Tanks: what's the point?

Discussion in 'Tanks, planes & ships' started by CivvyPete, Nov 18, 2012.

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  1. OK, there are some days when you can't resist kicking a hornet's nest to see what comes out, and I must be having one. I'll confess ignorance of most things armoured, and in mitigation plead I do genuinely want to learn.

    You see, I think tanks were a great invention to break the deadlock of trench warfare in the first world war, and a highly mobile solution to attacking heavily fortified fixed positions in the second. North Africa in WW2 and Iraq proved that tanks are great for killing other tanks and AFV's in open desert. I can see that in many ways, a tank can still be great value for money if you are talking about open warfare against other tanks. But is that likely?

    Faced with the threat of Soviet armoured divisions rolling across the North European Plain in the Cold War, the West went for attack helos and anti-armour weapons from CAS aircraft rather than more tanks.

    So in future, I foresee us being embroiled in one of two types of conflict:
    a) The type of asymmetric warfare we have seen in the last decade, where your enemy's best option to upgrade his transport's resistance to penetrators is thicker soled flip flops. Tanks have seen relatively little action because terrain can restrict their manoeuverability and that makes them vulnerable to IED's, whilst a few insurgent on foot or motorbikes makes for a target poor environment for 120mm shells. To be honest, I think this is by far the most likely scenario the UK is likely to be sucked in to. Not necessarily in more sandy places - we could find ourselves in jungle or mountains next time. Areas, however, where the enemy don't have their own armour, but are more likely to be mingled with the civilian population in situations where collateral damage is unpopular. Tinpot dictators may still be using heavy armour to attack their own populations in urban areas, but I doubt that would be politically acceptable to those concerned about the headlines in tomorrows Guardian. Come to think of it, I don't think it's morally acceptable to me.

    b) On the other hand, were we to face a nation state with ideas of say reasserting it's former glories (not thinking specifically of somewhere east of Ukraine), said enemy might equally be equipped with attack helos and shoulder launched weapons that could leave our heavy armour vulnerable and out-manoeuvered. Because that's what we'll be deploying first against their tanks.

    So tell me - (I am listening) just what future scenarios the main battle tank will be a vital asset for? Are tanks more valuable than I think in regime change and counter-insurgency? Are they really not hopelessly vulnerable to shoulder launched weapons and aircraft?
     
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Fight war, not the war. The next enemy may have an MBT capability.
     
  3. As long as the next/potential enemy has MBT then we will have them, if they build a better version of the T-72/80/90 etc then so will we keep CR2.

    Edit to say, Armies (all not just UK) has a habit of preparing for the War that has just been fought, the next one might not be counter insurgent.
     
  4. Depends on the theatre does it not.
     
  5. The Canadian Army was getting out of the Tank business in the late 90's, early noughties. They are now back in it and are the proud owners of some 100 or so slightly used Leopard 2s.
     
  6. CanteenCowboy

    CanteenCowboy LE Book Reviewer

    Danes in the UGV were using a 'Shotgun' shell for their 120mm in 2007, watched Apache gun camera footage of it being used against a EF sect sized grouping in a treeline, must have been an old soviet era Muj in command, as they engaged with multiple RPG, instead of getting the **** out of dodge! One round from the Leopard and the treeline was gone along with all the TB, this was the Danes first time of using it. The Canadians also used effectively around about Kandahar province.

    And on a personal note I remember watching the CR2's with dozer blades fitted doing regular clearances of the ditches in the area surrounding 'two mosque roundabout', obviously didn't work all the time, but was effective as the only IED I saw go off in that area was so late we only heard it and were so far away we couldn't see it.
     
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  7. I take the all weather point, and the idea of holding ground for long periods - although AH would tend to pop up to deal with threats over a wide area then bimble home for tea.
     
  8. Way off topic, but are you referring to Az Zubayr here? I heard somebody refer to this particular area as we were about to move through it (it literally has two mosques overlooking a roundabout) but I thought they had literally made it up on the spot trying to be a clever ****.
     
  9. So. like Bob Hope, what you're saying is:

    Tanks for the memory
    Of sentimental verse,
    Nothing in my purse,
    And chuckles
    When the preacher said
    For better or for worse,
    How lovely it was.

    Tanks for the memory
    Of Schubert's Serenade,
    Little things of jade
    And traffic jams
    And anagrams
    And bills we never paid,
    How lovely it was.

    We who could laugh over big things
    Were parted by only a slight thing.
    I wonder if we did the right thing,
    Oh, well, that's life, I guess,
    I love your dress.

    Tanks for the memory
    Of faults that you forgave,
    Of rainbows on a wave,
    And stockings in the basin
    When a fellow needs a shave,
    Thank you so much.

    Tanks for the memory
    Of tinkling temple bells,
    Alma mater yells
    And Cuban rum
    And towels from
    The very best hotels,
    Oh how lovely it was.

    Tanks for the memory
    Of cushions on the floor,
    Hash with Dinty Moore,
    That pair of gay pajamas
    That you bought
    And never wore.

    We said goodbye with a highball,
    Then I got as high as a steeple,
    But we were intelligent people,
    No tears, no fuss,
    Hooray for us.

    Strictly entre nous,
    Darling, how are you?
    And how are all
    Those little dreams
    That never did come true?

    Awfully glad I met you,
    Cheerio and toodle-oo
    Thank you,
    Thank you so much
     
  10. This is simple. There is no binary answer.

    Armour is an element for employment in Combined Arms (CA) and Air/Land operations. Without employing CA and Air/Land tactics and doctrine in all operational theatres any and all elements are vulnerable. As you probably know armour can be employed in practically every land environment less a swamp (nod to Bill Slim). However, armour operationg on its own in any environment is vulnerable. Anyone who misuses a tank and fails to either support it appropriately, or to use it to support other arms will be on a hiding to nothing. Tanks are useful in COIN and PSO; our allies have used them successfully in Afghanistan.

    As for your two scenarios.

    a. all forms of manoeuvre can be restricted by terrain; all vehicles are vulnerable to IEDs, which is why TTPs are adopted and adjusted; the ISR platform that is offered by a tank may have greater benefits than its weaponry; the physical security impression one may get from seeing a tank may be greater (the paradox being that it might also suggest a level of insecurity that requires a tank in response).

    b. shoulder-launched weapons and ATGMs have been mooted as the end of tanks since they were designed... hohum. The best weapon for dealing with a tank force is a tank force. Inf in support of armour helps to mitigate against the threat; control of the air helps to mitigate against the threat of AH. This speaks back to the use of CA and Air/Land tactics and doctrine.

    Failure of tanks is usually down to the failure of CA and Air/Land tactics and doctrine.

    As for your last three questions.

    Q1. Any, if used properly and properly supported.

    Q2. Yes, if used properly and properly supported.

    Q3. No, if used properly and properly supported.
     
  11. Talking from a RE POV, troops on the ground still need to cross obstacles. So therefore our armoured engineer capability is still needed for its own protection. And thus will need tanks on the ground to provide overall protection in depth.

    You are missing the point on AH. AH can not stay in the air indefinitely. It has to be refuelled and rearmed. Tanks can stay 'eyes on' for indefinite periods of time and resupply in its location.


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