Armor: November 29, 1999


General Shinseki's plan for an all-wheeled medium-weight Army continues to draw debate. Armor advocates doubt that an Army based on lightly armored vehicles can win since the vehicles cannot absorb a hit from a major-caliber weapon and survive. General Shinseki said he wants to take a more holistic view and develop systems that make sure the lightly-armored wheeled vehicles do not come under direct fire in the first place, but know where the enemy is and can destroy him at long range (8-10km). Critics distrust the entire "information warfare" theory, noting that the Serbs were able to make fools of most NATO recon assets without much trouble. The Army has let it be known what it wants in a new wheeled armored combat vehicle. It must be deployable by a C-130. The ability to air-drop the vehicle would be nice but is not required. The Army insists that the vehicle be available off-the-shelf or at worst be nearly ready for production (and based on a similar vehicle already in production). The vehicle must substantially reduce the fuel and maintenance costs over the current tracked vehicle fleet, effectively demanding a wheeled vehicle. The new armored car must have high tactical mobility and agility. It must be highly reliable and able to swim (preferably without preparation). It must be capable of conversion into many variants (command post, armored personnel carrier, tank destroyer, anti-tank missile, mortar, air defense, ambulance, recovery, maintenance, cargo, engineer, etc.). It should be capable of carrying a 105mm gun, although the Army might have to accept a 90mm weapon if it goes with a smaller 6-wheel vehicle such as the Pandur or Fox. It must be relatively quiet and able to operate at night with both night driving and night-fighting systems. Companies planning to offer vehicles to the Army complain that the General Motors Piranha (already in use as the Marine LAV) has a virtual lock on the contract because the specifications were deliberately written with it in mind.--Stephen V Cole 

November 2; Germany and Britain have jointly funded a $115 million development program for the Multi-Role Armored Vehicle. This is a large eight-wheeled armored car designed to carry troops assigned to rear area missions as well as provide a variety of vehicles for command post, mortar, cargo, medical, air defense, anti-tank, and other roles. The development contract calls for 9 vehicles to be produced by 2002. These will be tested until 2004, when orders for the first 800 vehicles (300 for the British, 300 for the Germans, and 200 for the Dutch) are expected. The first vehicles will take to the field in 2006. Total eventual vehicles for the three nations could reach 2,500, and they have high hopes for export sales. The MRAV is designed to have considerable interior volume, allowing a variety of special role vehicles to be easily built. The French pulled out of the program when the other nations would not make provision for a large powered turret mounting a medium-caliber cannon. The MRAV will have a small turret mounting a 12.7mm machinegun.--Stephen V Cole




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