A Question of Procurement 2: Carrying the Queen of Battle

For a while, I was very skeptical of the whole IFV concept. IFVs don’t hold as many men as the typical APC, so they force you to use smaller squads or split squads between multiple vehicles. And the modern combined-arms army is very light on infantry to begin with. However, the typical ‘battle taxi’ isn’t very well suited to keeping up with MBTs—they’re either wheeled MRAP-like things, or old tracked designs from the 60s. Neither will do when you are planning deep thunder runs into enemy territory. And the IFV does have some significant advantages–namely massive amounts of firepower to support and (generally) better protection than APCs. The protection means it’s more likely to be able to stay with the infantry it’s supporting, so they can remount faster. Plus, we’ve gotten away from the conscript armies of years past, so we don’t have the masses of men that your Grandpa’s army had. We need force multipliers.

At this point, I should probably go and settle the whole “Tracks v. Wheels” thing, at least as far as the Borgundian War Ministry is concerned. On the holistic level, both have their place. For IFVs, the answer is tracks, tracks, tracks. IFVs are part of the combined arms team. Would you send your quarterback on the field without receivers or the offensive line? No, you wouldn’t. No one would be there to snap the ball to him and he’d get pounded into the dirt. The combined arms team must work together, and to do that it must stay together. So, it’s critical that the IFV can keep up with the MBT, which is pretty much forced by it’s bulk to be tracked. That gives us a baseline to shoot for. If the IFVs can’t keep up on rough terrain, because of it’s wheels, then the MBTs are forced to slow down too, and you lose mobility. Similarly, on roads, the extra speed of wheeled IFVs is wasted, because they can’t go faster than the MBTs without becoming separated. Also, tracks mean less ground pressure, which is good when you place a premium on protection and really don’t care about weight overmuch (within limits–weight concerns will be revisited later).

A tracked IFV does disqualify a number of good vehicles from the running, simply because they are unsuited to our needs. These include the Patria AMV and the VBCI, plus some more that I’m either forgetting or am ruling out because they have insufficient protection. Concerns over protection and survivability rule out the BMP series for us, as they tend to be light on armor and packed with ammunition. They have an unpleasant history of burning quite well when they meet opposition. Currently there are two fine vehicles that are in production and might be suited for our needs: the CV90 and the Puma.

This time, I’ll cut to the chase: the Puma is the winner on grounds of survivability, protection, electronics, and firepower. Let’s break it down. In no particular order, we’ll go with protection first. Much has been said of the Puma’s modular armor as an aid to deployability. To be blunt: I don’t care.I won’t deploy them without tanks, and my tanks weigh 67 tonnes with the latest upgrades1. But modular armor is good for the conventional warfighter because it makes it easier to replace damage modules or to upgrade them in the future with better stuff. That’s a win right there, and no other IFV on the market has such things. The CV90 is reasonably well protected, and has some improvement kits, but they’re not as well integrated, and they’re certainly not as easy to swap up to an upgrade later. It should be noted that the baseline Puma (without the supplemental armor packs) is about as well protected as the fully kitted out CV90 Mk. III. A fully kitted out Puma has side protection roughly equivalent to it’s front, or the front of most other IFVs on the market. It’s also equipped with a ‘softkill’ active protection system. The cost is weight: the Puma is the heaviest IFV around, weighing in at around 43 tonnes in full battle rattle. As mentioned before, this is not a great concern.

The Puma’s biggest gains though are in survivability. Ammunition and fuel are stored outside of the crew compartment. While this makes reloading the main gun a bit more annoying, it means that the infantry and crew inside are safe from cookoffs and most secondary effects of a penetrating hit. Which is good, because as well armored as the Puma is, it’s going to be hanging around with MBTs and their big guns, plus weapons designed to kill those behemoths. The extra survivability systems will ensure that the crew and infantry have their best chance to live to fight another day. Vehicles are repairable–personnel not so much.

The Puma has a dual-feed autocannon capable of firing the NATO standard 30x173mm round. This round is quite a bit better at penetrating armor than the Russian 30x165mm round (which is why you should read the fine print carefully when a manufacturer says that their vehicle is protected against 30mm rounds). While I might prefer a 35mm gun (and think one could be accomodated if not for the design’s airlift restrictions), the 30mm gun is an acceptable compromise, especially seeing as 30mm airburst ammunition is readily available. In terms of armor penetration, a 35mm gun doesn’t get you that much more. While 35mm rounds are more effective airburstwise, a vehicle can carry about twice as many 30mm rounds. 40mm Bofors guns would provide a significant gain in round effectiveness, but also reduce the ready ammunition capacity by roughly a factor of 10. The Puma has a 5.56mm machine gun, which is an adequate coaxial weapon. It can be fitted with a 7.62mm machine gun for those less concerned about transportable weight, which Borgundy will probably do. The biggest win for the Puma over many of it’s contemporaries is in the missile suite. The Puma is designed to fire the Israeli Spike-LR ATGM. This is more or less a longer-range Javelin equivalent, top-attack mode and all, and should be able to defeat heavily armored targets that the 30mm gun can’t.

In addition to good firepower, the Puma has really good optronic systems as well. It’s hunter-killer optics suite (separate optics for the commander in an independently-rotating mini-turret) and targeting systems are as good as or better than the systems on many tanks, not to mention the vast majority of IFVs. They’re roughly equivalent to that of the newer Leopard 2 variants. Additionally, the Puma has several cameras around the hull to improve his situational awareness, since he can’t stand up in the unmanned turret and poke his head out. While the CV90 has a two-man turret, which I like better overall for the situational awareness, it doesn’t really have a good option for a proper independent commander’s sight. In addition to the computerized fire control system, the Puma has all of the fancy battle management computer systems that you’d find in a modern MBT. What’s more, there are viewscreens available for the passengers allowing them to see information from the camera systems or the battle management computer, providing an informational advantage to the infantry in the back.

Compared to the CV90, the Puma is ATGM-equipped, is tougher, has a better targeting and electronics package, and is more survivable. And, as mentioned previously, it has much better protection and survivability than the BMP-3. In addition, the targeting and electronics on the Puma are much better than those of the BMP-3. The Puma is certainly the best of the lot for Borgundy given our priorities.

Up next, the Ultima Ratio Regum—Artillery!
More specifically, Self-propelled howitzers, because towed guns are so World War I.

1. Someday I shall discuss the Borgundian opinion of strategic mobility, or why I’m ignoring the ‘Shinseki School’ and buying superheavy German vehicles without really paying attention to the weight. But today is not that day.

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