VISION UNDER ARMOUR
By David Maxwell
Some of the first mechanised personnel carriers were the requisitioned B-type buses used by the British in the First World War to move troops about quickly but they were not armoured. The first armoured personnel carrier (APC) was believed to be the British Mark V tanks which was designed with a small passenger compartment to carry troops, followed by the first specialised APC, the Mark IX of 1918. The Second World War saw thousands of German armoured half-tracks, such as the Sdkz 251, used; while the US M3 half-tracks and Kangaroo conversions of Sherman tanks saw service with the Allies. Although closer to today’s concept of an armoured personnel carrier (APC), they were not fully enclosed vehicles.
It was the 1960s that saw fully enclosed APCs integrated within army formations in significant numbers: instanced by the British FV432-series and the US M113-series (both tracked) and the Russian tracked MT-LB, BMD and BMP series and wheeled BTR-series of APCs. While many remain in service and some continue in production, together with further developments instanced by the British Warrior and the US Bradley family of infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), they all were equipped with “sights” to provide vision under armour.
Initially, the pure APCs were provided with sights for the driver and commander. Once the weapon turrets were added (making them IFVs) the gunner, too, required a sight. Then, as current conflicts put armoured vehicles (fighting or combat support) into an urban environment, local situational awareness systems were developed. These various elements have all been addressed in previous issues of BATTLESPACE. This feature is intended to bring the various systems that collectively provide vision under armour together, focusing on the APC applications.
Rather than catalogue whole swathes of equipment, three specific vehicle types will be used as examples.
To open the batting, consider the Swedish CV90 family of tracked armoured vehicles, which have been built in a variety of versions for both domestic (basically the CV9040) and export customers: Denmark (CV9035DK), Finland (CV9030FIN), the Netherlands (CV9035 Mk III), Norway (CV9030N) and Switzerland (CV9030CH). All of the vehicles are fitted with versions of the UTAAS (Universal Tank and Anti-Aircraft System) developed for the CV90 programme by what is now Saab Systems.
Although a modular fire-control system intended for use with MBTs and armoured infantry fighting vehicles, both new build and retrofits, the CV90 series has been the only UTAAS application to date. It is a combined sight and fire-control system, available in a variety of configurations according to customer requirements.
The system is specifically designed to shorten the reaction time and achieve a high hit probability against moving targets when firing from a moving vehicle. The aiming operations of the gunner are made easier by the fact that the system generates an independent, secondary stabilised line-of-sight. The gunner needs only to track the target in the reticle centre and fire the laser. The fire-control system then calculates the firing solution and guides the barrel to the calculated super-elevation and lead angle while the line of sight remains on the target.
The UTAAS system consists of an optical day sight, with optical interface for the external mounting of a thermal imager and laser rangefinder; a fire-control computer; individual thermal display and controls for the gunner and commander; plus the various gun-control subsystems.
The first CV90s entered Swedish service in 1993 and, over its life, the thermal imaging subsystem has been equipped with five different cameras. The original UTAAS on Sweden’s CV9040 and Norway’s CV9030N vehicles used a Gen 1 thermal imager from Kollsman, based on the long-wave infrared (LWIR – 8-12 microns) Modular Common Thermal Night Sight used in the AN/TAS-4 sight, with 60×1 array format. Thes