Given below are the weblinks of the show dailies published during this expo.
Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and France’s Nexter Defense Systems (KNDS) pitched a cross between a Leopard 2A7 chassis and a AMX-56 Leclerc turret at the Eurosatory 2018 expo in Paris on June 11. Officially dubbed the European Main Battle Tank, or EMBT, the vehicle is meant to showcase that German and French companies can work together on the path toward an envisioned Main Ground Combat System pursued by both nations, which is slated to see the light of day in the mid-2030s. Additionally, the developers believe that this “Frankentank” meets a real-life demand, and they hope a paying customer might take the idea and run with it. For now, the EMBT is a demonstrator project funded by the two companies’ joint venture, KNDS.
The benefit of the hybrid machine lies in the Leopard 2 MBT’s “very-high capability” chassis, which can carry up to 68 tonnes, and merging it with the lightness of the Leclerc’s turret, which needs only a crew of two to operate. As a result, potential customers get 10% of the weight, or 6 tonnes, to install additional kit on the EMBT as they see fit. In essence, the EMBT is a 62-tonne hybrid comprising a modified fuselage, a 7-axle chassis, a Leopard-2A7V propulsion unit and a twin, lighter version of the Leclerc’s turret with an ammunition autoloader and a 120mm CN1120-26 smoothbore cannon.
The crew thus comprises three members (commander, gunner and driver). The biggest challenge for the constructors was the foundation of the French turret on the German hull. Engineers struggled not only with incompatible drives, but also had to meet the requirements of German legislation that limit the transfer of military technologies abroad. The next stage in the EMBT project is to develop a prototype and launch pre-series production. To date, raction and firing tests of the EMBT demonstrator have been successfully carried out in the south of France.
KNDS was founded on December 15, 2015 in Amsterdam. It is worth noting that the German and French governments are intensely eyeing the concept disclosed by Rheinmetall in February 2016, named MGCS 2030+ (Main Ground Combat System) with a new 130mm gun. In turn, Nexter is working on a modernised AMX-56 Leclerc MBT as part of a wider Scorpion programme.
In terms of new revolutionary trends, MBT developers worldwide are now gravitating towards the construction of MBTs with weight-saving High-Nitrogen Steel (HNS), and the adoption of turret-bustles containing ammunition stored in autoloaders. In terms of both trends, the pioneer was Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which has since developed the HNS-built 48-tonne Type 10 MBT, which is powered by a four-strike V8 diesel engine developing 1,200hp, thereby offering a power-to-weight ratio of 27hp/tonne.
The 57.4 tonne AMX-56 Leclerc from Nexter Systems comes powered by a 1,500hp V8X SACM 8-cylinder diesel engine that offers a power-to-weight ratio of 27.52 hp/tonne.
To date, the French Army has acquired 406 Leclercs of which 320 of them make up four armoured regiments each with 80 Leclercs.
The UAE has ordered 390 Leclercs and 46 ARVs. These are all powered by 1,500hp MTU 883 V-12 diesel engines, coupled with the Renk HSWL295 TM automatic transmission. All Leclercs have autoloaders in the turret-bustles.
Even Russia has abandoned the hull-mounted horizontal carousal autoloader and by the mid-1990s the Omsk-based KBTM OKB and Omsktransmash JSC developed the Ob'yekt 640 Black Eagle MBT, whose turret rear contained the horizontal autoloader-cum-ammunition stowage compartment withblow-out panels.
Russia’s Uralvagonzavod JSC-built 48-tonne Ob’yekt 148 Armata MBT, however, has rejected the turret-mounted autoloader-cum-ammunition stowage compartment and has instead gone for a hull-mounted vertical autoloader.
The Armata, powered by a 1,350hp A85-3AX-diesel engine, has a power-to-weight ratio of 31hp/tonne (the highest among all present-day MBTs) and its 125mm 2A82-1M smoothbore cannon fires the Vacuum-1 APFSDS round that has a 900mm-long KE penetrator, which is said to be capable of penetrating 1 metre of RHA at a distance of 2km.
In order to maintain the effectiveness of their respective MBT fleets until 2040, both France and Germany have embarked on stepped life-extension programmes (SLEP). Nexter Systems had unveilled its Leclerc XLR variant at the Eurosatory 2016 expo. This “Scorpionisation” provides for the delivery of 200 Leclerc XLRs and 18 Leclerc DCL armoured recovery vehicles between 2020 and 2028m which will allow the Leclerc to remain operational beyond 2040.
The Leclerc XLR project has three main objectives: to integrate the Leclerc into the “Scorpion bubble”, adapt it for operations in urban environments, and improve its ability to attack. The first two prototypes will be delivered later this year and will be directly followed by the notification of production tranches. Destined to operate in a joint tactical “Scorpion” group, the Leclerc will get a new open vetronics architecture, the CONTACT radio being developed by THALES, the future Scorpion information and communication system (SICS), and an upgraded AZUR (urban environment) kit both on the hull and turret.
The chassis receives new side protection blocks in composite armour, which run from the front tip of the glaze turret. Propulsion block and the back are covered with slat-armour grids. These shields protect against infantry-fired RPGs and LAWs. The rear of the turret undergoes the same treatment. Nexter’s engineers have taken advantage of grid supports to add two integral horizontal plates of the turret of the neck to cover the propulsion block ventilation louvres. These plates prevent Molotov cocktails from breaking the propulsion compartment at the most vulnerable spot. The same type of plate protects the air-conditioner, which is located on the turret roof. The rest of the MBT’s frontal arc and turret side is already protected against other forms of projectiles. The Leclerc’s ‘Azur’ kit will thus be a difficult beast to touch and neutralize in complex areas. The armour is the ultimate bulwark behind which the crewtake refuge after all other forms of protection have failed, especially the most basic form of active protection. The AZUR sees its DRI suit (detection, recognition, identification) completed by a panoramic vision device mounted on the turret roof. The Israel-born ODR system gives a 360-degree picture of the situation around the MBT. With this panoramic view, the crew can detect the presence of hostiles by eliminating many blind spots that typically exist on any MBT. The thus-detected enemy infantry can be neutralised using either launchers firing the Galix 4, or the new 7.62mm remote-controlled machine gun (RCWS) mounted on the turret roof.
This is an adapted version of one that equips the UAE’s Leclercs. The machine gun is equipped with a CCD camera that allows shooting via a video screen in the delousing mode. Delousing means shooting at a friendly MBT to remove enemy infantry which would have climbed on it. The 7.62mm rounds wouldn’t cause damage to the structure of the MBT in question, unlike other larger calibres. The choice of the cupola was made for practical reasons (time reduction and availability). For the production version, Nexter has sought better alternatives from various suppliers. The RCWS also allows shooting at high targets (roof tops). It should be recalled that the Leclerc now has 120mm HE explosive shells with parametrizable fuse (impact/delay), which enables the destruction of fortifications, trenches and buildings.
The last function of the French configuration is communications, in particular with dismounted infantry. MBTs of the previous generation were usually provided with an infantry phone in the form of a box attached to the back of the MBT and containing a handset connected to the MBT intercom system by a wire. This allowed an infantry group leader to communicate with the crew to designate, for example, a target to destroy. But this solution had three major drawbacks. First, the infantryman had to activate the handset while the MBT was stopped. This could be very dangerous for humans because of the movements of a MBT, which ignores his presence nearby. Second, the soldier would have to leave cover to reach the MBTs. Finally, the operating range gets limited by the length of the telephone wire.
For all these reasons, Nexter’s engineers simply adapted WiFi technology, which allows establishing communications with the infantry-carried FELIN digital soldier system, while maintaining great freedom of action with the MBT that supports them. One of the most interesting features is undoubtedly the fuelling baskets attached to the back of the MBT. The trick is to use the fuel cage door for hanging boxes where the infantrymen find ammunition, water, food and miscellaneous small equipment. Supply is thus delivered without the MBT crew having to dismount, and this also allows supplies to be delivered closer to the line of contact, where other less protected armoured vehicles will never venture.
In Germany, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetal have co-developed the Leopard Advanced Technology Demonstrator that contains both appliqué armour panels as well as active protection systems. In addition, Rheinmetall has developed a new 130mm L-51 tank cannon that should be in production by 2025. The 130mm/L51 weighs (without mounting components) 3,000kg, while the current barrel length is 6,630mm.
As the standard NATO smoothbore gun for MBTs like Leopard 2 and M-1 Abrams, Rheinmetall’s L-44 cannon had proved its superiority to all its rivals in the 120mm arena. This smoothbore cannon was also the precursor of Rheinmetall’s L-55 and L-47 cannons. In the L 55 cannon barrel, a larger share of the energy resulting from a round being fired is converted into greater velocity.
From the above, it emerges that existing MBTs worldwide that are to remain in service right up to or beyond 2040 will:
A) Retain their 1,500hp diesel engines/gas turbines.
B) Increase the barrel-diameter of cannons from 120mm and 125mm to 152mm. While Rheinmetall has to date worked on developing both 130mm and 140mm smoothbore cannons, the US Army too has worked on a 140mm smoothbore cannon gun (developing about 22 mega Joules of energy, versus 11 mega Joules of a 120mm smoothbore cannon). Russia, on the other hand, is expected to replace the Armata’s existing 2A82 125mm cannon with the 2A83 152mm cannon. The 2A83 latter has a muzzle velocity of 1,980 metres/second, only dropping to 1,900 metres/second at 2km. In addition, Russia is expected to increase the power output of the A85-3AX diesel engine from 1,500hp to 2,000hp.
C) Not increase the barrel-calibre, but will increase the barrels’ chamber-pressure.
D) Incorporate turret-mounted bustles containing not only the entire ammunition stowage section, but also the autoloader (the T-14 Armata being the sole exception).
E) Henceforth use the space earlier used in the hull for ammunition stowage for accommodating the ever-increasing quantum of mission-specific vectronics like various radar-based and optronic situational awareness sensors, hard-kill active protection systems, and battlefield management systems (BMS).
F) Use unitary and heavier APFSDS rounds, thanks to the turret-mounted ammunition stowage section and autoloader.
Additionally, existing medium battle tanks like the T-72M1 and T-90S that are earmarked for deep upgrades can in the near future be equipped with diesel-engines rated at 1,350hp as well as with new-build turrets containing ammunition stowage section and autoloader, while the removal of their hull-mounted autoloader carousels can henceforth be used for housing mission-specific vectronics.
So, what impact will all these have on India’s MBT projects like the Arjun Mk.2 and the Tank EX technology demonstrator?
As far as the former goes, contrary to widespread speculation, the Indian Army (IA) has not forsaken or given up on the Arjun MBT. Instead, for the past five years, the IA’s Directorate General of Mechanised Warfare has been overseeing a collective developmental effort involving the DRDO, and the MoD-owned defence public-sector undertakings and private-sector OEMs that will in the near future result in a fully-loaded 62-tonne MBT armed with a 120mm smoothbore cannon of slightly larger calibre, while being powered by a 1,500hp powerpack that uses the Cummins QST-30 diesel engine. Cummins has already conducted integration and mobility trials of the QST-30 on a pre-production Arjun Mk.1 MBT owned by the CVRDE.
This followed the total failure by the DRDO to develop the indigenous ‘Bharat Powerpack’ after it failed from 2007 till 2012 to elicit any industrial interest from both global and Indian engine manufacturers for the co-development effort. Adoption of the QST-30 engine will give the 62-tonne Arjun Mk.2 a power-to-weight ratio of 25hp/tonne. In contrast, the 118 68.6-tonne Arjun Mk.1As are each powered by a 1,400hp MTU-838KA 501 diesel engine that give a power-to-weight ratio of 18hp/tonne. The 58.5-tonne Arjun Mk.1 MBTs (124 in service), each powered by a 1,400hp MTU-838KA 501 diesel engine, have a power-to-weight ratio of 23.6hp/tonne.
Under the supervision and guidance of the DRDO’s Avadi-based Combat Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (CVRDE), and with the help of the MoD’s Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) and the IA’s Corps of Electronics & Mechanical Engineers (EME), a number of key decisions have been taken to achieve a weight reduction of 8 tonnes in the existing design of the 68-tonne Arjun Mk.1A MBTs, 118 of which are now in delivery. For starters, the baseline hull of the definitive Arjun Mk.2 will no longer be built with imported low-carbon, nickel-chromium-molybdenum rolled homogeneous armour (RHA) steel, but with lighter high-nitrogen steel (HNS) whose production technology has been mastered by the DRDO’s Hyderabad-based Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) and has been transferred to Jindal Stainless Steel Ltd (Hisar). HNS will also be used by TATA Motors Ltd for producing the 83 Kestrel 8 x 8 armoured personnel carriers already on order.
HNS is produced in a four-step process: primary melting of the steel can carried out in either induction furnace or electric arc furnace by using appropriate raw materials; secondary melting can be carryout in by nitrogen gas-purging in to the metal; under ladle refining, ferro-nitrates are added to molten metal for obtaining final nitrogen content in the alloy if it is required and hot-rolling is carried out in a single heat, without reheating. Minimum percentage of reduction should not be less than 75% of the slab thickness. To be placed in strategic locations in both the hull and turret will be the DRDO-developed ‘Kanchan’ ceramics-based composite laminate armour tiles as well as indigenously-built explosive reactive armour (ERA) tiles developed by HEMRL on the front and sides of the hull and turret sections.
To ensure optimal weight budgeting during the production engineering stage, the CVRDE has contracted Dynamatic Technologies Ltd, which specialises in complex, five-axis robotic machining, as well as in converting two-dimension paper blueprints into three-dimensional computer model that are more precise, and have tighter tolerances. Digitising the drawings creates a baseline configuration for greater accuracy. This in turn streamlines manufacturing, since conventional manufacturing based on two-dimensional paper blueprints tend to leave tiny gaps between the different components of an assembly that were filled with shims, leading to increased weight. But by digitising blueprints, those tiny gaps can be entirely eliminated during the manufacturing process. Under another weight-reduction exercise, the CVRDE has contracted the Alicon Group for building all-aluminium road-wheels and ventilators for not only the Arjun Mk.2, but also for the IA’s existing T-72M family of medium battle tanks. They will replace the all-steel road-wheels built by Sundaram Industries for the Arjun Mk.1A. Similarly, TATA Power SED has been contracted for producing all-electric turret stabilisation/traverse systems (ELEGANT), in place of the existing electro-hydraulic system.
In addition, the Pune-based HEMRL, in association with CVRDE and DMRL, has developed the add-on ERA Mk.2 panels since 2011, While HEMRL has developed the reactive elements, DMRL carried out development of armour materials for the panels, and CVRDE finalised the layout and fitment of panels on both T-72Ms and Arjun Mk.2s. User-trials of ERA Mk.2 were carried out in four phases from November 2015 till January 2016. During these trials, ERA Mk.2 was evaluated against 84mm HEAT, 125mm HEAT, Milan-2T tandem shaped-charge warhead and AMK-339 APFSDS rounds.
ERA Mk.2 has an integral-type configuration on the hull glacis, in which the panels have been welded to the MBTs’ surfaces with a provision for positioning of the reactive elements, using a window. This type of arrangement has significantly reduced the time for uparming the MBTs. The size of panels is larger than ERA Mk.I (fitted on T-72CIAs) and the reactive elements inside the panel are separated by metallic barriers to avoid sympathetic detonation. The design has minimised blind zones (distance between the reactive elements) and the larger size of the panels results in longer interaction with inbound projectiles. With improved explosive properties and armour materials, the performance of ERA Mk.2 against shaped-charge warheads and KE projectiles has been significantly enhanced. The panels on the turret front have been mounted at an angle to get the desired angle-of-attack for optimum performance. The turret-top panels are designed to take care of top-attack submunitions. Though the size of panels is different on different locations, the size of reactive elements is the same in all the panels.
As for ammunition improvements, it is imperative for the CVRDE to re-design and re-engineer the Arjun Mk.1A’s turret in order to accommodate the slightly larger calibre 120mm smoothbore cannon, as well as host a turret-bustle housing ALL kinds of 120mm rounds like APFSDS projectiles equipped with longer and thicker kinetic energy penetrators, penetration-cum-blast (PCB) rounds and thermobaric (TB) rounds. To this end, the best option is to import proven autoloaders and turret-bustles from either Nexter Systems or Mitsubishi. And the additional internal volume obtained (by transferring the ammunition stowage are from the hull to the turret-bustle) will leave enough room for housing additional vectronics, especially elements of an active protection system (for which the Iron Fist from ELBIT Systems, Trophy from RAFAEL and LEDS-150 from SaabTech/TATA Aerospace & Defence are on offer) and BMS suite.
Presently, there are 71 Armoured Regiments of the IA that are equipped with 2,418 T-72s (comprising 754 Ob’yekt 172M-E4 T-72Ms and 1,664 Ob’yekt 172M-E6 T-72M-1982s), close to 800 Ob'yekt 188S T-90S and 124 Arjun Mk.1s. The 37-tonne T-72Ms (Ob’yekt 172M-E4) are each powered by a V-46-6 780hp diesel engine that offer a power-to-weight ratio of 20hp/tonne. The 41.5-tonne T-72M-1982 (Ob’yekt 172M-E6) are each powered by a 840hp V-84MS diesel engine, has a power-to-weight ratio of 21hp/tonne. The upgraded T-72Ms—43.5-tonne T-72 Combat Improved Ajeya—have a power-to-weight ratio of 17.80hp/tonne. The 46-tonne T-90S (Ob’yekt 188S) is powered by a 1,000hp V-92S2 diesel engine that delivers a power-to-weight ratio of 21.5hp/tonne. The 47-tonne Tank EX, when powered by a 1,000hp V-92S2 diesel engine, has a power-to-weight ratio of 20.5hp/tonne.
The Pakistan Army’s 47-tonne Al Khalid MBT is powered by a 1,200hp 6TD-2 diesel engine that delivers a power-to-weight ratio is 25hp/tonne. The 46-tonne Ob'yekt 478BE T-80UD MBTs, each powered by a 1,000hp 6TD-1 diesel engine, has a power-to-weight ratio is 21.7hp/tonme. The 42.7-tonne Al Zarrar, powered by a 730hp diesel engine, has a power-to-weight ratio is 17.1hp/tonne. The 41.5-tonne Type 85IIAP comes powered by a 730hp diesel engine that offers a power-to-weight ratio is 17.8hp/tonne. The 36.7-tonne Type 69IIAP, powered by a 580hp diesel engine, has a power-to-weight ratio is 15.8hp/tonne.
The PLA Army’s 42.8-tonne Type 96A MBTs are each powered by a 800hp engine that deliver a power-to-weight ratio of 18.7hp/tonne, while the 52-tonne Type 96Bs are each powered by a 900hp engine that deliver a power-to-weight ratio of 25hp/tonne.
The Indian Army plans to upgrade 1,000 T-72s (each costing Rs.9 crore) with the following:
A) Installation of V92S2 engine at a per-unit cost of Rs.3.5 crore.
B) Fitment of ERA Mk.2 ERA tiles on the hull and turret of each upgraded T-72.
C) Thermal Imaging Fire Control Systems (TIFCS) imported from Israel’s ELBIT Systems at a per-unit cost of Rs.2 crore.
D) Panoramic thermal imaging sights each costing Rs.0.8 crore to provide tank commanders with night vision, plus a thermal imaging driver’s night-sight.
E) An APU costing Rs.0.20 crore to generate power for the on-board electrical systems.
Similarly, the first 310 Ob’yekt 188S T-90S MBTs are up for a mid-life upgrade as well, with the principal fitments being a new-generation active protection system and an uprated powerpack for which the A85-3AX-diesel engine capable of producing up to 1,500hp (although it is presently dowrated at 1,350hp) is likely to be ordered from Russia’s Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant, located about 350km south of Nizhny Tagil. This in turn will result in the T-90S’ power-to-weight ratio being hiked to 24hp/tonne.
In my view, however, the proposals drawn up for the deep upgrades of the Ob’yekt 172M-E4 T-72Ms, Ob’yekt 172M-E6 T-72M-1982s and 800 Ob'yekt 188S T-90S are flawed (with regard to the retention of existing turrets, 125mm smoothbore cannons fed by hull-mounted autoloading carousels, and hull-mounted ammo stowage compartments) and lack the application of common-sense. Instead, the optimum alternative that will also create several business opportunities for India’s military-industrial complex must involve the following:
A) Standardising the powerpacks of all T-series medium battle tanks by installing the 1,350hp A85-3AX-diesel engine (which in future can be upgraded to 1,500hp) that will increase the power-to-weight ratio of such MBTs closer to 25hp/tonne.
B) Integrating the turret of the definitive Arjun Mk.2 MBT (containing the 120mm smoothbore cannon, autoloader and the turret-bustle containing ammunition reloads).
Adoption of these two critical options will result in greatly improved mobility, survivability and firepower parameters, with the latter assuming greater importance than ever, since only Russia and China to date have claimed that their two-piece 125mm APFSDS rounds can attain a muzzle velocity of 1,700 metres/second. Neither Israel Military Industries nor India’s MoD-owned OFB have to date succeeded in developing APFSDS rounds that travel at speeds greater than 1,660 metres/second. A unitary 120mm APFSDS round, on the other hand, holds out the promise of not only achieving speeds of 1,700 metres/second, but also containing longer and thicker KE penetrator with far greater penetrating power. In addition, the turret housing the 120mm smoothbore cannon can also accommodate a 130mm smoothbore cannon in future—this applying to all members of the IA’s T-series and Arjun family of MBTs. Furthermore, doing away with hull-mounted autoloading carousels and hull-mounted ammo stowage compartments on the T-series MBTs will offer the internal volume required for housing additional vectronics LRUs of the active porotection system and BMS.
And most importantly, doing away with the existing turrets of the T-series MBTs (by adopting the definitive Arjun Mk.2’s re-engineered turret) will also permanently do away with the IA’s nightmare scenario of blue-on-blue engagements, since the MBT designs of both China and Pakistan are derived from the T-series MBTs and will therefore be indistinguishable from those of the IA’s T-series MBTs when viewed by either a daylight TV camera or a thermal imager at nighttime. That the IA’s nightmare scenario is an undeniable fact-of-life is borne out by the IA’s requirement for a MMW identification friend-or-foe vectronics suite, which continues to be developed by the DRDO’s DEAL laboratory.