VSEL AS-90 (L-131)

     Notes:  The AS-90 evolved from the former international European program called GBT-155 which should have produced the SP-70 self-propelled artillery vehicle.  The AS-90 entered service in 1995, with 179 built for the British Army by the early 2000s; however, LRIP started as early as 1985.  Being a sort of “hurry up” program (the FV-433 Abbot and the M-109 were getting a bit too long in the tooth, and no suitable replacement was available), may components from other vehicles were used on the AS-90, including the L/39 155mm howitzer used on the FH-70, armor partially made from SP-70 armor panels, and a number of automotive components from the Challenger 1 main battle tank.  The “hurry up” nature did not, however, prevent the British from coming up with first-class SP artillery vehicle.  The test program that produced the AS-90 was named “GBT-155.” A further upgrade of the AS-90, the AS-90 Braveheart was cancelled and not reinstated into the budget until after The British intervention in the 2003 Iraq invasion.

     The AS-90 is capable of firing any sort of munitions which are compatible with NATO 155mm howitzers in general, including those made by Singapore, China, the Middle East, and about a dozen other examples.  Though the L/39 gun is standard on British AS-90s, Kuwaiti AS-90s use an L/52 barrel as standard.  An L/45 barrel and an L/41 barrel have also been tested and are available, but have not yet had any customers. (These alternate barrels came out of the British Army tests of larger guns for the Bravheart, until they decided to go for the 52-caliber gun.)

 

The British AS-90 and the Braveheart

     As stated above, the British AS-90 uses a 155mm L/39 howitzer, and has a coaxial L-8A2 machinegun.  The turret is capable of fire from any facing direction. The driver is on the front left behind the glacis plate and the commander is in the turret on the left; he is not normally furnished a weapon and does not have a mount, but some have been retrofitted.  The commander has 360-degree vision blocks, but no cupola.  The loader has a hatch on the right turret roof, but it is a simple hatch and has no vision blocks.  On either side of the turret are large armored boxes for storage (two on the right and three on the left); these are rather large boxes, almost 2x1 meters.  The position where the third box would be on the right side is blocked by a hatch on the side of the turret. On either side of the main gun, facing outwards, are cluster of five smoke grenade launchers. Behind the commander and loader’s hatches is a large flat area of deck space, which get pressed into equipment storage in short order.  The rear of the turret has a pair of large gears; a conveyor (normally carried by the PLS DROPS-type vehicle that are used for such) leads directly from the resupply truck to the AS-90.

     Power for the AS-90 is the same as that of the Braveheart, being a Cummins 660T turbocharged diesel with an automatic transmission.  Layout for the AS-90 and the Braveheart version is essentially identical; what’s different is the gun and the electronics. As with many British-made vehicles, the interior includes a ration cooker/water heater that is large enough for the entire crew’s rations at once. Another difference is the secondary armament; the loader’s hatch normally has an L-7 machinegun on a pintle mount (though his seat rotates); on the Braveheart, an additional heavy weapon is mounted by the commander’s hatch.  In other crew protection, the AS-90 has an overpressure NBC system with a vehicular system backup, and a 5kW APU for powering systems with the engine off.

     The gun of the AS-90 can be quickly and fairly easily upgraded; 75 minutes in 2nd Echelon maintenance is all it takes to put a new, longer barrel on an AS-90 and calibrate the fire control equipment to the new barrel.

     The AS-90 Braveheart entered service with British Forces in 1992, though production has been slow.  The AS-90 Braveheart is a development of the Kuwaiti AS-90D, and therefore the Braveheart has superior performance in desert conditions.  The Braveheart has an additional loader, as it was discovered that on the AS-90, one loader could all too often not keep up. (Unfortunately, the capacity of the ration heater remained unchanged, so one crewmember has to wait a bit for his dinner.) Action in Iraq led to the development of the Braveheart Desert AS-90.The Braveheart may be equipped with an L/39 or an L/52 cannon barrel, though none have used the L/39 barrel since testing phase.  The Braveheart has a Dynamic Reference Unit (DRU) allowing the Braveheart to fire accurately with up to a 20 degree cant.  Both charges and projectiles are handled automatically, leaving only fuze attachment to the crew’s devices.  Unlike the AS-90, the Braveheart does not require stabilizing spades at the rear.  This is due to a hydrogas suspension system for the rear 4 shock absorbers.  Included in the fire control system is the automatic loading system and the vehicle’s fire control system.  The fire control system can fire, position, and produce a fire solution using on-board mapping systems and computers.  These computers (and radios) are helped by the installation of GPS with an inertial guidance backup.  In essence, the Braveheart does not need an FDC, though one is often used to provide faster solutions and intelligence; indeed, the Braveheart crew doesn’t need to even open their hatches or stick their heads outside of the vehicle to produce accurate fire (until it needs reloading, of course).  This is enhanced by a telephone to talk to the crew. At the rear of the turret is an air conditioner.

     The fire control suite includes automatic lay of the gun from computer coordinates.  Semi-accurate fire is available with the gun moving at a slow speed, but a full stop is recommended.  Advanced fire control is available for direct fire or direct lay situations, or the coaxial machinegun.  In addition, the Braveheart uses LINAPP, the Laser Inertial Digital Gun Sight, which provides exact bearing and elevation of the barrel and the FIN3110 ring laser-gyro, which is embedded to the GPS, as well as incidental benefit to direct fire for the main gun and coax..  The Braveheart is powered by a 660-horsepower turbocharged diesel engine, coupled to an automatic transmission, and an 8kW APU is provided to power systems while the engine is off. The Desert AS-90 has a thermal cover and thermal paint, which provides protection to the crew from the hot metal of the vehicle.  This has incidental benefit in evading thermal imaging and passive IR sensors, giving the observing vehicle -1 to detect the Desert Braveheart. The Desert AS-90 is otherwise different in its filters, engine appointments, and power cooling systems, as well as wider tracks for negotiating sandy terrain.

 

The Kuwaiti Version: AS-90D

     The AS-90D is essentially an evolved version of the AS-90, optimized for the desert fighting environment. This includes a high-efficiency air filtration system and better air filters (under the glacis, they take up most of the front end).  A 5kW APU has been added, along with a powerful air conditioning system which can cool the interior of the vehicle even with the back loading doors open.  The oil, fuel, and transmission fluid lines are specially sealed against the elements (especially dust and sand), as are the engine, transmission, and drive train themselves.  The Kuwaitis chose to keep the ration heater, as well as install a small refrigerator (about the size of a medium cooler).  The tracks are about 0.3 meters wider each to provide better traction in deep sand. Rubber and metal shields are installed on the lower hull to keep down the sand that the AS-90D generates itself when moving, and the driver can erect a small windscreen for when he drives with his head outside of the hatch.  The Kuwaitis wanted better direct-fire capability for its AS-90Ds, so a ballistic computer has been installed for use by the main and coaxial machinegun in direct fire.  The Kuwaitis also chose to give their AS-90Ds a commander’s machinegun.  (As with a standard AS-90, the commander’s seat rotates and the machinegun is on a track.)  Some of the Braveheart’s howitzer fire control was available for the AS-90D, with the GPS, mapping computer, and fire solution computer being installed.  These computers aren’t as powerful as later iterations, and fire solutions useful for accurate fire are best done by an FDC.  (Without an FDC, increase scatter by 5 meters.)

 

     Twilight 2000 Notes: Few Bravehearts made it into active service in the Twilight 2000 timeline; perhaps 15% of Britain’s AS-90 force were Bravehearts.  The rest of the AS-90s were “stock” AS-90s, with 60% of them having L/39 barrels, 25% with L/52 barrels, 12% with L/45 barrels, and 3% with L/41 barrels.  The Desert Braveheart never made it to the party, but some (about 10) AS-90Ds made it into Kuwaiti service.

 

Vehicle

Price

Fuel Type

Load

Veh Wt

Crew

Mnt

Night Vision

Radiological

AS-90 L/39

$864,784

D, A

875 kg

45 tons

4

30

Passive IR (D, G), Image Intensification (G)

Shielded

AS-90 L/41

$869,946

D, A

819 kg

45.13 tons

4

30

Passive IR (D, G), Image Intensification (G)

Shielded

AS-90 L/45

$882,270

D, A

705 kg

45.39 tons

4

30

Passive IR (D, G), Image Intensification (G)

Shielded

AS-90 L/52

$902,837

D, A

504 kg

45.85 tons

4

30

Passive IR (D, G), Image Intensification (G)

Shielded

AS-90D

$1,153,166

D, A

504 kg

46.13 tons

4

34

Passive IR (D, G), Image Intensification (G), Thermal Imaging (G)

Shielded

AS-90 Braveheart

$1,175,720

D, A

373 kg

46.15 tons

5

35

Passive IR (D, G), Image Intensification (G, C), Thermal Imaging (G)

Shielded

AS-90 Desert Braveheart

$1,646,918

D, A

221 kg

46.4 tons

5

42

Passive IR (D, G), Image Intensification (G, C), Thermal Imaging (G)

Shielded

 

Vehicle

Tr Mov

Com Mov

Fuel Cap

Fuel Cons

Config

Susp

Armor

AS-90 L/39

123/86

34/24

750

239

Trtd

T4

TF10  HS6  TR4  HF12  HS5  HR3

AS-90 L/41

123/86

34/24

750

239

Trtd

T4

TF10  HS6  TR4  HF12  HS5  HR3

AS-90 L/45

122/85

34/24

750

241

Trtd

T4

TF10  HS6  TR4  HF12  HS5  HR3

AS-90 L/52

121/84

33/24

750

244

Trtd

T4

TF10  HS6  TR4  HF12  HS5  HR3

AS-90D

120/84

33/23

750

245

Trtd

T4

TF10  HS6  TR4  HF12  HS5  HR3

AS-90 Braveheart

120/84

33/23

750

245

Trtd

T4

TF12  TS7Sp TR4  HF14Sp  HS6Sp  HR3*

AS-90 Desert Braveheart

119/83

33/23

750

246

Trtd

T4

TF12  TS7Sp TR4  HF14Sp  HS6Sp  HR3*

 

Vehicle

Fire Control

Stabilization

Armament

Ammunition

AS-90 L/39

+1

Basic

155mm L/39 Howitzer, L-8A2, L-7 (L)

48x155mm, 3000x7.62mm

AS-90 L/41

+1

Basic

155mm L/41 Howitzer, L-8A2, L-7 (L)

48x155mm, 3000x7.62mm

AS-90 L/45

+1

Basic

155mm L/45 Howitzer, L-8A2, L-7 (L)

48x155mm, 3000x7.62mm

AS-90 L/52

+1

Basic

155mm L/52 Howitzer, L-8A2, L-7 (L)

48x155mm, 3000x7.62mm

AS-90D

+2

Fair

155mm L/52 Howitzer, MAG, MAG (L), MAG (C)

48x155mm, 4000x7.62mm

AS-90 Braveheart

+1

Fair

155mm L/52 Howitzer, MAG, MAG (L), M-2HB (C)

48x155mm, 3000x7.62mm, 1000x.50

AS-90 Desert Braveheart

+2

Fair

155mm L/52 Howitzer, MAG, MAG (L), M-2HB (C)

48x155mm, 3000x7.62mm, 1000x.50

*Roof AV for the turret and hull are 3.  Floor AV is 4Sp.

 

 

 

Vickers FV-433 Abbot

     Notes: This British SPH also served with India (who still operates some 80 “Value Engineered” Abbots).  It was rapidly replaced by the AS-90 series in British service, fast enough to make them a hot item on the collector’s market with many left over for museum pieces.  In particular, they are common in European “tank-driving” adventures since they are lighter and easier to care for than a real tank.  The comedian Ross Noble revealed on the 3 July 2011 Top Gear show that he owns and operates an Abbot, and he is far from alone.  The Abbot is the SPH member of the FV-430 family of vehicles, though the chassis used is a stretched version of the FV-430 chassis.  The Abbot entered British service in 1965, and left service in 1995.  

 

The Standard Abbot

     Unlike most of its contemporaries, the Abbot was equipped with the then-new L-13 105mm howitzer instead of a 155mm gun.  This was done partially for reasons of economy and partially because of the limitations of the FV-430 chassis.  In addition, the US-built M-109, which did have a 155mm gun, came into British service at about the same time, and it was felt that a relatively high-mobility howitzer in the Abbot might be desirable. The British also designed a new set of projectiles, charges, and fuzes to go with the L-13. The L-13 on the Abbot has a maximum depression of -5 and elevation of +70, and HESH shells were designed for the L-13 because the gun was able to depress enough to engage vehicles.  The shells were rammed into the breech by an electrical servomotor, but the charges were inserted by hand.  In addition, though turret traverse was electric, gun elevation and depression was manual. The small turret meant that there was no room for fancy fire control equipment, but it did have simple scale-type sights to get the gunner onto the right elevation and traverse. These sights were replaced in the early 1970s by a relatively-primitive fire control computer called FACE.  Along with a data-transmitting secure radio and another simple computer called AWDATS, the Abbot was able to have commands from the FDC be inputted directly into the FACE. There was no coaxial machinegun, though the commander had (at first) an L-4A4 Bren Gun, and later an L-7 machinegun.  Though he had no cupola, his seat rotated by moving his body and the machinegun was on a track, making the loader able to fire at almost any ground target.

     The Abbot had a standard long-range radio and a short-range radio for general conversations; in addition, the Abbot had hookups for the use of field telephones (one line going to the FDC, and one or two going to adjacent guns).  After the more flexible Clansman series of radios were installed, field telephone use tapered off, though the capability remained.  In addition, the commander could speak into a bullhorn on the roof of the turret from his position (presumably to give and take orders in high-noise environments).Setup is similar to most such vehicles, with the driver on the front right, commander on the turret left, and a loader’s hatch on turret right.  The Abbot had no shortage of crewmen, but the small degree of automation present in the Abbot made this necessary; however, two of these crewmen ride in one of the ammunition carriers that travel with the Abbot.  At the rear of the vehicle is a large door for crew entry and exit as well as ammunition resupply. The driver has a gas pedal and a pair of laterals to steer and brake, similar to the M-113 APC; the original engine was a Rolls-Royce K60 multifuel engine with 240 horsepower, but this was later replaced with a Cummins turbocharged diesel with the same horsepower, but mechanically less complex.  A collective vehicular NBC system protects the crew. The transmission is automatic, and the Abbot was amphibious after raising a flotation screen; in water, the Abbot is propelled by track movement.

 

The “Value-Engineered” Abbot: Artillery on the Cheap

     When India first ordered the Abbot, they were not the economic powerhouse that they are now and couldn’t afford the best stuff; in addition, a lot of countries were snubbing India, since they dared to develop nuclear weapons.  So when they ordered the Abbot, they asked that Vickers shave off the price as much as possible and still produce a working SP howitzer.  This was the “Value-Engineered” Abbot.  This Abbot had basically no power-operated features – the electrical turret traverse was deleted, as was the shell rammer.  The collective vehicle NBC system was removed, the crew relying on their own personal NBC equipment.  The “Value-Engineered” Abbot had no provision for swimming.  The sight was a simple dial sight, and the radios were basic ones that were essentially out of date.  The 80 Abbots that India still uses are of this type.  A further 20 are used by the British and kept at the BATUS in Alberta, Canada, for use as training vehicles.

 

     Twilight 2000 Notes: The British Army still had about 40 Abbots in service in 1995 in the T2K timeline.  In addition, those owned by private individuals were “borrowed” by the British Army; even some museum pieces were reactivated.  The Indians, of course, used theirs, and the 20 “Value-Engineered” Abbots at the BATUS saw service with the Canadian Army against the Russians or Quebecois.

 

Vehicle

Price

Fuel Type

Load

Veh Wt

Crew

Mnt

Night Vision

Radiological

FV-433 Abbot

$204,371

D, G, A

400 kg

16.56 tons

4 (+2)

14

Passive IR (D)

Shielded

Value Engineered Abbot

$184,371

D, G, A

435 kg

16.42 tons

4 (+2)

12

Passive IR (D)

Shielded

FV-433 Abbot (Late)

$243,471

D, A

394 kg

16.8 tons

4 (+2)

16

Passive IR (D)

Shielded

 

Vehicle

Tr Mov

Com Mov

Fuel Cap

Fuel Cons

Config

Susp

Armor

FV-433 Abbot

118/83

28/19/2

386

83

Trtd

T4

TF5  TS3  TR3  HF6  HS2  HR2

Value Engineered Abbot

119/84

28/19

386

82

Trtd

T4

TF5  TS3  TR3  HF6  HS2  HR2

FV-433 Abbot (Late)

117/82

28/19/2

386

84

Trtd

T4

TF5  TS3  TR3  HF6  HS2  HR2

 

Vehicle

Fire Control

Stabilization

Armament

Ammunition

FV-433 Abbot

Nil

Nil

105mm L/30 Howitzer, Bren L-4A4 or L-7 (C)

40x105mm, 1200x7.62mm

Value Engineered Abbot

Nil

Nil

105mm L/30 Howitzer, Bren L-4A4 (C)

40x105mm, 1200x7.62mm

FV-433 Abbo0t (Late)

+1

Basic

105mm L/30 Howitzer, Bren L-4A4 or L-7 (C)

40x105mm, 1200x7.62mm