Friday, 15 October 2021

First photos of Kuwait's EF-2000

The first 2 EF-2000 built for Kuwait Air Force have been seen at Leonardo’s Caselle plant near Turin, Italy. in 2016 this country signed a contract for 28 (22 single seat and 6 twin seaters) for  €7.957 billion ($9.062 billion). The variant is considered the most advanced, being Tranche 3 and equipped with a Mk 0 AESA radar.

Eurofighter has had a bumpy road before deliveries. Kuwait's parlament decided to investigate the contract because the cost was judged to be too high, and there were delays due to radar integration and covid.


- Photos by Alessandro Maggia

Friday, 1 October 2021

Interview with a former M60 tanker in the Army of Austria

A former M60 tanker in the Army of Austria was happy to accept an interview for my blog. L. served in M60 Patton tanks during the early part of his career. In 1991 he was deployed in the frontier with Yugoslavia as this country descended into civil war. Before starting the interview I would like to thank him for his time.

Hello L. Thanks for accepting the interview. Could you provide a brief overview of your career in the Austrian Army?

I was first crewmember (3years) Next tank commander for 10 years. Finally Platoon Leader, 14 years. And now since 11 years operation NCO or in German- Kompanietruppführer. Austrian Language – Kommandogruppenkommandant. With some mission abroad (ALBANIA 1 Mission Group Commander, KOSOVO 3 Missions- Platoon Leader, S3 NCO, Admin ORF Bat, BOSNIA 5 Missions LOT NCO Liaison Obserations Team) and of course some trainings mission in Poland, Germany, Swizerland.

All in all in the end of the year 38 years of service.

You served in a M60 Patton. What was your impression of the vehicle, and the strong/weak points?          

Was in service with a M60A3. In the first years (early 90) we are quite satisfied with the performance. Including the service in the year 1991 (protection border Yugoslavia). The last few years (until 1989- end of service of the M60 in Austria) we have some live fire test with T-72 from the DDR Army. And there we found out with our APDS we disrupt the front of the T72 first time at a distance of round 500m . So at least we are lucky as we change tank to Leopard.
When training, at was the typical distance to the objective and speed of the tank when you fired? And the longest distance at which you ever fired?

Distance was from 500m up to 2000m. in training. At this time we train only in Austria and the competition was only among the 3 armoured battalion’s ( PzB10- terminated 2005, PzB14, PzB33- terminated 2015 now a Infantry battalion). There are no international contact in the 80` and 90`. The longest distance we fired with a HEP (high explosive plastic) about 4000m (only a few times, the target was the dimension of a infantry platoon, for testing). Speed was for us this time also ok. Max speed of the tank was 35/40 Mph. For shooting it was 20 Mph (flat plain) 15Mph cross country ( you have to work together with the driver. Not use the breakes or to steer when you are to fire the main gun.

How was the night firing conducted? Did you use flares for battlefield illumination?
Only when we work together with our artillery (was very rare at this time)

At what sort of ranges could you fire with the IR projector?

Only the gunner had a low-light amplifier. And only experienced gunner could fire at a maximum distance of 1000m. And the night has to be bright (full moon, snow, fire…). We also use on regular basis floodlight ( every tank has one mounted on the maingun with IR and white light). For this we have special instruction how to use it. Normall distance about 800m in the night.

In terms of maintenance, was there any component or system that was more delicate? Were there any issues with the supply chain?

The motor was very stable. We could “repair” many little damages with crew resources. (starter unit, air filter…). The armoured tower also not so sensitive like the tanks today are. Laser was a little bit awkward to handle ( only a little number of measurement until out of order.

What was the typical ammunition configuration load (% APDS/HESH/Smoke)? Did you have specific rounds for certain targets (APFSDS for T-64/72/80)?

63 rounds for main gun 105mm, 800 rounds 12,7mm, 4000 rounds 7,62mm total load.

Main gun: 3 WP- White Phosphor  12 HEP- High Explosive Plastic, 18 HEAT – High Explosive Anti Tank (shaped charge), and in the first years 30 APDS Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot and later instead of this 30 APFSDS Armor Piercing Finn Stabilised Discarding Sabot.

Main battle tanks APFSDS.
Armored personal carrier HEAT (long distance) or HEP.
Infantry (platoon or coy) short distance MG (7,62mm/ 12,7mm) or HEP. Long distance HEP.
Unarmored vehicle also short distance MG (7,62mm/ 12,7mm) or HEP. Long distance HEP
Helicopter only if it run square to our tank APFSDS

What was the maximum distance you covered in a day during deployments or exercises? Was the mobility suitable for Austrian terrain? Did the tank cope well or needed extra maintenance?

Max distance was as I remember so round about 250 km. This mainly on regular roads. Cross country about 150 km a day. For Austrian Armed Forces it was quite OK. During time of cold war we have the system of “Raumverteidigung” (defence positions along the main routes from east to west and in Tirol from north to south). And the armored bataillon was designated for counter attack operations to destroy the enemy heavy armored forces. For the M60 it was no bigger problem. The only thing needed maintenance for the chain.

The M60 is one of the largest (and most comfortable) tanks. Do you think it was worth it (it was also a larger target)?

As we used it that was not a question for the crews. But we train as long as possible not to go in open areas ( if possible go along the forest edge) and try take up position with hull down. We had some worries about the cupola for the commander with the Cal 50 MG ( MG 85). It was only a weight of about 800 kg. and if there would be a direct hit it would flew away with the commander as we heard from the IDF.

The M19 commander cupola is one element which has not proved popular, and some operators removed it. What do you think?

As I wrote in the last question. But the Austrian Armed Forces do not want to remove the copula. So we train with it. But many of the tank commander thinking about to throw it of.

You served in an evolving era. The threat in the late 80s early 90s was a conventional conflict in Central Europe. It then moved on to fight against terrorism. How did this affect the training you did?

For tankers first hand not so much changed. But we start to train at this time to fight in build up areas.(short distance shooting, work together with infantry . protection . CRC technics, OP, Checkpoints …)

Did you practice NBC scenarios? What was the procedure?

We trained this on regular base. The M60 has a NBC filter system. But it worked only when the crew put on the NBC mask and connect it with the filter system, with e tube for every member. Because the tank was not tightly closed for gas.

Did you have the opportunity to train with other Armies? What were your impressions? Did you like/dislike any specific equipment?

Until the late 80 we do not train with other armies. Only when we are on mission abroad (Golan hights Cypern). So only peacekeeping missions and technics, we train at this time.

By the 1980s Israel had used the M60 Patton in combat. Did you get any feedback on its performance or changes applied to variants?

The information was not from the official system. We get it from articles from other countries. For instance, the problems with the cupola, effects ammo, supply….

In 1991 you were deployed for 3 weeks in the frontier with Yugoslavia. Could you share your experience? Did you get any intelligence on Yugoslav Army equipment?

The armored bataillon 14 was deployed to the border with only one coy. Most of the crew members were NCO`s and no conscripts. We put the tank commanders of one platoon in one tank together. So mostly the platoon leader was the commander and the gunner loader and driver are the three tank commanders.
The experience at this time, as I remember was very good. We are together a long time before this deployment, so we know each other and work very good together. We do each day oner “Demo Fahrt” a kind of patrol along the border. A show of force. And we have reconnoitred some hull down positions near the border for defence operations. Most of the information’s we get on normal TV program. Less information from our intelligence.

In the 1990s Austria had access to Soviet equipment like the T-72 tank. Did you have the chance to familiarise yourself with it? What was your impression?

The soviet equipment Austria bought was at first hand to test the effect of our ammo (APFSDS, HEAT..). We have the possibility to get in contact with the soviet tanks. An our impression was that the equipment was not so “technical” but very stabile when you have to use it.

The testing of the ammo with the M60 was for me very sobering. We started at 1200m target front- no disruption. Next was 1000m. Then 800m. And at least we get the first hit with an effect at about 500m.
We does this test in the middle of the 80` and from this time on the Austrian Armed Forces try to replace the M60 or to upgrade it in some ways. At least it ended with the buy of the Leopard2A4 from the Netherlands.

What is your opinion on the Israel upgrades (Magach - also sold to Turkey as M60T)?

For me it looks good. But for me it mostly depends what is the possible enemy in your region. And what are you using the tank for.Is your enemy better equipped than your own tanks.

Turkey has used M60s in Syria. What do you think of the way they are being used?
As I read and heared it was the same problem with the Leo`s ( the lost also some of them). Stay for long in the same position (2or more days). On modern battlefield are 5 up to 10 minute sometimes to long (artillery) No protection of mechanised infantry. And the crews are for my opinion not so well trained as the have to be.

Newer models of tanks have incorporated turbines and automatic loaders. What is your opinion of them?

May be I am old fashioned but the loader of our Leo´s can do their work in about 4/ 5 seconds. The problem of a jam is minimal with a human loader. And for me also very important, you have a forth crew member for all the work ( ammo loading, guard the tank, reparation of running gear….). I personally saw a problem with an autoloader (Leclerc) in SETEC 2017. One hatch was not 100% tight. So the autoloader say NO. and the one tank could not fire in the competition at this moment with this small problem. Would not happen with a human loader.

When it comes to turbines, I think you have some benefit ( high power with low weight) and some handicap ( Noise, high consumption of fuel, not from the first moment when you start the engine full power). So you have to be familiar with your tank and you get the best out of it.

What about the Armata concept, in which the crew is placed in the chassis?

As crew member it is quite interesting for me. In hull down position very save. Also the defensive hard and soft kill systems. Problem is if some of the electronic does not workas it should.

In the late 1990s the M60s were replaced by Leopard 2A4. Do you think it was a good decision? Could the M60s have carried on with an upgrade?

Like I say a few questions before. Depends on the possible enemy. And in the neighbourhood of Austria the equipment is “too good” for the M60 (105mm,stabilisation, speed…). At least the Leopard2A4 is to old and has to be upgraded in near future, hopefully.

Is there any anecdote you would like to share before we finish the interview?

The only thing to share is may be. All equipment is only as good as the crew is trained.

The Austrian tank crews at the SETC  (2017 1st, 2018 3rd) achieved it with the oldest version of the Leo in the competition. Only the penetrating power was not possible to test.

Other interviews:

- Interview with a former Chieftain crew member
- Interview with a former Chieftain gunner
- Interview with a former AMX30 commander of the Army of France
Interview with a NCO of the Army of Serbia
Interview with a former crew member of Challenger 2  
- Interview with a T-72 driver from the Czech Army
- Interview with a former US Army tank crewmman 
- Interview with D., former US Army tanker with experience in the M60 and M1 Abrams
- Interview with a former NVA/Bundeswehr tanker
- Interview with former Marine and writer Kenneth Estes

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Germany acquires 5 five P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft

Boeing has anounced the signing of a contract with the US Navy to supply five P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) to the German Navy. Deliveries will start in 2024 and will be completed in February 2025.

The aircraft will replace the second hand P-3C bought from The Netherlands a few years ago. The cost is 756.6 million $. The aircraft are being procured via the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route, which estimated the contract at a much higher value (1,750 million $).

German Navy P-8 concept (Boeing).

The sale is a big success for the US industry against the European one. The German Navy had considered different proposals from European manufacturers (C295 and RAS 72 de Rheinland Air Service in MPA variants), but currently the P-8 Poseidon is the reference. It has flown more than 350,000 hours with 8 operators.

The acquisition casts a shadow of a doubt on the future MPA aircraft to be designed by Germany and France. It was supposed to replace both the German P-3C and French Atlantique 2. As a temporary solution France had offered Germany some Atlantique 2. On the other hand the German government has stated that the P-8 acquisition is a temporary solution, but US press releases state 30 years of operations.

Monday, 27 September 2021

India acquires 56 transport aircraft Airbus C295

India has finally signed an agreement for the acquisition of 56 Airbus C295. These aircraft will replace the Indian Air Force (IAF) legacy AVRO fleet.

The first 16 aircraft in ‘fly-away’ condition from its final assembly line in Seville (Spain), while the other 40 will be manufactured and assembled by the Tata Advanced Systems (TASL).

Press release (Airbus).

The contract is the largest signed for the type, representing ~25% of total sales up to date. It will guarantee production for the next few years.

According to Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space “This contract will support the further development of India’s aerospace ecosystem, bringing investment and 15,000 skilled direct jobs and 10,000 indirect positions over the coming 10 years”.



Wednesday, 15 September 2021

60 years since T-62 entry into service

This month Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) celebrates the 60th anniversary of T-62 entry into service. This model, developed as an improvement of T-54/55 while T-64 bugs were ironed out, was far more influential than expected. It was the first tank to use a smoothmore gun.

T-62 (

The type is still in service, and not long ago Russia supplied a batch of T-62M to Syria, where it has proved to be a simple and reliable tank. When it was fielded  it was considered 15% superior to T-55 but only required 2% more manufacturing hours, 5855 vs 5723. Despite this small difference, it was far more expensive for export customers, and many chose to stick with T-55 by getting more advanced ammunition.


Thursday, 19 August 2021

Interview with a former Chieftain crew member

1. Hello C., many thanks for accepting an interview for Could you provide us an overview of your career in the British Army?

I joined ‘boy soldiers’ (junior leaders) in August 1967 straight from school aged 15. Following my 2-years of training I passed out to join the 1st Royal Tank Regiment in December 1969 who was then based in Osnabruck, Western Germany, serving on Centurion of Mk.6/2 and Mk.13. In 1971 the British Government cancelled a Libyan order for Chieftain which we subsequently received and which were Mk.3S. In January 1972 I trained and qualified as a Driving and Maintenance Instructor on Chieftain followed immediately by spending 6-months on active service in Northern Ireland – we were the first non-infantry regiment to serve in the province. Whilst serving in N. Ireland I had two life-changing experiences in that my Mother unexpectedly passed away (I was aged 20 and my Mother was just 39) plus I shot someone. When I went to sign for a replacement bullet Major Weekes said ‘well done’ which I found sickening. We returned to Germany where we were told that we would be going back to N. Ireland and then converting to Scorpion. Although N. Ireland was a most enjoyable experience I wanted to remain as an Instructor on Chieftain so instead  I decided to leave the Army in April 1973.

2. What do you think were the strong and weak points of the Chieftain tanks?

It’s a perfect world with hindsight but I will respond with my thoughts and experiences I had at the time I served. I was a very keen student of tank design and development at the time I served plus I also studied Russian armour as it was felt that there was a 50/50 chance that Russia would invade Western Europe. I wasn’t interested in the gunnery side of being a tank crewman instead I concentrated on the protection and mobility aspects. The only weak points of Chieftain for me at the time were the engine and the suspension. The strong points were the armour, the main armament, crew comfort and the semi-automatic gearbox.

3. When training, at was the typical distance to the objective and speed of the tank when you fired? And the longest distance at which you ever fired?

As a gunner I only fired Centurion at Lulworth, in training, and In German, I never fired Chieftain. We did battle runs with Chieftain and fired on the move at all speeds up to the maximum of 30mph. Longest distance ever fired on Cent and Chieftain was up to 1-mile.

4. How was the night firing conducted? Did you use flares for battlefield illumination? At what sort of ranges could you fire with the IR projector?

I enjoyed watching the night firing but never did it as a gunner. The ranges were the same in my experience with ‘starlight’ flares, Image Intensification, Infra-red and searchlight.

5. Early Chieftain variants used a ranging gun to measure distance to objective. Did you ever use it? If so, did you find it effective? Were you concerned about losing sight of tracers or confusing them with others during a battle?

I didn’t use the .50 RMG on Chieftain but I did with Centurion so I hope my response with Cent is helpful. Again the distances were up to a mile but did I find it effective? When you consider that at the time the only alternative was to use the ‘blade vane sight’ which was effectively ‘guessing’ so the RMG saved wasting 105mm rounds. I did experience first-round hits using the RMG hit information but I also experienced having to correct my shot so I would say that for the technology of the period it was fairly effective. I can appreciate the problem in following your own tracer in battle as there would be other factors such as smoke from the battlefield but I think the gunners, and the commanders, concentration would be so high in following your own tracer which would be in your own ‘line of sight’ that I can imagine it wouldn’t be a major problem confusing your tracer with anyone else’s.

6. Chieftain kept a rifled gun while other models introduced smoothbore guns. Do you think it was a good idea?

Yes. Remember, AT THAT TIME Chieftain was the most effective tank main armament in the world

7. Chieftain tanks use a human autoloader and 3 piece ammunition. What was the maximum rate of fire you achieved? How did it change as you used the different ammunition bins?

I apologize as I can’t answer this question not being a Chieftain gunner.

8. British Army made extensive use of HESH ammunition. Can you comment on its characteristics and performance?

Again, I apologize as I can’t answer this question not being a gunner. However, generally speaking HESH was used on ‘soft’ targets and APDS against other tanks. When I served we also had smoke and canister (anti-personnel) rounds.

9. What was the typical ammunition configuration load (% APDS/HESH/Smoke)?

No idea although as drivers we did all the ‘ammo bashing’ and HESH predominated.

10. In terms of maintenance, was there any component or system that was more delicate? Were there any issues with the supply chain?

Supply chain? I never experienced any difficulties in obtaining spare parts or ‘consumables’ (oil etc).All components and systems as supplied, apart from the engine, were fit for purpose. Of course, as drivers, we had to be aware of things like the searchlight overhanging the side of the hull and so on but overall I wouldn’t say we had to treat anything as ‘delicate’. But don’t forget that the main aim of the driver was to provide a stable platform for the main armament and so one had to fully aware of the limitations of the suspension in relation to the terrain being driven through.

11. What was the maximum distance you covered in a day during deployments or exercises? Did the tank cope well or needed extra maintenance?

This is an interesting question. We used to do regular ‘quick train’ call-out exercises usually in the early hours of the morning which were to practice for an invasion. On these occasions we had to drive from our barracks in Dodesheide through the city of Osnabruck to the Achmer training area and back which I reckon was a total of around 30-miles, all on roads driving flat out. I cannot recall any of our Chieftains ever having a breakdown. On a few occasions on exercise we did long route marches where we would drive on roads for many miles but I cannot recall how far. However, generally our driving activities were on exercise and the distances covered varied considerably from short distances to different mock battle area’s. We never ran out of fuel and never did more than one fuel refill in a day. I only ever had one breakdown, of sorts, that wasn’t down to the engine and that was when I threw a track in a very narrow gulley.

12. The Leyland L60 engine was an issue in early Chieftain models. Could you comment on this? Were the problems solved in the variants you used? Do you think there were alternatives to the L60?

As I mentioned in my introduction I didn’t serve on Chieftain for very long. In 1RTR we had the Mk.3S Chieftains which had the Model 7A version of the L60. Amongst other weaknesses this model of engine had the 2” wide fan belts which kept snapping. The two heavy aluminum fans had ‘sprag clutches’ which meant that when the engine revs died the fans could carry on freely rotating and gradually slowing down. The problem was, especially when driving cross-country, the engine revs were constantly changing and with each acceleration there was a sudden strain on the fan belts. The first modification we experienced was an increase in fan belt width and thickness plus they were ribbed across the width of the belt, now, instead of the belt snapping the fan drive hubs took the strain and started to crack and leak oil. The later mod of making the ribs longitudinal happened after my time but cured the problem. Another problem I experienced was with the engine ‘running away’, in other words the accelerator (fuel injection pump operating mechanism, became locked in one position, this wasn’t remedied in my time but was later. The biggest failure I experienced on a number of occasions’, like so many others, were the failure of one of the cylinder liner seals within the cylinder block. This wasn’t resolved in my short time.

Yes, there were alternatives to the L60. I had to present my tank, 01 FD 26, to the MoD delegation touring Germany to view the problem first hand. To this day I can still see the picture although I was only 20-yrs of age. The Regiment was on the Achmer training area so there was only myself and my tank on the whole of the tank park, something I had never experienced before. The delegation numbered about 20 personnel and consisted of military ‘top brass’, senior officers from the Regiment and ‘civvies’ from the MoD and Leyland. Chieftain was grossly underpowered with a basic rule being for 20bhp/ton which meant the engine should have at least been producing 1,200-1,300bhp instead of it’s miserly 750. I had written to Rolls-Royce to request some information about their range of ‘Eagle’ marine diesel engines. When I was asked what I thought was wrong with the engine I replied ‘the MoD gave the job to Leyland instead of R-R who produce the Eagle range of marine diesels and I feel certain the smallest of these could be adapted to fit Chieftain’. I don’t what the Israeli’s did with their two Chieftains, if anything, but their experience with Centurion would have given them plenty of experience and knowledge with what to do as an alternative to the L60.

13. One of the theoretical advantages of the Leyland L60 was that it was multifuel. Did you ever use this feature in training or manoeuvres? Is there any procedure that needs to be followed if different fuels are used (clean filters, purge components)?

Although I was a driving and maintenance instructor we didn’t cover changing over to any fuel other  than diesel.

14. Chieftain used a Horstmann suspension, while other tanks of its era used torsion bars. What is your opinion on its advantages and disadvantages?

I didn’t like the Hostmann suspension as I felt that Chieftain was too heavy for it. Having said that it did perform well but it did limit your driving in certain conditions bearing in mind the main armament. However, one advantage of this type of suspension was its reliability and ease of maintenance/replacement. I never rode in a tank with torsion bars but saw various tanks with that type of suspension moving and was generally impressed. The only disadvantage of torsion bars that I can think of is the increased height of the vehicle necessary to fit it.

15. What was the maximum speed you managed to get in a Chieftain? And in reverse?

No idea about reverse but 30mph in top gear (6th) on the road.

16. Did you practise NBC situations? What was the approach? How did it affect the crew performance (especially loader)?

We did often practice for NBC warfare. There was no warning and we had to wear our ‘noddy’ suits for up to 24-hours. It was difficult driving Chieftain ‘closed down’ wearing a respirator but we appreciated that if it was for real then we could cope. It wasn’t too difficult to do your job just ‘different’. I never loaded the main gun but I reckon that would be hard and hot work even though we were fit.

17. Some Chieftain tanks were deployed in Berlin. Did you consider urban scenarios in your training?

No, open combat only plus I didn’t crew a tank in Berlin.

18. Did you have the opportunity to train with other countries (NATO for example)? What was your impression about their training and equipment? Any tank (or other weapon) you liked or disliked?

Yes, we trained with the Germans, Americans and Danes. The equipment of all three was good and modern. We were not impressed with our American friends as they didn’t operate in a skilful and professional manner, it was as if it was all a game to the ones we trained with. However, had Ivan crossed the border I am certain that their performance would have given Ivan something to think about.

19. What is your opinion on turbines and autoloaders? These devices were introduced in the 1970s by other tanks (T-80 and Abrams).

I don’t have enough technical knowledge or experience of gas turbines or auto-loaders. I can see the benefit of an auto-loader in that you can have a more rapid rate of fire but the downside being, of course, a limited amount of ready rounds of the required ammunition type. It may also, I presume, be able to load and unload an auto-loader stock by bulk? I am impressed with the M1 Abrams gas turbine other than with its fuel economy.
20. Do you think Chieftain could have been developed more or it was better to move into the Challenger series?

I was extremely impressed when I saw Khalid being demonstrated. Suddenly Chieftain, in the form of Khalid, had excellent firepower and performance but the protection was sadly lacking. The additional turret armour fitted to Chieftain was always a stop-gap solution and not ideal and so, in my opinion, I believe that Chieftain had virtually reached the limits of its development potential and Chally 2 (not 1, which was 95% Chieftain) was definitely the way forward.

The interviews section relies on veterans and people related to the defense industry who gave up some time for the blog. If you are a veteran (active or retired), serve in the military, or you have worked in the defence industry, and would like to get interviewed leave me a message.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Il-112V prototype crashes outside Moscow

A few minutes ago the Ilyushin Il-112V prototype crashed outside Moscow. The reasons for the accident are not know but one of the engines was on fire when it crashed. Sadly there are no survivors; the crew was composed of
- Pilot: Nikolay Kuimov
- Co-pilot: Dmitry Komarov
- Navigator: Nikolay Khludeev

This aircraft first flew in March 2019, and had completed 15 flights (Appendix 1) by the time of the accident. It has been designed to replace Russia’s fleet of An-26, the Yakovlev Yak-40

Appendix 1: Il-112V prototype flight history

1) 30-3-2019
2) 30-3-2021
3) 4-4-2021
4 y 5) 6-4-2021
6) 27-5-2021
7) 14-7-2021
8) 17-7-2021
9) 17-7-2021
10) 3-8-2021
11) 5-8-2021
12) 7-8-2021
13) 9-8-2021
14) 10-8-2021 (with 2 tons of fuel)
15) 13-8-2021: Flight to Zhukovsky