Posts Tagged ‘Armor’

T-14 Armata Art

Posted: August 11, 2015 in Armata, Armata T-14, Armor, Art, T-14, Tank
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A user sent this drawing in. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Armour specialists from both Russia and the United States are sceptical of recent claims made by the enterprise that produces Russia’s new T-14 Armata MBT that the tank is essentially “invisible” to radar.

The claim was made by the director of the Nizhi-Tagil-based UralVagonZavod (UVZ) plant, Vyacheslav Khalitov, on Ekho Moskvy radio on 3 July.

“We essentially made the invisible tank,” said Khalitov. He also elaborated on the tank’s internal arrangement, stating that key “emitters” that normally make other tanks vulnerable to current-generation anti-armour weapons are fitted as far as possible into the interior of the Armata to reduce its infrared (IR) signature.

About the tank’s own radar signature, Khalitov said the T-14’s hull is coated with special radar-absorbing paint and other materials and appliqués that make it difficult to be detected.

However, US specialists with many years of experience in the design of current-generation armour and Russian experts on former Soviet programmes that were designed to reduce AFV signatures both expressed doubts.

Modern conflict as Western audiences are familiar with it has been marked by well marked and uniformed modern military forces, operating instruments of war traditionally reserved for nation states, such as tanks, armored personnel carriers, and air forces. More and more these warfighting capacities are co-opted by non-state actors, increasingly through capture from state actors, purchase from third parties, or as covered in a previous post by creating homegrown alternatives such as the Kurdish tanks, Hell Cannons of the Islamic Front, or the off the shelf ISRcapabilities acquired from a simple quad rotor drone equipped with a camera. At the outset of the Syrian Civil War, only the government had armored capabilities, an air force, and the means to project power beyond short lived ambushes of police and soldiers by poorly equipped opposition fighters. As the conflict approaches its fourth year of conflict, a very different state of affairs exists. Today, nearly every faction in the Syrian Civil War possesses some form of armored capacity, ISIL captured, and for a short time operated, Syrian government MiGs representing one of the few times in history that a non-state group has operated any semblance of an air force. As the capacity to wage warfare becomes less and less the purview of only the Syrian government, the monopoly on use of force erodes more and more as government weaponry is captured.

As with the first and second guides to weapons of the Syrian conflict, this one does not attempt to cover all vehicles operated in Syria, but rather aims to touch on the most commonly seen and most influential to the conflict. For more in depth reading about the armored vehicles common to this conflict, please check out the Oryx Blog series on the tanks of Syria. For the sake of continuity, as with past articles, a Wikipedia link will be attached for each entry. It is worth mentioning that a majority of Soviet armored vehicles purchased by the Syrian government are what are known as monkey models, where some of the design elements featured on the domestic versions of the vehicle have been removed for export models. This was multipurpose, both to prevent more complicated military equipment from being captured by enemies of the Soviet Union and revealing the true capabilities of their armor to the West, to save on expense, and to prevent fickle foreign governments from attaining full strength Soviet weaponry.

Main Battle Tanks

T-55/T-54 the workhorse of the of every group that has armored capabilities in Syria, the Syrian Arab Army began the conflict with roughly 2,000 of these vehicles, and it has been the most widely fielded, as well as most widely destroyed and captured, armored vehicle in Syria. Many variants of this Russian tank exist and numerous countries have offered upgrade packages to make this 60+ year old tank more survivable on the modern battlefield, but the tank itself, in stock forms, offers a 100mm rifled cannon, armor varying in thickness from 30mm to 205mm, and calls for a crew of four (driver, gunner, loader, commander). The T-55 is an exceedingly simple vehicle to operate and maintain, which gives it staying power in the conscript armies of nations who cannot afford the expensive maintenance infrastructure of more modern designs. Similarly, it makes the T-55 an ideal vehicle for insurgencies to capture, as only a rudimentary knowledge of heavy equipment repair and maintenance is necessary to keep it running. The T-55 is no contender for combat against modern main battle tanks, but it offers significant advantages when employed against lighter vehicles, entrenched infantry, or fighters behind cover offered in an urban landscape such as buildings. However, the T-55 suffers from armor that is not able to withstand even dated anti-tank weapons like the RPG-7 ‘s most basic warheads, and especially more powerful munitions such as the controversial TOW missile or Konkurs ATGM. As a result, traditional methods of ‘plussing up’ tank armor have been employed in the form of reactive armor which explodes away from the tank when struck or the much more low tech (and inexpensive) chain armor or slat armor both designed to detonate incoming anti-tank rockets and missiles prior to actual impact on the tank. Such methods are employed on nearly all armored vehicles in Syria, and are believed to have made a real difference in survivability of low tech vehicles like the T-55. The T-55 is notable for its heavy usage by ISIL forces to spearhead assaults through massed armor supporting heavy infantry forces. This ability has been degraded by the presence of coalition airstrikes, but helped catapult ISIL to prominence in 2013 and 2014.

T-62 Developed as replacement for hte T-55, the T-62 features a larger, 115mm, smoothbore cannon, heavier armor all around, and a larger vehicle. The heavier cannon was required for field new ammunition capable of defeating modern (for the time) Western tanks. The smaller T-55 could not handle a turret large enough to field the new cannon, and thus the T-62 was born. Employed in the same manner as the T-55, and also appearing in opposition arsenals all over the country, the T-62 is similarly upgraded in various fashions to help defeat anti-tank munitions. As will be repeated theme, as with most Soviet era armored vehicles, maintenance and repair of the T-62 is relatively low level and can be conducted under austere conditions without long supply trains and logistical hubs, making the T-62 another excellent vehicle for opposition groups to field. The SAA was believed to have 1,000 at the outset of hostilities.

T-72 Arguably, the most powerful tank in the Syrian arsenal, and the most widely fielded modern Main Battle Tank in the world, the T-72 improves on previous tank generations with a larger 125mm smoothbore cannon, thicker armor than the T-62, slightly better operational range, and significantly faster. The T-72 makes extensive use of reactive armor, and is far better adapted to shrug off lighter anti-tank weapons such as the RPG-7, though still very vulnerable to ATGMs and more modern RPG variants like the [RPG-29]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RPG-29). The introduction of an autoloader removes the necessity for a crewmember dedicated to loading the main gun. Not much heavier than the previous T-62, the T-72 has the ability to operate in a variety of environments that heavier Western tanks would become bogged down in or incapable of traversing, such as light bridges. However a more complex fire control system, autoloader, and more modern powerplant make the T-72 more difficult for non-state actors to keep it maintained in functioning order. The SAA was believed to have 1.600 at the outset of hostilities

Armored Fighting Vehicles (tracked)

PTR-76 Although only lightly fielded in Syria with some 80 units in service prior to the war, the unique nature of this vehicle bears mentioning. An amphibious reconnaissance vehicle, the PT-76 would serve as the chassis basis for a number of more advanced Soviet armored vehicles. While lightly armored, relative to a main battle tank, with a 76mm cannon, the PT-76 has the ability to ford bodies of water, and functions as a light tank. Not heavily armored enough to go toe to toe with other armored vehicles or even light anti-armor weapons, the PT-76 is best used as a standoff weapon capable of delivering aimed cannon fire over a long distance. The PT-76 is an early example of a gap that existed in many armies, for a lightweight armored and tracked vehicle, with a lighter cannon, not intended for frontline combat service, but rather to ferry troops and conduct reconnaissance. Its use in Syria has not been very widespread.

BMP-1 The BMP-1, much like the PT-76, offers a stop-gap between unarmored gun-trucks and heavily armored main battle tanks. Armed with a 73mm cannon for lightly armored vehicles and troops, and a launching rail for the 9M14 Malyutka ATGM to deal with more heavily armored threats, the BMP-1 is a fast moving infantry fighting vehicle (BMP standing for Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty, Russian for: infantry fighting vehicle), thinly armored, just enough to protect the three man crew and up to eight infantry passengers from small arms and shrapnel. Not intended to go toe to toe with more heavily armored foes but rather function as a “battle taxi” shifting troops where they’re needed on the battlefield. With over 2,000 believed to be in the Syrian arsenal at the outset of hostilities, the BMP-1 constitutes the most commonly found non-tank armored vehicle and shows up in the hands of opposition groups all over the country. Earlier this month, al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra utilized a number of BMP-1s in conjunction with a few T-72s and T-55s to overwhelm the SAA defenders of Wadi al-Daif military installation in Western Syria, signalling a shift towards heavy armored operations by opposition groups to spearhead assaults and overwhelm entrenched defenders who would be difficult to otherwise defeat.

BTR-50 Similar to the PT-76, and built on the same chassis, the BTR-50 is an amphibious armored personnel carrier designed to carry large numbers of troops to and from the battlefield. Lightly armored to withstand small arms and shrapnel, the BTR-50 lacks a heavy weapon at all, either going unarmed, or with some combination of medium and heavy machine guns manned by the crew. In Syria, some BTR-50s have been modified to accept a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun on top of the hull, but this arrangement is not a common modification. The vehicle can carry up to 20 combat troops, both over water and on land, and is often reinforced by sandbags and bolt on metal armor for additional protection. In service primarily by the SAA, BTR-50s have shown up in various opposition groups. The SAA was believed to have 550 at the outset of hostilities.

Armored Fighting Vehicles (wheeled)

BTR-60 Where previous vehicles discussed have all been tracked, the next three are notable for being wheeled. Where tracks offer many advantages especially in terms of cross country ability, if a single track is disabled a vehicle is dead in the water and unable to continue moving. In contrast, the eight wheels of a BTR-60 allow the vehicle to continue moving even if several tires or deflated or destroyed. The BTR-60 is a lightly armored vehicle intended to ferry troops to and from the battlefield, much like the BTR-50. In contrast, the BTR-60 fits fewer troops (up to 14), moves much faster than tracked vehicles, and has a 14.5mm heavy machine gun turret mounted on the roof. Armor is minimal and only frontal armor will stop small arms fire at all rights, with the thinner side and rear armor being susceptible to penetration by small arms fire at close range. As such, the BTR-60 is best employed shuttling troops to the battlefield, then quickly withdrawing before attracting heavy fire. The SAA was believed to have 650 of these at the outset of hostilities.

BTR-152 Essentially the predecessor to the BTR-60, the BTR-152 borrows heavily from Second World War designs, and was the brainchild of Soviet analysts who concluded the reason they suffered such disproportionately high rates of infantry casualties was a result of a lack of armored personnel carry to move troops to the battlefield. The result was the BTR-152, a very thinly armored, open top, six wheeled vehicle, equipped with a single machine gun, requiring only a crew of two, and capable of moving 18 passengers. Numerous variants of this vehicle were produced, including command and communications, anti-aircraft with quad machine gun mounts, and mine-laying variants, and most of these variants have been seen in Syria. A major vulnerability is the open top, leading to extreme threat to those inside from grenades, or gunfire from an elevated position. Home-brewed fixes such as bolt on armor and angled canvas siding to cause grenades to roll off have met with some success, but this dated platform is not much more efficient than the technicals and armor plated trucks of the opposition. The SAA was believed to have 300 of these at the outset of hostilities.

BRDM-2 Separate from the aforementioned armored personnel carriers, the BRDM lacks any troop transport capability and is instead essentially a lightly car with turret for 14.5mm heavy machine gun on top. With a crew of four, the BRDM-2 is meant to provide reconnaissance on battlefield condition, too lightly armed and armored to do much on the battlefield as even the lightest anti-armor weapons will destroy it. It’s employment in Syria is analogous to the “technicals” employed by the opposition: fast moving, all terrain, capable of moving a heavy machine gun to a position of tactical advantage while offering slightly more protection than a dismounted infantryman. The SAA was believed to have 700 of these at the outset of hostilities.

Combat Helicopters

Gazelle The French production Gazelle is a light helicopter adapted to scouting and light attack roles, sometime operating as a host for the remaining stores of smart munitions for targeted operations against key targets, transport officials, and provide a light attack capability in support of SAA offensives. Originally intended to be armed with anti-armor missiles and employed against Israeli tanks in the event of an invasion, the Gazelle can carry medium machine guns, guided missiles or dumb rockets, and can carry three passengers. The SyAAF is believed to have 30 of these craft.

Mi-8/Mi-17 The Mi-17 Hip is a variant of the Mi-8 transport helicopter. Syria is known to possess both, and while exact figures are not clear, it’s believed to be between 80 and 130 combined. Designed as a transport helicopter it is often repurposed as a gunship, but it is infamous in the Syrian Civil War as the primary host of improvised “barrel bombs”, discussed previously our guide to unconventional weapons. Flying above conventional anti-aircraft fire range, the Mi-17 opens its rear cargo door and simply rolls the barrel bombs out the back when approximately over the target area, leading to an incredible lack of control over where the several hundred pound crude bombs explode. Capable of carrying up to 30 troops, 12 stretchers, or nearly 9,000 lbs of cargo, the Mi-17 sees work as a troop shuttle, air ambulance, and rapid resupply capability in addition to being adapted as an impromptu bomber.

Mi-25 The export variant of the Soviet Mi-24 Hind, the Mi-25 is perhaps most famous for its role in Soviet-Afghan war where it was the chariot of the Soviet infantry and functioned as heavily armored and armed air support. The Mi-25 hosts an enormous amount of weaponry, including a mixture of 12.7mm, 23mm, and 30mm cannons in single and dual configurations, winged mounted rocket and bomb pods, and window mounted machine guns, with in excess of 3,000 lbs of ordnance that can be carried on external hardpoints. Due to the nature of this aircraft’s mission and the need to be at relatively low altitude for gun strikes it is vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire, though unique in that the fuselage is armored enough to withstand 12.7mm heavy machine gun fire. The Mi-25 is capable of hauling 8 soldiers, can travel 280 miles and has a top speed of 208 miles per hour. Syria is believed to have just over 30 of these gunships.

AIRPOWER

The presence of the Syrian Arab Airforce (SyAAF) has long been attributed to the staying power of the SAA as opposition forces lacked the means to challenge SyAAF airpower initially, and even now only possess minimal anti-air capabilities, which the SyAAF has responded to be altering its operations in favor of higher flight altitudes (resulting in lower accuracy). As the war wears on, more and more Syrian aircraft have been down by anti-aircraft artillery like the ZU-23-2, captured MANPADS, and using ATGMs like the TOW missile to strike parked aircraft at government installations. Pre-war figures of 555 combat airplanes and 36 attack helicopters are decimated and it was reported in September of this year that those numbers had sunk to 295 and 25 respectively, although with no official word from Syria, it is difficult to confirm such numbers. It is likely that Russian and Iranian sources have been slowly replenishing destroyed aircraft stocks, but the SyAAF cannot continue to sustain such losses. A Syrian government victory is predicated on continued mastery of the air and the ability to reinforce and provide support for troops on the ground when besieged by opposition groups. This section will focus on Syrian government aircraft only, and will not attempt to delve into the aircraft used by coalition partners in airstrikes against ISIL.

Drones

Mohajer 4 The rise of drones in use by military forces generally covers their use in combat firing Hellfires and other guided missiles at insurgent targets in Iraq and Afghanistan. What is rarely covered is their extensive use by nearly every modern military force to gather real time intelligence via direct video feeds, and to give commanders strategic flexibility by being able to observe their forces in totality and gain better insight on what to do and where to move. In Syria, Iranian supplied Mohajer 4 drones deliver a reconnaissance capability the government previously did not have short of using valuable combat aircraft to perform time and manpower consuming reconnaissance missions. The Mohajer 4 is capable of 7 hours continuous flight time and can reach a flight ceiling of 15,000 feet, with a range of 150km, giving significant coverage, and able to reach well above anti-aircraft fire range, though at unknown cost to visibility and optics. Several have been downed in Syria, though whether by enemy fire or technical mishap is unknown.

Yasir Very little hard data is known about the Yasir drone, but it is reputed to be a reverse engineered copy of the US “Scan Eagle” reconnaissance drone, boasting loner range (200km) and greater flight time (8 hours) than the Mohajer 4, with a similar flight ceiling. It’s presence in Syria has not been confirmed, but with the uptick in Iranian military involvement, it is believed to be operated within Syria, possibly by Iranian controllers.

Non-Military Drones: While the Syrian government and its allies hold a monopoly of on military airpower in Syria, that has not stopped opposition groups from purchasing off the shelf “drones” in the form of remotely controlled quadcopters. Equipping them with GoPros and other off the shelf camera equipment, one can spend less than $800 on Amazon and acquire their own ISR capability in the form of products listed as “toys” like the DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter. Thirty minutes of flight time and able to reach several hundred feet up, such “drones” have been employed by numerous factions in the conflict, most notably by ISIL, featured in their propaganda videos over the Kurdish city of Kobani. As non-state actors co-opt this technology, the monopoly on standoff reconnaissance begins to shift in favor of smaller groups operating cheap, easy to acquire, civilian legal “drones”.

Fixed Wing Combat Aircraft

MiG-21 In conjunction with the MiG-23, the MiG-21 forms the bulk of the Syrian Arab Airforce, with over one hundred in service. A fighter plane, the MiG-21 has been repurposed as a ground attack, close air support, and reconnaissance platform, operating in support of SAA offensives, to bomb opposition strong points, and to relieve pressure on besieged SAA bases. As a need for fighter craft in Syria has dwindled, and with neighboring Israel conductingairstrikes in Syria almost unopposed, the bulk of Syrian combat aircraft have been adapted into a support role for the SAA. The MiG-21 carries a 23mm cannon for strafing ground targets, and can employ slightly over 2,000 lbs in bombs, rockets, or a combination of both. The rarity of smart munitions means that the bulk of air support relies on pilot skill and accuracy, both of which are severely limited by the high altitudes pilots must fly at to avoid anti-aircraft fire and MANPADS. The MiG-21 was first rolled out in combat operations during the Syrian Civil War in July of 2012. August 21st of the same year marked the first SyAAF combat loss as a MiG-21 was shot down on takeoff by enemy anti-aircraft fire. Another MiG-21 was shot down two weeks later, by heavy machine gun fire.

MiG-23 Representing the second most plentiful combat aircraft in the Syrian air force (95 pre-war), the MiG-23 is utilized in a similar fashion to the MiG-21, fulfilling a ground attack role to support SAA offensives and relieve beleagured SAA troops. It features a 23mm cannon for strafing and can carry nearly three times the ordnance of the MiG-21, with 6500 lbs of mixed bombs, rockets, and anti-air weapons. It’s unknown if any have been shot down by the opposition, but one MiG-23 was shot down by Turkish F-16s when it strayed near Turkish airspace.

MiG-25 A high speed reconnaissance and interceptor aircraft, the MiG-25 is used by the Syrian government as an ISR asset to gather imagery of enemy formations, and forms the bulk of the remaining SyAAF capability to counter any aerial assault by another country, combining extremely high speed with anti-air missiles.

Su-24 The SyAAF possesses a limited number of true ground attack aircraft, believed to be roughly twenty by pre-war estimates supplementing its aging fleet of some fifty Su-22 fighter bombers. The Su-24 is a two man aircraft with a pilot and weapons officer, supersonic capable. that carries a 23mm cannon and up to nearly 18,000 pounds of ordnance, making it the aircraft most capable of providing sustained support to troops on the ground, through a variety of munitions, guided and unguided, with a mixture of rockets, bombs, and missiles. The limited number of Su-24 makes their employment a strategic consideration that likely requires senior SyAAF approval to be saved for named operations or to prevent bases from being overrun.

L-39 (trainer) As the Syrian war has shown, necessity is the mother of invention, or in the case of the SyAAF, the mother of adaption. The L-39 is a jet trainer aircraft that has been repurposed as a light ground attack aircraft, capable of hosting a 23mm cannon and close to 3,000 lbs of ordnance. Designed to teach pilots to fly, smaller air forces have adopted the aircraft for this purpose and then retrofitted it to host anti-aircraft missiles, bomb pylons, and cannons. Syria is believed to have 40 of these aircraft, though at least two have been destroyed by ATGM attacks on Syrian airports by opposition groups.

(Authors Note: This was originally written in February 2015. The situation for Syrian military armor has taken a turn drastically for the worse since that time. The uptick in ATGM proliferation and the capture of SAA armor should be looked, especially in the context of the offensives in Idlib, Hama, Aleppo, and Daraa)
As the most tank-heavy military in the Middle East, by a heavy percentage, the SAA entered the Syrian Civil War with a tremendous amount of armor. Open source numbers put their pre-war numbers at roughly 4,500 Main Battle Tanks (2,000 T-55, 1,000 T-62, 1,500 T-72), 2,000 BMPs (almost entirely BMP-1s, though the Republican Guard boasted some 100 BMP-2s), 4,731 other armored vehicles (including self propelled AA, self propelled, artillery, armored cars, APCs, and armored AA missile platforms), along with 2,518 transport and logistics trucks, and unknown thousands of jeeps and small vehicles. Of these, a large number of vehicles are either mothballed, broken down for parts, or simply inoperable, with many conflict experts saying the real number of MBTs at the outset of the conflict was 2,500, BMPs at roughly 1,000, and the remainder an unknown entity. Even still, this number of armored vehicles is an enormous amount that outpaces most other military forces in the world (at the start of the conflict, Syria had the 5th largest tank army in the world).
In four years of war, most notably the last three, the number of main battle tanks has shrunk by nearly half with conflict blogger Oryx claiming that of 2,500 MBTs,roughly 1,500 remain[1] as of November 2014 and of the estimated 1,000 BMP-1s in service, Oryx claims that 350 have been destroyed[2] and approximately 175 captured by the opposition, as of January 2015. With over half of the BMP fleet, a mainstay of SAA battle doctrine, destroyed or captured, and approaching half of all MBTs destroyed or captured, how much longer can the SAA sustain these losses before the armored strength of the SAA is depleted and more tanks and armored vehicles exist in opposition hands than the government? My rough estimate: 2 years.
In 2015 alone, there have been roughly 100 ATGM strikes on Syrian armor (spread between tanks, APCs, and heavy equipment like bulldozers). From posts on this subreddit alone, I’ve counted 65 ATGM (all types) strikes since February just here on the forums, but that doesn’t account for how many of those strikes weren’t catastrophic hits. Here is a post with 32 strikes from between Feb 10 and Mar 19[3] . Roughly 100 tanks and BMPs have been struck by an ATGM. An untold number have been destroyed by another tank, or destroyed by other AT means (RPGs, AT cannon, mines, IEDs, SVBIED. If I had to guess I would add 20+ to that number of tanks damaged or destroyed since January, based solely on recollection of video and photos of tanks being destroyed by other means. As far as captured…
Several BMP-1s were captured at Brigade 82 in late January, along with a ZSU-23-4 quad barreled 23mm AA vehicle, and two AA missile vehicles. In Feburary, a T-72 and two BMP-1s were captured in Daraa area during the offensive. In Aleppo, a BMP-1 and a T-72, and two T-55s were captured by Islamic Front during that counter attacks, (Bashkuy specifically). In March, I didn’t keep good track of what has been captured, although I know in Idlib at least two BMP-1s, two armored cars (BRDM-2 I think), and a small number of logistics trucks were captured. Most recently (a few days ago), a T-72 and three BMP-1s were captured from Hezbollah/SAA forces in the Qalamoun (might have that wrong, it might be Qunaitirah).
The SAA has been losing vehicles at an alarming rate, with approximately 138 vehicles captured, destroyed, or damaged by opposition offensives, ATGM strikes, tank on tank, or other AT weapons. Given the combined 2,000 tanks + BMPs remaining in the Syrian inventory, if losses were to continue at this rate, the SAA can sustain approximately four more years of fighting before the entire tank inventory is used up (without massive replenishment). Of course in reality, if tank losses continue at this rate, replacing them on the battlefield will become a question of retaining enough for defense in secured areas, or continuing to atrophy over the long term through destruction and capture. It is likely that two more years of this rate of destruction would reduce Syrian tank inventory by at least half, and require massive rearmament by an outside power (such as a former Soviet state which has not made the same agreements as Russia with regards to not supplying Syria with more tanks).

A Russian Army’s combat infantry vehicle crew takes part in The Suvorov Assault competition at the International Army Games 2015 at Alabino base outside Moscow.

Military engineers have been competing in taking hardware across a river and crews on armored personnel carriers (APCs) have been holding breath-taking competitions as part of the ongoing International Army Games.

The contest for the APCs, called the “Suvorov Onslaught” (after the famous Russian 18th century commander Aleksandr Suvorov), has seen teams from China, Russia and Venezuela taking part.

A Chinese Army’s combat vehicle infantry crew (front) takes part in The Suvorov Assault competition at the International Army Games 2015 at Alabino base outside Moscow.

The crews have been driving Russian-made BMP-1 and BMP-2 amphibious infantry fighting vehicles armed with 76mm Grom cannons (BMP-1) and 30mm automatic cannons (BMP-2), as well as 7.62 machine guns on both vehicles.

Like the Russian Tank Biathlon, it is being held at the Alabino military training grounds, a huge territory with simulated rugged terrain in the Moscow region.

A Russian Army’s infantry combat vehicle crew takes part in The Suvorov Assault competition at the International Army Games 2015 at Alabino base outside Moscow.

Simultaneously, sappers from Belarus, China and Russia took part in the Open Water contest. They were doing various types of ferrying exercises, from constructing a pontoon bridge to transporting military hardware using special amphibious vehicles.

Army engineers loaded their amphibious transport vehicles with military trucks and ensured secure transportation from one bank to the other of BMP-2 amphibious infantry fighting vehicles (unit weight 14 tons) and T-72 main battle tanks (unit weight 42 tons).

A Russian Army’s infantry combat vehicle crew takes part in The Suvorov Assault competition at the International Army Games 2015 at Alabino base outside Moscow.

Organized by the Russian Defense Ministry, the International Military Games include the Tank Biathlon, AviaDarts air force competition, the Caspian Cup naval contest and the Suvorov Onslaught, where military personnel test their land and aerial skills.

A Venezuelan Army’s infantry combat vehicle crew (front) takes part in The Suvorov Assault competition at the International Army Games 2015 at Alabino base outside Moscow.

The contests are being held at 11 different locations across Russia. More than 2,000 foreign troops, 57 teams from 17 nations are taking part in the games, with 400 foreign observers attending the events.

A Chinese Army’s combat vehicle infantry crew takes part in The Suvorov Assault competition at the International Army Games 2015 at Alabino base outside Moscow.

All nations are using weapons presented by the hosting side, except for the Chinese.

A Venezuelan Army’s combat infantry vehicle crew takes part in The Suvorov Assault competition at the International Army Games 2015 at Alabino base outside Moscow.

The People’s Liberation Army of China brought four Type-96 tanks for the Tank Biathlon, four infantry combat vehicles for the Suvorov Onslaught competition, 120mm self-propelled mortar-howitzer PLL-05 systems to participate in the Masters of Artillery fire contest and Russian-made Su-30MKK strike fighters for the Aviadarts.

One of the more surprising stories of cold war US tank development is the M73/M219 machine gun.  Developed for use in US armored vehicles, the M73 served most prominently as the coax machine gun in the M48/M60 “Patton” series of tanks and the M551 Sheridan light tank.  During its time of service, the M73 distinguished itself as one of the worst machine guns ever adopted by the US military, suffering from numerous malfunctions which lead to frequent jamming.  This was particularly frustrating for US tankers who were accustomed to the reliability of the .30 and .50 cal machine guns designed by John Browning which equipped US tanks during WW2 and the early cold war period.

A nice overview of the sad history of the M73/M219 is provided by an article over at the small arms review. The article sums up the M73/M219 saying:

In retrospect, the design of the M73/M219 was an accumulation of novel concepts that should have been thoroughly tested in the application before finalizing the design. The off and on development program challenged the ever-changing design teams with a new learning curve every time the project was restarted. It was a costly program in time, assets, money and loss of face. She was an ugly little baby and somebody should have told her Mama so.

For those interested in primary documents, here is a link to a government report from 1975 detailing tests to find a suitable replacement for the M73/M219.  Interestingly, the guns tested include not just US designs, but also the Canadian C1, the German MG3, the MAG58 from Belguim, the British L8A1, the French AAT52 and even the Soviet PKM.

Attribute Analysis of the Armor Machine Gun Candidates (PDF)

Here is a video showing the operation of the M73.

First Seen at Tank Nut Stan

Israeli armored protective recent fighting in Gaza have shown high efficiency of Israeli vehicles and systems for the protection of armored vehicles from anti-tank weapons Melee seems to be on the side of the Palestinian terrorists have all the advantages – battles were fought in the dense urban areas, where it was previously carried out continuous mining houses and streets, as shelters and gun positions, Palestinians have used pre-prepared firing points equipped in homes and basements, for a concealed movement and sudden attacks militants are widely used underground tunnels. At the gunmen were modern Russian Kornet ATGM type. According to the documents seized in the mosque where he kept Russian Kornet anti-tank missile systems, their delivery to Palestinian terrorists went directly from Russia, from the manufacturing plant in Tula. During the storming of Grozny January 2, 1995 Russian 131st Motorized Rifle Brigade, fought in similar conditions are much less prepared against enemy was completely destroyed – killed or were lost in about 200 Russian troops led by the commander of the brigade, the fire of the Chechen fighters had been destroyed 22 T-72 tanks of 26, 102 of the 120 infantry fighting vehicles, all 6 IRC “Tunguska” anti-aircraft Division. In contrast to the disastrous Russian experience of warfare in the city during the fighting in Gaza, the IDF did not lose a single tank !. reason for the success of the Israeli armored forces lies not only in the high skills of tank crews, but also in high performance protection of Israeli armored vehicles. The Israeli military-industrial concern RAFAEL is a world leader in creating the most effective means of protection of armored vehicles.Israeli developments in this area include the creation of different types of armor: passive, reactive, Hybrid

The Ukrainian Defense Industry sent a modernized version of the “Saxon” armored vehicle to the army for trials.

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