Wednesday, March 21, 2012

MND denies armor on CM-32 Clouded Leopard vehicles is defective

With the armored personnel carrier having entered mass production, the army was quick to deny reports that the armor plating was substandard

The Ministry of National Defense on Monday denied reports that the armoring on the domestically produced CM-32 Clouded Leopard personnel carrier, which entered mass production in late 2010, was below standard.

The Chinese-language Apple Daily said ballistic resistance live-fire tests in March 2010 showed that the armor plating on the Clouded Leopard does not comply with the bulletproof specifications set by the military. Puncture holes were observed on an armored panel at the rear of one of the vehicles, it said, adding that this raised questions about the armor’s ability to protect personnel on board.

The eight-wheeled, 25-tonne Clouded Leopard armored vehicle is a joint project between the Ordnance Readiness Development Center and the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (中山科學研究院).

In a press release on Monday, the ministry denied that the armor plating, which is also domestically produced, was not up to standards and said the armoring, which had been tested several times, complied with specifications. The front plating of the vehicle is designed to withstand 12.7mm machine gun and armor-piercing incendiary (API) ammunition, while the side and rear sections provide protection against 7.62mm ammunition and small arms fire.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

8 comments:

Michael Fagan said...

At the risk of playing armchair generals without a chair, isn't the real story here the very fact that the CM-32 even exists?

I mean it could be made out of lego bricks and it wouldn't make any difference. If the PLA can put boots on the ground here, it'll be because they'll have established air dominance, which will be because the U.S. will have turned tail on us.

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

A valid point, Mike. But then again, this wouldn’t be the first time a military invested in equipment that was meant for the last war, or embraced a program because it was lucrative for certain makers. I’d also add that for a vehicle of such tonnage, the armor plating is surprisingly light. The wheels are also designed to withstand small explosive charges (e.g., mines), which would make sense if (a) Taiwan were planning on invading China or (b) Taiwan were to deploy troops in, say, Afghanistan.

That said, if the army were to acquire the 1,400 that it projects needing to replace older transport vehicles, even if China had air superiority, it could prove challenging to target all of them, especially if they are dispersed. But I agree with you, at such cost (about US$2 million per APC), the money could probably have been more wisely spent.

Michael Fagan said...

Yeah well in this case that last war is now the best part of a century ago. It's beyond parody.

That extra one and half billion U.S.$ would buy a couple of hundred extra Oerlikon 35mm cannons or fund a railgun development program or some other genuine defense asset.

I mean even as welfare program, it'd be better to just hand out cheques, instead of wasting all of those resources.

Michael Fagan said...

That should have been U.S.$3 billion.

Apollo Yeh said...

I think it's a little odd to suggest that CM-32s make sense mainly or only for invading China or deployments to Afghanistan. Playing armchair general, I would say that they provide somewhat more updated mobility equipment for Taiwanese ground forces to quickly reach a potential Chinese beachhead and counterattack. While I certainly agree that there are more pressing defense concerns, I believe that modernizing its mechanized forces, however ineptly done, isn't a fundamentally useless activity. A sufficiently capable Taiwanese ground force at the very least means that the PLA can not simply invest in airpower without keeping their ground forces up to par.

Preventing PLA air dominance would be nice, but the Taiwanese don't seem to have any practical means to prevent it, regardless of what they spend. While air dominance is almost certainly necessary for the PLA to carry out an invasion, I'm inclined to think that it's not going to resolve anything right away nor on its own. On the other hand, if the PLA can maintain a blockade for long enough, then it might have a chance. Still, if the past ~70 years have taught us anything, it's that you still need ground forces to finish the job, and that even under ideal circumstances with a massive disparity in training quality, technological capability, morale and political support, you can't expect to quickly dislodge even an incompetent ground force with conventional airpower alone.

Playing armchair general even more, I think that Taiwan would be better off spending money on things that might threaten the PLA's amphibious assets and that are also difficult for the PLA to suppress in a timely fashion even with complete air superiority. My completely amateur guess would be that mobile anti-ship missiles (missiles on trucks/TELs) along with the necessary supporting systems to effectively target PLA landing craft would fit this bill. If the foremost military goal is to keep PLA boots off of Taiwanese soil, then eliminating the PLA's ability to get them there by using something that not even our (US) military has found a satisfactory countermeasure for -- as far as the public knows -- seems like a good start.

Michael Fagan said...

"I would say that they provide somewhat more updated mobility equipment for Taiwanese ground forces to quickly reach a potential Chinese beachhead and counterattack."

Apollo,

The difficulty with this is threefold: first, the strategic targets any such amphibious force would attack are mostly set well inland away from the coast and are therefore well out of reach; second, the tiny handful of ships in the ROC Navy capable of this sort of mission are all ridiculous old museum pieces that would likely be sunk as a result of their own fuel leaks, let alone PLAN torpedos; third, you have to assume at least air superiority to even consider such a move.

"...even under ideal circumstances with a massive disparity in training quality, technological capability, morale and political support, you can't expect to quickly dislodge even an incompetent ground force with conventional airpower alone."

The assumption from U.S. experience doesn't necessarily carry over: in the event of aerial bombardment and naval blockade, and with no sight of U.S. intervention, then I expect even a deep-green DPP-led government would try to negotiate some kind of surrender.

"My completely amateur guess would be that mobile anti-ship missiles (missiles on trucks/TELs) along with the necessary supporting systems to effectively target PLA landing craft would fit this bill."

We already have those. Plenty of howitzers too.

Apollo Yeh said...

"The difficulty with this is threefold: first, ..."

Mr. Fagan,

I just happened to revisit the comments here after a while, and I want to correct a clear misinterpretation of my previous comment. I'm not even remotely suggesting that the Taiwanese military try to land forces on mainland China, and I think you completely misread the part about "...the Taiwanese ground forces to react quickly to a Chinese beachhead..." Do we all agree that "beachhead" is synonymous with "incursion" in this context? My point was that CM-32 purchases could have some marginal utility in a China-invades-Taiwan scenario. Even then, I implied that I agreed with you on the CM-32 matter.

"The assumption from U.S. experience doesn't necessarily carry over..."

The point is well-taken, but it's not the US experience that I'm drawing on per se; it's the experience of the numerous forces on the receiving end of the other side having air superiority for prolonged periods of time. At various times, some prominent members of this club were the Soviets, Germans, Italians, Japanese, North Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Iraqis, Serbians, Taliban and Qadafi regime. These club members held out from months to years, some even while sharing a direct land-access route with their opposition or while enduring economic strangulation.

My view is that, given Taiwan's likely future resources, it's impractical for the Taiwanese to prevent PLA air superiority for very long but that they could still hold out for a while after the PLA gains it. Whether they could hold out long enough is another question, and if the US was truly committed to intervening, then I might say "yes". I would never say that they could hold out indefinitely after the PLA gains air superiority. If there's anything which could hasten Taiwan's collapse, it's the arrival of a sufficient quantity of PLA ground forces on Taiwan's beaches.

"We already have those."

I hope Taiwan has enough of them.

Michael Fagan said...

"...and I think you completely misread the part about "...the Taiwanese ground forces to react quickly to a Chinese beachhead..." Do we all agree that "beachhead" is synonymous with "incursion" in this context?"

You're right - I did completely misread that, and therefore the entire thrust of what you were saying also.

My apologies.