On 27 January 2006 the Belgian government announced it would acquire up to 242 Mowag 8 x 8 Piranha IIIC vehicles in a project worth over 500 million [euro]. Five months later the Czech Minister of Defence signed a 821 million [euro] contract with Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug for 199 8 x 8 Pandur IIs with an option for another 35. In October the Dutch government announced its intention to remain with the Artec Boxer programme and a joint Dutch-German production contract was signed just before Armada went to press. In both Belgium and the Czech Republic the selected wheeled vehicles will form the basis of those countries" armoured fighting vehicle fleets, while in the Netherlands the Boxer will support the army's new BAE Systems Hagglunds tracked CV9035s.
While some armies are switching to all-wheeled fleets for either doctrinal or economic reasons others are electing to maintain a mixed fleet. The Hellenic Army confirmed at Defendory in October its intention to buy up to 291 tracked infantry fighting vehicles worth up to 1.7 billion [euro] to operate in conjunction with its 353 Leopard 2A4 and 2A6 tanks. Competition is certain to be fierce for one of the few tracked vehicle requirements in Europe for the foreseeable future. The BAE Systems Hagglunds CV90, the Kurgan BMP-3, the PSM Puma and the Steyr-Daimler-Puch Ulan are all contenders. However, immediate priority is being given to the acquisition of 84 armoured personnel carriers for peacekeeping operations.
The real news in the field over the past twelve months has not been the long running, often spurious, debate about the relative merits of wheels and tracks, each have their place in modern military operations, but how the US-led 'Global War on Terror' is shaping requirements. Coalition vehicles designed for high intensity combat at long ranges are being attacked at short range, often in crowded urban environments by volleys of cheap rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices (IED). Vehicles which offer protection against such threats are being procured as urgent operational requirements by the British, Canadian, Dutch, US and other armies committed to that battle. The British Ministry of Defence, for example, announced on 24 July a vehicle package to provide better protection for its forces in Afghanistan and Iraq: the acquisition of 86 Force Protection Cougar H 6 x 6 personnel carriers, the purchase of another 66 Pinzgauer Vector 6 x 6 'Protected Patrol Vehicles' and the modernisation of a further 70 tracked FV430-series vehicles with a new powerpack and improved protection. This twin-track approach of providing enhanced protection for in-service vehicles and the acquisition of armoured vehicles built to provide a high level of protection against mines and IEDs is typical of the approach adopted by many countries.
In this supplement Armada will concentrate on both wheeled and tracked vehicles primarily in the 10 to 30-tonne range that have recently been the object of a launch or substantial upgrade. The status of the American Future Combat System, for its part, has been revisited in Armada International's current issue, 1/2007, in the AUSA show report.
Follow-on Piranha Orders
No modern wheeled armoured vehicle is used more extensively or has seen more combat than the Piranha developed by Mowag of Switzerland, now part of General Dynamics European Land Combat Systems.
The Piranha received the LAV name by which it is widely known when the US Marine Corps selected the 8 x 8 Piranha I for its Light Armored Vehicle project in 1981. The now GDLS--Canada factory in London, Ontario produced 758 vehicles from 1983 to 1988. These have seen extensive use most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq and the US Marine Corps is funding a service life extension programme to keep them operating for another 20 years by improving sustainability and reliability. In February 2006 GDLS received orders worth $178.3 million to provide 130 new LAV-A2s in various configurations for the Marine Corps and provide 394 electric turret drives for existing cars. Other improvements to the LAV-A2, besides the turret drive, include an improved suspension, an automatic fire suppression system and fittings for enhanced armour and for crew protection. The vehicles are scheduled for delivery between July 2007 and July 2008.
In October the Marine Corps boosted the contract value to $ 317 million with a production order for a further 151 LAV-A2s to be delivered by December 2008. Separate projects are underway to modernise the earlier LAVs by installing an Improved Thermal Sight System, enhancing the lethality of the M242 25 mm cannon of the LAV-25 variant and upgrading 50 command and control vehicles. The marines are also planning to install the Delco LAV-25 'saddlebag' Tow turret on 95 anti-tank variants and replace the 81 mm mortar in 50 mortar vehicles with the same 120 mm rifled mortars used in the Expeditionary Fire Support System.
The Saudi Arabian National Guard (Sang) received 1117 8 x 8 LAV Is in twelve variants under a US Foreign Military Sales order. These included 73 vehicles mounting the BAE Systems 120 mm Armoured Mortar System and 130 assault guns fitted with the CMI Defence CTS two-person turret armed with the Cockerill Mk 8 90 mm gun. GDLS is poised to repeat this success following a Sang request to purchase 724 LAVs in ten different variants.
GDLS--Canada is in the final stage of a contract to produce 651 LAV IIIs for the Canadian Army. The last of 33 Tow Under Armour vehicles was delivered in May 2006, and by July 2007 deliveries should be complete of 39 engineer vehicles equipped with a remote weapon station, dozer blade, hydraulic tool system and provision for a safe lane marking system. The service cancelled plans to buy 66 Stryker MGS vehicles in favour of retaining the Leopard C2 tank.
In August 2004 the Australian Army received the last of 144 LAV II vehicles ordered under Phase 3 of the Australian LAV (Aslav) project, and under a 2004 contract GDLS--Australia upgraded the 113 Phase 2 Aslavs, delivered between 1995 and 1997, to match Phase 3 vehicles. The upgrades include a new turret electric drive, enhanced thermal sight with laser rangefinder and an improved fire control system for the 25 mm turrets, the integration of a GPS-based navigation system and an enhanced suspension system. The New Zealand Army now operates 105 LAV IIIs, the last delivered in November 2004, allowing the service to deploy and sustain an NZLAV battalion.
On 27 January 2006 the Belgian government announced it would acquire up to 242 Mowag 8 x 8 Piranha IIIC vehicles in seven variants in a project worth over 800 million [euro] including logistics support. These will replace the army's fleets of tracked AIFVs, M113s and Leopard 1A5BE tanks. Delivery of the first 138 vehicles will occur from 2007 to 2012, with additional options for 81 and 23 vehicles for delivery from 2012 to 2015. If all options are exercised the service will receive: 99 APCs with the FN Herstal Arrows 12.7 mm overhead weapon station, 32 APCs armed with the Elbit 30 mm overhead weapon station, 40 direct-fire vehicles fitted with the CMI 90 mm turret, 24 command vehicles, 18 engineer vehicles, 17 recovery and repair vehicles and 12 ambulances. Mowag will supply the initial vehicles and driveline, suspension and other components for vehicle assembly being conducted at the facilities of Jonckheere and CMI in Belgium. The same month the Irish Department of Defence signed a 30 million [euro] contract for 15 Piranha IIIH vehicles to add to 65 already in service. Nine APCs will be equipped with the 12.7 mm Kongsberg Remote Weapon Station and six vehicles will be fitted with an Oto Melara 30 mm gun turret.
Mowag had already received Piranha III orders from Denmark (91 8 x 8 vehicles in APC and ambulance configurations), Spain (18 8 x 8 vehicles for the marines including APCs fitted with the Cadillac Gage 40mm/12.7mm turret) and Switzerland (36 radio access point vehicles). The Swiss Army already operates 310 6 x 6 Piranha I Tow-armed antitank vehicles and 515 8 x 8 Piranha II APCs with the Rheinmetall single crew turret armed with an M2 12.7 mm heavy machine gun. Sweden is the only customer for the 10 x 10 Piranha Armoured Combat Vehicle, with six vehicles used in the command post role and seven fitted with an Ericsson mast-mounted air defence radar.
Mowag completed the first prototype of the larger Piranha IV in 2001 and the second in 2004. Described as an IFV rather than an APC, the new vehicle offers greater internal volume, higher payload, better armour protection and improved mobility compared to the Piranha III. The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force could be the launch customer for the Piranha IV as Komatsu, which has a licence to manufacture the vehicle in Japan, is scheduled to complete a prototype modified to the army's specifications in 2007. An IFV variant is expected to be armed with an externally-mounted medium-calibre cannon. Other versions planned include APC, mortar, anti-tank, air defence, command and control, reconnaissance and self-propelled howitzer. BAE Systems has the rights to manufacture the Piranha IV and is looking for customers in the Middle East. Alvis, now part of BAE Systems, produced more than 320 Piranha II and III vehicles for Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
A Piranha V prototype, currently being built at Mowag in Kreuzlingen, will be officially rolled out on 8 September 2007. Preliminary data on this new design can be seen on our three page fold-out table in the centre of this supplement.
Final Stryker Variant
At Fort Lewis, Washington the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, one of seven US Army brigades that are being equipping with the General Dynamics Land Systems 8 x 8 Stryker (LAV III) family, is preparing for another rotation to Iraq in mid-year. Following the delivery of its 27 Stryker Mobile Gun System (MGS) vehicles it will be the first Stryker brigade to deploy...