British Cruiser Mk III/IV A13 tank series

A13 Mk I Cruiser Mk III

A13 Mk II Cruiser Mk IVA

CRUISER TANK, Mk III (A13)

The A13 was an important step in the development of British tanks since it was the design which initiated the long run of Cruiser tanks with Christie suspension produced in the World War II period by the British. Essentially it stemmed from the designs developed (largely unsuccessfully in his own country) by the American designer J. Walter Christie. Responsible for the introduction of the Christie suspension into British tanks was Lt Col G. Le Q. Martel, one of the pioneers of British tank development in the twenties, who was appointed Assistant Director of Mechanisation at the War Office in late 1936, and as such was in charge of AFV development. In September] 936, soon after appointment, Martel attended the Soviet Army autumn manoeuvres and was much impressed by the speed and performance of the BT tank, which the Russians had developed and put in service in large numbers after buying some of Christie’s prototypes. Returning to London, Martel expressed the opinion that a tank of vastly superior performance to the A9, then under development (qv), could be produced by adopting the Christie type suspension and a powerful lightweight engine like the Liberty used in Christie’s prototypes.

Funds were granted to buy two Christie vehicles, the first arriving from the United States, accompanied by Walter Christie, in the following month. Morris Commercial Cars Ltd acted as agents and licensees for the transaction and the vehicle was delivered as a “tractor” without a turret. The basic Christie chassis design incorporated compression spring suspension and large-diameter road wheels which could run either with or without the tracks. Trials led to the decision that, as far as the British were concerned, the “trackless” running facility could be done away with as an unnecessary complication. Also the Christie hull was too short and too narrow to take any existing (or contemplated) British turret. The power-to-weight ratio of the Christie design was 2 1/2 times better than the best existing British design, however, and it was decided to utilise the suspension but build a new chassis 5tin wider and 10in longer, to take a 2pdr gun and turret. At the end of 1936 funds were allocated to build two prototypes, and Morris Commercial Cars Ltd were asked to undertake detailed design. The original Christie vehicle was now designated A13El and the two British-developed prototypes became A13E2 and A13E3.

The Liberty engine (an American World War I aero type) was adopted as standard, as in the original Christie vehicle, and Nuffields, an associate company of Morris, were to build it under licence. Al3E2 was ready for trials in October ]937 and there followed a period of tests in which many mechanical problems were revealed, mostly due to the vehicle’s high speed of over 35mph. Modifications included governing the speed down to 30mph, altering the clutch and transmission, and using shorter pitched tracks. By January 1938 most of the problems had been overcome and a production order (provisionally set at 50) was confirmed for 65 vehicles. Trials with A13E2, now joined by A13E3, were continued and further detail modifications were made to fittings before production was started by Nuffield Mechanisations and Aero Ltd, a company formed specially for munitions work by Morris. Deliveries started early in 1939, and the order was completed by Summer 1939. No further orders for this type were placed, since progress was being made with developments of the A 13 design. This vehicle had taken only just over two years to get from inception to production status, a remarkably swift development for the period. These Cruisers Mk III as they were known were used by 1st Armoured Division in France in 1940, and (in small numbers) by 7th Armoured Division in Libya in 1940-41.

CRUISER TANK, Mk IV and IVA (A13 Mk II)

The Cruiser Mk IV was essentially an uparmoured version of the Mk III and did, in fact, have the ordnance designation AI3 Mk II. It followed the Cruiser Mk III in production and arose from a decision taken in early 1939 to increase the armour basis to 30 mm for cruiser tanks (for full circumstances see next entry, Covenanter). One of the A13 pilot models was accordingly reworked with additional armour to bring its thickness up to 20-30mm. Due to the high power-to-weight ratio of the basic design, there was little adverse effect on performance even though the weight was increased by more than I, 200Ib. The extra armour plating was mainly on the nose, glacis, and turret front, but another feature was the addition of V-section armour plating on the turret sides which gave the “spaced armour” effect later widely used on German tanks. This resulted in the characteristic faceted turret sides, the feature by which the Mk IV could be most easily distinguished from the Mk III.

Nuffield undertook main production of the Cruiser Mk IV after Mk III production had been completed, starting in 1938. Some Mk Ills were reworked with extra armour up to Mk IV standard and were externally similar, distinguished only by the early type mantlet as fitted to the Mk III. Mk IVA was the designation given to later production vehicles which had the Vickers co-axial machine gun replaced by a Besa. There was also a Mk IV CS which had a 3·7in mortar in place of the 2pdr gun. Only a small proportion of vehicles were of this type. Some vehicles had an armoured cover over the mantlet, and others were reworked with an armoured extension (heading picture) which completely concealed the mantlet. Cruisers Mk IV were used in France by 1st Armoured Division, 1940, and in the Western Desert by 7th Armoured Division, 1940-41. They were also used for training in Britain.

Total production of Cruiser Tank Mk IV series vehicles amounted to 655. Additional orders in 1939-40 were placed with the LMS, Leyland, and English Electric (200).

Tank, Cruiser, Mk IV (A13 Mk II)

Specifications
Weight 14.75 Long tons
Length 19 ft 9 in (6.02 m)
Width 8 ft 4 in (2.54 m)
Height 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)

Armour 6–30 mm
Main
armament
QF 2-pdr gun
87 rounds
Secondary
armament
0.303 in Vickers machine gun
3,750 rounds
Engine Nuffield Liberty V12 petrol
340 hp (250 kW)
Suspension Christie
Operational
range
90 mi (140 km)
Speed 30 mph (48 km/h)
off road: 14 mph (23 km/h)
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Char FT 75BS

The first order of construction of 100 tanks FT tanks was extended to 150, and interestingly enough, it is mentioned that they were intended to serve as command vehicles within tank units. Indecision of the Staff caused the order to be suspended until the numerous bureaucratic problems were solved with the arrival of Général Pétain in the position of Commander in Chief. In May 1917, he returned to give the order to manufacture the 150 and an additional 1,000 more. At that time he had already decided to equip some of the tanks with a 37mm cannon. The total order of 1,150 tanks, 500 armed with Hotchkiss 8mm, and 650 with 37mm cannons, were manufactured at Puteaux Arsenal, exceeding the possibilities of Renault, so this factory agreed to sell the production patent and expand production to other factories including Berliet, Delaunay-Belleville, Schneider, SOMUA, and it was even proposed that American companies would participate. The plans along with one tank were sent to the United States in order to start the construction of the tanks needed by the US army as well as another 1,200 for France.

In September, the Ministere d’Armement took over the first 4 units and throughout 1917, Renault produced only 84 tanks. This was due to the delay in the supply of armor, coming mostly from the company named Miris Steel from the UK, and the weaponry, including the new Puteaux 37mm gun, modified to operate semi-automatically and could be well handled by one man. Meanwhile, Estienne requested the production of 2,500 tanks to replace possible casualties, including 200 of a new version, a tank with a radio called the Char TSF – télégraphie sans fil, which served to transmit orders to units via radio. In December 1917, the total requests made totaled 4,000 tanks, 1,950 of which were armed with 37mm cannons, 1,150 with machine guns, 200 TSH, and 970 with Schneider 75mm howitzers. This latest version, the Char FT 75BS, was designed to serve as a vehicle to penetrate enemy lines that, besides having a more powerful weapon to demolish obstacles, had to carry a bridge to facilitate the passage of the remaining tanks after opening the gap in the main obstacle.

In April 1918 there had been 453 units with 3,177 vehicles built during the war. 1,950 of them would be produced by the Renault factory. Général Estienne brought the number of tanks used in the war up to 3,282, although we cannot explain this discrepancy of 105 vehicles. Another 570 were produced by the Renault firm after the conflict, in addition to national versions built in other countries like the United States. Finally, recent data estimates that some 3,728 vehicles were built up until 1921. The breakdown is as follows: 2100 tanks with machine guns, 1,246 37mm cannons, 39 75BS, 188 TSH, and 155 training vehicles.

FT 75 BS, howitzer armed version.

Arjun

Arjun Mk II

Arjun Mk-2 after incorporating The upgrade consists of 93 improvements, 17 of which were major and the rest minor modifications, gained over six tons over the MK1 and now weighs at 68.6 tons. but this is about to change and on instances of the Indian Army, DRDO has again started working on to carry out structural improvements and also develop a reconfigured Hull with new improved advanced armor material which will allow it to lose 3 tons in total weight. Indian Army had asked for weight optimized Mk-2 in 2016 and work begin soon after by DRDO put results will not be quick since reconfiguration of an accepted design will mean more painstaking and also slow developmental work which will keep the Mk-2 out of production before it is revalidated again by Indian Army in fresh trials. Experts are already questioning what advantage a 65.5 tons Mk-2 will bring over 68.6 tons Mk-2 in its area of operations. In past, even the 62 tons MK1 was criticised for being overweight and hardly 80 of the tanks were inducted or operational within Indian Army at this given point. The 46 ton Russian developed and locally manufactured T-90A Main Battle Tank is still quite popular with the Indian Army and over 1200 already are in service with Indian Army even though T-90A was outgunned and outmaneuvered by Arjun MBT in direct field trials years ago.

The Arjun is an Indian designed and built MBT. Design efforts were initiated in 1974. The original design was heavily dependent upon foreign supplied components and proto-types experienced significant teething problems, especially with regards to over-heating of the engine. Cost and schedule over-runs threatened the project. But the cooling module was re-designed for desert operations, domestic parts were developed, and the technological challenges were overcome. An order for 124 vehicles was placed by the Indian Army in 2000 at a cost of US$8.4 million per unit with full vehicle production beginning in 2004. Following a 2010 competition against a T-90 in which the Arjun performed well, the army ordered another 124 Mk 1 units as well as 124 Mk II units.

OVERVIEW

The Arjun is an Indian designed and built MBT. The original Mk I weighs 129,000 pounds (58.5 tonnes) while the latest Mk II version weighs 150,000 pounds (68 tonnes). The Arjun is 35 feet (10.6 meters) long, 12.6 feet (3.8 meters) wide and 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) in height to the top of the turret roof. Operated by a crew of 4 the driver is positioned to the right of center at the front of the vehicle and the gunner, commander and loader are located in the turret. The Arjun is powered by a single German MTU multi-fuel diesel water cooled engine rated at 1400 hp (upgraded to 1500 hp for the Mk II) with a Renk transmission and integrated with an Indian turbocharger and epicyclic train gearbox with four forward and 2 reverse gears. Mounted on a hydropneumatic suspension the vehicle can achieve a maximum road speed of 42 mph (67 km/h) and a cross-country speed of 25 mph (40 km/h). The Arjun also includes many sophisticated technologies including a GPS-based navigation system, frequency hopping radios and a Battlefield Management System (BMS).

WEAPON SYSTEMS

The Arjun features a 120 mm main rifled gun with two axis stabilisation and a Fire Control System that provides excellent first-hit probability against moving targets while on-the-move. The first batch of 124 tanks have an all-digital Sagem FCS, while all other Arjuns will mount the more sophisticated BEL FCS. The FCS ballistic computer is integrated with a millimeter band radar system, thermal imager, laser rangefinder / designator, crosswind sensor, observation systems and IR and radiometer sensors. This combined system permits real-time command and beyond-vision-range target engagements. The Arjun has an auxiliary power unit to operate weapon systems in silent watch mode as well.

There is a combined day sight / thermal imager for the gunner and the commander has a stabilised panoramic sight and thermal viewer with eight periscopes for 360° vision which permits either direct engagement of targets or handing of them over to the gunner. The commander’s station also offers an extensive suite of controls and displays that are linked by a digital data bus to all other systems on the tank. These include an Integrated Battle Management System (IBMS), digital mapping, FBCB2 capabilities and C4ISR Systems.

The main gun can fire indigenously developed armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding-sabot (APFSDS) ammunition, HE, HEAT and High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) rounds. The Arjun carries 39 rounds of ammunition in blast-proof canisters and has a firing rate of 6 to 8 rounds per minute. The Arjun Mk II is also capable of firing the Israeli developed semi-active laser guided LAHAT missile, which is designed to defeat both enemy armor and enemy combat helicopters. The secondary armaments on the Arjun include a PKT 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun and a turret roof mounted NSVT 12.7 mm heavy machine gun.

PROTECTION SYSTEMS

The hull and turret of the Arjun are fabricated with an all-welded steel construction. Add-on-armor modules are then applied over the vehicle surfaces to provide enhanced protection levels, with an emphasis on protecting the frontal arc. The turret and glacis are protected with “Kanchan” (“gold”) modular composite add-on-armor which consists of composite panels sandwiched between Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA) panels. The Kanchan armor provides effective protection against both APFDS, HESH and HEAT rounds. Testing trials conducted in 2000 demonstrated the system’s ability to defeat APFSDS rounds fired at point blank range by a T-72.

A broad range of additional protective systems have also been integrated into the Arjun Mk II vehicle. There is a honeycomb designed Non-Explosive / Non-Energetic Reactive Armor (NERA) system, nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection equipment, automatic fire fighting system (AFFS), and an electromagnetic-counter mine system that can disable magnetic mines and disrupt the associated electronics in advance of the tank. Various signature reduction technologies to reduce detection by Infrared, thermal, radar-thermal, and radar bands have also been made available as optional upgrades. These include a Mobile Camouflage System (MCS) and an aerosol grenade discharging system.

he millimetre band radar system mounted on the turret is capable of operating as a Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS) and also has a Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and radar jammer. An Advanced Laser Warning Countermeasure System (ALWCS) that could be integrated with the FCS has also been developed. This systems consists of four all-bearing Laser Warning Receivers (LWR) and Electro-optical/IR infrared jamming “dazzlers”. A Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK) has been developed for the Arjun as well which provides enhanced vehicle protection in an urban setting.

COMBAT EXPERIENCE

The Arjun tank was evaluated during the Ashwamedha exercise in the deserts of Rajasthan as part of the Auxiliary User Cum Reliability Trials (AUCRT) from September 2007 to summer of 2008. The army cited several deficiencies that included a deficient fire control system, inaccurate and inconsistent main weapon performance, low speed capability in tactical situations, repeated power pack failures, failure of hydropneumatic suspension units, and a persistent inability to operate in temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius. In the 2007 winter trials, the Indian army deemed Arjun’s performance unsatisfactory, including at least four engine failures.

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Panthers of Army Group Centre 1945

Fighting in the Panther

For German tank crews, the interior of the Panther was a significant improvement on the Panzer IV, which had become more and more cramped as larger guns were shoehorned into the small turret. A Panther’s crew consisted of a commander, gunner, loader, radio operator, and driver. They were all hooked up to an internal intercom system, allowing communication over the roar of the engine and the sounds of battle.

The driver had arguably the hardest job of anyone in the crew. Being able to maneuver around the battlefield effectively without damaging the vehicle’s fragile drivetrain required a deft touch and skilled judgement. He sat on a low padded seat down in the front left compartment of the tank, separated from the radio operator by the tank’s enormous gearbox. Directly in front of him, only a few inches from his face, was the thick bulletproof glass of the viewport, and above that the eyepieces for the two periscopes. The seat was positioned close to the side of the hull, just above the hull floor. To the right of the driver was a control panel with the speedometer, fuel gauge, and other important instruments. The large rubber-tipped gear lever stuck out from the side of the gearbox roughly level with the driver’s hip while the steering levers (one for each track) hung down from mountings on either side of the viewport. The driver’s position was an awkward one, especially for taller men who had to uncomfortably squeeze their legs under the axle for the drive wheels in order to reach the pedals. It did, however, have the advantage of a large escape hatch positioned directly above the seat.

On the opposite side of the gearbox sat the radio operator. His position was the mirror image of the driver’s position, except he had a ball-mounted MG34 in front of him where the driver had a vision port. His only view outside the tank was through the twin periscopes mounted into the roof just above the top of the glacis plate. His bulky radio was mounted over the gearbox to his left. In battle he was supposed to operate the hull machine gun, but his most important role was usually to keep the tank commander updated on orders from the platoon leader. Although it wasn’t officially part of the role, most radio operators also acted as spotters for the gunner, reporting on where shots fell and relaying corrections.

The floor of the turret was about 30cm higher than the floor in the front compartment, meaning that there was only a small opening between the two sections of the interior. The turret crewmembers – gunner, loader, and commander – could only really communicate with the other two using the intercom.

The gunner sat on a low seat mounted to the turret floor behind the driver. He had an extremely uncomfortable and cramped position, with the breech of the main gun almost pressing against his right shoulder. The gunner controlled the turret’s hydraulic traverse mechanism using a pair of foot pedals, but usually had to fine-tune any powered movement with manual adjustments using a wheel on the left of his seat. The ergonomics of his controls were poorly thought through – the turret traverse pedals were at an awkward angle to the seat and the optical sight for the gun was placed so close to the breech that the gunner usually had to remove, or partially remove, his headphones to get his eye up to the eyepiece.

One major disadvantage of the Panther’s design was that the gunner had no periscope, limiting his vision to just what he could see through the narrow field of view provided by the optical sights. This often slowed down the process of target acquisition as he had to scan around to find a target. In experienced crews the commander learned to give very specific references for the location of his intended target, though even then target acquisition was much slower than in a Sherman or T-34. This delay was more than made up for by the astonishing accuracy made possible by the high-quality Leitz TZF 12a gunsight. This design had a 5x magnification and well-designed crosshairs that made it possible to quickly gauge the range and speed of a target. Its only flaw was that it had no forehead guard on the eyepiece, meaning that any gunner to tried to line up a target while the tank was in motion risked jabbing himself in the eye.

In the event that the tank was hit, the gunner typically had the lowest chance of survival. To get out he had to either scramble under the gun and squeeze out of the rear escape hatch or climb up onto the commander’s seat and out through the cupola. If either man had been killed or injured in the attack there was often not enough room for him to get past.

The loader had the simplest job of anyone in the crew, though also the most physically demanding. He had to load the gun with the ammunition specified by the commander quickly and efficiently. In lengthy engagements, this often meant scrambling around pulling heavy shells out of the various secondary storage bins around the interior of the tank. He had a fold-down seat, but in combat had to stand up – an awkward and uncomfortable position for most men as the roof of the turret was only 1.6m high (5ft 3in). His position was relatively open, however, compared to that of the rest of the crewmen, meaning that he was usually the most likely to escape (through the rear hatch behind his position) if the tank was hit.

The most important member of the tank’s crew was the commander. He sat on an elevated seat that was mounted to the interior of the turret just behind the gun. If he wanted to put his head out of the open cupola for a better view of the battlefield, he had to stand up on a metal footrest just under his seat. With his head in the cupola, he had a 360-degree view that enabled him to make tactical decisions about the placement of the tank and decide which targets the gunner should engage. The skill of the commander was often what decided if a Panther crew lived or died. Poorly trained commanders often lost their tanks (and frequently their lives) in their first battles, while others, like Panther ace Ernst Barkmann (82 kills) of the 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich”, survived the whole war.

Overall Assessment

The Panther is often hailed as the finest tank of World War II. On paper, this is undoubtedly true. It had a higher top speed, more powerful gun, and thicker armor than any commonly-fielded Allied tank. Moreover it cost only slightly more than the Panzer IV and was simple enough to be constructed in large numbers unlike the heavy Tiger I and Tiger II.

Look a little more closely at the Panther’s specifications, however, and serious flaws can be seen. The armor, though impressive, was not well distributed. The massive glacis plate was offset by dangerously thin side armor which could be penetrated by almost any Allied tank or anti-tank weapon. Similarly, the high top speed and good cross country performance came at the cost of fuel efficiency, making the vehicle prohibitively expensive to operate.

This is before one even begins to consider the appalling mechanical reliability problems that plagued the Panther throughout its operational life. Panther units were rarely able to keep more than 35 percent of their nominal tank strength operational for prolonged periods (compared with close to 90 percent readiness in T-34 units). This negated, to a significant degree, the advantage of numbers that its relatively cheap construction was supposed to enable. Although the Panther was a more common sight on the battlefield than the Tiger I or II, it was never as common as it needed to be to turn the tide.

The Panther was ultimately a success on the tactical level, but a failure on the strategic level. In a straight gunnery duel, the Panther almost always prevailed over its enemies. In war, however, there is no requirement to fight on even terms. The Panther’s lack of strategic mobility meant that it was far easier for Allied units to simply bypass areas where Panthers were active. As the Panther was only able to operate for a very short time without the support of its extensive logistics organization, encirclement meant defeat. When forced to take to the roads and retreat, the Panther sustained heavier losses to its own mechanical flaws than it ever did to enemy action. Although exact figures are hard to come by, it is thought that around half of all Panther losses during World War II were the result of immobilized vehicles being blown up by German forces as they retreated.

On 20 April 1945 First Ukrainian Front was putting its armor across the Spree north and south of Spremberg. South of Spremberg the Fourth Panzer Army still had a vestige of a front; north of the city almost the whole Third Guards Tank Army was across the Spree. Schörner reported that he had “hopes” of stopping Konev’s southern thrust toward Bautzen. He intended to try again to close the front on the north, but, he added, “The laboriously organized defense in depth has only in a few places accomplished what one was forced to promise oneself from it.”

On 21 April 1945 Fourth Panzer Army made some local progress in a counterattack northwest of Görlitz. Hitler saw in it the makings of a major thrust that would close the 40-mile gap between the Army Group Vistula-Army Group Center flanks, and from that illusion he derived a “basic order” which Krebs transmitted to the army group by phone in the midafternoon. The “successful” attack at Army Group Center would soon close the front at Spremberg; therefore, it was “absolutely necessary” to hold the corner post at Cottbus. (Ninth Army had taken command the day before of Fourth Panzer Army’s left flank corps at and north of Cottbus.)

Battle of Bautzen (1945)

Marshal Konev found himself faced with a major battle on his rear. During the night of the 22nd, a large German force of two infantry divisions and 100 tanks from the Fourth Panzer Army attacked north-west from the area around Bautzen, on First Ukrainian’s left flank, some 40km (25 miles) north-east of Dresden and 25km (15 miles) west of Garlitz. Driving towards Spremberg, the German armour sliced into First Ukrainian’s side, exploiting the weak seam between 52nd Army and the Second Polish Army. The Polish divisions, which were protecting the left flank of Zhadov’s Fifth Guards Army, were thrown into chaos as the Germans ripped into them and blasted their supply and communications lines. For two days the ‘Garlitz Group’ hacked its way north, towards Spremberg, and appeared to be on the verge of cracking the Soviet ring around the trapped Ninth Army. If it could succeed, there was a reasonable hope that the pressure on Berlin’s south side could be lifted, and the city perhaps saved long enough for a negotiation with the West.

Konev recognised the threat to his position (and his hopes for playing a major role in the city’s capture), and responded quickly. First Ukrainian’s Chief-of-Staff, General I. E. Petrov, was dispatched to the embattled lines to re-group and re-order the chaotic situation. After making his review and issuing his orders, Petrov left Major General V. I. Kostylev behind to co-ordinate the defensive effort. Kostylev, First Ukrainian’s Chief of Operations Administration, performed his job brilliantly, immediately re-establishing contact with the cut-off Second Polish Army, and mounting a counterattack with 52nd and Fifth Guards Armies. By the evening of the 24th, the German thrust had been brought to a halt.

Surrender

Four major Wehrmacht formations formally swore loyalty to the Dönitz regime on 2 May. In Norway, General Fritz Böhme gave Dönitz his allegiance – along with the eleven divisions and five brigades under his command, totalling some 380,000 men. These were fresh and properly equipped troops, capable of putting up a considerable fight against the Western Allies. On the same day, Army Group Courland also offered its oath of loyalty to Dönitz. More than 200,000 German troops were still holding out in this corner of Latvia, along with a Latvian SS division of some 15,000 men. General Dietrich von Saucken’s Army Group of East Prussia, the battered remnants of the German 2nd and 4th Armies, holding out along the Bay of Danzig and the Hela Peninsula – a gathering of around 100,000 Wehrmacht troops – did the same. And finally, and most importantly, Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner’s Army Group Centre – stationed in eastern Czechoslovakia – also confirmed its allegiance. Schörner’s army group totalled some 580,000 men.

Ferdinand Schörner was a fanatical Nazi who, like Dönitz, soared high in Hitler’s favour in the last months of the war. His rise had been meteoric. In the summer of 1939 he had been a mere lieutenant colonel and regimental commander. By the end of the war he was commanding entire army groups, first as colonel general and then as field marshal. The Führer said of him in April 1945:

`On the entire front, only one man has proven himself to be a real field strategist – Schörner. Schörner had to endure the worst attacks, but he has maintained the most orderly front. When Schörner had terrible equipment he put it in order again. He has achieved excellent results from every task given to him: he can take over a chaotic situation and imbue its defenders with fresh spirit and determination.’

Hitler specially honoured Field Marshal Schörner in his will, sending him a copy of his last testament and appointing him commander of the German army (a post Schörner was never able to take up). In fact, Schörner’s successes, such as they were, were founded on excessive brutality and fanaticism. He executed more soldiers for cowardice than any other German commander. He sacked divisional, corps and army commanders he did not consider tough enough and established squads of military police to round up stragglers behind the front. His unflattering nicknames included `Wild Ferdinand’, `the Bloodhound’ and `the Legend of a Thousand Gallows’.

The source of most concern was Army Group Center, because it was the largest single force still on the Eastern Front, because it had the farthest to go to reach the Allied lines (of those that had any chance of doing so at all), and because no one knew how Schörner would react to the surrender. Schörner had reported on 2 May 1945 that he had a tight hold on his troops and was starting to manufacture his own ammunition and motor fuel. The last that had been heard from him was that he intended to fight his army group through to the line of the Elbe and Vltava (Moldau) before surrendering. On the 8th an OKW staff colonel with an American officer escort went to Schörner’s headquarters. The colonel reported that Schörner had ordered the surrender terms observed but claimed he did not have the means to make certain they were carried out everywhere. The colonel “assured him that the command difficulties would be brought to the attention of the Americans and the OKW.” The OKW need neither have worried that Schörner would attempt a last-ditch battle nor have hoped that he would find a means to extricate his army group. Schörner deserted his troops on the 8th and in civilian clothes flew a light plane out of Czechoslovakia. He was arrested in Austria ten days later by First Panzer Army troops and turned over to the Americans

Schörner’s War

Those who see the Wehrmacht as an army of brilliant operators like Guderian, Rommel, and Manstein need to clear a space in the memory palace for one field marshal whom we have all but forgotten. Ferdinand Schörner was the typos of the late-war Nazi general. He came to the fore late in the conflict, holding a series of increasingly hopeless commands as Germany’s strategic situation deteriorated: Army Group A and Army Group South Ukraine in the spring of 1944; Army Group North (later renamed Army Group Courland) in the summer; Army Group Center in January 1945, which he led until the end. He never won a battle, but failure wasn’t fully his fault. While Schörner was competent enough in a technical sense, nothing short of nuclear weapons could have evened up the fight on the Eastern Front against a Soviet army vastly superior in numbers and equipment.

If we take as the first rule of generalship “do no harm,” however, then Schörner was a disaster. His art of war consisted of loyalty to Hitler. He was a true believer, a fanatic about holding out to the end, even as things fell apart. Of all the Führer’s minions, Schörner was the most enthusiastic, a National Socialist if ever there was one. Schörner’s bedrock conception of command was to shoot or hang large numbers of his own men for “cowardice” in order to terrorize the others into obeying him. He led through fear—flying his little Fieseler Storch aircraft around the rear areas of his army groups, landing suddenly in a divisional or corps area of responsibility, and handing down death sentences on the flimsiest of evidence—all the while staring down at his immaculately manicured fingernails. The phrase “der Ferdl kommt!” (“Here comes Ferd!”) always meant trouble for the rank and file. He once scolded his chief of staff that “you handle the operations, I’ll keep order,” and in the weeks after the attempt on Hitler’s life he opened staff meetings by asking, “How many men did you hang today?” It is no surprise that Goebbels admired Schörner for his “political insight” and for his “entirely new, modern methods.” To be specific:

He takes special aim at the so-called regular stragglers. By “regular stragglers,” he means those soldiers, who always seem to understand how to remove themselves from their unit in critical situations and vanish back into the rear under some kind of pretext. He deals with such figures quite brutally, has them hanged from the nearest tree wearing a placard that says, “I am a deserter and was too cowardly to protect German women and children.”

“Naturally,” Goebbels concluded, “this has a terrifying impact on other deserters or those who are thinking about it.”54 Hitler, too, appreciated these methods and named Schörner his successor as Commander in Chief of the Army—Nazi Germany’s last.

Like all tyrants, Schörner assembled a posse of thugs around him who did the dirty work. His security troops once came upon a tank workshop where a crew was waiting to get its reconnaissance vehicle fixed. The crew’s actions seem logical enough, but Schörner had the vehicle commander shot for “malingering.” On other occasions, as at Lednice on May 7, 1945, Schörner was reportedly present when his military police shot twenty-two German soldiers for “standing around without orders.” Hitler had been dead for a week by then and the war was all but over, but Schörner was still executing his own men to encourage the others.

Schörner’s excuse for his crimes was that he had to maintain discipline in the ranks so that his army group could escape to the west (toward the Americans) rather than be overrun by the Soviets. His strategy was an organized flight to the west, a maneuver that had to proceed systematically. Just two days before the murders at Lednice, Schörner had issued his last order of the day to Army Group Center. Excoriating the “traitors and cowards” in their midst, he urged his men to be steadfast. “In these hard days, we must not lose our nerves or become cowardly,” he declared. “Any attempt to find your own way back to the homeland is a dishonorable betrayal of your comrades and of our people . . . and will be punished.”

Powerful words—and stirring words! A few days later, on May 9, Schörner bundled himself into his little Storch and flew away, abandoning his post and leaving the men of Army Group Center to their fate as Soviet prisoners. The commander who hanged “traitors” and “cowards” from lampposts and fences and who let his men know that “they might die at the front, but they definitely would die in the rear” had apparently reached his limit, making us wonder whether all the threats, all the abuse he heaped on others, all the summary executions were not merely a compensatory mechanism for some inner weakness. Schörner managed to fly to the safety of American lines, but US troops handed him over to the Soviets, who put him on trial and put him in prison for the next ten years. Schörner did his time next to some of the very men he had left in the lurch—and they didn’t hesitate to let him know what they thought of him. Released in late 1954, he returned to West Germany, provoking angry outbursts from many former soldiers and their families. He went on trial there, too, and spent four more years in prison.

In the end, Schörner had proven his loyalty, but only in the narrowest sense. He had stayed loyal to Hitler to the very end and beyond. To his troops, however, he had shown only callousness, if not outright cruelty. Consider this admonition toward Germany’s former generals from a German author in 1949:

How astonishing that the generals always speak only of their soldierly duty to those above them, never of their duty to those soldiers whose lives are in their hands, the blood of their own nation. No one can demand that you kill a tyrant if your conscience forbids it. But mustn’t we demand the same care and seriousness toward the lives of each of your subordinates?

A particularly good question—and not only for Schörner! Let us recall that he wasn’t the only one “guilty of the senseless death of German soldiers” in the last year of the war. World War II will always be “Hitler’s war,” but Hitler had an officer corps filled with hundreds and thousands of Schörners: the key enablers who helped their Führer launch the war, fight it, and keep fighting it long after any hope of victory had vanished.

Until five minutes past midnight.

 

BAE Systems launches Casspir Mk 6

BAE Systems has launched the latest version of the highly successful Casspir mine protected armoured vehicle, the Casspir Mk 6. The Casspir Mk6 evolved from the reliable and renowned Casspir heritage. The latest development also incorporates experience from the battle proven RG31 (over 2400 in service) to ensure a superior and affordable APC.

BAE Land Systems South Africa said the new variant of the veteran armoured personnel carrier can accommodate 16 people, and incorporates improvements gained from experience with the battle proven RG31. More than 2400 RG31s are in service and the type has seen extensive combat in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Casspir Mk6 is an open architecture fit for many applications including the option for different variants – 4×4, 6×6, utility, APC and command. This battle-proven workhorse with its robust design is suitable for the harshest African conditions. COTS (Commercial-off-the-shelve) building blocks are used in the design and manufacturing for increased cost benefit and contributing to the superior mine protection is the monocoque V-shaped hull.

The Casspir Mk6 measures approximately 7.59 meters in length, 2.67 meters in width, with a ground clearance of 380 millimeters. Its gross vehicle mass is 14,320 kg and seats 16 crew members. The straight forward utilisation of a total commercial drive train ensures affordability of this battle proven vehicle. Some of the weight comes from armour plating used in the innovative V-shaped hull, which deflects land mine blasts.

The Casspir Mk 6 is primarily aimed at the African market, but will be marketed overseas as a lower cost mine protected vehicle. The new variant has no orders at present, but BAE will commence marketing it soon.

The new model Casspir Mk6 has 3-axle all-wheel drive chassis, whereas all previous Casspirs were and are four-wheel drive. However, 4×4 version is available as an option for this new model. The Casspir Mk 6 is developed on the chassis of the Russian truck Ural 4320 with YAMZ 236NE2 turbocharged engine rated at 230 hp and manual gearbox YAMZ-236U. Using Russian components give 30% price decrease – the final cost of the Casspir Mk6 is about USD350,000. The idea of using Ural’s chassis was suggested by Indian company Mahindra & Mahindra. So, the new vehicle has the monocoque V-shaped hull of the Casspir, mounted on chassis of Russian truck.

Originally developed by the then-Defence Research Unit of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on a budget of R80 000 to a South African Police requirement for an armoured, mine-protected counterinsurgency vehicle – hence the name “Casspir”, an anagram for SAP and CSIR – the vehicle was also adopted in that role by the SA Army.

An estimated 2500 Casspirs were built since the first prototype rolled out of the TFM plant in April 1979 and about 170 remain in South African Army service. Some 167 Casspirs were upgraded in 2006 as part of Project Gijima.

This quintessential mine resistant, armour protected, personnel carrier is seen as one of two inspirations of the MRAP that now proliferates worldwide, the other being the TFM, (now BAE Systems SA, Land Systems OMC) RG31.

During the Namibian-Angolan Border War (1966-1989), the Casspir served, inter alia with the South African police counterinsurgency unit commonly known as “Koevoet”, the South West African Territory Force’s 101 Battalion and the SA Defence Force’s 5 Reconnaissance Regiment (5RR). After the end of the war the 101Bn vehicles were returned to the SA Army and assigned to the motorised infantry.

The Casspir has also entered service with more than half a dozen other nations, including India, Nepal, Indonesia, Djibouti and Mozambique, amongst others.

Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) – CVR(T)

A CVR(T) (combat Vehicle reconnaissance [Tracked]) is pictured being operated across the harsh desert terrain of Afghanistan by soldiers of the 9th/12th royal lancers. The first of the enhanced CVR(T) fleet is now operational and being put to good use by the lancers, whose main task is to overwatch the battlespace on either side of Highways 1 and 611, the two main supply routes that run through the Task force Helmand area of operations. The Spartan troop carrier, Samson recovery vehicle, Sultan command vehicle, and Samaritan ambulance complete the family.

 In 2010/2011, BAE Systems were awarded a contract to modernise CVR(T) armoured vehicles to the CVR(T) Mk 2 configuration, as illustrated by this SCIMITAR Mk 2 vehicle on operations in Afghanistan.

Scorpion (FV101)

Scorpion (FV101), officially named Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked), was developed by Alvis to replace Saladin armoured car. First prototype completed in 1969 and first production vehicles in 1972. By 1999 well over 3,500 had been built for home and export. Driver sits front left with engine to right and two-man turret rear. Turret has commander on left and gunner right. Turret traverse is manual through 360° and 76mm gun elevates from -10° to +35°. Main armament fires HESH, HE and smoke rounds with 7.62mm MG mounted coaxial to left. Flotation screen is carried collapsed round top of hull which when erected makes vehicle fully amphibious, propelled by its tracks. Wide range of optional equipment available including various fire-control systems, laser rangefinders, diesel engine, 90mm gun, 7.62mrn anti-aircraft MG and air-conditioning system. The standard 76mm Scorpion is no longer used by the British Army.

Armour

In the late 1960s, the British adopted aluminum for the Alvis Scorpion tracked reconnaissance vehicle (CVR(T)). This was the first vehicle to have a turret as well as a hull welded from the aluminum alloy plate. Due to the strict weight limitations and the level of protection that was required, the 5083-aluminium alloy could not be used. Instead, a new alloy was developed. The result was AA 7039 – an aluminum-zinc- magnesium alloy, which derived its strength from a precipitation hardening heat treatment. This finished aluminum alloy possesses a higher strength and better ballistic properties than AA 5083.

The Type 7039 alloy performed well against AP ammunition when compared to steel armour (RHA). For 14.5-mm ammunition, the advantages of using aluminum alloy over steel are more significant than what would be required to protect against the 7.62-mm ammunition. Yet with both types of ammunition, the disadvantage of using steel narrows as the angle of obliquity increases.

Alvis Stormer APC

In the 1970s a British Government research and development establishment built FV4333 armoured personnel carrier prototype using components of Alvis Scorpion CVR(T) range. Further development by Alvis resulted in Stormer which entered production in 1981 for export with three sold to USA for evaluation in Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) competition (subsequently won by Diesel Division, General Motors of Canada) and 25 to Malaysia, 12 of which had Helio FVT900 turret, 20mm Oerlikon Contraves cannon and 7.62mm MG and remaining vehicles had Thyssen Henschel TH-1 turret with twin 7.62mm MG. Late in 1986 British Army selected Stormer to mount Shorts Starstreak High Velocity Missile (HVM) system. This has an unmanned turret with a total of eight Starstreak SAM in ready to launch position, four either side.

All versions have similar layout with driver front left, engine compartment right, troop compartment extending right to rear. Wide range of weapon stations for hull top including turrets with 7.62mm and 12.7mm MG, 20mm, 25mm or 30mm cannon up to 76mm or 90mm guns. Wide range of optional equipment including NBC system, night vision devices, flotation screen, firing ports/vision blocks, automatic transmission, land navigation system.

Alvis  Striker SPATGW Vehicle

Striker was developed to meet requirements of British Army, Alvis being responsible for chassis and the now Matra BAe Dynamics for Swingfire ATGW missile system. First production vehicles delivered in 1975 and used in British Army service by Royal Armoured Corps. Striker (FV102) is member of the Scorpion family Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked).

Mounted roof rear is a launcher box for five wire-guided Matra BAe Dynamics Swingfire ATGWs with HEAT warhead and range of 4,000m. They can be launched from inside or outside vehicle with the aid of a separation sight and controller, in day and night conditions. When travelling, launcher box is horizontal but elevated to 35° prior to missile launch. After the five Swingfire ATGWs are fired new missiles must be loaded externally.

The flotation screen on the Alvis Striker has now been removed and the vehicle has been withdrawn from service with the Belgian Army.

Most of the British Army Alvis Striker vehicles have now been upgraded with the Swingfire Improve Guidance (SWIG) system, the actual missile and chassis have not been upgraded. The British Army did deploy two other systems with the Swingfire ATGW system, the Ferret Mk 5 and the FV438 based on the FV432 chassis, but both of these have been phased out of service.

Alvis Spartan APC

Alvis Spartan (FV103) is a member of Scorpion CVR(T) family and entered service with British Army in 1978 for specialised roles such as carrying Javelin SAM or Royal Engineer assault teams. It is not replacement for FV432 APC.

Driver sits front left, engine compartment to right, vehicle commander/7.62mm MG gunner to his rear and section commander, who dismounts with four infantry, right of vehicle commander. Troops in rear with two-part roof hatch opening left and right, no firing ports. Flotation screen can be fitted round top of hull which, when erected, makes Spartan fully amphibious, propelled by its tracks.

New production vehicles have a number of improvements including upgraded suspension and the option of the more fuel-efficient Perkins diesel engine which has already been installed in some export Scorpions. By 1999 total production of the Spartan APC amounted to over 960 vehicles for both home and export market.

The British Army did have some Spartans fitted with the twin turret but these have been phased out of service. Spartan can be adopted to take a wide range of other weapons including anti-tank guided missiles and various air defence weapons.

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South African Mine-Protected Vehicles

Casspir APC

The Casspir is an unusual vehicle, being in service in much the same form not only with several South African Police forces but also with the South African National Defence Force in a virtually identical form.

Built originally by TFM (Ply) Limited, the Casspir was originally based on a Bedford heavy commercial truck chassis but this was gradually modified and strengthened so that the Casspir can be taken as an original design.

The Casspir resembles an armoured truck with the armour extending to specially-shaped under-hull plates intended to reduce the effects of land mines and Casspir have repeatedly demonstrated that they can indeed survive heavy mine detonations; some have been specially equipped for detecting and clearing mines from roads in remote areas.

The first Casspir appeared in 1981. Since then over 2,500 have been produced and many have been rebuilt to extend their service lives, as production has now ceased.

The cab roof has provision for a weapon station, usually a single 7.62 mm MG but police vehicles may have all manner of anti-riot weapons, including a rapid-firing rubber bullet dispenser.

The troops (or police) are seated on outward-facing bench seats down the centre of the rear compartment and are provided with vision blocks and firing ports (police versions usually have larger vision blocks covered by grills). Entry to the rather high off the ground compartment is via a door in the rear – large roof hatches are provided.

Also produced is a Casspir ambulance, and three ‘specials’. One of these is the Duiker 5000-litre fuel tanker with the tank replacing the troop compartment.

The Blesbock is an armoured load carrier with a cargo body capable of carrying 5 tonnes of supplies – a water tank may form part of the load.

The Gemsbock is a recovery vehicle.

There have been three main models of the Casspir, the Mk 1, Mk II and Mk III, all of which have incorporated improvements as a result of operational experience. Wherever possible standard commercial components are used in the construction of the Casspir family of vehicles.

Update South African [Denel Mechem] Casspir – In service with 10 African, South American, and Asian nations, the blast-protected Casspir is at the heart of a wide family of vehicles. Those include APC, Ambulance, Blesbok Freighter/Weapons Platform, Duiker 5000-liter Tanker and Artillery Fire Control, Fire Support Team, 15-ton capacity Gemsbok Recovery, Mechem Mine-clearing, Mechem Explosives and Drug Detection System Mine Sensor, Mechem Vehicular Array Mine Detection System, Plofadder Mine-clearing System, Riot Control, and Mechem Low-Profile/ short-wheelbase vehicles.

Specification Crew: 2 Seating: 10 Weight: (combat) 12,580 kg Length: 6.87 m Width: 2.5m Height: 2.85 m Ground clearance: 0.41m Track: 2.07m Max speed: (road) 90km/h Fuel capacity: 220 litres Range: 850 km Fording: 1 m Vertical obstacle: 0.5 m Engine: ADE 352T diesel Power output: 170 hp Suspension: leaf spring Armament: 1 to 3 7.62 mm MG Variants: Blesbock, Duiker, Gemsbock

Casspir for Angola – 2014+

Angola has ordered 45 Casspir armoured vehicles from Denel Land Systems (DLS). The order is for the Casspir NG 2000B, which offers protecton to B7 and STANAG 4569 levels. It comprises 30 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) with light turrets for machine guns, four fire-support vehicles able to mount either a twin 23 mm cannon or a recoilless rifle, two command vehicles, two wide-body ambulances, two medium recovery vehicles, three logistic variants, one diesel tanker and one water tanker, as well as a spares package and initial training for drivers and mechanics.

Angola is believed to have selected the B-model because it uses a South African Powerstar 4×4 1729VX Model Euro 2 drivetrain that does not have electronic engine control interfaces, making it more reliable in African operational conditions. The `new generation’ Casspir NG 2000 can also be supplied with Euro 3- or 4-compliant drivetrains, and has been supplied with a Chinese drivetrain.

DLS has sold Casspir NG 2000 APCs to Benin (10) and to the United Nations (15) for use in Somalia, Sudan and other theatres.

Angola’s decision to buy Casspirs could be motivated by plans to participate in peace-support operations. Its forces have been conspicuously absent in this role, but Luanda appears to be looking to increase its regional influence, which will require it to participate in such missions. However, much of the Angolan Army’s equipment is either unsuitable for peacekeeping operations or extremely old and of doubtful serviceability.

Mamba APC

At first sight the Mamba APC resembles a somewhat bulky but conventional personnel carrier but it was developed not only as an APC but as a mine protected vehicle for operations in areas where land mines are likely to be encountered. It was developed following along series of mine-proofed vehicles specifically produced to counter the mine warfare conditions once prevalent along the South African borders and in the former Rhodesia.

The Mamba originally produced by Reumech Sandock, thus has an armoured underside with sloped plates intended to direct the worst of a mine blast away from the vehicle. The chassis itself is based around the use of Unimog components and the Mamba thus has a remarkable cross-country performance.

The steel upper hull can be armoured virtually according to requirements but is usually proof against small arms fire and ammunition splinters. The interior has the commander and driver seated side by side and up to nine troops seated in close proximity in the rear; entry to all position is via a single door at the rear or via roof hatches.

The commander has a roof hatch over which a MG can be mounted, if required, All occupants are provided with bullet-proof windows and the entire roof can be opened up when necessary The rear area can be readily configured to form an armoured ambulance or a command vehicle.

Other body types include a flatbed body for load carrying, to mount light weapons, or to accommodate a recovery hamper. It has been proposed that the Mamba could be fitted out as a VIP protected transport. The Mamba has been acquired by the South African National Defence Force and several other countries.

Specification Crew: 2 Seating: 9 Weight: (combat) 6,800 kg Length: 5.46m Width: 2.205m Height: 2.495m Ground clearance: 0.4 m Track: 1.79m Max speed:(road)102km/h Fuel capacity: 200 litres Range: 900 km Fording: 1 m Vertical obstacle: 0.4m Engine: Mercedes-Benz OM352 diesel Power output: 123 hp Suspension: coil spring Armament: 1 x7.62 mm MG (if fitted)

Enter the MRAP

Mines and explosive devices are hardly new to warfare. Massive mine fields were emplaced in every theatre during World War II and the Korean War while locally manufactured booby-traps were a common hazard faced by patrols in the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam. Generally these were un-attended and passive with their detonation triggered by the action of the vehicle or soldier that happened upon them. They were unexpected and deadly with adverse affects on troop morale which caused them to move more cautiously. They also were extensively used in Rhodesia and against the South African Defence Forces (SADF) in its incursions into Angola, Namibia and Zambia in the Border Wars from 1966 to 1990. In fact, the use of mines was adopted as the principle tactic of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) against the SADF. Mines came to define the conflict.

This tactical aspect of the South African conflict received little international attention by the major armies but it forecast the dominating role that mines and IEDs would take on in coming conflicts. It also offered some ready-made solutions for protecting against these threats though SADF’s development and fielding of armoured V-hull vehicles. South African developers, including the company OMC that perfected the monocoque hull, developed designs that resisted the blast of an explosion under the vehicle belly or wheels. Combining an angled belly, unencumbered hull form, increased ground clearance and breakaway suspension components, its designers were able to provide a series of vehicles that reliably protected the vehicle’s occupants. A key part of the design’s effectiveness was in directing the blast forces away from the vehicle’s welded armoured crew compartment (which became known as its `citadel’). The initial Casspir Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) design was introduced in 1980 and remains in service with over 22 nations. The design concept was further perfected by TFM Industries as Mamba and later expanded by OMC as the RG-31 Nyala MPV. The value of these mine protected vehicles was well recognised and they were acquired and employed in various United Nations peacekeeping operations.

The magnitude of the IED threat in Afghanistan and Iraq and the inadequacy of up-armouring efforts became evident and a team from the US travelled to South Africa where it viewed a Casspir successfully cross a live mine field.

V-Shaping

Two approaches to V-shaping – the Casspir and the Mamba armoured personnel carriers.

 

Included Angle of the V-Shaping on Certain Rhodesian Armoured Vehicles.

To improve occupant survivability by way of reducing acceleration to the occupants, much of the effort has centred on the deflection of the blast wave away from the vehicle. And so, most modern armoured vehicles have V-shaped hulls to achieve this.

Blast defection through V-shaping was developed in the early 1970s by the South Africans. During this time, they modified a WWII-vintage Swedish SKPF M/42 APC by integrating a special-shaped steel capsule with a 43° V-shaped bottom (Hoffman et al. 1991). Generally speaking, geometry dictates that the smaller the included angle of the V-shaping, the more the blast energy will be deflected, and therefore, a lower vertical impulse will be delivered to the vehicle. However, the height of the vehicle will also increase with the potential to make handling and stability more problematic. Picture above lists some of the included angles of vehicles used by the Rhodesians. Notably, the Camel was named so due to its `ungainly’ appearance.

For vehicles where it is simply not possible to introduce a V-shape to the hull due to height and handling problems that may arise, it is possible to introduce a `double V’-shape (or essentially a `W’-shape). With this concept, instead of the blast being solely directed to the outside of the vehicle, a double V-shaped arrangement means that some of the blast is directed into the centre of the vehicle (Lee 2013). The blast is then spread fore and aft along the vehicle’s central axis using a suitably reinforced `duct’ that is concave downward. The deformation of the internal angled parts leads to a downward `pull’ on the central concave part thereby countering some of the upward impulse from the blast. Therefore, this provides a route to provide some meaningful blast protection in vehicles that would otherwise not be able accommodate a full `V’-shape.

A slight modification to this concept is the structural blast chimney method where a small (approximately laptop-sized) chimney is integrated into the centre of the vehicle (Tunis and Kendall 2013). This chimney provides a vent for the blast and therefore minimises the upward acceleration of the vehicle.

Different concepts for AFV hull design showing the pathways taken by a blast wave. (a) Flat bottom, (b) ‘V’ shaped, (c) Blast chimney concept.

General Techniques for Mine Protection

Other techniques for increasing the survivability in armoured vehicles can include using `breakable’ wheel axles so that the blast is not trapped by the wheel structure, energy-absorbing materials to accommodate the blast-wave energy and sufficient spacing from the blast to reduce the energy density of the waves in contact with the structure. The Buffel (a South African troop carrier) used some of these techniques.

As long as the occupants are sufficiently strapped down, and there are no loose projectiles to fly around the cabin, a principal factor to consider is the acceleration to the occupant. This is why it is often expedient to `insulate’ the individual from fast-deforming structures such as floor plates. However, where the occupant is subject to acceleration (due to the upward movement of the vehicle), or where the occupant is in direct contact with an accelerating structure such as a floor plate, then serious injury can occur.

Protection measures employed in an AFV.

roll over (or be shunted sideways) when being subjected to a blast wave. Angled hulls are also advantageous from a ballistic point of view. Having a decent amount of armour is obviously going to help survivability. The sides of hulls are particularly vulnerable to attack from IED fragments, explosively formed projectiles, shaped-charge jets and high-explosive shell fragments and, of course, bullets. It is also necessary to add a spall shield. These are generally constructed from glass fibre-reinforced plastic or ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene composite materials. Their advantage is that during a high-velocity attack, the diameter of the cone of fragments that is produced will be reduced. This leads to less lethality and greater survivability of a crew. The reinforcement of the welds is also crucial to ensure that the vehicle does not suffer structural failure during blast loading. Welds are often the weak point in a structure, and therefore, good quality control needs to be maintained.

A typical schematic of protection measures that are usually employed by an AFV is shown in pictures above.

In the same fashion that the V-shaping leads to an increased deflection prospect for blast-wave energy, having angled hull leads provide that advantage from a side-on blast. This can reduce the propensity of the vehicle to Additionally, it is beneficial to keep the occupant away from any dynamically deforming part – such as a floor plate. During a blast, the floor plate can be subjected to high accelerations that can lead to serious injury – particularly in the lower leg. Therefore, suspended seats and foot rests are used for this purpose.