Infantry Fighting Vehicles
An infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), also known as infantry combat vehicle (ICV), is a type of armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) which allows the infantry to fight from inside, and can provide significant fire support. In times of asymmetrical warfare, local crises, and urban combat zones, the IFV is more important than ever. The IFV offers a viable compromise between mobility, protection, and firepower. They can be used in high and low intensity conflicts as well as peacekeeping operations. The first IFV was the Soviet BMP-1.
IFVs are usually tracked, but some wheeled vehicles fall into this category, too. IFVs are generally much less heavily-armed and -armoured than main battle tanks (MBTs), but they sometimes carry missiles, such as the NATO TOW missile and Soviet Spigot which offer a significant threat to tanks.
Specially-equipped infantry fighting vehicle's have taken on some of the roles of light tanks; they are used by reconnaissance organizations, and light IFVs are used by airborne units which must be able to fight without the heavy firepower of tanks.
Armour and Countermeasures
Infantry Fighting Vehicles are different from earlier Armoured Personnel Carrier's by their heavier armament allowing them to give direct-fire support during an assault, firing ports allowing the infantry to fire personal weapons while mounted, and improved armour. They are typically armed with a 20 to 40mm autocannon, and possibly with anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), and/or surface-to air missiles.
Most IFVs are amphibious and air transportable. Wheeled IFVs can travel great distances on their own without needing to be transported by flat-bed trucks and railway, as required by tracked IFVs. Tracked IFVs need to have their treads serviced or replaced on a regular basis.
The tracks themselves and the weight of the IFVs tend to be tough on road surfaces, wearing them down more quickly than a wheeled IFV. Consequently, wheeled IFVs have greater mobility. Moreover, many wheeled IFVs can extract themselves from a battlefield even on flat tires, while an IFV with damaged tracks would require a heavy vehicle to tow it out. However, tracks cannot be punctured like a tire, offering greater off-road mobility and greater maneuverability than wheels.
Generally, IFVs have thinner and less complex armour than tanks to ensure mobility. Most IFVs are proof against heavy machine guns, artillery fragments, and small arms. It should be noted that the IFV's mission does not include anti-tank duties except in emergencies or in support of tank units, therefore it needs less protection from heavy weapons fire. Instead, the IFV, as its name implies, is supposed to carry riflemen and their weapons into the battlefield where they dismount and fight outside the vehicle with the support of the IFV's main armament.
In IFVs, the thickness of armour varies widely between models. Some vehicles are proof against nothing larger than 12.7mm projectiles while others, such as Sweden's CV90, US Bradley M2A3 and German's Marder 1A3 can withstand frontal hits from 30mm autocannon. The sides, roof, and floors of IFVs have thinner armour. Vehicles must also protect crew against anti-personnel mines and against anti-tank mines.
The most common counter measures are smoke grenade dischargers. These help IFVs to avoid a hits from ATGMs by allowing the IFV to hide behind a smoke screen. Some vehicles, such as the French VBCI, employ infra-red jamming flare dispensers. These are effective against missiles with IR guidance systems.
The primary weapon on most IFVs is an autocannon, usually of a caliber between 20 and 40mm. It is effective against a wide range of targets such as unarmoured and lightly armoured vehicles, infantry, helicopters and low-flying aircraft. It can fire several types of munitions, including high explosive, incendiary, and kinetic penetrator rounds. Germany's Puma and Sweden's CV90 can fire air burst munition, that contain hundreds of tungsten rods that are effective against vehicles, helicopters, and stationary strong points. IFV cannons can elevate their barrels by as much as 70 degrees to permit their crews to engage aircraft.
On many IFVs, a coaxial machine gun is mounted on the turret along with the main armament. The most common caliber is 7.62mm. Some vehicles mount more machine guns; for example on the German Marder, one machine gun fires from the rear of the vehicle.
Some IFVs are equipped with anti-tank guided missiles. These missiles are mostly medium range (2000-4000 m). Others carry surface-to-air missiles or a combination of the two, such as the 2T Stalker.