Piranha III APC in ceramic underpants
Piranha III – is a third-generation of armored personnel carrier produced by the Swiss company Mowag Motorwagenfabriken, which is now a subsidiary of one of Canada`s largest manufacturers of military and aerospace vehicles General Dynamics European Land Systems. At this moment the corporation is developing a fourth generation of Piranha, and has already been released the first prototypes of Piranha IV.
Since the Swiss APC’s serial production, that is from the beginning of 1970s, the total number of sold units approached 8,000 units. Piranha III entered service in 16 countries. General Dynamics European Land Systems (formerly it was General Motors Defense) also releases a version of Piranha III known as the LAV III. In Chile and the UK (BAE Systems Land Systems) there was also released a small batch of cars under the license. However, the suspension elements and mechanical driveline are always Swiss.
Piranha’a wheel formulae can range from 6x6, 8x8 up to 10x10. BAE Systems Land Systems has the right to produce only 8 - and 10-wheeled armored personnel carrier. And the most common armored car is 8-wheel one.
Piranha III may be more than only the armored personnel carriers. It can serve as command vehicle, fire support, reconnaissance, repair and recovery vehicle, mortar carrier, ambulance, observation, mortar fire control centre and load carrier.
There are an engine compartment and the driver`s seat in the forward part of the Piranha’s hull. This gives the maximum space for useable internal volume and provides good access through hatches. Piranha III has useable internal volume at 10.2 m3, and its modification Piranha IIIC at 12 m3.
Piranha has a thin-walled monocoque construction (e.g., without an internal frame), which provides a low level of ballistic protection. This assumes that the customer would optionally order the add-on body armoring. Regardless of the vehicle configuration, all the Piranha are covered with aramid shatter protection. This strengthens the body and reduces the aftermaths of penetration.
Add-on armoring, in its turn, is made from high strength steel. This armor protects the crew from NATO standard 7.62 bullets or 7.62 armor piercing bullet at 100 meters distance shot. Optional protection can be increased by additional steel plates. For Piranha III it is a ceramic armor produced by German company Mexas. 1700-kg Mexas armor provides the crew the highest degree of ballistic protection, namely it saves their "skins" from the shots of armor-piercing bullets B32 with diameter in 4.5mm (with steel core) from all sides. But the future-going 25-ton Piranha IV with heavy armor protection will stand up against the 25-mm armor-piercing discarding sabot (APDS), and 30-mm BPS on the frontal arc of ±30º.
Piranha IIIC version has a simple set of protection – APC can stand 6-kilo blast of TNT under the bottom or 8-kg TNT explosion under one of its wheels. Piranha IV can stand 8-kilo blast of TNT under the bottom, and 8-10-kg TNT explosion under one of the wheels. Additionally, you can order 75 kg/m2 protection against penetrating of TMRP-type 6 bombs.
The gross vehicle weight of Piranha III is 22,000 kg, of which 8 tons can consist of cargo. Compared to previous versions, the advantages of Piranha III is in improved construction of floor, such as its components in troop compartment are made from fiberglass. When a mine explodes this fiberglass component of the floor absorbs energy and protects the paratroopers feet. The further development of engineering mind find its shelter in the Piranha IV. All the seats, including driver’s seat and pedals, are mounted there on the APC ceiling, not on its floor as usual, to reduce the effect of blast wave.
Piranha III ground clearance is 0.45 m. But there is an height adjustable hydropneumatic suspension installed in the APC, which can increase the clearance up to 0.73 m. Each front four wheels of Piranha IIIC have independent spring suspensions with transversal swinging arm and four rear wheels have torsion plates with trailing arm. Piranha IV is equipped with hydropneumatic suspension springs for all eight wheels. The last pair of wheels has a hydraulic powertrain, what reduces the turning radius from 19.8 to 15.4 m.
All the Piranha APC have a kernel cardan drive. In Piranha IIIC the front two axles switch off when there is no need in all-wheel drive. The same situation is in the Piranha III the fourth and the first axles are switch off.
Piranha III is equipped with a central tire inflation system and wears a 400-horsepower (298 kW) 6-cylinder Caterpillar C9 diesel engine with working volume at 8.8 liters, along with an 8-speed ZF 7HP602 transmission (7 forward and 1 reverse gear). Heavier Piranha IV runs on 544-horsepower MTU 6V199TE20 engine with ZF Ecomat transmission.
In Piranha III armament there are a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun, 105-mm tank gun and 120-mm mortar. The basic package includes only the machine gun.
PS: In January 2013 General Dynamics has won a 65-million contract from the Colombian Ministry of Defence for the supply of 24units of LAV III armored personnel carrier with a double V-Hull floor (as in Stryker – the USA version of the LAV III) and increased armour. (author - W-shaped design of the floor is equal to double layer of armor plate). Delivery date of the first exclusive LAV III is May 2014. So, the Piranha III progress is only accelerating.