It was the Soviets who introduced the first large-scale employment of the infantry fighting vehicle (IFV).
From the outset, early APCs such as half-tracks carried a variety of weapons, usually machine guns, to enable their occupants to at least defend themselves against potential attackers; these measures were primarily defensive. In general the early APCs had to depend on supporting arms such as tanks and artillery to cover their movements. Fire support by APCs for other APCs was very limited. Even with the 1950s generation of APCs little was changed. What weapons were carried were usually served by crew or infantry squad members having to expose themselves to incoming fire and artillery bursts through an open hatch or cupola to operate whatever weapon was involved. But once that weapon was protected within a turret the potential of what was to become the IFV was realised.
The gun turret was not the only firepower amplifier on the IFV Even before viable gun turrets appeared anti-tank guided weapons (ATGW) or recoilless rifles were often fired from open APC roof hatches. The missiles involved were usually those normally carried by the infantry passengers but with the advent of the IFV more powerful and longer range ATGWs appeared, a typical example from the West being the American wire-guided TOW series.
On the IFV the launchers for such ATGWs were often specialised turrets but the latest generation of IFVs now have their ATGW launchers as adjuncts to gun turrets to provide greater variety of support firepower for the infantry – the specialised ATGW turrets have instead converted some IFV variants into specialised tank killers.
Thus by the late 1970s the APC had become the father to the IFV But even before then, during the 1960s, a series of projects in which APCs assumed combat turrets with cannon-type weapons had appeared.
The old APC thus became less of a personnel carrier and more of a combat vehicle capable of producing its own fire support on the move and of operating in unison with other similarly-armed vehicles to attack or defend objectives.
The number of combat roles for the old infantry carriers began to expand. From being a simple armoured ‘battlefield taxi’ the personnel carrier began to assume patrolling, surveillance and reconnaissance roles plus, as it carried a viable weapon, the ability to engage similar enemy vehicles and remove them and their precious cargoes from the battlefield.
Protection for the occupants and crew expanded to incorporate collective chemical and nuclear warfare protection systems while more consideration was given to protecting vehicle occupants against land mine detonations. The relatively low cost APC had become the far more costly IFV.
The space and weight demands of gun turrets means that the number of infantry carried by most IFVs is usually far less than the potential capacity of a dedicated APC. However, the reduced numbers of IFV-borne troops can now more than make their presence felt with greater impact due to their potential firepower.
Modern infantry weapons, such as the small calibre assault rifle and light machine gun, can deliver far greater firepower than past generations of small arms so when this potential is coupled with the main armament of the IFV the result is not just greater combat force but the need to rethink infantry tactics.
Infantry still has to take ground and hold it against attack but the way they do so now has altered. Infantry may still have to dismount from IFVs during the final stages of an attack but they do so close to their objective and with the covering fire of their parent IFVs to support them.
During an approach to an objective IFV troops usually have opportunity to utilise their personal weapons through firing ports in the troop compartment walls or exit points. They can accomplish this effectively as they are usually well provided with vision blocks or other devices to observe what is happening outside the confines of their vehicle.
Once an objective has been taken IFVs can be deployed to provide defensive firepower to add to that provided by the infantry using not just their machine guns or cannon, but the ATGWs which are now an integral part of the armament of any IFV.
One of the current tactical problems for IFV-borne infantry is how to make the best use of all this potential firepower.
Operations no longer involve a headlong rush at an objective and the subsequent dismounted infantry attacks of the APC era. Instead infantry tactics are now very much a matter of firefights, mutual inter-IFV fire and manoeuvre support, and inter-vehicle engagements at long ranges.
It must not be forgotten that IFVs still operate in close proximity to, or in co-operation with, tanks. Thus the old infantry-armour associations and working methods have also come under scrutiny to make the best possible use of their combined shock tactics and firepower.
In a similar manner few armoured operations can take place without artillery support so they too have been drawn into what seem the most routine infantry operations.
The key as always, is inter-communication to an extent that past foot soldiers would not have dared contemplate.
While such situations are familiar to tank crews, much of this is quite novel to the infantry for whom the only solution is a course of thorough retraining and subsequent experimentation to discover how best to go about their tasks in the future.
Campaigns such as that in the Persian Gulf in 1991, during which IFVs were deployed by the West for the first time on any significant scale, could provide only an inkling of how to proceed.
In a similar manner, during the deployment of BMP-1 IFVs in Afghanistan the changed tactical approaches mechanised infantry commanders now have to adopt were highlighted.
The 1994-1995 close-in fighting in Chechenya provided an indication of how the Russian Army failed to heed those indications.
The future for the infantry seems to indicate more time in gunnery and mission simulators as new skills are assimilated and less time spent in pounding around training areas.
Training armoured combat vehicle personnel is becoming increasingly expensive, so electronic simulators are assuming an ever more important role in training for all tasks from driving and gunnery to inter-vehicle fire command and control.
FMC Armored IFV
The Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle (AIFV) grew out of a project to provide the M113 APC with an enclosed weapon station. Private venture development by FMC (now United Defense) resulted, in 1970, in the AIFV which was first procured by the Netherlands. Their original order was for over 2,000 AIFVs, about half of which were manufactured in the Netherlands. Other customers have included Belgium and Turkey both of whom undertook local licence production agreements. Production in Belgium has now ceased but it continues in Turkey where the local requirement is for some 1,700 AIFVs.
The AIFV is basically an M113 APC with a revised hull outline and a turret off-set to the right, just behind the engine compartment, and mounting a 25 mm cannon with a coaxial 7.62 mm MG.
Many AIFVs are armed with a TOW ATGW turret, especially those produced in the Netherlands, where another model is armed only with a 12.7 mm MG over a small cupola. The addition of the turret limits the internal troop accommodation to a maximum of seven who enter via a power-operated ramp at the rear.
Customers, other than those already mentioned, have included the Philippines (where the turret armament is limited to a 12.7 mm MG) and Egypt, the latter purchasing surplus vehicles from the Netherlands.
At one time Pakistan was to produce the AIFV locally but that arrangement is in abeyance. With so many AIFVs being produced at several centres, variants have proliferated to the extent that, for example, Belgian and Netherlands command AIFVs differ. Thus there are several types of AIFV recovery vehicle, armoured ambulance, and so on. There are also AIFV supply vehicles, and mortar carriers or tractors.
Some Turkish AIFVs are fitted with 300 hp diesel engine packs.
A close copy of the AIFV has been produced in Taiwan. The Korean Infantry Fighting Vehicle is visually similar to the AIFV.
The Korean IFV, or KIFV, (K-200). It is manufactured by Daewoo Heavy Industries and is based on an American FMC private venture design derived from the M113 APC, although a significant number of local innovations have been introduced; FMC were not involved at any stage.
Aluminum armour from the United Kingdom is used for the hull (covered by spaced laminate steel plates) while the power pack, coupled to an American transmission, is German.
The first KIFV examples entered service in 1985, with well over 1,000 units having been manufactured by early 1994. Most have been the IFV version, armed with a pintle-mounted 12.7 mm MG protected by a small open turret behind a shield, plus a 7.62 mm MG over the commander’s cupola.
The rear hull roof is raised to increase internal head room for the seven personnel carried; they are provided with an NBC collective protection system as standard.
A trim vane is stowed on the front glacis as the KIFV is amphibious, being propelled in the water by its tracks.
The KIFV is only one of a family of vehicles on the same base chassis, The others include an air defence vehicle armed with a single 20 mm Vulcan rotary cannon, a recovery vehicle with a prominent recovery crane, an NBC reconnaissance vehicle (which has appeared only in prototype form to date), a command post, an armoured ambulance, two types of mortar carrier (81 mm and 4,2-inch/107 mm), and a tank destroyer carrying a special turret to launch two TOW ATGWs. The latter variant is still at the proposal stage but most of the others are in service with the South Korean armed forces.
More were ordered during 1993 and 1994 by Malaysia for issue to their troops operating with the United Nations forces in the former Yugoslavia.