There is growing recognition that protecting soldiers while providing tactical mobility under fire is critical to battlefield success not only in conventional conflicts but also in counter-insurgency, security operations, peace enforcement and peace keeping.
This recognition has generated a renewed emphasis on Armoured Combat Vehicles (ACVs). As a result militaries worldwide are improving their ACV fleets which broadly include Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs), and Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs). The rise of the mine and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) threat, as witnessed during recent US-led operations in the Iraqi and Afghan theatres, and the increased lethality of not only infantry weapons but also mortars and artillery have driven improvements to ACV protection and survivability. Advances in sensors, data processing, information sharing and on-platform and cross-unit networking herald the introduction of faster and more thorough situational awareness in newer combat systems. These programmes are being pursued on two paths, via the modernisation and upgrade of existing fielded ACVs or the development and acquisition of new systems. Both approaches are able to draw from the same technological areas to improve survivability, mobility, lethality and situational awareness.
Improvements in protection have benefited from new armour materials offering higher protection while affording lower weights compared to legacy designs. In addition, new approaches like shot detection and Active Protection Systems (APSs) for anticipating and defeating attack have been introduced. Meanwhile, finding and targeting threats has been enhanced by the latest optronics with higher resolution, day and night, and all-weather capabilities. These are coupled with new electronics, digitalisation and computer processing that takes data from on-board and off-board sources and integrates, networks, and shares it thus multiplying its value and utility across the manoeuvre force and beyond. Mobility has been increased via hydro-pneumatic active suspensions and more compact, higher power-to-weight ratio power pack designs. So how have these advances manifested themselves in fielded ACVs? What are their capabilities? How have they been applied? This is best defined by studying their application within the APC, ICV and IFV domains.
IFV vs. APC/IFV
The IFV combines attributes for mounted fighting, including engaging opposing ACVs with the ability to carry and deploy dismounted infantry. Doctrinally, the IFV typically operates in concert with Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) but also increasingly operates independently, as witnessed in the Afghan and Iraqi theatres. The APC/ ICV, on the other hand, seeks to maximise the number of dismounts and carries armament, typically a heavy machine gun or automatic grenade launcher for self defence and for providing supporting fires. Although both seek mobility equal to that of the MBT it is protection and firepower that often differentiate the IFV from the APC and other ACVs. This maximisation of protection and firepower often translates into a higher IFV combat weight. The typical IFV weapon system today is increasingly a 30mm, 35mm or 40mm autocannon. These guns have fire control systems equivalent to MBTs such as high resolution optronics, laser rangefinder and panoramic commander's viewers; 'hunter-killer' capabilities that are increasingly viewed as essential. Many IFVs are also equipped with Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) allowing them to provide anti-armour fire. The IFV is capable of engaging and destroying similar IFVs with precision fires at ranges...