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Old 02-14-2011, 06:40 PM
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Tegyrius Tegyrius is offline
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Ah, screw it. I had to write this to get the image out of my head; might as well post it.

- C.

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XM2A61

Following the failure of the U.S. Army's DIVAD program, a number of experimental and interim AAA platforms arose. One such vehicle was the XM2A61, the result of a collaboration between the Armor School at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and the nearby Naval Ordnance Station Louisville. The latter facility was the engineering and overhaul center for the Navy's Phalanx CIWS system. Several General Dynamics employees on NOSL's engineering team had previously worked on the company's own entrant in the DIVAD competition, which used the existing Phalanx radar in conjunction with a pair of Oerlikon 35mm autocannon. Their experience had led them to believe that the DIVAD requirement for larger-caliber guns was misguided: the existing VADS system's range limitations were due to its target acquisition systems, not the ballistics of the 20x102mm Vulcan. In mid-1991, from this starting point, they began exploring the feasibility of converting the naval Phalanx system to an AFV mount.

With the aid of Armor School officers who were intrigued by the concept, the General Dynamics engineers examined a variety of AFV chassis in the inventories of both the Armor School and Fort Knox's Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor. They concluded that the current M2 Bradley could be adapted to carry a Phalanx mount, its secondary control console, and auxiliary power and cooling units. NOSL technicians fabricated a new Bradley turret basket to accommodate a CIWS, while the Armor School's maintenance shop tackled the job of fitting the other equipment. One wag commissioned "XM2A61 Development Group" patches from a local embroidery shop. Over the 1992 Christmas holiday, the ad hoc project team surreptitiously tested the components' mating on an engineless Bradley hull and proved that the hardware configuration was physically feasible.

Frustratingly for the participants, that successful trial marked the end of their experiment. Further progress, particularly with the critical reprogramming of the Phalanx control computer, would have brought official scrutiny and questions about misappropriation of resources. The CIWS unit and the engineering drawings returned to NOSL's inventory and the other parts were quietly hidden in the Patton Museum's restoration shop.

The Bradley/Phalanx pairing remained secret until mid-1996, when the Army's AAA deficiency was becoming painfully obvious. The Armor School's commandant was in the office of one of his subordinates, discussing an unrelated matter, when his attention fell on the officer's "I Love Me" wall. One framed patch bore what appeared to be R2-D2 brandishing paired revolvers and riding a Bradley hull. Perplexed, the commandant inquired; his subordinate confessed. The conversation ended with, "Major, get your band back together. I know people who'll want to see this thing."

With quasi-official sanctioning, the resurrected project quickly moved ahead. Many of the original General Dynamics conspirators remained at NOSL, and the Army arranged transfers back to Fort Knox for several of its own former participants. The 1992 efforts had solved the majority of the physical engineering challenges, though a substantial amount of polishing remained to convert a kludge to a usable weapon system. The greatest obstacle was adapting naval point defense control software to land-based anti-aircraft employment. Lacking the necessary in-house programming resources, General Dynamics hired a team of graduate students from the University of Louisville's J.B. Speed Scientific School, promising student loan repayment and employment opportunities if they could deliver the software on time.

The first prototype rolled onto Fort Knox's training fields on January 17, 1997. Its ground clutter filtering was marginal and the only manual control for the gun was a large red kill switch, but target acquisition was a qualified success. Live-fire tests the following month were sufficient proof of concept for the Army to authorize funding for five more vehicles, as well as two dozen refit kits intended for existing Bradley hulls with damaged turrets. Improvements in the final deliveries included fully debugged software (contrary to later claims, not adapted from a computer game), sound dampening for the gun, and a crude CCTV gunsight and manual aiming system (more for self-protection against enemy ground forces than any hope of crew-directed AAA engagement).

The Army's construction goals ran into a roadblock when the Navy protested the misappropriation of so many CIWS systems. Throughout the spring of 1997, NOSL and the Armor School continued building the remainder of the vehicles and refit kits while generals and admirals wrangled over gun procurement. A congressional hearing in May finally established that the Navy actually had a small surplus of Phalanx units, thanks in part to the loss of hulls that otherwise would have mounted them. The Navy reluctantly released enough CIWS to satisfy the initial order. The refit kits arrived in Europe in mid-July, with the five production vehicles following in August.

Throughout the remainder of the war, units that received the vehicles and refit kits regarded them as a mixed blessing. The auxiliary power unit, added to provide electricity for the Phalanx system without the use of the Bradley's engine, frequently vented exhaust inside the hull. Likewise, firing the gun a was a choking and deafening experience, thanks to propellant fumes and a 3,000 round/minute cyclic rate. The Army had no parts or technicians for the CIWS radar and computers, creating a dependency on the Navy that most units circumvented in a variety of creative manners. A two-man crew was hard-pressed to keep up with vehicle maintenance requirements, let alone the electronics' specialized needs. The Army lacked paint of a formula appropriate for the radar housing, leading to the oft-mocked (and tactically unsound) image of a woodland-camouflage Bradley sporting a towering, haze-gray sore thumb. Aviators loathed the system, as the only provision for IFF discrimination was a radio call to the crew prior to flying into the gun's engagement envelope. Fratricide was not an unknown occurrence; nor was overly-enthusiastic engagement of non-targets such as migratory birds and rain squalls. In one notorious incident filmed by a German news crew, an MLRS battery found its outbound rockets under fire from a nearby CIWS.

For all its faults, the Bradley/Phalanx was an effective AAA platform when employed as intended. In fully autonomous mode, the gun swiftly and reliably killed targets out to 4 km, even attack helicopters executing pop-up attacks. The vehicle was able to keep pace with Abrams and Bradley forces, as the original DIVAD program had intended. The CIWS' innate stabilization, designed to handle heavy seas, enabled the gun to engage targets even while the vehicle was bounding over rough terrain. In the latter months of the war, a dearth of air targets brought the surviving units into ground support use, where 20mm Vulcans proved messily lethal against infantry and soft-skinned vehicles. Though no records of such incidents exist, numerous apocryphal stories claimed that the system was capable of interdicting incoming ATGMs.

Due to the project's irregular nature, the XM2A61 designation was well-established by the time the Army procurement system tried to standardize the system. After a months-long battle to assign the Bradley/Phalanx the M2A4 number, Army officials conceded defeat and codified the mock designation. They did attempt to formalize a nickname of "Hoplite," playing on the "Phalanx" motif, but this appeared only in official documentation. To its designers and crews, the XM2A61 was the Louisville Slugger.

2.0 Traits

As per donor Bradley hull (either M2 or M2A2), except:

Price: $150,000 (R/-)
RF: None.
Stabilization: None.
Armament: Vulcan 20mm ADA autocannon
Ammo: 2,100x20mm (989 rounds ready in ammo drum, remainder stowed as cargo)
Crew: 2
Mnt: 11
Turret armor: TF 2, TS 2, TR 2

Activating or deactivating the CIWS system's autonomous air defense mode requires an action on the part of the vehicle commander. In this mode, which requires a working radar and targeting computer, the Vulcan's Range is doubled to 900 and it has good stabilization and a +4 rangefinder. No character attack actions are possible; the system functions as its own gunner with Initiative 6 and Heavy Weapons 6. The only action it may take is an attack, it may attack only airborne targets, and it must attack any such target within the Vulcan's maximum range. If presented with multiple valid targets, it will attack the closest. If two or more are at roughly equal range, it will first attack the one whose current flight path is most closely pointed at the vehicle.
__________________
Clayton A. Oliver Occasional RPG Freelancer Since 1996

Author of The Pacific Northwest, coauthor of Tara Romaneasca, and creator of several other free Twilight: 2000 and Twilight: 2013 resources.

If you dislike change, you're going to dislike irrelevance even more.
- General Eric Shinseki

Last edited by Tegyrius; 02-26-2011 at 12:57 PM. Reason: stupid typos
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