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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Modern Infantry Vehicles Making Tanks Obsolete

      
If procurement of main battle tanks (MBTs) in NATO and certain other countries is any indication, the era of MBTs being the bulwark of land forces may be over. Tanks seem to be losing the strategic advantage to UAVs, and force projection advantage to lighter and more agile armoured vehicles.

      A study by defenseworld.net has revealed that Germany, France, U.K., and the U.S., have not issued RFPs for new MBTs in the past few years. Instead, highly mobile infantry combat vehicles (IFVs) and All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) seem to be the flavor of the season.

      Used and refurbished MBTs seem to be finding new homes in developing countries. Recently, the Czech Army announced plans to sell 134 T-72 MBTs to an unnamed African country. Earlier, the Czech Republic had sold an unspecified number of T-72s to Algeria. Taking a cue from their NATO neighbors’, the Czech army seems keen on light armored vehicles with higher mobility over the T-72 which can be bogged down in urban environments and are sitting ducks for armed UAVs and other air launched weapons in open fields.

      However, some developing countries too seem to be having second thoughts about MBTs. Indonesia which is in the line to purchase 100 used German Leopold tanks has had opposition from Indonesian lawmakers who have voiced that the 62-ton German-built tank is unsuited for the far-flung archipelago with two land borders and an under-developed network of roads and bridges which would be major obstacles to their effective deployment.

      IFV manufacturers meanwhile are being flooded with orders. Oshkosh Corporation recently won an order for its mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles (M-ATVs) from the UAE. Since 2009 Oshkosh has received orders for more than 9,500 M-ATVs. Oshkosh Navistar International Corp. has also pursued contracts with foreign armies interested in upgrading their tactical-truck fleets.

      Defense market research organization, Forecast International expects the market for IFVs to be worth more than $19.7 billion, through 2021.

      As part of its modernization program, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Army has issued an international request for proposals (RFP) for 600, 8x8 wheeled combat vehicles. Prospective contenders include BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa's RG41, the ARTEC Boxer (Germany), the FNSS Savunma Sistemleri Pars (Turkey), the General Dynamics European Land Systems Piranha 5.

      South Africa is planning to procure a new IFV called Project Hoefyster. BAE Systems has offered the RG41 stating that it was more modern and cheaper than the locally-customised version of the Patria AMV currently slated for production as the “Badger”.

      Johan Steyn, director Land Systems SA managing director said “Technology has evolved significantly in the years since Project Hoefyster was first launched".

      “It makes sense then to look at newer solutions such as RG41 now available, which largely meet the technical requirements and could provide cost savings and broader economic benefits for the country".

      China too has switched over to light armed vehicles in many applications where tanks were earlier used. China’s Type 90 armored personnel carrier (APC) and Type 90 mechanized infantry combat vehicle (MICV) represent a new generation of IFVs the country will increasingly use.

      Russia was in talks with French manufacturer Panhard on the purchase of 5001-ton light armored vehicles for its border guards. Russia is scaling down the production of its T-90 tanks for its own forces though it offers a modernized version for export.

      India, which has considerable inventory of Russian T-72 and T-90 tanks, has launched its Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) project. The objective is to have a highly mobile, lightweight and a lethal vehicle which can match a tank in firepower.

      The Indonesian government owned manufacturing company Pindad said it will begin production of an armored fighting vehicle in 2014
 
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