Danish APC decision the right one?

A major announcement for European industry came in early May when the Danish Defence Acquisition and Logistics Organization, selected the Piranha 5 8×8 from General Dynamics European Land Systems (GD ELS) for its M113 APC replacement vehicle.

It is unclear what the ultimate costs and numbers will be until the final contract is signed, but it will interesting to see how much is being paid. Denmark has a small defence budget, so money is a big factor.

All the vehicles in the competition were trialled over the terrain on which the country’s army operates, and the service obviously believed it was the best technical choice, which is what matters.

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GD ELS with the Piranha and the CV90 Armadillo from BAE Systems were probably the two front-runners in any case because the Danish Army has had experience dealing with the companies on Piranha 3.

It is likely that the Armadillo was probably more costly – tracked vehicles are always more expensive per kilometre to operate – and this may have been one of the deciding factors.

The decision to opt for a wheeled replacement for the M113 will likely reinvigorate the usual tracks vs wheels debate and could impact future procurement programmes.

In the end, it was unsurprising that Piranha was selected. The family has been one of the most successful wheeled armoured fighting vehicle programmes.

The Piranha 5 is the newest type that had yet to be sold, but when you have earlier generations of Piranha and LAVs that have seen investment from General Dynamics’ land subsidiaries in Europe to North America, with numerous exports behind them, it puts it into context.

Furthermore, the Piranha 5 was selected over the Nexter VBCI and ARTEC Boxer 8x8s back in 2008 for the British Army’s FRES Utility Vehicle programme before that fell by the wayside.

The Danish decision could inform the next big APC competition in Europe coming up over the next few years – the British Army’s Utility Vehicle. The new Strategic Defence and Security Review expected by the end of the year will offer some timelines for this, but having a hot production line for Piranha 5 would make the GD ELS vehicle a strong contender.

Denmark has put its acquisition of a new 155mm self-propelled howitzer on hold due to funding issues, and now it is unlikely that there will be any money available for a new programme until the conclusion of the current 2013-17 multi-year defence agreement.

So we will have to wait until the next one as a restart date has not been specified. It will be interesting to see what discussions the country will enter into with its allies about borrowing some artillery, what this will cost and the training involved if it operates something that is a departure from what it has used so far.

Our resident Shephard Media land expert and former Land Warfare International Editor, Ian Kemp, said that when Norway pulled out of the Archer SP artillery project in 2013 it postponed its M109 replacement until the end of the decade. A lot of armies use old or ‘obsolete’ artillery for training to save wear on the barrels of their operational guns and the Danish Army has a lot of experience operating old artillery, and other, equipment.

The M109 is perfectly adequate for training and ‘invasion defence’, which is the primary operational role of Danish Army artillery.

Despite cancellation, the country’s purchase of 15 (with minimum option of 9 and maximum of 21) is so small that it will be of no major impact to the competing companies. Of course, it would have been nice to have, but it only represents months of production, not years.

Kemp added that the Danes never deploy more than one battle group on operations, which includes 120mm mortars. Artillery is a brigade asset and is provided by whichever brigade the Danes are assigned to on operations. In Afghanistan they were under UK command and the latter country provided artillery support to the Danish battle group in the same manner as the UK’s.

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