Light tank M8. Photo BAE Systems
In 2015, the US Army launched the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) program. Its goal is to create a promising “light tank” with the maximum possible firepower and mobility, as well as with a combat mass of no more than 35-38 tons. In the future, such equipment will have to complement the main M1 Abrams tanks, the subsequent modernization of which led to an increase in mass and a fall mobility. In addition, the MPF program can be seen as an attempt to create a response to the Russian Sprut-SD self-propelled gun.
In the context of calls and responses, we will have to consider three types of armored vehicles: the Russian self-propelled anti-tank gun (SPTP) 2S25 “Sprut-SD”, as well as the American BAE Systems M8 MPF and General Dynamics Griffin II armored vehicles. Moreover, their consideration and comparison must begin with some reservations.
Armored vehicles of the MPF program are positioned as a light tank, but the combat weight is limited to “only” 38 tons. In the past, medium and main tanks weighed so much, and this circumstance gives rise to ambiguous assessments or irony. The Russian Sprut-SD in our classification is considered a model of self-propelled artillery designed for the airborne troops. However, foreign experts often refer to it as a light tank, which is facilitated by a combination of basic characteristics.
An interesting situation is developing. Formally, the three products do not belong to the same class, but in fact they are close to each other. And accordingly, they can and should be compared – at least in terms of the declared tactical and technical characteristics and combat capabilities.
One of the experienced GD Griffin II tanks. US Army Photos
Both American light tanks receive modular armor, which affects their actual combat mass. Depending on the level of protection, they can weigh up to 30 tons or more. Engine parameters were not specified, but it was reported that the M8 and Griffin II are capable of showing high mobility and mobility in all terrains. In addition, in terms of such characteristics, they are superior to the later versions of the Abrams.
SPTP 2S25 in the basic version weighs only 18 tons and is equipped with a 2V-06-2S diesel engine with a power of 510 hp. Specific power over 28 h.p. per ton provides acceleration up to 70 km / h and the ability to swim at 9 km / h. The power unit in combination with an individual hydropneumatic suspension provides good dynamic characteristics and high cross-country ability. A new modification 2S25M “Sprut-SDM1” has been developed, which is still at the testing stage. It differs in a different chassis with similar technical and improved performance characteristics.
All samples under consideration can be transported by military transport aircraft. However, due to their large mass, American “light tanks” cannot be parachuted, unlike the Russian “Sprut-SD”. In addition, it should be borne in mind that a lower mass simplifies transportation by all modes of transport and provides other advantages.
A light tank from BAE Systems was developed on the basis of the M8 armored vehicle from the nineties. It is likely that the main technical solutions of the old project, incl. in terms of protection, we switched to a new one. For example, the old M8 had a body made of aluminum armor, additionally covered with hinged modules of various types. The basic configuration provided anti-bullet and anti-fragmentation protection, and with the most powerful modules, the M8 could withstand small-caliber armor-piercing projectiles. Perhaps the new version of the M8 for the MPF shows similar characteristics – however, the exact data on this matter has not yet been announced.
SPTP 2S25 “Octopus-SD”. Photo by Vitalykuzmin.net
As a platform for the Griffin II, the ASCOD 2 multipurpose chassis with bulletproof steel armor is used. The hull and turret can also be supplemented with overhead blocks that provide protection against projectiles. At the same time, as in the case of a competing project, the installation of additional armor increases the dimensions and weight of the tank, up to the maximum specified in the technical specifications.
“Sprut-SD” has an aluminum body and a turret dome with steel reinforcement of the frontal projection. The forehead of the hull and turret can withstand a hit of 12.7 mm bullets, the rest of the projections protect against weapons of normal caliber. The chassis for the modernized “Sprut-SDM1” is made on the basis of the BMD-4 and also has aluminum armor. As far as is known, the installation of additional modules is not provided, however, this allows you to keep the dimensions and weight at the required level and not worsen mobility – one of the main factors of survivability.
The new version of the M8 tank receives a 105 mm M35 rifled gun with 45 rounds of ammunition and an automatic loader. It also provides for the installation of a coaxial machine gun, a remotely controlled combat module on the tower and smoke grenade launchers. The customer requires the use of a modern fire control system that provides operations day and night, incl. in hunter-killer mode.
The Griffin II has a slightly different set of weapons. “Main caliber” – 105-mm cannon. Instead of a DBM on the commander’s hatch, there is an open turret for a heavy machine gun. As can be judged from the prototypes, the General Dynamics project provides for the use of a panoramic commander’s sight. It should be part of a modern and sophisticated OMS.
The M8 under construction is being shown to the leadership of the Ministry of the Army. US Army Photos
The SPTP of the 2S25 line is equipped with a 125-mm smooth-bore gun-launcher 2A75 – a modification of the tank 2A46. There is an automatic loader with 22 cassettes, another 18 rounds of separate-case loading are in the “hand” packs. In terms of ammunition, the 2A75 gun is completely unified with the 2A46 – it can use a wide range of rounds, including guided missiles. Additional armament includes one or two PKT machine guns (for 2S25 and 2S25M, respectively). The MSA provides observation and search for targets day and night, as well as firing using any available ammunition.
It is easy to see that there is no clear leader among the three samples under consideration. Any of them bypasses others in some characteristics and lags behind others. In addition, there is a significant difference in the age of projects, the proposed role on the battlefield, etc.
From the point of view of mobility and mobility, the SPTP Sprut-SD turns out to be the clear leader. This machine is lighter than two MPFs, making it easier to use the higher power density. In addition, it can not only be transported by air, but also parachuted into the air. Thus, there are great advantages in tactical and strategic mobility.
However, the severity of the two American “light tanks” is due to the presence of powerful protection – and in this respect, the M8 and Griffin II bypass the Russian self-propelled gun. “Sprut-SD” is protected only from large-caliber bullets, while foreign models with attachments can also withstand shells. Which of the tanks of the MPF program is better protected is unknown. At the same time, the available data and the appearance of additional booking do not allow determining such characteristics of the equipment.
Griffin II from a different angle. US Army Photos
A curious situation is developing in the field of armaments. The 125 mm 2A75 smoothbore cannon clearly outperforms the M35 American tanks. It compares favorably with caliber and energy, as well as a range of compatible ammunition. The use of shells and missiles allows you to confidently hit targets at ranges of several kilometers.
Despite all the progress in the context of 105mm tank guns, the M8 and Griffin II look very weak against the background of the Sprut-SD. However, they can be distinguished by a newer and more advanced OMS. In this area, American firms are recognized leaders, and MPF tanks can have advantages in target detection and guidance, which partially offset the loss in gun power.
The reasons for these differences are obvious. SPTP 2S25 “Sprut-SD” and the modernized 2S25M were created for the Airborne Forces and according to their characteristic requirements. The latter provided for restrictions on dimensions and combat weight, which ultimately affected the level of protection. American MPFs are created for the ground forces, which do not impose such stringent requirements. The available mass was used to improve protection and solve other problems.
In the current situation, American industry has the ability to evaluate foreign developments and take the necessary measures. In practice, this leads to the fact that the new MPF tanks have noticeable advantages of various kinds over the older “Sprut-SD”. On the other hand, the US Army finds itself in the position of catching up, trying to adapt to new challenges.
The present of Russian self-propelled guns is well known, and their prospects are determined. The troops have several dozen serial “Sprut-SD”, and in the near future the appearance of new machines “Sprut-SDM1” is expected. Such equipment suits the customer, remains in service and will not leave the army in the foreseeable future. At the same time, the possibility of new upgrades cannot be ruled out, incl. taking into account the development of foreign designs.
Upgraded Sprut-SDM1. Photo of the concern “Tractor Plants” / tplants.com
Things get more complicated with Mobile Protected Firepower. At the moment it is at the stage of production of experimental equipment. By September, two participating firms must submit for testing 12 light tanks in full configuration and 2 hulls each for booking tests. After that, the army will carry out the necessary measures and choose a more successful model. Which of the tanks will be chosen is unknown.
According to current plans, the selected winner of the MPF program will go into production by 2025 and will go to operation in the military. By this time, serial SPTP 2S25M is expected to appear in our country. However, this will not be the only novelty of this decade in the Russian army. It is possible that next time the MPF light tank will have to be compared with the main T-14. And it seems that the results of such a comparison are obvious and predictable.