Increase in firepower for the 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade
The war in Ukraine and in particular the fighting in the east of the country in the Donbas region show the importance of firepower. As the Czech Army plans to modernise and increase the number of Pandur II wheeled IFVs, the idea of increasing the firepower of these vehicles with 105 mm guns and thus strengthening the entire 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade is being considered.
Concept of Build-up 2030 on the armament with Pandur vehicles in the framework of Milestone 2030 states: "In Land Forces, the modernisation and purchase of PANDUR II wheeled IFV and the reorganisation of the 44th Light Motorized Battalion into a mechanised battalion are carried out." Currently, the 44th Light Motorised Battalion is armed only with LOV 50 vehicles. The interest in increasing the number of Pandur II vehicles was confirmed in early April this year by Defence Minister Jana Černochová, who said that the Czech Army will buy these vehicles in 2023.
In an interview with CZ Defence published on 21 July 2021, the current commander of the 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade, General Jan Štěpánek, also commented on the modernisation of Pandur II vehicles, saying the following: "We are currently in the middle of the life cycle of the Pandur II wheeled IFV, and therefore it is clear that their modernisation is necessary, especially with regard to obsolete management. This modernisation is scheduled to take place between 2024 and 2027." Further in the interview, Gen. Štěpánek continues: "Technological progress cannot be stopped and therefore we can expect modernization of the weapon system, possible increase of ballistic protection, renewal and increase of means of communication information systems. The use of artificial intelligence in these vehicles cannot be ruled out either."
Given the situation in Ukraine, which shows the importance of firepower, it is advisable to consider increasing the firepower of the 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade in particular, which will become a medium-type brigade thanks to the increase in the number of Pandur II vehicles. The increase in firepower could then be achieved by placing a larger calibre gun on the Pandur II vehicle. Similar vehicles are already in place or under development in other European armies, so there is no experimentation involved and inspiration can easily be found in these projects.
The first example can be found in our northern neighbours in Poland, where a fire support vehicle is being developed on the chassis of the Rosomak or Patria AMV equipped with a John Cockerill CT-CV 105HP turret with a 105 mm gun. The vehicle is manned by three men - commander, gunner and driver.
In the second case, we can look to Germany to the eight-wheeler Boxer vehicle, which uses a John Cockerill C3105 turret with a 105 mm gun. As in the previous case, the crew consists of three men - a commander, a gunner and a driver. The vehicle is equipped with automatic reloading. The advantage of this solution is the fact that it is a relatively new solution. In addition, the production of C3105 turrets will continue for several years, according to John Cockerill Defense officials.
Another possible inspiration is Italy and the B1 Centauro vehicle equipped with a 105mm gun in the OTO Melara turret. Like the two previous vehicles, the Centauro is equipped with a 7.62mm machine gun. The crew consists of two to four men. In addition, the Centauro has been deployed in the past in conflicts in Somalia and Yugoslavia.
The fourth inspiration is a possible Sabrah variant by the Israeli company Elbit Systems.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has clearly shown that, in addition to the media-visible and much-discussed means such as drones, Javelin anti-tank missiles and shoulder-launched Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, conventional warfare cannot be condemned. Moreover, the recent fighting in the Donbas region shows the importance of artillery. The ability to fire indirectly is what some of the aforementioned vehicles have.
In Europe, therefore, we can see both established vehicles in the form of the B1 Centauro and concepts under development - the Wilk programme or the Boxer vehicle with the John Cockerill turret or the Sabrah. The French AMX-10RC vehicle, which is built on a 6x6 chassis, is not to be forgotten, but its main armament is also a 105mm gun.
Thus, in the context of the upcoming increase in numbers and modernisation of Pandur vehicles, it would not be out of place to take into account the experience gained so far in Ukraine, European capabilities and our own needs and consider the possible introduction of a wheeled fire support vehicle for the 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade.