Light armoured vehicle procurement in Asia

The ground fleets of armed forces around the world are gradually changing shape as acquisition and development programmes adjust to the new requirements of modern armies. Ground forces need to be more mobile and flexible than ever before, and as a result the emphasis in armoured vehicle fleets is tending toward solutions that favour agility over high protection levels, such as light armoured vehicles (LAVs). LAVs not only provide highly flexible solutions for ground operations, they are less expensive to acquire and maintain than heavier armoured vehicles, making them more cost-effective and attractive to governments with pressing budgetary constraints to consider.

27th Oct 2011


 Light armoured vehicles


 Light armoured vehicle procurement in Asia


 Claire Apthorp / London


The ground fleets of armed forces around the world are gradually changing shape as acquisition and development programmes adjust to the new requirements of modern armies. Ground forces need to be more mobile and flexible than ever before, and as a result the emphasis in armoured vehicle fleets is tending toward solutions that favour agility over high protection levels, such as light armoured vehicles (LAVs). LAVs not only provide highly flexible solutions for ground operations, they are less expensive to acquire and maintain than heavier armoured vehicles, making them more cost-effective and attractive to governments with pressing budgetary constraints to consider.
There are two main factors that are forcing governments to rethink their land vehicle fleets; the first is to obtain as high as possible protection levels in the face of the continuing and deadly improvised explosive device (IED) threat in Afghanistan and Iraq; the second is to rationalise and streamline fleets to gain maximum value from supply chain logistics. Many armed forces within the Asia-Pacific region have acquired their LAV fleets gradually, with unrelated programmes and upgrade projects over the course of many decades resulting in fleets that contain multiple different vehicle types that are very expensive to maintain. Unifying programmes into fleets that have high commonality and similar logistic footprints is a task that brings many long-term cost savings.
21st century fleets
Within the Asia-Pacific there is a lot of work being done by governments to ensure that their LAV fleets are world class. With less emphasis being put on heavy and main battle tank vehicles, LAVs are being tasked with a much wider range of responsibilities than ever before, with governments demanding high performance across the operational spectrum.
The Australian government is carrying out an ongoing programme to enhance their fleet of LAVs under the Land 112 project. Under the initial phases of the project the Australian Light Armoured Vehicle (ASLAV) acquired 15 General Dynamics Land Systems Canada LAV-25 vehicles from the US Marine Corps (USMC) in the 1990s for concept evaluation. Following this the Australian Defence Force (ADF) ordered 113 of the vehicles for the Australian Army, and has since expanded the fleet with an additional order for 114 vehicles.
The ASLAV-25 provides reconnaissance capability for the regiment. Weapons include a M242 25-mm Bushranger chain gun, which has a dual feed system and fires two types of ammunition – armour-piercing and high explosive. The ASLAV-25 is fully amphibious with a three-minute preparation. The turret can be traversed and the main gun fired while vehicle is afloat. It can carry 9 personnel in total, including one driver, a vehicle commanders, one gunner and provision for six troops. With a maximum speed of 100 kph and swim speed of 10 kph, the vehicle can clear trenches of 2m, travel at a maximum grade of 60% and a maximum side slope of 30%, making it a highly mobile and agile vehicle.
The Australian government is now carrying out a survivability enhancement and mid-life upgrade to the Army’s ASLAV fleet, which will include enhancing survivability against current and future threats such as mine protection, ballistic protection, battlefield management system integration, signature management, and defensive aid suite. It will also aim to offset weight increases to the vehicle caused by the above survivability enhancements, in order to maintain current amphibious and land mobility; as well as upgrading or replacing the power pack and enhancing the Crew Procedural Trainer.
Down the line Australia has plans for a radical reshaping of their land vehicle fleet, with the Land 400 Land Combat Vehicle System (LCVS) programme, which aims to deliver a new mounted close combat capability to the Land Force from 2025. It will provide an integrated suite of land combat vehicle systems to fill the mounted close combat capability gap that is partially being fulfilled by a number of disparate existing light armoured vehicle fleets – the ASLAV, M113 and Bushmaster vehicles.
These three fleets will reach the end of their service life between 2020 and 2025, and the ADF plans to introduce an integrated suite of combat vehicle systems. At the 2010 Australian Land Warfare Conference BAE Systems Australia registered their interest in the programme, suggesting that the tracked CV90 MkIII Armadillo and wheeled RG41 vehicles could form the core of the Australian Defence Force’s future land combat force.
Indigenous design
Also operated by the Australian Army, the Thales Bushmaster sits at the top of the LAV category, being lighter than the ASLAV. The ADF has invested heavily in the vehicle, having ordered an additional 101 vehicles in mid 2011 to replace damaged vehicles, and to support current and future operations in Afghanistan. The Bushmaster is has been credited with saving many lives in Afghanistan thanks to its V-shaped hull which provides advanced counter IED (C-IED) protection; and has seen strong demand for the vehicle from military forces around the world over alternative heavier armoured vehicles for this reason.
ST Engineering and the Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) are tackling the heavier end of the LAV spectrum with their Bionix Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV). Developed along with the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) in response to a requirement to replace the Singapore Army’s M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) fleet, the Bionix vehicle was the first indigenous AFV to be developed in the region. The vehicle was designed to meet high mobility and agility, low weight and high fire power requirements, with the Bionix II the most recent incarnation of the vehicle.
The Bionix II is a highly advanced infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) with enhanced survivability for troops. It is fitted with an ATK mk44 Bushmaster 30mm dual-feed canon and modular armour package, two-man turret, and armament including one 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and one 7.62mm general-purpose machine gun, giving improved lethality. Improved fire control system consists of Day / Night Thermal Sightseeing System (DNTSS) with integrated eye-safe laser range finder and dual-axis stabilising system for enhanced tracking of targets and improved first round hit probability. With advanced Command, Control, Communication and Computers & Intelligence (C41), the Bionix II is fully-networked, and the onboard Battlefield Management System (BMS) allows the crew to communicate with commanders who are able to coordinate the deployment of other sensor and strike assets in the battlefield.
Over the past few years the Bionix family has grown to include a number of vehicles for the Singapore armed forces, including the Bionix 25; the twin-weapon mounted 40/50; the Bionix Recovery Vehicle; and the Bionix Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge for strategic movement of ground forces.
The digital battlespace
The Bionix vehicle will supplement another vehicle recently introduced into service with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV). Fitted with the Battlefield Management System (BMS), the Terrex ICV is networked to other air and land assets such as IFVs, main battle tanks, artillery platforms, attack helicopters and fighter aircraft. The BMS-enabled Terrex ICV will have the ability to interface with the Advanced Combat Man System (ACMS) to update infantry troops on enemy movement and location in real time. With a better picture of the operating environment and key battlefield information provided by BMS, soldiers will be able to seek support from air and land forces to coordinate manoeuvres and deliver precision fire on enemy targets.
The move towards networked land platforms can be seen throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Earlier this year it was announced that FNSS of Turkey – a joint venture of BAE Systems and Nurol Holding of Turkey – received a $559 million contract from DEFTECH of Malaysia for the design, development and manufacture of 257 DEFTECH AV-8 8x8 wheeled armoured vehicles and integrated logistics support for the Malaysian Armed Forces.
The vehicle will be manufactured by DEFTECH in Malaysia, and will be based on the FNSS-designed PARS 8x8 multi-purpose, multi-mission, wheeled armoured vehicle, with redesigns by FNSS and DEFTECH engineers to meet the specific requirements of the Malaysian government. FNSS will provide the technical assistance and technology transfer to enable DEFTECH to produce the vehicles in Malaysia, and the resulting AV-8 will be Malaysia's first indigenous 8x8 armoured wheeled vehicle family, consisting of 12 variants. FNSS and DEFTECH previously delivered 211 ADNAN Armoured Combat Vehicles (ACV) and 8 120mm ACV Mortar Carriers to the Malaysian Army and an additional 48 ADNAN ACVs have been ordered under a separate contract.
Thales has been contracted to integrated advanced open vehicle electronic architecture system for the DEFTECH vehicle. They will provide their state-of-the-art Open Information Communication System (OICS) - branded as VSys-net – a vehicle system electronics solution designed to optimise integration and enable information exchange (voice, data and video) both within vehicles and externally. It combines a set of sub-systems and specific equipment that assist the commander during the mission (Battlefield Management System), manage the status of the vehicle components (Platform Management System), assist navigation, provide an optimised situational awareness and enhance survivability. VSys-net will provide a consistent vehicle electronic architecture among the 12 variants, which will reduce integration risks on the overall program, speed up the operation, manage all platform systems in real time and enable optimised support services.
The Thales contract will help the Malaysian Army achieve greater efficiency on the increasingly digitised battlefield. Electronic communications, sensors, command and control (C2) and fire control equipment and networking capabilities are becoming a major requirement for LAV platforms to help operators meet rigorous operational performance criteria demanded of modern land forces; operating in dense urban areas often means that commanders have limited situational awareness within vehicles, and being connected to the wider network gives them the information they need for mission success.
Commonality
FNSS has also recently worked with the Philippines on their Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicles (AIFVs), delivering six upgraded vehicles to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in February 2010. The Philippines acquired their original vehicle fleet from the US and the six vehicles received from FNSS are the ACV-300 vehicle based on the AIFV. The tracked ACV-300 has commonality with the M113A3 used by the US Army, giving worldwide logistics supportability, and the vehicle’s advanced swim capability and high mobility in all terrain and environmental conditions ensures that the vehicle can be used in a wide range of operational scenarios.
Taiwan also has an outstanding requirement for between 700 and 1,400 vehicles to replace its M113, CM-21 and LAV-150s. For some time there has been a programme that would see the Ordnance Readiness Development Centre under the MND’s Combined Logistics Command develop the CM-32 Yunpao for this purpose but the programme has experienced ongoing delays including weight issues and armour body panel cracking.
Known as the Cloud Leopard, the vehicle programme will continues according to the Ordnance Readiness Development Centre, with around 360 vehicles in an eight-wheeled configuration expected to have been produced by 2017. Originally developed as an improved version of the CM-31, the Cloud Leopard works on a modular armoured basis where operators can select the components they need to meet various battlefield conditions.
The hull, engine and chassis can be configured in roles including APC, IFV, C2 vehicle, as well as battlefield ambulance, fire support and mortar carrier. The APC version seats up to eight combat troops, and standard operating crew includes commander, gunner and driver. The vehicle is designed with greater armour protection across its front and less along the sides and rear, and the V-shaped hull is designed to deflect IED attacks. Primary armament on the APC is a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher and 12.7 mm heavy machine gun; while IFV armament includes a 20 mm auto-cannon and 12.7 mm Browning M2 heavy machine gun on a powered turret. Powered by an American Caterpillar C12 diesel-fuel engine with 410 horsepower, the vehicle has a top speed of 120 km per hour and an operational range of up to 800 km.
There is scope for immense change within the armies of the Asia-Pacific over the coming decade, and programmes such as these will see the militaries of the Asia-Pacific bring their land forces into the 21st century. Networked, flexible and capable LAVs provide their operators with critical advantages on the battlefield that translate into mission-winning capabilities.

 

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