Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR Dec16/Jan17 Contents An Australian Army M1A1 Abrams tank from 1st Armoured Regiment fires during a live-fire assault at Exercise
Predator's Gallop in Cultana training area, South Australia, on 21 March 2016. Credit: CoA / Nunu Campos
14 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter DEC-JAN 2017
Key factors are the ground pressure produced by
the vehicle and its power-to-weight ratio. A tank has
two long, wide tracks over which the entire weight is
distributed, as opposed to the wheels of a truck. It
might surprise some to read that an Abrams MBT
has far less ground pressure than a standard Land
Rover, let alone something like a 12 tonne Bushmaster.
However, maximum weight can be a factor in some
circumstances, such as when crossing a bridge.
Critics of MBTs say they are not suited to South East
Asian environments, but history proves otherwise. With
a good power-to-weight ratio an MBT can easily push its
way through trees, jungle and scrub – again something
that would be impossible in a wheeled vehicle. In the
Second World War even though the huge European
tank battles received most publicity, tanks were used
very effectively throughout Asia – including by the
Australian Army in the inhospitable terrains of New
Guinea and Borneo. This pattern continued in the
Korean and Vietnam Wars, with Australian ‘Centurions’
providing invaluable fire support and protection to
the infantry. As it happens, Abrams MBTs have the
best power-to-weight ratio of any Army vehicle and so
are deployable to any place that another vehicle can
operate in – and more.
There has also been a lot of debate about the
vulnerability of armored vehicles to anti-tank guided
missiles and rocket propelled grenades. The first
manifestation of these weapons was in the final stages
of World War II, when German troops were issued
with massive numbers of cheap, easily produced
‘Panzerfaust’ anti-tank rockets that could be carried
and fired by individuals. These caused considerable
losses, but tactics quickly evolved to cope with the
threat – and early rudimentary attempts at add-on
armor started to appear.
Since then it has been a case of threats and counter-
measures leapfrogging each other. It does not make
sense beyond a certain point to keep on adding armor
because eventually the tank’s power-to-weight ratio
discussed above will be compromised. However,
developments such as composite armor, explosive
reactive armor (ERA), electronic countermeasures,
multi-spectral smoke dispensers and most recently
directed active protective systems have maintained
MBT survivability, even in intense combat.
Once again, Israel has been a leader in this field.
In the 2006 Lebanon War several Merkava MBTs of
various ages were destroyed by anti-tank missiles and
many more armored vehicles were hit and damaged.
In response, the IDF fast-tracked the development of
the ‘Trophy’ active protection system manufactured
by Rafael. This, too, has been detailed previously
in APDR. Basically it consists of a highly accurate
millimetric radar from Elta coupled with an externally
mounted unit that fires a blast of destructive pellets
at an incoming threat. Incidentally, the radar has also
proven to be an exceptionally powerful situational
awareness device that is able to supply data into the
digital network mentioned above.
Since being introduced into service, not a single
vehicle equipped with ‘Trophy’ has been hit by an anti-
tank rocket or grenade despite several dozen attacks.
It is so successful that it is being rolled out across the
entire IDF armored vehicle fleet and is also being trialed
by the US Army.
The Australian Army is very familiar with ‘Trophy’
and another Israeli active self-protection system called
‘Iron Fist’, developed by IMI. That company and Rafael
are believed to be collaborating on a next generation
version that will draw on the experience gained from
their separate programs.
It is highly likely that when funds become available an
active protection system will be added to the Australian
M1A1s - as well as to the armored vehicles to be
procured under LAND 400.
MAIN BATTLE TANKS
While the overall upgrade of the M1A1s will have to wait for a few
years, the expansion of LAND 200 Tranche II will be much more
rapid than that, with the process beginning in 2018.
15/12/2016 6:23 PM
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