Fashion Victim or the MBT is Dead

PETALING JAYA:The story below is self-explainatory. It revealed how others are looking for new means of getting information to soldiers and not tied down to a single concept. Yes, its easy to do that when one is awash with money even if there are many obstacles along the way. I realise that the US Army is not the best example for us to emulate but it is the most documented, so at least we can learn some things from them.

In our case however lack of funds usually means that by the time a capability is fielded, it is already or close to obsolescence. Or in some cases the maintenance issues are so prohibitive or not factored in at the point of procurement, most systems never reached its full capability.

Take for example, the 8X8 project. The Army had identified the need for new vehicles specifically wheeled 8X8 Armoured Fighting Vehicle to replace the Condors back in 1993 when troops were deployed to Bosnia and Somalia. Due to terrain, the Condors were prone to tipping over and roll-overs and as a stop-gap measure, we bought some 100 KIFVs for the Bosnian mission although none were ever sent to Somalia.

However as the Condor was relatively new piece of kit, it was bought (some 457 units) with the Belgian-designed Sibmas 6X6 in the 80s, it was obvious that no new replacement was envisaged at that point. The Condors and Sibmas were procured by the Army as it embarked on a modernisation cum conventionalisation drive following the winding down of operations against the Communist Party of Malaya.

The move for wheeled AFV at that time, was in the opposite thinking of other conventional armies as most of them were still enamoured with a blitzkrieg type operations with armoured hordes (MBTs and tracked AFVs) engaging in fast moving battles ala Kursk and Northern Africa in WWII. It was probably for these reason that the Army ended up with the Condors and Sibmas in the first place as there were not too many choices for wheeled AFVs back then.

In between the First Gulf War and experiences in Bosnia and Somalia, the Army probably had a change of heart. It had by then reverted to the more conventional “blitzkrieg” style of doctrine with MBTs and tracked AFVs as the battle winners. Hence when funds were available, circa around 2000, the Adnans (the procurement was delayed mostly due to 1997 economic crisis) were bought to be followed by subsequent procurements of the PT91Ms and the MLRS regiment (also delayed by the 97 crisis).

The sudden change in the Army’s doctrine was an anomaly of course, as the Gulf War had an opposite effect on other armies with even the US pursuing the wheeled AFVs as they look for “lighter” options for future wars. The MBT is dead some people like to say during this period. By early 2000 (at the time we bought the Adnans) many armies started to procure or at least looking for 8X8 with the Swiss Piranha or its American version LAV which morphed into the Stryker, being sold in large numbers.

In the meantime, the Army continue to operate the Condors and the Sibmas while at the same time the General Staff Requirement had in-turn call for these vehicles to be replace with 8X8 AFVs. Subsequently, as part of the GSR, local trials were conducted in 2004 and 2006 period with the Pars/AV8 chosen to be the National 8X8 AFV. But when the time to fund the project during RMK9 (2006-2010), the project came undone due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008/2009 forcing the government to defer the 8X8 project.

Fast forward to 2011, and the AV8 project is finally off the drawing boards with the first vehicle expected to be delivered next year. As it is the first 8X8s will not be battle ready by 2015 at a time when others are already calling wheeled AFVs as obsolete based on experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the Western armies, those who are re-capitalising, are re-enlisting tracked AFVs to replace their worn-out 8X8s. Even the French and Germany which chose to develop their own 8X8s are also in a quandary but the fate of these vehicles are more tied to funding issues instead of doctrine.

Other countries which also pursued the 8X8 option with us like Turkey (which came out with two versions; one which morphed into the AV8) and South Korea (with three) have yet to make a decision on whether or not they will buy any of the prototypes. Turkey ha decided to procure the Pars but the South Koreans remained uncommitted over its 8X8 plans.

How this got to do with smart phones you may asked? Well, the Army is putting in plans for the Malaysian Future Soldier System (MFSS). Not much is known about the project apart from well-informed sources that it has the backing from top leadership of Kementah. Whether or not it will get the funding during RMK10 or how it will turned out remained unknown. But everyone is saying that its going to happen and it will most probably the “traditional” future soldier system ensemble be procured instead of newer technologies like the smart phones experiment by the US Army.

Looking back at our past experience I am not too sure that the MFSS will be fielded anytime soon. Yes, I know past history is not the best indicator of the future but on defence issues in Malaysia, I beg to differ. The MFSS may be field tested soon but field operations will probably take another decade or so, if we are lucky. By that time, the fad will move on…

From Defence News

In late 2009, U.S. Army leaders set out an ambitious goal: to put a commercially manufactured smart phone in the hands of every soldier in four months, whether the soldier was deployed to Afghanistan or training at a base in the U.S.

Then reality bit.

Finding the phones was not the problem.

“If you’ve got enough money, you can buy a million cell phones,” said Mike McCarthy, director of the mission command complex at the Army’s Future Force Integration Directorate in Fort Bliss, Texas.

More challenging was proving the phones were rugged enough, that operational secrecy and classified information could be protected, that operating a GPS-equipped smart phone would not give away a soldier’s position, and that airships, planes or ground hubs could fill in for commercial cell towers.


–Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2227 Articles
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  1. There have many claims these past few decades that the ‘MBT is dead, only this claim has been constantly proven wrong in several conflicts. At present, when it comes to delivering firepower and mobility, there is no alternative to an MBT. Another assumption people make is just because Malaysia does have have vast open spaces like the plains of Northern Germany or the deserts of Egypt, MBTs and supporting IFV’s can’t be employed effectively. As proven in Vietnam and during WW2 in Malaya, Burma and the Pacific campaign, AFVs can be operated effectively within the limitations presented by thge terrain. Wheeled AFV’s have the advantage of being cheaper to buy and mantain than tracked vehicles and quieter, but they do have limitations compared to tracked AFV’s.

    IMO all this talk about a conventional army, combined arms formations and maneuver warfare
    sounds grand but in our case apart from the 11th Armoured Brigade and the 4th Mechanized Brigade, the bulk of our army still remains better suited for low intensity, small unit operations rather than a full fledged conventional war. I find it ironic that during the 80’s, the aim was to transform the army into a conventional force to deal with posssible external threats [this led to all the heavy firepower being bought – PT-91, Adnan, G-5, ASTROS]. Problem is the main threats we face currently are not conventional in nature but from non-state actors, like terrorism, enroachment of our waters and airspace, etc. With regards to conventional ops, we should ask ourselves if the changes required in mindset, training, doctrine, force structure, etc, have been made?

  2. Since you are talking about MFSS, if I’m not mistaken, last week I read in a column for the army anniversary in the Utusan Malaysia reviweing the French FELIN. So what do all of you here think about this?

    Yes Felin was widely tipped as the expected chosen system mostly due to the heavy Thales involvement in the project. Since there is SapuraThales, the Felin got a head start against other FSSs. However since late last year, the buzz is that Jalan Kementah was not so keen on French things anymore. Over-digestion from the Scorpene buy maybe? However the Felin remained a strong contender for the project.

  3. Well,
    The future soldier project contains several elements.Its situational awareness. The section commander must be aware of his men whereabouts, the platoon commander where his sections are and all the way upwards. Then the men must be able to receive instructions via wireless, the weapon system must be a self support system with the required firepower, ammunition, lighting requirements either torch light or laser, grenade launcher too?.Then the soldier protection system-the armoured vest lah, the boots, the dress being IR suppressant, able to be cool to heat and warm to cold. The self sustaining nature of the soldier. So its not just about the hand phone alone.

    As for the MBT, Tracked v Wheeled carriers, I would say both types are needed.This is because they have different capabilities and have certain advantage over each other. Now there are even newer vehicles-the new German Tracked and wheeled AIFV, the new MRAPS which are all wheeled vehicles.
    So to have a balanced force, we need both MBT, wheeled and tracked vehicles.

    So said but we are the only operator for both the Sibmas and the Condors. The sibmas can still be used if enough is done to modernise them.Even the condors and the old commando vehicles can still be used for internal security like border patrol etc. They will add to the armys mobility and protect them from small arms fire.So for these old vehicles, modernise them and let the standard infantry battalions become more mobile and have greater integrated fire power with them

    Sad to say from my point of view the Condors especially are much too old already and should be retired. On the issue of tracked AFV my concern is that we don’t have enough funds to procure tank transporters nor our railway network comprehensive enough to move them around the country. Wheeled AFV has limitations but as long one has a driver, fuel and tyres it can go almost anywhere. You don’t want to send tracked AFV into long marches before entering the battle zone.

  4. The FSS programme is a waste of time and another foolish, pointless diversion. Not only will it cost a bomb [I’ve been told at around 150,000RM each minimum], half the stuff in it will end up not being used, by the end-users. If there is no political will and urgency to fork out the cash to ensure a sizeable amount of our troops get body armour, never mind night vision, why on earth are we even contemplating an FSS programme? No doubt the briefings and Power Point presentations held at MINDEF and the Infantry Directorate on the FSS will be sound impressive/canggih and will get the attention of the politicians and the top brass but is totally irrelevant to our current needs and operational requirements, especially when the troops are lacking in other basic, needy areas.

    You forgot about the National Interest :

    “It is an opportunity to develop the local defence industry and spur export potential of defence equipment. Malaysia will be the hub of cutting edge technology ,,,,AFV/ships/ …..
    We will not break the ceiling of the budget (annua/RM) as the cost is spread between two Rancangan Malaysia……”

  5. from an idiot stand point, i am more for medium battle tank and or armoured fighting vehicle to be widely used in malaysian armed forces fighting strategy.

    Yup those things are bulky and expensive and can be slow especially in our bushes, kelapa sawit plantation and hutan, but hey if ia am a soldier which i am not, i would have a liitle piece more comfort fighting behind or inside an AFV or behind an mbt as we ppushe through enemy defences.

    Of course that type of conflict is rare in malaysia, last being ww2 and most of the time our armed forces would be facings bandit at most once in a while aremed with 7.62 mm gpmg and RPG 7, thus it may not justify the cost to obtain say 1000 afv or mbt, but the angan2 is there.

    Back in WWII the Japanese use tankettes as a battlefield bully when attacking strong points manned by British troops. As the British troops concentrate on the tankettes, Japanese troops on truck, bicycles and even on foot look alternative routes to by-passed these strong points. These involved going secondary roads, rubber plantation and jungle paths. Once behind the strong points the Japs attacked them causing panic among the defender. The tankettes used by the Japs were lighter than the AV8. Yes I agree a CV90 armed with a 105 mm or 120mm gun (there is nothing else in these category) is a much better choice than the PT91M

  6. A soldiers wish lish:
    1.A good powerful compact gun that dont weight a ton and at a convenient length so that no parts of the gun can get caught among the jungle vegetation.
    2. Powerful firepower- means attached grenade launcher to the rifle.
    3.Good communications-means having a short range wireless set so that commands can be heard by every soldier.
    4. Now comes a great boot that protects from small booby traps
    5. Then only comes a good but light body armour

    Of course if one can ride into battle inside infantry fighting vehicles then thats a bonus and such vehicles also add to the firepower to overwhelm the other side too.
    Dont die for your country as a dead soldier is only of use to the enemy.Make the enemy die for their own country.

    Patton was more direct “Let the other bas…die for their country

  7. The big problem is the CV90 or the Centauro and Rooikat, can’t take the same amount of punishment as an MBT [BTW,the Indian army has specified the need for a wheeled AFV to be used as a tank destroyer/FSV in it’s northern, mountainous regions]. As Marhalim pointed out, Jap tanks during WW2 used roads, plantations , etc, they were never used in the jungle. Another fact often forgotten fact when discussing the rapid advance of the Japs through the Malay peninsular is that Malaya had one of the best and most developed road networks in the British empire, apart from the U.K. off course, and this played a very vital part in the Jap invasion. Peninsular Malaysia today has a very developed and large road network and together with the increased urbanisation these past 2/3 decades has meant that there are mmuch more parts of the terrain that are suitable for the employment of MBT’s.

    One way of looking at it is if the Sings, who off course have done detailed studies of our road networks, bridges and terrain in the south, have thought that their Leo 2’s can’t be used in the south because of terrain and weight limitations, they wouldn’t never have bought the Leo 2. The successful employment of MBT’s by the Australians, Americans and N. Vietnamese in a terrain that shares many similiarties as Malaysia offers the army a lot of lessons, as do the use of tanks in Burma and the Pacific theatre.

    That’s the reason I advocated a US-Marine style MEB for our Army brigades. This will allow our soldiers to move either on foot, vehicles and air. It allow tactical flexibility in operations.

  8. Apart for CV90, would not the 25mm armed adnan be sufficient for the job if they are supplied with DU or armoured piercing rounds?

    we could always increased the number from currently 31, plus maintenance and logistic would not be an added nightmare. Or more radical, we can have the version that is armed with latest light 105mm turret from csc, if possible lah?

    I don’t think anyone will sell us DU rounds, Kamal.
    Yes they can fit turrets armed with 105mm cannons on the Adnan but for what purpose? If its to kill tanks its a bad as the chassis was not designed to do so

  9. The only usefulness a 105mm gun will have will be in in taking out APC’s/IFV’s [which can anyhow be deal with using 20mm or 30mm guns] and field fortifications. The armour on all current generation MBT’s and older MBT’s that have been up-armoured will be able to defeat 105mm rounds.

    As there has been some talk about Tank Destroyers – CV90, Rooikat – being suitable as an alternative to MBT’s, I have posted here someone’s thoughts regarding the so-called TD’s.

    ”The so-called tank destroyers are in essence mobile field artillery systems meant to be used for either staging ambushes or for conducting battlefield recce. They will never go on a direct faceoff with any MBT. Instead, they will be employed against dug-in motorised infantry forces. And if adequate tactical air mobility is available (via C-130-type or Mi-26T-type transports) then such vehicles can be effectively employed for attacking hostile forces from the rear by adopting vertical envelopment manoeuvres. I remember going to PD for witnessing the CV-90-120 and Rooikat 105 mobility trials in 2000 and at that time the local agents were proudly and ignorantly claiming that such vehicles can be viable alternatives to the MBT! And their views were then seconded by some Australian Army instructors on armoured warfare. I then explained to them that tank-on-tank battles and swift manoeuvre warfare engagements in support of or against motorised/mechanised infantry formations are two poles apart and one cannot substitute the other. I also had then asked the visiting Aussies how exactly on earth could they even think of instructing the Malaysian Army when the entire active Australian Army does not even size up to Division-level, while the all-volunteer Malayisan Army has four active Divisions! Needless to say, those Aussie officers were scratching their heads. (LoL!) Vehicles like the Terminator are ideally employed in tandem with MBTs and are used for clearing dug-in hostile anti-armour emplacements before the arrival of friendly mechanised infantry forces, primarily over flat terrain.”

    yes TD are not replacement for MBTs but its how they are employed that will determine it survivability. I believe the Army will no go for CV90 or Rooikat to replace the Scorpion and Stormer combo as the Av8 should be fitted with a 105mm turret.
    And as for story on the agents, your friend should not have his panties on the knot on the claims by the salesman.And the four divisions comment is also ironic. The divisions is there only for flag officers purpose only.

    The comment on the an-all armour formation taking on the enemy is completely wrong. You need infantry to work in tandem with armour to clear the battlefield as shown in WWII and other wars since. An all armour formation was the tactics of the British Army before WWII and was proven to be wrong by mid 1940s.

  10. Well, we just have to be glad that wiser heads prevailed and the so-called Tank Destroyers were not ordered in place of MBT’s. I remember speaking in great lenght to people from Hangglunds/Alvis and Denel, they did emphasise that their offerings were not intended as a complete MBT alternative and could not perform the same functions as an MBT. The local Hagglunds rep however, insisted that the CV-90 was just as good as an MBT, and even better he said, it was cheaper. Quite conveniantly he avoided mentioning the baseline armour protection level….

    As for the 105mm guns, it remains to be seen if the Armour Directorate has specified the need for a 105mm AV8 fire support variant variant. Or have they? Amongst various armies there are differences of opinions regarding the usefulness of 105mm guns.

    If you go by the reasoning that only MBTs should be bought due to its armour then the Scorpion was also a mistake. The problem with MBTs is that they are too heavy to be deployed on our terrain apart from urban areas of course. It was for these reason they end up with the PT91 as the rest of MBT were too heavy to meet our requirements.

  11. The Scorpion was ordered, before the Sibmas and Condor, because there was a requirement for a fire support vehicle with the secondary role of taking out light AFV’s, hence the decision to fit the 90mm, it was a compromise from the start. There was neither the cash for anything larger or with a bigger gun nor a place for it in our doctrine at that time.

    With 48 PT91 on tap I surely hope the doctrine is up todate or there is a mismatch in financing and capability?

  12. Just hope pakistan could sell as du rounds when and if we need it as i thought they manufacture for both 25mm and 125 mm.

    Anyway, when they did the presentation for AV8, there was no mentioning of a 90mm or 105 mm version but that could come in later (hoping haha)

    But if armour, firepower and logistic similarity is the concern, why not ordered more PT91 albeit the PT91EX version, the downgrade version of PT91M, the one which was offered to PERU. The only difference is the replacement of the expensive sagem 15 FCS with polish made one. Rumoured to be priced between 30% cheaper than PT91M. But the worry is, we could buy but may not afford to operate and maintain at optimum level like most of our other acquisition

    Pakistan will do well not to sell any DU rounds to us if they want to continue to get support from the US.
    I believe a FSV armed with a 105mm gun will be offered.
    Since we paid for the Sagem FCS integration on the Pendekar it will be negligent for us to ditch it if we ever buy a second batch. Furthermore think the mess for training and maintenance if we do have two different batches of the Pendekar in operation

  13. Personally, i don’t think we need wheeled TDs at all. Sure AT guns on wheels can provide fast, cheap and mobile firepower but one must not overlook it lack of armor. Rather than that we should opt for more AV8s equipped with heavy ATGMs (Metis-M, Baktar Shikan; better use what we have but hey, Russian Kornet, Chinese HJ-9, US’s TOW, EU’s MILAN and Korean KATM is good too)that can offer guided attack to tanks and fortifications.

    As most of our neighbors are armed to the teeth with tanks, the need for MBTs can’t be put aside. The answer to a tank threat is a tank itself. History itself has shown that tanks can be use in SEA. Fast urban development and credible road network in Malaysia is suitable for tanks. Opting for more PT-91Ms will be good for our logistics support and needs. More PT91Ms supplement with light tanks such as Sprut-SD or CV90-120 should be better suited for our needs, soil, and budget. Together with some much need SPHs.

    Personally, i would have prefer to see more armored units in not just Peninsular but in East Malaysia too as they need more firepower. The Indonesians are also in the midst to raise a light tank battalion there. But hey, money is a big concern too just as of bureaucracy.

    The Denel turret meant for the AV8 is already integrated with the Ingwe ATGM so I believe its cheaper and more importantly faster for them to procure the missiles. It will be like the TOW launchers on the Bradley and other vehicles. It can be fired without the need for the gunner to be exposed if we were to use the Metis M and Bakhtar Shikan (of course someone will have to be exposed when reloading).

    As for additional MBTs it appears that additional MBTs are low priority now…

  14. Wheeled APC’s do not have to be heavily armoured as they are not expected and required to come into direct contact with enemy forces like MBT’s. The current yardstick is up to 12.7mm or up to 25mm frontally, with applique armour.
    If one were to up-armour a 6×6 or an 8×8 to withstand anything over 25mm, it would be so heavy it could hardly move. The Condor, Sibmas, Scorpion and Stormer, like the V-100’s/150’s before, only provides protection up to 7.62mm.

  15. ar u pple talking about the recent FSS that TD is planning to purchase,well actually TD needs a battle taxi,to the front line. but FSS seems not a good idea because of its design,and its shows that TD is in a state asal bole aje.bjust u all see,the perajurit needed space n constant communication with the vehicle commander n the driver,but they are not getting it cause they ar being seperated by its engine.and due to its engine configuration,the perajurit hav smaller space,jus imagine 12 perajurit + all the stores+ injured personnel,unlike the conventional configuration engine is on either left or rightsede of the driver.i tell u in battle ground so confuse u would rather communicate directly rather than thru coms.

  16. by the way encik azlan,for ur info.ur southern neighbour bought the leo2,not for the purpose of bashing thru malaysian road n sawit plantation.their usage is more unique than the northern neighbour thinking,these leo2 if im not mistaken couple of them were meant to be escort to the bionix or their wheeled battle taxi.sought of indirect n direct fire support thats it.they dont move in platoon or battalion like their west counter part doing,u know jewish thinking always to catch their enemy by surprise.

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