Monday, 9 December 2013

November 2013 Thoughts: Some Ideas on Amphibious Armour

Reason for writing: I’ve been reading a lot of books on armoured warfare for various reasons lately, and combined with seeing many articles about this topic I decided to write some of my own ideas up.
The armour market is growing worldwide[i], this is not to say infantry are no more as some commentators assert[ii], but in all likelihood, there is going to be an increasing level of armouring of the vehicles those infantry use and a greater level of interconnection between the two. There is one area of warfare where this is especially true, amphibious warfare, with shrinking forces[iii] and an increasing reliance upon helicopters[iv] many could be excused for thinking that armour is not that bigger part of amphibious warfare. Certainly those who focus on the UK’s approach to amphibious warfare would notice a distinct disparity between the need, the theory and the reality of the situation. This lack of pre-eminence in portrayal though is not true to the actuality of operational requirements, as for units which are assaulting or holding an objective, taking part in Raiding, Expeditionary Warfare or Island Warfare armour provides a capability that enables them to move around the battlefield with a degree of protection (in some cases directly from ship to shore[v]), gives units fire support (sometimes used as a shield/base of fire to allow infantry to manoeuvre) and provides a large measure of auxiliary support by providing mobile command hubs, engineering support and supplies. However, the lack of pre-eminence could well be because of the factors which affect this area of warfare, and whilst much of the modern world has seen an increasing specialisation of equipment and multiplication of vehicles; whereas in amphibious warfare because of the constraints of logistics (literally space on the ships to fit everything) the vehicles need to be more flexible and are limited in number.
Outline of Operational Conditions:
One of the major advantages of an amphibious force over an airborne force is that when it arrives, it arrives in full force with all its heavy equipment, logistics, personnel and extensive support facilities with it. This does not mean it does not face a heft obstacle, just as airborne must run the gauntlet of fighters, surfaces to air missiles and artillery (along with the possibility of being dropped on a minefield or surrounded by an awake/alert enemy[vi]); a fleet must deal with the enemy naval forces, minefields, coastal batteries and the enemy air force, although of course this again will be a fleet on fleet operation. For example, in the Falkland’s war the Carrier Battle Group under Rear Admiral Woodward (flag in HMS Hermes[vii]) and the submarines under the Vice Admiral Herbert (flag in HMS Warrior – aka the Northwood Command Center[viii]) first cleared the area of enemy fleet activity, and then the Amphibious Task Group under Commodore Clapp (Pennant in HMS Fearless[ix]) came in to land 3rd Commando Brigade (commander Brigadier Julian Thompson[x]) – something they conducted in the face of almost constant heavy enemy air attacks[xi]. Coincidentally for this report, after the war was over many officers expressed their belief that more armour should have been taken with them as a force multiplier – that the eight light tanks they took were not enough[xii].
The principle types of warfare/missions expected by amphibious forces haven’t really changed in centuries, but they are each demanding in their own way[xiii]:
·         Expeditionary Warfare – this covers everything from opposed amphibious invasions, to administrative landings to reinforce allies; basically it’s anything where the purpose is to take or hold territory ashore.
·         Island Warfare – different from expeditionary in that, whilst expeditionary at some point (unless sea basing is preferred[xiv]) logistics will move ashore, in Island warfare the repeated assaults as a force moves along a chain and the limited room for manoeuvre means that sea basing will be a necessity for the operation as will a dependence upon sea power[xv] throughout to provide fire support.
·         Extractions – think Dunkirk, not something any modern commander is likely to want to discuss, as like then it’s not planned for – but, if it does happen the likelihood is that amphibious forces will not only be called upon to assist in the extraction, but maybe to provide cover for the extraction as such forces thanks to their training are certainly more suited as the final wave. This is especially true in the case of amphibious armour which can provide fire support/cover, and then ‘extract’ itself without having to wait for landing craft.  
·         Raiding – think Norway in World War II[xvi], Somalia counter-piracy[xvii], even Special Forces operations (although those are a smaller part of this than often imagined)
The fact is amphibious forces could be sent anywhere in the world and whilst infantry are all terrain/all environment mobile; vehicles as a rule are less so. A vehicle which is excellent for the terrain of Artic and Mountain warfare might be virtually useless in the environment of the dessert - a situation compounded by such vehicles often having small production runs that’s it difficult to justify the per unit expense of making them more flexible. In all these environments though armour plays similar but also different roles, whilst in the desert and grassy plains the greatest advantage armour offers is manoeuvre, in the similarly open expense of tundra that is less useful than the protection it offers against the elements. For amphibious armour this is complicated over and above by the necessity to be able to operate in the corrosive salt water environment, to have an ability to manoeuvre by water, which can confer advantages for land operations (i.e. not being stopped by river obstacles), but for which the principle function is to allow them to conduct their own assaults – in Island Warfare they might ‘hop’ directly from one island to another under their own power without using ships for the transit at all[xviii]. Of course not all nations have chosen to retain this attribute for their amphibious armour, some nations have (for want of a better word) regressed from the level they achieved during the Second World War whilst of course many others have pushed forward from no capability to a limited capability in that regard.
Outline of Design:
The core idea would be that this would be as closely inter-related a family vehicles of possible, allowing for the maximum amount of force and spares to be carried, whilst also fulfilling the roles required. What is important to remember with vehicles these days it’s not the weapons, the structure or the mechanics which cost the money it’s the electronics and the training – therefore the more economies of scale that can be built in to a force, the better it will be from a Treasury and Tax Payer perspective. Something which would hopefully be balanced with the ability of such a system to have more capability and versatility built into it – therefore the better for personnel in the forces that go to defend the national interests of a government and its taxpayers.
Ideally, because of the problem limited space and distance, the system designed/chosen should be as homogenous a system as possible. For example it might be worthwhile looking into having one wheeled and one tracked chassis: with the track taking medium to heavy roles – Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), Tank, Artillery and Engineering (both Combat and Recovery), and the wheeled taking light to medium roles – Armoured Personal Carrier (APC)/Scout, Command(Radios that move in formation), Anti-Air, Radar, Medical and Logistics. They could be adapted so that they all used combinations of the same power pack; just whereas the Scout/APC vehicle might have just two power packs, the tank, Artillery and Engineering would all need perhaps four to move the weight. This would work by having a fuel tank with multiple connections slots for the power packs, and each drive wheel (whether tracked or wheeled) would have its own independent electric drive engine, which could draw power from the circuit the power packs would slot into. This would offer great resilience against damage, as if drive engines or even power packs went down there would be capability retained to allow for some movement.
The design could go even further that just chassis as with both vehicles being modular, allowing them to be converted in the field from one type to another (perhaps the engineering vehicle would carry a crane that could do the job); preferably this would include to the ability for the ‘modules’ to be switched between chassis[xix]. This would mean that if necessary a tracked chassis could be used for logistics if the terrain demanded or a wheeled used as an engineering vehicle – for this reason both sets of vehicles would have to have space built in for maximum power packs, space which could be used for extra storage (something no APC could ever have enough off) when not needed for power.
In terms of weaponry/turrets this interchangeability could go further with for example the APC/Scout and IFV could using the same turret. Beyond this the same gun, although different turret might well be used for the tank and artillery vehicle, although that would involve some standardisation that might be difficult. This would be because tank guns are currently 120mm calibre and self-propelled artillery is usually 155mm calibre; the obvious solution would be to go down to 105mm, which is the standard for light artillery and was until fairly recently used as a tank calibre, it would also have the benefit of allowing more rounds to be carried. This is important, especially when the primary role of any tank in amphibious operations is fire support rather than anti-tank, meaning rounds is more important than tank killing – in other words what increased calibre gives a tank is not so important. Added to this anti-tank missile capability could be more usefully given APC/Scouts because as well as giving them an anti-armour capability it would give them anti-installation capability. Therefore providing extra fire support for troops, as well as providing a practical ambush tool for raids and fighting withdrawals; in addition to the offensive power they would confer on the units.
Air defence in the case of UK, and perhaps other nations could copy, would of course offer the most utility thanks to the Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM)[xx]; a system which is going to be deployed upon aircraft, ships and vehicles. This system is therefore perfect for amphibious warfare from a logistical point of view, as the ships could in emergencies directly support the maintenance. So of course this would be perfect air defence missile for the Air Defence module of this family of vehicles to use. Although undoubtedly in time other nations will develop similar systems.
Finally there is armour, modular additions of armour are nothing new, but it being designed in from the very beginning as part of a completely modular vehicle set would be useful; especially if different types of armour were available. For example if light Kevlar plates were able to be added on where the terrain was soft, heavy armour available for when lower speed urban warfare  was likely, and a medium type of armour for when manoeuvre warfare is the likely operational scenario. These of course are not the only options, reactive armour with blast panels might be the desired option for facing opponents with large numbers of anti-tank missiles; or electrical armour – the point is that this would be another adaptable, tailor-able part of each vehicle.  
Fundamentally what is proposed is a family; no one vehicle is a panacea for all the problems that will be faced, but every one of the vehicles will be able to be adapted to what is needed – most importantly for an amphibious force the logistics, maintenance and training would be simplified allowing for focus on more important operational matters.  
The second question (the first being “do we really need it?”) which seems to come after any examination of modern equipment, is “will it have an export market?” - The answer in this case would be unequivocally yes. For those nations seeking cost effective specialisation with future proofing, for those nations with large areas of low infrastructure, for coastal nations with limited strategic depth/room for manoeuvre and of course nations wishing to expand/develop a regional or global amphibious capability.
The purpose of these thoughts was to look at an idea for a modular amphibious armour system that would encompass both wheeled and tracked vehicles, light, medium or heavy, and every task from battlefield taxi to the firepower backbone, from command hub to scout, heavy mover to medical and all the rest. It is an idea which would not be easy to implement, it would be revolutionary but it would also be dangerous as it could of course leas to one company getting a monopoly on armoured production; unless the patent was owned by the government and the rights to build modules/components to that design was opened to all bidders, would (conversely) in all probability actually diversify supply because not all companies could compete to build a whole vehicle, but a module would be less of a challenge for smaller company to take on.
The final capability which such a system would bring, and probably it’s most important attribute would be adaptability – no longer would a force go to war with eight tanks, thirty two APCs, and so on, instead a commander would have X number of tracked and X number wheeled vehicles to be adapted (within reason) as required by circumstance (especially with the cranes aboard the amphibious ships they could be adapted en route). This would mean a brigade commander could look at the terrain and then orientate the vehicles for weight criteria, manoeuvrability, firepower – whatever they decide is necessary. Something which would a tremendous advantage for the forces being sent and a complication for the enemy as it would be virtually impossible for them to predict what was going to be coming at them in anything but the broadest of terms.

[i] (Elwell 2013, DefenceIQ 2013, ASDReports 2012)

[ii] Rather strangely because a tank cannot (for example) take or protect a building, there are other things as well and as long as these missions need to be done, infantry will be needed.

[iv] (Federation of American Scientists 1998, Gertz 2013)

[vi] (Ryan 1974)

[vii] (Woodward and Robisnon 1992, paperback edition 2003)

[viii] (Clapp and Southby-Tailyour 1997)

[ix] (Clapp and Southby-Tailyour 1997)

[x] (Thompson, 3 Commando Brigade in the Falklands 2007)

[xi] (Clapp and Southby-Tailyour 1997, Southby-Tailyour, Reasons in Writing, A Commando's view of the Falklands War 2003)

[xii] (Thompson, 3 Commando Brigade in the Falklands 2007, Clapp and Southby-Tailyour 1997)

[xiii] (Lovering 2007)

[xvi] (Lovering 2007)

[xvii] (The Telgraph 2011, Williams and Drury 2011)

[xviii] This of course raises the question whether or not the operations is actually an amphibious operation, because if D-Day doesn’t qualify because it was launched from UK’s southern coast with ship’s merely acting as ferries (in fact is considered a rather large ‘river’ crossing), then an operation where the armour takes itself and infantry from one island to another without even involving a ship would seem to be iffy. The key criteria though is that they are supported by ship logistics, command and most often ‘artillery’ wise, which lends it amphibious attributes, that combined with it being conducted by amphibious forces is why it is put under Amphibious Warfare.

[xix] This is nothing new suggesting this, but it has yet to be turned into reality (Kable Intelligence Limited 2013, Army Recognition 2013, Kable Intelligence Limited 2013, Army Recognition 2013, Canadian American Strategic Review 2012, Greg 2010, ArmyGuide 2008)

[xx] (MBDA Missile Systems 2013)


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—. "SEP Modular Armoured Tactical System, Sweden." Army - 2013. (accessed December 08, 2013).

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—. HMS FEARLESS; The Mighty Lion. Barnesly: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2006.

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  1. Intriguing vehicle-design brief. No doubt, someone could come up with a very interesting 'family' of modules, assuming enough design-sense to not produce a freakish 'not-good-at-anything' scheme.

    But, before you propose to capitalize on such a System of Variable Combat-Geometries, getting those assets to the shore, and then from island to island etc. remains the greatest challenge in any armed forces anywhere:
    - Flying things in seems to run counter to recent experiences in terms of weight of effective armor. The Helo--Lift World-Record is somewhere at 25 metric tons held by a Russian Mil-Mi-26, with none flying in western military duties; would be a very fat target anyway...
    - 'Hovering' things in is marginally more useful, except for very limited range, zero stealth, no stout self-defenses, structural fragility.
    - Disembarking from a ship and floating such vehicles in on their own bottom is completely out of the question as this approach dictates unfeasibly close-to-shore presence of said ships with even crude shore-defenses killing the de facto irreplaceable ship before the cargo is on the beach.
    - Which leaves higher-speed heavy-lift LCU types that allow keeping the amphibious ships way off-shore and out of reach of most land-based defense-systems, and can then run can at least 'signature' whatever dog-legged course to confuse the defender.

    Since the plausible ship-to-shore delivery of combat assets precedes using those, getting that delivery-system figured out first seems vital. And no navy has any system that can deliver such vehicles from say 100-200nm out. The sole such concept with such capabilities appears under discussion in the US:

    Beyond itself as a 'game-changer', what should be of interest here is the need for friendly nations to agree upon a shared amphibious ship well-deck cross-section. It would likely be based on the largest fleet with such shared sets of assumptions, i.e. the US amphibs at 50 feet width x approx. 30 feet height by up to 440 feet of internal length (more length would be better yet).

    The sequence of desirable outcomes might thus come to be:
    1. Amphibious Lift in numbers adequate to the challenges.
    2. Ship-to-shore delivery-capability that matches those challenges, which can then be shared.
    3. Shared well-deck cross-sections to be designed into any new 'expeditionary' vessel to allow mutual support amongst friends of delivery and extraction of ground-combat assets
    4. Then the multi-purpose land-vehicle platform.

    Similar to other agreements on communications protocols, projectile calibers, fuel-grade etc.
    a 'Standard Well-Deck Profile' would be the primary concern. With a potent heavy-lift ship-to-shore concept like LCU-F, just about every extant wheeled and tracked combat-vehicle type can be delivered. The final stage of this evolution would indeed be the parallel evolution of competing single-core multiple-modules combat-vehicle systems. And judging by potent industrial bases in various NATO and East-Asian friendlies, we might see 6-8+ such system-families.

    1. I'd never bet against someone being able to produce a 'not-good-at-anything' scheme...

      I have to say the whole ship to shore manouver is something I'm planning on looking at in the future, I've done and now amphibious vehicles twice, it seems time to look at that. But saying this I would like to reply to some of your points;
      - I agree on flying things, helicopters and armoured vehicles are not going together, whilst I see the "AirCavalry" continuing I'm not sure if they will be as prevalent in future conflicts with the growth in man portable SAM systems.
      - Hovercraft are capable, and the Zubr is armed ( but not really practical, and in many ways more limited than landing craft.
      - for low level, small operations disembarking from ship for these systems would be perfectly alright, even in large operations they might be disembarked from the landing craft away from shore - especially if there are reefs or difficult to de-beach beaches.
      - we definitely need to work on the LCU available, the LCU-F as you bring is one option as is the PASCAT (, and which isn't armed but could be,

      Standardisation between allies is a great idea, but NATO hasn't achieved standardisation on land vehicles, warships are always going to be even more individual between nations as they reflect that nation's global thinking (

      I pretty much agree with the rest, and as I said I am planning on returning to this topic area in the future and look into this aspect more closely.

      My main thing with this system is that it would be something that in the case of the UK would really help it's amphibious forces deploy-ability/capability in the increasingly armoured, high-tech battlefield with a smaller force... beyond this it would be about force multiplication, about being able to transition itself quickly from a arctic warfare forces, to a desert force, to a jungle island force - whatever the situation requires it would be.

  2. Thanks for the response.

    The basic challenge remains the tactically adequate (are there ever adequate numbers ?) numbers of ship-to-shore delivery-systems. And that in turn depends on any navy's capability to carry those into the given theater. As the LCU-F proposal emphasizes, that is primarily dependent upon well-deck length, making 'dry' well-decks for instance a tragic effort in naval-architectural judgment.

    In the US case the 8-vessel LSD-41 class offers 440-feet, which according to the proposal would allow carrying fully pre-loaded 6x LCU-Fs. The more you can carry fast enough ship-to-shore the more potent your first wave, and showing up piece-meal is currently 'standard' but tactically infeasible/suicidal.

    That is where PASCAT fails in light of its well-deck 'sprawl' versus actual first-wave capacity to deliver adequate numbers of ground-combat assets. Per LSD-41 LCU-F could haul up to 6x 3 MBTs (18 tanks). How much could a PASCAT-based force deliver ?

    LCU-F types would be 'force-multipliers' as well - the only smart way to go in fiscally austere times
    1. - as with respective 'tactical' 3-D radars they can serve as 'pickets' to warn the Amphibs against incoming.
    2. - The article speaks of combat-tanker duty with 55,000 US gals.
    3. - Doable would be helo-equipped special forces base w/ 1x AH-1 and 1x AH-6.
    4. - Upfront mobile surgical unit before flight out to Amphibs.
    5. - Ultra-Low-Profile/Least Signature perpetually-moving Inshore Fire-Support via 2x/3x MLRS Missile Launchers, or 1x MLRS and twin 8" stabilized barrels 95% aiming with the craft and thus leaving destroyers at a safe distance against any halfway equipped shore-defenders.

    In many ways like your multi-purpose vehicle-system, it is a all a matter of inserting the right system-suite. Making both appropriate proposals for austere times.

    Will we see such 'smarter' concepts ?
    Or self-eliminating naval/marines-capabilities by sheer conceptual atrophy fueling fiscal atrophy ...

    1. Well thankyou for commenting.

      I think one of the troubles that really effects ship to shore manoeuvre is the desire to go for better and better; the DUKW wasn't the most brilliant vehicle, but it was able to be produced in such numbers it was really able to provide support.

      I agree the LSD-41 is a good sized vessel, but the equivalent Albion class LPD of the RN is of course smaller and represents what the UK wants for its amphibious forces.

      the PASCAT is focused on speed of the delivery, the LCU-F is focused on quantity - though considering the 'independent' landing craft force that the RM/RN ( Again the national choice might demand more on what the nation wants to do, does it plan on indirect assaults (aka falklands) or direct assaults (aka inchon) - how much fire support is the fleet able to provide? how close inshore do they want to be - will they have completed SEAD or launch whilst it is in progress?

      When it comes down to it a nation will probably start at either end of the ship to shore manoeuvre (i.e. what ships, what do they want to put ashore and then decide on what they are going to do the manoeuvre with).

  3. You may have to help me on this one:
    What is the speed of PASCAT with a load of 1x MBT or a RM combat element of whatever mix ?
    And how many could HMS Albion/Bulwark carry towards a theater ?

    1. all they give details for here is that the demonstrator can carry 55tones and go significantly faster... so not really that helpful, although it is roughly the size of a LCU 10 so that would mean 4 each could be carried on HMS Albion/Bulwark and two on each of the of Bay Class...

    2. Thank you for the effort, Alex.
      That's about what I was able to find.
      Of course, a CHALLENGER-2 is way heavier than that.
      And smaller/lighter IED-correct vehicles add up fairly quickly as well.
      Planing hulls and catamarans lose a lot of top-speed with a full-load.
      I had assumed that post-launch a good while back we'd by now have a good understanding of that PASCAT performance-profile.

      On your multi-purpose land vehicle project two things are true:
      - 1. 'We' have the wheeled and tracked vehicles we have for a good while longer yet.
      - 2. Your proposal should be pursued.

      On the latter however, your perspective on well-deck formats already suggests the difficulties involved in any cost-effective shared system around such a vehicle. In the US the Army is supported by APACHE attack-helos while USMC prefers COBRA-types, making for significantly enlarged logistics. And when friendly nations do not coordinate their amphibious ship-building around at least a shared well-deck format, then the odds of 'rationality' around other shared standards appear to remain limited indeed...just as Austerity would suggest the opposite and thus steadfast pursuit of maximization of investments for 'force/fiscal-line-item multiplying' effectiveness.

      It would seem that Marines across the board would do what Marines do. But if national self-definitions of what it is that 'their' Marines do differ, then the already inherently limited chances towards economies of scale shrink further.

      With the future of likely warfare probably seeing more amphibious operations than large-armies-based land-wars, the first objective towards Marines effectiveness should be a formulation of shared architecture/dimensions that will guide future systems-development and then acquisition, whether it will be amphibious ship-design, ship-to-shore connectors or your proposed combat-vehicle system.

      Raising this issue far and wide is the first step.
      Second would be a balancing of resulting distribution of burdens and gains across collaborating Marines. If RN accepts US well-deck standards for future designs and construction, then USMC and Dutch Marines should boost your vehicle-system development, incl. with desert-testing at 29 Palms and lobbying on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.

      However it would seem that priorities continue to distinctly reflect personal/national preferences, often based on quite elusive reasons, incl. proud perpetuations of errors made in past acquisitions. The self-definitions of USMC, RM and RDM for instance should be mostly overlapping, but apparently are not quite...

      One would hope that the Age of Fiscal Austerity would teach greater rationality with am eye on both institutional self-preservation (!) and tax-payers' much broader interests.

      So, when is the next Marines Hardware-Collaboration Committee Meeting ?
      And where ?

      Do we have enough shared interests in 'the cause' to help make that happen ?

    3. Dear TwentyTwenty

      I think myself the interesting line on the PASCAT is that the manned unit in testing is termed a "scale model" - so I wonder how big the real one would be and is it that or the scaled model for which the stats are given?

      in reply to:
      1) they will certainly see us well into the 2020s, but I think that means we need to start thinking about it now - the time it takes to develop these things is becoming slightly absurd, and more than likely an opener would need to be in the 2015 SDSR
      2) thank you,

      I always find the COBRA/APACHE situation interesting, as the Cobra/Viper makes a lot of sense logistically for the USMC with the combination of the Huey, and could be just as good for the Army... I certainly think that the UK might be more sensible to go Viper for longterm rather than repeat with Apache - especially if we are going to be sea basing gunships more often in the future.

      Different marine forces have different terms, consider the two closest allies US & UK: the RM's are organised in Commando's the USMC in Regiments - the USMC has all its own armour, engineers, artillery, aircraft and member of the chiefs of staff, whilst the RMs (baring the support group) get their engineers ( and artillery ( from specialist permanently assigned Army units, armour is assigned almost adhoc (for example Scimitars in Al Faw - this all leads to a very different approach.

      I first started writing about current amphibious armour problems after reading about the USMC's MPC program and thinking that would be great for the RMs and the French - the smaller amphibious forces which don't really want the big squad lift vehicles as it puts 'too many eggs in a single basket', but do need firepower and protected manoeuvre - especially in modern raiding/rapid insertions where in all likelihood, the troops are going to have to go in with what they have with them, rather than getting stuff brought out.

      A cross balancing like that relationship would be great, under such circumstances I wouldn't be surprised if the Australians and Japanese wanted to join in as well and who knows what might come out of such a combination.

      Unfortunately the UK has been burned so many times, Horizon Frigate being a case in point, by multi-national work; and the F-35/Eurofighter are neither shining examples of the benefits of international co-operation, the Eurofighter is only just starting to get a strike capability and the F-35 is delayed and facing cost increases (hence my earlier post - however, the similarities of situation that marines face and commonality of threat might well add conviction as well as provide common ground to build it from.

      I have no answers to the final questions, just hope...

    4. 'Roger that' on the last 4 paragraphs.

      I think what is teaching sober (constructive ?) lessons all around - perhaps for the first time in recent institutional memory - are serious fiscal constraints all around well into the future. Reviewing what went wrong in ill-fated efforts at collaboration, along with positive examples of such efforts ought to be a fine Thesis in some military degree-granting academic setting either side of the Atlantic (preferable one Thesis per...) and thus offer lessons on which approaches might seem more promising - assuming any patterns are discernible at all.

      One very promising element in all this is the fact that APC-types bought in batches of 100 would add up to single copies of ships etc. which suggests that we may indeed see more plausibility in collaborating on such vehicle than on the big-ticket-items.

      VIKING has distinct characteristics. How many of those would you propose to need in your proposal ?

      Better put perhaps - as in here-&-now - amongst the competing offerings by APC-builders, which one would seem the most promising 'backbone' for your system of mission-specific add-ons ? I assume that there are certain geometries that you might favor ? And why ?

      Let's do this like wine-tasting and pretend we would not know the given vehicle's origin...

    5. Dear Twenty Twenty

      unfortunately I've finished my thesis, it was on 1920s naval aviation - I enjoyed and am hoping to get it made into a book; lots of lessons from then for now, invasive treaties, financial stringency and emergent/nascent technologies in a time of transition.

      Definitely, the APC's are more than likely a good base of development; the Viking has characteristics I would like to be able to copy (i.e. the ability to take wider tracks and being light enough to be used in arctic terrain - this idea is for a vehicle which can be used world over) - the double cab system might be copied to the extent the 8x8 in logistic form could well have a trailer attached but I wouldn't think that the vehicles should be articulated as normal. They might well be divided up by the modules into self-contained compartments - i.e. the driver position could be standardised, then there would perhaps be a central compartment and after compartment: which for example in the case of the APC the central being the one which would take the turret and more than likely the power packs, with the aft compartment being for troops or ammunition or whatever else is required.

      I would probably favour something along the lines of the Super AV ( fuse with the CV90 (; with the concept sort of being pinched from the Stryker which has wheeled and tracked versions ( & ... with the modular concept as well as the track/wheels to an extent coming from the SEP program ( So I would say CV90 as a sort of grandparent (it's range of variants and flexibility), whilst Super AV and SEP are parents and Stryker is a sort of Uncle/distant cousin? if that family tree makes sense, the length would probably be about 7-7.5m, width 3-3.5m, the height of course would depend upon whether it was a turreted, remote weapon station or turreted but probably with turrets a maximum of 2.7m...but a crane could well take it to 3m.

      yours sincerely


  4. I think there is too much focus on multi purpose vehicles. The best land vehicle the UK has to toss at an enemy is a Challenger II and a Warrior, So finding ways to get kinds those vehicles to the theater would be of the greatest use to them. There is a lot of people with the COIN mindset these days but COIN type assets aren't the best all around assets to defend a homeland with. If the UK is genuinely interested in bolstering amphibious capabilities have more/better landing craft to move the heavy vehicles is the better option. While this form does limit the dispersion of the forces in the landing, landing on an improperly prepared beach head is not a is not a bright idea anyway you slice it. They are best served to continue the bombardment until they can land properly. D-Day was an absolute mess and wouldn't have happened had the allies had the precision munitions available today. In today's warfare is you cant successfully land 90% of your forces your chances of sucess are pretty low anyway.

    1. Dear Keith

      I concur those are the very best vehicles, but they are growing older and need to be replaced, in the case of Challenger it's an excellent vehicle unless your fighting in terrain which can't support it's bulk - then you don't have a tank. They make perfect sense for an armoured brigade, for fighting on the plains and urban warfare - where there is solid ground for them to move.

      I also agree COIN gets a disproportionate amount of focus, these vehicles though are designed for more than that... Although I was tempted to say one of the armour attachments might be a V-shaped hull, but I thought that would be obvious, and would also have made the Idea into a COIN idea when that wasn't it's aim.

      This idea is about marines, about amphibious armour - especially for nations which don't have the large fleet of amphibious warfare vessels to carry a vast array of vehicles: for these nations such a concept would be extremely useful as it would mean they could deploy forces in emergency with very little notice and without having to restock them.

      More landing craft would be useful, as would the more ships required to move them and the more forces that they could - all would be excellent, but that doesn't change the fact that we have a force for which the global armour unit that take everywhere with it is the Viking (, and - that is the sort of vehicle this idea replaces, the fact that it could be used as a tank, a scout and all the rest is an advantage as it would enable that force to rely upon it's own constituents wherever it goes. Something it can not really do at the moment.

      D-day was possibly the last peer-on-peer opposed amphibious operation, if we'd have precision munitions, its highly likely that the Germans would have as well (after all they developed the Glide bomb first ( and; which I rather think would have meant that it would have been just as messy if not more so, just in a higher tech fashion.

      90% is a very high number, but is doable and again it will depend upon what style of amphibious assault is chosen, Indirect or Direct - I have a feeling that the former will become more common. This will make armour, especially when usable as transport even more important than it is now, whatever the terrain. That is something which this idea is built for, need more APCs/Scouts and Logistics, simply re-assign the chasses...

      There is no point in my trying to claim they will be perfect or best vehicle in all these roles, but the idea would be the best fit for the strategic and geo-tactical requirements of these forces as they would not be tied to any specific environments to work, they would be a fairly universal capability.

  5. Interesting article and set of comments. If you want modular army to support the RM, is it going t be deployed by an "armoured support group" of 3 Cdo Brigade, or is it going to be the lead Squadron / Company of the lead battalion of the Reaction Force armoured brigade ?

    For some river crossing once ashore why is the Viking not good enough for the job ? Why do we need an USMC style MPC ? Why does it need to be modular ? I don't think you have fully answered the questions.

    "Protected Mobility" is indeed important and only going to get more so. Does a Viking with an dual weapon RWS, and a Javelin launcher cut the mustard as a recce asset ? Does a Viking with a manually loaded 81mm mortar fit the bill as far support ?

    As ever with the UK it comes down to budget rather than strategy or doctrine. We would not have the money for more amphibs (having just sold a Bay class that was actually rather cheap to run....).

    Personally I would like to see a PASCAT derivative to replace the LCU, and enough Viking's to fully support the 3 Cdo Brigade - command vehicles, logistic support versions, ambulances etc. Of course some off-the-shelf Griffon Hoverworks 8100TD would be nice too, but we would have to lease the shipping required to get them to the action.... :-)


    1. Dear Jed

      I will admit there is a reason this post is entitled some ideas, it's not a complete (- this explains the titles of the blogs, its very boring, very very boring, but if you are interested, but some ideas for the next generation of vehicles, there ones that come after the Viking, the warrior, the challenger II...and I know a decade is a long way away, but I honest think that we need to start thinking about these things now to work our what we need them to do.

      I would personally think it should go to the Armoured Support Group, the Command Group, the Commando Engineers, the Commando Artillery, the Commando Logistics - it would replace every vehicle in the brigade, would be replaced by either a wheeled or tracked chassis. I would also like to see such a system used for the Army's Adaptable force - simply because that is what the purpose of this system is, adaptability.

      I am not saying the Viking isn't ok at the moment, but I honestly don't think when it comes to replace that we should go for the same again, Bandvangn 202, then Bandvagn 206 and now the Bandvagn 10 (or BvS 10 Viking). Every time they were originally procured they were looked at in a Cold War Northern Front context, and that arguably was right (where they needed to be light in order to be operated on frozen lakes - another reason for modularity to be able to reduce the weight when that is necessary for operations - as with the Vikings this will undoubtedly come at the expense of armour, that's logical, but refitting that armour when weight isn't such a factor is also critical), then - for the future, I don't think their enough. I think the remote weapon stations, javelin launchers and mortars are ok for now, not great, but ok - what I'm worried about is the future, and as you so rightly point out it often comes down to Treasury and Budget rather than strategy or doctrine (especially agree on the absurd selling of 4th Bay class, as I've said before I would have stuck it in reserve That is why this vehicle idea is orientated not just on fulfilling domestic needs but export needs as well; the thing that is guaranteed at the moment to make the Treasury interested in something is it's exportability; which is another reason we need to start thinking about it now, because we might want to get partners involved.

      My reasoning for it being modular, is because of the adaptability it will allow: it will give a small force the ability to transition it's capabilities itself at distance from the home nation; so therefore be quickly redeployed should the situation require it. For example they could be rolled for an amphibious exercise, then there be a humanitarian crisis and have to go need that - in amphibious operation they'd need 'tanks', but for a humanitarian crisis, they'd need more flatbed/logistics units and then afterwards they could quickly transition back to amphibious for a continuation of the exercise or another crisis.

      Personally I think a PASCAT type is the likely choice for the UK amphibious force, and enough Vikings for the current requirements would be excellent, hovercraft I would like to see more of as an addition to the flexibility that the LCUs/LCU(R)s give the UK (in fact I think more ships should be a capable of operating them - this piece is about putting down some ideas for the future, for looking beyond the current generation of vehicles and hopefully laying down some markers but maybe just the starting the debate.

      anyway, thank you for commenting and I hope I have answered your queries

      yours sincerely


    2. In your ruminations about ship-to-shore Connectors, do not discount self-deployment-options, assuming crew and Marines could stand that longer ride:
      - On LCU-F taking one 70-tons MBT out (of 3) and replacing it with a temporary 'fuel-bladder-farm' would open up about trans-Atlantic range.
      - One LCU-F with a full 200-tons of fuel (55,000 US Gals) as a 'milch-cow', could feed 4 other combat-vehicle-laden LCU-Fs to do almost the same distance at likely 15-16kts, meaning arrival of 4x combat-ready LCU-F, plus a fifth empty 'tanker'.
      - Fifth unit would either accept another refueling to serve as a forward-most helo-refueling-pad (approx. 180 refuels per AH-1/UH-1 helo or 22x refuelings of 8 such helos).
      - Or, upon the rapid removal of the 1500lbs of many small-volume-elements tank-farm gear, it would be able to engage as a combat-reserve pumping in more vehicles from a sea-base.
      - Or rapidly reconfigured internally - like your proposal - it could haul, say 300 troops in seated positions or 100 in sleeper formation, to then run its own 1500nm.

      War-Gaming with this multi-mission-module LCU-F proposal gets quite intriguing... About as engaging as doing this with the APC-proposal. Both seem more rational 'futures' than past approaches.

    3. Dear Twenty Twenty

      I'm actually waiting for someone to combine this with some landing craft... I don't think it's going to take that long as they are already almost hangar equipped ( - look at this picture, there is a 'shelter' space for a helicopter! all it needs is a cover) - why not some low form landing craft or hover craft that can be stowed underneath in gap between the hulls?

      yours sincerely


    4. Almost forgot the most important 'no-no' here:
      - The height of the space between the hulls is operationally and structurally imperative as indispensable 'suspension-travel' to reach that speed across uneven surfaces (waves) with taking serious structural damage from the connecting structure hitting hard water at 35kts. - which they would anyway unless operators slow down to match increasing sea-states.

      Thus, nothing to be slung under that connecting structure !

      Left and right outside of the hulls possibly, assuming balanced weights and the (again) unavoidable structural weight of massive davits and their mechanisms.

      Another serious reality. Of course, any craft/vessel/ship has certain limitations...

  6. Catamarans are always inherently disadvantaged by the unavoidable weight of the connecting structures and the perpetual struggle between
    - overall cargo-carrying-capacity as % of displacement
    - hull-shape 'fineness',
    - interference drag,
    - accessibility of propulsion in lean hulls,
    - combat-vulnerability with one hull drowning ruining the whole craft,
    - etc.

    Case in point is JHSV SPEARHEAD:
    - on 2400-tons max. displacement it carries only about 600 tons of 'cargo',
    - requiring 48,800hp Diesels to do 35 kts max. for 1200nm max,
    - with 12.5 feet of draft not suitable to go close inshore unless a conveniently-located peaceful harbor happens to be nearby,
    - and structurally not set up to carry 600-tons of loaded LCU-X types of whatever configuration in whatever location aboard.

    Go-fast seems attractive for selected purposes but gets expensive and logistically challenging really quickly. Per Fiscal Year 2012 numbers each appears to cost about US $ 208 million. And that without much of sophisticated self-defenses (4x .50-cal MGs) never-mind any offensive capability.

    Did not Norway buy a full-capability frigate for the price of two of these light go-fast ferries ? There seem to be distinct limits to that approach as well.

    For additional context, designed and built as (optimistic) commercial projects in the early 1970s, the 8-vessel "Fast Sealift' class (T-AKR 287-294) have been clocked at
    - 33 WOT (light at around 30,000tons) and
    - 30 fully loaded at a displacement of 55,500tons,
    - hauling over 25,000tons of cargo,
    - burning 120,000 geared steam-turbine HP,
    - for a range of 12,000+ nm at 27kts.

    So, at 2.46x the power of JSHV SPEARHEAD, T-AKR 287 hauls 41x the JHSV's cargo at about 86% of JSHV's speed.

    Even with the worse efficiency of steam-turbines over diesels, these numbers give one pause about relative progress. However while JHSV needs around 12 feet of water for her port-berth under the inherently thin-skinned hulls, T-AKR needs 38 feet of water to come alongside a pier somewhere... Both need port-facilities or a sea-base to be effective.

  7. Dear TwentyTwenty

    attempt to reply number two, computer crashed... I agree on catamarans strength, but I will admit my visual was more james bond probably than it sounded, i.e. there being doors that it's loaded in and out of. Also not something the size of LCU, but bigger than an LCVP, something along the lines of LCT. In my mind it would carry one-two, four ocean raiding craft, a medium helicopter, three-four rotary UAVs capable of acting as a gunship or aew ( and and carrying an enhanced company sized formation for raiding...

    However, if I had to choose between 3 of them or 3 extra bay class, it'd be the bays... but on the cost I would point out it's not ship which is expensive most often, it's what goes in them - the electronics, the coding of the software, as it is with aircraft and vehicles.

    yours sincerely



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