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The Idea of Having Excalibur Army's Pandur 2 8x8 Fire Support Vehicles for the Philippine Army

The procurement of tank destroyers for the Philippine Army falls into the larger project of this service branch within the Armed Forces of the Philippines which also calls the purchase of Light Tanks for the newly-formed Armored Division (from the Mechanized Infantry Division) to have. Lest to say, obtaining such assets may come in handy especially if an enemy armor manages to land in the Philippine territory.

This is what a Pandur 2 Tank Destroyer looks like.
The Philippine Army is currently on a buying spree where through the years, they purchased a lot of military assets that are helpful for its improvement as part of the Philippine Army Transformation Roadmap 2028 where it upgraded its existing projects such as its M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers which it received sophisticated weaponry as provided by the Israeli Defense Company by the name of Elbit.

The Armor Division in itself currently obtains more Armored Personnel Carriers where through the years serve as its primary military support for protection for deploying troops and providing additional firepower for the ground troops to attain its military objective especially in a conflict such as the September 9 Zamboanga Siege that took place more than six years ago.

It is been known that the Philippine Army's Armored Division undertakes several changes with the recent one involving the change of its name and composition from what was once named the Mechanized Infantry Division wherein it only with the continuity that this component within the Army gets enhanced and improved by time to time with the entry of several platforms that helps its performance better.

Currently, the Philippine Army embarks on its won Light Tank Procurement Project wherein it divides into two categories: procurement of a light or medium tank and the procurement for a tank destroyer. So far, the potential candidate for the light or medium tank under that category is the General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS) ASCOD 2 MMBT or Medium Main Battle Tank (check this article we provided for more information).

With regards to the tank destroyer or fire support vehicle category, it may be not that surprising if the preferred platform goes also to the similar supplier of the ones who also provided the resources for the light tank category wherein there is a more positive sense of inter-compatibility and logistics between these assets where similar subcomponents or features may be shared across these platforms.

Just with the light tank, obtaining a tank destroyer comes with its ideal utilization within the Philippine Army wherein it has the significance regarding its necessity and its purpose where it will augment the tracked light tanks and armored personnel carriers shall these things will be materialized upon. 

Just to take note, a tank destroyer for this project's sake is considered a wheeled tank with similarities on the gun utilized between the two, only that this one obtains an 8x8 wheeled format as it is considered a requirement for the Philippine Army for this category which suffices the need to carry a 105mm caliber gun.

Website: https://www.excaliburarmy.cz/
The products section can be accessed here.
The company's logo.
Before proceeding to the background of the company, let it be known that the Pandur wheeled armored vehicle is also produced by GDELS or the General Dynamics European Land Systems which is headquartered in Madrid, Spain. Check our article about the ASCOD MMBT regarding this company as tackled along with the linked content. Read related content here.

Now, getting back to the Excalibur Army itself once again.

The company embodies the portion of the Czechia Defense Industry as it is currently considered as a member of a larger Czechoslovak Group wherein it is an organization that supports the improvement and development of both Czech and Slovak industries, both in civilian and in military fields of the industry in a country that was formed as Czechoslovakia, now the countries of both neighbors Czechia and Slovakia.

Its specialties include military vehicles ranging from highly-combative ones that are meant for combat utilization such as tanks and armored personnel carriers it produces down to its support chain which may go from engineering platforms for military applications down to providing spare parts as part of their logistics chain to the vehicles they provided as well as several rifles and ammunition.

Apparently, for this company, it goes as notable on its production of vehicles where until now, they are still producing these Soviet-era T-72 modernized main battle tanks (known as the T-72 Scarab) and the older T-55 main battle tanks which are still in active service in some countries including the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, the Czech Republic in this manner is already a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO so it may go just as sensual for the country to produce these tanks to a modernized one in compliance with the standards within the organization. 

Through this, it makes it ideal in considering Russian-oriented tech through this approach, although such a tank option is out of the picture, given that the Philippine Army is seeking light or medium tanks with chances that it will be coming in a form of a tracked armored personnel carrier with a 105mm/120mm gun capability produced jointly by Czech's southern neighbor and the Philippines' former overlord.

Other than the tanks, the Excalibur Army also obtains a portfolio of armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles in which the Pandur 2 8x8 considers as one of the products offered by this Czech defense company. Like the T-72, Excalibur also has its BMP-1 product which is a classical thing from the Soviet Union wherein they provided modernized and latest iterations of the vehicle like the BMP Mexca IFV.

Founded in 1995, the Excalibur Army through the years of operations provides primary weapons which are specifically for Czech military use which comes as a usual thing with countries having localized defense industries that provide the tools and weaponry for their respective local Armed Forces to utilize. 

With that length of operations and also its continuous service within the Czech Republic, it comes with an idea of having a reputable company on its worth where they manage to produce and innovate newer military assets out from old, Soviet weaponry as former Czechoslovakia was once part of the then-Warsaw Pact led by no other than the Soviet Union itself and still modernize it for their own use. 

Having such an experience, it comes at no doubt that the company's background and reputation play a factor in the development and production of a product like the Pandur 2 8x8 Tank Destroyer wherein the standards and practice in place in creating a quality product goes along the satisfaction of the end-user that it is capable to do as it is designed for efficiently and effectively.

This is the Pandur 2 IFV under test by the Czech. Its predecessor
sports a 6x6 wheel composition.
Via Wikimedia Commons.

Like the ASCOD, the origins of the Pandur Armored Personnel Carrier was originated with Austria, only that the former comes with a partnership with another country which is Spain. The development of this vehicle traces back to 1979 wherein it was unveiled half a decade later.

The company that initiated its development at that time was the Austrian Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug AG & Co AG in which, just as mentioned during the previous blog article on the ASCOD MMBT, is now part of the Spanish-based, US-originated Defense Company General Dynamics European Land Systems Limited (GDELS) wherein the PANDUR as a product was also shown on the company's website here.

One may ask: If the one developed the vehicle is the European division of General Dynamics, then why we are discussing it as if it is the product of a certain Czech Defense Company such as Excalibur? As detailed on the article's subtopic on Excalibur above (specifically on the linked related content), it was known that GDELS and Excalibur forged a deal where they join forces in promoting the PANDUR in Eastern European markets as well as on Asian ones.

In other words, this enables Excalibur Army to be that exclusive distributor of the General Dynamics European Land Systems-developed Pandur (in this case the Pandur 2 variant) where they will export it on the aforementioned markets which come at no surprise wherein the Philippine Army is considered that potential customer situated in Asia. So, to this extent, it is just as wise to go with GDELS' ASCOD MMBT and the Pandur 2 8x8 Tank Destroyer where both obtain the same build, developer, and manufacturer. This is aside from the thing that involves a certain Israeli Defense Industry which will get discussed along the way through this article.

Going back to the development of the vehicle, the first prototype was first released in 1985 and gets into production just a year later. The first customer who sets up the order for the first units of Pandur in the manufacturing line was Austria where they put up their procurement numbers of around 68 units, which it will be delivered just a decade later.

It is quickly followed by the Kuwaiti National Guard who ordered 70 units of Pandur 1 6x6 Armored Personnel Carriers through AV Technology International from the United States and the Belgians who ordered 54 Pandur APCs - totaling it up to 192 units produced for the first three customers alone which speak for its ideal utilization where these first three customers benefit from the performance this armored vehicle platform provided. 

This customer setup alone makes the vehicle qualified to the active user's requirement that the Philippine Army needs where either the country of origin or at least two users have such a platform in service wherein that increases the chance for such a platform like the Pandur to be considered as a wheeled tank option for the Philippine Army.

This is the Austrian Army's Pandur I 6x6 Armored Personnel Carrier.
It is considered the first variant of its type.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Understanding the Pandur family of Armored Personnel Carriers, Infantry Fighting Vehicles, and even Tank Destroyers are a necessity wherein as we get along in the details provided regarding its specifications, the bigger picture will be showing out of its way along to determine primarily its capabilities in connection to its operations and utilization. 

Like the ASCOD, the Pandur especially its first version the Pandur I 6x6 armored vehicle was originally produced as a troop carrier with the former obtaining the firepower capability which renders it more as an infantry fighting vehicle while the latter was developed earlier than the former, both of which are active in service as of the current date with Austria being the one that obtains both platforms. 

Now, we will tackle down the details regarding the different version of Pandur armored vehicles with different tweaks and weapons fit being integrated through the years until to the point that there is an offering of a tank destroyer variant in service which may find its way to the Philippine Army service if such a platform may be chosen as a wheeled tank variant for the service branch's Light Tank Acquisition Project.

The Pandur 1 6X6 Armored Personnel Carrier
The Pandur 1 6x6's Specifications. Image Source.

It is worth taking note that Pandur 1 6x6 is the first iteration of the Pandur and its family wherein as aforementioned in this article, a first prototype was released in 1985 and eventually entered the Austrian Army service in 1996 with a total of 68 vehicles. Aside from the Kuwaiti Armed Forces and the Belgian ones that formed the first three customers for this type of Armored Personnel Carrier as mentioned, Slovenia and the United States Army followed through with 36 units and 50 units respectively with the latter utilized for the Armored Ground Mobility System or AGMS.

The original base variant of the Pandur does not come with any gun turrets at all. Its function is just like the M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier that the Philippine Army obtains where it is primarily more for troop protection and deployment in combat upon necessity. Both of these are allowable to be upgraded later on with the gun turrets being fitted at the top of the vehicle which renders it more firepower in times of combat. Also to take note that such a base variant has firing ports for the troop occupants on board, something that is lacking on the M-113 platforms.

As noticeable, its engine produces 260 horsepower of energy for the Pandur 1 8x8 to operate, far from the 600 horsepower produced by a Spanish Pizarro Infantry Fighting Vehicle which is an ASCOD variant. It is of no surprise given that the Pandur 1 8x8 is smaller and lighter for an operator to utilize wherein it comes with more speed and maneuverability given these attributes which is an ideal thing with comes to a wheeled armored personnel carrier.

Hence, with its service within the Austrian Army alongside the ULAN Infantry Fighting Vehicles it obtains which in itself is an ASCOD 1 variant, it is good to provide an idea that there is a high-low mix on this organization's fleet of military armor as the Pandur serving more of a lighter mix of an Armored Personnel Carrier whilst the ULAN serving as a better-armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle that provides additional Firepower support in combat. Both of the assets are useful for their own worth.

The Pandur 2 6x6/8x8 Armored Personnel Carrier
Pandur 2 8x8's Specifications. Image Source.

Pandur 2 is in itself an improvement which is considered a nice replacement over the older Pandur 1 6x6 Armored Personnel Carrier. It now sports more space for 12 personnel to ride onboard which in itself an improvement from the previous iteration's 8 personnel capacity. That means that there is an extra space for four more people which can be rapidly deployed in combat with more numbers at a sheer efficiency in accommodating them onboard the vehicle.

The engine power also comes as an improvement where it is now powered by a 285-horsepower Cummins ISC 350 diesel which is more powerful than the previous one with an extra 25 horsepower of energy for the vehicle to operate. It comes as no surprise given that extra space for additional troops plus fitted weaponry onboard demand such additional energy to propel through to attain its speed and maneuverability in combat in line to its predecessor.

There are two variants of Pandur 2 in service - the 6x6 wheeled variant and the 8x8 variant. Austria is the first country to have Pandur 2s in service with its requirement of an additional 129 units of such vehicle (6x6 wheeled composition) in complement to the existing earlier versions of Pandur it obtains in service. The first country to order the 8x8 wheeled composition variant of Pandur 2 is the country of Portugal where it ordered 260 units with 240 of it for the Portuguese Army and the remainder for the country's Marine Corps.

Excalibur Army's entry for Pandur 2 as an exclusive distributor (with a partnership with GDELS) for Eastern European and Asian markets started when its mother country the Czech Republic started ordering such units for its own Armed Forces, totaling to their procurement order of 107 Pandur 2 8x8 vehicles in which it was delivered between 2009 and 2013 wherein 72 of which is a wheeled infantry fighting vehicle and the remainder being the support-oriented vehicles (reconnaissance, ambulance, engineering and company command). 

Excalibur Army contributed to the development of a Pandur Variant
that packs more firepower.
Image Source.

While the GDELS provided the development for the base platform of the Pandur through its first generation Pandur I armored personnel carrier through the present Pandur II, it is the Czech defense company Excalibur Army that produces a variant or version of the Pandur II that produces more firepower than the usual ones in service which is the Pandur II Fire Support Vehicle or FSV.

This fire support vehicle or tank destroyer/wheeled tank as said by others has a choice regarding its gun turret that may come with two variants - one will come with a CMI Cockerill Gun which the Philippines will surely not be getting due to the arms restrictions that the Belgian province of Wallonia applied on its exports especially in putting the country into sanctions due to their so-called human rights violations or atrocities.

Nevertheless, there is another gun variant that the Philippine Army may see interesting to have shall the Pandur 2 gets considered - the Leonardo HITFACT 105mm gun which may also find its way to the ASCOD 2 Medium Main Battle Tanks, in which it is currently seen as a preferable option for the Philippine Army's tracked portion of the Light Tank Acquisition Project. 

Going to this approach means better interoperability between two military platforms wherein it simplifies the complications on compatibilities and logistics that may come especially in the maintenance side where skills and spare parts commonality are a nice attribute on this case as well as on the operations side which simplifies the training over such platforms.

Looking in a nearby ASEAN country of Indonesia, they are now in the process of setting up a letter of intent for these Fire Support Vehicles wherein the chances here is that it will sport the CMI Cockerill Gun for their own requirements as they are also expecting their partnership-developed Kaplan MT with Turkey to produce soon as it also obtains a similar gun mount from CMI Defense which simplifies their own logistics.

With Indonesia considering such a platform, it is nicer to see regarding the number of users that such an asset may have for years to come which there will be more viable sources for spare parts shall things are needed to keep it running and retaining it active within the Philippine Army Service. 

Like the Pandur 2 8x8, the Fire Support Vehicle variant may also have almost similar specifications. For more details, kindly refer to the table below.
The Pandur II 8x8 FSV/Tank Destroyer's Specifications. Image Source.
Defense undersecretary Ricardo David and Czech Deputy Defense Minister
Jakub Landovský signs the Czech-Philippine Agreement on Defence Cooperation.
Photo from the Czech Embassy in Manila (Image Source)

The Republic of the Philippines and the Czech Republic (known also as Czechia) improved bilateral relationships to the point that both countries signed a defense cooperation agreement last May of 2017 which opens new opportunities for both countries to have economic and trade undertakings especially on matters regarding security and defense.

This signed defense cooperation agreement primarily involves military and defense procurements that aim for peace and security as advocated by both nations which may provide that necessary drive for the Philippine Army to modernize itself further that comes along with other branches within the Armed Forces in the aims of providing better performance on its mandated duties and responsibilities as the defenders of the nation.

Such a defense cooperation agreement was followed up by the first defense committee meeting between both nations wherein it further opened more opportunities such as developing both armed forces and potential joint industrial projects wherein Excalibur Army may contribute along as they are seeking additional markets share in the Southeast Asian Military market that will cement their position in this portion of the greater Asia-Pacific region.

With this progress regarding the relationship, particularly the defense-related one between the Philippines and the Czech Republic, it may come to no surprise if it is the Excalibur Army-export Pandur 2 Fire Support Vehicle will serve as the product of such development wherein the end-user benefits from having such a vehicle that will fill its requirements that goes of having a capable armed force while the supplier gaining newer markets that will provide the product and support in which it comes with a guarantee of continuous cooperation and potential of future transactions as additional orders may arise given the commonality over these military assets.

Shall the deal proceed for this program, it will make the Czech Republic the Philippines' latest supplier of military assets wherein it will join up the ranks of the United States, Indonesia, Israel, South Korea, and several others with their weapons such as the Pandur 2 8x8 Fire Support/Wheeled Tank vehicle may find its worth in case a future conflict may take place in a manner that the South Korean-made FA-50PH of the Philippine Air Force was fully utilized in a conflict such as those in Battle of Marawi or in an earlier sortie in the nearby town of Butig, Lanao del Sur, providing the support needed in ending the battle or a conflict early with lesser damage and casualties whenever possible.

The improvement of relations between the Philippines and the Czech Republic is helpful for the Army's efforts of modernizing itself further given that with the reorganization of the Armor "Pambato" Division from the former Mechanized Infantry Division comes the hopes, dreams, aspirations, and the likeliness that this unit within the Philippine Army may obtain such platforms such as a light tank, both wheeled and tracked ones

One may wonder once these assets get traction, materialized, produced, and even delivered where it may showcase by the Army Mechanized Unit in the similar manner it did with the upgraded M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers shown in this clip which shows the improvement of the division from what it obtains just a decade ago.


As the newly-reorganized Armor Division celebrated its 43rd Anniversary as a mechanized unit within the Philippine Army, it comes will all of those hopes, dreams, aspirations, and steps for this unit to grow even better in terms of capability and firepower in which the on-going Light Tank Acquisition Project may help that suffice the needs.

This project is divided into the tracked and wheeled components wherein it obtains different objectives but still arrives at a similar 105mm gun mount that the Army seeks to get equipped onboard the prospective vehicle candidates that are being considered on this project matter.

Currently, the Philippine Army sticks to its upgraded M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers wherein several of these assets are recently being equipped with 81mm Soltam Cardom Mortar Mobile System mounts courtesy to Elbit who is also the supplier who supplied the Philippine Army with some ORCWS and UT-25 gun mounts which made these vehicles equipped with automatically-operated guns that provides the firepower while keeping the operator safe at the inside of the vehicle as it gets further into the combat together with the ground troops fighting and support mechanisms such as artillery and air support providing that bombardment.

The Excalibur Army-exportable Pandur 2 wheeled tank / Fire Support Vehicle is a testament to the improvement of relationships between countries as both sides aspire to have defense cooperation that will surely benefit altogether in terms of providing materials, exchange of knowledge, and industry improvement that may affect Self Reliance Defense Posture efforts now that the Legislative is pushing for a Philippine equivalent to the U.S. DARPA or the South Korean DAPA.

Sharing attributes with the ASCOD MMBT ranging from the possible gun mount from Leonardo Defense Systems to its development originated from General Dynamics European Land Systems, it comes as no surprise if this platform is to be considered as a preferred wheeled tank option for the Philippine Army have for its requirements under the Light Tank Acquisition Project. The only thing now is to get along with time and determine the status of the project and also if such a platform like this one gets through or not given that this will serve as a symbol of an ever-growing capability to the Armor "Pambato" Division and its very desire of performing better for the development of the country's overall national security that benefits the whole nation, its sovereignty and the welfare of the public as a whole.

The ASCOD Medium Main Battle Tank Option for the Philippine Army

The Philippine Army through its Mechanized Infantry/Armored Division aspires to have more reputable armor which packs enough firepower that pulverizes targets as a complementary force that joins along with the ground infantry troops in conducting a military operation. It is well known that this division already obtains a handful of armored personnel carriers in its inventory especially with the ones fitted with sophisticated weaponry, it may be said that having these assets is not enough, opting for dedicated armor with higher caliber needed for operations that need the extra firepower.

Pitz Defense Analysis Note: There are two categories for the Philippine Army's Light Tank Acquisition Project which are notably the tracked light tanks and the wheeled tank destroyers which are both being considered for purchase with interesting companies participated in both of these categories under the single project. This discussion only covers the tracked light tank portion of the acquisition process whilst the discussion for the wheeled tank destroyer category will be provided in a separate, future blog article here on this website. So, better stay tuned and check this website from time to time for updates.

Addendum: The Mechanized Infantry Division is now renamed as the Armored Division. For more details, kindly check this thread from our Facebook page here.

Its subsystems attribute to its potential preferred asset for the
Philippine Army that spans past partnerships and other policies
applied beforehand.
(c) Nicholas Drummond @ Twitter.
It is well known for the several years that the Philippine Army is in itself opting for newer platforms especially with regards to Light Tanks that the service branch is opting for procurement, coming with an idea with increased firepower than the existing Infantry Fighting Vehicles that the service branch is currently obtaining.

The plans of purchasing light tanks are one of the efforts of the Philippine Army in modernizing further its organization as part of its plans and organizational timeline known as the Philippine Army Transformation Roadmap 2028 that makes it a fully-capable land force which augments its fellow service branches within the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

It is worth mentioning the history of the Philippine Army's Mechanized Infantry/Armored Division where it operates a range of tanks back then such as the Renault FT Tank during the Commonwealth Period, the M-41 Walker Bulldog Tank in the 1950s, and on the recent history, the FV-101 Scorpion Light Tank which is still in service. Currently, the Mechanized Infantry/Armored Division, aside from the FV-101 light tank consists primarily of Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) which comes in numbers in its fleet. The Armored Personnel Carrier fleet consists of GKN Simba wheeled vehicles which were produced by a manufacturer that is now part of BAE Systems based in the United Kingdom, V-150 Cadillac Gage Commando which complements the GKN Simba as both shares the attribute of being a wheeled vehicle, and the M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers with several units within the Philippine Army upgraded with latest remote-controlled weaponry such as the ORCWS or Overhead Remote Controlled Weapons System, courtesy of Elbit Systems itself.

While most of these armored vehicles saw action multiple times in conflicts like the Zamboanga Siege that started on September 9, 2013, which ended almost a month later on September 27, and the ever-devastating Marawi Siege that started on May 23, 2017, where it lasted for almost 5 months, ended in the 23rd of October the same year.

These conflicts are an influencing factor for purchasing light tanks wherein obtaining them may provide a decisive factor in eliminating the targets on a shorter period, especially given that urban combat requires having such tools that can blast enemy fortifications in the middle of combat while providing the protection and support to the ground troops that augments with it, which have come together to achieve the objective of the whole duration of the conflict.

This is the Kaplan Harimau Hitam Tank in which Indonesia and Turkey
are developing. It was the darling of the crowd at one point until
there is something that involves a component which makes it a
non-preferrable candidate. 
Approximately a year ago before the publishing of this article, foreign defense outlets such as IHS Jane's and Defense Blog were reporting over the Philippine interest, that goes alongside those of Bangladesh, over this certain tank developed jointly by two defense industries spanning two countries which aims that they may finally produce their respective indigenously-made tanks which will benefit their respective defense-oriented relationships and each country's defense industries.

The said tank referring here is the Kaplan Modern Medium-Weight Tank which is jointly-produced by Turkey's FNSS Savunma Sistemleri A.Ş and Indonesia's PT Pindad. Both of which are both of the country's respective defense industries which specializes in providing their respective armed forces the tools needed for providing defense and enforcing national security of their territories. The Kaplan, known in Indonesia as the Harimau Hitam is the latest iteration from this joint defense venture.

Back then, this tank jointly developed and produced by both countries really is something that the Philippine Army opted for its requirements for a Light Tank given that it is done by both countries which already have nice deals with the country such as in the case of Turkey over the currently-materializing T-129 ATAK Helicopters for its Attack Helicopter deal and Indonesia's deal with the Philippine Navy regarding the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks which were delivered and has served the fleet on its utmost performance and utilization.

However, as the period passes by from the first reports provided by cited foreign defense outlets down to this time as per posting, this tank is slowly becoming unfavorable for the Philippine Army given these reasons:

- Belgium's French-speaking region of Wallonia implemented a strict arms control for export which in itself poses the obstacle in obtaining military weapons and components which have originated in this region. CMI Defense, the one that produces the Cockerill turrets for the Kaplan are one of those components that may affect hardly in the decision making which makes this option undesirable. See related article here.

- Both countries don't have such tanks in active service as of current posting which will not be eligible to the AFP's requirement of procuring assets based on its service from the country of origin or on two different countries that obtains it.

Hence, it simply shows that this gets to be unfavorable for the country to obtain as these provided reasons already suffice the justification that the possibility of obtaining such asset jointly-developed by Indonesia and Turkey gets more remote as the time passes by, which in itself was a far cry from what foreign defense outlets reported a year ago on Philippine's desires of having it within the Philippine Army fleet of armored vehicles. 

This renders the shift of possibility of obtaining a military asset from one form of tank produced by a joint venture to another form of a light/medium tank where this time, its subcomponents are not subjected to a certain strict arms exports from a certain region and are also produced by a joint venture with one of the partners already obtaining the experience dealing with the Philippine Army where it provided the tools for its existing fleet of armored vehicles.

ASCOD - Austrian-Spanish Cooperation Development (PRIMER)
Depicted in the image is the Austrian ASCOD-2 (locally known as ULAN) Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
Spain and the United Kingdom (AJAX) also obtains such a unit.
From Wikimedia Commons.
Known in Austria as the ULAN, in the United Kingdom as the AJAX, and in Spain as the Pizarro, the ASCOD in itself is a family of track-based armored vehicles which is originally joint-developed by both Spain's General Dynamics Santa Bárbara Sistemas and Austria's Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug AG & Co AG (hence its name referring to the countries that both of the companies were based). 

At the current date, both of these companies are under the helm of US-based General Dynamics defense company, through its European arm (known as General Dynamics European Land Systems - GDELS) which is currently based in Madrid, Spain.

The first prototype of the ASCOD was developed and completed in 1990 wherein the Austrians provided the gun turrets of the tracked vehicle while the Spanish dealing with the systems integration and assembly of components.

Two prototypes were built through the mid-1990s with the last one provided the basis for the Spanish Pizarro variant of this type of armored vehicle. It was in the year 1996 that orders started pouring in when the Spanish Armed Forces opted for their procurement of the Pizarro Infantry Fighting Vehicles, coming at an order of 123 units of such a vehicle in infantry fighting vehicle composition plus 23 more where it was configured for command and control. It is followed by another order of 106 more vehicles in its infantry fighting vehicle composition plus 37 support vehicles for the Spanish Armed Forces. 80 more units purchased in 2008 with 112 Ulan vehicles for Austria followed thereafter. 

Following Spain and Austria which are the two originators in the development of this project, the United Kingdom through the General Dynamics arm in the country help developed its own Infantry Fighting Vehicle which is itself derived from the ASCOD. This is Scout SV (Specialist Vehicle) which later on will be known more with its current name, AJAX.

The British AJAX is known to be an improvement over the original ASCOD design which incorporates several improvements that comes with it where the subcomponents that consist of the British variant of the ASCOD comprises a sophisticated array of armaments and accessories which will be discussed thoroughly as we get along this article.

There are recent developments regarding the latest iterations of the ASCOD now getting introduced such as the ASCOD Medium Main Battle Tank where it was unveiled by General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS) in Eurosatory 2018 which was held in Paris, France.

This is the British Royal Army's AJAX Scout SV. While it was derived from
ASCOD, it incorporates many improvements.
Image Source.
It is worth understanding in detail regarding the specifications of both the Austrian-Spanish developed ASCOD and the British-enhanced AJAX wherein it provides an idea so as with regards to its capabilities which is for its respective users to obtain and utilize currently.

Configured as Infantry Fighting Vehicles, the ASCOD which was developed in the mid-80s through the mid-90s is continuously getting improved by General Dynamics from time to time wherein General Dynamics European Land Systems introduced a second generation in 2004 which is more technologically-improved than its 90s-era predecessor. The said vehicle is known more as the ASCOD 2.

Before delving into the details about the more-improved ASCOD 2, let us take note that the first generation of ASCOD comes with Austria's Ulan and Spain's Pizarro which in itself comes with different specifications and configurations as specified on what Spain and Austria see as desired components fitted on their respective ASCOD vehicles as based on their needs. Hence, it is better tackling these countries' respective ASCOD infantry fighting vehicles which comes with their own way of providing these assets' subcomponents.

The Spanish Pizarro
The Pizarro's Specifications. Click to enlarge. Source.
As mentioned along in this lengthy article (and on this reference), Spain ordered 146 units of its ASCOD-Pizarro infantry fighting vehicle on its first batch while it added 143 more units on its second batch and 80 more on the third batch. The period of delivery for these units spanned at more than a decade, starting from 1996 all the way to the 21st century with the recent units delivered in 2013.

The Spanish see this as a replacement of its stock of U.S.-produced M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers which may be seen as an ideal matter on Spain's approach of modernizing its armored fleet further while giving the boost on its local defense industry by ramping up orders for these units which helps the local economy where resources are being circulated within the country as well as providing workers to the locals.

Also, this comes as a flexible complement to the Spanish Army's already-serviceable German-made Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank which serves as primary armored weaponry within the Spanish Armed Forces wherein obtaining both of these military land armored platforms provide Spain its high and low mix of assets that provides support to its ground troops, with the ASCOD-Pizarro doing a job similar to that of an M-113 APC which is to carry troops while having a turret that provides firepower against its targets.

This Spanish approach is seen as a nice way of improving its fleet composition as compared to the Philippine Army's also nice way of updating its M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers with the help of Israel. Nevertheless, both armored vehicles are capable of their own worth and it's only that these units fit their respective requirements that their countries needed for operating and maintaining such a type of unit.

The Austrian ULAN
The ULAN's Specifications. Click to Enlarge. Source.
Additional details: 
- Armament: One automatic gun 30 mm, and one 7.62 mm machine gun. (reference)
- Entered Service in the year 2002.
- Accessories: Digital firing control system, Periscope day sight with integrated episcope, night vision system. (reference)

Compared to the Spanish order of its ASCOD variant named Pizarro, the Austrians meanwhile ordered 112 units covering its delivery period from 2002 to 2005. While the number of units ordered by the Austrians is lower than what the Spanish procured for its Army Mechanized units, these ULAN infantry fighting vehicles bear a more powerful 805-horsepower MTU V8 199 T21 diesel engine as compared to the 600-horsepower MTU SV-183 TE22 diesel engine.

Other than the engine, most of the specifications are closely similar to those of the Spanish Pizarros which goes in line to the collaborative development between two countries which help bearing fruit in the form of these ASCOD Infantry Fighting Vehicles with different names bearing for both the Spanish and the Austrian sides of the joint developmental venture. *

These infantry fighting vehicles serving two nations which are both the country of origin for the development and production of these platforms are qualified and within the requirements of the AFP Procurement where these provisions are needed. Hence, it will not be much of a problem given that a medium main battle tank variant of the ASCOD gets into the roster of candidates for the tracked category of the Philippine Army Light Tank Acquisition Project. 

While the Spanish Pizarro and the Austrian ULAN embodies the first variants of the ASCOD being produced to service both countries' active and serviceable Armed Forces, it will be nicer to provide more knowledge about the developments that come with its design to the later date, especially to the second generation of such an armored vehicle like the ASCOD 2 and the British variant aforementioned which is the AJAX.

The British AJAX (Scout SV or Service Vehicle)
The Scout SV or AJAX's Specifications. Click to Enlarge. Source.
Additional information:
- Accessories: Laser warning system, panoramic sight, electronic countermeasure system, auxiliary power unit, fire detection system, digital fire control system, automatic video tracker, mobile camouflage system, and NBC detection system. (reference)

As discussed throughout this article, it is worthy to be said that the British AJAX / Scout SV Infantry Fighting Vehicle is in itself a more sophisticated vehicle than its peers in service within both Austrian and Spanish Armies.

The servicing for the vehicle in the United Kingdom will be provided by another General Dynamics branch in Europe other than the GDELS is the General Dynamics United Kingdom Limited (GDUK Ltd) wherein the deliveries started to pour in the British Royal Army just recently on the year 2017 with the timeline provided to equip a squadron within this year.

These units will get deployed by the year 2020, where there are orders of 589 units of Ajax belonging to different roles, will be entering the British Royal Army for the succeeding years. To specify these things up, there will be 245 Ajax (Scout SV), 93 Ares, 112 Athena, 50 Apollo, 38 Atlas, and 51 Argus (all fell under the AJAX family which each have its own roles either as a combatant as the Scout SV or a support vehicle such as the Argus, Apollo, and Atlas. *

Lastly, we will be tackling the details about the second generation of the ASCOD infantry fighting vehicle which in itself is introduced as an improvement over the first generation of ASCODs delivered for both Austria and Spain aside from the more-improved AJAX Scout SV designed for the British Armed Forces market.

ASCOD 2's Specifications. Click to enlarge. Source.
If we are to observe closely regarding the specifications provided for the ASCOD 2, it strikingly resembles more of the Austrian Army's ULAN Infantry Fighting Vehicle given that it sported a similar type of engine while sharing similar dimensions. 

Take note that this version, like the ULAN, is larger than the Spanish Pizarro variants in terms of tonnage (30t vs 26.3t), length (7.6m vs 6.83m), width (3.4m vs 3.15m), and height (2.5m ~ 2.8m vs. 2.6m) respectively.

The Czech Armed Forces are opting for this platform for their infantry fighting vehicle procurement tender where, if they have things materialized, will be the fourth (4th) user of the ASCOD family of armored vehicles after primary developers Spain and Austria followed by the British with their own AJAX variant.

Like the ASCOD MMBT, the ASCOD 2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle is also featured in the French Eurosatory 2018 where unlike its predecessor, it is likely to be fitted by the Elbit UT30MK2 remote-controlled turret, which in itself is an improved variant over the UT-25 remote-controlled turrets that the Philippine Army obtains onboard its upgraded M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers. *

With the partnership having between General Dynamics European Land Systems and the Israeli Defense Industry which is Elbit, things may go as much as interesting for the Philippine Army to have given that they already have the experience dealing and transacting with this Israeli company which goes with its fellow peers that also have deals with the other service branches of the Armed Forces such as the RAFAEL providing SPIKE-ER and NLOS for the Philippine Navy to use or the IAI Elta in its participation for the Philippine Air Force's FA-50PH upgrade.

Now, with the different variants and the developments regarding the respective ASCOD family of armored vehicles now discussed, we will be proceeding on what will be the light/medium tank variant which in itself is a proponent of the Philippine Army's Light Tank Acquisition Project.

Two variants of ASCOD - The Medium Main Battle Tank or MMBT (left) and the
ASCOD 2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV, right).
Image Source.
First introduced and disclosed for the public to see by General Dynamics European Land Systems in the French defense expedition Eurosatory 2018, the 42-ton ASCOD Medium Main Battle Tank is the company's recent addition of a variant which consists the larger ASCOD family of Armored Vehicles.

It's weight, as provided herein is heavier than its infantry fighting vehicles which come at no surprise given that such an armored vehicle is utilized for increased combative firepower over the personnel fighting-capable ones wherein a medium tank is keen to provide support in pulverizing targets that are fortified in buildings alongside the fighting ground troops which it is additionally augmented by both artillery and air support.

Its main weapon is the HITFACT 120mm turret provided by the Italian company Leonardo Defense Systems. It is worth taking note that it is through this company that the Armed Forces of the Philippines obtain a handful of military assets such as the Leonardo AW-109 Light Attack Helicopters of the Philippine Air Force, the AW-159 Antisubmarine Helicopter for the Philippine Navy, and also the 76mm Oto Melara guns fitted onboard its key warships.

This being said, it will be through this company once again, along with GDELS that the Philippines will have the chance to obtain this unit once proceed as it obtains the privileges of having a sale of such product without any arms export restrictions which render the CMI Cockerill-based main weapons out of the picture. Let us take note in this manner that the Philippine Army is seeking for a light tank with a 105mm turret in which Leonardo also having a HITFACT turret for such type of caliber, a thing that other tanks such as the FNSS-PT Pindad Kaplan obtain through the sanctioned CMI Cockerill-produced gun which may have provided the inputs in terms of the size of the gun caliber as part of the requirement. Both of these products are proponents of this project of the Philippine Army.

This product is by far the most preferred armored platform under this Philippine Army project because the other proponents are either having their products fitted by a subcomponent which is sanctioned by a certain Belgian province such as the CMI Defense with its Cockerill gun or to shortcomings on its eligibility regarding the number of active users in service as a measurement for a product to qualify, something that we already mentioned to why the Kaplan light tank gets less of a consideration.

Aside from the gun turret and the tonnage that this medium tank have, the details is just as similar to the specifications for the GDELS ASCOD 2 provided through this writeup, only that it also comes with the improved infantry fighting vehicle capability with weapons fit provided by Elbit, just as provided.

Additional details  regarding the Light/Medium Tank variant of the GDELS ASCOD 2 will be listed as follows:
- Main Gun: 105/120mm Leonardo Defense Systems HITFACT gun turret.
- Auxillary Gun: 7.62mm gun caliber (type still unspecified). Reference

The Spanish Navy warship Mendez Nunez in the Philippines.
GDELS, the one that produces the ASCOD IFV, is based in
Madrid, Spain.
Image courtesy from the Philippine Navy.
Both the Philippines and Spain's relationship gets enhanced further where there gets a chance for a better defense relationship between these two nations that shared four centuries of vibrant and not-so-vibrant history wherein the Spanish transformed the foundation which helps unite the country where it was eventually getting its independence in 1898 with the help of the United States.

While there is a bit of bitterness regarding the Spanish and some aspects during the colonial period, the improvement of the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized means that time goes for healing wounds and instead get things into track once again. 

Just recently, a Spanish Navy ship Alvaro de Bazan-class Frigate Mendez Nunez (F-104) visited the Philippines through Manila then, to Baler, Aurora where it is considered the first Spanish Frigate to visit the country since the Philippines' full independence against its overlord after Spain which is the United States in 1946. 

It signifies the relationship between countries wherein it is worthy of taking more notes regarding this Medium Main Battle Tank Option given that the main headquarters of General Dynamics European Land Systems is situated in Madrid, Spain in which on this way we see things mean a significant boost on the deal if it gets traction along the way with a military asset such as the ASCOD MMBT may get itself being a preferred platform.

Let it be known that it is through Spain that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through the Philippine Air Force obtain the C-295 Medium-Lift Aircraft as it was provided by Airbus' subsidiary Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA or CASA wherein the service branch currently obtains three of these cargo aircraft that helps to carry necessary supplies, troops, and equipment which augments the Air Force's larger C-130 aircraft.

A nice indicator with regards to these things involving this medium tank option and the end-user is the Philippine Army representatives' recent visit to Spain in which it comes with the potential of increasing defense ties between two nations, something that may get emphasized whereupon materialization, the ASCOD MMBT may serve as a nice token between two nations if this asset gets the full consideration although it is seen as the preferred platform given the explanations we provide throughout this article.

From here, it is interesting to see regarding the continuous improvement of the relationship between Spain and the Philippines wherein aside from sharing of cultures and historical attributes, both nations may finally set aside some heartfelt feelings in the past and to move forward in cooperation and reconciliation where in this relation it may provide a factor on the outcome of the Light Tank Acquisition Project especially if it finally prefers the ASCOD MMBT as the preferred platform under this program.

The two variants that composed the ASCOD 2 family of armored vehicles.
Image Source.
Throughout the history of the Mechanized Infantry Division (which is now called the Armored Division), it obtains a handful of light tanks which it provides armored protection for the troops and crew on board that ensures their survivability while getting into combat and get prepared on achieving an objective which at usual cases involves eliminating a key target that poses danger to the country, its sovereignty and the safety of its citizenry.

It is by this division that the Philippine Army aspires to have its own light tank wherein it aims to augment its fleet of Armored Personnel Carrier of various types - wheeled and tracked ones with the aims of providing the necessary support of firepower especially when it comes in companion with the foot soldiers on the ground.

While there are upgrades incorporated in several of these Armored Personnel Carriers, its firepower at some circumstances is still insufficient especially on the lessons learned in recent conflicts that involved urban combat like those in Marawi City two years ago in 2017. With the Light Tank Acquisition Project of the Philippine Army, it attains to have it better for such a platform to be procured where it benefits the troops in both armor and weaponry it possesses that provides an overall factor in a battle.

At once, a certain light tank developed by both Turkey and Indonesia was once considered, only to face potential disqualification which points to two factors regarding its eligibility in active operations of at least two countries and its subcomponents subject on arms sales restrictions imposed by a certain province that such company situated.

This renders this tank, the ASCOD MMBT to be seen as a preferred tank option wherein this candidate may have a chance especially with the warming of relations between the Philippines and Spain in which its manufacturer's headquarters is currently situated. That being said, it is nice to see this platform, based on a design developed three to four decades ago see in action within the service branch if this is to be considered by the end-user after its specifications and prerequisites are satisfied. What remains to be seen now as to whether this option gets through or not, and as well to witness an ever-resurgence of the Philippine Army's Armored Division to greater heights by having such a platform aiding them to their purpose and their mandated duties and responsibilities within the organization. 




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