A view of strategy, procurement, warships, navies, and world politics. please note its all my work - information may come from elsewhere, and certainly the pictures do, but the analysis is mine, so any flak about it; address it to me, any praise likewise.
I have no problem with defending by debate or being corrected when I am wrong. I hope to someday get some of the ideas published, so any feed back will be of great and most profound assistance.
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.
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
– something they conducted in the face of almost constant heavy enemy air
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
·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],
even Special Forces operations (although those are a smaller part of this than
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
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.
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
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
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.
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 warfarewas 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[xvii](The Telgraph 2011, Williams and Drury 2011)
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.
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)
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