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Interesting Personal Perspective On The Sgt. York Divad


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#1 TOW-2

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Posted 17 December 2017 - 2108 PM

https://www.quora.co...own-helicopters

 


In 1982 I participated in both cooperative and non-cooperative tests at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, flying an Air Force CH-3E helicopter against a Sergeant York. I would have been dead many times over had it been shooting live rounds at us instead of just video.
 
The Sergeant York was the front-runner in a program intended to provide the Army with a sorely needed “division air defense” (DIVAD) weapon system. It was based on a novel concept: re-purposing M48 Patton tank chassis’ with a new turret incorporating twin Swedish Bofors 40mm cannons and two radar systems — one for area surveillance (the rectangular antenna) and one for targeting (the conical antenna, an off-the-shelf application of the F-16′s radar).
 
A firing control system integrated the two radars, with on-board software prioritizing targets based on the threat they were assessed to pose to the system itself. (For the late ’70s /early ’80s, this was cosmic.) If the operator elected to allow the system to engage targets hands-off, it would slew the turret around at a nauseatingly rapid rate, taking on each in turn automatically.
 
On the next-to-last day of the test, my aircraft was joined by an Army AH-1 Cobra and OH-58 Kiowa and two Air Force A-10s. My H-3 was part of the test profile because its radar signature was essentially the same as that of an Mi-24 HIND assault helicopter of the day, which was heavily armed with both anti-tank missiles and rockets. We all converged on it simultaneously from about 6000 meters. My aircraft was the first to die, followed by the two A-10s, then the Cobra, and finally the Kiowa. It took less than 15 seconds to put plenty of hypothetical rounds into each of us.
 
I spent a depressing amount of that week watching myself get tracked and killed on video. Trying to “mask” behind anything other than rising terrain simply didn’t work; the DIVAD radar got a nice Doppler return off my rotor system if any part of it was within its line of sight, and it burned right through trees just fine. I couldn’t outrun or out-maneuver it laterally; when I moved, it tracked me. I left feeling pretty convinced that it was the Next Big Thing, especially since I’d come into the test pretty cocky thanks to having had a lot of (successful) exercise experience against current Army air defense systems.
 
So, what happened to the program itself? I think it was a combination of factors. First, the off-the-shelf concept was cool as far as it went, but the Patton design already was a quarter-century old; the DIVAD was awfully slow compared with the M1 Abrams tanks it was supposed to protect. It would have had a lot of trouble keeping up with the pack.
 
Second, The Atlantic Monthly published a really nasty article (bordering on a hatchet job) purporting to show the program was a complete failure and a ruinous waste of money. One of its most impressive bits of propaganda was an anecdote about a test where the system — on full automatic — took aim at a nearby trailer full of monitoring equipment. Paraphrasing, “It tracked and killed an exhaust fan,” chortled the author. (See The Gun That Shoots Fans for a recounting of this.)
 
Yeah, it did. It was designed to look for things that rotate (like helicopter main rotor systems) and prioritize them for prompt destruction. If any bad guys were on the battlefield in vehicles with unshrouded exhaust fans, they might have been blown away rather comprehensively. (My understanding at the time was that said fan was part of a rest room in one of the support vehicles and not a “latrine,” but why mess up a good narrative, right?)
 
To my knowledge, neither ventilated latrines nor RVs full of recording devices are part of a typical Army unit’s table of allowance, so I really doubt there was much of a fratricide threat there. However, the bottom line was that this particular piece of partisan reporting beat the crap out of a program that I believe the Army needed, but already was facing a few developmental issues, and helped hasten its cancellation.
 
(The New York Times opinion piece linked to above was equally laden with innuendo and assumptions. It made a fair point about possible anti-radiation attacks it might have invited… but there are radars on every battlefield, and there are means of controlling emissions. It compared a late-Fifties era Soviet system — the ZSU-23–4 — with one fully twenty years newer in design. It asserted that it couldn’t hit fixed-wing aircraft, which to my mind and personal observation was arrant nonsense. The only issue it raised that I agree with was possible NATO compatibility problems with the unique 40mm caliber shells the Sergeant York’s guns fired. Funny — the Times pontificated that it wouldn’t be cancelled, too. Oops.)
 
Third, the hydraulics that were used in the prototype were a 3000 psi system that really couldn’t handle the weight of the turret in its Awesome Hosing Things mode. One of the only times I actually got a score on the system was when I cheated; I deliberately exploited that vulnerability. I flew straight toward the system (which would have blown us out of the sky about twenty times over had I tried to do so for real) until directly over it, then tried to defeat the system from above.
 
If memory serves, the system specifications called for the guns to elevate to more than 85 degrees if something was coming up and over; it then would lower them quickly, slew the turret 180 degrees around, and raise the guns again to re-engage. It was supposed to be able to do that in perhaps ten seconds (but I’m here to tell you it did it a lot faster than that). So, I had my flight engineer tell me the moment the guns dropped, at which point I did a course reversal maneuver to try to catch it pointed the wrong way. What the video later showed was:
 
Helicopter flies over.
Traverse/re-acquire movement starts.
Helicopter initiated hammerhead turn (gorgeous, if I say so myself).
Guns started to elevate to re-engage.
Clunk. Guns fall helplessly down; DIVAD crew uses bad language.
The hydraulics hadn’t been able to support the multiple close-on, consecutive demands of movement in multiple axes and failed. Like I said, I cheated. The Army and the contractors already knew about this problem and were going to fit out production models with a 5000 psi system. That might have had some survivability issues of its own, but the Army was perfectly happy that we’d done what we did — it proved the test wasn’t rigged and underscored the need for the production change.
 
Finally, the Army itself honestly appraised the system based on its progress (and lack of progress) versus their requirements. Wikipedia provides a passage that encapsulates this end-game well: “The M247 OT&E Director, Jack Krings, stated the tests showed, ‘...the SGT YORK was not operationally effective in adequately protecting friendly forces during simulated combat, even though its inherent capabilities provided improvement over the current [General Electric] Vulcan gun system. The SGT YORK was not operationally suitable because of its low availability during the tests.’ ”
 
I guess I’m forced to conclude that the Sergeant York was a really good concept with some definite developmental flaws — some recognized and being dealt with, perhaps one or two that would have made it less than fully effective in its intended role — that was expensive enough for bad PR to help bring it down before it fully matured. The Army was under a lot of political pressure to get it fielded, but to their credit they decided not to potentially throw good money after bad.
 
On balance, a lot of the contemporaneous criticisms mounted against the M247 really don’t hold up very well over time. Short-range air defense currently is provided by the latest generation of the AN/MPQ-64F1 Improved Sentinel system. Radar emitting on the battlefield? Check. Target prioritization capabilities? Check. Towed (which equals “slow”) versus self-propelled? Check.
 
I’m glad we never wound up in the position of needing it but not having it. My personal judgment was and is that it probably could have wound up a heck of a lot more capable and useful than its developmental history might suggest, but its cancellation probably was justified given other acquisition priorities at the time.
 
Bottom line: I repeatedly flew a helicopter against it over the course of many hours of testing, including coming at it as unpredictably as I knew how, and it cleaned my clock pretty much every time.

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#2 shep854

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Posted 17 December 2017 - 2204 PM

Good read. Not surprising that there was so much bias in the articles; that was a tough time for the US military.
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#3 Panzermann

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 0209 AM

Good find. :)

 

 

Though I do not know what he means with unique 40mm? The Bofors L/70 has been used by pretty much all NATO members.


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#4 sunday

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 0419 AM

Projectile is something called M811

http://bulletpicker....-hei_-m811.html


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#5 lastdingo

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 0704 AM

That "novel concept" was in service with the German and Dutch armies at the time.

 

The USArmy could have purchased either Gepard turret and Roland/Crotale/Rapier (Roland being the best self-propelled unit) instead of wasting development funds on York and being stuck with PIVADS, Chapparal and Stinger only. That trio was of less use against Mi-24 than the Gepards.


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#6 RETAC21

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 0713 AM

Ken Katz made the point years ago that the primary air defence for the US Army is the US Air Force, so Air Defence has always been the poor child of the force, with a few notable exceptions, such as Patriot.


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#7 TOW-2

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 0810 AM

That "novel concept" was in service with the German and Dutch armies at the time.

 

The USArmy could have purchased either Gepard turret and Roland/Crotale/Rapier (Roland being the best self-propelled unit) instead of wasting development funds on York and being stuck with PIVADS, Chapparal and Stinger only. That trio was of less use against Mi-24 than the Gepards.

 

Agreed, but Roland (and Gepard, and ADATS) all suffered from "NIH".

I swear, the US Army must have a giant rubber stamp that reads "The platform is 'immature' and 'not suited to US Army needs at this time'." that they just keep handy.


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#8 shep854

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 0837 AM

 

That "novel concept" was in service with the German and Dutch armies at the time.

 

The USArmy could have purchased either Gepard turret and Roland/Crotale/Rapier (Roland being the best self-propelled unit) instead of wasting development funds on York and being stuck with PIVADS, Chapparal and Stinger only. That trio was of less use against Mi-24 than the Gepards.

 

Agreed, but Roland (and Gepard, and ADATS) all suffered from "NIH".

I swear, the US Army must have a giant rubber stamp that reads "The platform is 'immature' and 'not suited to US Army needs at this time'." that they just keep handy.

 

US Army, in a (short) fit of common sense, did buy a few Roland units.


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#9 TOW-2

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 0837 AM

Also, regarding the article itself, even to my 12-year-old self back in the early 1980s it was clear the press was going to kill something the Reagan defense budget was paying for, be it the Bradley, the Abrams, the Apache or Blackhawk: they were going to wet their knives and by God no "teething development" issues were going to stop them.  


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#10 JW Collins

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 1542 PM

 

Agreed, but Roland (and Gepard, and ADATS) all suffered from "NIH".

I swear, the US Army must have a giant rubber stamp that reads "The platform is 'immature' and 'not suited to US Army needs at this time'." that they just keep handy.

 

 

ADATS was very close to entering service. I think what killed it in reality was the post Cold War budget cuts. Instead they created the poor man's M6 Linebacker.

 

Going with Gepard would have been nice although using the Leopard 1 derived hull certainly wouldn't be acceptable to the Army. Problem is throwing it on top of an old M48 hull would lead to the same mobility issues the Sgt. York had.


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#11 Dawes

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 1808 PM

I kind of wondered about the selection of the old M48 chassis. IIRC, the reasoning was that they were cheap and available and saved designing a new one from scratch. I suppose that keeping up with Abrams and Bradleys wasn't seen as a valid consideration? 


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#12 Dawes

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 1821 PM

Looking at some old reports, the Sgt York evidently suffered from poor human engineering also:

 

http://www.dtic.mil/...df?AD=ADA210356


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#13 lastdingo

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 1827 PM

 

 

Agreed, but Roland (and Gepard, and ADATS) all suffered from "NIH".

I swear, the US Army must have a giant rubber stamp that reads "The platform is 'immature' and 'not suited to US Army needs at this time'." that they just keep handy.

 

 

ADATS was very close to entering service. I think what killed it in reality was the post Cold War budget cuts. Instead they created the poor man's M6 Linebacker.

 

Going with Gepard would have been nice although using the Leopard 1 derived hull certainly wouldn't be acceptable to the Army. Problem is throwing it on top of an old M48 hull would lead to the same mobility issues the Sgt. York had.

 

 

I'm pretty sure they could have mounted that turret on top of the Bradley, at the latest after adding one roadwheel left and right side each.

They meant to put ADATS on Bradley (the Canadians did put it on M113 IIRC).


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#14 Jeff

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 1953 PM

Somewhere in my brain, an old neuron is trying to tell me that Richard Lindquist had some inside info on this program once upon a time.


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#15 DKTanker

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 2238 PM

Looking at some old reports, the Sgt York evidently suffered from poor human engineering also:

 

http://www.dtic.mil/...df?AD=ADA210356

Yawn.  When they start by talking about the absence of a seat belt for the driver I have but one choice, close the pdf and delete it from my hard drive.


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#16 DKTanker

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 2256 PM

Good find. :)

 

 

Though I do not know what he means with unique 40mm? The Bofors L/70 has been used by pretty much all NATO members.

 

 

Projectile is something called M811

http://bulletpicker....-hei_-m811.html

The M811 was to have a proximity fuze, had anybody else made a proximity fuze for the 40mm?  That is, after all, the primary reason they went with 40mm since the 35mm is too small for a proximity fuze.  Or it was at the time.  One of the requirements was also to have at least a 6000 meter slant range so that it could outrange helicopter mounted AT-6 Spiral missiles.  The M247 40mm system has a range of 12,500 meters with HE while the 35mm guns for the Gepard have an effective range of 5,500 meters with frangible APDS. 

Proximity fuzes, longer range, greater HE load, the 40mm was the correct decision.  It just happened to be attached to a dog of a system.


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#17 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 20 December 2017 - 0308 AM

 

That "novel concept" was in service with the German and Dutch armies at the time.

 

The USArmy could have purchased either Gepard turret and Roland/Crotale/Rapier (Roland being the best self-propelled unit) instead of wasting development funds on York and being stuck with PIVADS, Chapparal and Stinger only. That trio was of less use against Mi-24 than the Gepards.

 

Agreed, but Roland (and Gepard, and ADATS) all suffered from "NIH".

I swear, the US Army must have a giant rubber stamp that reads "The platform is 'immature' and 'not suited to US Army needs at this time'." that they just keep handy.

 

 

They did, but the odd thing is that Im near certain the USAF purchased Roland for defending USAF airfields in West Germany. And they certainly DID procure Rapier to defend USAF airbases in the UK. Im not sure if the British supplied the personnel for them or what, but that the USAF did lay the funds down for them to defend their airfields, that I do remember. They were still being used well into the 1990s.

 

So if the USAF could do it, why couldnt the Army?
 


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#18 lastdingo

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Posted 20 December 2017 - 0456 AM

40 mm proximity-fuzed HE was standard naval munition in the 80's for the 40 mm Breda single and twin 40 mm turrets.


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#19 Mr King

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Posted 20 December 2017 - 0825 AM

There was also the M-1 Liberty concept but I don't know how far it got. 

 

r890pVw.jpg

 

KshK7fB.jpg

 

WiJfoDg.jpg


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#20 TOW-2

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Posted 21 December 2017 - 0212 AM

 

 

That "novel concept" was in service with the German and Dutch armies at the time.

 

The USArmy could have purchased either Gepard turret and Roland/Crotale/Rapier (Roland being the best self-propelled unit) instead of wasting development funds on York and being stuck with PIVADS, Chapparal and Stinger only. That trio was of less use against Mi-24 than the Gepards.

 

Agreed, but Roland (and Gepard, and ADATS) all suffered from "NIH".

I swear, the US Army must have a giant rubber stamp that reads "The platform is 'immature' and 'not suited to US Army needs at this time'." that they just keep handy.

 

 

They did, but the odd thing is that Im near certain the USAF purchased Roland for defending USAF airfields in West Germany. And they certainly DID procure Rapier to defend USAF airbases in the UK. Im not sure if the British supplied the personnel for them or what, but that the USAF did lay the funds down for them to defend their airfields, that I do remember. They were still being used well into the 1990s.

 

So if the USAF could do it, why couldnt the Army?
 

 

 

God only knows.

 

Hell, I'm still amazed the Abrams got procured.  I can only assume the general for whom it was named had photos and knew where bodies were buried, as it were.  I mean, British armor, and later a German main gun?!  (And one might argue "...and Japanese electronics" but that's stretching it a bit).

 

Anyway, again, I think there were those who had fixed their sights on killing something, anything, that was being procured.  Based on what I've read, is there anything out of the realm of normal teething problems that the DIVAD had - speed issue due to the M48-ness of it aside - that couldn't have been worked out?


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