Armor: August 10, 1999



SWISS ORDNANCE is offering its 120mm Compact Tank Gun (designed to upgrade Swiss Pz68s) for export, suggesting that it would be perfect to upgrade US-built M60 tanks and to arm the Scandanavian CV90120 combat vehicle. The Jordanians have already fitted one test gun to an M60. --Stephen V Cole


Forecast International (a think tank) has recently completed a survey of the world's tanks and has selected the top 10. They are, from best on down...

1. GERMAN LEOPARD-2A6: This is the German version of the Swedish version of the German tank. It edged out the M1A2 based on its Galix protection system, new command and control system, and the new passive armor system. It also has a longer 120mm cannon firing new ammunition.

2. US M1A2 ABRAMS came in second, and reading between the lines it would seem to be the gas-guzzling turbine engine that kept it out of the top spot in this recent study (which was not the only one done). The study sited the hunter-killer system (in which the commander uses his own independent thermal sight to find targets and hand them off to the gunner) and the new "digital" [Nintendo] battlefield awareness system as the features that put it above the rest.

3. A SURPRISE for third place was the Japanese Type-90. This is curious, since most of the data about the Type-90 is still highly classified (but was apparently available to Forecast International). It is outwardly similar to the Leopard-2, carrying the same 120mm cannon. It has an autoloader and a three-man crew. Some elements of its fire control and command systems were said to be superior to the Leopard-2 and M1A2. The fire control system has an unknown automatic target recognition and tracking system with built in threat-prioritization.

4. THE FRENCH LECLERC came in fourth, its sophisticated electronics not enough to overcome its adequate cannon, engine, and suspension. It was noted for a modular armor system which can be tailored to the threat. It has an autoloader and three-man crew. While fielded with a 120mm gun, it has been tested with a new 140mm cannon.

5. THE BRITISH CHALLENGER-2 has overcome the awful failings of the Challenger-1, although this required replacing the turret, gun, and gearbox. New fire controls match the M1A2 and Leopard-2, but the armor and other fittings are below par. The Challenger-2's rifled 120mm cannon claims the longest-range tank kill in world history (4,000m in the Gulf War).

6. THE RUSSIAN T-80UM2 is a sufficient improvement over the disastrous T-80U that fought (and exploded) all over Chechnya to rate the number six spot. The turbine engine actually works, and the ammunition is stored in the turret bustle under blow-out panels. The ammunition is now single-piece rather than the previous two-piece system. The autoloader can now handle much higher rates of fire than any previous Russian tank.

7. THE SOUTH KOREAN TYPE-88, fitted with a 120mm cannon and new fire controls "the equal" of the M1, ranks number seven. It is widely called "the baby M1".

8. THE RUSSIAN T90 (and the similar Ukrainian T-84) came in next. It lost ground due to its cramped turret (which reduces fightability) and open doubts over its survivability. It has a diesel engine, Kontakt explosive reactive armor, Shtora-1 countermeasures, and the Refleks laser-guided cannon-launched missile.

9. THE RUSSIAN T-72 came in next, perhaps because there were so few other modern tanks left to consider. The study regards the T-72 as being at the end of its development and unlikely to be further improved. It was noted that several versions of the T-72 are built in various countries.

10. THE ISRAELI MERKAVA-III came in 10th, but the study noted that it was the unchallenged winner on its own turf. It has superb protection, better than anything else, and its firepower and electronics are the equal of any other. The problem is that it is relatively slow (due to its armor and the fact that it is geared for a slow battle in rocky hills). The study noted that but for this drawback, its many other features (a built-in mortar, a vertical searchlight directed by a rotating metal mirror, infantry/cargo compartment in the rear, front-mounted engine) might have resulted in a considerably higher rating.

Aug 99 Steve Cole


The domed-elliptical turrets on Russian tanks since the T-62 are cast steel and include large cavities on either side of the gun. These cavities are filled with materials designed to resist penetration by shaped-charge weapons (i.e., anti-tank missiles). The T-72 uses kvartz (sand fused into quartz). The T-64A uses "Combination-K" which may also be "kvartz" poured around ceramic blocks. These ceramic blocks are made of corundum, a very hard and heat-resistant mineral.

Aug 99 Steve Cole


US Army doctrine for heavy mechanized combat calls for a reinforced company-sized team to be built around the scout platoon for the "covering force battle" designed to keep enemy scouts out of US battle zones. The problem has always been where to find the troops and commander for this mission, and numerous solutions have been proposed and used. The problem has been aggravated by recent US Army decisions to cut tank and Bradley battalions from four companies (plus the mortars and scouts) to only three.

This left the battalions without the resources to beef up the scout platoon for the battle.

One solution would be to create an entire company of scouts. This would include the existing scout platoon (a pack of Humvees fitted with machineguns or TOW missiles), a tank platoon (or a Bradley platoon in a Bradley battalion), an infantry platoon (mounted in trucks or M113s, there to provide dismounted scouts), a mortar section (two 120mm tubes plus a fire direction center track), and a small headquarters. While such a troop would be more effective than the current ad-hoc covering force, it would be virtually impossible to field in the current atmosphere of budget cuts that build a battalion to cost, rather than for the mission.

Aug 99 Steve Cole




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