Guest Blog: Patria AMV in Homeland Defence

Herr Flax is a Swedish officer and helicopter pilot flying the Hkp 16 (UH-60M Black Hawk) in the Swedish Air Force. He started his military career by receiving basic training at P 4 Skaraborg Regiment on the Strv 122/Leopard 2A5, before transitioning to the Air Force. This is my translation of a recent blog post he published on his blog in Swedish, dealing with the merits of the Swedish Army’s Patgb 360 (XA-360 AMV) compared to the Strf 9040 (CV 9040) and Strv 122 (Leopard 2A5). As the same vehicles are a core part of the Finnish Army as well, I felt that the discussion would be of interest to Finnish readers. I have used the international designations for the vehicles in place of the Swedish ones as these are more familiar to the general reader. Any possible faults of the English translation are mine. In addition to his blog, Herr Flax is also found on Twitter (@HerrFlax).

A short reminder on Swedish geography: if Sweden was to be attacked from the east there are two possibilities, either through the heavily forested northern parts of the country (through Finnish territory) or over the Baltic Sea in the south and central parts of the country. The terrain here is more open and holds all major cities in the country. This creates a somewhat different threat scenario compared to Finland, and e.g. hostile airborne/airmobile units traditionally occupy a more central role in Swedish threat perception than in Finnish. Like Finland, the defence of the northern parts of the country is mainly handled by light jaeger style units, which are outside the scope of this discussion.

Some time ago I joined a map exercise as an invited guest participant. The exercise was part of the HSU (the Swedish Higher Staff Officer Course) organised by the Swedish Defence University FHS. The famous pendulum had started to swing back, and we had again started to focus on the question of defending Sweden, on Swedish territory, against a numerically superior attacker employing modern equipment. This was also the core focus of the exercise.

The exercise lasted for a week, and both myself and the other participants rated it highly. The majority of the participants came from Army units and staffs, with myself being one of the few exceptions. On one of the days as part of the exercise we were to evaluate our own army units against a potential future attacker.

The discussion quickly centered on the Leopard 2A5 and the CV 9040, and how these will perform on the future battlefield. This was only natural, as these two vehicles make up the core of the Army’s combat units. After a while, I put forward a vehicle which then was being introduced in the Army, the AMV, and the motorised infantry battalions these would be assigned to.

pansarterrc3a4ngbil_360_revinge_2015-6
In Swedish service the AMV’s main weapon is a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun in the Kongsberg Protector RWS. Source: Wikimedia Commons/Jorchr

In my opinion, their role in national defence should not be dismissed, despite the fact that they originally had been acquired with an eye to international missions. The vehicles might lack the firepower of the Leopard 2 and CV 90, but they provided tactical and operational mobility on a scale not found in the Leopard 2/CV 90 units. This could be a factor making them an interesting and valuable card in the homeland defence role, especially considering the small size of the Swedish Defence Forces. The Army needs to be able to shift from one operational area to another. I argued that the AMV provided this capability.

My train of thoughts was interrupted by a another guest participant, an experienced and high-ranking officer with a background including time in the armoured units. He noted that AMV lacks the armament to meet the armoured spearhead of the enemy, and as such it is of little value in combat. My impression was that he felt that the question was settled with this short and snappy interruption.

I didn’t agree, and argued that firepower alone can’t be the sole measure when judging the fighting value on a unit level. Building the argument around fire-mobility-protection felt like a too simplistic approach, and I clarified that I obviously did not wish to replace our mechanised units with motorised infantry. After this, I repeated that we still should see the value of this kind of units. The AMV units can on their own wheels regroup between e.g. Revingehed [home garrison of the P 7 Southern Scania regiment] to Gothenburg/Stockholm while still maintaining most of its combat value. This is significantly harder for the tracked Leopard 2/CV 90 battalions. In addition I argued that a dismounted infantry battalion given a few hours of preparation could throw up a defence that certainly would give a mechanised attacker a significant headache.

140215-brigc-90
CV 9040 is the main infantry fighting vehicle for the Swedish armoured units. Source: Mats Carlsson/Försvarsmakten

The discussion ended when the other officer rhetorically asked ‘Sure they might arrive first, but what can they really do after they have arrived?’ I decided not to pursue the discussion further. Partly because I felt uncomfortable with an experienced colleague categorically rejecting my opinion, and partly because no-one else in the group joined in the discussion. None of the students in the course or the other participants seemed to have an opinion in the question.

My opinion is that the AMV as a vehicle has a poor combat value against enemy tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. This can be determined even by a simple visual inspection. If one uses AMV in combat in the same way as a CV 9040 one will come in second if the enemy wields anything heavier than a BMD.

But the fact that a unit type poorly used makes you lose a battle can hardly be said to make the unit type useless for homeland defence? The main weapon of the AMV battalions is not their vehicles, but the weapon systems carried inside them. Soldiers, machine guns, anti-tank weapons, mines, and systems for indirect fire. These, together with the mobility offered by the AMV, can create excellent units for those that can use them in the correct way. The whole issue should boil down to the simple question of using tactics suitable for the unit type, as well as training and exercises for the members of the unit in question.

There are obviously several possible enhancements in the AMV units before we can get the most out of their combat value! But to dismiss them because they lack vehicle mounted gun barrels or tracks  is to look at an infantry unit from an armoured perspective! It might be an unavoidable consequence of the infantry having been disbanded for all practical purposes for 15 years, but it is rather unflattering for the one doing so.

AMV gives us motorised infantry units with a high level of protection and very good mobility over large areas. It does not provide us with armoured units with high firepower and good off-road mobility. But I will argue that a diversified vehicle park gives the Army more tools in the toolbox, thereby creating more freedom of action.

By combining the mobility and the ability to take key terrain early of the AMV battalions with the Leopard 2/CV 90 battalions’ superior off-road mobility and firepower we can create an asymmetric threat which will be very tough to face for the attacker.

sib712_inbr_20140529_kab
Soldiers from 712. company training in an urban environment with their AMVs. Source: Kalle Bendroth/Försvarsmakten

8 thoughts on “Guest Blog: Patria AMV in Homeland Defence

  1. Tony Lappalainen

    I find it sad that the Swedish army does not know the value of mobile infantry. Motorised infantry has been proven adaptable in the modern battlefield, they have so many roles that they can fulfill.

  2. John Doe

    The author argues in favor of mobility with the AMV. However, we could also look at the flipside of the argument – wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to use simpler armored/unarmored trucks? Is it really all that necessary for a personnel carrier to have full NBC protection, heavy armor, integrated C2 and expensive surveillance (and possibly armament) systems? One could argue that it is all just feature creep. You end up with an armored vehicle that has the combat weight of a T-55 but with hampered mobility, way more armor than needed against handguns but not enough against AT weapons, technologically complex and with more complicated maintenance and logistics requirements than commercial vehicles.
    In Estonian military circles there has been a bit of a debate over whether buying new wheeled APCs has any point. On the one side, they aren’t quite as capable as tanks or IFVs, and on the other side, they aren’t really all that cheap to acquire. From that perspective, projects like the PMPV MiSu seem like a breath of fresh air. One could also argue for simple cargo trucks with removable soft armor panels. Either way you are always going to be looking at compromises in firepower, protection, mobility and costs. The main question is, which compromises are reasonable? Remember, the task is to get soldiers quickly and safely from point A to point B.

  3. PJä

    You have to remember that Swedish AMVs are equipped with 12,7 RWS but AMV’s have been succesfully equipped with several 30 to 40 mm weapon systems and for example is now in tests in Australia with CV90 35 mm weapon systems with good results. So IFV varians of AMV is available. Even AT gun installations have been done in Poland. So firepower is available if required. Mobility with a light wheeled vehicle is in many cases better than with tracked IFV or MBT.

    1. Kristian

      The Australian version has a full CV90 turret that eats up the space of 4 troopers, leaving just enough space for a 6 person squad. Good enough for a recon vehicle but not for a infantry unit.

  4. Tommy

    That`s depend who you ask. Some of military units want to have them like a cab.
    And some want to have them with better weapons like 105 mm and Nemo. The discussion are if they should have turret with1-2 man or not. Like Polish Amv with Zss-30 turret ore some ells. Some discussion are with turret from CV 90 fore recon units.

  5. Andreas

    The issue is maybe not so much a question of the firepower carried by the vehicles themselves, but rather what support can be provided for the infantry units on arrival.
    Mechanized or motorized infantry can no doubt make life difficult for an attacker, but how effective are they without engineering, artillery, air support or air defense?
    Are these units actually set up to operate independently or does the criticism stem from that they would leave all support behind when they charge off?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s