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Canada’s Armor Plans are So 1970’s

July 12, 2009

CanadaLavLast week the Canadian Military released plans for $5 billion in future armor upgrades, and the purchase of 108 new infantry fighting vehicles. While we applaud our neighbors up North for thinking of their troops, often seen fighting side-by-side with US troops in many grueling environments, the strategy behind the proposed “Close Combat Vehicle” seems suspiciously like requirements for fighting in a different century. Listen to David Pugliese:

The Close Combat Vehicle (CCV) will provide the Canadian Forces with a medium-weight infantry fighting vehicle that is both highly protected and tactically mobile.

Unlike the other vehicles in the Family of Land Combat Vehicles, the CCV is not replacing a vehicle in the current Canadian Forces fleet. Instead, the CCV will bridge the gap between light armoured vehicles (five to 20 tonnes) and heavy armoured vehicles (more than 45 tonnes), coming in between 25 and 45 tonnes.

The CCV will allow infantry to operate in intimate support of the Leopard 2 tanks, providing the Army with a more balanced and integrated fleet. This vehicle’s reliable protection and enhanced mobility and firepower will improve our troops’ combat effectiveness on the battlefield of today and tomorrow.

Or the battlefields of yesterday? Though all this sounds good, we think that lessons of modern war indicate the IFV shouldn’t be tied down to the slower moving tanks, especially in an insurgency or Hybrid Conflict, which restricts the mobility of such vehicles, where quietness and agility are an asset. The mindset that IFVs can only operate with tanks might also limit the boldness of your infantry, which is the only effective counter to a stealthy and agile foe in an insurgency conflict. We also see on the conventional battlefield, infantry being more essential than ever with the proliferation of man-portable anti-tank weapons.

Then 550 over-worked LAV III’s won’t get a replacement, just a rebuilding also scheduled for 2012. While the tracked CCV plans doesn’t sound like a disastrous concept for the Canadians, it does seem like too many unnecessary requirements, and seeing the vehicles will not be deployed until 2012, will make no impact to the ongoing fighting in Afghanistan. Could this be Canada’s version of America’s too ambitious Future Combat System?

More here from the Canadian Army.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. dontfuckwithus permalink
    January 4, 2012 3:36 pm

    Sir,
    It sounds like you have a hate on for us Canadians. But of course your prob an american and like MOST not all, iv met in operation or in training your cocky and think you shit dont stink,. This vehicle is NOT a replacement and will NOT limit our infantry abilities. It is simply a new piece of kit for us to use when the situation dictates for it, If not we will use other means. The comments by this writer, where just rude, and disrespectful to all Canadians.

  2. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 14, 2009 1:39 pm

    I believe you’re right. So many posts, so little time…

  3. Heretic permalink
    July 14, 2009 11:05 am

    Mike, I believe your above comment belongs in The Future of Air Defense rather than in this thread.

  4. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 13, 2009 11:28 am

    Heretic,

    I completely agree the British White Paper of 1957 was premature in its conclusions, perhaps wishful thinking. But things have changed a bit since then, such as precision guidance thanks to the microchip. Missiles have advanced so far since then as to be like comparing the difference between bronze age weapons and the iron age. I refer to the Bekka Valley campaign between Israel and Syria, with the latter using the same Russian built Jets that often humiliated Americans in Vietnam with their maneuverability. But the Israelis had the AIM 9L, uav decoys, Harm missiles, and Hawkeye AEW aircraft, which also acted as AWACS as I recall. The Jews beat the Syrians SAMs and knocked out 80 enemy planes to no loss of their own, except to ground fire. No stealth needed, no supercruise, no high maneuverability jets (though the F-15s and F-16s were better than the old F-4s). With the possible exception of the P-51 Mustang, American has always used better tactics with their too heavy and poorly maneuverable fighters. Then the British with their slower and short range Harrier beat the Israeli-trained Argentine Mirages with better training and the AIM 9L. Hot jets then do not wins wars, but better tactics and now better missiles will.

  5. Heretic permalink
    July 13, 2009 10:31 am

    Mike, I think you’re missing something important.
    The announcement itself said that the new vehicle is not a replacement, it’s an additional capability.

    Wheeled IFVs are very nicely optimized for places which have a transportation infrastructure already in place (cities, roads, etc.). So long as you’ve got a road to run on, and there are plenty in urban combat, wheels are great. You yourself, Mike, have already posted about how Strykers are prone to getting mired in soft/loose/wet ground, so this isn’t exactly a “mystery” problem here.

    Tracked IFVs are better optimized to moving around “out in the bush” where there is little to no transportation infrastructure of any kind. Places like … Afghanistan … which is by no means the only place in the world where the roads can only be considered “substandard” to military needs for (rapid) mobility.

    AND …
    … the Canadians are, as per your own (and David Axe’s?) reporting, already using MBTs for COIN in places like Afghanistan, and finding some success in doing so, while simultaneously understanding and accepting the additional logistical burden of supporting those MBTs for doing that task. Sounds to me like the Canadians are identifying an operational need, based on how they’re operating NOW in a combat theater, rather than fantasizing about how to fight the Soviet Union in the 1970s.

    As counter-intuitive as it sounds … to me it looks like Canada is making a smart play *for them*.

  6. July 13, 2009 7:32 am

    “Lot of people talk about how there is no room for single-task platforms in an expeditionary environment. Now, the MBT is such a platform.”

    Not really.
    – Long range line-of-sight surveillance (high power thermal sight, all-round)
    – forward observer
    – fires 7.62 and 120mm
    – can act as shield (to protect combat medics at work, for example)
    – mine breaker
    – good radio comm
    – escort
    – combat reconnaissance
    – tank vs. tank combat
    – psychological impact/ability to overrun (“tank scare”)

    Additional capabilities for Eastern European MBTs (mine-clearance equipment KMT series, self-entrenching dozer blade tool) and Israeli MBTs (mine-clearance equipment similar to KMT series, ability to carry small dismount element or medevac).

    About versions:
    – MBT
    – combat engineer vehicle
    – recovery vehicle
    – bridgelayer
    – command vehicle (command tanks with fake guns and extra radio/map capabilities were used by Germans in WW2)
    also possible on MBT chassis
    – HAPC (much modified, but parts commonality)
    – AA tank
    – support vehicle like BMP-T

  7. July 13, 2009 7:05 am

    “The question I see is not so much whether tanks are still necessary, but rather if the tank-vs-tank focus of today’s MBT is still correct.”

    This focus moved from tank duels to combat vs. infantry in closed terrain years ago.

    The Leopard got its Leo2A6 upgrade (improved frontal turret armour, L/55 gun) about a decade ago – and since then the Leo2A6M upgrade (improved mine protection), slat armour upgrade by the Canadians and the PSO urban combat package (prototype, but will be procured).

    Abrams was similar; M1A2SEP was the last tank duel upgrade, the latest one was TUSK (urban warfare kit).

    The newest T-90 versions emphasize anti-HEAT protection much more than fancy tube-launched guided missiles.

    The Leclerc got an anti-RPG upgrade.

    The Challenger2 got anti-RPG upgrades.

  8. Distiller permalink
    July 13, 2009 7:00 am

    I’m not against tracked, armored vehicles at all! Just saying one has to ask what the most probable enemy is that a MBT will face these days. And since I think it won’t be another tank, one has to look what that means for the tank.

    For one the existing “tank-vs-tank MBTs” won’t be shredded, so they continue to be available. But what about, say, a KMW Puma (or CV90) based series of medium weight tracked vehicles, one with a short Rheinmetall low recoil 120mm gun, one with a mortar, one as IFV, &c.

    Lot of people talk about how there is no room for single-task platforms in an expeditionary environment. Now, the MBT is such a platform. Use a vehicle like the Puma, lighter than a 70 tonnes MBT, partially modular, and with a high degree of logistic communality. Networked medium weight tracked vehicles that could do 95% of a MBT job without most of the headaches of a MBT.

  9. July 13, 2009 5:43 am

    Distiller,

    Again! I guarantee that your SUV couldn’t keep up with an MBT off road. If you’re talking STRATEGIC mobility then I suggest that the focus on the aerial transportation of heavy vehicles is exactly whats wrong with the western powers. 90% of the current and projected hotspots can be reached from the sea. A better question would be…if you want a rapidly deployable heavy force, then why hasn’t the focus been on fast sea transport instead of this aerial nonsense. I guarantee that a company of MBT’s have more shock effect than a battalion of IFV’s. They won’t be able to hold ground but they can nullify most things that come against them. Also remote controlled machine guns are a fairly new development. Armor is heaviest on the frontal arc because if the crew is doing things right then it will be facing the enemy, if its not then most of your first tier MBT’s are still more than adequately armored to deal with the threat. Most times if a tank is penetrated then its balanced all around protection wouldn’t really make too much difference…also you must consider that in reality you’ll never be able to protect the treads or engine well enough to prevent mobility kills if your enemy is skilled enough (unless you go with the Israeli example of the Merkava but I don’t know if that is really a practical solution…the Merkava has never been ranked in the top 5 of MBTs by anyone) . Lower vehicle height just helps with vehicle survivability and lack of gun elevation is as much a function of breach design as it is with barrel length. They’ve done a good job with tank design, each nation has followed what it considers to be most important features. I don’t think a reinvention of the wheel is necessary as far as our armored force is concerned. What is necessary is to decide how we move forward. I’ve heard many comment that the M1 is good enough for the foreseeable future and that the only change might be to swap out the engine with one of the compact 1500hp euro engine (license built in the US of course). I haven’t seen anything from KMW as far as a follow-on to the Leopard although i’m sure something is in the works, even if its an upgrade to whats already out there.

  10. Distiller permalink
    July 13, 2009 1:19 am

    The last legacy-style tank warfare happened between Eritrea and Ethopia. Also did the trench thing, &c.

    The question I see is not so much whether tanks are still necessary, but rather if the tank-vs-tank focus of today’s MBT is still correct.

    Things like smooth barrels instead of rifled, extra long barrels making life hard in urban warfare, low turret silhouttes limiting gun elevation in urban warfare, not enough remote controlled anti-infantry weapons, armor concentrated in the frontal arc instead of more balanced overall protection, and then the question of making the “M” in MBT stand for medium to increase mobility and decrease thirst.

  11. July 12, 2009 9:59 pm

    Among nuclear powers, nukes deter only the use of nukes.
    The huge conventional armies were maintained for a reason.

    Nobody would have set the doomsday machine in motion if OPFOR had invaded undefended NATO with conventional forces.
    We weren’t undefended; we had our conventional arms. We actually spent a fortune on these conventional arms; almost everyone agreed on their necessity.
    It was the mix that enabled deterrence, and in fact, it made them fear that we’re preparing to invade THEM, but that’s another story.

    You’re also wrong on the South Ossetian conflict.
    The Russians were not only using the same level of technology, but they also had no numerical superiority on the ground.
    The Georgians folded to the Russian Army before the second Russian division arrived. The conflict was decided BEFORE the Russians had any material or personnel superiority on the ground.
    They didn’t fold to artillery, but to the penetration by T-72 spearheads and because of their own C4 breakdown.

  12. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 12, 2009 7:05 pm

    “The West’s greatest military success of the Cold War era was deterrence”

    This is a true statement if you mean nuclear weapons. To use them would only be suicidal. Conventional weapons which are created not to fight fall under the category of “wasting assets”.

    I strongly disagree with all of your examples except maybe the S. Koreans versus the North. You might also have added the Pakistan versus India but I don’t count them as “West”. The individual tanks which the Arab and Israelis fought with might be considered similar(barely), but when the Israeli training so greatly outmatched the Arabs, it was no contest. Recall that the Jews frequently fought against 5 Muslim armies at a time and always came out on top.

    Concerning the Georgian and Russian armies, again not West but still the Russians flooded their former subjects with numbers. No contest really.

  13. July 12, 2009 4:29 pm

    I REALLY HATE TO AGREE with Sven but this time he might be right. The Transformation crowd, RMA crowd, however you want to label it was part of a group of thinkers that wanted the US to engage in an aggressive foreign policy and wanted to remake the armed forces in such a way that casualties would be so small that the American public would not object to the world wide globe trotting. Initially Afghanistan appeared to support the thinking of the PNAC group and Rummy Transformationalist group think but Iraq killed that notion once and for all. The same type thinkers declared the tank dead…ignoring the work done during the invasion and forgetting the life saving fire support supplied in Fallujah. Afghanistan is a different puppy, its more an Infantry war just like jungles are and the last survivor of the Rummy transformation will meet its end their. That would be the elevation of Special Ops to Combatant Commander Ranks. SpecOps is important but the numbers and support required is now insane. Want a good article to write? Tell me why we shouldn’t disband SpecOps Command and send all those units back to their respective services…that would save BILLIONS!

  14. July 12, 2009 3:43 pm

    “Solomon, do you mean “modern armored warfare” or mid-20th century armored warfare? I don’t think the West has faced a peer armored adversary in combat since WW 2.”

    I’m no fan of the IFV concept for many reasons, but this quote is quite pointless.

    The West’s greatest military success of the Cold War era was deterrence – that’s why there wasn’t much conventional warfare.

    You could have asked in 1913 “When were European armies last engaged in trench warfare with peers?” and the answer would have been “1856” – 57 years ago. Just a year later began the trench war par excellence; WWI. The British and Americans were much better prepared for combat against tribes than for actual modern warfare.

    We actually saw tank warfare in the past 57 years:
    The Russians encountered peer (actually, modernized versions of their own) tank forces in Georgia and the decisive attacks on the ground were done with tanks.
    The Israelis encountered tank forces in two major wars, and both Western wars against Iraq saw the advance of heavy forces.
    The South Koreans with their nice light and thin-skinned M24 Chaffees were overrun by the North Koreans with their T-34/85 in decisive places during the opening weeks of the Korean War.

    The question is not whether military history favours the employment of tanks.
    The question is whether tanks are (still) the best answer to still valid challenges.
    The answer is yes. They’re necessary for mobile warfare, and MBTs still need to wage combined arms warfare together with infantry and indirect/air fire support.
    Most RMA extremists have since given up; future warfare will still be messy, and combat vehicles will still need good protection. Many, most enemies won’t be detected in time and only few of them will be defeated by precision weapons.
    RMA was for many just a fashion that helped to justify huge procurement programs anyway.

    You’re stuck in this RMA fantasy of surveillance+precision strike, and it’s really outdated.

  15. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 12, 2009 3:12 pm

    Brandon, you may be right, but with politics as they are in the US, Britain, and Canada, I am not very hopeful. I think it is crunch time, do or die!

  16. Brandon permalink
    July 12, 2009 2:05 pm

    Mike,

    If we are going to do the job right of building Afghanistan and fighting the Taliban, we are easily going to be there for another decade. The Taliban show no signs of going away anytime soon, so I have a feeling the Canadians will get a chance to combat test their newest toys in 2012.

  17. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 12, 2009 1:05 pm

    Solomon, do you mean “modern armored warfare” or mid-20th century armored warfare? I don’t think the West has faced a peer armored adversary in combat since WW 2.

    I am also kicking myself about the source I mentioned, and had hoped to change this but time didn’t permit. Trying to prepare myself for next week which are the main articles.

  18. July 12, 2009 9:19 am

    MIKE! Tanks are the fastest moving vehicles in broken terrain and easily keep pace on roads! You’re not understanding modern armored warfare. Most IFV’s have trouble keeping up with MBT’s. MBT’s provide shock, and fire support to Infantry and will not lessen the “boldness” of that force! I so hope that the leadership is not taking the example of our current fight and thinking that it is the shape of things to come. Its not. If we’re lucky then we have the possible profile laid out right with Gates prediction of HYBRID warfare. But to think that the only fight we have to worry about is counter insurgencies is a little bit short sighted. Lastly that rebuilding that you’re talking about is the Canadian version of our RESET program. If done properly then they’ll get like new vehicles back!

    PS. That Wikipedia page uses a book as a reference source that is basically a photo book of armor. Not exactly an authoritarian source.

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