AZTEC: The Mexican Army’s
Aero-tanque para Combate del Alcance extremo, Modelo 2297 “General David Héctor Ledesma Cuadra”
A cutting-edge, indigenous Mexican hovertank design, partly replacing the LkPz-VIII in that nation’s inventory (along with the Argentinean ATAB-2), the Aero-tanque para Combate del Alcance extremo, Modelo 2297 is a specialist hovertank design optimized for beyond visual range combat. More commonly known outside of the Mexican and Argentinean sphere by the it’s American/Brazilian military codename, “AZTEC,” the design is quite effective, though its overall expense (especially its extremely sophisticated ECM and ECCM suite) has limited its international sales and its widespread fielding among Mexico’s armored forces.
Senior Instructor Juan Gonzalez O’Callahan took care to keep his innocuous gray coveralls impeccably starched and pressed, as befit a former officer of the 4ro Regimiento de Caballería Blindados “Héroes del Batalla de Colinas Hollywood,” el Ejército Méxicano. His steps were precise, his black leather boots glossed and polished to a mirrored finish.
The Inca trainees were a rather sharp contrast, slouching with hostile eyes, their shabby uniforms unkempt. Gonzalez did his best to hide his own contempt for the Indíos, with their ridiculously contrived culture, peasant officers, and institutional hatred of all things new since the day Pizarro landed.
It was, however, a peculiar and selective hatred. “Comrades, today we begin our hands-on training with the Aero-tanque 97,” The contempt in their gazes directed at him did not extend to the row of sleek hovertanks behind him. The Incas’ skepticism concerning the new Mexican tanks had faded rapidly, once the technical specifications had been presented to them. The Aero-tanque para Combate del Alcance extremo, Modelo 2297 “General David Héctor Ledesma Cuadra”was a specialized fighter, but in its element, it was the equal of anything fielded by the hated Brazilians. Perhaps more importantly, as far as the Inca soldiers were concerned, it possessed the lines of a racer, stylish in the extreme for what it was.
Crew: 3 (Driver, Direct Fire/Defensive Systems Gunner,
Commander/BVR Weapons Gunner)
Loaded: 39,000 kg
Other Faces: 35
7cm Mass Driver Cannon in remote overhead mount
Coaxial Type-21 Plasma Gun
Dual Estoque Anti-Tank Missile Launcher
Dual Garra del Águila Surface to Air Missile Launcher
Dual 4.5mm Gauss Anti-Missile & Anti-Personnel Point Defenses
Six Mangosta Anti-Missile Decoys
60 rounds 7cm Mass Driver Ammunition
500 Type 21 Plaser Cells
2 x 3500 round 4.5mm Gauss Magazines
Twelve Estoque ATGMs
Six Garra del Águila SAMs
Sensor Bonus: +3
Control Bonus: +3
Like a number of other Earth nations, Mexico was faced with the need to replace its existing fleet of Luftkissenpanzer-VIIIs in the 2290s, as the design faced block obsolescence. Mexico’s replacement program began a decade earlier, in the 2280s, but was troubled for years by a lack of clarity on actual operational requirements for a next generation hovertank and the influence of former general officers who riddle the Mexican defense industry and policitcal structure and who interjected themselves in the project with a degree of influence that would be considered inappropriate in most other developed nations.
Consequently, development moved forward in a rather slow and aimless fashion, further complicated by the Mexican government’s announced decision to purchase the Argentinean ATAB-2 hovertank when that design became available for export. Funding continued for a new indigenous hovertank design after this decision, but conflicting guidance was provided as to how this Mexican design would fit into the Mexican armored vehicle fleet alongside the ATAB-2.
By 2290, a substantial amount of money had been spent on the project, without a clear finalized form being decided on. The project was sacrosanct, in terms of budget, as the military-dominated Mexican parliament considered the development of a modern, Mexican, hovertank to be a national imperative. Attempts by the military to cancel the project (arguing that the ATAB-2 voided out the need for the program) had negative implications for the careers of the officers involved.
The program was revitalized by the assignment of Coronel Enrique Maria Gutierrez Lopez as project director in late 2290. Colonel Gutierrez was a veteran commander of Mexican armored units, and brought a personal vision to the project that was officially lacking. With the apparent protection of one or more very senior patrons on the General Staff, he set about working the project into a finalized form. By 2295, mockups and computer models had developed into fully equipped test vehicles, and by 2296 the new hovertank design was ready for troop trials with units in the Mexico City area.
The resulting design was a highly capable, albeit specialized, vehicle, conceived of by Colonel Gutierrez as a “hover interceptor,” and described by many as a tank destroyer rather than a true tank (though this is a rather precise and hyperrefined definition). Optimized for beyond visual range combat, Colonel Gutierrez’s tank was designed to serve as a complement to the ATAB-2, and was, in many ways, a main battle tank acting as a light tank. The most notable feature of the new hovertank was its electronic warfare suite and sensor package, both of which combined to raise its price to very high levels.
The finalized design was formally accepted for service on 5 May 2297 as the Aero-tanque para Combate del Alcance extremo, Modelo 2297 “General David Héctor Ledesma Cuadra” (Long-Range Hover Tank, Model 2297), being named for one of the more successful Mexican armored commanders of the 3rd Mexican-American War at the end of the 21st Century. Production began immediately, but at a low rate, owing to the cost of the design.
The AZTEC is fairly conventional in layout for 24th Century hovertanks. The crew compartment, accommodating the three-man crew, is located forward. The driver is seated centrally. The vehicle commander, also responsible for launch of the vehicle’s Estoque missiles, is seated to his left. The vehicle gunner is located to the driver’s rear. The vehicle originally as to seat all three crewmembers in line abreast, but the inclusion of a second, forward-firing anti-missile system occupied the space formerly used for the gunner’s seat.
The vehicle’s casemate turret is slightly offset to the right side of the hull. The turret is a complex design and filled with equipment, containing the primary direct fire weapon, a short-barreled 7cm mass driver cannon, as well as a coaxial Type 21 plasma gun, the two surface to air missile launchers, with one of the two 4.5mm anti-missile defense systems located atop the turret allowing for a 360o engagement envelope (the forward mounted 4.5mm PDS can only engage within the front 60o arc of the vehicle). The vehicle only carries sixty rounds for the mass driver cannon, all armor-piercing ammunition feeding from a single magazine, a limitation necessitated by the large missile load out carried by the design. The Mexican designers did not feel this was a severe limitation, as the mass driver is deemed primarily as a close in defense measure, and the vehicle also carries a Type 21 plasma gun coaxial to deal with infantry and light enemy vehicles.
The two launch tubes for Estoque missiles are located to the left of the turret, each feeding from a six missile magazine. This location of the launch tubes imposes a no-fire zone if the turret is slewed 80-100o to the left, as the MDC barrel overhangs the launch tubes. However, it also allows the vehicle commander to access and manually trouble shoot the two launchers from within the vehicle, if need be.
The AZTEC’s 1.9MW MHD turbine is located to the vehicle rear, along with associated turbofans and fuel tanks. The six Mangosta are mounted atop the engine deck at a slight upward slant. The launch tubes for the decoys are canted outward to fire forward and avoid the turret. There has been conflicting reports concerning the effectiveness of the Mangosta decoy, though the most telling commentary may be that it is scheduled to be replaced by an upgraded Mangosta II design when the Block II improvements to the hovertank are implemented in 2305.
One glaring omission from the AZTEC for its mission of a long-range dueler is the lack of an onboard UAV system, either in the form of a tethered design like the American Whisperdrone, or in a more autonomous format. The addition of such a system is another planned Block II upgrade. It is rumored that Coronel Gutierrez was personally opposed to the addition of such a system, personally feeling that the design would benefit more from off-board UAV data feed rather than an integral system. The ongoing development problems and cost overruns with the originally planned UAV system for the design may also have been a central issue in the omission of such from the current AZTEC.
The AZTEC began fielding with Mexican forces in 2297, but low production rates meant that it was not until mid-2298 that the first battalion-strength unit was declared operational. Production remains meager at present, due to the extreme cost of the AZTEC’s electronics, with approximately one battalion-sized unit equipped in 2299, 2300, 2301, and 2303 (another battalion was planned for 2302, but production of export-versions of the AZTEC for the Inca Republic interfered with this).
The Mexican Army units equipped with the AZTEC are all clustered in and around the Mexico City area, where they are safer from American intelligence than if they were deployed along the border with that nation. In the event of conflict they would be part of the reserves moved to the American or Texan border. To date Mexican AZTECs have seen no combat.
The cost and somewhat specialized role of the vehicle has limited its export. A variant with less sophisticated electronic warfare and sensor systems was developed, however, for export to the Inca Republic. The Incas were initially eager to acquire the new tank, purchasing 40 of the export variants in 2301. Internal shifts in Inca politics, however, made improved ties with Mexico less acceptable, and planned procurement in 2303 was terminated unexpectedly, leaving a single battalion in Incan service for the time being.
The other export customer to date, the Indian state of Bengal, received two battalions plus training vehicles (100 vehicles total) in 2302, with operational units being fielded later in that year. The Bengali version uses the same reduced capability electronic warfare suite as the Inca Republic’s vehicles, but have been optimized for littoral and anti-shipping operations. Negotiations are underway for additional vehicles for terrestrial forces, but nothing has been concluded at this time.
The Mexican Army briefly invested time into developing a personnel carrier based on the AZTEC chassis that would accommodate a small, four-man, fire team in addition to the standard turret. Funding for this vehicle has not been forthcoming, however, and it has not been developed beyond a small number of prototypes.
The Inca and Bengali versions of the AZTEC are similar, with the following differences from the standard Mexican vehicle:
Sensor Bonus: +2
Rangefinder/Fire Control Bonus: +2
Cost: Lv750,000 (850,000 for the Bengali version)
The Bengali vehicle includes some additional features for littoral operations, such as a modified skirt/hull arrangement, emergency egress equipment, and salt-water resistant coating on certain vulnerable components.
CM-70 7cm Mass Driver Cannon
A short-range mass driver intended purely for anti-armor work, the CM-70 is very much a secondary weapon on the AZTEC. It is potent within 1500 meter, though outranged by other modern mass drivers equipping current generation hovertanks.
70mm Mass Driver Cannon
Tipo 1 4.5mm Gauss Point Defense System
This is an adaptation of the standard Mexican CASA-14 assault rifle, suitably scaled up to support a significantly increased rate of fire. It fires the same 4.5mm ESA-standard flechette round as that weapon.
Type: 4.5mm Gauss Point Defense System
Tipo 21 Fuzil de Alta Enérgia para Blindados
This is the standard Type 21 Plasma Gun arranged in a coaxial mount for use on the AZTEC and feeding from a 500 round hopper. Statistics are identical to the basic weapon, except that rate of fire has been increased to 7.
Garra del Águila Short-Ranged Surface to Air Missile
A modern surface to air missile of fairly typical capabilities, the Garra del Águila (Eagle Talon) missile is standard on the AZTEC and is also used by Mexican forces as a MANPADS SAM system. In either format, the missile launcher includes information networking capabilities to allow it to take off board aiming cues from other friendly forces and other customary current generation capabilities.
Type: Short Range Air Defense Missile