Don’t write off the tank - drones can't do everything

Discussion in 'Military History' started by pmaitra, Mar 8, 2013.

  1. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Don’t write off the tank - drones can't do everything

    Armoured vehicles are going out of fashion - witness the loss of the Desert Rats' tanks - but they are still very effective weapons of war

    In this age of the drone, when the enemy can be engaged by the click of a mouse from an air-conditioned bunker thousands of miles away, it is hardly surprising that the obituaries are being readied for the battlefield tank.

    Rather than having to rely on an ironclad behemoth to drive the foe from his entrenched position, today’s commanders find that it is far easier – and far less risky – to launch a Hellfire missile to achieve the same objective.

    The last time Britain used its formidable array of battle tanks in anger was 10 years ago, when around 120 63-ton Challenger 2s took part in the invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Having achieved their goal of securing and holding Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, they were soon removed from front-line operations and returned to their bases in Germany and the Salisbury Plain, where the majority were mothballed, as it soon became clear Whitehall had no appetite for similar military adventures.

    The Coalition’s dislike for conventional weaponry was confirmed by the 40 per cent reduction in the number of tanks it ordered as part of the controversial Strategic Defence and Security Review. It was a direct result of these cuts that the Ministry of Defence this week announced that tank units, such as the legendary Desert Rats, or 7th Armoured Brigade to give it its formal title, will be stripped of their heavy armour role.

    Having made good use of tanks to defeat Rommel in North Africa during the Second World War, and more recently during the liberation of Kuwait in the first Gulf war in 1991, the current generation of Desert Rats will find themselves confined to infantry duties when they are deployed to Afghanistan this year.

    While senior officers insist that, with more than 170 battle tanks still at their disposal, they retain the ability to deploy the same level of firepower used during both Gulf wars, it seems increasingly as though the glory days of tank warfare are over.

    Modern tanks certainly do not engender the terror they inspired when the first British Mark 1 models appeared on the battlefield during the Somme offensive in mid-September 1916. The 36 prototypes, fitted with machine guns or six-pounder cannon, terrified the German infantry to the extent that the British made one of their few dramatic advances of the war, before it was brought to an abrupt halt when the majority of the armoured monsters conked out, or got stuck in the mud.

    But the tank had made an impressive impact, and by the end of the First World War nearly 10,000 had been manufactured, since both sides in the conflict hoped the fearsome new weapon might give them the decisive advantage. It was during the Second World War, though, that the tank came into its own, dominating the landscape of battle. A quarter of a million were used in the conflict, though British tanks were often at a disadvantage when pitted against the faster and better protected German Panthers and Tigers. They were also vulnerable to well-directed anti-tank weapons. During the Siege of Tobruk, the Desert Rats lost 113 of their 141 vehicles.

    The military obsession with tanks continued well into the Cold War, and at its height Nato commanders had an estimated 30,000 at their disposal. Britain’s contribution amounted to some 2,000 tanks which, though they never saw action, made a vital contribution to the technology. The 51-ton Centurion, Britain’s first post-war tank, was used to great effect by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1970. Meanwhile, its successor, the 55-ton Chieftain, featured prominently during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, with the Iranians making good use of British tanks bought during the Shah’s reign.

    While the end of the Cold War prompted many experts to predict the tank’s demise, it has refused to bow out gracefully. Russian T-72s spearheaded Moscow’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, while Israel regularly deploys Merkavars – loosely based on the Chieftain – during incursions into Gaza and Lebanon.

    In our casualty-averse age, the tank is far from an ideal weapon, especially in densely populated areas, where attack helicopters and drones are more effective in targeting the enemy. Even so, there are circumstances – such as if military action were required to remove another rogue dictator – where the armoured, tracked fighting vehicle could be vital. In which case, to paraphrase Mark Twain, we might find reports the tank has no further role to play on the battlefield to have been greatly exaggerated.

    Source: Don’t write off the tank - drones can't do everything - Telegraph
     
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  3. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    Urban Warfare Tank.

    Urban Warfare Tank.
    [​IMG]
     
  4. Damian

    Damian Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    Latest US Army analisis says that again and again they were making the same mistake forgeting all lessons learned from previous conflicts, that without a tank, you can't efficently fight in most cases, and your casualties increase.

    I posted this analisis in other thread, among some other.

    For example Canadian Army made a simulation when one of their formations had M1A2 tanks and the other had lightweight wheeled fire support vehicles. Each formation had to accomplish the same tasks. Effects were interesting, while M1A2's always perfectly performed all tasks with no or minimal losses, lighweight fire support vehicles, even if acomplished their tasks, have so many losses, that were combat ineffective.

    Recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan also showed potential of tanks, but also nececity to first prepare them to perform different tasks when fighting with insurgent forces, and to prepare two different training methods and tactics, one for conventional and one for assymetric conflicts.

    Also there are some other conclusions, for example in Vietnam Americans discovered that tanks can be efficently used in jungles, and in Afghanistan that tanks can be used efficently in mountains as in Iraq they could be used efficently in cities.

    As I said, there are two problems that need to be solved, proper preparation of vehicles, and use of proper tactics.

    The other problems like vehicles weight, size or economic concerns can be solved through use of new materials, new technology solutions and new designs of these vehicles.

    In fact tanks are continously evolving, from a vehicles based on dedicated platforms to vehicles based on modular, multipurpose platforms that will serve as a basis for other heavy weight vehicles.

    The fact is that it is also more a problem of some strange lobby that is not nececary fighting with a tank as vehicle concept, but with it's name, they just don't like that people call it "tank", and try to rename it in to some new, tacticool name, like direct fire support vehicle, mounted combat system or such bollocks. But technically, such vehicle are still light tanks or main battle tanks.
     
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  5. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    @Damian, I was not aware of tanks being used by the US Army in Afghanistan. The USSR did, along with the DRA Army.
     
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  6. Damian

    Damian Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    No, US Army is not using tanks in Afghanistan, but USMC is using one tank company and USMC is sharing experiences with US Army. Also US Army is sharing such experiences with Canada and Denmark that are using tanks in Afghanistan.

    Also one more thing, dedicated anti tank weapons, are not so dangerous for modern tanks that have modern protection, well trained crews and are properly used as a part of combined arms units.

    The bigger problem are IED's, even with addon armor no vehicle will withstand a huge IED for example that that weights 100kg's. But even here we can se some developments. For example US Army within it's deep modernization program, named ECP (Engineering Change Proposal) for M1 tanks, besides modernizing tanks armor, want also integrate CREW3 active protection system designed to jam IED's, probably also Quick Kill active protection system will be integrated when ready, to more efficently counter RPG's, ATGM's and projectiles fired from tank guns.

    So we can actually see evolution towards layered protection against different threats.

    And this does not benefits tanks only, but later such solutions can be, and mostly are, integrated with other platforms.
     
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  7. JBH22

    JBH22 Senior Member Senior Member

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    Leopard and M1A2 are deployed in A-stan.
    USSR used the T-62/T-55 in A-stan though not successfully because it was a mountainous terrain, there is a good book by W.Lester Grau "how a superpower fought and lost in Astan" it gives good insight how Russians used armoured vehicles in the 10 year war.
     
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  8. Damian

    Damian Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    USMC use in Afghanistan M1A1FEP, not M1A2's that are not even in US Army or ARNG inventory as all manufactured M1A2's were long time ago modernized to much newer M1A2SEP standard.

    As for USSR, Americans analized tactics used by soviets, and conclusion was that Soviets fail in using tanks were tactics, they used tanks more like a pillboxes that can move. For example during ambushes, their tanks instead of manouver and cooperate with infantry to destroy or force to withdraw enemy, were just standing and firing... somewhere. NATO use tanks in a different way, they use manouver, cooperation, and these tactics are far more successfull.
     
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  9. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    As long as your feet on the ground you need a platform to support Infantry, Which is tough enough to take massive punishment yet can give hell lot of firepower..

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    Nice to see tanks falling back to support role rather than being thought of a plateforms performing main role...
    This way one day drones of take their support role (appros pos the heading of the thread)

    The way skirmishes and conflicts are being waged across the world, say Afghanistan, Libiya, Syria, and in other urban ghettoes or restricted spaces tanks have reduced in their roles to exploit protction and firepower.

    Mobility has gone and along with that their main roles. Maneuovre has been taken over by hepters and drones.

    Tanks have been reduced to the roles of moving pill boxes having a gun.....
    @Damian

    Tanks have no future.
     
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  11. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Tanks are used as spears also as Shields same as Infantry..
     
  12. DivineHeretic

    DivineHeretic Senior Member Senior Member

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    My guess is tanks would simply evolve on the lines of its airborne cousins.

    Tanks will probably be the 1st candidate for large scale autonomization in the Army mechanised formations. It will take time, but by 2030-40, the unmanned autonomous tanks would change the very concept of armoured warfare. The very prominent change being massive improvement in air mobility owing to non necessity of weight to protect crew men.

    The UK Black Night project...
    [​IMG]


    It would allow for a larger envelope of operations, into situations with threat levels previously unacceptable.
     
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  13. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    Oh Yah... but they would not be used as horses... ??

    There is no place for horses which tanks had replaced under modern and evolving conditions...

    The role of horses would be fullfilled by hellicopters and drones.
     
  14. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    I see the elephant as a medieval analogue of the modern day tank, not the horse. The horse is more like an APC.
     
  15. JBH22

    JBH22 Senior Member Senior Member

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    News to me thanks.

    I can assure you that what USA are meeting is practically different the Russians ran into Islamist armed with IED,MILAN-AT portable system, Stingers,SA-7, DSHK,RPG nothing of that sort NATO has ran into.
    At best Afghans are fielding some RPG,IED and assault rifles to attack NATO convoys.

    Russians with their tactics outpost it made sense to use these tanks as pillboxes for eg on Salang pass the T-62 was used in that role and frankly speaking how can we maneuver on mountainous terrain. I would instead say the US copied lots of Russian tactics like seizing heights to have outpost which are supplied by Choppers,the use of ANA as cannon fodder :)
     
  16. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    Equivallanat of tanks in past were horses which like tanks provided mobility, flexibility, offensive options and executed long movements.. elephants were only used as close combat weapon plateforms and beast of logistics, construcion and engineering.

    APC and Tanks are part of the same term called mechanised forces.
     
  17. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    I have to disagree.

    Elephants were ideal for armour. An elephant could carry a lot of armour, thus providing more protection than a horse. Same with tank. Horses are about speed, not carrying weight. It does not matter whether APC and tanks is part of mechanized forces, they are different.
     
  18. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Unfortunately this was late 50s thinking and changed in 60s, Everything is evolving except few still left behind..

     
  19. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    you have all rights to disagree.

    Tanks or machnised warfare is in essence more of the warfare of fast movements and manouvres rather than attrition battles. Those are meant to unsettle the enemy and / or to force him to battles of own choosing thereby creating conditions for destruction of enemy. Tanks or APC without superior mobility are but mobile pill boxes.

    Elephant has protection and firepower but no mobility and hence can not be comapred to tanks at all. They were slow as comapred to horses and difficult to extricate once committed to battles. That many times led to the defeat of Indian rulers against horsemen Turks and Mongols. It is due to horses that the Mongols could capture the largest landmass ever.


    Horses are tanks.. APC is a variation of tanks / motor vehicle.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2013
  20. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    Ha Ha Ha ...

    The feelings that horses / tanks have become less relevent in the modern age of rotary wing revolution for executing menuavres is the result of the same evolutionary thought process except for some left behinds and interested parties..
     
  21. JBH22

    JBH22 Senior Member Senior Member

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    [​IMG]

    How can one write off such a beauty.

    Tanks have a role for future conventional wars but in low intensity conflicts or COIN ops IFV or MRAP are better.
     

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