun-mortars have primarily been used on armoured cars and light APCs. While the Russians are familiar with gun-mortars there has been little (official) interest apparent in calibres lower than 82mm. The majority of 60mm gun-mortars in service have been French designs. Adding a 60mm gun-mortar to an IFV gives a useful capability to the vehicle and the force that it supports. The relatively smaller effect area makes it better suited to supporting dismounted infantry than larger-calibre weapons. IFVs can provide smoke and illumination fires for the heavy platoon. That the 60mm gun-mortar uses the same ammunition as the commando mortars that might be carried by dismounted infantry is an added advantage. Gun-mortars can also utilize canister rounds that can be used to “backscratch” friendly vehicles subject to close assault from enemy infantry.

The proposed Losik/ Brilev heavy-IFV has room for eight personnel. In addition to the four auxiliary gunners there is a driver, vehicle commander/ gunner and two more infantrymen. When it is necessary for the infantry to operate dismounted the four auxiliary gunners and the additional infantrymen form a six-man unit. The driver and vehicle commander remain in the vehicle, the latter operating the main turret armament.

Close Support Indirect Fire Vehicle. “Mortar Tank”

A future heavy combined arms formation is likely to employ a variety of artillery systems. Many of these are likely to be based on the flatbed variant of the mobile tracked chassis. There will, however, be an indirect fire platform based on the heavy chassis. This will operate alongside the other heavy chassis types at company level. Its roles include bombardment of enemy anti-tank positions and the delivery of large calibre smoke or illumination munitions. It will engage targets that the direct fire tank guns cannot or that the IFV 60mm mortars are too small for.

Losik/ Brilev suggest a 152mm weapon with consideration given to 175 or 203mm weapons. Part of the motivation here I suspect is the desire to have a “bunker buster” of greater calibre than the tank guns. This application may be better served by large precision guided weapons fired from more distant artillery units. For the close support “mortar tank” role I think that a 120mm gun-mortar would be the best choice, allowing more ammunition to be carried and that is more easily handled than larger rounds. The 120mm Nona rifled gun-mortars are claimed to be capable of firing any current rifled or smoothbore 120mm mortar rounds and have a range of 8 to 12km. The more circular effect area of a mortar bomb makes the 120mm bomb comparable in effect to 105mm, 122mm, 152mm and 155mm artillery. A number of guided 120mm rounds have been developed, giving the “mortar tank” a precision fire capability when required. Ideally such a round would have both GPS and laser-guidance. The use of the laser-guided LAHAT missile from 120mm mortars has also be proposed. Such rounds may provide a top-attack capability against enemy armour as well as precision strikes on other targets.

Cameras that can be fired as rifle grenades or from grenade guns already exist. The same technology applied to mortar rounds could give a mortar crew and the unit they are with a real time view of a location kilometres distant. This could be used for target location, fire correction and damage assessment. Such cameras would be provided with devices to reduce their rate of descent. This might be a parachute but could also be rotors or a hydrogen-filled balloon.

Heavy Air Defence Vehicle. “Flak Tank”

Over the decades my articles on the Scrapboard have often proposed that air-defence vehicles be provided with sufficient armour and related protective systems that they need to survive the ground combat roles they are often placed in. Not surprisingly, Losik/ Brilev have reached the same logical conclusion and the fourth heavy armoured vehicle they suggest is an air-defence vehicle.

For a long time the Russians have paid more attention to the field of air defence than some other armies. Investment into this field is likely to increase. There is a requirement to counter a potentially wide variety of UAV types and sizes. The field of C-RAM (Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar) and anti-missile defence may be grouped under air defence too. Improvements in missile technology are likely to increase engagement ranges from launch aircraft. This may result in the wider use of heavier SAMs and larger-calibre air defence guns.

Close range air defence is likely to be handled by a vehicle mounting a combination of SAMs and autocannon. In a heavy battalion the close range air defence vehicles will operate alongside the tanks and have comparable levels of armour and other protective systems. Such vehicles will have applications against ground targets too. They can suppress infantry and anti-tank positions or engage elevated targets in mountainous or urban terrain. The cannon may be in the 25mm to 35mm range. Losik/ Brilev suggest the heavy hull mounting a Tunguska-type turret. The Blazer turret with a 25mm GAU-12, SAMs and FFARs is another option. 40mm weapons or an evolution of the 50mm Supershot is not unlikely. Technologies such as programmable airburst will be used for both ground and airborne targets.

Improvements in stand-off air to ground weapon systems are likely to result in longer engagement ranges. The air defence component of a heavy force may in fact be a family of vehicle-mounted systems rather than a single type. Some of these vehicles may be based on the mobile tracked chassis rather than the heavy chassis.

Threat detection will be an important component of any future battlefield air defence system. In addition to radar other technologies such as LIDAR, thermal and millimetric imaging may be used. Acoustic detection may be used to detect subsonic threats or to locate enemy firing positions. Some such systems will be mounted on gun or missile launcher vehicles. More powerful systems may be carried on dedicated detector vehicles.

When a reliable battlenet system can be established a formation may make use of Slew to Cue (STC) capability. All suitably armed vehicles can be directed to fire on a threat, not just air defence systems with sophisticated aiming mechanisms. Thus an aircraft may find itself fired on by all the formation's IFV autocannons in addition to any air defence vehicles.

Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) are likely to see increasing use in the air-defence and C-RAM roles. They have already proved useful for destroying suspected IEDs. In addition to the thermal effects of lasers the potential of masers to disrupt electronics and guidance systems should be investigated. Smaller UAVs and missiles are unlikely to be able to carry sufficient shielding against such an attack.

The Russians have exhibited a BMP hull mounting a 57mm gun. This armament option has also been suggested for the K-25. The 57mm-armed BMP has been marketed as a long-range anti-aircraft system, possibly utilizing a guided projectile. Such a weapon is also likely to be effective against any battlefield vehicle short of a main battle tank (MBT). This idea is reminiscent of the Begleitpanzer 57 AIFSV (Armoured Infantry Fire Support Vehicle) and suggests a possible Thunderback variant. It is possible that the 50mm version of the 35/50mm cannon could have similar potential as a medium-calibre air-defence weapon. Such a vehicle would have a role that overlaps the anti-LAV mission of the IFV.

Longer engagement ranges may see renewed interest in the 76mm gun. STC technology would be used to eliminate the radar system and make the carrying vehicle lighter than previous attempts to use this system in a land air-defence role. Guided projectiles are a possibility. 76mm anti-missile rounds have already been developed for maritime use. The 76mm gun has even greater potential than the 57mm as a fire support weapon. As described elsewhere a 76mm gun was the preferred armament for the Rooikat armoured car. A single hit is likely to neutralize any aircraft or vehicle not a main battle tank. Some 76mm ammunition types are effective against the thinner areas of MBTs such as the sides or rear. The 76mm gun would be most effective mounted on the mobile tracked hull, giving it the best opportunities to position itself where its shots will be most effective.

Longer engagement ranges will require gun and DEW systems to be supplemented by a variety of surface to air missiles (SAMs). I suspect that we will see increased use of vertical-launch systems (VLS) for land-based SAMs. The proposed Thunderback configuration becomes a useful air-defence vehicle if its ATGMs are replaced with SAMs. Pallets of VLS missiles offer some interesting potential modes of use. One or more pallets placed on the proposed flatbed mobile hull converts the vehicle into a transporter-launcher that can deliver fires called for by other units. Pallets could also be positioned and camouflaged at strategic locations to provide support for local units.

It will be noted that each of the four primary combat vehicles on a heavy chassis have mobile chassis equivalent. Components such as turrets, electronics and weapons may be common to both, differing only in armour level.

Secondary Vehicles based on the Heavy Chassis

Command variants of the MBT, IFV and possibly some of the other types are likely. A variety of combat engineering vehicles would be based on the heavy chassis. Recovery or recovery and repair vehicles based on the heavy chassis would also be needed in heavy formations.

Organization

Units equipped exclusively with mobile chassis vehicles include rapid deployment forces, operational manoeuvre groups, reconnaissance, marine and airborne forces. Conventional forces have a mixture of heavy and mobile chassis vehicles. The former are the primary combat systems while the latter are mainly in support and reconnaissance roles.

Losik/ Brilev suggest that a heavy combined arms company might have nine MBTs and six IFVs, fielded as three mixed platoons of five vehicles. These are supported by three mortar tanks, one anti-aircraft tank and led by a separate company command vehicle. A battalion of three such companies is described as 51 machines, suggesting that the mortar/ artillery tanks are attached rather than organic to the company. Possibly the mortar tanks form the fourth company of the battalion. A battalion also includes a battalion command, three mobile chassis reconnaissance vehicles and three heavy chassis recovery vehicles. Three medical evacuation, three ammunition supply and three fuel carriers are all based on mobile chassis.

In addition to the heavy battalions a division (or brigade) would have a mobile battalion equipped entirely with mobile chassis combat and support vehicles. This battalion would be tasked with reconnaissance, flanking, raiding and screening. In some militaries such a battalion would be drawn from units with a cavalry tradition.

Scrapboard Variations

The model of a future force built above is constructed with relatively conventional “bricks”. A number of Scrapboard concepts are applicable to the above model. A Thunderback based on the heavy hull could serve as either an MBT or an air-defence platform, depending on the missile types being carried. Being armed with a 35/50mm cannon it also supplements the anti-infantry, anti-aircraft and anti-LAV role of the H-IFV. A version of the Thunderback built on the mobile, tracked chassis serves as light tank, air-defence vehicle and ATGW missile carrier.

The tank gun-armed light tank and/or MBT might be of turretless configuration, either to save weight or increase protection. The mortar-carrying versions of mobile chassis may use a turretless configuration to improve their armour levels for direct fire missions. A flatbed vehicle based on the mobile tracked chassis has a number of applications in the above model. The proposed threat suppression vehicle (TSV) might be built on either the mobile and/or heavy chassis. The TSV supplements more sophisticated air-defence vehicles and shares the duty of attacking lightly protected ground targets with the IFVs. The mobile chassis mounting a multi-purpose 76mm gun is effectively the Tankita.

Other Forces

A paradox of warfare is that the better equipped and trained for a particular type of combat a force is, the more reluctant an enemy will be engage in such a fashion. Therefore the mobile and heavy forces suggested above are well suited to major theatre warfare but need to be adaptable for other varieties of conflict too. It is likely that such forces would be in the minority in a future military force, with the majority geared towards stability and internal security missions.

Losik/ Brilev make a few references to a “second-wave” general-purpose force. The infantry of such a force would conduct “mop-up” operations in the wake of the first-wave and presumably would secure and occupy won territory. Losik/ Brilev suggest that such infantry be equipped with either a light IFV or an APC, noting that the second-wave force is less likely to encounter “more effective types of weapons” and that the primary function of their vehicle is transport. Elsewhere they encourage the development of a wheeled APC by the automotive industry and note that such may also be useful to military and police. The rationale behind this may be economy, eight-wheeled BTRs in the past being issued to many forces instead of the more expensive BMPs. Russia is planning to adopt the K-16/ K-17 Bumerang but this appears a vastly more expensive item than the BTR-80s that it is supposed to replace. Like many of the heavyweight multi-wheeled APCs in current vogue its practical utility seems questionable. Vehicles such as the ZIL Karatel and GAZ Tigr may be more practical and better suited to crowded urban environments. An area pacified by a first-wave heavy force is likely to have lots of mud and rubble so some vehicles based on the mobile chassis may be useful to the second-wave. It seems prudent that such an infantry battalion include a couple of platoons of mobile-chassis tracked vehicles. These may be attached to individual infantry platoons as is suggested here.

Given its more defensive role the second-wave forces are likely to be well equipped with ATGWs. Interestingly, Losik/ Brilev comment that the heavy, first-wave divisions are “no place for towed antitank guns”, suggesting they may be used by other formations. The Russians still use towed anti-tank guns such as the 125mm 2A45M. The BTR/ APC-equipped motor-rifle brigades described in FM 100-60 (p.2-13, 2-16, 2-32) have one or two anti-tank gun batteries in addition to each motor-rifle battalion’s allocation of ATGWs and recoilless-guns (p.3-19, 3-29). It is possible that the second-wave forces may utilize such weapons to help guard the flanks and rear of the first-wave forces. Such guns also have a useful indirect fire and PGM capability. Motor rifle brigades equipped with the towed Nona-K 2B16 gun mortar system have also been observed. It seems likely that such weapons are to supplement or replace conventional anti-tank guns.

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By the Author of the Scrapboard :


Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence

Available in Handy A5 and US Trade Formats.

Crash Combat. Second Edition with additional content.
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