This article was published in the Nov 2001 issue of G2mil. An alternate version may be found on that site. Additional comments and ideas on this topic can be found on the Next Page.
I've often thought that a compact, well armoured two or three man vehicle might have lots of uses. To quote some of my old notes:-
"This is a two-man attack vehicle with just enough room inside for the crew, their personal equipment and ammo. The frontal armour is steeply angled and the belly armour keeled. The result is a well-protected vehicle that is highly mobile, amphibious and transportable by helicopter or airdrop. Probable configuration is two crew sitting side by side ahead of a rear engine, and a remote controlled turret mounted above. The vehicle may be tracked, wheeled or multi-wheeled like the Supracat/Hobilar. A tracked version might be based on the Wiesel 1."
It seems I'm not alone in this train of thought, and it is Carlton Meyer we can thank for christening the vehicle - Tankita. Many people have failed to understand the concept of the Tankita. The Tankita is not really an MBT. Think of it more as a Bradley CFV without the infantry accommodation, or as a very thick skinned Wiesel 1. Some versions may have a three man crew and be legitimately described as light tanks. It is probably better to think of these as "compact armour" rather than light armour.
My favourite idea to construct a Tankita is to recreate the M114 or T114, which had one less roadwheel than a M113 and no infantry accommodation. The Lynx "M113 and a half" was a similar but superior vehicle used by the Dutch and Canadians. The increased power to weight ratio that this configuration would give could be used to carry higher levels of armour and modern weapons. A lower hull and sloped sides, rear and glacis would also increase protection.
The Tankita is as much a well armed and armoured high-mobility attack vehicle as a scout.
The vehicle will probably mount a 25 or 30mm light cannon and a co-axial machine gun. An alternative system worth exploring is a variable rate .50 calibre gatling mini-gun with a large supply of on board ammo. Other options include Mk-19s, OCSW and 60mm Gun -mortars.
- The Tankita can be used for reconnaissance, where its speed and armour make it suitable for point and flanking duties where there is a high likelihood of ambush. For this role it would be prudent to have the means to rapidly reverse out of trouble. Hi-tech solutions such rear mounted cameras should be supplemented by low-tech such as rear facing hull mounted driver's scopes.
- It also has a role as an overwatch vehicle, providing supporting fire.
- Many of the proposed armament configurations will make the Tankita an effective anti-helicopter system.
- It can conduct exploitation missions and raiding .
- It may be used as an assault vehicle to support infantry when larger vehicles are not available or terrain too restrictive for them.
- In an amphibious landing some of the first forces you want on the beach are Combat engineers and Armoured Reconnaissance. A high speed amphibious or submersible Tankita could be used to direct naval gunfire and air-strikes and move rapidly inland to secure objectives.
- Another potential role for this vehicle is to support long range SOF operations. The weapons carried can attack a fuel dump, terrorist training camp or airfield from several kilometres away, or the vehicle can tow a trailer of bombardment rockets that are fired after the vehicle has left the firing area. Such a vehicle can also be used to provide reinforcement for an infiltrating force that is attacked.
This turret armament will be supplemented by pylons for rocket pods or missile tubes mounted on either the turret or hull sides. A typical vehicle can therefore attack with ATGWs, Missile launcher rockets, Stingers, FFAR salvos and machinegun and cannon fire.
The South African 76mm high velocity tank gun may arm some tankitas, producing a vehicle similar to the M24 Chaffee or Scorpion light tanks. Alternately, the vehicle may be of an assault gun configuration, resembling the SU-76i or Hetzer. We'll term this variant the Tankita Support Gun System (TSGS). Such a gun may also have anti-aircraft applications.
There would be various ways to use Tankitas and more than one form may be created. A variant based on the Wiesel hull is proposed later.
One formation that suggests itself is a light cavalry raiding force:-
The Tankita is not a Main Battle Tank, it's what the name says, "a little tank." Think of it as an enhanced Scorpion/Scimitar based on M113/4 hull. -it is a Cavalry Fighting Vehicle, lighter and more versitile than the M3 but better protected than the M113 and BV-206S.
- Gun platoon of vehicles each armed with several ATGW launchers and a high velocity 30mm Rarden/Bushmaster II cannon or a Bofors 40mm automatic gun. This platoon would have several roles, though attacking other vehicles would be a major one.
- Close Assault platoon equipped with .50 gatlin armed Tankitas. The turrets would also mount ATGW tubes, maybe as many as 8 per vehicle. This tubes would usually be armed with Missile Launcher Rockets with HESH, HEAT-MP or Thermobaric warheads. Using such weapons the Tankitas would have a close range demolition capability similar to that of the M50 Ontos.
- Heavy Mortar section with 120mm mortars mounted on Wiesel 2 vehicles.
- TSGS section mounting GT-4 76mm guns.
The webpages linked to in the Reference section show the range of turret systems that other nations have managed to fit to M113 hulls -weapons of up to 90mm. All that is needed is a lower, better protected hull.
The Tankita and Assault Gun-mortar are the final two peices that the M8, M113, BV-206S force needs.
I can see a Mechanised Infantry (or Armoured) Battalion having a platoon of Assault Gun-Mortars in the support company and a Close Reconnaissance platoon of Tankitas.
Special Tactical Operations Assault Tankita. (STOAT).
The M50 Ontos was an interesting vehicle that mounted six 106mm Recoilless rifles on a very compact hull.
See http://ontos.homestead.com/ms3.html for a detailed description, and
An interesting feature of the vehicle is the rear hatch that allows the weapons to be reloaded without exposing the crew to fire from the front. The doors provide additional protection.
The Ontos became obsolete with the greater use of ATGWs. I don't know if an Ontos ever killed a tank, but some did see combat as highly effective fire support vehicles.
In the near future we are likely to see an important requirement for decisive attacks against strategic or political targets by small forces that can be inserted long distances.
A similar vehicle to the Ontos might be useful in such a SOF support mission. A modern version might be based on the Wiesel series of vehicles and would be capable of being inserted by helicopter, airdrop or GPADS.
Modern HEAT rounds for the 106mm can defeat a MBT at 1800m and systems such as laser rangefinders increase the first round hit probability. HESH, smoke and canister loads are also available and have an obvious support role. The original Ontos was often used as an "armored shotgun" in Vietnam.
In addition to the 106mm RRs, the vehicle would also mount a .50 HMG and/or a 40mm Mk-19 AGL. 30mm ASP cannon, 7.62mm Gatling Mini-gun or the OCSW are other alternatives. Fire and Forget ATGW such as Javelin may also be mounted on the Stoat.
These vehicles would also be modified to minimise their audio signature. A Hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system would be useful.
A typical SOF force might consist of a "stealth" team and a "stoat" team. The stealth team has an All-terrain Bike mounted squad armed with AMRs, Guided Missiles and Extended Range 60mm mortars. As a support/reserve element would be a pair of "Stoats", which will position themselves in a camouflaged position and deploy if needed. This is the "Plan B" or "Ground Spectre" that Mike Sparks proposes at Ref.
Variants of the M113
The Sea-capable M113 "Amphigavin"
John Nystrom, Indiana Guard Reserve, writes
"Read your tankita article. Of all your suggestions and ideas to date, this is the most useful weapon I've seen. I hope someone who can make it happen sees it. Tankita is no MBT, but it gives light and medium/airmobile and /or quick reaction forces some real options besides just TOW mounted HUMMERS. I can't really express how highly I think of the concept."