Friday, September 22, 2017

Towed vs Tracked?...Or perhaps wheeled?

Saw this system mentioned at Defense Tech.  So am wondering what opinion FDChief, the old redleg, thinks of it as well as Sven or anyone else who wants to comment:

It uses a US Army M20 howitzer mounted on an M1152 expanded capacity hummer.  It has also been demonstrated at an AUSA conference.  Mandus Group teamed up with AM General for this effort.  Mandus is a fairly new company formed in 1998(?).  They got their start in the hydraulics business and claim to have the best hydraulic engineers and techs in the country working for them.  They claim a 70% reduction in recoil.  They also claim you can shoot and scoot in 30 seconds.

Below are the specifications.   As it stands now traverse limits are 180 degrees, elevation -5 to +73 degrees.

More videos below.  Check out the one on an F250 Ford pickup truck:

I'm leery, but also impressed.  If the Air Force can fire a 105 from an aircraft then why shouldn't this be viable?  And why not mount it on a Stryker - or the LAV-25?    Could a HEMTT or another platform possibly be used for a 155?

Fire away!


  1. I wrote about that years ago.

    And don't be impressed; the Italians fired 65 mm soft recoil guns from flimsy light trucks in 1942 already.
    Hawkeye is nothing new conceptually.

    The problem with soft recoil artillery is its terrible range dispersion, which can be corrected with trajectory correcting munitions nowadays.

    You don't need to go the soft recoil path to mount arty on a Stryker. The South Africans already did with with a developed turret featuring their high performance 105 mm gun (it has the range of a 155 mm L/39) to the U.S.Army. It was shown at AUSA in 2014 or so.
    The American MIC is impervious to proposals to improve the poor state of light and medium brigades artillery.

  2. And you need no 8x8 HEMTT for 155 mm.
    You can have near-PzH 2000 firepower on a 6x6 truck actually.
    The munition stowage is inferior to PzH 2000 (which is probably the best SPG in this regard) and few people trust an unmanned turret, but it's possible.
    Caesar 2 and Archer (better traverse than Caesar 2) are also available MOTS.

  3. I'm kinda with Sven on this one; there's a number of off-the-shelf wheeled SPAs in service. The South African system has been around a while and is perfectly decent conventional mobile gun system. If the US Army and USMC are serious about finally bringing our FA hardware into the 21st Century - and, like Sven, I'm skeptical - there would seem to be a better starting point than recapitulating an idea that dates back to the late 19-teens and Twenties. There's a reason why those flatbed-truck-mounted cannons had largely disappeared by 1945...

  4. Sort of O/T, but...I'm fascinated to see what the Pentagon will do with this ridiculously huge pile of cash the Congress has just proposed to dump on them.

    Since Tangerine Tallyrand has now publicly embraced the GOP "more rubble, less trouble" the reduced-ops-tempo option seems off the table. So does the money go to O&M? Or are we looking at a wild weapons-systems buying spree? And if the latter...which? There's a ton of land weapons that seem to be at or near the end of their service lives...but what replaces them? I'm too far out of the hardware acquisition loop to have any idea.

    Sven is usually hooked in to this stuff better. If you were SecDef Sven and you suddenly had a bathtub full of money...what would your first expenditures be..?

    1. Send it back to treasury.

      I suspect they might do
      - more funds for operations & maintenance of navy ships (several ships are in bad disrepair)
      - buy F-35s quicker, all three versions
      - move quick in the new bomber project
      - complete the next generation jammer development and buy hundreds of them
      - buy lots of those LCS successor frigates (which will till be ridiculously inefficient designs)
      - build some ships for that huge BMD radar that doesn't fit on Arleigh Burkes
      - buy tanker aircraft from Boeing, and quickly
      - restart some army modernisation fantasy à la FCS, but this time with lots of A.I. fantasies and exoskeletons.
      - buy lots of Excalibur and GUMLRS munitions
      - keep that tank plant busy with repairs, upgrades or new M1A3 Abrams

      I doubt they will restart the F-22 line, but if they do, they would produce vastly upgraded F-22s (because the existing ones are far from the high end machines from the marketing; they are late 90's tech at best), and that takes years to develop.

      About the flatbed SPGs; keep in mind the alternative is a towed gun in both light and medium brigades! You could and probably should consider the Hawkeye as a substitute for 120 mm mortars (though the U.S. Army has decent SP mortars in its medium brigades).

  5. I look forward to them putting rail guns on pick up trucks.

    No, really.

    Think about it...the engineering involved.

    No seriously, I know your thinking, "sheer, we're having a serious talk here about..." yeah, yeah, but, seriously, just give it a whirl...think about what it takes to place a rock thrower on a reinforced suspension vehicle...

    I'll wait....

    :::looks at finger nails:::

    :::listens to Wardruna music:::

    Yeah, thought so...not a lot.

    And therein lies the issues of where we are technologically in terms of our military, and our overall view of the battlefield in terms of maneuver, and strategy...because the next engineering leap is pretty fucking scary.

    You see, look at what we're throwing down...manned vehicles with manned armaments, with manned drivers, sighters, loaders, slingers, and humpers.

    Manned, manned, manned.

    Here's what I was told by the guys who are designing our future fighter guys, brilliant engineers...and...people I prefer not to piss off because they got some messed up ideas running loose in their heads...Wes Craven ain't got shit compared to these guys.

    Humans are the limiting factor to airplane designs.

    The F16...the engineers had to "dumb" down the design because the "humans" couldn't take/handle/survive flying them.

    The future of military designs is to remove the human element completely to semi-autonomous automated weapon systems that can target real time in a hot environment designated enemy targets.

    I told you it was fucking scary.

    So...instead of designing these...future weapons systems...we..."reinvent the wheel" so to speak by...resurrecting previous designs from decades a little finagling to the engineering, maybe add some LED's to fancy it up a bit, and to get the ooo's and aaah's from the Congress critters looking for "fancy" and voila...105 arty on a jeep...and as Sven has pointed out, "been there, done that."

    No, this is how it's going to be because the alternative really highlights the awful reality of the future of weapons development.

    Because...when it's our robots vs theirs...the real targets become...not the other robots, but the humans behind those robots...Aaaannnnd, we're back to Total War.

    There's no getting away from General Carl von Clausewitz.

    1. I should add...the most effective weapons system...EVER...and unfortunately, has been eviscerated by the Trump Administration and his lackey, Mr. Ruins-everything-son at State is diplomacy.

      Diplomacy is what prevents disagreements detonating and splashing hate on everyone involved and not involved.

      Anyway, forgot to put that in as an ender to my post (that, and I hate ending on such a grim note as Clausewitz's Total War...ruins the evening, and sets a bad temper to my thinking)

  6. A couple of other points:
    1) 4 man gun crews split between two vehicles is too little. One is constantly stealing a man from each gun to do various tasks.

    2) 10 rounds is ridiculous. Maybe a minute or two of firing. Ammo vehicles are typically loaded with ammo and not placed in a fashion to make it accessible in calls for fire. Towed guns borrow a chunk of ground behind the gun to do that. This thing would certainly need to break up the ammo on the ground in an ammo hooch. Oops, there goes your shoot and scoot.

  7. Sheerakahn -

    We are agreed on diplomacy being the best ever weapon system. Unfortunately we have not had a good Secretary of State since Marshall almost 70 years ago.

    Wes Craven was scary. 'The-Hills-Have-Eyes' was enough for me, I never watched another of his films including his so-called Freddy Krueger masterpiece.

  8. Sven and FDChief -

    You may be right. Although, Sven, you seemed to like it in your post that you linked to. Jane's seems to like it also. Are they unbiased - or do they sometimes take cash under the table to tout weapon systems? I don't know but hope not.

    Probably the HMMWV mounted 105 is not needed. The 120mm Dragon Fire mortar (if the LAV mounted version completes testing successfully) has better range and more punch. No direct fire though. But I do like the concept of a 155mm on a heavier wheeled vehicle. That, IMHO, would be an order of magnitude more mobile and transportable than those tracked monstrosities.

    1. Hawkeye-like arty may make much sense as substitute for 120 mm mortars if the army isn't ready to give go all-arty and ditch the dispersed/organic short ranged indirect fire support.

      105 and 155 mm truck-mounted arty are fine for air-deployable forces and low budget armies in Europe (Bulgaria, Croatia etc.).

      Well-funded major armies should afford high end tracked SPGs like PzH 2000 and the appropriate tank transporter trailer (lots of commercial semi trailer trucks can tow those, so few tractors are needed). Additionally the 'ideal MRLs'. Such well-funded forces should also invest in the advanced munitions and (radar) sensors needed to exploit the potential of long-range fires fully, including counter-arty fires.

      Then we could mix high end battlegroups with budget battlegroups and the high end battlegroups' long range support would benefit the budget forces enough to make them fully viable.

      BTW, there's no way how 120 mm mortars including the rifled 2R2M have a better range than a modern 105 mm howitzer/light gun.Mortars struggle to reach 13-15 km and need exotic munitions for it. 105 mm reaches 17-20 km.

  9. Sven -

    I know next to nothing about the XM204 prototype you mentioned. Except that we tried to mount it on a CH-47 Chinook helo as a modern version of the horse artillery. Complete disaster! The auto-feed mechanism was also a rube goldberg contraption. That was many years ago when my oldest child was still learning his ABC's, he is 53 now.

    I would bet that the advanced hydro-pneumatics and electronic timing of the Hawkeye soft recoil system are significantly better than the precedents you mentioned. PS was that Italian light truck artillery you mentioned part of a Bersaglieri unit?

    I wonder why there is no muzzle brake, or is that larger diameter section up at the muzzle some type of an internally baffled muzzle brake?

    1. Too bad that Aviator47 is not here to comment on the XM204/Chinook trials.

  10. Ael -

    Good points. I have no defense for either. Although as Sven mentioned that with PGM accuracy you don't need to put a hundred projectiles downrange to take out a target.

    I still do not like the tracked SPG behemoths. Perhaps HIMARS type systems are the answer in the future instead of tubed artillery?

    1. HIMARS is an obsolete concept. 1980's essentially. NATO did use MLRS on a light tracked chassis at a time when WP used MRLs based on trucks. HIMARS is a half of a MLRS on a truck, not more.

      Nowadays we should have VASTLY better MRL concepts (and MLRS are no complete substitute for mortars or howitzers anyway):

  11. Sven -

    Agree that we should have better concepts for MRL weapons. Modern MRLS type systems are fine for the 'Big Army'. HIMARS, or a modernized HIMARS type system, is better for expeditionary forces.

  12. Sven -

    Regarding mortar range. The PERM rounds built for the Dragon Fire mortar are rated at 17 km.

    And I may be a bit old fashioned, but I prefer mortars for their near vertical descent. This minimizes short rounds, saving blue on blue casualties.

    The other thing for mortars is they are controlled directly by the infantry commander. Again this minimizes blue on blue.

    And of course they are much better in mountainous terrain.

    Now I admit I have seen howitzers used in extremely high trajectories. But that is not their normal mode of operations.

    Whatever happened to the old Russian combination gun/mortar? I forget the name. Was that, or others of that kind, ever a viable system?

    1. 105 mm guns do 20 km with mere base bleed. Give it something expensive and they go well past 25 km.

      Mortar barrels are short and not rated for the same pressures as 105 mm guns. There's simply no equal potential here unless you think of them as rocket launchers.

      Short rounds (BTW, why do you assume friendlies between fire support and OPFOR? That's very old-fashioned thinking) can be avoided with trajectory correcting munitions (which are actually much better than mortar fires because they correct for wing influence instead of being hugely susceptible to it). You can also arrange for arty support from left or right, then the elliptical dispersion pattern looks much safer as well.

      I don't understand the Russian gun-mortars. The SP versions are as much trouble as with a real 122 mm gun or 160 mm mortar without approaching the qualities of either. And towed pieces are nowadays worth nothing in Europe IMO.

      I know the case for organic fires.
      see page 12 here

      It's really doctrine-dependent, though. The more you think of indirect fires as helping allies in the surrounding area the less you think about such subordination questions. Indirect fire support in a x km radius for forces not burdened with much or any organic indirect fires assets looks best if the "x" is big.

  13. Sven -

    Yes, I am old-fashioned. Short (and long) rounds were a fact of life when I wore the uniform. It was much worse in my father's time. And yes, fire support can be arranged from the left or the right instead of from behind. It used to be doctrine, and I hope it still is, for the line of fire for flatter trajectory weapons (naval gunfire for instance or the 175mm Long Tom) to be parallel to the forward line of troops. Never, ever perpendicular. Same for CAS. But even so it is not always possible in every situation. The trajectory correcting munitions you mention sound good. But hi-tech magic bullets will not always be available, especially in a major conflict.

    Regarding range, you moved the goal post. You said a 105 reaches 17-20km above. Now you say 25? In any case the Hawkeye 105 max range even with RAP rounds is only rated at 19.5km. But again, the question is the availability of expensive magic bullets.

    I agree with what you say about supporting allies who do not have their own organic mortars or artillery assets. Proper task force organization should be planned for in such cases.

    1. 105 mm LG-1 for example has 18.5 km range with mere base bleed. RAP would yield more range, and a PGM that uses body lift for gliding like PERM even more range.

      So first I was writing about 17-20 km without exotic munitions (because there are not really in use with 105 mm) and later I wrote about the potential with exotic munitions. The Hawkeye design doesn't appear to be optimised for range in any way. They used the M119 barrel and chamber (early 1970's design, more than a decade older than the LG-1 and much shorter ranged than LG-1 Mk2).
      The South African G7 105 mm has a big chamber and long barrel and its ranges are approx. the same as 155 mm L/39. I'm not moving goalposts, but wrote about different setups of 105 mm.

  14. Sven -

    I know, I was only pulling your leg with the goal post comment. Sorry, should have labelled it as such.

    The G7 has been looked on favorably in this country. FDChief mentioned it above also. But procurement seems to have fizzled out, I'm not sure why - funding?

    The LG1 appears to have life span issues.

    I like the concept of trajectory correcting munitions and PGMs.

    For base bleed and RAP the longer range = less accuracy. Of course you can correct for it with PGM or in other ways. But does that leave any room for the primary payload - fuze, HE and shrapnel? (SNARK alert)

    1. Have a look at SPACIDO.

      The range correction air brake is part of the multifunction fuze. It's GPS-independent and includes a proximity fuze mode. The range error is reportedly reduced to 1/4th.

    2. Thanks Sven.

      Changing the subject slightly. What is your opinion on the M3 bridging gear, and can that support heavy tracked SPGs on long river spans? Have you done a post on combat river crossings in the past? Ifso could you provide a link?

    3. I blogged way too much...

      Combat crossing against an opponent such as the Russian Army is difficult to imagine. I know how "exercises" for it looked like, and it was a farcical theatre akin to Roman arena reenactment of past battles. The shocking thing about it was that some participants were not aware of this.

      One key problem is that pontoon bridges could still be targeted by OPFOR arty from 90 km or so away, and even 500 km away if they are important enough. They're almost impossible to secure.

      I suppose dispersion (simultaneous crossings in many places with boats and vehicles, with inordinate amounts of smoke and jamming) is the only realistic approach of a forced river crossing.

      Railway bridges are even more nightmarish:

      Meanwhile, anything that can be crossed with two bridgelayer tanks (roughly 40 m combined span) looks less like an obstacle than in WW2.

  15. Thanks Sven. You should be working for Bundesminister von der Leyen. Or perhaps you already do?

    1. I don't. 'A prophet has no honour in his own country.'

      I guest-blogged a lot in English/American MilBlogs, but the 'think tanks' in my place avoid me. Nobody in that line of business likes someone who argues against more military spending and against missions such as ISAF.
      (There was a think tank that would have been a good fit long ago - now it's de facto gone. The chairman told me the association is going to die with him.) The "Transatlantiker" crowd doesn't like my views on NATO either. I don't follow their ideology.

  16. Just to be pedantic, accuracy traditionally refers to the mean point of impact. Dispersion (or consistency) refers to the fall of shot around the mpi. It is typically measured by the size of the "probable error". Rocket assisted projectiles increase the size probable error, but don't change the accuracy. Accuracy isn't a feature of any gun, it is a feature of where you pointed the gun versus where you should have pointed the gun.

    1. No, accuracy is also a matter of gun calibration. Accuracy usually is poor if you didn't zero the 'sights'. That's IIRC quite an issue for reassembled (mountain) guns and guns towed at high speeds.

    2. Well, accuracy is also affected by wind, air temperature, air density, muzzle velocity, ammo weight, propellant temperature, survey - both location and direction and a lot of other stuff including Coriolis force. You have have to worry about all that stuff for accurate (opening) fire. And it still comes down to the difference between where you pointed the gun and where you should have pointed the gun. The trick is in knowing where you should have pointed it.

  17. What struck me about the system is the digital fire control system.

    "The new system uses the MG 9000 digital fire control system which incorporates Northrop Grumman’s LN-270 Inertial Navigation System, Weibel Scientific’s MVR-700C Muzzle Velocity Radar System, Sekai Electronics’ DFS-02 Direct Fire Camera System, Sensor Systems’ S67-1575-76 Global Positioning System antenna and Mandus’ DK 10 Gunner’s Display Unit."

    Are systems like that becoming standard on newly fielded artillery pieces?

    That is a long, long way from being a fire direction center. But perhaps a baby step in that direction? Do any of the correspondents here see a single gun tube with its own on-board Fire Direction Center?

    1. Well, this is where you're running into the distinction between technical and tactical fire direction. The increasing linkage between fire control systems has made technical fire direction nearly hands-free.

      Tactical fire direction, OTOH, is still dependent on human judgement and requires at least a pass-thru the battalion FDC.

      But the digitization has been in process for some time. By the late 1990s it was possible for an FO to send a fire command directly to my gun data units, bypassing my computer entirely. Not the whole mission, mind you, but once the mission was processed and on the guns the first I'd know that the guns had got the fire command was when I'd hear the guns go off.

      It was freaking creepy...

    2. I really, really blogged way too much:

      The document in question was tracked down to me, but the (distant) library's price for sending me a copy was outrageous.

      In the end, the most important questions are
      (1) Do the radio comm links work? Without that we're back to WWI-style pre-planned fires and direct fire support only.
      (2) Who has the authority to allocate fires, and does what's his decision?

      The computing and gathering of navigation, meteorological data and firing solutions is a mostly solved technical issue (with digital 3D maps even so in mountains).

    3. mike,

      It was/is technologically feasible for a gun to have its own FDC, but it has not place in the US Army for organizational reasons. Automating the collection of gun data and being able to assist with a 'direct fire' shoot is what most of those systems do. As of 5 years ago, that was not standard for the US Army FA.

  18. I feel like this is a more standardized DIY truck artillery that was showing up in Libya and Syria, and they're only doing it themselves because they don't have the nicer options!

    Is it me or have we crawled so far up our own asses that we're parroting the third world rag-tag militias that we can't seem to beat?