Monthly Archives: October 2016

Resurrected Weapons: Marder 2 IFV

Ah, another wonderful late Cold War vehicle that didn’t survive peace. As a bonus, it’s super confusingly named. Do not confuse this vehicle with the Marder II tank destroyer of World War II. Thanks, Germany. I’ll use Roman numerals when referring to the tank destroyer, and arabic numerals for the IFV.

Anyway the Marder 2 is a look at what the Puma might have looked like if the Germans weren’t so hell bent on shoehorning the thing into a damn A400m. Let us suppose we worried about a proper, conventional war, and let us suppose we don’t care about overrated air deployability with a bunch of massively overpriced transports that have been consistently plagued with problems. And that we don’t have. Let us also suppose that we are German designers, and we love our armor properly heavy.1

We’d get the Marder 2. It weighs 44 tonnes kitted out. Hey, just like the Puma with the full armor kit. Unlike the Puma, the Marder 2 had a more conventional armor layout. It could withstand 40 mm APFSDS rounds on the frontal arc, and 20 mm APFSDS everywhere else. Pretty hardcore. Armor was composite right out of the gate, so it was also quite effective against HEAT rounds and ATGMs.

Marder 2 also had a proper manned turret for two. The main gun was a big 35 mm autocannon with a whopping 177 ready rounds, and another 110 stored in reserve. That’s some serious firepower. More than twice as many ready as a CV9035. I like it. I like it a lot. There was also the usual MG3 coax machine gun. As a further bonus, the cannon and feed system was designed to accommodate 50 mm Supershot with only a barrel change. A never-was round for a never-was vehicle.

There is something missing though. You guessed it: ATGM capability. I still really like having it.

The rest of the Marder 2 is pretty conventional. It had just under 1,000 hp in a V8, letting it keep pace with the Leopard 2. It also matched the Leopard 2’s road range of 500 km, which is nice. It had a crew of three and seven dismounts, just like the Marder 1 IFV. Not terrible, but not great either.

Some other numbers: It was 7.31 m long, 3.48 m wide, and 3.05 m high. It had a fuel capacity of 890 L. The commander had an independent, stabilized thermal sight. The gunner had all of the fancy fire control systems you’d expect from the early 90s, plus the ability to shoot at low flying aircraft.

Interestingly, the dismounts sat on seats in the middle facing outward. Each man had a vision block. No firing ports were provided, which is good. Those never worked as advertised, and just compromised protection. I’m not sold on the merits of this seating arrangement with the vision blocks. I’d much prefer benches along the outer sides of the troop compartment rather than in the middle. It simplifies the rear hatch setup, and ends up using the passenger compartment space more efficiently. This is one place that the Puma does well with its repeater displays. Small cameras are a lot less disruptive to armor too. Note that this is nothing that can’t be fixed. Most early IFVs, including the Bradley and later model BMPs, had firing ports plated over. We have much smaller breaches to deal with. And the original Bradley had a pretty goofy seating layout that was later made sensible. And a more conventional seating arrangement would give us some room for those ATGMs we like.

Unsurprisingly, we’re a big fan of this vehicle. Even with it’s 1991-vintage design, it’s almost exactly what we’d want. It’s got tons of firepower, great protection, good mobility, and good capacity.

1.) Or at least, German designers in certain eras. Early WW2 designers didn’t favor particularly heavy armor on Panzers. This of course changed with later models. And the Leopard 1 was reasonably armored, but not heavily like a Chieftain. The Marder 1 was well armored for it’s size, however, and the Leopard 2 is about the equal of the Abrams. Modern German armor is loaded with armor, as is good and proper. (Leopard 2A6/2E: 63 tonnes, Leopard 2A7: 69 tonnes, Puma: 42 tonnes, PzH 2000: 55 tonnes)

Terminated Weapons: PARS 3 LR/Trigat

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Three big European nations, all washed-up, has-been powers, decide to collaborate on a project. They threw everything including the kitchen sink into it. The end of the cold war meant a reduction in ordered numbers, a boatload of delays, and the sort of cost increases that make legislators hold angry hearings. Somehow the project didn’t get cancelled, and now one of the three actually has some.

It’s the PARS 3 LR ATGM. Also known as Trigat, this was supposed to be the cool new missile of choice for attack helicopters in France, Germany, and the UK. The Europeans had their own TOW equivalent, called HOT. The latest version, HOT-3, was rather better than the TOW-2A as far as range and armor penetration were concerned. The Americans decided that they wanted something better. They buckled down, said “Hughes, get ‘er Done!” and got the awesome Hellfire missile for their helicopters, starting in 1984. The Europeans stuck with the wire-guided HOT for quite a while, but eventually decided that they needed a new missile too. No problem. They’d team up. Hey, the ECC was still cool back then. They hadn’t figured out that these multilateral programs were nothing but goat rope.

Of course, in 1991 the Soviet Union broke up. Goodbye Cold War. Hello vengeful legislatures. As we’ve seen before, lots of stuff got frozen as is. Big projects died. So the Americans, who had Hellfires in production, got to keep them. Funding for PARS 3 was cut, which brought delays.

Let’s look at the missile before resuming our history lesson. It’s about Hellfire-sized, weighing 49 kg and measuring 1.6 m long and 159 mm wide. It’s got the usual tandem shaped-charge warhead that we’d expect. Guidance was an imaging infrared system, something like what you’d find on some Maverick missiles. Nothing wrong here, but it was new ground for the Europeans. Definitely something that would drive cost up. Remember, basic Hellfires have semi-active laser homing guidance. Which is quite a bit easier and cheaper. I’m all for fancy fire-and-forget, but the perfect is the enemy of the good enough. And getting away from wire-guided missiles is much more important for missile range and helicopter survivability.

The Hellfire is cheaper, combat proven, and comes with some alternative warhead options, including thermobaric and fragmentation warheads. There’s also the radar-guided AGM-114L version, which is pretty fancy, and gives that fire and forget capability. It’s been combat proven all over the world. Get rid of the stupid PARS. It’s overpriced and doesn’t do anything the competition doesn’t.

But don’t just take my word for it. Two of the three partners backed out. First was the UK. They didn’t much care for the project, or the Eurocopter Tiger (a wise decision). They went with Apaches and Hellfires. They even got the fancy Longbow fire control radar for their Apaches, and the AGM-114L version (among others). Awesome. Good on you, GB! Even the French, who stuck with the Tiger (Tigre?) project, got sick of the issues. They bought Hellfires for their Tiger(re)s, like the Australians did. Look, when the French back out of a project because it’s too expensive and not delivering, you know you’re done. The French are as protectionist as they come, and work hard to keep a native arms industry as best they can. But even they have limits.

Somehow the Germans actually bought the darn things. Very silly. I’m sill confused about the utter foolishness of it. Just. Buy. Hellfires. Even the French agree.