By Aaditya Satardekar
Kestrel is a bird, which remains stable even in very heavy winds, therefore this WhAP (Wheeled Armoured Platform) is given the name Kestrel.
In the new era, India requires new technologies and equipment to safeguard its borders and interests. India is living in a hostile peace with Pakistan on one side and China on the other. So, to safeguard its interests India must work continuously on new technologies.
DRDO & TATA’S Wheeled Armoured Platform (WhAP)
The WhAP is designed in a collaboration of TATA, DRDO, and a UK based defence firm, Supacat. Let’s look at the specs of this WhAP briefly:
- It is an 8×8 wheeled platform, which literally means the vehicle has 8 wheels.
- Mass: 25 Tonnes
- Dimensions (Length 7.80 m (25.59 ft), Width 2.95 m (9.28 ft), Height 2.28 m (7.48 ft))
- Max Speed: 100 KM/H on road and 10 KM/H in water.
Wheeled Vs Tracked:
The entire world today is debating today on which one of the two will be the perfect fit. There are no perfect answers to this question and thus each type has its one positives and negatives based on the region of application.
- The wheels offer greater speed, Low (or no) damage to the road, and cost comparatively lesser.
- On another side, the tracked vehicle is “true all-terrain”, carries more volume, lesser ground pressure, and has better maneuverability.
|Cross Country Mobility||✓|
|Traction on Slopes||✓|
|GVW, Volume, & Payload||✓|
|Weight Growth Potential||✓|
|Gap & Obstacle Crossing||✓|
Need of the vehicle:
The Tata/DRDO WhAP isn’t the first vehicle that the Indian army will be operating (After ordering). Indian army operated soviet made BTR-60PBs, these were ordered in 1976 and 56 units of these were delivered in 1977. In addition to that 50 BTR-60PU-12s were also ordered along with 200 9K31 SAM systems in 1979 from the Soviet Union and delivered between 1979 and 1984. As per the reports at peak, there were 817 BTR-60s in service and most of them retired in 1995. BTR-60PU-12s are probably still in service and thus it makes a case for a new system under the category.
A closer look:
The length of the vehicle is 7.85mts, the height of 2.3mts. and 3mts in width. It has a capacity of carrying a total of 10 soldiers, 6 in the back seat, 2 in the turret (commander and gunner), and 2 in the driving seat.
The best scales for analyzing any armored platform are following
Mobility: The platform is powered by an engine(s) developed by TATA and Cummins. The makers offer three different types of engines for the platform.
- 600 HP
- 525 HP and
- 400 HP.
It also includes cooling and a dilatation system which increases the efficiency of the vehicle.
Other Mobility features:
The 8X8 wheel configuration is set on a hydropneumatic suspension utilizing a double-wishbone arrangement.
All wheels are equipped with a “run-flat” capability to allow the vehicle to move even after suffering from multiple punctures. The vehicle has four axles, the front axle is steerable which reduces the turning radius of the vehicle significantly.
Amphibious mobility: The vehicle is amphibious up to 24 tons and in addition, a reserved buoyancy of 15% has been catered for in the design. The vehicle achieves a positive trim angle by keeping the center of buoyancy ahead of the center of gravity by having a bigger frontal volume and volume reduction in the rear without affecting the effective internal volume. An anti-surge vane with its hydraulic actuation system has been provided to divert the oncoming water flow. Hydro-jets in the rear helps in propulsion in the water at a speed of 10KM/H.
Firepower: The advantage of a modular vehicle is flexibility. This Wheeled Armoured Vehicle can have any turret. However, currently, the system is equipped with the turret of BMP 2. It has a 30mm autocannon, a 12.7 machine gun.
At DefExpo 2014, the DRDO / TATA WhAP (Kestrel) was seen with a “Kongsberg PROTECTOR MCT-30R turret” and an “M151 Remote Weapon station”. The MCT-30R is armed with a 30mm autocannon and the M151 remote weapon station mounted on top of the turret which is armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun.
In addition, the turret also had an anti-tank guided missile, the system at DefExpo 2014 had two Javelin anti-tank missile launchers,
- Fitted to the right side of the MCT-30R turret,
- Mounted on the remote weapon station.
Thus, the system can be modified to carry a range of weapons including a grenade launcher, anti-tank guided missile, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The vehicle is well protected because of its armor configuration. This system has all-around protection against blast as well as ballistic impacts.
- Blast Protection: The vehicle has been designed to provide protection against land mine, meeting level III, STANAG 4569. The hull configuration evolved follows a ‘V’ type bottom with a double configuration consisting of an inner panel and bottom panel. The bottom panel is designed to deflect the blast energy and get deformed to minimize the energy transfer to the vehicle. Further, blast-resistant seats and energy-absorbing mats at troop feet floor interface provide protection to the crew as per STANAG 4569. The seating layout in the crew compartment follows centrally mounted, outward-facing seat configuration to accommodate the requirement of firing port for every soldier in the crew compartment. The seats are suspended from the roof and do not have any connection with the floor to further reduce the impact of a mine blast.
- Ballistic Protection: The armour configuration of tata kestrel is based on composites and steel armour packed in blocks. The hull, which is constructed of high strength steel with a special “ceramic armour” bolted-on, offers all-round protection against 7.62 mm AP. In case the requirement is to have larger protection, the platform design caters the requirement by equipping bolt-on armour to a higher level of protection.
NATO “AEP-55 STANAG 4569” is a NATO Standardization Agreement that governs the standards for the “Protection Levels for Occupants” in a Medium or Light Armoured Vehicles”
- kinetic energy Impact.
- An artillery shell / Fragments impact
- IED blasts.
|Protection||Kinetic Energy||Grenade and Mine Blast||Artillery|
|Level 1||7.62X51 MM (833M/S) at 30 M 5.56X45 MM (910M/S) at 30 M 5.56X45 MM (930M/S) at 30 M||Hand grenades, Artillery fragments and submunitions.||155 mm High Explosive at 100 m|
|Level 2||7.62X39 MM (695M/S) at 30 M In addition to level 1||6 KG mine blast A) at wheel or Track B) at center||155 mm High Explosive at 80 m|
|Level 3||7.62×51mm AP (WC core) at 30 meters with 930 m/s||8 kg (explosive mass) A) at wheel or Track B) at center||155 mm High Explosive at 60 m|
|Level 4||14.5×114mm AP / B32 at 200 meters with 911 m/s||10 KG (Explosive mass) A) at wheel or Track B) at center||155 mm High Explosive at 30 m|
|Level 5||25 mm APDS-T (M791) or TLB 073 at 500 m with 1258 m/s||155 mm High Explosive at 25 m|
|Level 6||30 mm APFSDS or AP at 500 m||155 mm High Explosive at 10 m|
ICV Stryker Vs Tata Kestrel:
The DRDO / TATA WhAP “Kestrel” is often compared with the US-made machine “ICV Stryker”. This system is made by General Dynamics Land Systems for the United States Army and both the systems are equivalent in performance.
|Weight||18.6 Tonnes||25 Tonnes|
|Engine Power||350 HP||Up to 650 HP|
|Protection standard||7.62 MM (14.5 MM frontal)||7.62 MM|
|Protection (Add on)||Armour Piercing Rounds||Armour Piercing Rounds*|
|Max Speed||~100 KM/H||100 KM/H|
|Passengers||Upto 9||Upto 9|
Future of TATAs WhAP
The DRDO / TATA WhAP is an excellent platform for the multiple requirements of the Indian army. This indigenously built system can be leveraged in multiple applications such as armored personnel carrier, Mortar carrier, Anti-Tank Guided missile, and mounted gun system, etc.
The WhAP has received the much-needed permission from the MoD (Ministry of Defense) to export it to friendly nations. This may be used for the various roles of the united nation in near future. As it is a modular platform, it can be used for a wide variety of applications. One such application could be the carrier for futuristic directed energy weapons.
The future is directed energy weapons and this platform with such futuristic technology can turn the table in favor of India in any theatre.