Army Wants 'Air Droppable' Light Tank & Ultra-Light Vehicles

Colonial-Marine

Fighting the UAV mafia.
Joined
Oct 5, 2009
Messages
868
Reaction score
206
I'd have to imagine the comms and MG mount issues are fixable, but the fact is that an unarmored jeep is dead-meat against a near-peer enemy. It has uses elsewhere but in an actual meeting engagement or even convoy escort if your enemy happens to be better armed the Vietcong or Taliban it's just going to get guys killed.

SF or other units trying to do the Rat Patrol against a near-peer enemy isn't really viable either. Best leave that strategy back in the 3rd world where it can work to an extent.
 

Grey Havoc

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Oct 9, 2009
Messages
17,454
Reaction score
7,194

skyblue

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Sep 20, 2009
Messages
70
Reaction score
61

aonestudio

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Mar 11, 2018
Messages
1,069
Reaction score
2,223

BAE Systems delivered its final ‘light tank' prototype to the US Army in early February, one-and-a-half-years later than anticipated, but the company has now been disqualified from competing due to noncompliance issues, two industry sources with knowledge of the programme separately confirmed to Janes. The decision leaves General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) as the only competitor still vying for the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) contract.
 

Colonial-Marine

Fighting the UAV mafia.
Joined
Oct 5, 2009
Messages
868
Reaction score
206
I don't get the Army's logic behind this choice. Do you really need a heavier 'light tank' when if you need that sort of armor you've got real MBTs around?
 

Grey Havoc

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Oct 9, 2009
Messages
17,454
Reaction score
7,194
Primarily to help airborne and other light forces to take and hold vital positions until they can be relieved or reinforced by heavier elements.
 

BB1984

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Aug 21, 2011
Messages
101
Reaction score
114
I don't get the Army's logic behind this choice. Do you really need a heavier 'light tank' when if you need that sort of armor you've got real MBTs around?
"Light" tanks come in a couple flavors.

The first is very light, such that they can be air dropped and/or helicopter lifted. In this case the choice is "light tank or no tank at all."

The second is "light compared to an M1," where the US seems to be now. They're looking at a vehicle in the 25-35 tonnes range, so they can get two in a C17 instead of one M1. Thus the tradeoff is two "light" tanks instead of one MBT, which can make a lot of sense when the role is infantry support and transport is limited; the supported troops are still very light, so they're not going to be attacking a heavy force. In short this is filling the Sturmgeschütz role, not the MBT role.

I think the choice of the 105mm gun reinforces this idea. Arguably they are consciously downgrading any direct fire capability vs. heavy armor to make it clear this is a fire support vehicle, not a tank.
 

riggerrob

I really should change my personal text
Senior Member
Joined
Mar 11, 2012
Messages
2,050
Reaction score
1,494
I don't get the Army's logic behind this choice. Do you really need a heavier 'light tank' when if you need that sort of armor you've got real MBTs around?

MBTS are not relevant if they are on the far side of the planet or the far side of a light bridge.
Light tanks are valuable in the "firstest with the mostest" role. Being able to move more fire-power up a mountainous goat track is beyond the mobility of most MBTs.
Also consider that you can count on one hand the number of air forces with enough transport planes to move significant numbers of MBTs ... never mind all the millions of tons of fuel, ammo, spare tracks, rations, etc. needed to keep MBTs moving.
 

Moose

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2010
Messages
1,634
Reaction score
811
I really want to know what the "non-compliance" issue was because from where I was scoring, BAE was easily offering the better vehicle for the mission.
 

Colonial-Marine

Fighting the UAV mafia.
Joined
Oct 5, 2009
Messages
868
Reaction score
206
I really want to know what the "non-compliance" issue was because from where I was scoring, BAE was easily offering the better vehicle for the mission.
This is what I was getting at. I understand the general idea of the program but it seems to me like the BAE offering is the better choice.
 

Ainen

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Aug 25, 2011
Messages
135
Reaction score
106
I really want to know what the "non-compliance" issue was because from where I was scoring, BAE was easily offering the better vehicle for the mission.
It depends. The vehicle itself was the outright weaker one. Lesser protection, probably way less ready rds (we're supporting infantry).
If the army wanted a more deliverable abroomz, GDLS "medium tank" proposal sounds like the way to go.

Shame for 89&101 of course.
 

Moose

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2010
Messages
1,634
Reaction score
811
I really want to know what the "non-compliance" issue was because from where I was scoring, BAE was easily offering the better vehicle for the mission.
It depends. The vehicle itself was the outright weaker one. Lesser protection, probably way less ready rds (we're supporting infantry).
If the army wanted a more deliverable abroomz, GDLS "medium tank" proposal sounds like the way to go.

Shame for 89&101 of course.
The role is Mobile Protected Firepower, not "lighter M1." As Ronkainen's Twitter thread laid out, BAE's vehicle fit the role very well. GDLS's also fits the role, but with a substantially larger impact on the units it's to be attached to.

If the Army had said BAE's vehicle didn't meet requirements, and given at least a perfunctory explanation why, that would be one thing. But to disqualify a seemingly acceptable vehicle based on an unnamed "noncompliance issue" is a bit of a bitter pill.
 

BB1984

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Aug 21, 2011
Messages
101
Reaction score
114
I really want to know what the "non-compliance" issue was because from where I was scoring, BAE was easily offering the better vehicle for the mission.
It depends. The vehicle itself was the outright weaker one. Lesser protection, probably way less ready rds (we're supporting infantry).
If the army wanted a more deliverable abroomz, GDLS "medium tank" proposal sounds like the way to go.

Shame for 89&101 of course.
The role is Mobile Protected Firepower, not "lighter M1." As Ronkainen's Twitter thread laid out, BAE's vehicle fit the role very well. GDLS's also fits the role, but with a substantially larger impact on the units it's to be attached to.

If the Army had said BAE's vehicle didn't meet requirements, and given at least a perfunctory explanation why, that would be one thing. But to disqualify a seemingly acceptable vehicle based on an unnamed "noncompliance issue" is a bit of a bitter pill.

One possibility is that the big driver really is the "two fit in a C-17" requirement. If this is the case, driven by some sortie limit (like the design of the Light divisions was years ago) or other reason, then it makes sense to go right up to the weight limit to get the most firepower and armor you can get within the weight available, which is presumably in the 25-35 ton range.

I'm not agreeing this is a good idea, but if you look at the past US Army light tank (by many names) project failures that were C-130 constrained, the approach was always to use the biggest, heaviest vehicle that would just barely fit, so the same thinking applied to "two in a C-17" wouldn't be surprising.
 

Colonial-Marine

Fighting the UAV mafia.
Joined
Oct 5, 2009
Messages
868
Reaction score
206
The M8 AGS seemed like a successful design that was more-or-less killed by the budgetary situation of the time.

Since the Sheridan it seems like there has been no shortage of promising vehicles and components to fill the "light tank" role but the plans keep getting changed, or there isn't room in the budget, or some bureaucrats make questionable decisions like this one.
 

Ainen

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Aug 25, 2011
Messages
135
Reaction score
106
The role is Mobile Protected Firepower, not "lighter M1." As Ronkainen's Twitter thread laid out, BAE's vehicle fit the role very well. GDLS's also fits the role, but with a substantially larger impact on the units it's to be attached to.

If the Army had said BAE's vehicle didn't meet requirements, and given at least a perfunctory explanation why, that would be one thing. But to disqualify a seemingly acceptable vehicle based on an unnamed "noncompliance issue" is a bit of a bitter pill.
Mobile protected firepower, joint tactical integrated multi-domain land effector, or whatever.
It's intended to provide fire support&perform assault action. It means, for practical purposes, it's a tank.

BAE vehicle, with its 18/25t setups, is simply less suited for assaults - it's way more vulnerable, it is capable of fewer engagements (less ammo), it lacks 1 pair of eyes.
Smaller logistical footprint probably isn't sufficient compensation for deficiencies in main purpose. Which is to make infantry brigades more capable in high-intensity combat.
 

Colonial-Marine

Fighting the UAV mafia.
Joined
Oct 5, 2009
Messages
868
Reaction score
206
BAE vehicle, with its 18/25t setups, is simply less suited for assaults - it's way more vulnerable, it is capable of fewer engagements (less ammo). Smaller logistical footprint probably isn't a sufficient compensation for deficiencies in main purpose.
However if logistics weren't a primary concern with this sort of tank you could just bring a real MBT to the fight.

Seems like the fundamental question is if we should go for a true light tank that can be up-armored to an extent or a somewhat heavier "rapid deployment" tank similar to the vehicles envisioned under the FCS mess of the 2000s but less ambitious.

Since one of the primary uses of this vehicle seems set to be fire support for Stryker brigades replacing the less than successful MGS I wonder why we aren't considering a wheeled vehicle like the Strykers? The latest Centauro II seems pretty capable.
 

TomS

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2008
Messages
5,635
Reaction score
3,781
Since one of the primary uses of this vehicle seems set to be fire support for Stryker brigades replacing the less than successful MGS I wonder why we aren't considering a wheeled vehicle like the Strykers?

I think you just answered your own question there. Because the wheeled Stryker with tank gun was a flop, the problem must be the wheels. Or so the thinking goes, anyway.
 

Moose

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2010
Messages
1,634
Reaction score
811
BAE vehicle, with its 18/25t setups, is simply less suited for assaults - it's way more vulnerable, it is capable of fewer engagements (less ammo). Smaller logistical footprint probably isn't a sufficient compensation for deficiencies in main purpose.
However if logistics weren't a primary concern with this sort of tank you could just bring a real MBT to the fight.

Seems like the fundamental question is if we should go for a true light tank that can be up-armored to an extent or a somewhat heavier "rapid deployment" tank similar to the vehicles envisioned under the FCS mess of the 2000s but less ambitious.

Since one of the primary uses of this vehicle seems set to be fire support for Stryker brigades replacing the less than successful MGS I wonder why we aren't considering a wheeled vehicle like the Strykers? The latest Centauro II seems pretty capable.
Centaro weighs more than M8 in it's lighter configurations, same with Type 16. If we have M8 as an option, why are the wheeled options superior?
I really want to know what the "non-compliance" issue was because from where I was scoring, BAE was easily offering the better vehicle for the mission.
It depends. The vehicle itself was the outright weaker one. Lesser protection, probably way less ready rds (we're supporting infantry).
If the army wanted a more deliverable abroomz, GDLS "medium tank" proposal sounds like the way to go.

Shame for 89&101 of course.
The role is Mobile Protected Firepower, not "lighter M1." As Ronkainen's Twitter thread laid out, BAE's vehicle fit the role very well. GDLS's also fits the role, but with a substantially larger impact on the units it's to be attached to.

If the Army had said BAE's vehicle didn't meet requirements, and given at least a perfunctory explanation why, that would be one thing. But to disqualify a seemingly acceptable vehicle based on an unnamed "noncompliance issue" is a bit of a bitter pill.

One possibility is that the big driver really is the "two fit in a C-17" requirement. If this is the case, driven by some sortie limit (like the design of the Light divisions was years ago) or other reason, then it makes sense to go right up to the weight limit to get the most firepower and armor you can get within the weight available, which is presumably in the 25-35 ton range.

I'm not agreeing this is a good idea, but if you look at the past US Army light tank (by many names) project failures that were C-130 constrained, the approach was always to use the biggest, heaviest vehicle that would just barely fit, so the same thinking applied to "two in a C-17" wouldn't be surprising.
But what is that weight actually getting the Army? Both vehicles use the same gun and have similar gun upgrade potential, both are intended to use an APS to boost surivability. Is GLDS' vehicle substantially better armored, to the point of making a difference against peer threats? I could buy that it's got better growth potential, and it has a fairly huge engine, but are these enough to justify the major support vehicle shakeup that comes with putting it in infantry units?
 

BB1984

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Aug 21, 2011
Messages
101
Reaction score
114
BAE vehicle, with its 18/25t setups, is simply less suited for assaults - it's way more vulnerable, it is capable of fewer engagements (less ammo). Smaller logistical footprint probably isn't a sufficient compensation for deficiencies in main purpose.
However if logistics weren't a primary concern with this sort of tank you could just bring a real MBT to the fight.

Seems like the fundamental question is if we should go for a true light tank that can be up-armored to an extent or a somewhat heavier "rapid deployment" tank similar to the vehicles envisioned under the FCS mess of the 2000s but less ambitious.

Since one of the primary uses of this vehicle seems set to be fire support for Stryker brigades replacing the less than successful MGS I wonder why we aren't considering a wheeled vehicle like the Strykers? The latest Centauro II seems pretty capable.
Centaro weighs more than M8 in it's lighter configurations, same with Type 16. If we have M8 as an option, why are the wheeled options superior?
I really want to know what the "non-compliance" issue was because from where I was scoring, BAE was easily offering the better vehicle for the mission.
It depends. The vehicle itself was the outright weaker one. Lesser protection, probably way less ready rds (we're supporting infantry).
If the army wanted a more deliverable abroomz, GDLS "medium tank" proposal sounds like the way to go.

Shame for 89&101 of course.
The role is Mobile Protected Firepower, not "lighter M1." As Ronkainen's Twitter thread laid out, BAE's vehicle fit the role very well. GDLS's also fits the role, but with a substantially larger impact on the units it's to be attached to.

If the Army had said BAE's vehicle didn't meet requirements, and given at least a perfunctory explanation why, that would be one thing. But to disqualify a seemingly acceptable vehicle based on an unnamed "noncompliance issue" is a bit of a bitter pill.

One possibility is that the big driver really is the "two fit in a C-17" requirement. If this is the case, driven by some sortie limit (like the design of the Light divisions was years ago) or other reason, then it makes sense to go right up to the weight limit to get the most firepower and armor you can get within the weight available, which is presumably in the 25-35 ton range.

I'm not agreeing this is a good idea, but if you look at the past US Army light tank (by many names) project failures that were C-130 constrained, the approach was always to use the biggest, heaviest vehicle that would just barely fit, so the same thinking applied to "two in a C-17" wouldn't be surprising.
But what is that weight actually getting the Army? Both vehicles use the same gun and have similar gun upgrade potential, both are intended to use an APS to boost surivability. Is GLDS' vehicle substantially better armored, to the point of making a difference against peer threats? I could buy that it's got better growth potential, and it has a fairly huge engine, but are these enough to justify the major support vehicle shakeup that comes with putting it in infantry units?
Ref these two vehicles in particular, I don't know but if you look at the history of many current vehicles, especially the Bradley, you see huge weight increases over time. When you're looking at a 30-40-50 year life cycle, space and weight margins are important.

Ref weight / justification: I share the concerns. Personally I think the Army has always gone far too heavy with these vehicles and that the weight limit should be driven by the CH-47/CH-53; then you get vehicles that are applicable to air assaults (both Army and Marine) and C130 portable as well (important because the USAF might actually risk some C-130s, but not C-17s), not to mention air droppable (an edge case but still useful, as Panama showed). I am however, an outlier on this and certainly there are tradeoffs with much lighter vehicles.
 

Ainen

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Aug 25, 2011
Messages
135
Reaction score
106
However if logistics weren't a primary concern with this sort of tank you could just bring a real MBT to the fight.
Well, here the problem is that combat-configured M1A2C is twice the weight of GDLS MPF. And 3(!) times the weight of BAE one.
In essence, forgive me for outdated terms, but US Army was choosing between light and medium tank (and probably both should exist in an ideal world).

Abrams, which began as a 55t-class platform, but now can reach combat weights well over 80t just can't be a jack of all trades anymore.
 

MihoshiK

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Feb 9, 2007
Messages
267
Reaction score
233
I can't shake the feeling that the M8 might have lost out because the Army doesn't want to admit that they had the solution 25 years ago and let it get away.
The Army has to have a solid and valid reason though, otherwise it's lawsuit time.
 

timmymagic

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Aug 24, 2011
Messages
231
Reaction score
473
Anyone think the US might re-consider given the Russian VDV's experience with the BMD series in Ukraine at present? They're taking terrible casualties...admittedly they're being used appallingly, but when armour is that light is it not a good idea to ditch it and go with mobility and speed?
 

riggerrob

I really should change my personal text
Senior Member
Joined
Mar 11, 2012
Messages
2,050
Reaction score
1,494
Anyone think the US might re-consider given the Russian VDV's experience with the BMD series in Ukraine at present? They're taking terrible casualties...admittedly they're being used appallingly, but when armour is that light is it not a good idea to ditch it and go with mobility and speed?
Are BMDs even proof against rifle fire?
 

BB1984

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Aug 21, 2011
Messages
101
Reaction score
114
Anyone think the US might re-consider given the Russian VDV's experience with the BMD series in Ukraine at present? They're taking terrible casualties...admittedly they're being used appallingly, but when armour is that light is it not a good idea to ditch it and go with mobility and speed?
Are BMDs even proof against rifle fire?
"rifle fire" is more ambiguous than it sounds, as is reflected in the NATO STANAG requirements.
  • Stanag 4569 level 1: proof vs. ball ammunition in standard rifle calibers
  • Level 2: proof vs. 7.62x39 AP ammunition
  • Level 3: proof vs. 7.62x51mm and 7.62x54R AP ammunition
  • Level 4: proof vs. 14.5mm AP
Based off a quick look at the armor thicknesses involved, I would guess the BMD is probably something like level 3 frontally and level 1 or 2 as you get to sides, rear, and top.

Ref armor vs. mobility, always a tough call with the weight constraints of an airborne operation, but unarmored vehicles are terribly vulnerable to ambush by machine guns, or even by riflemen at close range, that even a lightly armored vehicle would shrug off. This was, for instance, the US thinking with replacing jeeps with the M114 for reconnaissance purposes, which was based off the WWII experience of very high casualties for jeep mounted armored cavalry troops.
 

TomS

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2008
Messages
5,635
Reaction score
3,781
Anyone think the US might re-consider given the Russian VDV's experience with the BMD series in Ukraine at present? They're taking terrible casualties...admittedly they're being used appallingly, but when armour is that light is it not a good idea to ditch it and go with mobility and speed?
Are BMDs even proof against rifle fire?

Probably, sort of, unless they have tungsten-core AP ammo for those rifles.

Really deep discussion here.


The tl;dr is that it's generally proof against .50-caliber across the frontal arc and probably against NATO steel-core 7.62mm AP beyond maybe 100-200 meters.
 

Moose

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2010
Messages
1,634
Reaction score
811
Anyone think the US might re-consider given the Russian VDV's experience with the BMD series in Ukraine at present? They're taking terrible casualties...admittedly they're being used appallingly, but when armour is that light is it not a good idea to ditch it and go with mobility and speed?
Their mobility and speed vehicles aren't fairing any better. MPF is supposed to have hard-kill APS from day 1, which will help against ATGMs though obviously within limits, and defense against drones/loitering munitions is certainly rising up the charts.
 

uk 75

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
4,134
Reaction score
3,361
Apart from operations like Grenada and Panama against limited level opponents airborne ops against a well armed opponent do not work. Kiyv is the latest example.
The UK Scorpion family showed the best way of giving Air Portable Infantry or Recce units a light armour troop.
Anything bigger or more complicated and you might as well deploy real tanks and MICV.
 

BAROBA

3D artist
Joined
Jul 6, 2007
Messages
379
Reaction score
78
Website
www.baroba.be
Is the age of the tank over, is now the real question after watching the war in the Ukraine?
Tanks without APS are almost sitting ducks waiting to be picked off one by one...
I would go for a recon tank-drone with a UAV overhead, and a mortar-unit somewhere far enough away as alternative for a tank. The tankdrone is there for getting enemy combatants out of hiding, the UAV for spotting them, and the mortar for shelling them.
 

BB1984

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Aug 21, 2011
Messages
101
Reaction score
114
. . . The UK Scorpion family showed the best way of giving Air Portable Infantry or Recce units a light armour troop.
Anything bigger or more complicated and you might as well deploy real tanks and MICV . . .
I agree the Scorpion family did show the way. I wound up there after looking at some weight/space analysis.

I looked at weight/dimensions from a US point of view (CH-47/CH-53/C-130) and found that, when focusing on weight, about 11 tonnes baseline, with add on armor packages that can go to about 13 or even 15 tonnes, was a sweet spot for both helicopter and airborne use.

If you want internal carry in CH-47/53, then you're going to wind up lighter just because the vehicle has to be smaller: something like a Scorpion but with suspension like the BMD so that it can reduce its height.

So my end game was something along the lines of a scorpion/stormer combination with shared components.
  • A Scorpion in one version with a turret like the Bradley for general purpose work and like the Scorpion 90 for fire support, used for cavalry type tasks and internal carry air assault
  • A heavier, Stormer like, version with multiple variants to cover air drop and helicopter sling load scenarios
If you look at the number of platforms available for air transport, you see a steep ramp from what takes a C-17 (MBT and the Army's new vehicle) to what takes a C-130 to what moves in a CH-47/53 so in my mind the versatility of the lighter platform is more valuable than the increased capability per vehicle of heavier vehicles, though this is clearly somewhat subjective. There's also the ancillary support issue that BAE raised: a lighter vehicle family can be carried by normal trucks, no need for specialized tank transporters, and a Scorpion sized vehicle might even be made to fit a "flat rack" 20' shipping container, with all the transport/handling advantages that provides.

Of course if I looked at this with European or Russian helicopters and transport aircraft I'd get some different numbers.
 

Similar threads

Top