AGDS / M1: anti-aircraft self-propelled gun based on the Abrams tank

AGDS / M1: anti-aircraft self-propelled gun based on the Abrams tank
AGDS / M1: anti-aircraft self-propelled gun based on the Abrams tank

The peculiarities of the use of modern front-line aviation and its weapons directly indicate the need to create combined anti-aircraft systems, simultaneously armed with artillery mounts and missile systems, and at the same time capable of moving in the same formation with tanks or other combat vehicles. Thirty years ago, the Soviet Union created such a vehicle, called the 2K22 Tunguska, carrying two 30-millimeter anti-aircraft guns and eight guided missiles. Foreign countries quickly became interested in this idea and launched a number of their own projects for a similar purpose. Among others, the United States also became interested in the topic of anti-aircraft missile and artillery systems (ZRAK).


In the early eighties, several American companies began work on the creation of self-propelled ZRAK capable of accompanying troops on the march. So in the United States, the AN / TWQ-1 Avenger, LAV-AD, etc. complexes appeared. However, all these systems had one feature that significantly limited their capabilities. Due to the use of relatively light base chassis, the new anti-aircraft missile and artillery systems could not move and work on a par with the M1 Abrams tanks. A new combat vehicle with the appropriate characteristics was required. This is how the AGDS / M1 project (Air Ground Defense System - "System of protection against air and ground targets based on the M1 tank"), created by WDH, appeared.

The standard chassis of the M1 tank with solid armor and a powerful power plant was taken as the basis for the new anti-aircraft complex. According to the developers, the use of a tank chassis would simplify the design and production, as well as ensure ease of use both in terms of driving performance and in terms of technical support. As for the AGDS combat module, it was planned to make it on the basis of the turret of the same tank. It is noteworthy that during the design of the anti-aircraft complex, the dimensions of the tower increased, but the main proportions remained the same. This was done both to facilitate production and for additional camouflage: the silhouette of the ZRAK turned out to be similar to the silhouette of the base tank.

In front of the seriously modified turret, in the place where the Abrams had a gun, two automatic cannons Bushmaster III of 35 mm caliber were installed. The new guns made it possible to conduct aimed fire at a range of up to three kilometers with a rate of fire of up to 200-250 rounds per minute. It was supposed to use shells with a radio fuse. Upon explosion, such an ammunition formed at least a hundred fragments. According to the calculations of the designers, the use of the Bushmaster-3 cannons with special shells made it possible to spend no more than two dozen shells on the destruction of one aerial target.

Next to the cannons, in the front of the turret, the designers of the WDH company have provided a volume for magazines with ammunition. Each cannon was equipped with two magazines. The design of the ammunition supply system is interesting. Two large drum magazines (one per gun) with a capacity of 500 high-explosive fragmentation shells were placed next to the breeches of the guns. It is noteworthy that the shells were supposed to be placed in stores perpendicular to the axis of the barrel. During feeding into the gun, a special mechanism had to orient them in the correct way. Above the breech of the guns and next to the stores for high-explosive fragmentation ammunition, it was proposed to put two smaller capacity, for 40-50 shells. They were intended for storage and supply of armor-piercing shells in case of a collision of an AGDS / M1 combat vehicle with light armored vehicles of the enemy. Thus, the new anti-aircraft missile and artillery system, using its barrel armament, could effectively hit and destroy a wide range of ground and air targets that tanks collide with in battle.

Directly behind the gun compartment, the designers provided for a relatively small habitable volume. In its front part, the workplace of the weapons operator was supposed to be located, in the back - the commander. The use of a large number of various electronic equipment led to the fact that only one operator could control all systems. If necessary, the commander had the opportunity to take on part of the load and facilitate the work of a colleague. On the sides of the front of the habitable volume, it was proposed to install part of the electronic equipment. In particular, in the left "cheekbone" of the tower it was supposed to place the equipment of the optical-location system, the head of which was to be placed in a characteristic vertical slot in the armor. On the right "cheekbone" they found a place for a radar guidance station and its antenna, and behind it an auxiliary power unit was placed.

Directly behind the fighting compartment and the vehicle commander's workplace on the AGDS turret, the rest of the electronics should have been located, including the missile control unit and radar review. The block of equipment for aiming and guiding missiles was made retractable inside the tower. The antenna of the surveillance radar station in the parking position should have been turned back into a special niche.

As a missile weapon for the AGDS / M1 ZRAK, WDH engineers chose the universal ADATS complex, created a little earlier. To detect targets, this system could use the existing radar, as well as a separate optical system with a thermal imaging channel. After launch, the guided missile of the ADATS complex was to be guided using a laser beam. The guided universal missile of the complex with a length of about two meters weighed 51 kilograms and was equipped with a solid-propellant engine. The latter allowed the rocket to accelerate to a speed of about three speeds of sound and hit targets at ranges up to 10 kilometers and at altitudes up to 7 km. The ADATS missile was supposed to carry a fragmentation-cumulative warhead weighing 12.5 kg, suitable for destroying aircraft and armored vehicles. So, on tests, such missiles pierced an armor plate up to 900 millimeters thick.


The layout of the turret anti-aircraft missile and artillery mount AGDS / M1

1 - Cannon "Bushmaster-III" (caliber 35 mm, vertical guidance angles from -15 to +90 degrees); 2 - guidance radar; 3 - ammunition supply mechanism; 4 - throat for charging magazines; 5 - rotary ammunition supply unit; 6 - auxiliary power unit; 7 - remotely controlled machine gun mount (caliber 7, 62 mm, vertical guidance angles from -5 to +60 degrees); 8 - shooter operator; 9 - commander; 10 - a package of guided missiles in the launch position; 11 - retractable block of sights of the ADATS complex; 12 - all-round radar; 13 - block of electronic equipment; 14 - reflector of a gas stream; 15 - a package of missiles in a folded position; 16 - replaceable barrels for guns; 17 - 35 mm ammunition magazine (500 rounds); 18 - lifting mechanism of the ADATS missile unit; 19 - tower polyk; 20 - optical sight; 21 - the head of the optical sight.

Based on the desire to make the AGDS / M1 ZRAK as similar as possible to the M1 Abrams tank, and also intending to increase the survivability of the vehicle, the authors of the project placed missile launchers inside the armored turret. Two modules for six transport and launch containers with missiles were inscribed next to the walls of the habitable volume and the electronics compartment, in the middle and rear of the sides. Before launch, it was supposed to raise the front of the container above the roof of the tower. To avoid damage to the turret structure, the WDH designers have provided two gas outlet ducts in its stern. Thus, the rocket gases could freely go up and back outside the reserved volume.

All the main armament of the AGDS combat module was supposed to be protected by the turret armor. Additional weapons for self-defense were created in a similar way. On the roof of the tower, in front of the operator's workplace, a remote-controlled machine-gun turret, covered with an armored bulletproof casing, was provided. The dimensions of the casing made it possible to hide any available 7.62 mm machine gun with ammunition under it. Smoke grenade launchers could be placed on the sides of the tower.

Thanks to a number of original technical solutions, the new AGDS / M1 anti-aircraft self-propelled gun with combined missile and cannon armament could solve a wide range of tasks and protect tank formations from various kinds of threats. The capabilities of the new ZRAK weapon declared by the developer made it possible to attack targets at ranges of up to 10 kilometers with missiles and at shorter distances with cannons. Under certain circumstances, the ZRAK AGDS / M1, thanks to the use of universal missiles ADATS, could play the role of what was later called the "tank support combat vehicle".

A big advantage of the AGDS / M1 over other American projects of anti-aircraft missile and artillery systems was the use of a reliable chassis mastered in production, borrowed from the M1 Abrams tank. An armored corps in combination with a powerful engine could make it possible to fully operate together with tank formations and effectively protect them from air and ground threats.

The AGDS / M1 project received a lot of positive reviews. By the time the design work was completed (1996-1997), it was believed that the Pentagon would be interested in the new development and would order the supply of a large number of combat vehicles. It was assumed that this would be followed by new contracts with other countries already using American armored vehicles. However, for a number of their reasons, the US military limited itself to only laudatory responses. Several military leaders and officials from the defense spoke in favor of starting the production of a new machine, but things did not go further than talk. Even a decade and a half after those events, AGDS / M1 continues to be an interesting project, which, however, has little chance of reaching mass production. Back in the early 2000s, due to lack of attention from the main customer, the AGDS / M1 project was frozen, and then closed for lack of real prospects. The United States Army, in turn, has not yet acquired an anti-aircraft missile and artillery system capable of fully working in one formation with tanks.

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