LPM 2023: 5 technological Quickwins to strengthen the French Armies in the face of High Intensity

We come to the conclusion of this series of articles devoted to the issues, risks and opportunities that frame the design of the next Military Programming Law. In recent days, through the voice of the Minister of the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu, certain leads have been revealed as to the priority objectives of this LPM, such as the doubling of the operational reserve (Hypothesis 1 of the article "The" Army at the crossroads "), and like the reorganization of the industrial effort in order to reinforce the strategic autonomy of the country. It is obvious that the greatest unknown, to date, remains the organization, the financing and the extent of this effort, subjects which will give rise to numerous debates and comments in the weeks and months to come. However, beyond this global effort sustained over time, there are technological opportunities within the French armies that would make it possible to significantly increase engagement capabilities in a high-intensity context, with reduced costs and delays. compatible with the short-term objectives and means that they will probably have.

In this article, we will study 5 of these opportunities qualified as quickwin, attempting to evaluate their effectiveness via a single indicator, the Operational Multiplier Coefficient or CMO, a summary of the operational benefits expected with respect to investments required: a hard-kill protection system for the Leclerc tank, a CIWS system for French ships, a Rafale electronic warfare, an underwater combat drone, as well as the evolution of the SYLVER vertical missile launch system.

Hard-Kill protection system for Leclerc CMO x3 tank

Whether we like it or not, it is more than likely that the Army will only have a limited number of combat tanks in the next 15 years. In the best case, as mentioned above, she can hope to field 270 of these armored vehicles, i.e. an allocation almost 3 times lower per division than the Polish or American Armies. In the absence of an interim program, or off-the-shelf acquisition of a foreign model, there is no obvious alternative to this dimensioning weakness in terms of high-intensity engagement, as the fighting in Ukraine has amply demonstrated. . However, like Germany ou of Great Britain Facing the same constraints, the Army could turn to an effective technological solution to compensate for this weakness, Hard-kill active protection systems, such as the famous Israeli Trophy and Iron Fist, or German ADS and TAPS. This system makes it possible to intercept with great efficiency direct threats aimed at the tank, such as rockets and anti-tank missiles, as well as low initial velocity shells such as shaped charge shells. Thus, during their first combat deployment in 2011 in the occupied territories of Palestine, the Israeli Merkava tanks equipped with the Trophy system recorded no combat losses, even though their APS had intercepted dozens of rockets and anti-tank missiles which would have seriously damaged or destroyed the armored vehicles targeted.

Merkava MkIV M Trophy Analyzes Defense | Awacs and electronic warfare | MBT battle tanks
The Israeli Merkava Mk-IVs are all equipped with the Trophy systems. Notice the radars on both sides of the turret

Current APS such as the Trophy or the Iron Fist, however, cannot intercept all threats. Thus, missiles with a plunging trajectory, wandering ammunition, heavy artillery shells and arrow shells fired by another tank, remain out of range of these APS, at least in their current version. However, the most important high-intensity conflict of the last 30 years, the war in Ukraine, has shown that a majority of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, whether Russian or Ukrainian, have been destroyed by anti-tank missiles and rockets in tense fire, the very ones against which the Hard Kill APS are most effective. In addition, newer versions of Hard-kill APS offer protection capabilities against plunging threats like the Javelin anti-tank missile or vagrant ammo. As such, the KF51 prototype Panther by Rheinmetall features an APS Hard-kill Active Defense System against ranged fire and kinetic threats (including arrow rounds), as well as the hard-kill Top Attack Protection System (TAPS) for plunging threats. Thus equipped, the tank sees its survivability grow considerably.

KF51 Panther Defense Analysis | Awacs and electronic warfare | MBT battle tanks
the KF51 Panther from Rheinmetall has a highly evolved Hard-Kill APS, based on ADS to counter kinetic threats and TAPS for diving threats

The current Israeli Trophy system offers a minimum survivability gain of 2, since at least one in two tanks in Ukraine has been destroyed by munitions against which the Trophy would have been effective. Furthermore, the installation of the Trophy on an existing armored vehicle costs $4 million on average, both for the Leopard 2A7 than for the Challenger 3. In the case of the Leclerc, the Operational Multiplier Coefficient or CMO, would therefore be 2 (survivability gain) x 12(unit price of the tank in m$)/(12 (unit price of the tank in m$)+4(installed Trophy price), i.e. a multiplier of 1,5, 1 tank equipped with the Trophy is therefore equivalent to 1,5 tanks without it. On the other hand, this vision only applies to what concerns the difference between a new tank equipped with the Trophy and a new tank which would not be equipped with it. In the case of the French Armies, the tanks having already been built and financed, there is no question of financing the same tank twice. In other words, equipping the 200 French Leclerc tanks intended for the MLU conversion with Hard-Kill systems, would give an equivalent combat fleet of 400 tanks (+200 tanks / survivability x2) for the price of 66 additional tanks (200×4/12), or a CMO of 200/66.66 = 3.

Combat Ship Missile Protection System CIWS – CMO x4

Combat ship close protection systems, or CIWS, are the naval equivalent of armored hard-kill systems. These can be very short-range missile systems like the SeaRam, automatic light artillery systems like the Phalanx, or mixed systems like the Russian naval Pantsir. These systems have the function of intercepting threats that would have breached the long and medium range defenses of combat ships, in particular to counter anti-ship missiles. All the major navies on the planet equip their major combatant surface ships with this type of protection, from the United States to China, from Russia to Greece. As such, the 3 Greek FDIs ordered from Naval Group differ from the French version in two aspects: the addition of 2 Sylver 50 systems to receive 16 additional Aster 30 anti-aircraft missiles, and a CIWS SeaRam system on the coachroof back. Because indeed, to date, the buildings of the French Navy do not have CIWS systems.

FDI HN Defense Analysis | Awacs and electronic warfare | MBT battle tanks
Greek IDFs will be equipped with a CIWS SeaRAM system for close-in missile protection

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  1. […] Several critical weaknesses affecting the French armies have been repeatedly detailed on Meta-Defense. As part of the preparation of the 2024-2030 Military Programming Law, it seems, according to information that has filtered into the public domain, that several of them are now taken into account, with solutions envisaged in the relatively short term. This is particularly the case for the capacity to destroy enemy anti-aircraft defenses and electronic warfare for the Rafale, the Chief of Staff of the Air and Space Force having announced, during his hearing by the defense committee of the National Assembly, that this capacity, initially planned within the framework of the FCAS, was to be accelerated within the framework of the next LPM. This is also the case for the SYLVER VERtical Launch System arming the frigates of the French Navy, Naval Group having announced that work has been undertaken to offer greater flexibility to the system so as to be able to carry different missiles if necessary. As for the Chief of Staff of the Army, he announced, in the same context as his AAE counterpart, that the objective was now to equip armored vehicles like the Griffon and the Jaguar, a hard-Kill active protection system, while in this area, Thales and Nexter announced last year the development of the PROMETHEUS system. […]

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