When considering the APC, we must consider what we want it to do. We already have IFVs to do the front line combat. We have trucks that can transport lots of stuff or men relatively easily and cheaply. We need something in between. Something to handle supportive combat roles that can take fragments and bomblets better than a truck, but needn’t be hardened against serious gunfire. Something to haul mortars, escort convoys, transport wounded, shuttle soldiers, do light and medium vehicle recovery, and basically do a whole bunch of odd jobs.
The obvious choice would be the M113A3, but this vehicle is quite old and not in production any longer. It’s still almost certainly available on the used market, but it’s somewhat protection limited due to the old powertrain and suspension, and we certainly couldn’t rely on procuring the numbers and spares we want from the secondary market. Plus, it’s almost certainly a violation of the spirit of the rules, and makes for a rather boring post. We certainly won’t be giving up the M113s we have, but onward we go to find something more modern.
We can restrict ourselves to requiring a heavy machine gun in a remote weapon station for self defense and no more. An automatic grenade launcher might be a useful alternative, but the heavy machine gun is, in general, more versatile. In any case, either would fit in a weapon station of that size class. Any larger weapon would have a significantly greater footprint in the vehicle, which would compromise its primary transport duties. We’d either have a 20/25mm “giant machine gun” that would need a ton of ammo or a 30/35mm cannon that would require a coax gun and a second ammo supply. So we’ll stick with the one heavy machine gun for self-defense. Mortar carriers will, self-evidently, carry a mortar. This will probably be 120mm, which is a good standard size, and there’s not much reason to go smaller when you have a nice vehicle to haul the mortar and its ammunition around.
Let’s now come to the “Armored” portion of the vehicle. This is what’s separating it from a big truck carrying stuff around. The current modern standard seems to be protection from heavy machine gun fire all-around, and this seems reasonable considering the sorts of threats that it’s likely to face as a second-line unit. In general, mine protection has also been widely increased as part of the lessons learned in the Iraq campaign. While this is less relevant to those of us planning a conventional warfare first approach, our vehicles might encounter hastily laid mines as well in an effort to disrupt rear areas. Plus, with modern vehicles, there isn’t really an alternative. Increasing use of wheeled vehicles as IFVs has led to a plethora of turreted versions, which we’ll skip, and heavier front armor, which we don’t have much of an option on either.
The two biggest contenders here are the Boxer MRAV and the Patria AMV. The Boxer MRAV is rather more modular, since you can actually swap rear mission modules with a crane. It’s also somewhat better protected than the Patria, and more expensive. The Patria has won significant successes in the export market, and comes with more variants already fielded. MRAV comes out of the box with all of the fancy battle management computers that the cool kids like. It’s the extra systems integration and the basically future mission proof design of the Boxer that lets it win out here. With modules that can be swapped out in a couple of hours, the life of the Boxer can be extended with hull refurbishments and new modules containing new stuff. Even though it’s more expensive than the Patria AMV, it’s still cheaper than the VBCI and the Stryker.
I always liked the Sweet Science.