U.S. M2001 Crusader Self Propelled Howitzer:
The Crusader Self Propelled Howitzer was originally designed for the United States Army as a replacement for the Paladin Self Propelled Howitzer around the beginning of the Twenty-First Century. It was planned for the first production versions to be produced in 2006 and it was planned for the Crusader to enter service in 2008. The prototypes had been already completed and tested when in 2002, the program was canceled. This left the ancient Paladin to soldier on for several more decades. There were several other programs begun for replacement howitzer systems but none of them ever reach even as far as the Crusader program.
The Paladin was still in front line service when the mega-damage revolution and as a an emergency some of those were converted with additional armor. This was an unacceptable solution by most Army leaders and they pressured for permission for new howitzer system to be developed. The problem was that the president and his defense secretary were both against the program. Neither wanted any large scale military expansion. They were able to get support from Congress by pointing out that the design of the existing artillery were over eighty years old and were able to override the President and his defense secretary. A secondary problem was that the United States Military had several new designs in development. As a result, the funds made available for a new howitzer were minimal.
Because of the limited funding, Army leaders looked to use already existing. No programs had advanced as far as the Crusader gun system and it was decided that it would be used as the basis for the new design. Many improvements were made in the design including the use of a fuel cell systems instead of a gas turbine, the use of advanced alloys and composites for the design, and various other minor changes. Even though the Crusader was based on the Crusader program of the early Twenty-First Century, it is virtually a new design. Still, using the original Crusader as a basis enabled large cost savings in development. It also used many components from the M1A5 Tank being developed at the same time to reduce costs. Even though the design was much changed, the name Crusader was retained for the self propelled howitzer.
The program ran into the president again and he did not provide enough funds for large scale production. The army had only enough funds for a small number to be produced. When the administration changed, more funds were given for the production of the howitzers but never enough to replace the converted M109 Paladins in service. There were several other programs which were also considered very important. Only about one quarter of the M109 Howitzers were replaced by the new design. The tactic was to use the Crusaders as the first line of mobile howitzers and back them up with the old M109 Paladin Howitzers.
Military tensions later caused great increases in military budgets but instead of using the Crusader design, it was decided that a new mobile howitzer design would be developed based on the US-M-8 Maverick Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Finally, the remaining M109 Howitzer were taken out of service. The Crusaders remained in front line service while production of the new "Galahad" Self Propelled Howitzer entered production. Because of the Crusader being produced from high strength alloys and composites, they did not suffer greatly from wear and they were handed to the Army Reserve when enough of the replacement self propelled howitzers had entered service. Most of these were still in operational conditional until the coming of the Rifts. It is unknown how many of the Crusader self propelled howitzers survived but some have been found in armories scattered around the United States.
While the alloys and composites are not as tough as those used in later designs, they can withstand far more abuse than previous materials and make the Crusader very hard to destroy. A secondary advantage of the materials is that maintenance is greatly reduced. The original plan for the Crusader was to have a Gas Turbine engine similar to the M1 Abrams tank. A new fuel cell system was being developed for the new Abrams and it was decided that the new engine would be used in the Crusader self propelled howitzer. The system was incredibly fuel efficient and fuel was easier to support and much cheaper due to being derived from water. The fuel cells operate by pulling the electrons off of an H2 molecule, splitting it into 2H+ molecules and 2 electrons. The electrons pass through the "load" (engines, weapons, electronics, etc.) creating current and powering the systems. Meanwhile, the 2H+ molecules pass from the anode to the cathode through the electrolyte. At the other "end", the electrons then recombine with the 2H+ molecules and Oxygen (from the air) and are release as water from the rear of the vehicle. Other advantages of the system include the fact that the engine produces much less heat or pollution than a conventional vehicle. The United States Army had well trained mechanics to work on the system but maintenance was considered a problem with vehicles discovered after the coming of the Rifts. As a result, some have been jury-rigged with diesel engines or small fusion power systems. Recently, several companies have rediscovered the engineering behind the system and this has become less of a problem. The suspension of the Crusader was modified in development and has a greater top speed than the original design. The self propelled howitzer was originally planned with only normal protection against chemical, biological, and radiation threats but was completed with full life support. Sensors are improved compared to the Paladins in service but not equal to those carried on the later Galahad self propelled artillery.
The 155 mm howitzer, which formed the heart of the vehicle, was fundamentally the same as the weapon on the original Crusader design. The barrel is much longer than the weapon mounted on the Paladin giving the weapon a much longer range with ranges up to thirty kilometers with conventional warheads. With rocket propelled rounds, the cannon could reach ranges of up to forty kilometers. The Crusader mounts a special auto-loader system and cooling system which enables the vehicle to fire ten rounds per minute for up to five minutes. After this, the rate of fire needs to be reduced. The rate of fire is even greater than that of the later Galahad although the Galahad can sustain its rate of fire indefinitely. After five minutes, the rate of fire needs to be reduced to four rounds per minute. The cannon is designed to be able to begin firing within fifteen seconds although more normal was around thirty seconds. The self propelled howitzer was designed to carry forty-eight rounds of ammunition along with explosive charges. Along with the Howitzer, a supply vehicle was designed which could carry an additional hundred rounds and could reload the Crusader within twelve minutes. The whole transfer system is automated and the reload process is protected under armor. Initially, the howitzer mounted a fifty caliber machine gun for defense against aircraft and ground troops. Even though it used advanced ramjet ammunition, it was found to not be sufficient to perform its designed role. It was replaced by a liquid propellant in most models with the early howitzers having the weapon refitted and newer howitzers having the liquid propellant mounted during manufacture. Many National Guard models had their weapons replaced by rail guns similar to the rail gun mounted in the SAMAS power armor.
Model Type: M2001 "Crusader"
Vehicle Type: Self Propelled Howitzer
Crew: Three (Driver, Gunner, and Commander).
M.D.C. by Location:
| Tractor Treads (2):||50 each|
|155 mm / 56 Caliber Howitzer Barrel:||80|
| 12.7 mm Heavy Machine Gun (Early Models):||20|
| 8 mm Liquid Propellant Gatling Gun (Replaces Machine-guns):||45|
| USA-M31 Rail Gun (Carried on National Guard Versions)||50|
|Smoke Grenade Launchers (4):||10 each|
| Main Body:||350|
 Depleting the M.D.C. of a tread will immobilize the Howitzer until it is replaced. Replacing a tread will take 1D6x10 minutes by a trained crew (2 replacements are carried on board) or three times as long by the inexperienced. Changing the tread is only advisable when the vehicle is not under attack.
 These are small and difficult targets to strike, requiring the attacker to make a "called shot," but even then the attacker is -4 to strike.
 If all the M.D.C. of the main body is depleted, the vehicle is completely shut down and is unsalvageable.
Ground: Cruising speed on land is 49.7 mph (80 kph) on roads and 37.3 mph (60 kph) off road maximum.
The vehicle is designed to traverse virtually all terrain and can climb at up to a 60% grade although at a much slower speed (About 10% of maximum road speed). It can also climb barriers and ford trenches. The vehicle can also handle side slopes of up to 30%.
Underwater: Can be equipped with snorkel to run underwater down to 15 feet (4.6 meters)
Maximum Range: 400 miles (623.7 km)
Height: 9.5 feet (2.9 meters) to top of turret.
Width: 11.5 feet (3.5 meters)
Length: 24.7 feet (7.5 meters) for main body and 42.3 feet (12.9 meters) with gun forward
Weight: 39.8 tons (36.1 metric tons) combat loaded
Power Source: Fuel Cell System
Cargo Capacity: Minimal storage space in pilots compartment; about three feet (0.9 m) in side dimensions for extra clothing, weapons, and personal items. Three carbines and one hand-held missile launcher with four loads each are stored in a compartment in the crew compartment.
Black Market Cost: 3.2 million for a new or fully operational M2001 Crusader Self Propelled Howitzer. Reduce cost by 250,000 if an early model and increase by 300,000 if equipped with rail guns instead of liquid propellant weapons.
- 155 mm / 56 Caliber Howitzer: Very powerful and long range weapon that is capable of 360 degree rotation and up to 75 degree elevation. The Crusader does not need to plant before firing its howitzer and can fire within 15 seconds. It fires standard artillery shells and is normally fired indirectly on the target but can be fired as direct fire if necessary. The cannon is loaded by a automatic shell loading device, which is fed from a onboard magazine. The magazine is fully automated and keeps stock of the amount and type of rounds still available. It can switch between rounds at will. While the cannon is original, it uses modern Rifts artillery rounds and can use both non rocket assisted and rocket assisted rounds.
- Top Weapon Mount (1): The self propelled howitzer has a cupola to mount a weapon on the top of the turret which is normally controlled by the commander of the howitzer. The weapon is designed for use against troops assaulting the howitzer and against aircraft. Originally the weapon carried was the ancient 12.7 mm Browning M2HB Machine Gun but the weapon was replaced by a variety of different weapons. The grenade launcher was the favorite replacement weapon by many vehicle crews. Weapon mount is designed to be able to be controlled from within the turret.
- 12.7 millimeter Browning M2HB Machine-gun: Designed in the early part of the Twentieth Century and extremely effective until the invention of high strength body armors, this gun was carried on early versions of the Crusader. Special Ram-Jet style rounds, similar to those developed by Wellington after the coming of the Rifts, were developed for the weapon in an attempt to keep the weapon effective. Even with the more powerful rounds, the weapon was still considered of limited effectiveness and was replaced by liquid propellant weapons or an automatic grenade launchers.
- USA-LPG-8-B Liquid Propellant Gatling Gun: Replaced the 12.7 mm Browning machine-gun on virtually all Crusaders. On most howitzers that were in National Guard Armories, the liquid propellant weapons were replaced by rail guns. This weapon is similar to the sub-machine-gun carried on the USA-GPA-01-D. This weapon's primary purpose is use against infantry and other lightly armored targets. The weapon can fire all types of burst available to machine guns except extended bursts. The weapon uses a special liquid propellant which delivers about four times the force of nitro-cellulose propellant and the weapon fires an 8 mm round. Originally, a heavier liquid propellant weapon of 12 mm was planned but it was decided that all weapon sharing the same ammunition would be advantageous.
Maximum Effective Range: 18.6 miles (30 km) for non rocket assisted and 24.9 miles (40 km) for rocket assisted projectiles.
Mega-Damage: By artillery round type (Go to Battlefield Artillery for Rifts for details: Fragmentation 2D4x10, High Explosive 2D6x10, Armor Piercing 3D6x10, Plasma 4D6x10, and has a vast number of other type of rounds as well).
Rate of Fire: 10 rounds per minute (2.5 per melee) for a maximum of 5 minutes (effectively until its ammunition runs out). Can fire at a rate of fire of 4 rounds per minute after that.
Payload: 48 rounds in a automated magazine. Can be loaded from exterior to retain rate of fire. Reloading 1 round costs 1 melee, or 12 minutes for the entire supply.
Maximum Effective Range: 3,000 feet (914.4 meters)
Mega Damage: Single shot does 1D4 and 40 round burst does 5D6.
Rate of Fire: Equal to combined hand to hand attacks of gunner (commander).
Payload: 1,000 rounds (25 bursts).
Maximum Effective Range: 3,000 feet (914 meters)
- Single Shot (Costs 1 attack): 1D6
Ten Round Burst on One Target (Costs 1 attack): 5D6
Ten Round Burst on 1D4 Target (Costs 1 attack): 1D6
Thirty Round Burst on One Target (Costs 1 attack): 1D6x10
Thirty Round Burst on 1D8 Target (Costs 1 attack): 2D6
Payload: 3,000 rounds (100 long bursts)
Maximum Effective Range: 4,000 feet (1,200 meters).
Mega-Damage: A burst of 40 rounds does 1D6x10.
Rate of Fire: Equal to combined hand to hand attacks of gunner (commander).
Payload: 4,000 round magazine for 100 bursts.
Effect: Creates a cloud of smoke 40 ft (12 m) in diameter (see other grenades for their effects)
Maximum Effective Range: 1,200 feet (365 m)
Rate of Fire: Two per melee
Payload: Carries 6 smoke grenades per launcher (24 grenades total).
Sensory equipment is mounted on a retractable mount that can be extended 6.6 feet (2 meters) to extend sensors when hull down. The self propelled howitzer carries all standard equipment of a robot vehicle plus this special equipment:
- Radio/ Video Communications: Long range, directional, has a range of 500 miles with short range directional radio of 5 miles (8 km).
- Datalink transmitters: A powerful battlefield management communications system. Allows the howitzer to use targeting data from scout vehicles for firing the Anti-Tank missiles or Sabot rounds, and to provide targeting data to other vehicles. Bonus varies on the quality of the data being provided, but all data would allow the howitzer to fire over obstacles if the scout vehicle is in the right position. The normal effective battlefield range is 20 miles (32 km).
- Combat Computer/ Targeting Computer: Assist in the tracking of targets and up to eight projectiles can be guided simultaneously.
- Full Life Support: Protects crew, troops, and vehicle from heat and radiation and gives a breathable atmosphere inside the howitzer for up 48 hours in vacuum and three weeks with scrubbers.
- Spotlight: Range: 600 feet (182.9 meters)
- Thermo-Imager: Range: 2,000 ft (609 m). Finds the infrared radiations of things that are warm. Also enables pilot to see in smoke, shadows and darkness.
- Nightvision Optics: Range: 2,000 ft (609 m). Uses light amplification to make a picture. Emits no light but will not work in absolute darkness. System can be dazzled by sudden bright lights but does not physically blind the pilot.
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Writeup by Kitsune (E-Mail Kitsune).
Copyright © 2003, Kitsune. All rights reserved.