The Assault Gun Rides Again!

By Nicholas Drummond

Building on Rexer’s previous article on this topic, this piece considers the need for a modern day version of the classic assault gun and envisions what a British Army Mobile Gun System might be like. The author would like to sincerely thank Ogden Dowcett for all his hard work in developing and rendering the Boxer MGS 3D concepts that follow.

Disclaimer: This article was not sponsored or endorsed by Rheinmetall, BAE System, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann., John Cockerill Defence, and OTO-Melara. It is an independent view designed to generate interest and discussion.

Above: Boxer MGS proposal with John Cockerill Defence 30105 105 mm gun turret. (Image: John Cockerill Defence)


01. Introduction
02. Evolution of WW2 assault guns to modern day mobile gun systems
03. Are the characteristics of 20th Century assault guns relevant today?
04. Envisioning a contemporary UK Assault Gun
05. Conclusion

01. Introduction

During the Second World War, Allied and Axis assault guns delivered an effect out of all proportion to their cost and complexity. They were simple and inexpensive to produce relative to tanks. They were easy to operate and versatile in role. Engaging in close infantry support and anti-tank tasks, they were suitable for both offensive and defensive operations. For all their benefits, however, few assault gun designs were ideal. They lacked protection and even turrets. They were the product of desperate times and should not have been as effective as historical accounts suggest they were. 

Above: The M3 half-track was used as the basis for the T30 Howitzer Motor Carriage. This was a first US attempt to create a “no frills” assault gun for infantry units.

After 1945, as postwar armies reverted to smaller peacetime structures, assault guns fell out of favour despite their success in battle. The reason was a large number of a surplus tanks. The best ones were retained, meaning that armies could rely on a single tank type to fulfil multiple roles, including main battle tank, assault gun and tank destroyer.

Today, many NATO armies are in the process of replacing old and worn out AFVs, some of which have been in service since the early 1980s. The increased sophistication of modern MBTs and resulting higher costs have limited the number of new platforms that can be afforded. Secondly, the need for rapidly deployable medium weight forces has seen the emergence of a new class of 8×8 wheeled armoured vehicle that can perform expeditionary missions in faraway places where it is difficult to deploy tanks. The need to support mobile infantry units has led to several armies developing direct fire platforms capable of mounting 105 mm or 120 mm guns. More recently, the US Army has announced plans to field a tracked Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) platform with a 105 mm gun to support Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs). It is difficult to see these and similar vehicles as anything other than modern interpretations of the classic WW2 assault gun. 

Are these vehicles merely the product of reduced budgets and do they offer only limited utility? Or has the time come to think more widely about a new class of less expensive assault guns and tank destroyers? If so, how should such a vehicle be configured and used? Does it even need a large gun, or could the same effect be achieved by mounting a mix of antis-tank missiles and anti-structure rockets? This article will try and address these questions and propose a range of potential solutions. 

02. Evolution of WW2 assault guns to modern day mobile gun systems

During the mid-1930s, as Nazi Germany was refining its Blitzkrieg tactics and ramping-up production of its new Panzer divisions, a Wehrmacht general, Erich Von Manstein, identified the need for a low-cost assault gun that would provide close infantry support. Based on his First World War experience, Von Manstein believed that an armoured vehicle capable of providing direct HE fire to eliminate bunkers and machine gun nests would increase the effectiveness of troops engaged in ground assaults. In 1936, two German firms, Daimler-Benz and Alkett, were tasked with developing and manufacturing a new Sturmartillerie (assault artillery) vehicle. Using the chassis and driveline of the Panzer III, the turret was dispensed with to create a simplified platform that mounted a low-velocity 7.5 cm StuK. 37 L/24 cannon in a compact casemate. This gave what was called the Sturmgeschütz a low silhouette, making it easy to conceal as well simple to produce and support. The newly formed Panzer divisions were skeptical about the concept, so it was decided that the new vehicles would be an artillery asset. First used during the Battle of France, the Sturmgeschütz  or StuG III immediately proved its worth. Lighter than turreted tanks, it was compact and agile, yet capable of delivering a decisive effect. 

Above: The Sturmgeschütz IIIG assault gun was the most prolific assault gun of WW2. Initially used to provide fire support for attacking infantry units, later, it was employed defensively as a tank destroyer. It excelled in both roles.

By the time Hitler invaded Russia, the StuG III had become an organic part of the Panzer divsions.  When the tide started to turn against Germany, instead of being used for assault, the StuG III was used defensively. Experience saw various improvements made. The Ausf. F was significant in that it mounted a longer and more powerful 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/43 gun. In addition to high explosive ammunition, it could also fire armoured-piercing rounds capable of penetrating 91 mm of RHA steel at 500 metres – enough to defeat most Allied tanks of the period. However, the definitive StuG III version was the Ausf. G, which was the most widely produced mark. By the end of WW2, 10,086 StuG IIIs had been produced, making it the most prolific Axis “tank” type. According to the Bovington Tank Museum, StuG IIIs accounted for 30,000 allied tanks destroyed. Considering how much simpler its design was versus the Panzer III and IV, lacking a turret and needing to be slewed on its tracks to aim its gun, its success in battle made it emblematic for this AFV type. 

The United States Army also identified the need for a tank destroyer that was agile, versatile and lethal. Its first attempt to produce one was a 57 mm gun mounted on an M3 half-track, the T30 Howitzer Motor Carriage. In November 1941, a dedicated tracked tank destroyer platform was requested. This was developed during early 1942 with deliveries starting as soon as June of the same year. The result was the M10 Wolverine. This mounted a 3-inch (76.2 mm) Gun M7 in a rotating open-top turret on a modified M4A2 Sherman tank chassis. Like the StuG III when it was used defensively, the M10’s job was to stop armoured breakthroughs. To make it sprightly, it had thinner armour, but it wasn’t much faster or more manoeuvrable than a standard M4 Sherman. The M10 was later replaced by the M36 Jackson, which mounted a more powerful 90 mm gun. 

Above: The M18 Hellcat tank destroyer – the fastest tracked combat vehicle of WW2. Despite primarily being used as a tank destroyer, its ability to fire HE as well as AP ammunition meant it could also be used as an assault gun.

Perhaps the most impressive US tank destroyer of WW2 was the M18 Hellcat. This mounted the same 76.2 mm M1A2 gun of the M10 on a bespoke lightweight 16-tonne chassis. Again employing a rotating open-top turret, this vehicle was extremely compact and highly mobile. In fact, it was the fastest “tank” of the Second World War with a top speed in excess of 50 mph. During Patton’s thrust into Germany, Hellcats proved adept at defeating enemy counter-attacks. As well as firing anti-tank rounds, all US Army tank destroyer types (M10, M36 and M18) could fire HE ammunition, enabling them to be used as assault guns for supporting infantry. 

In comparing the Sturmgeschütz III and the M18 Hellcat what is interesting is that the Sturmgeschütz was an assault gun that was later used as a tank destroyer, while the M18 Hellcat was a tank destroyer that was later used as an assault gun. This suggests that the terms assault gun and tank destroyer are interchangeable. Today, this type of vehicle is often described as a Mobile Gun System. They are also considered by some to be light or medium tanks, but actually light tanks are primarily designed for reconnaissance roles.

Although the British Army used American tank destroyers, the UK did not develop a specific vehicle of this type until late in the war. Instead, it relied on an alternative doctrine based on two different tank classes. Heavier protected tanks, such as the Matilda II and Churchill, were used as “Infantry” tanks. Large and slow, these would accompany assaulting infantry to provide close support in the same way that German assault guns were used. If they encountered enemy tanks, then their 6-pounder or 75 mm guns would engage them using AP ammunition instead of HE. Britain’s other class of tank was the “Cruiser” tank. Designed to be lighter and therefore faster and more nimble, these were used for armoured thrusts. It was not until 1943 that Britain developed a dedicated tank destroyer when it produced the Archer 17-Pounder Self-Propelled Anti-tank Gun. Overall, Allied assault gun doctrines were less well conceived than those employed by the Wehrmacht.

Britain introduced the Centurion tank just as the war ended in 1945. It was categorised as a “Universal” tank and presaged what we now call the “Main Battle Tank.” With the arrival of other postwar MBTs (including the Centurion, M-47/ M-48 and M-60, Leopard 1, AMX30, T-54/ 55, and T-62), assault gun/ tank destroyers were mostly retired without replacement. One exception was Germany’s Kanonenjagdpanzer 90. This used the M47 Patton tank chassis as a basis for a tank destroyer platform with a 90 mm gun. By the time Soviet Army fielded the T-64 and T-72 MBTs, it was obsolete and the fleet was converted to fire ATGMs before being retired at the end of the Cold War. The only other postwar design that came closest to the brutal simplicity of a WW2 assault gun was the Swedish S-Tank. Although it looked like a tank destroyer, it was very much a main battle tank. 

Above: The UK Saladin and Saracen 6×6 family used a common drivetrain to create two distinctly different vehicles by swapping the front end with the rear. It was a simple but effective engineering solution to configure each vehicle according to its role.

In the 1950s, Britain introduced a new 6×6 wheeled family, the Saladin armoured car and Saracen armoured personnel carrier. Though not strictly an assault gun, the Saladin mounted a 76 mm gun that fired both AP and HE ammunition. This was considered ideal for supporting infantry in an assault gun role, but was primarily used for reconnaissance. In many ways, Saladin and Saracen previewed the medium weight concept we have today, but there was no major conflict against a peer adversary that ever tested how these vehicles would have been employed in combined arms formations. Instead, both tended to be used separately until they were replaced by the CVR(T) family in the 1970s. By this time, the focus was very much on divisional reconnaissance within a British Army of the Rhine context. It wasn’t long before the CVR(T) Scorpion’s 76 mm gun was superseded by the CVR(T) Scimitar’s 30 mm RARDEN cannon. 

Another postwar light tank/ recognisance vehicle that deserves a mention is the US Army’s M8551 Sheridan. This was a light and agile platform that weighed 15.2 tonnes making it suitable for air-dropping. It was equipped with a 152 mm gun launcher that could fire MGM-51 Shillelagh anti-tank missiles as well as HE rounds. It was not an ideal system and early issues with the missile meant that only eight out of many thousands of ATGM manufactured were ever actually fired in combat. Used in Vietnam, the Sheridan lacked protection and was vulnerable to heavy machine gun fire, RPGs and mines. 

Above: A soldier from 73rd Airborne Armor Regt., 82nd Airborne Division, prepares ammunition for an M-551 Sheridan light tank prior to operations during Operation Desert Shield.

As the Cold War drew to a close in the late 1980s, it was realised that most NATO reconnaissance vehicles lacked the protection needed to survive against Soviet IFVs, let alone MBTs. Britain’s CVR(T) had aluminium armour that could easily be penetrated by 14.5 mm machine gun rounds. It should be no surprise that its intended replacement, Ajax, has become a 43-tonne beast with Level VI+ protection and a 40 mm CT cannon.

By 1990, the universal adoption of IFVs meant that any notion of infantry still needing their own separate assault gun for close support was redundant. However, Germany, which had already switched to an 8×8 wheeled platform for reconnaissance tasks, the Luchs, decided that a wheeled assault gun / tank destroyer was worth exploring. It started to develop the 8×8 Radpanzer 90, which mounted the Leopard 1A3’s 105 mm gun turret on a new Daimler-Benz chassis. Although the prototype showed considerable promise, funding was cut post-1990. Despite not reaching fruition, the Radpanzer programme inspired the South African Army, which developed the Rooikat assault gun for use in various bush wars. It remains in service to this day. 

Above: Ahead of its time? The Radpanzer 90 was developed in the late 1980s, just as the Cold War was ending. Using a specially designed Daimler-Benz driveline and chassis, it was a highly innovative vehicle that mounted the Leopard !’s 105 mm gun turret to deliver extraordinary firepower in a compact and agile package – just like its tank destroyer forbears. Although the project was cancelled, the Radpanzer 90 inspired the South African Rooikat MGS and Italy’s Centauro MGS.

Also in the early 1990s, Italy shared Germany’s point of view about the potential for wheeled assault guns and developed a reconnaissance vehicle that also used the Leopard 1 MBTs L/52 105 mm gun, the Centauro. Weighing 24 tonnes with a power to weight ratio of 19.4 bhp per tonne, it was well protected enough to withstand 14.5 mm heavy machine gun fire all-round, while appliqué armour increased protection so that the vehicle could resist 30 mm rounds across the frontal arc. 

In 1998, the US Army developed the medium weight concept as we know it today. It fielded a comprehensive family of vehicles based on the LAV III platform including a 105 mm mobile gun system (MGS) that was conceptually identical to Italy’s Centauro. Intended to support infantry units in 8×8 Stryker M1126 Infantry Carrier Vehicles, the Stryker M1128 MGS is a classic assault gun and shows that the concept is far from an evolutionary cut de sac. 

03. Are the characteristics of 20th Century assault guns relevant today?

To understand the utility provided by mobile gun systems in a contemporary context, it may be helpful to summarise the characteristics of 20th Century assault guns and tank destroyers. The many benefits can be summarised by six common characteristics:

  1. Compact firepower. The overriding requirement was to mount the largest possible gun on the smallest possible platform. 
  2. Mobility. The most successful assault guns were much lighter and more agile than equivalent tanks that mounted the same gun. This meant that they could react faster to intercept an enemy flanking attack or unexpected manoeuvre. 
  3. Flexibility.  The ability to redeploy tank destroyers as the tactical situation evolved meant that they were highly flexible. Also, they could switch between attack and defence with ease. 
  4. Simplicity. Ease of production and operation were paramount. Most WW2 assault guns did not have turrets, or, if they did, these had open tops. A reduced weight also put less strain on the drivetrain reducing breakdowns. However, money was invested where needed. The StuG III, for example, had better optics than the Panzer III and Panzer IV.
  5. Ease of support. With the StuG. III based closely on the Panzer III, spare parts were plentiful, so it was easy to maintain. Without a complex turret, German assault guns were easier to repair if hit.  
  6. Affordability. Most assault gun types were 20-30% cheaper than equivalent turreted tanks.  

Does the concept still have merit?

The US Army’s Stryker M1128 MGS, Italy’s Centauro 2, and Japan’s Type-16 MCV all seem to follow the above formula closely. First and foremost, they mount large guns, either 105 mm or 120 mm, usually found on main battle tanks. Each of these platforms is 50% lighter than the average NATO tank. All weigh under 30 tonnes and have a good power-to-weight ratio. All are wheeled rather than tracked, offering operational mobility as well as performance at a tactical level. Like the StuG III or M18 Hellcat, they are highly flexible and able to switch between tank destroyer and assault gun roles. While the mechanical layout makes wheeled MGS platforms simpler than their tracked equivalents, turret sensors, optics and fire control systems are identical to those of a MBT, so few cost-savings are offered in this area. For sure, 8×8 mobile gun systems are less expensive to purchase and easier support than MBTs or tracked MGS platforms. Wheeled mobile gun systems typically cost from €8 to €10 million per vehicle instead of €12 to €14 million per MBT. This is still a worthwhile saving. 

Above: Japan’s Type 16 MCV has become an extremely successful contemporary assault gun. Similar in layout to Italy’s Centauro, it is an extremely efficient and inexpensive capability that is well suited to japan’s defence needs.

All things considered, the Stryker MGS, Centauro, and Type-16 are very much modern interpretations of the classic tracked assault gun. However, Italy and Japan’s adoption of these platforms is less about cost and more about the concept being aligned with their doctrine, which emphasises the need for wheeled systems that deploy rapidly by offering both operational and tactical mobility. Though less well protected than a MBT, the wheeled MGS has the capacity to travel long distances at speed. The downside of this is thinner armour. It means they must achieve a first-round kill. This underlines the need for high quality sensors and fire control systems. Despite obvious limitations, a less well-protected wheeled MGS will always be superior to the MBT that fails to turn-up in time to influence the outcome of a battle. To summarise these points, the relationship between modern mobile gun systems and main battle tanks is much more complementary than it was between WW2 tank destroyers and tanks. Contemporary mobile gun systems may now offer more utility and value than their predecessors. 

While the Centauro and Type-16 are undoubtedly successful designs, it should be noted that the US Army’s M1128 Stryker MGS is perceived to be less than ideal. It was fielded before it was fully developed and has proved unreliable in service. At inception, it was already close to the Stryker platform’s maximum weight limit, meaning that there was only limited scope to upgrade the platform further. The Stryker MGS has not been upgraded with the double-V hull that other Stryker vehicles now have. Despite its relative failure, the concept remains valid. It will be interesting to see what the US Army does either to upgrade or replace the Stryker MGS. One option could be to re-use the MPF turret (see below) on a Stryker with a low-profile hull. Or it could just buy Centauro 2. 

Above: GDLS Griffin III will be used as the basis for the US Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower requirement. This is intended to provide direct fire support for Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT). It mounts a 105 mm gun. Basic weight is 18 tonnes. Appliqué armour can increase protection from STANAG 4569 Level I to Level III with platform weight growing to 25 tonnes. (Image GDLS USA)

The modern day resurgence of the assault gun is also exemplified by the US Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) programme. The goal is to provide Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT) with a vehicle capable of providing close fire support; in other words, a replacement for the M551 Sheridan. Presently Airborne and Light Role Infantry do not have organic fire support. The MPF platform will weigh between 18 and 25 tonnes, so it can be carried by C-130 or C-17 transport aircraft. Like its predecessor, it will also be air-droppable. Optional mission-configurable appliqué armour can be added to increase the protection level from NATO STANAG 4569 Level I to Level III. With a high power-to-weight ratio, MPF will be fast and manoeuvrable. It is expected to use banded rubber tracks, which will enhance mobility and ease of operation. The US Army plans to acquire 610 platforms. While some people view the MPF concept as a contemporary assault gun, others see it as Light or Medium tank. Whatever it is, it is a gun system that deploys in situations where MBTs like the M1A2 Abrams cannot get there quickly enough. 

Other armies are acquiring a similar capability by mounting 105 mm turrets on 8×8 infantry carrier vehicles. Patria has successfully mounted the John Cockerill Defence 30105 turret on its AMV Xp 8×8. Poland and Turkey are evaluating their own systems. One disadvantage of placing a heavy gun turret on a standard 8×8 APC hull is that it can potentially make the vehicle top heavy. Italy and Japan’s approach was to produce a specialist vehicle with a low-profile hull. This has the added benefit of reducing hull weight so that GVW is optimised. 

The People’s Liberation Army of China has recently acquired 600 ZTL-11 / ZBD-09 Snow Leopard 105 mm wheeled tank destroyers. This too utilises a low profile hull. The growing quantity of  wheeled MGS platforms in service shows that the concept has merit in contemporary warfare and is here to stay. 

Above: China PLA ZTL-11 Assault Gun with a 105 mm gun. This vehicle was introduced in 2013 and is amphibious despite weighing 23 tonnes.

So far, the UK has not revealed any plans to add an assault gun variant to its proposed Boxer line-up. Instead, Strike Brigades will be supported by Ajax-equipped reconnaissance regiments. As already noted, this will mount the CTAI 40 mm cannon firing cased-telescoped ammunition. Meanwhile, France plans to retire its AMX 10RC reconnaissance vehicle with a 105 mm gun, in favour of its 6×6 Jaguar EBRC reconnaissance vehicle, also with a CTAI 40 mm cannon. Additionally, Jaguar will be equipped with twin MMP anti-tank missile launchers. This poses the question of whether a cannon plus ATGM equipped vehicle is better than one with a 105/ 120 mm gun? The important point to make is that ATGMs can destroy enemy MBTs, whereas 105 mm guns may not. Does this men you need need to mount a 120 mm gun or not bother at all? Not necessarily. New ammunition natures for 105 mm guns can still inflict serious damage on MBTs even when they cannot pierce the front glacis plate. 

Standard UK Boxer Infantry Carrier Vehicles will all be equipped with a remote weapon station capable of firing Javelin ATGMs from under armour. It means that all section vehicles could potentially be tank destroyers. Add a box of light anti-structure missiles for taking-out bunkers and machine gun nests, and perhaps a mobile gun system is not needed at all?

As things stand, the British Army possesses just 227 Challenger 2s. This total is expected to be reduced to about 170 when it is upgraded to Mark 3 standard. Several retired senior officers have suggested that the UK needs somewhere between 250-300 MBTs. Others believe that the tempo of 21st Century manoeuvre warfare means that tanks will never be responsive enough to deliver timely effect. What is clear is that even with a reduced role, MBTs remain relevant, because no other combat vehicle can deliver the same level of firepower, resilience and shock effect. This being the case, one way to offset a reduction in tank numbers, is to produce a wheeled mobile gun system that is analogous to an MBT. 

Should UK Strike Brigades need to counter peer adversaries equipped with tanks, they may struggle with just a 40 mm cannon. If a 105 mm or 120 mm wheeled mobile gun system were added, we would have an extremely potent and flexible platform that offered increased utility across a wider range of deployment scenarios. There is also a more practical reason to prefer a gun solution to a missile solution – cost. Anti-tank missiles typically cost €70,000-€100,000 each, whereas the price of 105 mm and 120 mm APFSDS rounds is not more than €10,000-€12,000. The shorter time of flight of APFSDS rounds versus ATGM missiles may also be a factor when countering large numbers of enemy vehicles. Further, 120 mm HE rounds are likely to be much more effective against concrete emplacements than a burst of 30 or 40 mm HE rounds. If, as expected, strike brigades operate remotely at long distances, with several days between resupply, then carrying a larger amount of ammunition is essential. This also favours a 105 mm or 120 mm gun as 30-40 rounds of ammunition is much easier to stow than 15-20 anti-tank missiles. For all of the above reasons, a wheeled mobile gun system may be desirable. 

04. Envisioning a contemporary UK Assault Gun

With Boxer entering UK service, this is the obvious platform to use as the basis for a mobile gun system. Trying to balance utility with affordability, there are four potential Boxer MGS options:

  1. Mount a third-party gun turret on top of a standard Boxer mission module. 
  2. Mount a third-party gun turret on slightly modified Boxer driveline module with a reduced-height hull.
  3. Mount a third-party gun turret on a heavily modified Boxer driveline module with the engine mounted in the rear, allowing increased protection in front. 
  4. Mount a bespoke gun turret on heavily modified Boxer driveline module with the engine mounted in the rear, allowing increased protection in front. 

These options represent a sliding scale of cost versus sophistication and each will now be reviewed in turn:

Option A – Standard Boxer with MGS Mission Module

This option would be the simplest and least costliest MGS option to implement. The John Cockerill Defence 30105 turret could be easily integrated into a standard Boxer mission module. It would have a crew of three or four depending on whether an autoloader was used. There would be plenty of space in the rear of the vehicle for storage of additional ammunition and crew equipment. With a front-mounted engine, the crew could escape through the rear of the vehicle if it were hit. The turret weighs 6-8 tonnes, depending on the level of protection fitted. Since the crew sits almost below the turret ring, it would not need significant up-armouring. However, the weight of the turret on top of the mission module raises the vehicle’s centre of gravity, requiring uneven ground to be negotiated with care. Ammunition stowage, especially if extra rounds are stored in the crew compartment could impact survivability in the event of a penetration that causes an ammunition fire. Overall, however, the JCD turret is a simple and straightforward solution available at an attractive price. If a simple, no-frills MGS is required, then Option A is the default choice. 

Option A (Image: Ogden Dowcett)

This option makes the most of Boxer’s modular mission module approach, allowing units to configured according to mission. The options that follow require a modified hull to be developed. In comparing these concepts to the standard Boxer, it will need to decided whether advantages provided are worth the extra cost and reduction in overall platform flexibility.

Option B – Slightly modified Boxer with low-profile hull and COTS MGS turret

This option takes a standard Boxer driveline module and converts into a more focused weapons platform. The engine and gearbox would remain mounted in the same position, at the front of the vehicle, but the hull would be lowered and fitted with a permanent turret module capable of supporting a range of different turreted systems. While primarily envisaged as a mobile gun system, the low-profile hull could also mount a 155mm howitzer gun turret, a reconnaissance vehicle turret, an ATGM turret, an air defence turret, and an engineer demolition turret. All vehicle systems would be located in the same place, minimising the number of engineering changes to the platform and thus costs. Reducing the height of the vehicle reduces the silhouette, making the vehicle a smaller target. It also lowers the centre of gravity, improving stability, and compensating for the additional weight of the gun turret. The same John Cockerill Defence 30105 105 mm gun turret is proposed, because this is a reliable COTS/ MOTS solution that could be easily integrated. Though more sophisticated and thus more expensive than Option A, Option B would allow increased protection to be added to the vehicle without increasing GVW. 

This approached was used when the FV430 family of tracked vehicles was acquired in the 1960s. The standard high roof vehicle was the FV432 APC and this was used as the basis for the a Command vehicle (FV436), Repair & Recovery vehicle (FV434) and Anti-tank vehicle with Swingfire ATGM (FV438). It was also used for the FV433 Abbot self-propelled gun which mounted a 105 mm howitzer on a lowered hull. 

Option B (Image: Ogden Dowcett)

Italy’s Centauro MGS and Freccia IFV are also based on a common platform produced by OTO-Melara. Meanwhile, Japan has recently announced that its Type-16 MCV will spawn four further variants, including an APC/ IFV, Command, Reconnaissance, and Mortar carrier variants. These will take the basic low-profile hull and create a raised roof version.

Option C – Heavily modified Boxer (engine moved to rear) with low-profile hull and COTS MGS turret

This option re-engineers the Boxer driveline module to produce a dedicated specialist weapons carrier platform with minimal compromises. It re-locates the engine and gearbox to the rear of the vehicle, which allows the turret to be moved further forward, improving weight distribution and thus vehicle dynamics. It also allows extra protection to be added to the front of the vehicle without upsetting overall weight distribution and balance. In case this option seems unduly complicated, it is identical in concept to the British Army’s Saladin and Saracen 6×6 family. The Saracen APC had the engine mounted at the front. The Saladin CVR had the engine at the back. In reality, the two platforms were not radically different; the front and back of the vehicles were simply reversed around depending on the variant type. 

This approach, which dispenses with a separate mission module system, would still be modular in that it would allow a range of different weapon turrets to be dropped-in or swapped-out, depending on task. The challenge would be to ensure that the turret ring was large enough to accommodate the full range of turret types that might be employed. Where smaller turrets are used, a plug insert could be used to seal the turret ring. 

By reducing the height of the driveline and dispensing with a swappable mission module, the overall weight of the driveline would be reduced. This allows a heavier turret to be mounted plus extra armour to be added to the vehicle. In particular, it allows extra frontal armour to be fitted. 

Option C. (Image: Ogden Dowcett)

The Option C example shown features an OTO-Melara HitFact turret with a low recoil 120 mm smoothbore gun, which is the same weapon fitted to the Italian Army’s Centauro 2. Again, other off-the-shelf gun turret could also be used. 

Option D – Heavily modified Boxer (engine moved to rear) with low-profile hull and custom MGS turret

This option is identical to Option C, but goes one step further. This has a custom turret with a standard L/44 120 mm smoothbore gun. The larger turret allows a hydraulic recoil mitigation system to be fitted, reducing wear and tear on the driveline and suspension when the gun is fired on the move. In essence, Option D is a wheeled tank. 

This turret is based on the Leopard 2 turret, except that it has a larger ammunition compartment in the turret bustle, so that no rounds are stored in the hull. The ammunition compartment would have a blast-proof door and blow-off roof panels to isolate the crew from the ammunition in case the ammunition compartment was penetrated by enemy fire. It might also be possible to fit an autoloader that would further separate the crew from main gun ammunition. 

Option D is the gold standard variant. Even so, a significant customer user base would help to absorb non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs to ensure that unit cost was comparable to Option A. 

Option D. (Image: Ogden Dowcett)

In all cases, the maximum weight for a Boxer-based Mobile Gun System would be 36 tonnes (2.5 tonnes less than the Boxer RCH155 155 mm howitzer). A Boxer MGS might also employ a 800 kW engine to ensure cross-country agility. Given that Japan’s Type-16 MCV weighs 26 tonnes, a Boxer MGS would enjoy higher levels of protection, especially across the frontal arc.

For all of MGS options shown above, the most expensive aspect of each system would be their optics, sensors and fire control systems.

05. Conclusion

Ultimately, any decision to acquire the type of vehicle described above would be based on the need for such a capability and affordability. If a Boxer MGS costs 33% more than a standard Boxer, then the extra utility versus the price is likely to be worthwhile. But, if it costs marginally less than a regular MBT, then it will be much more difficult to justify. In other words, there has to be a compelling economic case to procure a Boxer MGS.

Above: From left to right: Boxer CRV with 30 mm Lance turret, Boxer ICV with 12.7 mm HMG, Option A, Option B, Option C, and Option D. (Image: Ogden Dowcett)

Any of the above vehicles, would provide utility in terms of direct fire support for Mechanised Infantry Battalions in an assault gun role. They could also perform reconnaissance tasks, acting as a screening force, as envisaged by UK Strike doctrine. They could also perform a heavy armour role in situations where Challenger 3 could not be deployed quickly enough. And, of course, a Boxer MGS could perform a defensive tank destroyer role. When Boxer IFVs are combined with Boxer MGSs, the resulting unit starts to blur the boundaries between a Strike Brigade and an Armoured Infantry Brigade. In a post-COVID-19 British Army, such flexibility could make all the difference, especially if it is more affordable than traditional tracked armour fleets. 

All things said, it must be emphasised that wheels do not replace tracks. There will be situations where the operational environment presents terrain that is inaccessible to wheeled vehicles. The Falkland Islands immediately spring to mind. Though it seems unlikely that we would need to deploy a task force to evict an invading army again, should the need arise, a vehicle like the BVS10 Viking would still be essential. 

If cost does becoming al limiting factor, there are still other ways to deliver an assault gun effect at a reduced cost. Kongsberg, MOOG, Elbit and Rafael have all showcased modular remote weapon stations. Capable of mounting a mix of different weapons depending on the task at hand they are a neat way of making limited budgets stretch further. A potential mix of weapons could include two or three of the following weapon types: 

  • Light cannons (e.g. 30×113 mm M230LF)
  • Grenade launchers (e.g. 40×53 mm GMG HV)
  • Heavy machine guns (e.g. 12.7×99 mm HMG)
  • ATGM (e.g. FGM-148 Javelin) 
  • LASM (e.g. MBDA’s Enforcer) 
  • Air Defence missiles (e.g. Starstreak HVM)

In the final analysis, UK Boxer vehicles will be equipped with Kongsberg Protector RCWS with a 12.7x 99 mm HMG plus a Javelin ATGM. This may be sufficient to counter asymmetric threats, but not a peer adversary. Even though the Ajax 40 mm CT cannon is a formidable weapon that will do an admirable job supporting mechanised infantry units, we will at some point need a Boxer with more firepower.

Above: MOOG modular weapon station family. (Image: MOOG)


  1. Great stuff! Got through the warm up… will look at A, B, C and D tomorrow (will require some attention, I’m sure).

    I am not sure that Sturms were integrated into Panzer Divisions. As you say they were an artillery asset and were attached in Bn-sized packets to Inf,. Divisions as what was seen fit for the situation (1, 2 or 3), or more likely: what could be spared. An example is 122 D that was planned to have 3 Bns in June 1944 (by order of a certain A.H.), but was thrown into battle with just one.


  2. Well written article and clearly very well researched.
    I’m personally of the opinion that Boxers modularity will best come into play in a warzone, when you’re looking at eight broken ones and wondering if you can make three good ones by the afternoon; so I’d say that the vanilla option would be preferable, that and everything is pretty much there on the shelf and it’s cheaper.
    I’d been wondering about a 105mm Boxer in the context of Jon Hawkes thread on that calibre, in which he posits a proliferation of 105 with smaller numbers of MBT’s in the hunter killer role with 130/140.
    To further plunder other peoples hard work, The Other Chris highlighted John Cockerill’s ongoing research into using 105 for both direct and indirect fire, I’d therefor raise the prospect of the RHA equipped with such a vehicle in direct support of both infantry and cavalry Boxers and possibly even providing overwatch through the same barrel with something like LAHAT. If organized along cavalry numbers then the uplift in fire support would be interesting.


  3. An absolute brilliant read. I have a few thoughts
    There are a few further solutions not considered and one’s a large turret on Ajax as proposed in the second tranche of the Scout SV. Obviously it limits your options in terms of potentially using existing drive modules that you would have with Boxer, but may have considerable advantages in tactical mobility. Its strategic mobility will likely be not too different to current Ajax with fingers crossed rubber tracks may solve that. ASCOD 2 has already been fitted with the 120mm hitfact turret and there is a great demonstration of it on YouTube at one of the NATO days although it looks a bit tall it is certainly thrown around in the demo not showing any problems managing the turret. I assume although higher profile good driver skills can mitigate to some extent?
    Another is potentially a slightly modified standard Boxer with a protected ammunition storage compartment that also counters the top heaviness of the turret?
    To me the selection of design goes hand in hand with selection of the role and doctrine as well as approach to risk i.e. if we’re wanting a cheaper MBT alternative to make up CH2 numbers you want low profile with as much armour as possible with a 120mm gun. The danger is this spirals in to something very expensive & also something very heavy. If this can be mitigated & this is the role then C to D or Ajax would be your choices.
    If however you want cheap firepower to support troops without expending expensive ammunition or ATGMs and give a very flexible system that effectively gives that formation its own artillery, some anti-tank capability and the ability to destroy hardened bunkers machine gun positions option A or a possible modified standard module would then be your choices. Both are a trade off with C to D giving superior antitank performance and A, B giving more flexibility at most likely a cheaper price point.
    To me pushing a medium formation into direct engagement with MBTs is not the way forward, but would obviously depend upon other capabilities being acquired to defeat heavy armour for me a mix of Spike & Brimstone variants & reliance on IDF would be the gold standard with specialist overwatch vehicles carrying Brimstone and standard Boxers & perhaps JLTV carrying Exactor the 105mm could actually contribute to this? I am unsure of the effect of a HE or I-HEAT 105mm round would have on the top of the latest MBT? But I assume it could have more success than trying to punch through the front plate even if not it should be sufficient to destroy accompanying IFVs whilst ATGMs deal with MBTs?
    The 105mm brings something you mentioned early on that was valued & that’s flexibility the 120mm (unless potential equivalent elevated gun could be designed) is a bit of a one trick pony in terms of destroy what you can see & it has to do this better than the opposing MBT which if we go in to a cold war new technology then counter technology where new sights etc. Are relatively easy to attach is not guaranteed. Further flexibility of 105mm could extend to possible engagement of helicopters with GLATGM.
    Other options – I am really glad you brought up the RiWP & I do feel disappointed if the army has gone down the blinkered Kongsberg approach not only because of the immediate capabilities it could bring, but the ability for long term upgrades and capability. If fitted with LMM & ATGMs & either HMG/30mm perhaps even a coaxial not only would this bring a RiWP armed Boxer a large target set on the ground but also potentially limited SHORAD.
    I also think adaptation of indirect fire could massively lighten the troops combat weight as it would divest of the need to carry such a large number of man portable ATGMs ideally I’d move javelin to AI brigades & replace with Spike in Strike.
    CT40 & ATGMs are certainly effective but expensive and not necessarily the same depth of magazine in certain engagements as 105mm/120mm and as pointed out slower possibly give time for return fire. I definitely think there is a place for a large gun as do many other countries as evidenced in your article.
    What would also be useful to know is the cost of CT40 ammo versus 105mm
    But at any rate 140mm vs 550mm+ RHA penetration tells you the difference in firepower, smart fires and ROF make up for in somewhat but not completely.

    Again great article many thanks for writing it

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, I think we are now at a point where the Ajax platform should be up armed to a 105/120 gun and the CT40 turrets moved to Boxer alongside a fit of ATGW. The Griffon 2 is probably the way to go and we should cancel the Warrior life extension and Challenger programmes for a larger Boxer Force in my opinion.

      For infantry I think the Carl Gustav would be a good Lightweight ATGW solution, with the heavier ATGM’s carried by the Boxers as per current plans.

      I believe we need to move away from the concept of light infantry within the main force, as we just don’t have enough infantry, the whole force needs to be mechanised, this will also help with training and unit sizing. Importantly it will give the force a revitalised strike remit and improve lethality if executed properly.

      A newly created Commando Force made up of Royal Marines, Paras and Gurkhas would give us highly trained light forces that use Polaris 4×4 or similar and the Viking or Bronco Platform.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. Light should be light and with medium it is only a matter how much heavier it could/ should become, to have enough punch (not forgetting the role of long-range fires).
        – 36 tons has been suggested as the max (TICK)

        As for the light, we will soon not need the wheels-or-tracks discussion as with slight modifications you can have both:

        ” give the force a revitalised strike remit and improve lethality if executed properly.”
        ” A newly created Commando Force made up of Royal Marines, Paras and Gurkhas would give us highly trained light forces that use Polaris 4×4 or similar and the Viking or Bronco Platform.”


      2. Continue down the Ajax path given its current set of issues? I fear you are going to end up with another Nimrod scenario…. Why not cut the losses now and take a serious look a the Aus 400.3 finalists, see if they fit the “Ajax requirements”, and if so partner with AUS to co-develop future variants. Who knows, depending on where the US goes, the possibility exists that the US, UK, and Aus may have a “common” APC/IFV family. Wouldn’t that be something.


    2. Hi Simon

      My preference is for an all Boxer Force of up to 8k units for the whole land force and scrap Warrior, Ajax and Challenger.

      But that’s not going to happen is it!!

      It would be interesting to war game this out and have a fully functioning Boxer Force backed up by a large Apache Force and F35’s against a similar “traditional Force”

      I believe the Boxer Force would win through, especially if the budget for both forces were taken into account.

      My view is if we are to have a land Army of say 72k personnel all in then that force must be far better equipped than any before it. 4 Divisions of 18k personnel each with 2k boxers per division may seem a lot, it is not.

      A full spectrum Boxer force would be a real handful add in some precision long range fires and it becomes a world beater in my opinion.

      Our ability and political will to deploy heavy armour is negligible, and whilst I recognise its value, that value is only realised in less than 1% of scenarios given our government would not send this to Afghanistan, despite requests from the military to do so.

      Theres some great kit out there that doesn’t cost the earth, we should stop trying to match the US and perhaps take a look at the Danish and Swedish, or even the French.

      So not a fan of Ajax and Warrior / Challenger have had their day. Boxer is clearly a great product and we need to get some scale and options into our force based upon a standardised base platform.


      1. Well for one thing apache are great but most experts (which I’m not) say they wouldn’t last long against peer with decent air abilities such as Russia China, especially as we have only 50 odd. I do agree a 120mm boxer would give us great firepower for fraction of cost. Maybe it is time to admit we can’t afford to have a little bit of everything like mini USA anymore


      2. In fairness that argument can be used for anything.

        Apaches can keep up with boxer, which can provide air defence And long range fires, as well as a perimeter for austere landing and maintenance

        Tanks can’t keep up with boxer and boxers can be kitted out with virtually any capability.

        As with anything we need overmatch or to accept losses and go assymetric

        A strike formation with full ground air combat capabilities is a winner for me its fast and seriously armed, but if we come up against any peer / near peer we are in trouble.

        So for me it’s about what do we use most of and get most value from, given that HMG wouldn’t send tanks to Afghanistan despite requests to do so.



      3. I have had this exact same thought. The “generic vehicle architecture” idea has been touted around for ages but has never been committed to beyond the CVR family to any great degree.

        I would propose a fifth option; that of a family of vehicles, each providing a distinct function (recce, infantry, heavy direct fire/MGS, artillery, command, recovery etc), the part of this course of action that makes it distinct would be the use of a remote weapons system with a common fire control system between them all, as much as is possible. The recce and infantry variants, armed with a 7.62mm/.50 or 30mm/40mm (as an example) would share a common interface with the 120mm varient, reducing training burdens.

        Are there any thoughts on this? As a vehicle commander myself I would be loathe to compromise the situational awareness that the heads up position gives, but don’t know if anyone else may have experience that could inform thinking.

        You could also make the case for further alterations to the platform towards a hybrid power chain. A turbine generator in place of a conventional engine, a battery to allow enough range to allow a more silent insertion to an FUP with less thermal signature and motors in each wheel hub to provide redundancy and unsuspended weight.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. RE “In all cases, the maximum weight for a Boxer-based Mobile Gun System would be 36 tonnes ” in the text, yes, definitely.

    With that in mind, a Leo has been been fitted with the current French tank turret. I guess it is a study in how much weight could be be shaved.
    – but, importantly, an autoloader would come inbuilt (drop one crew member)
    – also, taking the idea from Simon Mugford and using the back of the vehicle as ammuntion storage with blow-out panels would make this ‘model’ v useful in the fire support role where many more rounds are likely to be expended than in a tank-to-tank encounter… all of this without increasing the risk to the crew

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I must say that I agree with Captain Nemo about keeping the modularity intact across all variants. Given that Boxer is seemingly the only active vehicle program without problems the thought of trying to be overly clever with it rather chills the blood.

    DF variants are interesting but will contribute far less to formation and sub-unit survivability than Air Defence variants (VSHORAD/SHORAD), above all in the C-UAS role.

    DF variants are fine if the enemy co-operates and lets you get into gun range. But why bother letting Strike get that close if they can find you with drones and drop artillery and rocket fire on you from 100km away?

    Can we please think about how Strike’s dispersed sub-units will gain situational awareness beyond the range of the Orion sight? How will they attrit enemy UAS capabilities? How will they contribute to brigade/divisional/corps situational awareness and A2AD capabilities?

    I would argue that at the lowest tactical level of dispersal each sub-unit ought to have a SHORAD air defence vehicle and a battlefield radar like Giraffe 1X. Each sub-unit also should have a passive ESM sensor, perhaps something like Vera NG to collate information for a central hub, either at platoon, company or brigade level.

    All this information ought to be networked to allow active radar to be turned on only for the most limited time to provide firing solutions and to prevent sub-units and the brigade from being rendered entirely blind if Sky Sabre is jammed, moving, turned off or destroyed.

    An armed recce variant with integral UAS (like Shrike 2 and Black Hornet VRS) plus loitering munitions (maybe like Raytheon’s Coyote, or Uvision’s Hero range)seems also much more important than a direct fire variant. Electronic warfare vehicles also seem much more important than DF.

    Where are the Boxer variants for this capabilities and what should they be able to do?


    1. Yes, good points made about ‘not forgetting long-range fires’ – from either side:

      ” letting Strike get that close if they can find you with drones and drop artillery and rocket fire on you from 100km away?

      Can we please think about how Strike’s dispersed sub-units will gain situational awareness beyond the range of the Orion sight? How will they attrit enemy UAS capabilities?”


      1. Didn’t think we had long range fire anymore? I heard so many of our 155mm are scrap that we can’t even deploy them, never updated in whole life


    2. While it may not have the same modularity of the standard Boxer, seperate drive module and mission module, it does benefit from modularity in that it uses the same basic hull (though modified in the front and rear) and other components allowing it to take advantage of in place Boxer logistics and training. Granted there will be some unique aspects added to support this version of Boxer but those impacts should be far less than adding a completely new vehicle like Rooikat 105 or Type 16.


  6. Overall I think we could benefit from a direct fire vehicle like this, however has I have pointed out in my own articles, and as others note in the comments above, such a Boxer DF variant should be considered in the context of:

    1. Cost benefit analysis versus surface launched Brimstone 3 as NLOS ATGM
    2. Role of indirect fire in address both enemy armour and fortifications (bunkers) – including precision rounds etc
    3. Potential direct fire “bunker buster” capability of 120mm turreted mortar
    4. The potential for gun launched ATGM such as Israeli LAHAT and Belgian-Ukrainian Falarick
    5. Active Protection Systems!

    I find it a little odd that we are discussing a lighter weight platform with reduced passive armour protection without discussing the abilities of Active Protection Systems to make up some of that deficiency facing anti-armour RPG’s, ATGM ‘s and kinetic energy APFSDS fired by enemy tanks.

    Rheinmetall market their own Active Defense System (ADS):

    Or there is always Elbit’s Iron Fist which is being further developed based on short comings noted during long US Army testing processes.


    1. Agree with all the above but given NATO’s well-documented deficiencies in Air defence and the proliferation of sophisticated missile systems and drone tactics, why are we seeking to defend against short-range threats when we are wide open to longer range threats?


    2. Think Strike Shield could be added to Boxer more or less as an afterthought, here’s a fetching image:

      For the uninitiated, in this instance that’s it on the side above the wheels.

      I think ADS also works in support of the article as we seem to have reached one of those points, with some arguing that ATGM’s are now irrelevant and thoughts reverting to kinetic solutions.


  7. @Jed,

    I agree. Any decision to field a Boxer MGS can only ever be taken after we ensure we have sufficient fires to support UK Strike Brigades as already envisioned. This means we need to acquire a wheeled 155 mm howitzer, wheeled MLRS with G/MLRS rockets and PrSM, a 120 mm mortar for infantry battalions, and a GBAD capability on Boxer.

    I’d also want to acquire a reconnaissance version of Boxer with a 30 mm or 40 mm cannon plus ATGM and high quality sensors.

    As much as I like Boxer and believe we should have as many as possible, we must recognise that they can’t do everything. We still need a tracked fleet to support operations in environments unsuited to wheels. I just wish we could replace FV432, Warrior and Ajax with a single platform.

    Assuming we are able to acquire fully equipped Strike Brigades with artillery, reconnaissance and mobile gun systems versions of Boxer, I still very much believe in the utility of MBTs. I would not get rid of Challenger 2 for as long as potential adversaries continue to field large numbers of tanks.

    I think the post COVID-19 Army needs three types of Brigade:
    – Mechanised Infantry Brigades in Boxer
    – Armoured Infantry Brigades in Challenger 2/ 3 plus Warrior 2
    – Light Role Infantry Brigades with MRVP and BVS10


    1. Nicholas,
      thank you for this really interesting article. I’ve been thinking about what would the criteria be for buying an assault gun, which with limited resources has to stronger than just being a really good idea, i.e. if one wants an assault gun then it has to displace something else. So if one limits the consideration to just land systems one might start with:

      1) do we want to put more of our limited resources into close combat or into CS or CSS? If yes to close combat then proceed otherwise just stop there.

      2) would we get more for our money in investing more in what we’ve already (or got planned) such as MIV as opposed to something new? If answer is no then proceed.

      3) would an assault gun be both inexpensive and effective enough to be affordable in large enough numbers to make a real difference? If yes then continue to think more deeply about formal procurement.

      My main point here is that I think there would still be a number of fundamental hurdles to be overcome. So I suppose I would have to ask, rhetorically, whether the options in your article would fulfil these criteria (clearly none of us really know) or whether one might need to further reduce cost (e.g. far cheaper platform, non traverse-able gun, reduced manning/ unmanned etc), to allow make it affordable in large enough numbers to be effective?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. @uklandpower agree completely re the structure, although I’d drop the RCH155 boxer in favour of major investment in long range rocket fires, including PrSM natures etc. We are so outranged and out gunned and our A2AD is so weak that we ought I think to focus on keeping vital fire support as far back from enemy fires and airpower as humanly possible, at least until we have established the ability to create protected nodes, which we do not have. RUSI are I think on the right track with this.

      Either way, whether tubes or rockets we need to be able to find and target in survivable ways. Unless and until we can do this organically we aren’t in my view credible whether in AI or MI.

      It all needs to be built around distributed sensors or its a waste of time, money and lives, IMO.


      1. The trouble is that rocket and long range precision fires missiles are expensive. We definitely need them, but they wouldn’t be sustainable in a long conflict. I am agnostic about which 155 mm howitzer we should buy, but we definitely need one because the ammunition is more affordable. They do deliver an excellent bang for your buck.

        If you equipped infantry battalions with 120 mm mortars, they would be able to protect themselves at ranges of up 12 km without a problem. Meanwhile, G/MLRS and PrSM munitions would be great beyond 50 km. We still need to cover that middle ground, between 12 and 50 km and this is where 155 mm is ideal. If you also add something like ground launched Brimstone 3 or Spear into the mix, then you have a very sold mix of fires. As I mentioned, this is much more important than an MGS.

        Coming back to the MGS debate though, my belief is that Ajax simply won’t keep up with Boxer. So there is no doubt in my mind that a recce / direct fire support version of Boxer is needed.

        A 40 mm CT cannon + ATGM solution is good, but probably not as good as a 105 mm or 120 mm gun solution. Maybe you equip Recce regiments with a mix?

        To answer the question: what do you give up to pay for a MGS, I think the answer is Ajax and Warrior numbers. (Sorry, GDLSUK)!

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Hi Nicholas

      HA is great to have but seldom used and due to its weight and logistical footprint is inefficient for our future force.

      But should we keep this capability why don’t we use the army reserve to man in, given it has a fairly long generation lead time and most of the training can be simulation based with an annual camp in BATUS and a quarterly live fire adding in some much needed incentives for the reserve.

      I would dump it all personally and come up with innovative new ways of doing things, something we are good at but have somewhat buried in recent years as we blindly follow the us instead of bringing our own skills to the party.

      If we are going to have a sustainable military vehicle factory in the uk we need to start rationalising platforms and going large on the ones we do commit to and then arm them to the max.

      Boxer and supacat seem to be the preferred choices so let’s start getting some strategy that not only gets good kit into the armies hands but is actually built in britain


    4. I think MRVP 2 will supplement Boxers in Strike as 500 seems the buy per brigade, if you need to transport a company roughly 100 boxers are required which only leaves 100 boxers for all the specialist roles, ambulance, mortar, command, engineering, ATGM, mgs etc.
      I am hoping if AGM is selected for mobile protected fires then this will include a further Boxer purchase rather than relying upon the 500.

      I really don’t think the army will change its mind re inclusion of Ajax in Strike. It carries too much of the enabling technology in terms of C2 & to put this in Boxer would cost. So although I agree with the types of brigades I think the composition would have to be different & would like a little twist.

      Strike Brigades
      Ajax, Boxer, JLTV, MRVP2

      Armoured infantry
      Challenger, Warrior

      Light Strike Brigades
      HMT 400, HMT 600

      Specialist advisory training units
      Foxhound, MRAPs
      Plus I still think you need 16th air assault 😉


      1. Hi Simon,
        are talking about 2 bdes, with 4 bns of infantry in all. Or, companies with 100 squads?
        “Boxers in Strike as 500 seems the buy per brigade, if you need to transport a company roughly 100 boxers are required which only leaves 100 boxers for all the specialist roles, ambulance, mortar, command, engineering, ATGM, mgs etc.
        I am hoping if AGM is selected for mobile protected fires then this will include a further Boxer purchase rather than relying upon the 500.”


      2. Simon’s numbers seem somewhat awry but there are important discussion points.

        I guess instead of company, battalion was meant and 100 Boxer vehicles is roughly the total. That includes, command, mortar, AT, and other support. For 4 battalions and a buy over 500, the remaining 100 equip 2 Engineer Regiments. There may be a few vehicles in other units but basically the Boxer buy is for the 2 planned Strike Brigades as I see it.

        Simon was responding to UK Land Power 12th 6:10 pm who suggested Mechanised Brigades with only Boxer – no Strike Brigades, no Ajax. If the 2 Ajax regiments are replaced by 2 Boxer units then 500 will only give 1 complete Brigade and only armed with MG’s. I agree with Simon that the army will want to keep Strike with Ajax although we await a statement on the state of that project.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. As things stand, UK Strike Brigades will each get around 250 Boxers. That’s 90 for each infantry battalion plus 70 C2 and Specialist vehicles for CS and CSS units.

        For an all Boxer-equipped Strike Brigade, you would need to an additional 180 Boxers (90 for each reconnaissance regiment) for a total of 430 MIV variants per Brigade.

        If each Brigade were additionally equipped with the RCH155 155 mm howitzer, then you would need 24-32 howitzer Boxers plus 6-8 ammunition resupply vehicles, plus a further 40 Boxers for C2 and other roles, i.e. 80 vehicles per artillery regiment. Total Boxers per brigade would be 510.

        To fully equip three strike brigades with Boxer, we would need 1,530 vehicles. It seems likely we will get 1,200-1,400. This would be excellent.

        As suggested elsewhere, a post-COVID-19 Army could be refocused around three Strike Brigades, but have a separate tank brigade with 4 x Challenger 3 regiments and a separate Armoured infantry Brigade with 4 x Warrior battalions. Add 16 AAB and you have a very flexible yet credible Army configured around our most likely deployment scenarios.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. This
        “a fleet total of around 1,400 vehicles”
        would take us half way towards the targeted FRES total (and as for the missing half, the shrinkage of the army is more the reason than the missing specialist vehicles… as those would be fewer in number”


      5. Apologies that you thought your post hadn’t been uploaded. When a comment doesn’t appear immediately, it is because each one has to be approved by me first. I usually do this within seconds of being alerted, unless you post a comment between the time I go to bed (2359 hours) and the time I wake up (0700 hours). If I let them go up unmoderated, we would be overwhelmed by spam. It is a big problem. Thanks for your your patience.


      6. If we accept that our main combat force is circa 20 Combat battalions of 900 personnel and there is an average of 4 personnel per vehicle then we are looking at 225 boxers per battalion resulting in a requirement for 4.5k boxers covering the full spectrum of activities. Add in 500 spares for attrition and our boxer force could/should be 5k strong force

        I would reduce manpower wherever possible by going for unmanned turrets and have a preference for a CTA cannon and 4 dismounts per vehicle (surging to 8 if needed in a crisis) which in theory would max the vehicle out at ten people

        This is important as although we have a much smaller force than previously it can cause havoc if set up properly.

        I know this is unlikely to happen but a full spectrum boxer force manufactured and upgraded in batches in the uk over the next 10 years is within our reach and should be made alongside similar investments in supacat and JLTV or similar

        A full spectrum wheeled force is the way for the uk to go for the main force with light infantry becoming a divisional sized commando force of RM, Paras and Gurkhas.


      7. You write “Including Ajax, each Brigade is expected to have a total of 450-500 Boxers”.

        Including Ajax, there are 2 battalions of 90-100 Boxers and an Engineer Regiment of maybe 50 Boxers. Where are the addition 200-250 Boxers?


      8. Yes, I can imagine all sorts of organisations and equipment allocations. But, the totals must be the same. That is, there could be 4 units with Boxer in 1 brigade, or 2 brigades each with 2 battalions and something else or again 1 Battalion and something else in 4 Brigades. Cap badges can be adjusted.


    5. @ uklandpower “ I think the post COVID-19 Army needs three types of Brigade:
      – Mechanised Infantry Brigades in Boxer
      – Armoured Infantry Brigades in Challenger 2/ 3 plus Warrior 2
      – Light Role Infantry Brigades with MRVP and BVS10”

      Based on the idea behind the idea well articulated by the Australian General who reportedly said “tanks are like dinner jackets, you don’t need them often but when you do nothing else will do” why not have most of your army built around fully equipped MI brigades (boxer) and then have a pool of tank combined arms battle groups who are attached to a MI brigade when required?
      Plus 16AA and 3Cdo as Light Role

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Fair points but you still haven’t said how any combination of fires will be targeted. Or how our fires and dispersed sub-units will avoid the far greater weight of fires on the other side.
    The difference between ‘audacious turning movements’ and the Charge of the Light Brigade is situational awareness and comms.
    What is the plan for that and how could Boxer enable it?


    1. Do read ‘Strike: An Inside View.’ In essence, Ajax Recce and Boxer Infantry units will search for enemy forces using passive sensors. When found, they will task artillery assets including 155, G/MLRS and LRPF. Supporting them will be UAVs (RAF and Army) and other ISTAR assets. By operating dispersed, it will be difficult for enemy artillery to target all Strike units. Our own counter-battery radars will locate enemy artillery. Signature management will be key. So shooting and scooting, Unmasking and moving will be necessary. Secure comms and operating within GPS denied environments will all be challenges. We hope to have a technical edge in C4I that will help us avoid enemy’s fires. it boils down to how good units on the ground are. A vast over-simplification, but that’s the general idea.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have read it and it was the best article on Strike that I have yet read. It is though long on ‘this will happen’ and short on ‘this is the layered capability mix that we will use to enable Strike’.

        Protector and Watchkeeper will be prime targets and the numbers we have are so low that relying on them for constant ISTAR in the face of an integrated IADS is I think a mistake.

        What passive sensors will Ajax and Boxer have exactly and what will the ranges be? Will the sensors be able to triangulate enemy UAS or tactical aviation in order to provide a firing solution and where will that shot be taken from? Will those passive sensors be sufficient for dispersed sub-units to direct fires if Sky Sabre is off, jammed, moving or destroyed? Will we need to switch Sky Sabre on to destroy even Class 1 drones? Will this happen with the threat of tactical aviation and massive fires ever present or will dispersed sub-units need the ability to fend for themselves?

        MAMBA and Giraffe AMB will both be prime targets for deletion, we have too few and Mamba is rather shortranged, Giraffe AMB is what 120km?

        Thank you for your replies, I really appreciate the engagement and the content here.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. RE: “. Our own counter-battery radars will locate enemy artillery. Signature management will be key. So shooting and scooting, ”
        April issue of Desider has articles about a new arty command system integrating all fires (as per their availability, considering range from target) and refurbing our Mambas – which have a short-ish range to work within the Strike concept in any other way than stop-gaps


  9. Why choose a 155mm? when you can build. i propose 155mm demolition gun. with an autoloader similar to what the russians use on the T72 / T90. +70/-15 elevation.
    What about a standardised track system? 3 main hulls, one floats, one is huge heavy slow, and one “all-round hull”. the military will share ammunition with a minimum of 2 guns (not the same) (field artillery and a 105 gun for example). Potential future idea of exploration is the usage of standardised ammo between tank and naval systems. what with the changeover being made considering the whole 130mm with the leopard. Personally i think we should just develop a 5′ that is standardised and get on with production. but that’s me.


  10. Corin – I could not agree more, but actually what you regard as the “best article I have yet read” does not address any of your points. Nor I think explicitly do any of the articles i have written. I am ex Royal Corps of Signals, so I actually try to stay away from the subjects of EW or cyber, even though I have been out for of the service for many years.

    However, we are both truly abysmal at utilizing off the shelf UAS technology, and at countering it. Whilst DSTL is currently trialing what seems to be most of the UGV’s on the market, we are sadly lacking in the air. I am not sure of the current status of Black Hornet Nano or the Desert Hawk, but we need to take our own abilities to find the enemy more seriously at all tactical levels:

    1. Section – Black Hawk Nano – range out to 2km, same as the PIKE 40mm missile, or the new guided round fired from a 84mm CG , greater than the range of a 60mm Commando Mortar

    2. Platoon – InstantEye Mk3 Quadcopter, 30 to 50 mins out to 4km, around the same as 60mm long barreled mortar or an MMP missile

    3. Company Squadron to Battle Group level – latest version of Desert Hawk (just as an example) – 8km range, similar to 120mm mortars.

    4. Brigade to Division – Schiebel Camcopter / Leonardo Hero 100km + for 6 hours + more capability than needed for TA for 155mm long range artillery, and MLRS rockets (I chose the mini-helo type UAS for their vertical take off utility in a tactical scenario)

    5. Division and above – Watchkeeper – I would re-role it from EO/ ISAR to EW and Comms Relay

    6. Corps / Strategic – RAF MQ9

    All off the shelf or existing systems.

    On the AD / C-UAS front, I would like to see us buy into the US Army Interim-Manouver SHORAD systems from Leonardo/Moog, but replace their Stinger / Hellfire with Starstreak HVM / Martlet LMM, and I could not agree more about small Saab Giraffe 1X radar, it does sense and warn for incoming artillery missiles too, so what is not to love!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @jedpc

      Great response! On Strike Prophet’s article I meant it was the best non-critical piece 😁 It did add some flavour to what is aspired to but didn’t ultimately answer any queries about how the magic will actually happen, I agree.

      Layered multi-altitude UAS systems congruent with sub-unit and formation weapon ranges? I’ll have what she had!

      It would interesting to know what sensor types each example has and their ranges.

      I did look at IM-SHORAD and I have been fretting over the utility of cannon + smaller no. of missiles vs. no cannon and lotsa missiles.

      I agree about Starstreak and LMM. Starstreak is I think only 4km range and LMM is maybe 8km though.

      Do we need a longer legged missile at some level below brigade to catch larger higher altitude drones operating at the edge of their sensor range and therefore perhaps beyond Sky Sabre? CAMM on dispersed units as well?

      @uklandpower With a highy dispersed brigade that has fire support held back in more protected areas, we would, with a mix of drones like this, be able to spot enemy units out of range of 155s. I think we should aim to deter the 60-day scenario before building capabilities up towards dealing with a longer duration conflict. This implies to me that long range GMLRS systems and missiles should be the immediate fires focus. Hold further back and gain multi-range up to deep fire capability at less risk (or at least requiring opfor to use and reveal more strategic assets).


      1. Hi Corbin

        On the UAS I picked all “off the shelf” and available systems, but didn’t dwell on the web pages long enough to find sensor ranges.

        On a UK IM-SHORAD I wonder if the mount on the Moog turret could be modded to take the same fitting as the Wildcat pylons, so that the same “5 pack” of LMM could be used, in a similar way that they have been added to the RN’s 30mm gun mounts. So 10 LMM and a 30×113 seems much better than the nothing we have now 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I am hoping that something like Lockheed Martin’s outrider is under consideration it’s potentially a purple capability. Other considerations should be Uvision 30 or WB Warmate with the amount of cooperation between UK & Poland with MBDA the later could be acquired reasonably cheaply with if cooperation is reciprocal UK production. Uvision looks the better system though & I believe has recently completed trials with USN or USMC including operating in a GPS denied environment.


  11. “my belief is that Ajax simply won’t keep up with Boxer. So there is no doubt in my mind that a recce / direct fire support version of Boxer is needed”

    You’re talking about strategic and maintenance issues of course but my worry is actually the opposite, iirc from (I think) RUSI, the army thought Boxer had the edge over its competitors based on its better top attack protection, combined with its eschewing direct engagement you’d reach the conclusion that the army thinks artillery is going to be the main problem for strike.
    I think Boxer is going to be the worse off here due to its high profile and the percentage of it that is wheels, that’s before you get to the tracks over wheels argument.

    “I just wish we could replace FV432, Warrior and Ajax with a single platform”

    Your recent threads on renegotiating with GD for Griffin were interesting, if you take Ajax and challenger numbers in their entirety you could actually make some pretty chunky recce cavalry regiments to perform strike, but you’d have to abandon AI.
    In such an event I think there’d be a case for folding CLEP into Griffin for the savings (and I guess we’re going to be looking for those) and Warrior into Boxer.
    If UK MBT dropped to medium weight you’d have commonality for your MGS.
    Ajax in its current form must be dead in the water to other potential buyers at this point, GD might be amenable to renegotiation, I’d therefor (and for the sake of wishful thinking) also raise the prospect of a UK Scorpion program based on Foxhound and find cuts in MRVP.

    It’s generally at this point everyone rehashes ‘only an MBT can’
    I fully understand what only an MBT can…
    Well unless you were in Basra, I was in Basra and we had a tank and I’m not dead…


  12. As always, a great article.

    I think the British army should ask the Italians to lend us some centauro 2s and some Frecia EVOs (IFV, recon, anti tank and 120 auto mortar versions) for us to experiment with for the Strike concept. We could then decide what types of boxer we want to buy.


    Liked by 1 person

  13. I don’t think a traditional assault gun with the concept of strike.

    What does a traditional 90mm/105mm/120mm really bring that the 40mm CTA and missiles do not?

    Strike is about dispersed ops and the ability to find and fix targets etc. Will a traditional system allow this to be done better than what is envisioned at the moment?

    How about thinking laterally and look at something like the Draco system?

    I know the marketing leans to more of an anti aircraft system but in reality it is a multipurpose system with a good indirect and direct fire capability the same way as the naval version is.

    A vulcano round is being developed for the gun which uplifts it’s already decent capabilities which will give Strike some reach with a smaller log footprint than 155mm.

    Remember to not fixate on the anti air capability when considering the system.

    If we used it in the manner I’m advocating the sysytem will not be acquired with all the electronics that will be needed for the anti air role (although we could get some systems for this role if required)


    1. Six thoughts:

      1. With 73,000 MBTs in service cross the globe, in any peer conflict scenario we are going to need MBTs of our own. In an emergency, we would get MBTs to wherever needed using HETs, but I fully accept they are difficult to deploy. Mounting an MBT type gun on an 8×8 is a good compromise, but it won’t fight like an MBT (unless it wants to die very quickly).

      2. 227 is not an ideal number of MBTs. But it still allows us to generate a war fighting division that could credibly operate in partnership with other NATO members. (I cannot foresee any scenario where we would take-on a major peer adversary alone.) Besides, if we get rid of MBTs, we lose all credibility as Tier 1 Army.

      3. Lots of people think we should reconfigure artillery and antitank needs around just rockets and missiles. Fine for Day 1 of a campaign, but over time it rapidly becomes unaffordable. So 155 mm indirect fire artillery plus 105/ 120 mm direct fire weapons are essential.

      4. Many people say that 40 mm CT cannon can do everything that a 105 mm MGS can do. The problem is that 40 mm CT cannon ammunition is more expensive than 105 mm! The latest 105 mm APFSDS rounds are astonishingly good and quite a step-up from the 105 mm guns of the 1970s.

      5. If you build a wheeled brigade around cavalry regiments equipped with a Boxer 105/ 120 mm MGS and infantry battalions equipped with a Boxer IFV 30/ 35 mm cannon plus twin ATGMs, then you have all bases covered. The resulting brigade will be ideal for Strike missions, but would also be able fulfil an Armoured Infantry role. A single type of multi-role formation may offer more utility and better value than separate Strike and AI brigade types?

      6. Completely agree about the need for Air Defence. Adding twin pods with Starstreak HVM missiles to Boxer RCWS would be useful and easy. But we absolutely need a 35 mm GBAD cannon. My preference is Rheinmetall Revolver Mk3 cannon firing AHEAD ammunition. This is the only way we can address the drone issue. Secondly, we need more SkySabre GBAD. here I would use CAMM ER or ASTER instead of plain old CAMM.


      1. Sorry Nick but on this I fundamentally disagree:

        “With 73,000 MBT’s we are going to need MBT’s of our own”


        An MBT is not the only weapons system that can destroy or disable an MBT. The tank was invented to cross ground ground that was covered by machine guns, that infantry could not cross. In essence the tank IS your “assault gun” without getting into the semantics of the labels we use.

        So there maybe many valid reasons you want a 65 tonne MBT in service, but because potential adversaries have lots of tanks is not one of them. I understand the argument that even a DU or Tungsten APFSDS round maybe cheaper than a Brimstone for example, but now now add on the upgrade costs and through life costs for a fleet of 200 or less. How do you get them to where they are needed ? Invent British Forces Poland ??

        What else do we have that can kill tanks:
        1. Typhoon with Brimstone
        2. Apache with Brimstone
        3. Javelin
        4. Bog standard 155mm HE
        5. Exactor (Spike NLOS)

        What could we have that could kill tanks If we wanted to invest in them:
        1. 155mm BONUS or similar guided rounds
        2.120mm Mortars with STRIX IR guided rounds
        3. 127mm MLRS rockets with appropriate warheads (e.g. BONUS or SADARM)
        4. Javelin or MMP on RWS or turrets
        5. Javelin or MMP on UGV
        6. Ground launched Brimstone
        7. Gun launched ATGM for use from 105mm guns, 120mm turreted mortars etc
        8. Hyper velocity kinetic energy ATGM (need to restart dev)

        So there are many systems available that can have an anti-tank role, while also being able to do other things, just as an upgraded Challenger 3 would be able to do things other than destroying enemy tanks.

        The world view that the best way to defeat tanks is tanks is old hat, was possibly never true in the first place, and in this case does not withstand a cost benefit analysis for a cash strapped army.


      2. It’s okay to disagree, Jed!

        The problem with UK MBTs is the 75-tonne combat weight of Challenger 2. It is ridiculous. On that score, you are 100% right. This beast isn’t going to get anywhere quickly.

        Even Leopard 2A7V’s combat weight at 62.5 tonnes is pushing the envelope. But then it has 1,500 bhp. It is agile in a way that Challenger 2 is not, which is why I am such a fan.

        Japan’s Type-10 weighs around 50 tonnes and much smaller. Probably not as well protected as Challenger, but like Leopard 2, so much more nippy.

        What you seem to be touching upon is the mistaken UK belief that we can protect Challenger 2 against all threats. A single top attack missile would likely destroy it.

        With MBTs we need to go back to basics. I hope MGCS will weigh no more than 50 tonnes, but have high levels of protection. To do this, it will need to be smaller People are worried about tanks having crews of 3 instead of 4, but if Israel’s Carmel is indicator of things to come, maybe crews of 2 or none are the future.


      3. Five replies:
        1/2 Some of those 73,000 MBTs are in service with our allies. We gapped aircraft carriers for 10 years and the RN did not suddenly become a laughing stock. If the British Army brought 227 air defence systems to a European battlefield rather than CR2s we’d be making a far more significant contribution whether NATO militaries have understood yet or not. I would very much like to see BA back in the tank business but there is not enough money to do everything we need to do. We need to gap something to fill our gaping holes in ISTAR and air defence, EW, mortar, LR fires, ATGMs, bridging, engineering , other CSS and CS. Not to mention planned Strike brigades with fewer battalions than normal for peacetime, let alone wartime. We have troubled vehicle programs pulling the Army in opposite directions and block obsolescence approaching. Maybe this is not what a tier 1 army looks like. If we stop pretending, take the embarrassment on the chin and rebuild we can get credible for real again.

        3. British Army has 1 badly equipped warfighting division at best, we’ll run out of men and vehicles before we run out of money. Deterring the 30/60 day scenario should be the immediate focus, having the ability to fight a longer-term conflict comes later.

        4. Completely fine with getting 105mm but only after we can defend ourselves from the air, on the EM spectrum, find the enemy from 10s of km away and hit them with mortars, ATGMs and long range fires, plus supply all this and cross gaps. If Strike gets into a DF slugging match it has failed.

        5. You need far more ATGMs than that I think as well as all the othr enablers that we should be starting with

        6. Yes, 35mm w. AHEAD would be useful, Starstreak 2 goes out to 4km I think, LMM out to 8km I think, I’d like to see dispersed units also have a longer ranged SAM, to hit larger drones with bigger sensor ranges that might be searching at the edge of their sensor range and thus 20-40 km away.
        CAMM or CAMMER most probably.
        I agree about Sky Sabre, having a 120km radar and 25km missiles that are mounted on heavy trucks seems like a mismatch, good though it is that we have the capability.


      4. RE: , having a 120km radar and 25km missiles that are mounted on heavy trucks seems like a mismatch

        In a networked world/ defences that is not a mismatch at all. The 8km/ 4 km missiles or anything spitting out AHEAD with tremendous ROF will not have much chance to aim and fire in time if relying solely on their own sensors – except in a static point defence role.
        – on the move, situational (air) awareness will need to be provided to those “lower down” nodes that move with the troops/ units they attached to


      5. “A single type of multi-role formation may offer more utility and better value than separate Strike and AI brigade types?”

        For what it’s worth, I agree, specialisation will destroy the army, they’re finding places to hide cap badges and maintain full spectrum capability but the entirety just gets sliced or delayed.

        Case in point would be two AI and two strike brigades, rule of two gets you one of each as one will in fact be in bits on the floor.
        If you bought more Boxer with the Warrior money then true you get one brigade on rule of three but you’ve actually got two ready on the slim chance you need to field a division and all your fleet availability and costs improve.

        The fantasy fleet section:

        Combined Ajax/Challenger numbers would actually give you three super regiments of about twelve sabre squadrons each, plus supports. This could straddle the capability line between screening and armoured infantry.
        I’d go Blues and Royals on the Hussars, Lancers and Light Dragoons to get there.
        Boxer on the other hand could do mechanised infantry and much of the above.

        So if it were the Russians you’d have two of each to play with, across a combination of roles, or just the two in a comfortable rotation for anybody else.


      6. couple of comments on the actual vehicles that will enable all of these capabilities.

        As stated by many people across all the articles around Strike/HA/Artillery, the UK has a exceptionally wide range of capabilities and vehicles with little commonality across them and in relatively low volumes. Whilst this won’t change in the short term, we really need to get a grip on standardising the whole fleet to ensure we spend efficiently on common drivetrains and spend the money on the value add, the weapons load or cargo.

        I suggest we try, wherever possible to standardise on Boxer,Supacats, JLTV (Husky?) etc and I also like the idea of the UK getting a fairly substantial force of Viking replacements (Viking, Ripsaw, Bronco) and build these in a dedicated facility in the UK (perhaps Nissan Sunderland if it closes)

        My mantra is more vehicles with fewer people manning them to mitigate our land forces actual size. We need to stop following the US and become more asymmetrical in our doctrine to match up to those with far more people (as it is clear people are becoming our biggest constraint and we should get ahead of this now).

        To fund this I would sell off all non core assets – as the new assets become available and stop the following programmes immediately.

        1. Ajax – behind schedule and over budget – cancel and move funding to Boxer
        2. Warrior LEP – behind schedule and over budget – cancel and move funding to Boxer
        3. Challenger LEP -behind schedule and probably over budget – cancel and move funding to Boxer

        Note: we could use the good warriors for the proposed Ajax engineering and support variants, but again Boxer versions will be available.

        I do find boxer interesting, would it have come out the way it did if the UK were still involved? As we do have a habit of gold plating and then altering when reality sets in and the MOD realise they can’t afford it (usually between the 5-10 year mark).

        We spend too much time faffing around when there are products more than satisfactory for our needs and we are not innovative where we need to be, in the payloads.

        So whatever the requirement, we need to find a way of integrating this onto a sound platform such as Boxer or Supacat and get on with it.

        Sadly, this is part of the culture of the MOD and we really do need to look to the Australians and Nordic companies to understand how they are producing amazing kit on a far Lower budget than the UK (perhaps combined)


      1. Basically the 76mm round covers more bases.

        It’s designed to be used in an indirect manner as much as in a direct engagement as it’s a multi purpose naval round to begin with. This is not the case for a 105/120mm tank round, yes they could be used in an indirect role but why would I do that when i could lob tailor made 105/155mm artilery rounds for long range indirect use.

        The 76mm has a standard range of 15km which rises to >40km with guided ammo, coupled with a multiple fuze capability and a moving target capability with man in the loop via laser designation.

        If we consider that the Strike bde’s are meant to operate distributed and to find and fix targets via greater ISTAR etc then the 76mm is a good accompaniant to the doctrine.

        Capable of operating in the direct fire role (if required) and hitting targets 40km away with some precision, coupled with a quick kill chain and mobility with logistics similar to 105mm.

        You could equip the artillery with 76mm and MLRS and have a longer range more mobile capability.

        So 76mm brings long range precision strike, anti air and direct fire capability with decent enough armour pebnetration in one package as opposed to a 105/120mm tank gun.

        I know other countries have gone the traditional route of 105/120mm but our strike brigades are not going to operate in exactly the same way. If we had a wheeled gun system in service already then we would carry on using what we have already got, but we are starting from a clean slate with an evolving doctrine.


      2. Yes current 105mm round focus on the anti-armor mission but both the US and UK used to field 105mm arty, what’s to prevent those shells from being used in current L7 type guns. I believe the JCD 3105 has been developed for use in both direct and indirect fire roles. I like the dual use you are proposing, I just feel 105mm is a better weapon to do it with than 76mm.


      3. You don’t get the same range from 105mm in the indirect fire role.

        Range of 105mm arty is roughly 20km, will you get the same performance from a tank tube with the limited elevation available?

        The rate of fire is also alot quicker from the 76mm system, potentially you could halt and fire 12 rounds and be moving in a couple of minutes and those rounds would be travelling farther and impacting the area within less than a second of each other.

        As the vehicle is not meant to slug it out with heavy armour in the direct fire role then being able to lob rounds from 40km away on incoming heavy armour all the time being fed targeting info from other systems would be a better multi role benefit than the limited indirect role of the tank gun 105mm. 76mm is good enough for bunker busting and vehicles below MBT (although the SADF uses the 76mm for some anti armour capability against older soviet era MBT armour).

        Strike is about dispersion and fires I think the 76mm gives you the capability to maximise the doctrine.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. From what I’ve read the JCD 3105 turret is capable of elevating to 43 degrees which should allow it to be used in an secondary arty role of HE shells are carried. One of the things that I’m not sure about are if the cases and pressures are the same between an L7 type gun and a dedicated 105mm arty tube.

        Rooikat and its 76mm gun was deemed to be acceptable vs T-72As back in the early 90s, a lot has changed since then and I’m not sure if the 76mm would still be successful. Yes it’s still in service with the SANDF but I think they would happily upgrade it to 105mm if they had the resources to do so.


      5. If you get the elevation with 105mm you still only get 20ish km range as opposed to 40km with 76mm vulcano which is also guided.

        Is there any current guided 105mm precision guided rounds that can be designated to hit a moving target. It seems the money is getting spent on 155mm in that respect and naval calibers.

        The assault gun is not meant to slug it out with armour as it’s main role is fire support don’t being able to pen current MBT armour (does 105 punch through modern MBT armour?) is not a deal breaker in my opinion, it does however have the capability to pen almost all other veh in direct fire role so using it for a non peer adversary who may have access to the odd T55 etc would be sufficient. If we are facing a peer with heavy armour then destroying them at range indirectly would be the best option even with a larger caliber gun.

        The all round capability of the 76mm over the traditional tank guns in every aspect except the anti armour capability of 120mm is worth a look.

        The Africans would probably love to replace their 76 with 105 as it would allow commonality with their tank guns. They also use their veh in a more traditional cavalry role, the UK strike bde are not meant to operate in quite the same way needing reach to allow dispersed ops over a large frontage coupled with maneuver.

        It would be interesting to see what conclusions the French came to when they decided to stop using 90/105mm in favour of 40mm after decades of experience.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. If the 3105 turret continues to gain in popularity, what’s to prevent the development of a 105mm Vulcano?

        I agree that 76mm is extremely capable against everything up to an MBT, though I still think that 76mm is suboptimal for an MGS as I want to be able to confidently ambush most MBTs and give anything I might accidentally run into a bloody nose to deal with while I high tail it out of there. Not trying to convince you, as happy disagreement are good, just sharing my perspective.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I don’t think there is a commercial imperative to create a 105 vulcano road. Most western forces are moving away from 105 arty to 155 and the 105 tank gun has been supplanted by the 120.

        There are a few outliers like the UK but I can’t see us buying 105 vulcano when we need to upgrade our 155 systems first.

        I understand the reason for wanting 105 for armour penetration but is that still guaranteed today against more modern armour packages? Is this the reason the French went with 40mm and missiles?

        If I was ambushed and require to keep the enemy surpressed as I make my withdrawal then what better than the capability of another unit 15km away being able to support me with salvos of warheads at a high rate of fire while I’m knocking out 80 ends a minute in the direct fire role. With the rate of fire I’m producing need to penetrate the heavier armour to allow my escape? Not forgetting the rounds coming down in a ballistic arc from my supporting unit that can penetrate the thinner top armour.

        Strike is about seeing and shooting first, if I have a traditional tank gun then I will need to maneuver to within range of my gun, which will put me in range of his gun and sensors.

        I just don’t think adding a new logistics chain and weapon system in 105mm is worth the squeeze, I’d rather just keep to 40mm and missiles.

        Don’t worry it’s great to have these conversations and have ideas questioned.


      8. I think even if 76mm has it’s advantages it’s not available off the shelf in the land domain? The 105mm gives a now solution with hopefully the option to provide a future solutions there’s plenty of 105mm light guns and the UK at least for airborne seems to be settled on L118 for sometime. If someone in the MOD/army had the vision there’s a crossover there is for a Bonus type system. Also if cockerill/yugoimport had vision they would look at working with Leonardo or similar to improve falarick guidance options.


    2. Just seen this and will have a look it looks interesting – although looks more artillery than assault gun I guess you can ignore my land domain comment!


    3. I actually wonder rather than a 105mm vs 76mm whether it’s a 40mm vs 76mm argument? We need firepower I know they’d be another logistics chain but rather than a Rapidfire or 35 oerlikin system this would give a similar capability but also be able to perform a more general force protection role as well as even more IDF avaiIable to the brigade can’t imagine starstreak would be a difficult add if required?


      1. I don’t see it that way.

        40mm is a powerful enough system to deal with most targets and probably comes pretty close to matching 105mm which is why the French have decided to replace it with 40mm.

        40mm supports the infantry in a wider range of scenarios and is small enough to place on vehicle and still allow dismounts to be carried.

        As our medium force is not meant to slug it out with heavy armour but to provide a screening force for the Div whilst also being a credible threat I don’t see what advantage 105mm has over 40mm. To shoot at my target I need to be inside the opfors weapons envelope as well.

        Strike is about see first shoot first so I’m failing to see how a weapon system with similar ranges to my cannon and missiles is any benefit when the costs of introducing a new system are factored in.

        76mm gives you the capability to strike targets out to 40km whilst also being guided and at a decent rate of fire. It may not be able to punch through the frontal armour of a modern MBT in the direct role but can the same be quaranteed for 105mm? 120mm exists for a reason.

        Considering that strike is meant to work over a very large frontage (100km) the reach of 76mm trumps 105/120mm in terms of the doctrine in which strike will be deployed, logistics and types of rounds available. All of which are matured (with the possible exception of vulcano) and in use by several nations worldwide.

        It would probably fall into the domain of the artillery but I don’t see that as a problem as swingfire was an artillery system and so was the German STG during the second world war. It would probably be better off in the hands of the artillery as they will not be tempted to revert to classic cavalry ways of using the system.

        It could be used as an anti air system as well but I would try not to be temted to expect one system to do all. I would fore go adding the systems required to allow the anti air mission on the vehicles required to provide fire support so they cannot be over burdened.

        Rather if the requirement for 76mm is in the anti air role as well acquire systems with the capability and use in AD units for a small supporting capability added to the doctrine ie convoy protection.


      2. One of the things that is resonating with me across this discussion is that we (the UK not this group) are missing the opportunity to standardise across our services, which is a known problem, and we seem confused about our army’s actual role.

        some great comments on CTA, Otto 76, large guns and missile systems, what is interesting is that we are still buying small volumes of systems when we could standardise and get better value.

        The 76 Otto can go on batch 31 and Rivers for instance, so could the CTA.
        The Bofors 57 or 40 can go on Boxer
        Seaceptor ER – could be more widely adopted,
        and a large gun for any tanks or artillery could (in theory at least) be used on Type 26.

        We could even go as far as kitting out the Rivers and T31 to accept a number of Boxer modules if we really want to go down that route, but that is probably a stretch too far.

        Ultimately our munition stocks are low because we have too wide a range and not enough depth. We really need to standardise on a few platforms (whatever they are) and commit to making them the best they can be

        I also think we should look to strike to disperse forces in more capable vehicles – an example would be:

        Boxer with unmanned CTA40 and ATGW and 4 dismounts as opposed to the proposed Boxer MIV with 8-10 dismounts.

        Another example would be a small team of 4-6 marines in a Ripsaw for the northern flank.

        With a smaller combat force we need to make every asset count and change our doctrine to accommadate our lack of numbers with some innovative (not necessarily mega costly) kit


      3. Very much agree with your comments, Pacman27.

        France is looking to standardise CT 40×255 mm cannon as an AFV cannon (for both ground and air defence roles) and as naval cannon. Perhaps we should too?

        One of the problems with CT 40 regardless of actual performance is affordability. Its costs more than 105 mm ammunition. This is not acceptable and I really don’t see anyone else adopting it. As with Challenger 2’s rifled gun, we risk using an ammunition nature that has no commonality / standardisation with out NATO allies.

        Meanwhile, the USA is committed to 50×228 mm, which looks like it will comfortably exceed the performance of CT 40 mm. This gun plus ATGM would appear to be the ideal medium calibre solution. It should be a devastating air defence weapon too. I expect this to become a new NATO standard once in US Army service.

        As things stand, 30×173 mm is already a de facto NATO common calibre standard. It is also more than good enough to enough to neutralise IFVs and non-MBT combat vehicles. If we were to put a turret on Boxer, a 30 mm cannon might be the easiest and least expensive option. There are a number of good turrets that are immediately available: Rafael Samson 2, Kongsberg MCT30, Lance CRV, and Puma are the most obvious solutions. And, of course, this cannon is already in use in the Royal Navy.

        I like the idea of 57 mm for both ground and air defence roles. The 76 mm is another common standard. If we expect the Army to adopt Naval cannons, perhaps it might be reasonable to expect the Navy to standardise around 155 mm?


  14. @accattd

    I think that Sky Sabre’s radar range capability and the range of its missile capability are mismatched. Put Aster 15/30 on it as Nick suggested and yeah, then you can hold your missiles further back and have them on heavy trucks.
    With a 25km range clumsy CAMM trucks will need to be rather far forward if they are to contribute to the air defence of dispersed manoeuvre units, presumably we’d like them to support each other too.

    We need not only to consider the range of our weapons and sensors but consider those of the OPFOR. If they target and fire from long range (for them) will we ever be able to target and attrit the platform or only ever hope to defeat the munition at 25km or less?

    If it is intended that Sky Sabre defend only itself plus Brigade HQ and other nodes instead then dispersed units will need not only organic AA guns and/or missiles but organic radar and passive long-range sensors. Skysabre will get turned off regularly and will be targeted constantly, when it is turned off then without organic UAS and/or radar or passive sensing then dispersed Strike units measure their situational awareness by the range of sensors like the Thales Catherine camera on Ajax, assuming that arrives in time. That range is ‘several miles’. This is great for a recce vehicle but woefully inadequate for a brigade.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Corin, more good points, although we are at danger of turning the assault gun thread into an air defence thread. I think I may have sent Nick an article on this subject, which he kept in the pipeline, if not I will find it and refresh it.

      Again we would bring a lot more to our allies around the world, in many scenarios if we could field an Aster based anti-tactical ballistic missile capability. Once again we should look at what France and Italy manage to field in this regard.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I would argue that they are perfectly matched, as surely you want visibility of any potential target far in advance of your decision to engage.

      The advantages of having a longer range at which to make decisions is necessary for those decisions to be executed effectively and efficiently, including any handoffs of the target to another engagement system.

      Essentially the longer range radar gives systems and people time to analyse and decide and that is as essential a commodity as any in a battlefield scenario.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m supposed to be shutting up but… I love the AMB radar range, 4a wld be even better but I’d like to take full advantage of radar range and be able to fire a missile at a target 120km away from the radar (Aster 30).
        What we have is an area defence radar with a point defence missile.. good start but to exploit radar fully wld need forward deployed CAMM (up to 95km forward of radar.. preferable to fire longer ranged missile from 95km futher back?

        Liked by 1 person

  15. @ UK Land Power

    I thought that your “six thoughts” were excellent, as usual full of common sense and expert knowledge.

    However, I’d just like to question you on two points from that post:

    Point 5 “A single type of multi-role formation may offer more utility and better value than separate Strike and AI brigade types?” Don’t say that you are finally veering towards the Multi-Role Brigade idea of post-2010, or are we using the term “multi-role” in different senses?

    Point 6 “Secondly, we need more SkySabre GBAD. Here I would use CAMM ER or ASTER instead of plain old CAMM.”
    So would you, if you were in charge of creating the formations for Strike, make Camm/ Camm ER units an integral part of any Strike Brigade? After all, it has been said so many times that integration, cohesion etc., brought about mainly by training together, increase fighting efficiency considerably. Certainly preferable to “sticking bits on” to formations.


    1. Mike,

      Thank you for the kind, but undeserved words.

      If you have all-wheeled Strike Brigades with a Mobile Gin System like a Centauro / Type-16 with a 120 mm or 105 mm gun plus an IFV with a 30, 35, or 40 turret plus ATGMs, you have a multi-role formation that can do anything. Replicate the same assortment of weapons but on a tracked platform like CV90 or Puma plus an MBT like Leopard or Abrams, and you have all your bases covered.

      As for SkySabre, it should be a divisional asset not a brigade one as it just won’t move quickly enough. It is better held back as part of a layered GBAD. Instead, you would have GBAD detachments with a mix of 35 or 40 air defence cannons plus Starstreak HVM. These would be allocated to rifle company groups for local anti-drone and aerial defence tasks. My choice for the cannon would be the Oerlikon 35 Revolver cannon with AHEAD ammo.


      1. Very nice essay.

        I’m curious, do you have any further thoughts as to the French AMX-10 and ERC-90 being replaced with their Jaguar? Both the AMX10 and ERC90 mounted substantial guns, whilst also conferring excellent mobility (both tactical *and* strategic), reliability and flexibility, proven in numerous operations, from Desert Storm through recent operations in The Sahel; while Jaguar offers only a 40mm cannon, is only 3×3, and yet may very likely end up with more strain on the drivetrain than the “heavier” vehicles it is replacing.

        Did the French screw up? Was ERC90 and/or AMX10 a model to look to, in the sense of Radpanzer being ‘ahead of the times’?

        Thank you.


  16. As good as Aster 30 may be with missiles each weighing at around half a ton and nearly 5 metres in length it is certainly not a weapon to be easily manoeuvred on the battle field (let’s not forget that afloat it needs 7,000 – 8,000 tons worth of ship to support it). I would expect it to be used for air defence of static LCC/ ACC HQs, SPODs, APODs etc. rather than brigade, or even divisional, level formations.


    1. @pacman Yeah, good points, I guess with 120km range though it need not be so far forward and becomes a genuinely higher level asset.

      Russians have S-300 on wheels and wikipedia says the missiles for that weigh a metric ton so I don’t know, it’s clearly possible though because as Jed notes French and Italians have Aster as part of SAMP/T.

      @uklandpower good point about div asset, I like your GBAD detachment numbers too, chuck in Giraffe 4a in boxer for each brigade and we’ve got some redundancy and some decent capability.


      1. @ Corin,

        you’re right that France (air force) and Italy (army) have SAMP/T however I seriously doubt that they’ll be directly supporting the land component’s manoeuvre units, on the grand scheme it seems to be more in the relocateable category than the highly mobile one.. Rather a capability of that range would likey be taken under command of the air component commander (as in the counter-intuitive case of US army patriot batteries coming under operational control of the USAF commander on ops), the airspace management issues inherent in de-conflicting the MEZ of such a long range, high altitude weapon based ashore mean that’s pretty much inevitable.


      2. Giraffe 4a to me is a must not only AA but also counter-battery fire. Giraffe 1x looks a very useful bit of kit & could even fit on JLTV saving Boxers from local AD radar.

        Another consideration is Thales Ground Master 60 that can be used on the move they have also managed to squeeze it on a 4×4 although it looks cumbersome. Although I don’t believe it does counter-battery. But must be an advantage to use on the move for Strike brigades.


  17. @JT

    You may be right about how the French and Italians use SAMP/T, I don’t know, and your point about deconfliction is important to bear in mind with all this.

    That said, even if Aster equipped batteries are only relocatable, and not highly mobile, that is OK, assuming, say, six batteries per system as per SAMP/T.

    The advantage of having a ~120km range missile (Aster 30) is that it doesn’t need to keep up with dispersed combat units. With sufficient batteries to not only defend each other but also to provide a wide-area A2AD bubble they can be rolled forward with the brigade (or more likely back with it).

    The disadvantage of having a point-defence missile (CAMM) with ~25km range is that it can only defend the radar and a small circumference around itself. If we want to defend dispersed units from air attack and recce (and if we don’t they will all die without seeing another armoured vehicle) then we need to come up some new modes of operating to make the new Strike concept of employment actually survivable.

    I’d say that any *battlefield* radar better had be reasonably mobile to avoid attack, even if it is not designed to keep up with dispersed unit vehicles. Artec have I think done some integration of Giraffe 4a with Boxer and as a means of targeting dispersed Aster and CAMM batteries to protect a dispersed brigade or its battalions preferably with some overlapping redundancy that seems ideal.

    I would argue that dispersed operations lend themselves particularly well to the use of long-range passive sensors mounted on combat vehicles. Something like a compact retractable mast-mounted Vera NG. With enough of these dispersed around the brigade/division you could develop firing solutions without turning on active radar at all (though of course you would still need active).


  18. At the start of the article you show a picture of the Boxer MGS proposal with John Cockerill Defence 30105 105 mm gun turret. This turret/gun has a comparable GLATGM. Do you know how this ant tank missile perform against modern MBT? Assuming the performance is acceptable then the Boxer MGS John Cockerill Defence 30105 105 mm gun turret seems a decent option.


    1. I know very little about GLATGM. I assume it has a HEAT warhead with diameter of 105 mm. In contrast, most ATGMs have a HEAT warhead with a diameter of 84 mm or 96 mm. So, in essence, there is no reason why GLTAGM would not be as capable or even better able to neutralise existing MBT types, especially if it has a top attack capability. JCD’s work with 105 mm is impressive. I can think of few other plug-and-play 105 mm turret solutions that offer better performance at a better price.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the reply, I have read the following “ With its laser beam guidance system, the Falarick 105 is able to wipe out fixed & moving armoured targets, helicopters and fortifications at a distance of 5 kilometres. Its tandem hollow-charged warhead allows it to destroy targets under 550 mm of armour and behind ERA or their equivalent.” at
        It does not seem to be top attack, it’s not fire and forget and I wonder how it would perform against passive and kinetic defensive systems. But on the whole I like the concept of a mobile 105mm direct fire MGS with the secondary ability to defeat MBT’s if needed


  19. Mike R

    The. RPG29 has a 105mm tandem warhead, and it is created with penetrating an enhanced Challenger 2 in Iraq. In comparison a Javelin is a 127mm diameter, Spike MR 130mm and the newer French MMP is 140mm. Diameter of the charge is key for a HEAT shaped charge warhead.

    So the Falarick is absolutely not in the same league as a 120mm APFSDS, however it is another tool in the tool box, and the anti-helo capability is not to be sniffed at either. If the target could be “sparkled” by an off board system such as a UAV that might also provide an interesting capability.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jed, RE
      ” If the target could be “sparkled” by an off board system such as a UAV that might also provide an interesting capability.” that was the sort of idea when the US was working on AirMech and to make M1s airportable designed a light-weight turret with a 105 mm (which we might now see making a comeback on a different chassis).

      Namely the number of tanks (and Apaches) that could be flown in with the troops would necessarily be limited so the turret was to get huided rockets on its side and the targets for these could be lased not just by the tank crew, but infantry (ahead, and perhaps with a better view) or from the air (the Apaches saving their rockets/ missiles for targets in further depth).

      Liked by 1 person

    2. @Jedpc, thanks for the informative reply. I believe the Falarick was developed by the Ukrainians so had search for any feedback on its performances in the current/ongoing conflict there but did not find much.

      I would like to read about a VLS ATGM system,. You could integrate into different platforms, fire it from behind cover, around corners etc. Target from third party platforms or fire it into a general area with its own hunter mode. Put them into containers on trailers so every platoon/company gets a containerised battery of guided missiles towed behind whatever is handy or get DROPS to leave a load of containers hidden across an area with network links so they can be fired remotely. Imagine a hundred VLS containers hidden along/across the axis of advance, remotely linked, with Recce patrols, UAV’s, OP’s , radar etc locating targets and then launching a barrage of VLS ATGM at the targets. Counter battery fire would kill empty containers but not people, finding the containers would take resource and slow the advance down.

      Anyway I have rambled enough., maybe pie in the sky 🤔


      1. Well, you can buy “it” from Israel… ask for “Jumper”. RE

        “Put them into containers on trailers so every platoon/company gets a containerised battery of guided missiles towed behind whatever is handy or get DROPS to leave a load of containers hidden across an area with network links so they can be fired remotely. Imagine a hundred VLS containers hidden along/across the axis of advance, remotely linked, with Recce patrols, UAV’s, OP’s , radar etc locating targets and then launching a barrage of VLS ATGM at the targets. Counter battery fire would kill empty containers but not people, finding the containers would take resource and slow the advance down. “


  20. @Jedpc

    😊 Interesting article, who knows maybe Netfires will be resurrected. The article identifies AI as being the programs big challenge still to overcome. 10yrs on AI has hopefully matured to the point of making this concept workable.


    1. This is perhaps not the same, or can be part of it, but instead of 155 mm (now out to 40 mls)
      that has gone a long way (range extended, Bonus type of munitions available…) but at the sharp end, in a fast moving battle, an 8 km+ from the end of the last millennium (cancelled just because there were no adversaries in view against whom such an extension of kill range might have been needed):

      XM1007 Tank Extended Range munition (TERM); resurrect it?

      Liked by 1 person

  21. @accattd

    Jumper looks good. Not sure if it is as sophisticated as the USA Netfires system bit it does prove the concept of using VLS ATGM remotely from containers is viable.

    I imagine TERM being a cheaper alternative to spike ER type systems.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I must admit a lot of discussion since I got my battalions and companys muddled up .. Doh

    My ultimate concern for Strike is the use of dismounted infantry as the main weapon. I understand they can actually hold ground and clear an area and get to places vehicles can’t reach, so provide an important element.

    Videos show urban training being carried out in Strike exercises. Once infantry dismount and start engaging at short range there is no guarantee they can easily disengage is there?

    Whilst they become embroiled there’s the possibility other enemy units get involved, at which point do the troops get left behind or does the brigade formations get stuck in a slugging match?

    So to say IDF & long range fires are more important is not necessarily true both DF & IDF have their place. AD is also important in fact it needs multi spectral capabilities.

    Engagement surely needs to quick in and out & to me having a 105mm that can destroy a house or emplacement with one round immediately is important in aiding to do this? At the same time if pairing with a UAV other 105s could provide IDF to stop reinforcements. All this capability in the unit doing the fighting especially if comms go down to the supporting elements just seems a good capability to have. Its just not as “sexy” as missiles?


    1. Missiles might be sexy and guns might be good for “everything”.

      However, as for
      ” imagine TERM being a cheaper alternative to spike ER type systems”
      Spike ER is just another member of the Spike family, a heavy beast (so heavy that you can use it against ships) whereas I think the comment was referring to Spike NLOS which goes one up and needs a dedicated tank (in IDF) or as the UK has it, a trailer … that is a tad easier to airlift by Merlin/ Chinook to the area where it might be needed.

      WHEREAS if we had TERM resurrected, then a mobile gun system, without all the trappings of an MBT could become more potent (as long as it carried a 120 mm) than an MBT in all other scenarios than tank-to-tank within visual range (WVR).
      – that will give bean counters something to chew on

      Liked by 1 person

      1. @accaddt

        You make good points.

        Re: TERM being cheaper, what I should have said is ‘cheaper to use TERM from a tank we already have, rather than buy additional Extractor systems’

        That said, and as said by you. Extractor is a lot easier to transport over distance and faster moving than CR2 in most situations.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. Looks a great capability its a pity the UK seems to have completely backed out of looking at innovative weapons and solutions in the ground domain. Hopefully RBSL, supacat & GDLS are going to be used in such ways that will allow UK PLC to consider vehicle and weapons solutions


  24. As per Jed
    “the US Army called it Net Fires , it was cancelled in 2010:
    it was not only the army that suffered. The LCS squadrons, operating close to coastline (in the “littoral”) were meant to be able to put company-sized USMC units ashore and support them with fires (and helicopters)
    … one these fires were snuffed out, the 57mm wasn’t really up to that job

    And that was meant to be the new operating concept, for the post- Cold War world.

    Now, imagine what kind of force multiplier with our (few in number) Ajax ground surveillance vehicles could be, with prepositioned NetFires units that sustain themselves as long as the batteries last.


    1. These lines are interesting” CT40 is one of the most capable medium calibre armaments available, and overmatches essentially any threat vehicle’s armour short of contemporary MBTs ” and “Studies conducted by the UK’s dstl concluded that existing capabilities around the CT40 gun overmatch peer threat armour” this doesn’t point to 140mm RHA unless someone is telling porkies? I wonder where they got their info?


  25. CT40 is a completely different system with case telescopic rounds 40mm rounds take 35% less space and it is supposedly considerably more powerful than Bofors. They seem to be quoting/referencing DSTL directly. It’s interesting that they seem to hint that you could achieve a mobility kill of a T90m with CT40 to me that’s wishful thinking.

    Just to add just watched YouTube video on arronlee33 channel & there is a CMI defence video showing CMI missile solutions this includes falarick 105mm using ALOS which is an indirect fire mode it seems to have a semi top attack approach not sure how it works as they don’t show any other party involved in designation?


    1. Yes, the CT40 round is a 255x65mm cylinder where as 40mm Bofors is of the more traditional non-telescoped design. What I was trying to say was that, until you pointed out differently, I had thought 40mm Bofors and CT40 were equal when it came to to energy they produced and therefore, in essence, the same in ballistically and in capability. Thanks for correction.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. RE: from what I’ve read it is just under
      “rounds take 35% less space and it is supposedly considerably more powerful than Bofors.”
      rather than above, but still a third more powerful because there is simply more fire power available (before replenishment). The latter measure is more important than the anti-armour performance, not to mention that the ergonomics within the turret are much improved when the inside is not cut into two by the much intruding gun.


      1. I am not sure what you mean but the CT40 has a significant velocity advantage than the Bofors? Meaning if HE tends to be the heavier round possible Bofors projectile is 0.6kg at 1000m/s vs CT40 0.55kg at 1500(+)m/s means energy would be significantly larger?


    3. Hi Simon,

      Do you know how much cta ammo AJAX/Warrior will carry and how this compares to the 30mm ammo carried by Warrior?



      1. Sorry, just seen this CT40 will be a massive improvement on 30mm RARDEN for various reasons. In terms of ammo CT40 will be preloaded with approx 70 40x255mm rounds weight 1.8 to 2.2kg
        RARDEN rounds are loaded by hand in 3 round clips with 6 rounds in the magazine – round size is 30×170mm number of rounds carried is unclear from public sources as is exact weight. A weight of a 30mm round around 0.7kg
        To equal 40mm magazine would need 24 3 round clips carrying my guess is this would be a bit of a challenge in the smaller legacy turret?
        Either way the likelihood of needing more than 70 rounds before crew need a rest & replenish their own ammo etc. Is probably quite low.
        I am guessing if really needed reload could happen in the field if not in direct combat with necessary ammo carrying support vehicle. Unsure if there’s any option to carry more ammo elsewhere but from comments so far unlikely.


  26. One last comment on the cockerill 105mm in brochure I found on scribd they state there is 120% pressure growth on army recognition they seem to qualify this as a further 20% so penetration could exceed over 660mm RHA assuming a direct correlation


    1. Hi Simon, while your CTAI numbers are bang on, try the comparison with
      870g with 1030 initial velocity
      … that’s just the rough metric, penetration at the other end is another science (but all these players are well versed in it; as for how to improve performance, and against what type of materials).

      Liked by 1 person

  27. @UK Land Power

    1) China reported to have deployed its Type 15 light tanks to Indian border ( ). Equipment wise is it more an MBT, an assault gun or a tank destroyer?

    2) Also note that Patria reported to be supplying its 120mm Nemo mortar to the US Army ( ) which is reported to have a direct fire mode. Could it therefore be used as an assault gun/ tank destroyer, big round admittedly but presumably less muzzle velocity (& thus higher trajectory) that conventional 105mm/ 120mm guns so to what extent could it penetrate modern armour/ be used against quickly traversing targets?


  28. As for T-15 (err, the Chinese T-15) India saw this coming and about 5 yrs back put out a tender for 300 mountain tanks
    … I don’t think they found any


  29. Great points made, a 120mm boxer is urgently needed.
    Missiles are great but DAS are getting better. The recce regts, Lt Cav are out gunned and strike will arive with its MIVs and Ajax 3 days behind facing even 70 yeat old MBT . T 55 it will not end well
    AH will have to cope with AD and En Air cover, and lets not think about bad weather.


  30. Great article!! It seems clear recent war experience shows the need of big guns that can be deployed fast and close to forward troops, such as Stryker MGS. However, it became clear that putting such a gun in a less-than suitable hull resulted in poor field performance (electronics crashing due to gun’s recoil, only 18 rounds available…). The doubt is whether to go for a 105 or 120mm. IMHO, 105mm is the way to go for several reasons:
    – MBTs are becoming super-expensive, and thus less numerous. Also they become heavier, and thus their deployment and mobility is hampered. As a result, facing a modern MBT fill be infrequent. In other words, most targets won’t be highly armored MBTs.
    – A programmable airburst 105 mm round could be easily developed. Such a round would be very helpful to disable optics and even active protections systems (like Trophy or Arena) of an enemy MBT. Once the MBT is maimed, the tank-killer can either use a gun-launched missile able to attack from the top or try to outmaneuver the maimed MBT and get into a firing position where it can use 105 rounds. Moreover, such an airburst round could be useful to stop a swarm of fighters in bikes in an asymmetric scenario, or even a drone.
    – Newer tanks like T14 are prompting the development of 125mm guns, so the idea of using a 120mm gun for frontally attacking MBTs may already be outdated. Of course, higher pressure 120mm rounds can be developed, but this could stretch the recoil-absorbing capacity of a light vehicle to the limit (hello Stryker MGS?).
    – Last but not least, a 105mm gun would make the overall vehicle less top heavy. Yes, skilled drivers can deal with top-heavy vehicles, but same skilled driver with a bottom-heavy vehicle will have better mobility… and mobility is the ultimate reason for a light armored vehicle with a big gun! Also, let’s not forget war leads to sleep deprivation, severe stress and fatigue. Fine motor skills can get impaired even in the most skilled drivers. Let’s make it easy for them!

    What are your thoughts?


    1. @George
      I am a big proponent of the JCD 105mm for several reasons
      1. Is that it has its own HP APFSD round that is in continuing development by the turret manufacturer
      2. It has an indirect fire capability of circa 10km & this is already integrated with UAVs directly controlled by the turret operator giving an overwatch capability (given dispersed nature of STRIKE I think this is particularly useful) also a possible alternative AT strategy Vs 120mm (which is not the highly capable L55) trying to use brute force
      3. The system is ready to go & in active production already integrated on 8×8 APCs (Inc now Boxer) & designed as such
      4. The user base is growing it’s NATO compliant & the US & others continue to use & develop the calibre
      5. It has a GLATGM capability (whilst not most sophisticated could be developed MBDA/Thales perhaps) it gives anti-helicopter & potential for 3rd party designation as well a 5km flick of the switch anti tank engagement
      6. The flexibility & large selection of the various ammunition available Elbit already provide a programmable Airburst Round, they also have the SWORD APFSDS, I-HEAT, Smoke, STUN and to please the British Army HESH! This is in addition to the MECAR 1060cv round with current velocity 1620m/s, canister & smoke.
      7. There are lots of developments in the Artillery world both land & sea that are easily scalable ALAMO for 57mm, vulcano/HVP
      8. The UK has 105mm artillery in service & any IDF development could be transferrable. Systems such as GM Hawkeye also look to keep 105mm relevant
      9. The turret has the option for up to 4 ATGMS just in case the main gun is not enough
      10. Organic heavy, timely & cost effective support to troops will be key in ensuring any firefights are brief.
      In short to me it gives a very flexible & impressive package with room for growth


      1. Hi Simon, I knew about Elbit’s SWORD (M428) but not about them having a programmable airburst round in 105mm. Do you know if that’s an evolution of their M110 round? Or maybe base models of M110 are already programmable?

        I completely agree with your points. To me, big MBTs could become a modern “Maginot line” of sorts, powerful but not where the action is: Maginot couldn’t be moved, big MBTs can, but they will arrive late and in low numbers. I’m afraid if Russia ever decided to invade Baltic states, war would be over by the time MBTs from around Europe get there in numbers. Not saying to completely scrap them, but more mobile yet powerful packages are needed.

        Your comments about indirect fire support also bring another important point: aircraft are becoming so expensive, and the only truly CAS-enabled aircraft (A-10) has no replacement. Drones are cheaper, but most of them cannot carry a significant weapons payload. In other words, the Army has to “provide its own CAS”, so to speak. Intermediate rounds such as 105mm would be suited that big 155mm for rapid CAS, to minimize risk of harming own troops IMHO. So I totally agree with your point: I too see big potential for a 105mm MGS that can provide indirect fire support with high mobility.


    2. My bad, I meant T-14 is prompting the development of 130mm guns (e.g Rh-120), not of 125mm ones… the later have existed for quite a while in Russian tanks


      1. Hi George,
        The M110 is programmable at least according to Elbit’s brochure. The indirect fire plus DF kinetic energy available Vs a 120mm mortar. Seal it for me really. It’s powerful enough for most structures in DF & elevation also assists in urban areas. JCD have integrated UAV pairing but it doesn’t have to be a UAV why not UGV or CH3? In the digital age a commander could direct a 105mm hit say on bunker whilst his own gunner engages an enemy MBT?
        Equally in support it could support not only its own immediate dismounts (in its section) but other units whether visible or not.
        There isn’t only SWORD but. MECARS 1060cv developed for JC 105mm plus there’s a possible growth so all though not it’s main mission AT is possible & of course theres HESH as well, smoke, Stun etc. Also Israeli LAHAT can be used NLOS, but why not develop our own or use something similar to PGK any development could be shared with the light gun & potentially it’s replacement. Looking at LEO G7 105mm it claims greater suppression than 155mm but 8x less logistics.


  31. Coming back to this in light of recent events I would like to ask the following questions

    1. Would a 120mm CTA round and gun give a similar performance increase as the 40mm round

    2. Can we create a tyre with a special tread that we could then fix tracks to.

    3. would this be possible and useful or even VFM

    Lastly why don’t we move to 4 inf dismounts per vehicle and buy the merkava for Heavy and CV90s for medium with the bronco and ripsaw m2 tank for arctic use

    For wheels it’s easier I think

    Jaguar, Boxer, JTLV and Polaris all kitted out with variants and fires.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pacman27,

      In answer to your questions:

      1. I’m sure it would be possible to package increased performance in a 120 mm CTA cannon. In fact, France is already developing a 140 mm CTA round called ASCALON, which promises to provide exceptional lethality in a very compact package. We’ll have to wait until we see it fire to assess its potential. For the moment, I do not see the need to go above 120 mm. I am also sceptical about CTA ammunition, due to barrel sealing and barrel wear issues.

      2. In time, I believe wheeled AFVs will completely replace tracked ones. Tyres will become wider with better CTIS technology. The key driver of change will be each wheel station having its own electric motor as electric drives become more commonplace. I don’t expect military vehicle drivelines to change before we have commercial trucks with viable EV drivelines. When power goes independently to each wheel, this will ensure extraordinary levels of grip in all conditions. Could we develop a tyre capable of supporting a track? Not really. It would need to be a smooth tyre to minimise friction as the track goes round the tyre, but 8×8 tyres have complex tread patterns to maximise performance.

      3. I see no practical advantage or VFM argument.

      4. You need infantry mass on the ground. We’ve already reduced section numbers carried from 8 to 6 dismounts with some IFVs, so reducing further to 4 would cut mass further – not something I would advocate. CV90 is a useful IFV option that is widely used and thoroughly proven. With Merkava you would have both tank and IFv platforms. There is a separate IFV version, the Namer, which carries a full squad.


  32. Now a 6×6-wheeled “105mm direct fire armored gun” will be going to Ukraine, in the form of French AMX-10RC. Granted, these were designed in the 70’s, gun is low pressure & not stabilized (but commander sight is), does not have ATGMs like Lahat or Falarick…

    But IMHO I think it is close enough to the assault gun concept discused herein (gun caliber, tactical & operational mobility, wheels). Let’s see how it performs in a real conflict!


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