GIAT AMX VTT/PM

     Notes: Like many countries in the 1960s and 1970s, the French produced a version of one of their standard APCs, the AMX-VCI, for use as a mortar carrier.  The AMX VTT/PM entered service shortly after the AMX-VCI in 1968, and was produced in four variants Ė one with an 81mm mortar, one with a 120mm mortar, with each being initially equipped with gasoline engines and later retrofitted with diesel engines (and other improvements).  The broad vehicle designation was the AMX VTT/PM, but the exact designation for the 81mm mortar carrier version was the AMX VCPM de 81, and for the 120mm mortar carrier version, the AMX VCPM de 120.  Though 10 countries used the AMX VCI APC or variants of it, only France employed the AMX VTT/PM, and a good number of these vehicles still serve in the French Army, despite being a bit long in the tooth.

     The AMX VTT/PM is largely built the same as the AMX VCI APC, with a relatively long chassis, a steeply-sloped glacis with a flat front deck for the driver and engine, and a pulpit-type position behind the driver, in the case of the AMX VTT/PM being manned by the commander instead of a dedicated gunner. The driver has three vision blocks to the front and the middle block can be removed and replaced by a night vision block.  The glacis has a splashboard to help protect the driver when fording deep water or from mud, and like many APCs of the time, mounts a spare set of three treads and a roadwheel. The commander has a pintle mount for a medium or heavy machinegun (or other weapon which can fit on the same mount); his position is actually a manually-rotating cupola with all-around vision blocks.  The former commanderís position remains to the right and rear of the gunner, along with the overhead hatch and vision blocks to the front and right, but is normally occupied by one of the mortar crew.  The AMX VCIís slide-open firing ports have been welded shut on the AMX VTT/PM.  The AMX VTT/PM has the same dual long overhead hatches in the fighting compartment; unusually, the mortar fires through right-hand hatch, and the mortar fires forward over the vehicle instead of over the rear like almost all such mortar carriers.  The mortar, however, has limited traverse Ė 15 degrees to the right and 30 to the left.  Larger deflection changes require quick pivot steering by the driver.  Early AMX VTT/PMs made the crew rely on their protective masks and chemical protective suits in a chemical warfare environment, but in 1987, they were fitted with a collective NBC system (of course, if the hatches are open, like when the mortar is being fired, chemical protective suites must still be used, and having their masks plugged into a collective NBC system while the crew is rapidly moving about to use the mortar could be problematic).

     The original engine of the AMX VTT/PM was a SOFAM 8Gxb 250-horsepower gasoline engine, with a manual transmission.  In the 1980s, this was replaced by 280-horsepower Baudouin 6F11SRY turbocharged engine and a semiautomatic transmission.  (These diesel-powered versions are sometimes referred to as AMX VTT/PM 1987s.) At about the same time, radios were updated and the driverís night vision block was also updated. The suspension is unusual in that it the line of the tracks is not level; it is noticeably lower at the rear of the vehicle.  It is based on conventional torsion bars with shock absorbers at the front and rear of the five roadwheels.  Early examples have four return rollers, but later production reduced this to three return rollers.  Most tracks for the AMX VTT/PM are steel, but rubber track pads can be retrofitted.  The AMX VTT/PM is not amphibious, though fording of up to 1 meter is possible.

     The two versions of the AMX VTT/PM are almost identical in weight (negligible for game purposes) and with the mortar down, are externally identical except for the baseplates and bipods carried externally to allow ground-mounting of the mortar if necessary.  It is not included here, but in the mid- to late-1990s hand-held mortar fire control computers were issued to the crews of these vehicles, and add-on GPS units were added.  The AMX VCPM de 81 carries 128 81mm mortar shells with a full load, but only 88 of these can be more modern mortar shells, WP shells, or illumination shells, which are generally longer than older mortar shells.  A further 40 short mortar shells (primarily smoke and HE rounds) can also be carried in addition to those 88 rounds.

Vehicle

Price

Fuel Type

Load

Veh Wt

Crew

Mnt

Night Vision

Radiological

AMX VCPM de 81

$86,522

G, A

450 kg

16 tons

6

11

Passive IR

Enclosed

AMX VCPM de 81 1987

$86,947

D, A

450 kg

16 tons

6

11

Passive IR

Enclosed

AMX VCPM de 120

$81,241

G, A

450 kg

16 tons

6

11

Passive IR

Enclosed

AMX VCPM de 120 1987

$81,666

D, A

450 kg

16 tons

6

11

Passive IR

Enclosed

 

Vehicle

Tr Mov

Com Mov

Fuel Cap

Fuel Cons

Config

Susp

Armor

AMX VCPM de 81/120

111/78

24/18

410

149

Stnd

T3

HF8  HS4  HR4

AMX VCPM de 81/120 1987

121/85

26/20

410

158

Stnd

T3

HF8  HS4  HR4

 

Vehicle

Fire Control

Stabilization

Armament

Ammunition

AMX VCPM de 81

None

None

81mm  Mortar, M-2HB (C)

128x81mm*, 2000x.50

AMX VCPM de 120

None

None

120mm Mortar, M-2HB (C)

60x120mm, 2000x.50

*See Notes above for special rules about 81mm ammunition carriage.

 

LOHR 120mm SP Mortar System

     Notes: Despite the fancy name, this is little more than a 120mm rifled mortar mounted in the back of the High-Mobility version of the Renault TRM 2000 truck, with racks added for the ammunition and the cab expanded to carry the mortar crew and a couple of extra ammunition handlers (to allow the mortar to be fed from ammunition on the ground around the truck or in an accompanying vehicle).  Despite being on the market since 1990, and being demonstrated to various countries, no sales have been generated by this system; nonetheless, it is still offered for sale, and LOHR is still ready to start up production should the need arise.  (I have not been able to discover if such production would require Renault to manufacture new TRM 2000 trucks, as Renault stopped making them in 2002, or LOHR would license-produce the trucks, or LOHR would simply modify existing TRM 2000s.)

     The mortar is mounted on a conventional bipod and baseplate which are attached to the heavily-modified truck bed using quick-release/attach clamps and fittings.  The mount is a standard towed-mortar mount, and the wheels remain attached to the mount and the tow bar used to help secure the mortar in the vehicle, also using quick-release/attach fittings.  Ammunition racks are mounted at the front of the truck bed and down one-quarter of each side.  Before firing, a large spade is lowered at the rear to help stabilize the vehicle as a firing platform; in addition, the suspension is greatly beefed-up, with special extra-heavy-duty shock absorbers, also to take up the shock of firing.  While traveling, the mortar is lowered almost flat and locked down, with the mortar sight being removed and stored in a compartment in the ammunition racks; tarps are also carried to protect the mortar and ammunition during movement in inclement weather. 30 seconds are required to bring the mortar into firing position and 20 seconds are required to stow the mortar for movement. The mortar fires forward over the vehicle, with a limited amount of movement being allowed by the mountings to allow large deflection changes. The truck bed is essentially removed, replaced by small platforms for the crew to fire the mortar. The primary advantage of the LOHR 120mm SP Mortar System is that it is more mobile and quicker to bring into action than a towed mortar system, and it can be easily carried by aircraft and helicopters; the system offers little or nothing in the way of protection.  The vehicle can also be air-dropped or delivered via LAPES.

     The LOHR 120mm retains most of the features of its Renault TRM 2000 chassis, except for the special suspension and larger cab and modified rear. The vehicle is powered by a Renault Type 720S supercharged diesel developing 115 horsepower; at the buyerís option, this may be coupled to an automatic or manual transmission and the vehicle can be supplied with right-side or left-side driver positions.  The suspension is 4x4 and the vehicle has run-flat tires. Opposite the driverís side of the cab, the commanderís position has a roof hatch with a pintle mount for a light or medium weapon (it is not stressed for heavier weapons such as heavy machineguns or automatic grenade launchers); the pintle is attached to a mount which manually rotates.  Since the system uses the High-Mobility version of the TRM 2000 as a base, the ground clearance of the truck is relatively high at 0.425 meters, and the enhanced suspension gives the system good off-road performance and a good ride even over rough terrain. In addition to the hydraulically-operated spade at the rear, the truck has a tow hook at the rear allowing it to tow a trailer with a load of 2 tons.  The crew enters the cab through two doors on either side.  At the front of the vehicle is winch with a capacity of 2.5 tons. 

     Twilight 2000 Notes: In the Twilight 2000 timeline, the LOHR 120mm SP Mortar System was often found in French airborne units, and extensively utilized by Foreign Legion units.

Price

Fuel Type

Load

Veh Wt

Crew

Mnt

Night Vision

Radiological

$76,997

D, A

580 kg

6.3 tons

6

5

Headlights

Open

 

Tr Mov

Com Mov

Fuel Cap

Fuel Cons

Config

Susp

Armor

258/73

85/24

130

37

Stnd

W(2)

HF1  HS1  HR1

 

Fire Control

Stabilization

Armament

Ammunition

None

None

120mm TDA MO-120-RT-61 mortar, AAT-F1 or MAG

40x120mm, 2000x7.62mm

 

TPK VBL Mortar Carrier

     Notes:  This is an open-topped version of the TPK 4.20 VBL APC with drop sides and rear, allowing the mounting of an 81mm mortar and ammunition racks in the rear.  However, the VBL Mortar Carrier does not have a roof over the rear area; only the cab has overhead armor.  The mortar can be one of a number of standard 81mm mortars; the mortar is locked down in its standard configuration with clamps mounted on the floor of the carrier.  The mortar fires over the rear of the vehicle; it has very limited traverse, however, other than that provided by manipulating mortar controls. The cab has the driver on the right side; on the left is the commander, who has an overhead hatch with a weapon mount.  Like the VBL APC, the cab has a large two-piece bullet-resistant windshield to the front, with armored shutters that can be lowered over the windshield.  The shutters have vision slits in them.  The cab also has a small bullet-resistant on each side in the door, and a sliding panel can be slid over these windows. The rear area has no windows, vision blocks, or firing ports; defenders simply fire over the open top.

     The VBL Mortar Carrier has a 4x4 suspension with run-flat tires; puncture-resistant tires are optional.  The standard transmission is manual, though an automatic transmission can be provided at buyer request.  The engine is a Perkins diesel engine developing 135 horsepower engine.

     Twilight 2000 Notes: Though at the beginning of the 1990s, only the Central African Republic, Gabon, and the Ivory Coast had any VBL Mortar Carriers, the French manufactured a batch of about 50 and supplied them to their Army, and especially, to the Foreign Legion.

Price

Fuel Type

Load

Veh Wt

Crew

Mnt

Night Vision

Radiological

$54,513

D, A

700 kg

7.8 tons

5

7

Headlights

Enclosed

 

Tr Mov

Com Mov

Fuel Cap

Fuel Cons

Config

Susp

Armor

143/72

74/36

360

46

Stnd

W(3)

HF5  HS3  HR3

 

Fire Control

Stabilization

Armament

Ammunition

None

None

81mm mortar, AAT-F1 (C)

40x81mm, 800x7.62mm

 

VAB PM 120R 2M

     Notes: Before we begin, I should note that the designation I have given this vehicle is probably not the right one.  It is based on the designations of other vehicles in similar roles, and I have not been able to discover the actual designation of this mortar carrier.  This mortar carrier consists of a VAB VTT APC which has been modified to carry the TDA 120R 2M recoiling rifled 120mm mortar, but the recoil-dampening system of the mortar allows is to be carried by much lighter vehicles and reduces considerably the wear on the vehicleís shock absorbers.  This VAB-based version of this 120R 2M mortar carrier began testing by the French Army in 2003, and has since gone into production and service; the mortar itself has since gone onto ground- and trailer-mounted versions and mounting into a variety of vehicles, which have been marketed since 1994 or have actually sold on the international market.  Readers can seen the stats on the TDA 120R 2M in the appropriate section, French Mortars (though Iíll admit it is not there yet, and will be a future addition to these pages.  Iím quite remiss in the area of large-caliber guns and mortars.) 

     To make a long story short, the mortar can be rotated through 110-degrees on either side of facing to the rear and fired in that direction, another thing that the 120R 2Mís shock-absorbing system allows.  Instead of the manual manipulation that must rear-mounted mortars require, elevation, traverse, and leveling of the mortar (to an extent) are handled hydraulically by the 120R 2Mís system through the use by the gunner of a joystick and small LCD screen (about the size of a modern iPhone) and an integrated mortar fire control computer.  The same system allows the mortar to be lowered enough for the VAB PM 120R 2M to close its roof hatches, making the VAB PM 120R 2M look pretty much like any other VAB VTT (though seemingly lightly armed).  Most countries opt for their 120R 2M mortars to be equipped with an automatic loading system, as do the French; the 120R 2M is still breech-loaded, but the rounds are but on a sort of elevating system which raises the round quickly to the proper height, then drops it down the tube.  Therefore, even firing the mortar can be done from inside the armor envelope, with only the top hatches being open.  The VAB PM 120R 2M does not require an auxiliary ground-mount baseplate, bipod, or anything like that; the 120R 2M in this mode cannot be dismounted and turned into a ground-mounted version without a great deal of depot-level work.  The mortar has its own baseplate inside the vehicle and does not require a bipod; it does have a sensor head with day and night cameras to allow the gunner to control the mortar fire while inside the armor envelope of the VAB.

     Of course, the base chassis is that of the VAB VTT basic wheeled APC. (This will be a tip-off to some, even when the mortar is retracted and the hatches are closed, because few countries of units use the base VAB VTT chassis, preferring one of the VABís many variants.) The driver is on the front left of the vehicle, with the commander to his right; both have overhead hatches, and there is also a door on the hull side for each of them.  The driver and commander have bullet resistant windshields to their front and bullet-resistant windows to their sides; these may be further protected by closing armored shutters, with the front shutters having vision slits in them.  The commander has a an enlarged hatchway with a ring mount above his station, and the ring mount can take any one of several light, medium, or heavy weapons ranging from Minimi-type weapons to automatic grenade launchers.  The weapon station to the rear of the driver and gunner that are normally present on the VAB VTT is deleted.  The front two armored shutters on either side of the former passenger area are retained, but the rest are welded shut.  The two rear doors are retained, largely for the loading of ammunition and/or equipment (though space is tight for that sort of thing), and also allowing for the entry and exit of crewmembers.  The crew has the benefit of a collective NBC system, as well as fire detection and suppression systems for the engine, rear area, and fuel tanks.  Radios include a data-capable long-range radio, a further long-range radio, and a data-capable medium-range radio.  The vehicle is equipped with GPS and a mapping system, accessible by the commander and driver via small LCD screens; it is capable of self-plotted fire (based on map grids; it does not have access to satellite information other than position and it does not have a laser rangefinder).  The VAB PM 120R 2M does carry a hand-held laser designator, though of course this would primarily be useful in the case of self-observed fire, and the vehicleís designator can only guide smart 120mm mortar shells.  On the upper side front on each side are three smoke grenade launchers.

     The use of a VAB VTT base chassis gives the VAB PM 120R 2M basic, but not exceptional armor.  However, armor is somewhat improved in the rear section by the installation of both solid Kevlar panels and Kevlar anti-spalling blankets, which are meant primarily to protect the ammunition, with additional crew protection being an incidental. Armor is of all-welded steel and is moderately-sloped on the front and sides. The VAB PM 120R 2M has an automatic fire detection and suppression system for the troop compartment, driver/commander compartment, engine compartment, and fuel tanks.  The VAB PM 120R 2M is fully amphibious, requiring the erection of a trim vane at the front and switching on bilge pumps, requiring two minutes.  Propulsion in the water is via waterjets at the rear with deflection vanes for steering.  The driver controls these vanes by a joystick.  The waterjets are not powerful, but better than propulsion by motion of the wheels. Other driver controls are conventional, and transmission is manual.  The VAB PM 120R 2M uses the 6x6 configuration, which is switchable to 6x4 for road use. The suspension is cross-country and uses large run-flat tires.  As with some other French VABs, the VAB PM 120R 2M is powered by a Renault MIDR 06-20-45 450-horsepower turbocharged diesel, chosen because the mortar system and the ammunition and other equipment carries already make the vehicle much heavier than the standard VAB VTT.

     Twilight 2000: The French Army had six of these vehicles at the start of the Twilight War, with 6 more being produced during the war.  This compares with 36 Piranha-based 120R 2M mortar carriers, with 10 more being acquired during the War, and 72-trailer-mounted TDS 120M 2R mortars.  The VAB-based mortar carriers were retained in France, and four of them survived the War.

Price

Fuel Type

Load

Veh Wt

Crew

Mnt

Night Vision

Radiological

$37,176

D, A

395 kg

17.8 tons

2 (+3)

3

Passive IR (D)

Enclosed

 

Tr Mov

Com Mov

Fuel Cap

Fuel Cons

Config

Susp

Armor

120/67

27/16/2

300

176

Stnd

W(4)

HF6  HS5  HR4

 

Fire Control

Stabilization

Armament

Ammunition

None

None

120mm TDA 120R 2M Mortar; Mk 19 or HK GMG or M-2HB or AAT-F1 or MAG or Minimi (or other such types)

50x120mm; 380x40mm or 1200x.50 or 2000x7.62mm or 2740x5.56mm

 

VPX 40 M 120

     Notes:  This is an interesting little vehicle; it is in fact one of those vehicles that stretches the definition of the word ďvehicle.Ē  Essentially, the VPX 40 M 120 is little more than a light platform on treads, with a 120mm mortar on a special mount at the rear of the vehicle.  The VPX 40 120 M is designed to provide mobile heavy mobile fire support to airborne, heliborne, and light infantry.  The VPX 40 M 120 has a rudimentary driverís position at the front left, and another seat is in the front right; the rest of the crew sit on two small seats in the rear of the vehicle (very small seats).  In between the two front seats and the rear section is an ammunition storage area.  The VPX 40 M 120 is armored, but the armor protection extends only at far up as the sides of the vehicle, which provides only a little over a meter of protection for those in the rear and a bit more for those in the front seats (their head and shoulders are above the armor envelope).  The armor is also rather thin, though it is all-welded armor plate.  There is no overhead protection, not even a provision for bows, and the rear of the vehicle is also open. No mounts for weapons other than the mortar are provided.

     The turbocharged 125-horsepower diesel engine is mounted at the rear right of the vehicle, with the fuel tank on the left.  The engine power is quite good compared to the low weight of the VPX 40 M 120, giving the little machine surprising agility.  The transmission is automatic. Firing the mortar takes a fair amount of preparation; the mortar must be unlocked and lowered, and when unlocked it rests on a heavy A-shaped strut extending from the rear of the vehicle and another which connects to the mortar barrel.  The suspension of the vehicle is also lowered at the rear, almost to the ground, where it rests on the baseplate, which is built into the floor of the vehicle and extended through the floor of the vehicle so that it is in contact with the ground when the suspension is lowered. Preparing for a move consists of the reverse of those steps. Traverse is limited to what the mortar controls can mechanically provide. A mortar fire control computer is provided with the vehicle.

     Twilight 2000 Notes: This vehicle was primarily in use by French Foreign Legion and airborne forces, and then only in small numbers.

Price

Fuel Type

Load

Veh Wt

Crew

Mnt

Night Vision

Radiological

$77,109

D, A

150 kg

4.5 tons

4

3

Headlights

Open

 

Tr Mov

Com Mov

Fuel Cap

Fuel Cons

Config

Susp

Armor

158/111

35/25

75

34

Stnd

T2

HF3 HS2  HR0

 

Fire Control

Stabilization

Armament

Ammunition

None

None

120mm MO-120-RT-61 mortar

20x120mm