The Ministry of Defense is changing the parameters for the new IFV again - will the army have to accept a Cold War technology?

The Ministry of Defense is changing the parameters for the new IFV again - will the army have to accept a Cold War technology?
Caption: CV90 IFV
27 / 07 / 2020, 10:00

According to the information published by Security magazin, during the "clarification of preliminary offers" of bidders in the tender for tracked IFV, there are probably several other changes in the requirements, the motivation of which is undoubtedly to save and fit into the originally announced price range. These are details that have not yet been discussed publicly. One of them is the replacement of the BIFF identification system by a system for visual identification. This would greatly disrupt the logic of one of the Army's sixteen "uncrossable demands" for new vehicles.

The mentioned requirement, which was published without further details under number 3, is "Integration of Information and Weapon Systems", and the Army and therefore the Ministry of Defense explain it as follows: We want to connect new vehicles to the Czech Army and NATO systems to allow them to operate on the future battlefield. We digitize the battlefield with the appropriate level of security that is necessary in future military operations. Integrated and networked weapon platforms enable more efficient combat operations.. " In the material "Modernization Projects of the Czech Armed Forces" published in June 2018, the system of combat identification of new IFVs is also mentioned without further details.

See also: 16 Uncrossable Requirements for the new Czech Tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles

Battlefield digitization, networked platforms, more effective combat operations. It sounds beautiful and it's not cheap. And because the Army logically demands modern equipment and state of the art technology, with which it will have a real chance to succeed on a modern battlefield, it is fully expected that in addition to fixed parameters of passive and active protection of new vehicles we will also think about applying a system that reliably identifies friendly vehicles. In the digital environment of command and control or fire direction systems, the purpose of which is to detect and transmit real-time information about the situation to all involved elements, immediate "friend-or-foe" information is one of the first that even an outsider would take for granted. Combat identification reduces the likelihood of a phenomenon that has occurred on battlefields since ever - fire on own or allied units, friendly fire, blue on blue.

An effective means of finding out the basic information that the object in the sight is on my side is the use of thermal imaging technology, which is now almost a standard equipment of combat means for searching and aiming at targets. The Battlefield-IFF (Identification Friend or Foe, BIFF), which uses the infrared signature of the object to identify it, must be set to identify and at the same time not facilitate identification by the enemy. It can work with active means (thermal beacons, lights), as well as with passive, ie thermal or combat panels with a faint trace (thermal for identification from the air, combat from the ground), but unambiguous characteristics that can be easily recognized with thermal imaging.

See also: Czech Army’s Modernization Projects: the IFVs

A well-known example is the Combat Identification Panel (CIP) used on armored vehicles, evident, for example, at the head of the turrets of American Abrams tanks. The system was developed after the end of the Gulf War, and its goal was to reduce the frequency of incidents within its own ranks.

The massive deployment of vehicles in the conditions of rapidly conducted operations with the participation of several Allied armies is perfect for such unfortunate situations. During the war against Iraq, several British Warrior vehicles fell victim to friendly fire (one destroyed a British tank, others were attacked by American A-10 fighters). One of the few successes of the Iraqi army was repelling the attack of the 1st and 3rd Armored Divisions, the 1st Infantry Division and the British 2nd Dragoon Regiment during the clash with the Iraqi Tawakalna Guards Division on 26th February 1991. Iraqi infantry, IFVs and T-72 tanks caused losses to the advancing Allied forces, but the Americans also caused the losses themselves. At least two Bradley infantry fighting vehicles were hit by Abrams tanks that day, with casualties. And a number of such situations occurred during the so-called Battle of Norfolk the following day.

During the war in 2003, when virtually all coalition vehicles were already equipped with Combat Identification Panels, "only" one British Challenger 2 was destroyed by friendly fire from the ground.

See also: Czech tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicle tender - answers by the Army

Identification means are further developed and are used in various combinations for various weather and tactical situations. Infrared signatures can be deactivable and activatable as needed, multifunctional (they can, among other things, create the image of an enemy vehicle using typical hot spots) and coded (their code can be changed in response to the situation). In the Czech environment, the Czech Defense Standard 108015 from 2017 describes these means and, among other things, their combination in various applications.

If the Ministry of Defense, which does not comment on current negotations with bidders and details, considers that the new IFV would not be equipped with an advanced BIFF system, but would rely only on the visual recognition system, ie symbols, signs, flags, visible only in good weather during the day, it may have consequences for the deployment of Czech mechanized infantry in cooperation not only with Allied forces. It will also only postpone costs to the future, because it is difficult to imagine that the Czech IFVs could exist without modern identification systems in the coming decades.

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