2011/01/21

The Most Advanced Amphibious Armor Vehicle in the World is...

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(China Defense Blog)
Over the past 15 years the Chinese have introduced a steady stream of new amphibious armor, each with evolutionary improvements. In a classic "Tortoise vs Hare" race, the slow steady Chinese development has outpaced the US, leaving the USMC in the 1972-vintage AAV-7A1 amphibians for the foreseeable future. Like the Comanche and Crusader before it, the cancellation of the EFV, in development since the 1970s at a program cost of over $3 billion, marks another failure of US "leap ahead" acquisition strategy.
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Truth hurts ... and it was utterly obvious in the 90's that AAAV/EFV was a crappy idea.

S O
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25 comments:

  1. EFV is of course quite a failure, as have many many other programs built on the same premise (RMA) been.

    However
    "In a classic "Tortoise vs Hare" race, the slow steady Chinese development has outpaced the US,"
    That is just demonstrably untrue.

    For Example, China has a relativly modern Tank, The Type 99, that on first glance, appears to be of a similar type to a modern NATO Tank. I have made no study of it, beyond 30 secondas of wikipedia, but it looks similar, words like fire copntrol are used ect.

    However, Two Thirds of Chinas Tanks are STILL little more than upgraded T54s, a Tank that barely missed the Rape of Berlin and would take a kicking if it tangled with NATOs light armour!
    Seriously, in the First Gulf War US IFVs with 30mm autocannon were knocking out Iraqi MBTs

    The EFV is a crappy idea, because driving onto a defended beach in any vehicle is suicide.
    The US, has quite sensibly, decided it will either land at undefended beaches, or it will require masses of firepower to make a defended beach, undefended beach.

    China has the worlds most advanced death trap.
    *Applause*

    Until the US changes its mind, decides on a sensible AmphibTank/IFV, and goes on to build one that is the Chinese Platform what the Challenger 2 is to a T54.

    Slow and Steady does not win the race.
    Eventualy, you have to accept that the platform your dad built is just past it and you need to start again from scratch.

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  2. RT, the U.S. IFVs have 25mm autocannons and did take out an Abrams in a friendly fire accident with it, too. All tanks have their weak spots, and the largest weak spot is the rear side of the hull.

    The Chinese have a large quantity of old tanks, but that's not necessarily a bad idea; they can use them as infantry support weapons. A Type 59 is still better for infantry support than a glorified truck with a gun, such as a Stryker MGS.

    The RMA craze is also younger than the EFV - it was under development like forever.

    Finally, assaults on defended beaches can happen with extreme obscuration (radar jamming, multispectral smoke), which makes the survivability of an amphibious tank less a concern. The survivability of the mother ships in range of coastal artillery and missiles drove the speed requirement, for the launch of amphibious tanks from standoff distances became impractical if it was moving slowly.
    The Chinese amphibs would take about two hours from radar horizon to coast.

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  3. I'm the first person to argue that today, the tank should act as "big brother" to an infantry company.
    But that tank still needs to be useful.

    "Better" isnt clear cut.
    The Styker can drive 300 miles along the road with its infantry company following in trucks, a day.
    Can a T59 cover that distance in a week?

    A Styker cant take a hit from a modern AT weapon, but can a T59? Its front will probably brush off .50, but what about 40mm grenades?

    I dread to think how often a T59 wears through its gear box, or how much fuel it burns.

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  4. A Type 59 can drive 300 miles off-road in a few days and help the Stryker MGS out when it gets stuck every few kilometres...

    Type 59 frontal armour is in practice too much for a M72 LAW and 40mm APFSDS would simply get stuck (while it would pass right through a MGS).

    Point is, the Type 59 is still an effective assault gun if carefully maintained and employed. The MGS is a highly restricted assault gun whose crew couldn't even dare to enter a ZSU-23-2 infested area.


    We're off course, though. the topic was amphibs.

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  5. "However, Two Thirds of Chinas Tanks are STILL little more than upgraded T54"

    Doing the math quickly here, this still means that the PLA has about 2.000 MBTs of recent to modern standard. The T96 alone numbers about 1.500. So thats a point that does not stick well. Considering where the PLA was inventory-wise about 20 years ago, the laughter should ring hollow there indeed.

    "Until the US changes its mind, decides on a sensible AmphibTank/IFV, and goes on to build one that is the Chinese Platform what the Challenger 2 is to a T54.

    Slow and Steady does not win the race.
    Eventualy, you have to accept that the platform your dad built is just past it and you need to start again from scratch."

    Recent history suggests, that the US have an utterly pathetic record in successfully procuring a system build from scratch. They arent even good at improving legacy systems, but since the overall cost is still lower, I guess their chance to live is somewhat better. The US-version of "starting from scratch" will take up billions of dollars and produce nothing with a chance of about 85 %. Good luck for that EFV Mk2, because by the time its finished - if it ever finishes - amphibious landings have probably gone out of fashion due to anti-gravity tanks. At least it will be very modern against the ZBD05/ZTS04 then...

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  6. para
    china has about 9000 mbt's.

    Birth pains should not be mistaken for failure.
    The f5 and the f15 do not belong on the same battlefield.
    No matter how many upgrade programs its been through

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  7. When a system dies after decades of investment, this is hardly "birth pains". Lets face it, the USMC shot themselves in the foot in pretty much the same fashion as the Army with FCS. Its not like they will replace a couple of parts and get on with it. That nonsense talk about taking lessons from the MRAP is a case in point.

    "The f5 and the f15 do not belong on the same battlefield."

    And they wont be there. Lets face it, the Chinese have procured about 350+ modern fighters in the last 15 years and procurement speed will rather increase. They have completely mastered maintenance and are about to completely master modernization of imported hardware.

    The F-15-fleet is falling apart, the C/D-models die from aging/overuse, no replacement is in sight (good luck on the JSF producing any kind of affordable plane).

    The worries of the US are not for today, but for the world of 2015+. As it is, war is not around the corner, but plenty of potential for conflict after that date...

    This is going away from the EFV, but then again the amphib is just one more confirmation of a very big picture.

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  8. I have to agree with sven, the old T-55 era tanks are still reliable when well maintained, can be fielded in huge numbers, and their gun can destroy any target on the battlefield (other than an MBT, who they won't be facing directly: Rather, they will be placed in rear echelon when facing enemy tank formations, behind the more modern vehicles who will do the bulk of the fighting. The T-55s will be there to fill out the ranks, and deal with any non-MBT targets. They would be highly effective when employed in this way).

    'The Styker can drive 300 miles along the road with its infantry company following in trucks, a day.' LOL. And it can get ambushed on the road by amateur troops (like those worrisome al qauda you once classified as an existential threat) like we have seen in iraq and afghanistan. Limiting soldiers movements to roads is just suicide, it makes your travel route so predictable and easy to ambush. Duh! If you want to avoid that, you need offroad capability, and if you want offroad capability, you NEED tracks.

    'A Styker cant take a hit from a modern AT weapon, but can a T59?' Unless a vehicle employs reactive, ceramic, spaced, or slot armor, then no, nothing can withstand an RPG. Theres no excuse for a modern vehicle not to employ such protective methods, none at all.

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  9. "(like those worrisome al qauda you once classified as an existential threat)"

    I did not, never, ever call AQ an existential threat. Others did.

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  10. Kesler
    My point Regarding the T55 was merely that the older tanks have running costs out of line with capabilities.
    If they were scrapped, the money could be spent to maintain a smaller, newer, better force.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_Fisher,_1st_Baron_Fisher#First_Sea_Lord_.281904.E2.80.931910.29
    His first act was to write off 154 ships, allowing a new construction program to build the Dreadnoughts and a 10% cut in spending.


    Long distance and fast road movement has its use.
    A Road Mobile vehicle should be able to drive from London to Berlin in 11 hours and 30 minutes according to google maps. Doable in a day easy.
    Not much chance of being ambushed there.

    In some circumstances, gravel for example, tracks are in fact worse than wheels, or so I'm told.
    In many cases, there simply is no off road. Central Beijing for example.

    "Theres no excuse for a modern vehicle not to employ such protective methods, none at all. "
    Do Chinas antique tanks?
    Match Point...

    Rest
    As I said, there have been many "transformational programs" that have failed.
    EFV is one of them, FCS, FRES, pick any random 3 letters and you'll probably hit one.

    That doesnt mean "transformational program" as a concept has failed though.
    Explosive Shells, Machine Guns, Aircraft Carriers.
    All dismissed in favour of the status quo, yet all changed the face of war.

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  11. TRT; vehicle road speed is not really relevant in an army. Unit and formation road speed is relevant.
    Truck convoys don't move with 80 km/h, but rather with 40 km/h. 80 km/h races as in Iraq's MSR are only possible with certain, easily navigatable routes and with great spacing between different convoys. A brigade on the march does rarely exceed 40 km/h vehicle cruise speed. The ~"mean time between failure" of vehicles measured in distance (instead of time, MBTF is an aviation term) is relevant. How many vehicles drop out of a convoy on average in the first, second, third 100 km of a march? Does the unit need march breaks of 20 min duration for inspection? etc

    ""Theres no excuse for a modern vehicle not to employ such protective methods, none at all. "
    Do Chinas antique tanks?
    Match Point..."

    Actually, old tanks of T-54 descent are likely the most proliferated ERA-equipped vehicles in the world!

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  12. I personally believe the US still needs an amphibious assault capability against a defended beach. However the level of defense our assault capability should be designed to overcome is debatable.

    I understand the Navy's desire to keep expensive amphibs over the horizon. We can't have a single, undetected ASCM ruin a landing.

    So in theory, the EFV requirements make sense. We can't have assault waves taking hours to reach the shore. However the technology needed to make a high-water-speed amphibious tractor has proven too immature.

    Ultimately the requirement is, given threat X, to maximize the probability of a successful assault landing, given budgetary constraints.

    One option might be to build a better AAV without the extreme swim speed of the EFV. It would be carried close to shore by something more survivable than a 3-ship ARG. The AAV then just has to transit the final distance ashore.

    One could come up with a number of different options for the intermediate vessel.

    It could be submersible, only popping up to discharge AAVs. This would reduce its exposure to surface threats and could add an interesting element of surprise.

    It could be an HSV of some sort. JHSV is an obvious candidate, however its commercial roots make me wary of using it in such a combat role. LCS is another option, however its cost and relatively modest payload would likely preclude buying enough for a significant assault. An enlarged SES like Skjold has some interesting possibilities. Its extreme shallow draft would allow it to get very close to shore at high speed before discharging its AAVs. When not operating in this role, it can serve as a small combatant.

    It could be a non-HSV monohull. APAs and LSTs were used extensively in WWII for similar purposes. Modest price allowed for larger numbers to be built, improving force survivability. The Absalon class could be a reasonable model.

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  13. "I personally believe the US still needs an amphibious assault capability against a defended beach."

    For what?
    Certainly not for defence.

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  14. Certainly not for defense of the US homeland.

    Perhaps for the defense of US interests around the world.

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  15. What "interest" could be "defended" by invading a country or area in force?
    How could that - against a defended beach! - be worth the effort?

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  16. Hmm. Are you saying the amphibious assaults on Normandy, Sicily, the Pacific Island campaign, Inchon, and so on, were not in the US interest? Not worth the effort? And that situations like these won't arise again?

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  17. The Pacific War was avoidable, Inchon was not a necessity and U.S.Marines played no role in the other cases.

    More to the core:
    Normandy, Sicily can be largely ruled out as future scenarios because almost all of Europe is allied - no power will overrun it like the Wehrmacht did against mostly piecemeal resistance.
    Japan can build its own naval forces if it wants to be able to re-capture invaded Japanese islands.
    A re-capture of Taiwan would not work because the distance would be too great in combination with the force size that could and would occupy the island.

    It's also interesting how these amphibious invasions in your list all happened against weakened enemies. The Wehrmacht was de facto already defeated before the invasion of Sicily. It just kept paying land for blood. Besides; Sicily was not really defended at the beach, nor was later Southern France (invaded a while after D-Day) that had been an alternative invasion target all along.


    Let's face it; the USMC developed the amphibious assault against defended beaches in response to pretty amazing anticipations for the Pacific War. It was a very specific answer for a specific scenario.
    Later on, it was mostly bureaucracy keeping inertia, and just as the carriers did it exploited every opportunity to supposedly prove its relevance when in fact alternatives were available.

    Amphibious capability today is much more the epitome of a war of aggression threat than a tool for national defence. This is especially so in peacetime - see the 100% army-accomplished amphibious invasions in Europe and the large share of army troops even in larger Pacific War amphibious landings.
    No country really needs a standing amphibious force today, but such forces pose a threat (and in the case of the Turkey-Greece tensions they were clearly destabilizing, too).


    You probably still disagree.
    Hail the national defence asset of the PLA: Its amphibious forces!
    They can be justified with the need to defend PRC national interests! (?)

    Weird. I don't think anyone else proposed that the Chinese amphibious forces were for defence yet, at least not in English...I wonder why. Not.

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  18. This was probably too long for a comment. Especially so in relation to the blog post length...oops.

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  19. Pacific campaign may have been avoidable, but it wasn't avoided. Most conflicts probably were avoidable at some point, and yet they still happened.

    I don't expect to have to replay the invasions of Normany or Sicily, but do think analogous situations could present themselves in other parts of the world. The US considered an amphibious invasion of Kuwait before ODS. The threat of assault is broadly credited with holding a number of Iraqi divisions near the coast. Had the Iraqis kept heading south into Saudi Arabia, amphibious landings may have been the only way in.

    Given the critical nature of oil in the world economy and the fragile nature of the oil-rich Persian Gulf countries, I can definitely envision future conflicts requiring amphibious invasions.

    A replay (or at least the credible threat) of an Inchon-like invasion could take place in a future Korean conflict.

    A future conflict with China could extend beyond Taiwan and the first island chain, possibly requiring another Pacific Campaign.

    Whether amphibious assaults in Korea or WWII were conducted by the USMC or US Army is immaterial. The capabilities were developed and used by the US military to broadly further "US interests".

    Currently only the USMC actively prepares for amphibious assaults, but there's no reason why the TTPs and systems developed by the Marines couldn't be used by the Army in the event of some widespread future conflict. However if you let the capability die, it is much, much harder to reconstitute quickly, when you need it.

    Yes, "defense of our national interests" is really just a polite way of saying "throw our (military) weight around." However this does not automatically mean wars of aggression.

    In fact, I'm trying to think of instances of a US amphibious assault that can be classified as part of a "war of aggression". Grenada maybe? The amphibious operations in WWII and Korea were in response to other nations pursuing wars of aggression.

    I suppose one could argue the Marine air assaults during the opening stages of OEF were part of a war of aggression, but again, they were in response to 9/11, not "American Imperialism".

    There were no US amphibious assaults that I can remember during OIF.

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  20. The 1991 feint regarding a possible amphibious invasion of Kuwait was just another of the PR stunts for justifying that part of the bureaucracy.
    No invasion of defended beaches would have been necessary if Saddam had had the intent to invade SA or even done it - none at all.
    Few beaches were defensible back in WW2, the age of nine million men armies. Very fundamental issues are arguing against a full coastal defence in future wars as well. Anti-ship missiles aren't even the real problem (although much public discussion is about them) - an invasion force has more to fear the hostile dumb artillery up to about horizon range.

    Nobody will be dumb enough to pull off the Inchon trick a second time. Given the poor state of North Korea's military, even large scale air drops suffice to fix many their forces in their rear anyway.


    A Taiwan conflict that's not contained and leads to a Chinese expansion à la early '42 would likely see no later island hopping campaign. The shipbuilding central is now East Asia. THEY would mass-produce new ships, not those powers which failed early on in the scenario.

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  21. I suppose we will have to disagree on this, Sven.

    It's hard to predict the future. I think history has shown opposed amphibious assaults to be a valuable capability. I don't think enough has changed in the world to invalidate this.

    It is not a capability that we could rapidly or easily reconstitute, should the need someday arise.

    East Asia may be shipbuilding central, but it is commercial shipbuilding central. Relying on these nations to "take care" of an expansionist China on their own seems dangerously short-sighted.

    Just MHO.

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  22. Sven Ortmann said...
    -'I did not, never, ever call AQ an existential threat. Others did.'

    Sorry, that was adressed to TheRagingTory. Some people think they secretly work for the americans, but thats neither here nor there.

    TheRagingTory said...
    -'Long distance and fast road movement has its use.'

    Yeah, not anywhere near the frontlines is where. Also, as Sven pointed out, these speeds are much lower than what you would have us believe. And why are you comparing a dreadnought fleet from 100 years ago to a modern day tank fleet? Those two examples should not be conflated with one another, let me make that very clear.

    -'In some circumstances, gravel for example, tracks are in fact worse than wheels, or so I'm told.'

    Your obviously not aware of new technologys like band tracks which improve on performance levels. I should list a few benefits:

    Weight - Reduced by approximately 50% of standard steel track * Cost - 10% less than steel track * Durability -4000+ miles * Noise - Reduced by 6 dB (A), interior and exterior (reduction to level comparable to heavy truck) * Vibration Reduced by 30% (70% in actual field use) * Maintenance - Minimal to negligible. There is no periodic replacement of pads, no tightening of pin fasteners, no blocks to replace. * Road damage - Negligible - No metallic components to contact road. * Roadwheel life - Improved - Continuous running surface/non-metallic guides * Low mass and inertia - Improved acceleration, improved braking * IR/EM signature - Reduced * Rolling Resistance - 17% - 35% less than on hard surface * Aggressiveness - Comparable to steel track; better in mud, snow, and ice * Bullet-resistant



    -'Do Chinas antique tanks?'

    You've clearly ignored the thrust of my comment, which was that the stryker is a modern AFV without modern protective armor. It just uses old school steel plate*, like the T-55, but not like any modern MBT - and yet, its supposed to replace said MBT's in their role? Give me a break.

    *No bulky armor (bulky as in volume, not mass), no ceramic armor, no ultra hard DU face plate to break up long rod penetrators, etc. Their armor protection system is a joke, considering how overweight they already are!

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  23. Interesting Comment thread-
    Re- China's Armored strength- a look at a map may be instructive. None of China's immediate neighbors offer much of a tank threat. When you look at China's most likely adversaries it becomes even more apparent- they either have no tank force, or the terrain forestalls the use of tanks at all. With this in mind type 59's should work out fine, they are the right tool for the job.
    Likewise with amphibious capability- most of Africa and Asia's shorelines, places were China are likely to land troops, are not heavily defended. Amphibious capability is useful to China- it grants them more options. As I said it's a question of tools matching tasks.

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  24. Band tracks have some problems, too. They're not being considered for to be suitable for 30+ on vehicles, do not offer much grip to the sides with their profile restriction, need to be segmented for good repairs and on-vehicle spare part storage, rubber in band tracks is still rubber and can still burn/melt, a mine takes out a full segment etc.

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  25. Kesler,

    Strykers aren't meant to replace MBTs. They are meant to fill a niche between heavy forces (i.e. MBTs, IFVs) and light infantry.

    They do have modern armor package commensurate to their weight (high-hardness steel, MEXAS, cage). It is not meant to stop the same types of threats as an MBT armor package.

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