Tag Archives: Borgundy

2018 IFV Roundup

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?

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 

MBT Roundup 2018

A few years ago, I wrote an MBT comparison for our procurement games. Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about the Leopard 2 and the M1 Abrams, we’ve seen some upgrade programs for both tanks, I’ve gotten enough data on the South Korean K2 to write on it, and Russia has introduced the T-14. Also, I love tanks. So let’s do another roundup. As always, I’m limited to open source guesstimates only.

The T-14 has a brand new 125mm gun, which can handle higher pressure rounds. So it’s almost certainly better than previous Russian guns. Whether it’s better than the latest Western stuff depends on whose propaganda you’re reading. I’m inclined to guess it’s going to be similar to the latest Rheinmetall options. Possibly a bit better because it’s newer.

Both the K2 and the newest Leopard 2 variants use the longer L55 version of Rheinmetall’s 120mm smoothbore, which gives more velocity than the Abrams’ M256 (a derivative of the Rheinmetall L44). Which would be better if all other things were equal, but they aren’t. The Americans use depleted uranium APFSDS rounds, which work better than tungsten (which Germany and South Korea use), all other things being equal (they still aren’t). Overall, tungsten sabot rounds from the L55 and depleted uranium sabot rounds from the L44 are about equal as far as armor penetration estimates are concerned. New rounds continue to come from the Americans, and there’s a plan to upgrade the L55 to the L55A1 which can take higher chamber pressures. Also, the Americans have finally added the capability to interface with datalinks on gun rounds in the SEPv3 Abrams, and this is present on the guns for Leopard 2 and K2. So this is very roughly a wash. Some magical person might be able to point to specific advantages of one option or another against specific targets, but this is all I’ve got with unclassifed, dodgy sources.

Damn it, this is classified too! UGH. In all seriousness, this too will be a wash in the main, because everyone’s got about the same technological problems, even if they come at it a little differently. Abrams and Leopard 2 have been receiving consistent upgrades, so their frontal armor should be just as good as the newer K2. T-14 has unclear amounts of protection on the turret, but only the gun is mounted there. Hull frontal protection should be good across the board too, given upgrades. Note that the Leopard 2 and Abrams have excellent side protection kits, should you wish to use them in cities full of scumbag insurgents. T-14 seems to have some quality skirt options as well, but K2 lacks similar levels of optional side protection. In terms of active protection, T-14 comes fitted with hard-kill APS systems from the factory, Abrams is getting Trophy kits installed (they’ve passed trials and money is allocated), K2 is fitted for but not with hard kill kits and the Germans are still trialing their hard kill setup. I should also point out that in the past the Americans have been reluctant to offer up their best armor technology in export models. The Abrams with export-level armor would be expected to be less good than the latest Leopard 2 variant or K2.

So you’ve been hit, and your armor is penetrated! That really sucks. Now what?
T-14 isolates the crew completely from the ammo. There are also blow-out panels on the bottom. Not sure about the turret, it might get wrecked, or there might be venting measures there. So those are all good things. On the other hand, the T-14 has the smallest crew compartment, so that means any penetration there is going to cause more problems. There’s always a bigger IED.

Abrams has the vast majority of it’s ammo in the turret bustle, again with blow-out panels. There’s also hull stowage for six more 120mm rounds, also with blow-out panels. Alternatively, if lots of hull hits from RPGs are expected, this can be emptied of ammo without too much difficulty. It’s only six rounds. Abrams has the biggest protected volume, which is why it uses fancy exotic materials for protection, but it also makes it very difficult to wound everybody.

Leopard 2 and K2 both have blow-out panels for their ammo stowage in the bustle. However, both have a large hull ammo rack (about 20 rounds or so) next to the driver up front. Neither has much in the way of bulkheads isolating this ammo and neither has blow-out panels for this stowage. Protect that hull, guys. Crew compartments are moderately sized, and should provide reasonable levels of safety due to dispersion. Leopard 2 is bigger internally than K2, and gets a bit of a nod here.

Also, while not strictly a survivability thing, more room means easier to jam upgrades in. So in order of most upgradeable to least: Abrams, Leopard 2, K2, T-14.

Tactical Mobility
Also known in some cultures as “driving around the battlefield.” Everybody’s got a 1,500 hp engine. K2 and T-14 should have a significant advantage from being 10ish tons lighter than the latest Leopard 2 and Abrams variants. Both K2 and T-14 have had transmission problems recently, however. Abrams has the gas turbine engine, which comes with some maintenance advantages because of the fewer small parts, but it is a very thirsty beast. The latest Abrams tanks have protected auxiliary power units, but I don’t have much data on how much this improves fuel economy. The Leopard 2 has a pretty boring twin-turbo diesel powerplant that seems to work well.

Strategic Mobility
Once again, the lighter tanks get the points here. I would be inclined to argue that the difference doesn’t matter for the purposes of ship-based transport, but a win is a a win.

The bureaucrats always get to put in their two bits. NATO-related stuff is going to torpedo the notion of a T-14 buy. Also, it hasn’t even passed Russian trials yet, and we don’t like being early adopters of anything. Otherwise, it comes down to who your friends are. America may not sell you the best and latest depleted uranium stuff if they don’t like you enough. The Germans may not support you with spare parts if you go off to war with the stuff. South Korea is new on the market and doesn’t have the same ability to bundle deals like the others.

I did find the approximate unit cost of a K2 on the internet. Unfortunately, costs of the others are going to be determined by upgrade package, which is kind of a bummer. Also, for all tanks, a lot depends on the terms of the purchase and what other equipment is included (spares, weapons, training tanks, etc.). So I’ll go out on a limb and say that a similar level of outfitting is going to cost about the same for new builds, and I think that’s pretty reasonable. I can’t adequately work out who might offer the best package deal. However, unlike the other two western competitors, there are a ton of old Abrams tanks sitting in the American desert. So the Americans ought to be able to give you a better deal on overhauled and upgraded tanks, and they probably will be available faster. Also, given relative labor costs, there might be advantages to the K2 or the T-14.

So which do we go with? Whichever one can get us the best pricing deal and meets the political obligations. I don’t see much difference overall with any of the options, at least not in any way that matters. MBTs don’t really have different schools of thought like IFVs do, so which one is not a big deal. They all provide reasonable quality; it remains to get them in reasonable quantity. One might argue that the large stock of old Abramses gives that an advantage, if modifying is cheaper than buying new. Or one might argue for the extensive, already-trialled options list available for the Leopard 2, or the newer K2 with more standard features and lower lifecycle costs from having a smaller crew.


I’ve complained before about the lack of modern American antiship missile options. Finally, the rebuilding Chinese Navy has gotten Lockheed Martin to answer the call. Building upon their excellent AGM-158 JASSM air-launched cruise missile, Lockheed has made a new antiship missile that checks pretty much all of the boxes I might have and then some.

The LRASM (Long Range AntiShip Missile) is based on the AGM-158B JASSM-ER. It’s low-observable for both infrared and radar sensors, and comes with a nice 1,000 lb. penetrating blast fragmentation warhead. It flies at a medium altitude towards the target, then dives for a sea-skimming terminal attack. While it has good range, estimated at about 350 nautical miles, this is rather less than the 500 nautical miles or so that the AGM-158B can manage, and most of that is due to the fancy new multimode seeker system.

LRASM comes with a fancy multimode imaging infrared and active radar homing seeker system, to help it find ships and not be spoofed by decoys. It also includes a datalink for external targeting information, and the inertial/GPS navigation system that you’d expect to find on a cruise missile. While the launch platform can designate targets for it, the LRASM is also capable of searching for targets autonomously. It can also pull targeting data from its radar warning receivers and passive RF sensors. This formidable sensor suite gives LRASM excellent targeting capability, and a wide variety of attack options for the commander.

Since JASSM and JASSM-ER are both air-launched platforms, the US Navy originally envisioned LRASM, and will initially deploy it, as an air-launched weapon. It’s being integrated onto F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and B-1B Lancers. The Lancers are noteworthy for being able to carry 24 AGM-158Cs, and give a long-range land-based naval attack capability to the United States for the first time in a while. However, testing showed that by adding the booster used on Lockheed Martin’s RUM-139 VL-ASROC, LRASM could be launched from Mk. 41 VLS tubes. This would give Mk 41 equipped ships the ability to easily be configured to have a formidable surface attack capability, and would remove the need for supplemental harpoon launchers.

LRASM is a modified land-attack cruise missile, and it has been tested against land targets in addition to ships. Its targeting systems work just as well against land targets. Right now, its range is less than ideal as a land-attack missile, but there are proposals to trade some warhead weight for more fuel to increase the range. Having one missile type for surface vessel attack and land attack would considerably simplify supply for the US Navy ships.

What do we think? It’s exactly what the doctor ordered. Low observability and an excellent targeting system are excellent features. Few current antiship missiles (from any country) actually take advantage of low-observability features. Plus, it’s great that it can be used from both aircraft and standard Mk. 41 VLS tubes. We’d buy lots as soon as they get put on the market.

Borgundian Mechanized Infantry Loadout

Let’s get this started. I’m following my own challenge rules, which you can find here. We’ve made a bunch of decisions so far, so let’s get those out of the way. Oh, and all weights are going to be in pounds, because I’m an American. Divide by 2.2 to get weights in commie kilos.

Carbine: HK 416. I didn’t specify a barrel length preference then, but we’ll go with 14.5 inches. Comes to 7.69 lbs empty. We’ll also need ammo in that gun. Thirty rounds of 62 grain M855A1 or similar in an aluminum, 30 round magazine comes to 1.06 lbs. Per doctrine, we’ll need a suppressor and an optic. We’ll take an Aimpoint Comp M4 red dot (0.74 lbs with mount and killflash) and a Surefire 556RC2 suppressor (1.06 lbs.). Also, we’ll need an IR laser/illuminator, because battles don’t stop at night. My choice there would be the B.E. Meyers MAWL-DA. I don’t have a weight for this, so I’m going to guesstimate 0.5 lbs based on other, similar devices. Plus a sling, which is going to set us back about another quarter pound. All of that adds up to 11.3 lbs, which is kinda sucky, actually. Oh well. Lots of capability there, not much to be done about it. Quit complaining and drop and give me thirty.

Armor time. See here for why I picked what I picked. IOTV (and we’ll add the deltoid (fragmentation) protectors, but not the side plates) is 26.69 lbs for a size medium. Size medium ECH is three pounds. Ballistic Eyewear adds 0.15 lbs, foam earplugs add 0.1 lbs, and knee and elbow pads add another 0.4 lbs. An FM50 gas mask rounds out the protective equipment list, adding another 1.85 lbs. Total weight for protective gear is 32.19 lbs.

Ammo. Pretty straightforward. Six spare thirty round magazines. Two M67 frag grenades. And two smoke grenades. Something like the M18, but with added thermal obscurants. Six mags comes to 6.36 lbs, two M67s comes to 1.76 lbs, and two M18s comes to 2.38 lbs, for a total ammo load of 10.5 lbs. Which doesn’t seem like a lot, but remember the vehicle holds more.

On to comestibles. I’ll go into more detail on this elsewhere. Since these are mechanized infantrymen, they have a big armored vehicle to move them around and carry stuff like food and water in reasonable quantities. Only the essentials need to be carried. For the standard, temperate European operating environment, we think two liters of water is an adequate amount to carry on the person, and we can top this off as needed from the vehicle stores or resupply. For food, we really only expect the soldier to carry an iron ration with him. This will take the form of something like the US military’s First Strike Ration, which is a hot-pocket-like sandwich that supplies the calorie and nutritional needs for one battle day. A full two-liter camelbak-type1 bladder is 4.88 lbs, and a First Strike Ration is 1.95 lbs, bringing total comestible weight to 6.83 lbs.

There are a few other items we need to list out. There’s the IFAK, the Individual First Aid Kit. This is for two reasons. First, it means a soldier can perform some first aid on his buddy. Second, a medic can always find some basic supplies (tourniquet, pressure bandage, sterile gloves) when he needs them in a pinch. Add a pound. We also need to issue a knife. For knife fighting duties, I’d like a double-edged knife, like the Gerber Mk. II. However, most knife tasks are utility tasks for the modern soldier. For these, a tough single-edge knife will work better. Something like a Ka-Bar. Tough, effective, legendary. I have one and love it. Add another 1.23 lbs for a Ka-bar and sheath. And we’ll need some night vision kit. I’ve been going for the high-end, feature-rich stuff. No sense in stopping now. We’ll take the PSQ-20B, which gives us third generation image intensifying optics plus thermal optics in one rugged, two pound unit. At least the battery pack is detachable and can be affixed to the back of the helmet for balance. Finally, we’ll need a radio. The PRC-159 from Harris should do nicely. Compatible with the once and future frequencies, plenty of encryption, good battery life. With battery, it weighs 1.72 lbs.

Almost done, I swear. The standard poncho with liner is a really great piece of kit. It’s waterproof, surprisingly warm, and extremely packable. That’s my one concession to weather that might crop up unexpectedly. Obviously, coats are worn when you can expect bad weather, like say in the winter. 1.5 lbs for the poncho and liner. And we’ll add a multitool, because they are ridiculously useful little things. 0.6 lbs for that.

Let’s wrap up by looking at what we’re not issuing. Recall that this is a regular rifleman. He is not a squad leader. Therefore, he does not usually need navigation equipment so he does not have a lensatic compass, maps, or a portable GPS receiver as a matter of course. He might be given these things as part of a specific mission, and that’s fine. Spare batteries for the various electronic devices mentioned are carried aboard the vehicle normally. As a side note, just about all the devices here take AA batteries. Logistical commonality strikes again!2 Similarly, cleaning kits are generally expected to be carried aboard the vehicle. as are entrenching tools. Further, since they aren’t on soldier’s backs, we can issue full size picks and spades, not the lame folding versions.

All-up weight for our kit is 68.87 lbs. Which is on the heavy side, but about on par with other modern armies. Remember, the pack is normally left in the vehicle, so it’s not counted in the fighting load.

1.) I actually prefer the Source brand bladders.
2.) Did you expect anything different from me?

Cargo Helicopter for Borgundy

Between the two of us, Fishbreath is the clear rotorhead. And that’s fine. He really likes flying helicopters in sims.

I, on the other hand, am coming at this from the logistican’s perspective. I’m looking for a helicopter to haul stuff. It should be cheap. It should be reasonably modern. It should be readily available in numbers. Armored thrusts need lots of fuel, ammo, and food, and we need ways to get that materiel to the front. Let’s look at some big, ugly cargo helicopters. They’re probably no fun to fly, but they’re important just the same.

The most obvious choice would be the Mi-26. The biggest helicopter in mass production. Of course, being Russian, lower initial purchasing price comes with higher maintenance costs. That’s not a big dealbreaker though. Of greater concern is the revanchist Russian bear. Can they be depended on to supply spare parts in the future? The production line is also moderate. Besides, I’m sure Fishbreath is waiting to throw politics into this. Let’s dig deeper.

We come to that big, US Army classic: the CH-47F Chinook. It’s been in production since 1962. It can carry 55 men or just under 11 tonnes of cargo. Three machine guns can be mounted to cover soldiers. It maxes out at 170 knots. Plus, the price is reasonable. Not quite Russian cheap, but the service life is better, especially as far as engines are concerned.

Compared to other Western options, the Chinook is a real bargain. It’s almost one third of the cost of the big CH-53K, but carries two thirds the payload. Also, unlike the CH-53K, it’s in full-rate production now. It’s also a pretty common helicopter. This means spares are easy to come by, the secondary market can supplement our orders, and most importantly, that someone else (namely the U.S. Army) is on the hook for funding upgrades, not us.

There’s not much out of Europe that can lift as much as a Chinook can. The NH90 can’t (it’s more of an oversized Blackhawk), and it’s more expensive to boot. Plus, it’s been plagued with all manner of difficulties. Not that the Chinook hasn’t, but any such problems are long ago. Call me when the NH90 has been through several wars.

Like most modern helicopters, the Chinook has plenty of optional extras. High end digital controls built under common architecture principles are readily available, along with midair refueling equipment and modern composite rotors. There are three pintles (left, right, and rear exit doors) for mounting machine guns. It’s got a long, proven history of good service.

There’s not much more we could ask for in a cargo helicopter.

Borgundy Chooses a Destroyer

Picking a frigate was hard. There are lots of pretty good frigate designs out there, but none were quite what we want. The F100 came closest, so it got the nod.

Fortunately, choosing a destroyer is a lot easier. There’s one best option: an Arleigh Burke-class derivative. More specifically, the South Korean Sejong the Great-class destroyer, which is just an Arleigh Burke that’s a trifle bigger.

What’s so great about the Sejongs? Well, for one, they carry the excellent and proven Aegis combat system. This system was designed to defend American carriers from saturation attacks by Soviet antiship missiles. It’s great at tracking multiple targets and managing the engagement. The same system (albeit in smaller form) is on our F100-class frigates too. Hooray for commonality. Plus, they can plug into land-based IADS.

Where the basic American Burkes have 96 Mk. 41 VLS tubes, which can accommodate SAMs, VL-ASROC, and Tomahawk cruise missiles, the Sejongs have 128 such tubes. This is better than any destroyer afloat, and better than any ship afloat save for the Kirovs. And the Sejongs have better radar and battle management capability than the Kirovs.

The Mk. 41 VLS can accommodate SM-2, SM-3, SM-6, and ESSM SAMs, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and VL-ASROCs for an antisubmarine punch. Which is nearly everything you’d want a destroyer to be able to do. Note of course that ESSMs can be quadpacked four to a Mk. 41 tube. The rest of the armament suite is pretty conventional: sixteen Harpoon launchers, six 324 mm torpedo tubes, a RAM CIWS forward, a Goalkeeper CIWS aft, and a 5″ gun.

From a sensor perspective, the SPY-1D(V) is a pretty obvious component, dominating the sides of the forward superstructure. There’s the usual array of secondary radar systems for navigation, some infrared search and track units for passive scanning, a bow-mounted sonar, and a towed sonar array. All very nice, nothing here needs changing, so I’m touching nothing.

As for helicopters, the Sejongs have hangar space for two midsize units (SH-60s or similar). No shortcomings there. You could lash a third to the hangar deck if you really wanted.

Like the Burkes, the Sejongs are driven by a COGAG1 powerplant, which is simple and provides for excellent speed. It leaves something to be desired with regards to range, but I don’t care. Buy fleet oilers. Besides, we’re a mostly continental power anyway.

Really the only thing we’d do is swap the Goalkeeper for another RAM launcher. RAM is a more effective system than Goalkeeper. I’m not sure why the South Koreans called for both, but we won’t.

As for antiship missiles, as I mentioned in my piece about the F100s, I’d prefer an upgrade here, but I think it’s more important to ride the coattails of what the US Navy is going to buy. If they stick with Harpoon, they’ll keep it modernish, and it will be the best option because of the number bought. Alternatively, if they opt for NSM, its price will get better because of the large quantity purchased.

The Sejongs aren’t very “transformational” or “revolutionary”. We don’t care. They’re an improved version of a good, proven design. They have plenty of space for incremental, evolutionary upgrades. Plus, when the accountants come calling, you can point to obvious working capabilities today in addition to the hoped-for technologies of the future.

1.) Combined Gas (turbine) And Gas (turbine). So you have gas turbines for cruise and more gas turbines that you can use to also drive the screws when you need MORE POWER!

Borgundy Chooses A Frigate

Let’s get to picking our own Navy. Like Luchtburg, we’d like a nice, middleweight ship to handle a wide variety of tasks. There are lots of such frigates available, with a bunch of different price points and mission optimizations. Our pick is the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class, also known as the F100 class. For us, it represents the best set of compromises.

The F100s have the most powerful air defense missile suite for any frigate in the world, with a whopping forty eight1 Mk. 41 VLS tubes. 48! This is awesome. You’d no doubt expect them to be loaded with ESSMs and the latest SM-2 variant, and you’d be correct. The standard Spanish Navy loadout is 32 SM-2 Block IIIA SAMs and 64 RIM-162 ESSMs. That’s awesome. These missiles are backed up by a smaller version of the American Aegis combat system, and compact versions of the SPY-1 radar system. Very cool.

Having Aegis and the American SM-2/ESSM SAMs is really good from a commonality perspective. There’s no good reason for our Destroyer to be anything but an Arleigh Burke-class derivative (more on that to follow), and it’s really nice to have common radar systems and missiles with the Burkes. I’m a big fan of logistical optimizations where possible, and fewer distinct kinds of spares is always a win. Plus, since the US Navy also uses these missiles, they’ll probably be paying for upgrades, so we don’t have to.

The rest of the F100s loadout is pretty conventional. There are eight Harpoon missile tubes, six 324 mm torpedo tubes, and a 5″/54 gun. The F100 also has the usual bow sonar and a towed sonar array, though the towed array isn’t a very advanced model. It has a Spanish-built twelve-barreled 20 mm cannon CIWS system. This is one of the few things I’m unhappy with, but it’s also one of the simplest to remedy.

The F100s are driven by a CODOG2 powerplant, and have a crew of 250. Lots of navies are going with lower crews on their frigates, but I prefer a bigger crew. More men is better for doing manpower-intensive tasks like damage control. I’m very happy with this compliment.

Maximum speed is 28.5 knots, and the range is 4,500 nautical miles at 18 knots. Pretty typical Frigate stuff here. No reason to complain or specify changes.

As for changes, a few minor things when placing our order. We’d like to upgrade the CIWS to a rolling airframe missile based system, which should be pretty easy. We’d also like a more advanced towed array. Again, nothing hard there. Pretty simple changes. The F100s, like most Western combatants, use Harpoon antiship missiles. I’m not the biggest fan of those, but we’d have to be sure to do the conversion on both these and our DDGs. Not a huge deal, but something to watch out for. Verify compatibility with both before changing things. Or see if Harpoon is getting more upgrades. Presuming it isn’t, the NSM is an excellent alternative.

The only really notable shortcoming is the helicopter capacity. The F100 has a flight deck and hangar for one midsize helicopter like an SH-60. This is decent, but two would be better. Unfortunately, this isn’t something we can easily change. Still, the F100s provide excellent capabilities at a reasonable price. At least if you don’t stop and restart production lines and do a bunch of add-ons to the command and control facilities.

1.) Hilariously, this is the same number of VLS tubes as the Daring-class desroyers, even though those are almost half again the tonnage of the F100s. And called ‘destroyers’, even though they displace as much as a World War 2-era heavy cruiser.
2.) Combined Diesel Or Gas (turbine). So you can drive the screws with the fuel efficient diesel engines or the gas turbines for high speed but not both.

The Namer

I’m usually the conservative one when it comes to military technology. I like my two-seat attack helicopters, my F-16s, my tanks that have a four-man crew. But, as Fishbreath will point out, even I have my quirky favorites.

Enter the Namer.

I adore the Namer, and would seriously consider buying them en masse instead of any sort of IFV, which is decidedly unconventional thinking. Let’s review a bit of IFV history, and then how the Israelis came up with something entirely different.

The first IFV was the BMP-1. The Soviets expected the Modern Battlefield (TM) to be loaded with radiation from tactical nuclear weapons, with snazzy new chemical weapons like VX in addition to old favorites like Lewisite, and maybe even some biological threats for good measure. So they conceived of a vehicle that could hold a squad’s worth of men and transport them in NBC-protected style. The BMP-1 had a crew of three plus eight dismounts. The dismounts could fire out the sides through firing ports. Protection was relatively light, but was rated against heavy machine guns (i.e. .50 BMG) from the front. The BMP-1 was easily moved and amphibious. It’s armament was a 73mm gun-missile hybrid unit that was relatively short ranged, with a coaxial 7.62x54R machine gun. It was designed to provide the equivalent of the squad support weapons, a PKM and an RPG-7 in the turret.

Of course, when the Soviets bought lots of BMP-1s, NATO reckoned that Something Must Be Done, and here we get things like the Marder 1 IFV. The primary armament of this first generation of vehicles was a 20mm autocannon. This gave some amount of HE infantry support, but more importantly, it could penetrate the armor of the BMP-1. And it outranged the 73mm gun on the BMP-1. The Soviets countered with the BMP-2, which had a little more armor, fewer dismounts, and a 30mm cannon to give it the ability to punch through the armor on the heavily armored NATO IFVs.

Here we can note that we’ve moved away from the raison d’etre of the original BMP. We’ve actually gotten worse at supporting the infantry, because 20mm and 30mm autocannons hold a lot less HE than the 73mm rounds. 73mm rounds are capable of demolishing some field fortifications, but the autocannons are not. From a historical perspective, .30 and .50 caliber machine guns were considered perfectly adequate direct-fire infantry support weapons in World War II as far as antipersonnel work was considered, and a 75mm short barreled tank gun was an excellent round for attacking bunkers and fortifications. Even though the 20mm autocannon was well-developed (see the excellent 20mm Oerlikon), nobody ever moved to use this to support infantry. It doesn’t add much to the mission of supporting infantry mission, which we’ll revisit more later.

Of course, as the IFV continued to evolve, more changes happened. Amphibiousness and firing ports went away. More armor was wanted to protect against increasingly powerful enemy weapons, and firing ports get in the way of that. Plus, the firing ports weren’t all that useful. It was very difficult for soldiers to hit anything firing out of them in testing, so they were deleted in the Bradley and never put into the Warrior. Increasing autocannon sizes led to fewer troops per vehicle, with most now only capable of holding six or seven men. And that’s the listed, ‘on paper’ capacity. Once you factor in body armor and all the other stuff that makes up full battle rattle, IFVs often max out well below what their designers said they could hold.

That’s more or less where we are today. There’s an arms/armor race, complicated by the fact that you have to put a few troops somewhere in the vehicle, so we get very small ready loads of ammunition. The CV9035 has two feeds of thirty five rounds a piece. These are big 35x228mm rounds, but they’re still shot in bursts to maximize hit probability, so combat persistence is pretty lousy. Troops can’t fight from inside the IFV, and the IFVs aren’t amphibious.

Let’s look at the Israeli case instead. The Israelis have more recent experience in a proper, full-scale conventional war than NATO in 1973. So they have faced enemies who have modern, man-portable ATGMs. These are reasonably easy to use and relatively cheap. They weren’t a factor in the original BMP-1 calculus, but they were in October 1973 in the Yom Kippur War. ATGMs did not make tanks obsolete. The IDF tank corps racked up a large number of kills, and both the Israelis and Arabs used infantry screens to help cover their armor. After the war, the Israelis increased the armor on their tanks and bought more tanks. So clearly they were not seen as obsolete. What the Israelis did discover was that more lightly armored combat vehicles like their M-113 APCs were extremely vulnerable to ATGMs. So they proceeded to create a series of tank-conversion APCs that eventually culminated in the Namer, which although based on the Merkava, is actually a new design.

It will be helpful to take a brief interlude to look at the operating environment of the IDF, specifically the the Golan Heights, a plateau on the Israeli-Syrian border that was the site of fierce armored fighting. The Golan is rocky, barely developed, and lacks trees. Here, the sightlines are long and unobstructed. It is an ideal environment for the employment of ATGMs. Smoke, suppressive fires, and heavy armor are the order of the day; there is nowhere to hide and no cover to be found. If they can see you, they can hit you. To counter the threat, both the Israelis and the Syrians made heavy use of infantry screens and smoke. APCs were used to leapfrog infantry to cover armored advances.

The Namer is the heaviest APC in the world, weighing in at 60 metric tons. Or possibly more; I don’t entirely trust IDF-reported numbers to be completely accurate. It is loaded with armor, and even without active protection systems has been proven to be able to withstand the latest Russian ATGMs in the Lebanon campaigns. It has three crew and is rated for eight or nine dismounts, depending on seat configuration. Looking at the interior, for once I think a manufacturer is understating capacity. Or accounting for gear. By Soviet standards, the Namer could hold a motor rifle platoon.

The Namer is armed with a heavy machine gun (the Ma Deuce) and a GPMG, like an M-113. The Israelis never really thought that their APCs were underarmed. And they did encounter Syran BMP-1s on the Golan, so they saw the firepower of the BMP-1. But they never felt the need to increase the firepower of their APCs, either to kill BMPs or to lob HE rounds. The Israelis felt that their tanks were better at killing vehicles than an IFV like the BMP-1 could ever be, and APCs worked better at the primary job of actually carrying infantry. This worked just fine for them on the Golan.

And this brings up an interesting point. In a world where new IFVs are starting around 33 tonnes, and top out around 42 tonnes (the Puma), what sort of circumstances are we expecting that would mean that these IFVs are going out alone and have to confront vehicles of their weight class and below? Is there some vehicle MMA where things are broken out by weight? Because if IFVs encounter MBTs alone, they’re in trouble. Well, unless the tank crews are poorly trained idiots. And a non-amphibious vehicle in the 33-43 tonne weight class isn’t substantively easier to deploy than an MBT. You still need at least a C-17 for air deployment, and those are expensive and in short supply. So deploying an actual force is going to require rails or ships. It will be slow. And if you’re already going to suffer through a slow cargo ship deployment, might as well bring the tanks too.

We’ve already talked about the problems with autocannons. Increasing size for increasingly marginal ability to kill a small subset of threats. They still can’t kill an MBT from the front, they’re increasingly unlikely to kill an IFV from the front, and they’re overkill for everything lesser. Don’t think the Bradley is exempt because it has ATGMs. The TOW on the Bradley basically requires it to stop moving while it’s guiding, so the wire doesn’t get snapped accidentally. Which means that unless the tank crew is unaware or massively stupid,1 the tank is going to hit the Bradley if the Bradley takes the shot. At longer ranges, the TOW has a flight time of about thirty seconds, which isn’t short enough to score a mutual kill, even if we assume the TOW is good enough to penetrate the tank’s armor.

Let’s take a moment to think about infantry support. We need three things to support the infantry: direct fire with a suppression component,
indirect fire HE to hit dug-in enemies, and direct fire HE to smash fortifications. Of course, autocannons have a direct fire HE capability. It is, however, a very small HE capability. It is not sufficient to reliably punch holes in adobe-type structures, let alone the reinforced concrete ones that you would find in a modern city. The fundamentals of direct fire HE support haven’t changed much since World War 2, when the minimum acceptable caliber for supporting infantry with explosives was 75mm. Smaller guns, like 40 and 50mm were tried and found wanting. So what voodoo makes you think you can do more with the smaller 30mm?

Some of you might be thinking about those specialized rounds that claim to be able to penetrate wall and kill what’s on the other side. There are several issues with these. Assumptions about knowing the locations of hostiles, getting them to stay there, and the composition of the wall may not hold in actual combat zones. Wall construction techniques vary, and the high velocity of the autocannon rounds tend to make placing timed explosions difficult. These specialized rounds still can’t actually demolish things or create an improvised entry point.2 Plus, an autocannon is not like a howitzer or tank cannon that has a loader you can order to “Load Exotic Goofy Shit”. Autocannons have two belt feeds, and given the size of the belts and how cramped3 the turrets are, swapping belts is an enormous pain. And, as we’ll see, there are a few kinds of exotic rounds that you might want, plus regular HE-Frag and APFSDS-T. So what are you going to load? And what will you do when neither belt contains the right boutique round for the target in front of you? You’d call for support like a smart person. Or die.

If you, or that support you called for, had a big ol’ HE-thrower, you could blast the daylights out of that wall with no trouble at all. Once again, if we look at the Combined Arms Team, we might notice that once again there’s an obvious choice here. You guessed it, the MBT. Bigger HE is better HE, and it’s easy to throw a couple of speculative 120mm HE rounds into the ammo rack of an MBT without compromising its primary, vehicle-slaying mission.

Clearly, the IFV and the Namer lack proper indirect fire capability. No, 40mm underbarrel grenade launchers issued to the squad aren’t a solution. And no, airburst autocannon rounds aren’t a replacement either. For one, timing the airburst for effect over a known-range target is made really difficult by the high velocity of an autocannon round. Plus, we really aren’t starting with a lot of explosive in a 30 or 35mm round, and we need the frag pattern to work from a variety of angles, since it still needs to work with more traditional contact fuzing. Again, most armies in World War 2 found the 50 and 60mm mortars inadequate for high-angle support, and preferred systems with a caliber of at least 80mm. Again, airburst is expensive, unproven, and eats into the already tiny ammo load. For indirect support, stick to dedicated systems like mortar carriers. With the range on modern 81mm or 120mm mortars, there’s no reason for such systems to be at the front line anyway, and not having to have the magazine and troops share space is excellent. So don’t think about putting such a system into an IFV.

Let’s now examine the direct fire mission. For supporting infantry, an autocannon doesn’t get you a ton of things. Machine guns allow for larger ammo loadouts, and the small HE rounds of the autocannon don’t really kill people any deader. More ammo means more time suppressing. The belts are less awkward to handle, and provide a significantly lower secondary explosion hazard in the event the armor is penetrated. Plus, not having a massive turret and basket means there’s more room for infantry and their stuff. Going MG-only is a tradeoff of some shock effect for more combat persistence and vehicle survivability.

No big autocannon also means we can forgo the big turret and fancy optics and targeting systems. For modern tanks, this is a significant cost driver. And since IFVs increasingly have optics that are every bit as fancy as what’s on an MBT, and often fancier targeting systems, we’ve eliminated a large source of cost growth. Which is good. A standard problem for armies is what do do when you’ve got a seven to ten million dollar IFV platform, and can’t afford to put all your soldiers in them. So you buy some other APC for second line duties. And you write some horseshit whitepapers on ‘information warfare’ and the ‘way of the future,’ and you ‘prove’ your conclusions in a bunch of rigged exercises until you run into some dudes with RPG-7s that blow holes in your pretty theories and your cheap APCs, and there’s egg all over everyone’s face on CNN. Those insurgents probably just didn’t get the memo about rolling over and dying in the face of your ‘fourth generation warfare’. Did you use the new coversheet when you emailed it to them?

Infantry are the primary purpose of this vehicle. The infantry. The gun should be secondary at most, so it’s best if it’s not eating large amounts of internal volume. If you want an autocannon-carrier, build one. With the Namer, we’re trading vehicle capability for superior infantry carrying capability and effectiveness. It’s a trade I’m happy to make. And regardless of what a bunch of eggheads will tell you, there’s no substitute for armor when you want survivability. Ask the IDF how many computers it takes to stop a Kornet.

Overall, the Namer takes the crown for Most Survivable armored vehicle, with an obscene amount of armor, active protection systems, and basically nothing inside to cook off and cause secondary explosions in the case of a penetration. Which also makes it a winner in that fourth dimension of all things procurement: politics. A vote to buy the Namer is a vote to bring someone’s little boy home safe. Are you going to be able to look those mothers in the eye and tell them that their boys burned to death in some crappy thin-skinned vehicle? Do you want to testify at that hearing?

Yeah, that’s what I thought. SOLD.

1.) See the Battle of 73 Easting in 1991. An ideal case for the attackers, because the Iraqis couldn’t find their own ass with two hands and a map.
2.) Also known as a man-sized hole in the wall.
3.) Yes, Virginia, even western IFVs have cramped turrets. The monster CV90, which is roughly as big as a PzKpfW VI Tiger I tank, has a turret which has been described as “a tighter fit than a T-72.”

Borgundy Mechanized Rifle Company

So we have a platoon, and a squad. At the small levels, we would expect organization to be fluid, based on situation and how many people are around to be organized. But we have to organize something administratively, so there it is. As we get further up on the organization table, structures become somewhat more regimented.

Philosophically, people like to debate between the square organization and the triangular organization, i.e. whether there should be three or four main component elements. Triangular units are smaller, so you get more of them. More importantly, they’re easier to command and easier to keep supplied. Square units can do more (since they have more) and are more casualty resistant. The Russians are big fans of the triangular-type organization. NATO uses the square. Or sometimes the triangular. Or some other weird things. The typical rifle company for the West is three rifle platoons and a heavy weapons platoon. The weapons platoon brings things like rocket launchers and GPMGs for added firepower. For a mechanized infantry company, the weapons platoon is pretty redundant, given that you have a bunch of IFVs already included in your platoons.

We’ve established a lean and mean 33-man rifle platoon with three CV90s. We’ll put three in our company. We could add a fourth, but it’s not strictly necessary, and it’s best to try to keep units as simple as we can. We’re also trying to keep things manageable by a Captain with a minimum of staff. Smaller units are easier to command, and Captains aren’t the most experienced officers. Besides, we’re also introducing some support units as part of the headquarters. We do not have an embedded headquarters at this level, unlike at the platoon or squad levels.

Our headquarters contains a CO and his very small staff. More specifically, there’s a CO, an XO, and a first sergeant. This isn’t much of a staff, but most of the HQ section is devoted to support personnel. Supportwise, we have a supply sergeant, a gunnery sergeant2, an armorer’s assistant, three medics, and a senior medic to lead the medical group. We’re also going to add some supply and maintenance personnel. There are a lot of good reasons to have some of these guys. Vehicles need maintenance, and more hands to do that is always good. Supplies often need some physical manhandling, and again, more hands is better. In terms of vehicles, the two officers each have a CV9035 at their disposal. The first sergeant has a Boxer MRAV at his disposal. Additionally, there are two light trucks3 and two medium trucks.4 Also allotted are two trailers: one 600 gallon water trailer and one field kitchen trailer. In terms of additional personnel, the IFVs are each allotted a driver and a gunner, and the APC is allotted a driver. Our supply and maintenance section is eight men, giving a total of 21 men and two officers in the headquarters. As always, everyone is issued a carbine. This way officers don’t stand out as much, and just about anyone can defend himself or be pressed into service as an ersatz rifleman as needed.

For those of you who like a touch of accounting in your TO&Es, this brings our total for the mechanized infantry company to 122 officers and men, and eleven CV9035s. It’s small and agile, and it comes with some limited organic supply and support assets. Overall though, it shouldn’t be too hard for a captain to command effectively. Interestingly, both the Russians, with their centrally-managed tactics and the Israelis, who are the strictest devotees of Aufttragstaktik5 orthodoxy favor smaller organization patterns. They are easier to manage, and this is an advantage for either the central commander or the independent local commander.

1. Cf. the Pentomic division. It’s as bad an idea as it sounds.
2. I have a lot of sergeants floating around here. I should probably make a rank table.
3. Something in the HMMWV or JLTV size class. I haven’t picked one yet, as the reader will note.
4. Something in the FMTV or MTVR size class. Again, choice pending.
5. For those of you who don’t speak German, “mission tactics”. The commander gives the subordinate in charge of a mission the goal, the forces he has at his disposal, and the timeframe required. The subordinate is expected to come up with and execute a plan, and react to complications along the way. Requires good training of one’s subordinates.

Issue Kit Thoughts

Pondering my AR builds, both extant and forthcoming, as well as modern combat trends has given me some ideas on how one ought to kit out an infantry force. A couple of them aren’t very revolutionary, and one is pretty different. We’ll start with the least controversial, and go on towards things that will require a bit more arguing.

Premise 1: Issue body armor all around.
This one’s a pretty easy sell. Frontline troops have been widely issued body armor since (at least) the Vietnam war. That body armor was a flak jacket, which is designed to provide protection from fragmentation weapons. Body armor saves lives, and that protects the investment in soldier training, plus looks better to the civilians at home. The trick with body armor is to balance weight and protection, which will be the focus of another article. It’s important to not forget to include load bearing equipment in the body armor system. The vest should be designed to distribute the weight of the armor already, and PALS webbing (or similar) saves having to deal with yet another wearable. This is not only awkward, but it makes it harder for medics to get to an injured soldier to provide care.

Premise 2: Every longarm should have an optic
Once again, this one’s pretty simple. Optics are way better than iron sights. The trick has always been getting them rugged enough and cheap enough to issue generally, and we’ve been nailing that since the 90s (maybe earlier). With modular picatinny rail mounts, we needn’t specify which optic to the weapon designer. There are a lot of options here, and we’ll have a future article devoted to the choice. In brief though, there’s the red dot optic, the low-magnification, fixed-power scope, and the low magnification, variable-power scope. Magnification gives the ability to identify targets at range if they’re hiding (maybe insurgents in a crowd, or maybe soldiers in the brush), but the dot is simpler and faster to use. A well designed low power variable scope gives the best of both worlds, but the variable power adds weight and complexity, and they’re not as rugged.

Premise 3: Pistols suck. Therefore, issue carbines
This one’s pretty easy to argue. Happily, it also hurts the feelings of idiots. But a carbine is a much more lethal weapon than a pistol. It shoots a more powerful round, holds more ammo, and is easier to shoot well. Carbines rock. Issuing carbines generally to officers has the fringe benefit of making them stand out less in a sniper’s scope. Pistols are historically a badge of authority. Or, a ‘Shoot Me’ indicator, depending on which side of the scope you are. So there’s a benefit there. The issue, of course, is that carbines are bigger and heavier than pistols. In a highly mechanized force though, this isn’t a huge problem since one’s base vehicle can carry that carbine backup weapon. Even light infantry type forces can go this route: the US Marines issue M4s to just about everybody. Even officers as high as Lieutenant Colonel get M4s. We should follow suit. About the only role I can think of that can’t is fighter pilots. Maybe if I break the weapon down I can get it into a survival kit.

Premise 4: Every carbine, rifle, and man-portable machine gun should have a suppressor
Okay, here’s the one that’s a little out there, mostly because I no longer have a real world force to lean on. SOCOM does this, but they’re all special forces guys. So why would we do it generally? Like optics in the 90s, we’ve got suppressors that are mature enough to minimize the disadvantages. Modern suppressors are reasonably lightweight and quite durable. The Surefire SOCOM RC2 (5.56) suppressors, for example, weigh just over a pound and the Surefire SOCOM-556MG suppressors weigh just under a pound and a half. Great! But, as well-educated firearms enthusiasts, we know that suppressors don’t actually silence firearms like you see in lame action movies. That’s fine. We actually get many benefits from the suppressor anyway, even if it can’t turn a bunch of grunts into ninjas.

The first and most obvious benefit is that a suppressed gun is easier on one’s hearing. This is most noticeable indoors, and is why so many special forces and SWAT guys run suppressors. The suppressor might be thought of as taking the edge off of a gunshot, and this is great if you train a lot indoors, or find yourself indoors. It takes the edge off outside too, which is helpful when you and your buddies are engaging some enemy scumbags. Suppressors also eliminate flash. This brings two more advantages: first, this helps mask a soldier’s position. There’s no big obvious flash to pinpoint his position. Second, in a low-light setting where a soldier might be using night vision equipment, a suppressor prevents flash from washing out the light amplification systems in the goggles. Finally, that ‘taking the edge off’ of the report of weapons also helps obscure the soldier and make his position less obvious in a quick engagement or ambush. It’s not about completely eliminating sound, it’s just about managing it and making it harder to track.

There we go. Four ways to maximize the effectiveness of soldiers. And one of them is even pretty aggressive and forward-looking.

Edit to add: Since it’s come up a few times in the comments, and I’d hate to leave conclusions there to fester, let’s talk prices and make some comparisons. Currently, SOCOM has tested and approved Surefire suppressors for deployment in the field. The MSRP of one of these models is $1,375.00. Let’s look at the MSRP of some other pieces of equipment commonly issued. The USMC’s standard issue optic has been the Trijicon ACOG. The current model of choice is the TA31RCO-A4CP which has an MSRP of $1,724.00. Aimpoint doesn’t list MSRPs on their website, but their Comp M4, used by the US Army, the Norwegian Army, and a whole bunch of others, seems to have an MSRP of about $850.00 or so. Oh, and while not being sold to civilians, the price of one of the super awesome GPNVG-18 Panoramic Night Vision goggle sets used in the Bin Laden raid is about $65,000.00. All prices given in US Dollars and are current to the best of my knowledge as of April 10, 2018.