With the ASCOD 42 armored vehicle GDELS offers the Czech army and industry a comprehensive and long-term project

With the ASCOD 42 armored vehicle GDELS offers the Czech army and industry a comprehensive and long-term project
Author: GDELS|Caption: ASCOD 42
04 / 01 / 2021, 10:45

General Dynamics European Land Systems is one of the bidders in the tender for the supply of new tracked armored vehicles for the Army of the Czech Republic. As a replacement for the obsolete BVP-2, it offers the modern ASCOD 42 vehicle, which represents the current technological peak of the development of armored vehicles in its category.

ASCOD is a universal tracked armored platform that has undergone a long development, which originally began with the cooperation of companies from Austria and Spain. Today, General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS) offers potential buyers two second-generation ASCOD platforms (known as ASCOD 2) in two weight categories named ASCOD 35 and ASCOD 42. The ASCOD 2 prototype was first introduced by GDELS in 2004, so it is one from the latest tracked platforms currently on the market.

The first and second generation of the ASCOD platform

With the ASCOD platform, the designers created a universal basis for a whole range of vehicles for various purposes. From Infantry Fighting Vehicles, through Armored Personnel Carriers, medical vehicles, tank destroyers, command vehicles, carriers of artillery and mortar and anti-aircraft weapons, reconnaissance vehicles and light tanks with 105 or 120 mm caliber weapons. The basis of the project of the first generation of ASCOD vehicles arose from the need to replace various tracked vehicles in the armed forces of Austria and Spain in the 1980s.

At the end of that decade, the Austrian company Steyr-Daimler-Puch began cooperating with the Spanish company Empresa Nacional Santa Barbara, and in 1991 they jointly introduced the first prototype of the ASCOD vehicle. Serial vehicles Pizarro for the Spanish army and Ulan for the Austrian Armed Forces derived from it, and still form the backbone of mechanized units of both countries. The versatility of the ASCOD platform is also proved by the fact that in both armies it replaced not only older Infantry Fighting Vehicles and Armored Personnel Carriers, but also, partially, tanks.

At the end of the 1990s, Austria ordered 112 Ulans, which it received by 2005. The Spanish army had ordered around 150 Pizarros in the middle of the same decade, and received them by 2002. Two years later, a second order followed for more than 200 units and after another four years for another 80 vehicles. Almost 300 new vehicles were produced in the Pizarro II version, the construction of which already included elements from the then newly introduced second generation of the ASCOD platform. In the meantime, both partner companies Steyr-Daimler-Puch and Empresa Nacional Santa Barbara have become part of GDELS, which is further developing the ASCOD 2 platform.

Another user of the ASCOD 2 platform has become the British Army in the last decade. As the basis for the Ajax family of tracked armored vehicles of various purposes, it chose the heavy version of the ASCOD 42, which GDELS also offers as part of the ongoing tender to the Czech Army. The British Armed Forces ordered 589 pieces under the Scout SV program, in nine versions. Therefore, if the Czech army chose the ASCOD 42 type as the successor to the BVP-2, it could introduce into its armament various already existing purposeful modifications based on newly developed versions for the British Armed Forces. A prototype of the basic version of Ajax was introduced in 2015, currently the production of all versions is in full swing, the last pieces are to be delivered in 2024.

The first dozen Ajax vehicles were produced in the Spanish production facilities of Santa Barbara Sistemas under GDELS. Other vehicles are being made in South Wales, and the factory will be in charge of repairs, upgrades and technical or service support in the future. Britain will thus be completely self-sufficient in the Ajax program. It is a proof that GDELS is able to easily transfer production and repair capacities anywhere according to local requirements, including know-how and production documentation. After all, it chose the same approach in the case of Pandur II CZ vehicles for the Czech Army, which were largely manufactured in the Czech Republic and their further production as well as service and technical services are provided by Czech companies.

ASCOD 42 - modern armored vehicle compatible with Czech Pandurs

ASCOD 42 is a universal armored platform that can be equipped with a variety of turrets and armament or specialized superstructures, without interfering with the structure of the chassis and powertrain. The chassis with wheels suspended on torsion bars, the integrated powerpack and transmission system as well as the double floor are dimensioned so that any purpose-built applications and superstructures can be placed on them. The fully equipped and armed vehicle can weigh up to 42 tons, while the design of the Infantry Fighting Vehicle has a base weight of 38 t. ASCOD 42 has a large weight reserve for growth potential and modernization or installation of special equipment in the future.

The ballistic resistance of ASCOD 42 reaches level 5 according to the STANAG 4569 standard and level 4a/b against mines. Despite its high durability and high load capacity, the ASCOD 42 is characterized by dimensions that enable trouble-free transport by road or rail. The width of the ASCOD 42 vehicle is 3 m, which is a very interesting value in comparison with the 3,150 m in the case of the BVP-2 type used in the Czech Army (with much lower protection and load capacity). ASCOD 42 can be equipped with various weapon systems, turrets and weapon stations. For the Czech Army's tender, GDELS opted for cooperation with a renowned Israeli manufacturer, Elbit Systems, and for the Infantry Fighting Vehicle version, it chose the MT-30 MK2 crew combat turret with two independent aiming and observation optoelectronic systems for gunners and commanders.

See also: ASCOD 42 - universal vehicle meeting the requirements of the Czech Army

The configuration of the ASCOD 42 Infantry Fighting Vehicle with a manned turret enables the transport of eight troopers exactly according to the Czech Army's requirements. The main armament consists of the cannon Mk44 Bushmaster II caliber 30 mm cannon charged from the interior of the turret, a 7.62 mm machine gun is the additional weapon. The minimum depression of the cannon (and the coupled machine gun) is -10 degrees and the maximum elevation of +60 degrees, which are values ​​that only a few combat turrets of combat vehicles on the market today can boast. Thanks to its large elevation range, high cadence of the main weapon, which can also use air-burst ammunition, and modern electronic aiming systems, the ASCOD 42 can also work effectively against air targets.

From the point of view of logistics and unification, it is important that the Mk44 Bushmaster II cannon built into the MT-30 MK2 turret of the ASCOD 42 vehicle is of the same type that forms the armament of Pandur II CZ wheeled armored vehicles used by the Czech Army. In addition, the Mk44 Bushmaster II is widely used in other NATO armies. Therefore, if the Army chose the ASCOD 42 type, all logistics related to ammunition and armaments would be the same for wheeled and tracked platforms. This includes anti-tank missiles, as the MT-30 MK2 turret has a retractable launcher for two Spike anti-tank guided missiles, so it uses the same type of missile as the Pandurs of the Czech army.

It is also possible to install larger caliber cannons in the MT-30 MK2 turret, which represents a modernization potential during the service of vehicles in the Army. For example, the Bushmaster series cannons are available in several versions, the Bushmaster III version exists in 35 or 50 mm caliber and the Bushmaster IV has a 40 mm caliber. Therefore, if the Army chose the ASCOD 42 type, its rearmament would not be a technical problem in the future.

Industrial cooperation with Czech companies is a necessity

In the tender for new tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles, the Czech Ministry of Defense has determined as one of the conditions a 40% share of Czech companies in the entire contract, the price of which will exceed 50 billion crowns. This, of course, means that candidates must take into account the broad involvement of Czech industry in their production. The purchase of new IFV must be associated with the transfer of the necessary technologies and know-how to the Czech Republic. The selected supplier will also have to cooperate in establishing logistics and service capacities in the Czech Republic, of course providing training programs, availability of spare parts, ammunition, etc. Last but not least, it will be important for the Czech Republic to have the ability and possibility to modernize delivered vehicles according to its future needs.

However, the project of new tracked vehicles for the Czech Armed Forces will also bring benefits for the state. The money that the state invests in the purchase of products and services from Czech manufacturers involved in the supply of new tracked vehicles will mean a benefit for it in the form of taxes and employment. Business relations with the state, in turn, will provide companies with the means to invest, develop and research, as well as references that can help them gain a foothold in foreign markets. Of all the candidates participating in the tender, only the GDELS corporation has real experience in cooperating with Czech companies in large armaments projects.

As part of the Pandur II project for the Czech Armed Forces at the turn of the first and second decades, GDELS transferred the production of Pandur II vehicles and the necessary technologies and know-how to the Czech Republic, and domestic companies can still build on this. To date, GDELS has involved a total of more than 50 Czech companies in the project, which has brought work for more than 10,000 people. As part of direct offset programs, 4.84 billion Crowns went to the Czech economy, and even with indirect investments it was over 18 billion Crowns. In addition, some Czech companies have become subcontractors to General Dynamics as part of other contracts in international markets. GDELS's involvement in the Czech market thus significantly exceeded the format originally required by the Czech side as a condition for the supply of Pandur II CZ vehicles.

In 2015, GDELS also established a strategic partnership with the Czechoslovak Group (CSG) holding company. Thanks to the aforementioned partnership, the companies of this Czech holding company acquired the rights to manufacture Pandur II vehicles and also to their technological development, modernization and assistance services. In addition, Czech companies can produce Pandur II vehicles for foreign customers, so the state also benefits from exports. Thanks to a license from GDELS, Tatra Defense Vehicle (TDV), in cooperation with other domestic companies, has been able to design, manufacture and supply two dozen new special versions of Pandurs II for the Czech Armed Forces in recent years. According to an analysis by the renowned EY consulting company, this CZK 1.6 billion project created a value of CZK 5 billion in a chain of Czech suppliers and manufacturers. The contract also generated work for hundreds of employees.

According to EY, the order value multiplier for twenty Pandur II vehicles in technologically demanding versions reached a value of 3.2. This means that CZK 1 spent on a contract in the Czech economy generated CZK 3.2 in related industries. The contract was fulfilled from 2017 to 2020, during which time only TDV paid CZK 402 million in taxes and levies to the state budget. The contract for special pandurs proved that state armaments contracts, if fulfilled by domestic industry, represent an excellent economic stimulus.

In addition, the Pandur II project for the Czech Armed Forces and the transfer of production and technology from GDELS to the Czech Republic enabled the Czech Republic to be self-sufficient in the field of wheeled armored vehicles. TDV is currently the world's only manufacturer of Pandur II 8x8 vehicles, which also has all the necessary technologies and documentation. A huge benefit is also that Czech companies can successfully offer Pandurs abroad thanks to a reference project for the domestic Army. Recently, they have won export orders for dozens of vehicles, for example in Indonesia or the Philippines, with a view to the supply and production of hundreds more. At this point, it can also be reminded that Czech companies are cooperating with GDELS and Elbit, which offer the Czech Army an ASCOD 42 vehicle, on these orders for Indonesia and the Philippines.

A similar scenario of cooperation and transfer of production and technology can take place even if the Ministry of Defense chooses the ASCOD 42 type in the tender. GDELS plans a similarly broad involvement of Czech industry and counts VOP CZ as the main partner. This opens up further possibilities for the involvement of Czech companies in industrial cooperation and would simplify the logistical support of both military platforms - wheeled Pandur II and tracked ASCOD 2. It is also planned to support the operation and training to a similar extent centers, supply of simulators, provision of training of crews and staff, preparation of appropriate documentation, etc. according to the requirements of the Czech Army.

Modernization in the field of tactical mobility

However, GDELS does not only have capacity in the field of tracked armored vehicles. It also has a lot to offer in the field of tactical mobility. Armed force mobility is a topic of pan-European importance, mentioned in the European Union's strategy papers, including the Action Plan on Military Mobility, which was presented to the European Parliament and the European Council in March 2018. In this context, GDELS can offer a whole range of technical solutions that would suit the Czech Army. Its portfolio includes infantry bridge systems to structures for overcoming water and other obstacles by vehicles weighing more than 100 tons.

See also: VFB ASCOD 35 Cobra – armoured vehicle-launched bridge

In the near future, the Czech army will have to replace, in addition to tracked armored vehicles and tanks, also the resources of the engineer troops. Engineers have decades-old systems and vehicles in their arsenal, the operability of which cannot be extended indefinitely. GDELS not only has something to offer in this area, but also cooperates very intensively with Czech companies on world markets. Examples are the supply of pontoon bridge systems on Tatra chassis to Brazil or amphibious bridge vehicles to Indonesia in recent years.

Already at the IDET 2019 trade fair, GDELS presented a modern IRB pontoon system on a Tatra chassis. The focus was also on the premiere of the ASCOD bridge vehicle with the Cobra system. At its stand, GDELS also demonstrated for the first time in the Czech Republic the Viper bridge system on a light Eagle 4x4 chassis or the amphibious pontoon vehicle M3 and the handling ship Birdon BEB. The IRB set, which consists of several elements and a wide range of equipment, enables the support of heavy equipment in the weight category MLC 80 for tracked vehicles and MLC 96 for wheeled vehicles according to STANAG 2021. The Cobra system is designed specifically for armored combat vehicles, wheeled and tracked Armored Personnel Carriers and Infantry Fighting Vehicles. It can therefore become an optimal solution for a mechanized brigade with tracked armored vehicles, or also for a rapid deployment brigade with Pandur II CZ wheeled armored vehicles. The Viper light bridge for light off-road armor of the Iveco LMV category, which are in the Czech Army's arsenal, is also considered.

Source: GDELS

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