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World-Wide Land Combat Systems

Infantry-based forces are common throughout the world. These forces have some armor but rely on dismounted or motorized infantry for the bulk of their combat power. At the most, they conduct set-piece operations, integrating arms at the tactical level. None of these forces is capable of meeting the most advanced armies on an even footing in conventional battle. In many respects, the infantry-based Opposing Force (OPFOR) resembles the armies of World War I, with more lethal weaponry.

Small-to-medium infantry forces have marginal integration capability (ability to conduct tactical-level combat actions with limited fire support) or basic integration capability (ability to conduct battalion-level tactical combined arms actions). In terms of technology, both groups import most of their systems. Large infantry forces can conduct extensive set-piece operations over broad frontages. However, they are capable of projecting military power only within their region. The key technologies that can allow this are self-propelled artillery and offensive chemical and biological warfare. A country with large infantry forces can have extensive, basic weapons industries, or it may still import most systems. Although this larger force may have improved communications, the OPFOR must rely on outside states for use of communications satellites. When opposed by an adversary of similar capabilities, an infantry-based OPFOR can conduct conventional, force-oriented combat. However, when faced with a large, technologically advanced army, it is likely to attempt to redefine the terms of conflict and pursue its aims through terrorism, insurgency, or partisan warfare. In the case of intervention by an external power or coalition, this strategy aims to undermine the enemy's will to continue the conflict without the necessity of defeating his main forces on the battlefield.

The infantry-based OPFOR differs from the armor- and mechanized-based OPFOR primarily in terms of size, technological level, and the ability to integrate arms into operations. In the armor- and mechanized-based OPFOR, the ground forces are still the largest component. Compared to the infantry-based OPFOR, these ground forces have more standing divisions or brigades. The armor- and mechanized-based OPFOR can conduct a strategic operation involving the combined forces in a theater.

Armor- and mechanized-based forces are the norm throughout the industrialized world. Such armies normally mount at least 40 percent of their forces in armored vehicles. They tend to modernize selected systems to match the best systems deployed by their neighbors. In terms of equipment and size, they range from small forces fielding outmoded equipment through large, capable forces fielding state-of-the-art weapons. For the most part, they still base their tactics and doctrine on World War II, either their own experience or that of their arms/doctrine suppliers. Many of these nations produce and export weapons and technology up through state-of-the-art-systems. Significant technologies that mark this class are in fire support and target acquisition.

Small-to-medium armor- and mechanized-based forces cover a wide range of technology and capability, from developing states through small, professional armies. Large armor- and mechanized-based forces often have more sophisticated weaponry: they field self-propelled artillery and multiple rocket launchers, artillery-delivered high-precision munitions, medium-to-heavy tanks, and limited thermal capability. Joint operations are the norm in the more advanced states. These states have the logistics and command structures necessary to conduct continuous operations. Some armor- and mechanized-based forces are capable of sustained power-projection operations.

The high-technology end of the armor- and mechanized-based OPFOR approaches the level termed complex, adaptive forces. From developed nations, these most technically and tactically advanced forces can choose quality over quantity. As they modernize, they can reduce in size and still maintain a high level of military capability. These forces normally have a complex structure, with more specialized units operating highly sophisticated equipment. They are also capable of adapting to dynamic situations and seizing opportunities on the battlefield. However, such a force is exceedingly expensive to equip, train, and maintain.

Battle tanks serve as the principal weapon system of ground-force tank and other armoured formations. Such armoured vehicles are self-propelled armoured fighting vehicle, capable of heavy firepower, primarily of a high muzzle velocity direct fire main gun necessary to engage armoured and other targets, with high cross-country mobility, with a high level of self-protection, and which is not designed and equipped primarily to transport combat troops. Battle tanks are tracked armoured fighting vehicles which weigh at least 16.5 metric tonnes unladen weight and which are armed with a 360-degree traverse gun of at least 75 millimetres calibre.

Armoured combat vehicles are self-propelled vehicles with armoured protection and cross-country capability. Armoured combat vehicles include armoured personnel carriers, armoured infantry fighting vehicles and heavy armament combat vehicles. Artillery includes large calibre systems capable of engaging ground targets by delivering primarily indirect fire. Such artillery systems provide the essential indirect fire support to combined arms formations. Large calibre artillery systems are guns, howitzers, artillery pieces combining the characteristics of guns and howitzers, mortars and multiple launch rocket systems with a calibre of 100 millimetres and above.

Each ground vehicle consists of several subsystems (e.g., power and drive train, electronics, weapons, sensors), which must be integrated into a full-up system. The major technical challenge is to provide the user with systems that can attain an effective balance between increased fighting capability, enhanced survivability, and improved deployability while meeting cost, manufacturing, and reliability / maintainability goals. The goal is to develop lighter, more lethal, and survivable ground vehicles.

The use of composite and titanium-based materials will make future combat vehicles lighter, more easily deployed, versatile, and survivable. These technologies are key to optimizing and exploiting structural integrity, durability, ballistic protection, repairability, and signature reduction. Future vehicle chassis and turrets will be fabricated to integrate advanced designs using a combination of lightweight structures and modular armor packages. Using composite materials or titanium as the primary structure in a combat vehicle is new and there are significant technical challenges. Issues related to composite materials include durability, producibility, and repairability. The primary issue for titanium is its high cost, which has so far kept it from being used on any U.S. combat vehicles.

The goal of integrated survivability is to protect ground vehicles from a proliferation of advanced threats. Hit avoidance, detection avoidance, penetration avoidance, and damage reduction technologies are critical to achieving overall vehicle survivability. Hit avoidance technologies confuse or physically affect incoming threats. ECM and improved sensors are the key elements. Detection avoidance revolves around management of visual, thermal, radar, acoustic, seismic, and dust signatures. Armor is the major element in penetration avoidance, and damage reduction deals with firefighting agents and compartmentalization of ammunition and fuel. Advances in penetration avoidance center on producing efficient armors with reduced weight, space, and cost.

Mobility focuses on the "move" function of tracked and wheeled land combat vehicles. Mobility components include suspension, tracks, wheels, engine, transmission, and fuels and lubricants. Technologies of interest include active noise and vibration control to increase cross-country performance; quiet, lightweight band track; and advanced high-output diesel, turbine engines, and electric drives. Another major area of interest is providing increased electrical power in smaller, lighter packages. Electrical power is shared among propulsion, survivability, lethality, and auxiliary systems. Energy management is an important factor. Electric and hybrid drive systems are also being developed. Finally, to reduce operation and support costs, the number and types of fuels and lubricants must be reduced.

The major players in ground vehicle systems integration and design are the U.K., France, Germany, Israel, Japan, and Russia, all of whom have a long history of developing and manufacturing military armored systems including main battle tanks. Switzerland also has a capability in armored vehicles. These countries have strong capabilities in vehicle chassis and turret technologies. Of these, Germany continues to be one of the few world leaders in combat vehicle R&D in all weight classes. They develop and field wheeled combat vehicles that meet or exceed tracked vehicle capabilities. Mercedes design and prototyping has provided the basis for a German-French cooperative effort in medium-weight armored vehicles GTK), and their main battle tank development and prototyping continues beyond Leopard 2 block improvements. In addition, the EGS heavy combat vehicle technology demonstrator, developed by Krauss Maffei with firms such as Pietsch, Diehl, MTU, and a host of others incorporates state-of-the-art construction and materials fabrication technology with a focus on signature management.

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Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Friday, June 18, 1999 8:19:18 AM