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M15 Lion
Production information

BAE Systems


M15 Lion


Infantry fighting vehicle


cR 1.5 million

Technical specifications

9.33 metres


3.66 metres


3.28 metres


34.5 metric tons

Maximum acceleration

100 km/h

Engine Power
  • 2,702 hp (water)
  • 850 hp (land)
Fuel Source

2,016 kW Centipede liquid-cooled hydrogen internal combustion engine

Sensor Systems
  • AN/VSQ-970 Night Vision System
  • AN/VPY-480 AESA Radar
  • AN/VES-560 Lidar
  • AN/VSD-310 Electromagnetic Sensor
  • AN/DSQ-175 STARS
  • Global Positioning System
Targeting systems
  • Optical
  • Night vision (IR and II)
  • Eye-safe laser rangefinder
  • Passive camouflage
  • 2 6-barrelled smoke grenade launchers
  • M58 Striker Active Protection System
  • M59 Warrior Active Protection System
  • AN/VSQ-723 Passive Missile Countermeasures Device
  • Driver
  • Gunner


Year introduced



Infantry fighting vehicle


United Nations Space Command


The M15 Lion is an infantry fighting vehicle produced by BAE Systems, in use with the United Nations Space Command Defence Force.

As with other infantry fighting vehicles, the Lion is designed to transport infantry with armour protection while providing covering fire to suppress enemy troops and armored vehicles. The M15 holds a crew of two: a commander and a gunner; as well as twelve fully-equipped soldiers.


The Lion IFV was developed in 2482 to replace the ageing M224 APC. It was designed as an armoured infantry transport that could destroy the light vehicles and fortifications used by Insurrectionists, and if necessary, serve as a tank-killer. One specific design requirement was that it should be as fast as the then-new M808B Scorpion main battle tank so that they could maintain formations while moving, something which the older M224 armoured personnel carrier could not do, as it had been designed to complement the older M807C Spider.

The Lion showed its worth in the majority of the conflicts of the Insurrection; it proved to be superior to the M224 at providing protection to passengers while moving, and at providing fire support to infantry forces in urban areas. However, the Lion proved to be somewhat vulnerable to RPG and roadside bomb attacks. Casualties, however, were light, the doctrine being to allow the crew to escape at the expense of the vehicle.

With the outbreak of the First Great War, it was found that the Lion's steel-clad Chobham armour proved ineffective against Covenant plasma weapons, and as a result, the UNSC's entire inventory of Lions, Scorpions, and Strikers were upgraded with Titanium-A-clad MITHRIL armour, at great expense. This limited the Lion's and the Striker's deployment until the start of the War of Vengeance, and until then soldiers were forced to travel on foot, by Pelican, or by Warthog.


Power pack and mechanical features

The Lion's engine is 600 horsepower Centipede liquid-cooled hydrogen internal combustion engine. The M15 also features an induced gamma emission hafnium-based auxiliary power unit for providing power to systems other than propulsion.

The M15 is most often fueled with liquid hydrogen, however the engine's design means that it can be fuelled with diesel fuel, kerosene, any grade of motor diesel or petrol, or jet fuel. In order to simplify logistics, the UNSC makes use of hydrogen fuel whenever possible. However, with the use of nanoreagent hydrocarbots, virtually any form of carbon-rich matter can be broken down for fuel (current field manuals actually instruct UNSC servicemen to make use of enemy corpses to provide fuel in the event of a logistics crisis). The Lion features a Graf/Hauptman Solar/Saline Actuator, which will convert up to twelve litres of fresh, brackish or salt water into hydrogen quickly and efficiently, compacting any non-convertible detritus within the water on board and allowing a range of 200 kilometres from just overnight condensation catchments. Fully fueled, the Lion has a range of 600 kilometres.

Pneumatic or hydraulic systems drive almost all of the vehicle's mechanical features. To make the job of maintenance crews easier, all cables, hoses, and mechanical systems are equipped with quick-disconnecting mechanisms. The engine and transmission can be removed and reinstalled in approximately one hour, allowing repairs to the turbocharger and many other components to be done outside the vehicle.

Command, control, and targeting

The Lion's extensive computer support helps soldiers fight the enemy while reducing friendly fire incidents. With a Blue Force Tracking system, each vehicle can track friendly vehicles in the field as well as detected enemies.

The Lion makes use of a wide variety of sensors for location finding and target acquisition. The driver and gunner make use of the AN/VSQ-970 Night Vision System, which combines both infrared and image intensifying systems to provide a superior view, the AN/VPY-480 AESA Radar, the AN/VES-560 Lidar, a Global Positioning System for location finding, and the AN/VSD-310 Electromagnetic Sensor, a magnetic anomaly detector which makes use of a magnetometer to detect ferrous metals used in military vehicles. The aiming system makes use of a 7x optical scope, the night vision system, and the lidar array to acquire a target lock on enemy vehicles. The vehicle is fully connected to the UNSC Battle Network. Lions can also be linked to a company-level networked AN/DSQ-175 STARS system for battlefield reconnaissance and target designation. All viewports and cameras feature self-polarisation systems to protect against blinding lasers or bright flashes.

The M15 communicates with other units with the use of the AN/VRC-671 Single Channel Ground and Airbourne Radio System, a combat-net radio which makes use of 25 kHz channels in the VHF FM band, from 40 to approximately 99 MHz. It has single-frequency and frequency hopping modes. The frequency-hopping mode hops 1000 times a second, and can be used with a variety of fill devices. The M15's antenna consists of a hollow tube of bullet and blastproof glass filled with low pressure plasma, and is entirely transparent to radar when not in use (metal antennas have large radar cross-sections).

Camouflage and concealment

The Lion is painted in an electrochromic Chemical Agent Resistant Coating that allows it to switch between two camouflage patterns at will. One is a three-colour pattern designed for use in temperate areas, jungles, and deserts, similar to the infantry's Tri-Environment Pattern. The second is a two-colour arctic camouflage scheme. The paint provides protection against chemical and biological weapons and is engineered to be easily decontaminated after exposure to chemical warfare and biological warfare agents. The paint is also resistant to damage and removal by decontaminating solutions.

The M15 is fitted with two six-barrelled smoke grenade launchers. These can create a thick smoke that blocks both vision and thermal imaging, and can also be armed with chaff to confuse radar-guided weapons, or miniature decoys, which carry a single high-power laser emitter and ultraviolet diode designed to confuse or outright blind LIDAR and ultraviolet missile sensors.

To reduce its large radar cross-section, the Lion is coated with iron ball paint, which consists of neoprene polymer sheets with tiny ferrite grains coated with carbonyl iron embedded in the polymer matrix. Radar waves induce molecular oscillations from the alternating magnetic field in this paint, which leads to conversion of the radar energy into heat. The heat is then transferred to the vehicle and dissipated. This reduces the vehicle's radar cross-section by ten decibels. It is capable of withstanding combat conditions, such as taking small arms fire or plasma attack, and has a long, maintenance free service life. This also reduces the chances of detection by day/night viewers and television systems and seekers by thirty percent, infrared seekers by two- to three-fold, radar by six-fold, and reduces the thermal signature to near-background levels.

Active protection system

In addition to advanced armour, Lions are equipped with an AN/VSQ-723 Passive Missile Countermeasures Device that can impede the function of the guidance systems of missiles by providing confusing signals to "dazzle" the missile and throw it off course. Two infrared lights, one on each side of the main gun, continuously emit coded pulsed-infrared jamming when an incoming infrared- or laser-guided ATGM has been detected. It can also emit radio jamming to separate a radio-guided SACLOS missile from its controller. The system has a 360 degree field of view, and is linked to the smoke grenade dischargers for added effectiveness.

The M15 is also equipped with an M58 Striker Active Protection System, the main elements of which are combined sensor-countermeasure modules arranged all around the vehicle. A processor determines the type and the trajectory of the approaching target. Subsequently, a countermeasure module close to the calculated impact point is activated. This countermeasure fires a directed energy beam, destroying or disrupting the approaching threat so that it cannot penetrate the vehicle. The arrangement of sensors and countermeasures provides a hemispherical protection. The overlapping sectors of the sensor-countermeasure modules enable the system to defeat multiple attacks. Due to the short reaction time of approximately 560 microseconds threats can be eliminated at ranges ranging from three kilometres to approximately ten metres. Since the M58 creates a non-fragmenting strong directed energy beam, collateral damage to nearby troops or civilians is minimised. It is somewhat less effective against plasma weapons, but is capable of reducing their effectiveness by disrupting the flight path or projectile. The M58's limited intelligence allow vehicles to use them in concert as a defensive phalanx providing full protection, and allows it to distinguish between friendly ammunition and enemy ordnance. The Lion is also equipped with anti-mine detecting software and electronics to help increase safety while in use.

Should both of these fail, the M15 is equipped with the M59 Warrior Active Protection System, which uses pulses of electrical energy to repel rockets, missiles, shrapnel and other ammunition that might damage the vehicle. Supercapacitors, made from a thin, cloth-like, flexible material, form a lining beneath the Lion's armour that essentially turns the vehicle into a giant battery pack. When incoming fire is detected as having passed through the Striker APS net without being destroyed, the energy stored in the supercapacitors is rapidly dumped onto the metal plating on the outside of the vehicle, producing a strong electromagnetic field. This produces a momentary "force field", capable of repelling the incoming rounds and projectiles. Although it lasts for only a fraction of a second, missiles, shaped-charged jets, explosively-formed penetrators, and even plasma rounds simply bounce away. The supercapacitors can then be rapidly recharged ready for another attack. The process requires only small amounts of energy.


The M15 was originally armoured with three spaced laminate layers of the UNSC's fiftieth-generation Chobham armour, clad with high-hardness steel. This fulfilled the original specification of providing all-round protection from small arms ammunition, armour-piercing rounds up to the 30mm calibre, and artillery fragments from 175mm shells. However, this system proved ineffective against Covenant plasma weapons, and as a result, the UNSC's entire inventory of Lions were upgraded with Titanium-A-clad MITHRIL armour, at great expense.

MITHRIL armour makes use of layered carbon nanotube ceramics, combined with captured Covenant technology, resulting in an incredibly tough ceramic that was poetically christened MITHRIL for its great strength. MITHRIL armour is approximately one hundred times as strong as a steel plate of equal weight. Due to the extreme hardness of the ceramics used, they offer superior resistance against plasma weapons and they shatter even KE penetrators. The (pulverised) ceramic also strongly abrades any penetrator. Against lighter projectiles the hardness of the tiles causes a "shatter gap" effect: a higher velocity will, within a certain velocity range (the "gap"), not lead to a deeper penetration but destroy the projectile itself instead. Because the ceramic is so brittle, the entrance channel of a plasma shot is not smooth — as it would be when penetrating a metal — but ragged, causing extreme asymmetric pressures which disturb the geometry of the shot, on which its penetrative capabilities are critically dependent as its mass is relatively low. This initiates a vicious circle as the disturbed blast of plasma causes still greater irregularities in the ceramic, until in the end it is defeated. The MITHRIL plate optimises this effect as tiles made with them have a layered internal structure conducive to it, causing "crack deflection". This mechanism using the blast's own energy against it, has caused some to compare the effects of MITHRIL to those of reactive armour. The armour matrix is backed by a Titanium-A plate, both to reinforce the ceramic tiles from behind and to prevent deformation of the metal matrix by a kinetic impact. This assembly is again attached to elastic layers. These absorb impacts somewhat, but their main function is to prolong the service life of the composite matrix by protecting it against the extreme vibrations caused by high-velocity impacts. Several assemblies can be stacked, depending on the available space; this way the armour can be made of a modular nature, adaptable to the tactical situation. Graphite and spall liners provide defence against spalling. Tests using captured Covenant weapons revealed that it would take multiple heavy fire at close range from even Wraith plasma mortars to blast through the armour. Even the UNSC's best current M931B2 "Javelin" APFSDS rounds from Scorpion tanks have been unable to penetrate the front armour of MITHRIL-equipped Lions in tests.

MITHRIL-armoured Lions can withstand a 120mm sabot round to the front armour (though the armour is compromised almost immediately), a single hit from a Wraith plasma mortar, and multiple impacts from plasma, ballistic, and fuel rod weapons. The Lion's outer Titanium-A armour is also sheathed with steel, which is covered in holes. This doubles the ballistic performance of the armour while halving its weight: When a bullet or shrapnel fragment hits, it is always near to the edge of a hole. This causes the bullet to topple over, turning it from a sharp projectile to a blunt fragment which is easier to stop. This lends outstanding ballistic resistance.

Additional explosive and non-explosive reactive armour packages are also available, including Shocker Non-Explosive Electrically-Reactive Armour. This consists of a twenty-by-twenty centimetre plate composed of two charged titanium plates sandwiching a an insulating rubber layer, coated with plastic. Should a shaped-charge jet, plasma shot, or KE penetrator break through the plate, it completes the electrical circuit and a high-voltage charge vaporises or disrupts the penetrator. Also available is Blaster Explosive Reactive Armour, which makes use of an explosion to destroy or disrupt a penetrator or shaped-charge jet. Another add-on package available is Prism Cage Armour, which is often fitted over the rear engine vents and disrupts a shaped-charge warhead by either crushing it, preventing optimal detonation from occurring, or by damaging the fuzing mechanism, preventing detonation. It also reduces the effectiveness of tandem charge HEAT weapons, and disrupts plasma weaponry. To reduce its large radar cross-section, Prism armour is coated with iron ball paint, which consists of neoprene polymer sheets with tiny ferrite grains coated with carbonyl iron embedded in the polymer matrix. Radar waves induce molecular oscillations from the alternating magnetic field in this paint, which leads to conversion of the radar energy into heat. The heat is then transferred to the vehicle and dissipated.

The M15 also incorporates an automatic fire-extinguishing system with sensors in the engine and troop compartments that activate one or more halon fire bottles, which can also be activated by the driver, a v-shaped hull to reflect the blast of landmines away from the crew compartment, and a regenerative CBRN protection system that shields the vehicle and crew against chemical, biological, radioactive, and electromagnetic attack for up to two months.


The primary armament of the Lion is an M352 30mm autocannon. The M353 is an externally powered, chain-driven, single-barrel weapon which may be fired in semi-automatic or automatic modes. It is fed by a metallic link belt and has dual-feed capability. The gun can destroy lightly armoured vehicles and aerial targets (such as slow-flying aircraft and VTOLs). It can also suppress exposed troops, dug-in enemy positions, and occupied built-up areas. The standard rate of fire is 200 rounds per minute. The weapon has an effective range of 5000 metres, depending on the type of ammunition used. An electric motor, positioned in the receiver to drive the chain and dual-feed system, uses sprockets and extractor grooves to feed, load, fire, extract, and eject rounds. A system of clutches provides for an alternate sprocket to engage and thus allows the gunner to switch between armour piercing and high explosive rounds.

The M352 makes use of electrothermal-chemical technology to increase the accuracy and muzzle energy of the gun by improving the predictability and rate of expansion of propellants inside the barrel with the use of plasma. A flashboard large-area emitter (FLARE) runs in several parallel strings to provide a large area of plasma or ultraviolet radiation to ignite the propellant and uses the breakdown and vapourisation of gaps of diamonds to produce the required plasma. These parallel strings are mounted in tubes and oriented to have their gaps azimuthal to the tube's axis. FLARE initiators can ignite propellants through the release of plasma, or even through the use of ultraviolet heat radiation alone. The improves the muzzle velocity of the gun by nearly 400% and results in a shell fired at 3,600 metres per second.

The M352 fires a two types of ammunition: The M714 Armour-Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding Sabot is a heavy kinetic energy penetrator. This anti-vehicle round is essentially a dart, featuring a solid tungsten alloy penetrating head which is forged via a special process to make it self-sharpening, which gives it excellent performance against all types of light vehicle armour. The rear of the penetrator features a core filled with powdered ziconium; on contact with air, the heated zirconium ignites, killing the enemy vehicle crew through heat and possibly igniting ammunition and fuel. The round has a ballistic cap, a tracer, and five tail fins made of aluminium; it also has a long aluminium sabot, which holds the sub-calibre round in place in the barrel, that breaks off into five "petals" as the round leaves the gun tube. It can destroy light armoured vehicles, self-propelled artillery, and aerial targets, which includes VTOLs and slow-moving fixed-wing aircraft. The second round available is the M715 High Explosive-Incendiary, which is equipped with a tracer and a self destruct. This is a "combined effects" round which makes use of high explosives to blast a path for the penetrator. The initial collision with the target ignites an incendiary material in the tip, triggering the detonation of a high explosive charge. A second incendiary charge of ziconium powder will also ignite. This burns at a very high temperature, is not easily extinguished, and can last for 10 minutes. The remaining element of the round is a tungsten carbide penetrator. This has a large amount of kinetic energy and will penetrate armour as solid-cored armour piercing shot would. This will take some of the incendiary material through the armour and into the target. The shell can either explode on target or, if the target has moved out of the line of the projectile, explode to cause area damage: A sensor and targeting computer in the rear of the shell allows the projectile to detonate prematurely should it be near the but not on collision course with the target, causing shrapnel and incendiary damage. The HEI can destroy unarmoured vehicles and VTOLs and suppress anti-tank missile positions and enemy squads out to a maximum effective range of 5000 meters.

The secondary weapon is a coaxial mount that provides the operator with the ability to acquire and engage targets while inside the vehicle, protected by its armour. The coaxial gun is fired by the tank commander by pressing a trigger on the back left of the controller system, and aimed using the same computer fire control system used for the main gun. It can be equipped with an M247T Medium Machine Gun, an M245 machine gun, or an MG460 Automatic Grenade Launcher.

M15 Lions are also equipped with an M52 Missile Turret, a triple-barrelled launcher firing the same 102mm missiles as the M19 Surface-to-Surface Missile Launcher for engaging enemy tanks. The M52 can carry nine missiles: Three stored in the tubes, ready to fire, and a further six stored in a magazine inside the vehicle. A reload cycle takes four seconds. The missiles are either FGM-259 Longbow HEAT, or FGM-260 Spear coilgun missiles. Once depleted, the magazine can be reloaded by the vehicle crew. A total of eighteen missiles are carried.

Crew accommodation

The Lion can carry the standard twelve-man infantry squad into combat with all their equipment. Passenger access is through a single electric ram powered door at the rear of the hull. The Lion also carries two crewmen: The commander, who acts as the driver and primary gunner, and the secondary gunner, who operates the secondary turret. In extreme cases, the Lion can be operated by one man, though at severely reduced battlefield effectiveness.

Standard crew apparel is the Mounted Soldier System. This consists of a heads-up display, cordless communications, micro-climatic cooling, and force protection items. These subsystems provide platform commanders and vehicle crew members increased effectiveness on the network-centric battlefield in areas of command and control, situational awareness, communications, and force protection. The HUD shows vehicle situational awareness information and sensors, and can also control video signals from various sources. The integration supports up to four crewmen per platform. The Cordless Communications provide the vehicle's crew with a wireless connection capability to the vehicle's intercom and radios. It allows the crew to communicate by voice over the vehicle's intercom system when mounted or dismounted within 500 meters of their platform. The system automatically detects when a crewman becomes disconnected from the intercom system and allows the disconnected crewman to continue to have voice communication with the crew and access to the platform's tactical net radios. Soldier safety is enhanced with the flame-resistant Combat Vehicle Crewman Coverall, flame-resistant moisture wicking undergarments, ballistic and laser eye protection, and flame-resistant hand, face, and foot protection.

The crew and passenger compartments are physically separated from the turret, protecting the crew from ammunition cook-off, and all tasks are done by wire. The compartments also contain Flameless Ration Heaters, battery-operated electric heating devices used to warm rations before eating. When in use, an MRE pack is placed in a small compartment in the FRH which is then sealed. At that point, it is warmed by microwave heating for up to thirty seconds before the pack is removed, opened and eaten. Heating times are adjustable and ideal heating times are printed on the side of every MRE pack. The FRH's compartment is fully waterproofed and can be used to heat water for beverages.

Strategic and operational mobility

An entire company's-worth of combat-ready Lions can be deployed by a single C-350 Cargo Transport, and can then be air-lifted to the battlefield by D-77 Pelican dropships. These can deploy one fully armed and loaded M15 plus crew and passengers straight into combat. Ground assault ships may carry up to an entire division's complement of Lions.

The Lion is also transportable by truck, namely the M2181 Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET). The HET can operate on motorways, secondary roads, and cross-country. The HET also accommodates the vehicle crewmen.

Tactical mobility

The Lion is highly capable in cross-country open terrain, in accordance with one of the main design objectives of keeping pace with the M808B Scorpion main battle tank. A hydraulic suspension allows the vehicle to raise its tracks to change its elevation.

To steer, the driver makes use of an ergonomic control console that also carries his weapon controls. Inspired the the control scheme for popular video game consoles, the controller features digital buttons, two analogue triggers (firing the main gun and the coaxial weapon), two analogue sticks for steering, and a digital D-pad which allows the driver to change gear. Four coloured buttons on the right side of the console allow the driver to toggle between ammunition types for the main gun.

The Lion is amphibious, and can "swim" across rivers and even in stormy oceans with the use of two propellers for up to fifty kilometres. While engaged in amphibious operations, the maximum speed is approximately fifty kilometres an hour.


See Also