Last month’s Eurosatory defence exhibition in Paris highlighted that the global defence industry has rapidly responded to the growing pressures for states to modernise their land forces and systems.
Various new and improved platforms, including main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, lightweight multirole vehicles and mobile artillery pieces, were unveiled and displayed throughout the week, with industry primes all capitalising on this opportunity to demonstrate how emerging technologies have helped re-define the design philosophies and priorities of land systems development in recent years.
Rheinmetall rolls out a new tank: KF51 Panther
In the field of tanks, Rheinmetall unveiled its new KF51 Panther, which incorporates several new technologies and design features to provide a significant technological leap compared to existing platforms.
Leveraging the modularity benefits provided by NATO ’s Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA ) initiative, Rheinmetall has designed a platform which provides enhanced lethality, situational awareness and survivability compared to similar systems in a lighter, more mobile vehicle chassis. By streamlining the integration of various capabilities, Rheinmetall has reduced the KF51’s crew requirement from four to three, further facilitating the operation of complex platforms at a time when personnel shortages are a growing issue.
The Panther is equipped with a larger 130mm Future Gun System (FGS) capable of 50% longer kill ranges than current 120mm smoothbore cannons, and also possesses an automated ammunition handling system to further reduce crew workload. The Panther’s other weapons systems include remote-controlled weapons stations designed for counter-UAS functions, as well as integrated HERO 120 loitering munitions to provide the platform with beyond line-of-sight targeting capabilities.
The Panther was designed with future requirements in mind, with the current GVA facilitating the adoption of uncrewed turrets and potentially entirely uncrewed vehicles in the near future.
Other notable tanks on display
Elsewhere at Eurosatory, KNDS – the consortium comprised of Nexter and KMW which has been tasked with developing the French-German Main Ground Combat System – presented a technology demonstrator of its European Main Battle Tank (E-MBT). Similar to the KF-51, the E-MBT also features an innovative distributed crew-station concept, remote-controlled weapons stations capable of counter-UAS, and a GVA configuration which allows for drive-by-wire and remote operation capabilities as well.
Other notable tank systems on display included Elbit Systems’ Sabrah light tank concept, which incorporates a 105/120mm optionally unmanned turret on existing platforms such as Hanwha Defence’s Redback infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) or General Dynamics Land Systems’ ASCOD IFV vehicle chassis.
New and upgraded heavy armoured vehicles
In the field of heavy armoured vehicles, several new and updated variants of existing armoured vehicles were displayed at Eurosatory, illustrating how emerging technologies and battlefield dynamics have influenced development priorities in this area.
For example, KMW unveiled a tracked variant of its Boxer 8×8 armoured personnel carrier equipped with its proprietary RCH120 remote-controlled 120mm smoothbore turret, which also incorporates a 12.7mm calibre coaxial machinegun and Rafael Defence Systems’ latest Spike LR2 anti-tank guided missiles to illustrate the unrivalled modularity of the Boxer’s design.
Canadian firm INTERNATIONAL ARMOURED GROUP showcased an entirely new 8×8 IFV platform, designated the Rila, which is equipped with Escribano’s Guardian 30 remote weapons station and capable of transporting nine infantrymen in the troop compartment, while remaining at the relatively modest combat weight of 36 tons.
“US Army officials attending Eurosatory revealed that all current prototypes in the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) programme have integrated hybrid-electric drive propulsion systems.”
BAE Systems demonstrated the latest MkIV variant of its combat proven CV90 IFV platform, which integrates a variety of advanced sensor technologies such as Israel Military Industries’ Iron Fist active protection system, Rada ’s AESA radar sensor and Elbit Systems’ passive infrared detection system to modernise the platform’s survivability and situational awareness capabilities.
While no technology demonstrators were present for the announcement, US Army officials attending the event revealed that all current prototypes in the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) programme, which looks to replace the M2 Bradley IFV, have integrated hybrid-electric drive propulsion systems, a further indication of how military organisations are increasingly receptive to adopting novel technologies and concepts in their latest armoured vehicle designs and formations.
The drive to modernise artillery weapons and sub-systems
An additional key feature of this year’s Eurosatory 2022 exhibition was the focus on modernising artillery weapons and sub-systems, as the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has reiterated the strategic importance of long-range precision fires capabilities in modern combat.
Due to the prevalence of low-cost UAS systems and advanced sensing capabilities, both Russian and Ukrainian forces have been particularly vulnerable to counter-battery fire due to their initial reliance on towed howitzers and artillery pieces. Consequently, highly mobile artillery platforms generated particular interest throughout the week at Eurosatory, with several governments having indicated their interest in procuring new systems.
“Highly mobile artillery platforms generated particular interest throughout the week at Eurosatory.”
The Swedish Government indicated it would purchase more Archer 155mm mobile howitzers from BAE Systems after taking receipt of its first order of 48 units, whilst the Lithuanian and Czech Governments have both publicly expressed their interest in purchasing Nexter’s Caesar 155mm mobile howitzers in light of their extensive use by the Ukrainian armed forces.
Other prominent companies were also marketing their high-mobility artillery solutions. KMW showcased its integration of a modular 155mm/52-cal gun on to a Boxer 8×8 chassis, Rheinmetall displayed its HX3 10×10 truck-mounted howitzer solution, Hanwha Defence presented its K9 Thunder 155mm mobile artillery piece, and relative newcomer Excalibur Army unveiled its proprietary Morana platform, which integrates a 155mm/52-cal howitzer on an 8×8 chassis produced by Czech firm Tatra.
The growing trend of platform digitisation and modularity
Finally, several established vehicle manufacturers showcased other light armoured or specialised vehicle variants and vehicular subsystems which further illustrated the sector-wide trend of enhanced platform digitisation and modularity.
BAE Systems showcased its BvS10 armoured all-terrain vehicle, which has generated significant interest from Sweden, the US and other nations concerned with the capability gaps in the Arctic warfare domain. The company also displayed several new vehicle capability modules, such as the 360 MVP Sensor and Check6 situational awareness systems designed for land systems.
Iveco Defence Vehicles showcased the latest variant of its lightweight multirole vehicle (LMV) with an increased payload and enhanced drive system, whilst Turkish armoured vehicles manufacturer Otokar displayed its wide range of armoured vehicles including the Cobra and Ural LMVs, which incorporate new armour and remote-controlled weapons stations to maintain overmatch in the field.
“In light of the rapid deterioration of global security norms, maintaining technological overmatch on the battlefield could prove a truly an existential necessity.”
In summary, a cursory analysis of the defence industry’s latest offerings with regards to land platforms highlights the rapidly growing importance of the armoured vehicles segment on the global market. The rapid pace of integration of new technologies such as unmanned weapons stations, integrated loitering munitions or enhanced sensor packages is already having a transformative effect on the modularity and capabilities of next-generation systems.
It is thus imperative that military strategists and procurement officials remain perpetually aware of the accelerated speed at which allies and hostile entities could overhaul their defence capabilities within the land domain. In light of the rapid deterioration of global security norms, maintaining technological overmatch on the battlefield could prove a truly an existential necessity.