Charon Main Battle Tank

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Charon Main Battle Tank
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Charon MBT of B Squadron, 1 Parliamentary Dragoon Guards
Place of origin  Arthurista
Service history
In service 2010-present
Used by Commonwealth Army
Production history
Designed 2004-2008
Manufacturer Arthuristan Dynamics
Produced 2008-present
Number built 60+
Specifications
Weight 57 tonnes
Length 7.1m (gun forward)
Width 3.775 m
Height 2.2 m
Crew 3

Armor Modular composite armour
Main
armament
140mm L/52 rifled gun/launcher
Secondary
armament
SMART RWS with 12.7mm HMG or 25mm grenade launcher, 7.62mm FN MAG co-ax, box-launcher for ATGM
Engine Arthuristan Motors AVE-6 V-12 turbodiesel
1,200 kW
Transmission Hydropneumatic
Operational
range
550km on road
Speed 75 kph on road

The Charon project began in the mid-2000s to develop a next-generation successor to the Boudicca Main Battle Tank. While the latter possessed excellent protection and firepower, it is excessively heavy and very costly to build or upgrade in large numbers. The new tank design was to be fast, relatively light and mobile, able to easily cross most reasonably-built civilian bridges around the world, be easier to maintain and repair, cheaper to manufacture on a per-unit basis or refit, but ultimately retain its predecessor's capabilities in terms of crew-survivability or armaments. In response, Arthuristan Dynamics opted to make a major departure from conventional design philosophy and create a tank which has a completely un-crewed, remote-automated turret. The Charon entered full-scale production in early-2012 and, as of 2014, up to 60 units are in service in the Commonwealth Army.

Firepower

Armaments

The Charon's weapons are mounted in its remote-operated turret, controlled from the crew cabinet. Its primary armament is its stabilised 140mm rifled gun-launcher system. Up to 40 rounds are usually carried in the turret bustle, which is directly in line with the gun's breach and allows for rapid reloading. A diverse array of munitions may be fired by the weapon, including HE, HEAT, HESH, thermobaric and APFSDS. Also available is the Arthuristan Smart Top Attack Munition (ASTAM). It is, contrary to popular belief, not a gun-launched anti-tank guided missile (GLATGM), but relies purely on the shell's propellant for propulsion. Nevertheless, it shares much of the same characteristics. It has a range of over 15km. With it, the tank can engage targets while remaining fully behind cover, allowing recce platforms or other vehicles to designate targets. Lobbed on a relatively high-angle flight, the ASTAM can autonomously search for and engage targets (i.e. the 'fire and forget' capability) using its own on-board millimeter-band radar and IIR sensor. It can attack the top of a tank (typically its most vulnerable position) with two explosively formed penetrators fired in rapid succession, detonating any ERA attached to the target before hitting the vehicle's roof.

A SMART RWS of Emmerian design may also be mounted on the roof, armed with a Browning M2 12.7mm HMG or a GL05 Universal Support Weapon. A box launcher for ATGMs or SHORADs may be mounted on the exterior of the turret.

Fire control

In addition to the gunner's usual day/thermal sight, laser range-finder, crosswind sensor and ballistic computer, the commander receives his/her own independent panoramic optical/IR sight, allowing him to override the gunner and lay the gun himself. The FCS also features a miliband radar, allowing the tank to track targets up to 12km away, lock onto targets based on the data transmitted via unit net from other tanks or vehicles and open fire on them with either shell or ATGM without requiring visual sighting from the tank. A trigger-delay mechanism prevents the gun from being fired if any sudden movement is drastic enough that the gunner’s aim could be thrown.

Protection

Integral armour-hull

The main line of the hull's integral armour is lined along the glacis plate and the lower front of the vehicle. It features a layer of rubber in front of a composite layer consisting of a mesh of titanium diboride, titanium alloy and steel, backed by a perforated plate of depleted uranium. Behind the glacis plate is the tank's engine compartment, which acts as additional ersatz spaced-armour. Behind the engine compartment is the last line of defence before the crew cabin - two plates of perforated steel set perpendicularly to the floor, sandwiching a thick layer of rubber in between. The crew is further protected by a Dyneema spall-liner. Additional titanium-rubber layers may be fitted beneath the floor to defend the crew-compartment from anti-tank mines.

Applique armour - hull

Two modular applique armour suites may be fitted to the tank: ERA or spaced.

The first option features the Hoplon heavy explosive reactive armour. Consisting of plastic explosives sandwiched between heavy steel plates, it is designed to exert tremendous pressure on penetrating KE projectiles, snapping APFSDS rods in half. Needless to say, they are also effective against HEAT ammunition.

Alternatively, one may opt for the Aspis spaced-armour module. It consists of a multi-layer laminate of aluminium foam, resilin and titanium alloy plates. Its function is to degrade the performance of KE munition or HEAT jets by subjecting the penetrator to stresses caused by alternating layers of materiel with greatly different hardness and density. Although not as effective in absolute terms as the Hoplon, the Aspis is much lighter and capable of multi-hit protection. It is fitted to most vehicles in peacetime.

Whichever modules chosen, damaged applique units may be rapidly replaced in the field.

Turret

The Charon's unmanned turret possesses a measurably lower-profile compared to conventional tanks. Also significant is the fact that it has a smaller-cross section, which greatly reduces the surface which needs to be protected with armour, a vital factor in limiting the weight of the tank.

The integral passive armour of the turret similar consists of titanium alloy, titanium diboride, rubber and high-hardness steel, supplemented by Hoplon heavy-ERA, which is fitted by default.

Bouncer Active Defence Systems

The Bouncer features both hard- and soft-kill countermeasures, both relying on a variety of sensors mounted on the vehicle's hull and turret surface, including millimetre-band radar as well as laser and IR-warning receivers. The hard-kill component relies on a 24-shot vertical-launch missiles bank located at the rear of the turret to destroy incoming threats, multiple of which could be tracked simultaneously by the Bouncer's sensors and processors. The soft-kill component utilises an array of laser dazzlers, IR jammers as well as smoke-grenade projectors to protect the vehicle from inbound ATGMs.

Signature reduction

The Charon is equipped with active thermal panels to achieve some degree of IR stealth. Radar-absorbent coating helps to lower the tanks' signature and help to avoid detection, while counter-laser bloomers have been installed to destroy laser range-finding gear targeting the vehicle.

Mobility

The Charon features a V12 turbodiesel developing 1,200kw, which is smaller than that of the Boudicca, but given the lighter weight of the new tank, it possesses comparable power-weight ratio similar. Maximum on-road speed is 75km/h.

Networking

Charons are equipped with the Arthuristan Dynamics Digital Battlefield Management System which integrate vehicles in one or multiple units into the combat network (the ARES Battlenet in the Arthuristan Army), allowing them to communicate efficiently and share valuable intelligence, whether with other tanks and vehicles, UAVs, APAF aircrafts providing CAS, or any other platforms or 'information nodes' of the Arthuristan military. Such tactical data are displayed on the commander's tablet computer, which can be mounted in a bracket at his/her station. Enemy sightings, targeting information and other intelligence gathered by the tank's sensors are also automatically transmitted across the ARES battlenet and thus made available to all other platforms linked to it.