M247 Sergeant York
|M247 Sergeant York|
A cutaway of the M247
|Type||Self-propelled antiaircraft gun|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Length||7.67 m (gun forward)
6.42 m (hull only)
|Elevation||-5° to +85°|
|Rate of fire||600 rpm|
|Maximum firing range||12.5 km|
|2 × Bofors 40 mm L/70 580 rounds|
|Engine||Continental AVDS-1790-2D diesel
|Speed||48 km/h (road)|
The M247 Sergeant York DIVAD (Division Air Defense) was a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG), developed by Ford Aerospace in the late 1970s. Based on the M48 Patton tank, it replaced the Patton's turret with a new one that featured twin radar-directed 40 mm rapid-fire guns. The vehicle was named after Sergeant Alvin York, a famous World War I hero.
The Sergeant York was intended to fight alongside the M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley fighting vehicles in the U.S. Army, in a role similar to the Soviet ZSU-23-4 and German Gepard. It would replace the M163 Vulcan Air Defense System and MIM-72 Chaparral, ad-hoc systems of limited performance that had been introduced when the more advanced MIM-46 Mauler failed to mature.
Despite the use of many off the shelf technologies that were intended to allow rapid and low-cost development, a series of technical problems and massive cost overruns resulted in the cancellation of the project in 1985.
The first effective SPAAG in U.S. Army service was the all-manual M19 Gun Motor Carriage, based on the chassis of the M24 Chaffee. The turret of the M19 was later modified and mounted onto the M41 Walker Bulldog light tank chassis to produce the M42 Duster. While capable for the era it was designed in, by the time it reached widespread service in the late 1950s it was clear that it was ineffective against high-speed jet-powered targets. The Duster was completely removed from service by 1963, only to be re-introduced briefly during the Vietnam War when its replacement never arrived.
The first proposed replacement for the Duster was the Sperry Vigilante, which referred to the six-barreled 37 mm Gatling gun proposed as the basis for a new SPAAG. Although the gun was extremely powerful, at some point in the late 1950s the Army decided that all gun-based systems were out of date.
The next proposed replacement for the Duster was the ambitious MIM-46 Mauler. Mauler mounted a nine-missile magazine on top of an adapted M113 Armored Personnel Carrier chassis, along with detection and tracking radars. Mauler featured a completely automatic fire control system, with the operators simply selecting targets and pressing "OK". It would be able to respond to low-flying high-speed targets at any angle out to a range of about five miles. However, Mauler proved to be beyond the state-of-the-art and ran into intractable problems during development. Realizing it was not going to enter service any time soon, it was downgraded to a technology demonstration program in 1963, and eventually cancelled outright in 1965.
Still lacking an effective anti-aircraft system, the Army started development of two stop-gap systems that were meant to operate in concert. The M163 VADS combined the M61 Vulcan cannon, the M113 chassis, and an all-optical fire control system with a simple lead-computing gunsight. Suitable for "snap shots" against nearby targets, the VADS system was equipped only with a small ranging radar for the gunsight, its firing range being too small to justify a larger tracking radar. VADS was intended to operate in concert with the MIM-72 Chaparral, which combined the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile with a more heavily modified version of the M113 chassis.
The Chaparral's AIM-9D missiles were capable of tail-chase launches only, but offered ranges up to 5 miles. Also using an all-optical firing system, the Chaparral nevertheless required the operator to "settle" the missiles on the target for a period of time to allow them to lock on, limiting its ability to deal with quickly moving targets. Both vehicles were optionally supported by the AN/MPQ-49 Forward Area Alerting Radar (FAAR), but this system was towed by the Gama Goat and could not be used near the front lines. The pair of weapons was, at best, a nuisance to the enemy and had limited performance against modern aircraft.
At one point the Army started to become concerned about developments in sensor technologies that would allow attacks by fixed-wing aircraft at night or in bad weather. They developed a requirement for a weapon system able to operate using FLIR and a laser rangefinder in order to counter these threats. However, the rest of the military establishment disapproved of the idea; even the US Air Force was able to carry out only limited operations in bad weather, and the Soviets had a considerably less capable force in this regard. The idea gained little traction and died.
During the late 1960s the combination of the helicopter and anti-tank missiles improved to the point where they became a major threat to armoured operations. The U.S. led the field with their TOW missile on the Cobra gunship, demonstrating this powerful combination in combat in 1972's Easter Offensive. The Soviets initially lagged the U.S., but the introduction of the 9K114 Shturm missile on the Mil Mi-24 (called the "Hind" by NATO) in the 1970s offered the USSR a level of parity.
Unlike fixed-wing aircraft, attack helicopters had the ability to loiter near the front behind cover and pick their targets. They would then "pop up", launch a missile, and return to cover as soon as the missile hit its target. Using fast-reacting wire-guided or radio-command missiles meant the total engagement time was kept to a minimum, as there was little or no "lock-on" time required; the operator simply fired as soon as they were clear of the terrain, and then adjusted the missile's flight path onto the target while it flew. Against these aircraft, the Vulcan/Chaparral combination was effectively useless.
The Vulcan could react quickly enough to the fleeting targets, but its 20 mm gun had an effective range of only about 1,200 meters, far shorter than the 3,000 to 5,000 meters range of the Spiral. While the Chaparral had enough range to engage the "Hind", its lengthy lock-on period meant the Hind would have hit its target and hidden behind terrain again before the Sidewinder would reach it. Additionally, the older Sidewinder missiles used on Chaparral homed in on exhaust, and had limited capability against helicopters faced head-on.
The limited effectiveness of the Vulcan/Chaparral was not the only problem the US Army was facing in the late 1970s. At the time they were also in the process of introducing the new M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley vehicles, which had dramatically improved cross-country performance. The M113-based Vulcan and Chaparral could not keep up with them on the advance, which would leave the new vehicles open to attack in a fast moving front.
Finally, the Soviets were widely introducing the ZSU-23-4 "Shilka", which was cause for some concern after it appeared in the Middle East. Israeli pilots attempting to avoid fire from Syrian SA-6 batteries would fly low, directly into the Shilka's envelope. Several aircraft were lost or damaged. The Shilka proved that a modern SPAAG was effective against modern aircraft.
For all of these reasons, the Army developed the "Advanced Radar-directed Gun Air Defense System" (ARGADS) requirement for a new weapon system combining the reaction speed of the Vulcan with the range of the Chaparral, and placing them on a chassis that could keep up with the new tanks in combat. They also worked in the earlier FLIR/laser requirement. The system was later renamed "Division Air Defense" (DIVAD).
At the time, most U.S. military policy was based on the US Air Force quickly gaining air superiority and holding it throughout a conflict. In keeping with this, the Army had previously placed relatively low priority on anti-aircraft weapons. This gave them time to mature through testing and shakedowns. In the case of DIVADs the threat was considered so serious and rapidly developing that the Army decided to skip the traditional development period and try to go straight into production by using a number of "off-the-shelf" parts.
Colonel Russell Parker testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 1977 that "We expect this somewhat unorthodox approach to permit a much reduced development time, thus resulting in an earliest fielding date, albeit with higher but acceptable risks... the manufacturer will be required by the fixed price warranty provisions, to correct deficiencies." It was claimed that this would cut up to five years from the development cycle, although it would require problems to be found in service and fixed on the operational vehicles.
Colonel Parker unveiled the DIVAD plan to 49 industry representatives on 18 May 1977. The DIVADs requirement demanded that the entrants be based on the M48 Patton tank chassis, provided by the Army, which were held in large quantities in surplus depots. DIVAD called for the gun to acquire a target and start firing within five seconds (later extended to eight) of it becoming visible or coming into its 3,000 m range, and had to have a 50% chance of hitting a target with a 30 round burst. In addition to all-weather capability, it also needed to have optical aiming capabilities, including a FLIR and laser rangefinder.
Several companies responded to the DIVADs contest.
Sperry Rand entered a system based on their older Vigilante gun, modified to fire the 35 mm round from the Oerlikon KDA series, widely used in NATO in the anti-aircraft role. The gun could be fired at 3,000 rounds per minute for anti-aircraft use, or 180 rounds per minute for use against ground targets, fed from a 1,464 round magazine. The aluminium turret was topped by two radars and an IFF system, all from Sperry.
General Electric entered a version with a small turret mounting their 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon from the A-10 Thunderbolt II. It included a single search/track radar adapted from the earlier FAAR, although they later suggested an improved system.
Raytheon proposed using the turret from the Dutch version of the German Gepard flakpanzer. Most of the turret remained the same as the original Gepard, including the twin 35 mm Oerlikon KDA cannons, but used Hollandse Signaalapparaten radars and an Oerlikon Contraves fire-control computer. Raytheon demonstrated that the turret, although designed for the Leopard 1, could be mounted on the M48 with some adaptation.
General Dynamics' entry also mounted twin Oerlikon KDA cannons, but mounted them side-by-side in a new aluminum turret, as opposed to either side of the turret as in the Gepard. They could be fired in either the automatic or semiautomatic mode, and their combined rate of fire was 1,100 rounds per minute from a 600 round magazine. The radar and fire control systems were derived from their Phalanx CIWS system, with the tracking radar mounted on the front of the turret, beside the guns, and the search radar on top. The turret also included independently stabilized optical sights and a laser range finder for manual engagements.
Ford Aerospace's entry was based around the Bofors 40 mm L/70 cannons, twin-mounted in the center of the turret in a fashion similar to the General Dynamics entry. The relatively large and boxy turret also mounted separate long-range search and short-range tracking radars on top. The radars were mounted on booms to give them a clear view of the sky, and both had the ability to be folded down to reduce the vehicle's height during travel. The tracking radar was a modified version of the Westinghouse AN/APG-66 from the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Like the GD entry, it also mounted a complete optical sighting and ranging system.
Some critics claim that Ford's use of the 40 mm Bofors appears to have been a business decision, not a technical one. While the 35 mm round was already a widely accepted NATO standard and was technically well respected, Ford had a marketing agreement with Bofors. As Gregg Easterbrook later reported:
- Immediately the lobbying began. Ford had a marketing agreement with the Swedish firm Bofors, a maker of 40-mm but not 35-mm cannons; while Ford could have switched to a 35-mm weapon for DIVAD, the potential profits from a 40-mm weapon were higher. Department of Defense lawyers, the Army pleading to Congress, had advised that specifying the caliber DIVAD's gun would be 'anti-competitive' and could lead to lawsuits-'the most ludicrous excuse I've ever heard' a high-ranking Pentagon official had told me. When the final DIVAD requirements were issued they called for a gun 'in the 30-mm to 40-mm range'.
However, the Bofors 40 mm cannon also had worldwide popularity. In addition, FACC had developed a proximity-sensing round for the 40 mm, which increased probability of a kill, and the shell carried either a greater explosive charge or higher deadweight mass than the smaller anti-aircraft platforms. These factors would be important in the primary scenario for which the DIVAD was to be deployed, that being the large-theater land operations vs the Warsaw Pact.
On 13 January 1978, General Dynamics and Ford were given development contracts for one prototype each, the XM246 and XM247 respectively, to be delivered to Fort Bliss in June 1980. On schedule, both companies delivered their prototypes to the North McGregor Test Facility and head-to-head testing began. The shoot-off was delayed for two months "because the prototypes which arrived at Fort Bliss test range were too technically immature." In the DT/OT II test series they shot down two F-86 Sabre fighters, five UH-1 Huey helicopters and twenty-one smaller drones.
After the 29-month Phase One trial, Ford's entry was selected as the winner of the DIVADs contest on 7 May 1981, and given a fixed-price $6.97 billion development and initial production contract for deliveries at various rates. The system was officially named M247 Sergeant York when the contract was awarded. The decision was controversial, as the GD entry had "outscored" the Ford design consistently in testing, nineteen "kills" to nine by most accounts.
Ford's prototype vehicle started demonstrating problems almost immediately. The main concerns had to do with the tracking radar, which demonstrated considerable problems with ground clutter. In testing, it was unable to distinguish between helicopters and trees. When the guns were pointed upward to fire on high-angle targets, the barrels projected into the radar's line of sight and further confused the system. Additionally, the reaction time was far too slow; against hovering helicopters it was 10 to 11 seconds, but against high-speed targets it was from 11 to 19, far too long to take a shot.
The RAM-D (reliability, availability, maintainability and durability) tests ran from November 1981 to February 1982, demonstrating a wide range of operation concerns. The turret proved to have too slow a traverse to track fast moving targets, and had serious problems operating in cold weather, including numerous hydraulic leaks. The simple electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) suite could be defeated by only minor jamming. The used guns taken from U.S. Army stock were in twisted condition due to careless warehousing. Perhaps the most surprising problem was that the 30-year-old M48 chassis with the new 20-ton turret meant the vehicle had trouble keeping pace with the newer M1 and M2, the vehicles it was meant to protect.
In February 1982 the prototype was demonstrated for a group of US and British officers at Fort Bliss, along with members of Congress and other VIPs. When the computer was activated, it immediately started aiming the guns at the review stands, causing several minor injuries as members of the group jumped for cover. Technicians worked on the problem, and the system was restarted. This time it started shooting towards the target, but fired into the ground 300 m in front of the tank. In spite of several attempts to get it working properly, the vehicle never successfully engaged the sample targets. A Ford manager claimed that the problems were due to the vehicle being washed for the demonstration and fouling the electronics. In a report on the test, Easterbrook jokingly wondered if it ever rained in central Europe.
As early production examples started rolling off the production line, the problems proved to be just as serious. One of the early models is reported to have locked onto a latrine fan, mistaking its return for a moving target of low-priority. Reporting on the incident in another article on the vehicle's woes, Easterbrook reported that "During a test one DIVAD locked on to a latrine fan. Michael Duffy, a reporter for the industry publication Defense Week, who broke this aspect of the story, received a conference call in which Ford officials asked him to describe the target as a 'building fan' or 'exhaust fan' instead."
The mechanical technical details of the Sgt York gun system were as follows:
The Sgt York used a revolutionary dual linear linkless feed system to load the rounds into each 40 mm Bofors canon. This feed system had both an upper and lower system, allowing the loading of both High Explosive and Proximity Fused rounds in separate magazines. At the time there was no equivalent system in use by any country, land, sea or air based.
Magazine capacity for one side upper was ~81 and the lower ~179. At preprogrammed firing bursts, that was eight helicopters shot down before reload. Loading rounds into the magazine system was from the top of the turret, a hatch opened and a loading rack was attached and the classic four round stripper clips of 40mm were loaded as fast as troops could relay them up.
There were four distinct magazine LRU’s, a mirror image left and right sided. The system was powered by a hydraulic motor and turned at 75 rpm, slow, but feed the canon perfectly. The first LRU from the canon was the Fan, moving rounds from cross cannon axis at the trunnion to pointing parallel with the barrel at the weapon. The Fan had two parallel levels. The upper was feed from the upper magazine with an integrated articulating arm, and the lower was feed by the Elevator that was responsible for moving the rounds up, and at the same time outboard, far enough to match the Fan’s attachment. The Lower Magazine was a semi circular arrangement in the tank body that was two inches smaller than the turret ring.
The upper magazine was located in the front of the turret, and was a box configuration that used horizontal rods on number 40 ANSI chain to move the rounds in a vertical feed. It transitioned to the patented articulating arm, since the upper fan was higher than the gun and Fan trunnion point, all while keeping the same chain length.
The lower magazine used a series of cast 17-4 corrosion resisting steel buckets, one for each round. These buckets were set up in loops that traveled horizontal in an arc, and feed stripers were used to strip a round out of one bucket, and up (for firing) or down, (for loading) into the next, and then to the elevator. Buckets were used to lower the friction, static and dynamic, of moving so many rounds, the startup inertia was bad enough. The Elevator used horizontal sliding buckets to move the rounds out and to the Fan.
The Fan had two parallel rows of cast 17-4 buckets that feed a Transfer shaft that dumped the rounds into the Bofors chamber. In combat there would be two rounds of one type of ammo ready to go, and not retrievable. Very interestingly is the method to extract the spent brass. It was kicked down by the Bofors ejector, and it slid under the guns for over six feet in a greased half tube, and was flung out under the barrels and slightly to the side. While firing the driver needed to be sealed in his hatch for safety.
All of this feed system was complex and was required so that each round be controlled at all times as the vehicle was capable of firing on the move and hitting targets. It was tested numerous times with locking onto an airborne target, firing the standard 20 rounds from each lower magazine, and while that was happening, target a ground target, and nearly without noticeable switch to HE rounds and destroy the ground target.
None of the competing designs used a linear linkless feed system, all used link ammunition, which would require access and disablement of the weapon, re clipping the additional rounds, (how many do I need?) and then reassembling. The Sgt York could be in the middle of loading at any time, bang a lever twice, and within 20 seconds the loading session was aborted, and the hatch closed, and the system ready to fire. No disassembly was required. Each magazine assembled in the tank only needed three sensors to tell the tank how much ammo it had of each type.
Nevertheless, the program's manager within the Army was cautiously positive. Major General Maloney said, "The DIVAD battery-eight systems plus one spare-activated 1 November 1984, at Fort Bliss to prepare for tests, has been demonstrating 90% reliability for full systems capability. The systems have been able to operate in a degraded manner a further 2% of the time and have had an 8% inoperable rate." He later stated that the “gun still had problems with software and electronic countermeasures, but my sensing was that it was certainly no worse than many weapon systems at this period in their gestation.”
In spite of the bad press and development problems, the Army continued to press for the system's deployment as they had no other system in the pipeline to replace it. To add to the problems, another generation of Soviet helicopter and missile designs was pushing their envelope out to 6,000 m, rendering DIVADs ineffective at long range. In response, the Army announced it would consider adding the Stinger missile to the DIVAD system, leading to even more cries about its ineffectiveness.
As Washington became increasingly fed up with the DIVAD's problems, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger ordered a $54 million series of battlefield-condition tests. Congress authorized production money to keep the program alive through a test-fix-test cycle but with a caveat; the funds would be released only if Weinberger certified that the gun "meets or exceeds the performance specifications of its contract." The tests were monitored by the Pentagon's new Operational Test and Evaluation Office (OT&E), mandated by Congress in 1983 to serve as an independent watchdog. The tests were carried out late in 1984.
The results were abysmal. Unable to hit drones moving even in a straight line, the tests were later relaxed to hovering ones. The radar proved unable to lock even to this target, as the return was too small. The testers then started adding radar reflectors to the drone to address this "problem", eventually having to add four. Easterbrook, still covering the ongoing debacle, described this as being similar to demonstrating the abilities of a bloodhound by having it find a man standing alone in the middle of an empty parking lot, covered with steaks. The system now tracked the drone, and after firing a lengthy burst of shells the drone was knocked off target. As it flew out of control, the range safety officer had it destroyed by remote control. This was interpreted by the press as an attempt to "fake" the results, describing it as "sophomoric deceits". From that point on, every test success was written off as faked.
The OT&E concluded that the gun could perform the mission as originally specified, but the tests also showed that the system had considerable reliability problems, many as the result of trying to adapt a radar system developed for aircraft to the ground role. Initial production tests run from December 1984 to May 1985 turned up a continued variety of problems, failing 22 of 163 contract requirements, and 22 serious failures in operational readiness. Contrary to the Army's earlier reports, OT&E Director Jack Krings said 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." They measured the availability of the system at 33%, as opposed to the required 90%.
On 27 August 1985, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger killed the project after about 50 vehicles had been produced. He said, "the tests demonstrated that while there are marginal improvements that can be made in the York gun, they are not worth the additional cost-so we will not invest any more funds in the system." Noting that cancelling the project did not imply a lack of need, he started the process of studying a missile-based system to fill the same niche. This led to the Oerlikon Canada ADATS system, which suffered problems of its own and entered service only in the Canadian Army. The niche was eventually filled by the M6 Linebacker, an adaptation of the M2 with Stinger missiles. Although far less capable than the ADATS missile, the Linebacker is able to keep up with mobile heavy forces. The Linebacker has been retired from active service, while the M1097 Avenger HMMWV-based Stinger-equipped systems have been downsized.
Most of the production M247 vehicles ended up as targets on air force bombing ranges. However, one is on display at the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park in Pall Mall, TN where its namesake hailed from, another is located at the AAF Museum in Danville, VA and one at the Fort Snelling Military Museum in Minneapolis, MN (now closed).
References & notes
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to M247 Sergeant York.|
- "M247 Sergeant York". Military-Today.
- "M42 Duster", globalsecurity.org
- "The Red Queen and the Vigilante"
- Andreas Parsch, "General Dynamics MIM-46 Mauler", 2002
- Andreas Parsch, "Ford MIM-72 Chaparral", 2002
- Irene Willhite, "40-mm DIVISION AIR DEFENSE GUN: DIVAD (Sgt. York)", Cold War Times, March 2002, pp. 15–22
- "TOW System History: Project Management", Redstone Arsenal
- It did not fare much better against fixed-wing targets either, see "Chaparral Air Defence Tests", With Our Comrades In Arms, US Army, September/October 1976, pg. 59-60
- Statements by General Louis Wagner, Jr., DIVAD Hearings, Hearings before the Subcommitte on Tactical Warfare of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, 98th Congress, 2nd Session, 1984
- Simon Dunstan and Howard Gerrard, "The Yom Kippur War 1973: The Golan Heights", Osprey Publishing, 2003, pg. 25
- Asher Sharoni and Lawrence Bacon, "Forward Area Air-Ground Defense", Armor, US Army Armor Center, Fort Knox, July/August 1996, pp 15-20
- John Adam, "The Sergeant York Gun: A Massive Misfire", IEEE Spectrum, February 1987
- "M247 Sergeant York DIVAD"
- Anthony Williams, "The Red Queen and Vigilante"
- Gregg Easterbrook, "DIVAD", Atlantic Monthly, October 1982, pp. 29–39
- Thomas McNaugher, "New Weapons, Old Politics: America's Military Procurement Muddle", Brookings Institution Press, 1989, pp. 102-104, ISBN 0-8157-5625-9
- Jane's Armour and Artillery, Volume 11 , pg. 544
- Major Michael Ditton, "The DIVAD Procurement: A Weapon System Case Study", The Army Lawyer, August 1988, pp. 3–9
- Gregg Easterbrook, The Washington Monthly, November 1984
- Rudolph Penner, "Army Air Defense for Forward Areas: Strategies and Costs", U.S. Government Printing Office, 1986
- Bruce van Voost and Amy Wilentz, "No More Time for Sergeant York", Time, 9 September 1985
- Gregg Easterbrook, "York, York, York", The New Republic, 30 December 1985
- "No time for Sergeant", The Nation, September 1985
- "Gunning for Sergeant York", Time, August 1985
- Air Defense Artillery April-June 2005
- Philip Trewhitt, "Armoured Fighting Vehicles", Prospero Books, 1999 (second edition?). ISBN 1-894102-81-9