In the spirit of my revisiting of MBTs in 2018, let’s also take another look at IFVs. Happily, this field is a little more saturated, and has some interesting options available.
Of course, I’m also not about to throw away perfectly good data. The Czechs looked at ASCOD 2, Lynx, Puma and two versions of CV9030 (one with a manned turret, one with an unmanned turret). That’s most of the in-production contenders from the West. So let’s see which won what and go from there, shall we?
And then the Puma swept the competition. It had better reliability than all other test vehicles, being the only one not to have to repeat a test due to a breakdown. It has better protection than its rivals. It has better mobility than its rivals too. And, while all vehicles were armed with a 30mm gun, the Puma was significantly more accurate. The Puma had 37 hits out of 40 shots fired, and the next-best competitor did about half as well.
That’s pretty good. However, the Puma is the most expensive of the lot, and the Czechs might like to look at some other variants besides a pure IFV. They may end up buying Puma IFVs and something else for the more utility-type roles.
Of course, I wouldn’t just write a new roundup to simply say, “I agree with the Czechs.” Even though I totally do. Of the vehicles tested, the Puma has proven to be tops. Best by test. However, the Israeli Namer IFV was not in the test (certainly its present form wasn’t ready yet), and that’s worth a look. And, as always, we’re assuming both are available and marketed.
First, a brief run down of Puma. The Puma weighs 43 tonnes with all armor modules installed. Some modules can be removed to permit the Puma to make weight for transport in an A400M. It has a 30mm autocannon with 200 rounds of ready ammo, a 5.56mm1 machine gun with 1,000 rounds of ready ammo, and a two-tube launcher2 for Spike ATGMs. It has a crew of three and carries six dismounts. It has an MTU 890 V10 engine that makes about 1,100 hp. It exceeds STANAG level 6 protection on the front, meets level 6 on the sides (the highest level for KE threats), and makes STANAG 4 on the bottom against mines (confusingly, level 4 is the highest for mines). It also has an integrated soft-kill active protection system (i.e. a DIRCM). Annoyingly the STANAG levels for KE protection make no mention of what sort of shaped charge threats they can counter, and there’s no separate scale for that either.
And now for Namer. Namer weighs about 60 tonnes in its APC form, and the Israelis haven’t updated the approximation for the IFV version. It has a 30mm autocannon with 400 ready rounds, a 7.62mm machine gun with 700 ready rounds, two Spike ATGMs, and a 60mm mortar. The turret also comes equipped with the Trophy hard-kill active protection system. Namer has a crew of three and carries nine dismounts. Namer is powered by a 1,200 hp AVDS-1790 engine.
For the Namer, the Israelis haven’t released information on its protection level (and STANAG only goes up to level 6, which is merely being able to stop 30mm APFSDS), so we’ll have to guesstimate. Namer weighs about as much as a Merkava, but it lacks Merkava’s big tank turret. The Israelis say they’ve put the weight into protection, which makes sense. There aren’t many other places where that weight could go. Also, the APC version of the Namer has been shot at with Kornet missiles in Lebanon. Kornet is a modern Russian ATGM, but it was not able to penetrate the frontal armor. It did penetrate the side armor, but did not harm any of the soldiers inside. This is pretty impressive, so I’ll give a win to Namer in the protection category.
Firepower is mostly a wash. The Namer has twice as many ready rounds, but I don’t have a good notion of how many we can expect to use in an engagement before resupply. So I don’t know if it actually matters. Both have a pair of Spike ATGMs. We haven’t seen a comparative test between the two, so we don’t know if one or the other has an accuracy advantage. Namer also comes with a mortar. I’ll give it a firepower edge, conditional on the lack of head-to-head shooting competition.
In terms of mobility, the Puma is the clear winner. It has only 100 less horsepower while being several tonnes lighter. There were notions of putting the 1,500 hp MTU 883 in the Namer, but that hasn’t been done yet. We would like to look into this as well. The Puma is also easier to move to the battle by far. Again, it is lighter, and armor modules can be removed to get it in an A400M. The Namer is going to have to be transported with one’s tanks. Clear win for the Puma in both strategic and tactical mobility.
Tactical mobility is always to be prized. In the case of strategic mobility, it can also be quite useful. Here, however, I am not so sure. As I have commented previously, IFVs should operate in conjunction with tanks. Deploying tanks in quantity somewhere is going to require naval transport or rail transport or both. And if you’re already doing that for the tanks, you may as well load the IFVs on there too.
For me, this is not a hard choice. I like Puma, but I like the Namer more. I like carrying nine dismounts, and I like having as much (or more) armor on my IFVs as on my tanks. Yes it’s heavy. That’s why we call them Heavy Brigades, right?
- Plans have been announced to replace this with a 7.62mm MG, though they’re not finalized yet. In any case, this would be easy enough to have done. ↩
- Integration and testing are in progress. We’re seeing these actually on demo vehicles now which is good. Nothing like a client to move the ball faster. ↩
The Namer mortar is pretty interesting, but raises some questions. Can you fire it without dismounting? Are there guided rounds available? 60mm is pretty light for HE infantry support, so I guess you’d spend most of the time lobbing smoke and illumination rounds, for what good they do on a battlefield filled with modern sensors.
Being able to take a Kornet hit from the side without any casualties is pretty amazing. Being able to bring all your boys home is great for the political side of procurement.
Welcome to the Soapbox, Dave!
The 60mm mortar is built into the turret, and can be fired without dismounting like any of the other turret systems. I’ll get a picture up soon. Unfortunately, I don’t have the ready capacity of the 60mm mortar.
60mm isn’t great, but historically 60mm mortars have stuck around pretty well, unlike most smaller (~50mm) units.
And yes, I’m quite happy that the Namer is Israeli mother approved. 🙂
It would be nice to have an updated STANAG for medium and heavy vehicle protection, for stuff like the Namer and real MBTs.
It depresses me that it’s the only standard we’ve got. KE threats only go up to 30mm APFSDS and there’s no standard in there for HEAT or EFP threats.
I suppose having STANAG for tanks might be a bit too much information for the public and possible adversarial nations, if every tank builder was listing exactly how much KE and HE protection they have. Still, it would be nice to finally see how much better the Challenger II’s turret array is.
What makes you think it’s better? That array is made of circa 1998 technology. Lots of other tanks have newer composite armor arrays. Plus, Challenger 2 didn’t fare well w.r.t. protection in the Greek trials. There, the Challenger 2E was found to have worse protection than the Leopard 2A6 and M1A2 and had protection on par with that of Leclerc.
Perhaps NATO may want to refresh threat levels based on resurgent OPFOR; I think that the 30mm threat was based off the 2A42 (BMP-2 & 3) APFSDS.
Maybe there should be something like the following protection categories:
KE: APFSDS (threat: IFV, updated to include 35/40/57mm)
CE: Tandem shaped charge (threat: ATGM)
Frag: Near miss 152mm HE
IED: Underbelly IED
I feel that expressing the threat posed by tank main gun rounds is a waste of energies better spent on the above – IFVs have protection levels due to the soft squishy folks in the back, they require that protection to enable (deliver) INF to do their mission. A tank is easy; not enough protection = mission fails.
Eh, it’s not really a huge deal. T-15 still uses 30x165mm 2A42. If it uses good up-to-date APFSDS rounds, then it will hit something like up-to-date 30x173mm APFSDS (which is what most in NATO test with anyway).
The 57mm gun hasn’t been fielded in a production vehicle, and that turret has a really big basket for the ammo. It’s kind of the worst of both worlds in terms of what it does to design, and I don’t see it going anywhere big.
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