Without touching the politics or moral issues, are we witnessing the demise of the Tank, Panzer, AFV as a viable weapon system on the battlefield?
I know there’s a lot of insights with all of the experience on the forum and would like to see what’s the perception.
The lethality of ATGM’s, RPG’s, IED’s, Drones and other tanks make one wonder if the tank’s day is at an end.
My thoughts, without being an expert, is that whoever goes onto a battlefield needs to have combined arms.
Air superiority can’t take and hold ground.
Infantry on their own will fall victim to tanks supported by infantry.
Tanks on their own against infantry will have problems.
If nobody has tanks then tanks will be unnecessary.
If nobody has an airforce then air defences will be pointless.
If nobody has tanks then anti-tank units will be useless.
If nobody has anything then the first person who sharpens a stick
and calls it a spear will rule the battlefield.
The spear guy will be an easy target for the guy with a bow and some arrows.
So the spear guy gets himself some armour and makes kebab of the archer.
A sword, maybe in combination with armour, defeats the spear guy.
And thus begins the new arms race …
I don’t think it’s the end but it is changing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the USA starts to draw down the heavy to a smaller size but not get rid of them all. I could see the medium tank make a comeback as infantry will still need the assistance from time to time.
Just to be tidy, I think this should be within “1:1 Tank Talk”; I have no idea how to change it!
I agree and moved. Depending on someone’s level based on activity on the site, anyone move a thread. If you have permissions, you should see a pencil next to the thread title. Click it and make any changes needed. In this case, the far left is the categories drop down, select the correct one and then select check mark to save.
Thanks; whilst I am unlikely to engage in this particular subject, at least my clerical soul can now rest(!)
I still think that tanks are relevant on the modern battlefield and will be in the future…they just need a new turret with protective systems to deal with top-flying ATGMs and tanks will need to be designed like warships to have defensive ranges around them. The designers often envision tanks as offensive weapons with weapons and smoke as their main defense. Active Protection Systems (APS) is not really new, but it’s a costly and complex add-on that many tank designers don’t care to add…now it might be standard in the future.
The Russian T-14 “Armata” seats the crew in the hull just like the US Army’s canceled Future Combat System. With an unmanned turret, the turret can accommodate all sorts of systems to defeat ATGMs, drones, Loitering Munitions, etc., and the T-14 has these systems, just that it wasn’t tried and tested.
Now the question should be…is ERA still relevant? I think that the pain of filling ERA blocks with explosives as a time consuming and tedious task has been exposed, just like retired Space Shuttle thermal tiles…each thermal tile has to be custom and checked for defects and replaced. Thus, I think ERA “bricks” might go away for tiles or some other ERA that doesn’t require all that logistics…and that I think is what doomed the Russian tanks was their lack of explosive-filled ERA…thus they’re just armored “bricks” with no “reaction” to ATGMs.
Instead of passive ERA, we might see “Active” armor that moves to intercept the incoming projectiles. The US Army experimented with the concept of “Active” armor, just that the armor doesn’t fly out to meet the projectile. The Russians pioneered the concept of Active Protection Systems (APS) and their tanks are lacking in this except for a few designs (T-14 has it), depending on ERA that may or may not have explosive filler. Remember, ERA needs explosives to make it reactive. (See graphic of the US Army’s old GXV-T concept where the armor slides towards the incoming threat on rails. Nah…the armor tiles need to fly off the plate into the projectile like APS. I think ERA might be overrated now). Trophy APS is similar. Tanks need a Close In Weapons System (CIWS) self-protective turret. In a worse extreme case scenario, conceptually eject a portion or the entire turret into the incoming ATGM and save the crew seated in the hull.
Note that tanks often travel in platoons of four and that is Western tank doctrine. How many ATGMs can infantry carry to knock out all four tanks? Ukraine is the exception, but I can’t imagine nine soldiers each carrying an ATGM that weighs 49 pounds each. One to four soldiers with Javelins maybe, and the rest carry rockets, but not all nine carrying the same Javelin ATGM because 49 pounds slows the entire squad down if each soldier carries a Javelin. Thus, kill one or two tanks out of a platoon of four and the other two surviving tanks will return fire at the squad and shooting rockets at a MBT isn’t a good idea at the frontal glacis Just like SHORADS…destroy one plane or helicopter and the wingman will circle back and nail the shooter…infantry need two SHORADS or more and often warplanes fly in a flight of four. Weapon numbers matter and AFVs are more numerous than the tank-hunters out there because ATGMs are still heavy and bulky for infantry to handle and carry on foot. Even UGVs and tactical trucks just carry one ATGM ready-to-fire before it needs reloading.
And of course there is enemy artillery against infantry…
If the enemy hasn’t bought into the tank obsolescence theory… you’re gonna wish you had some tanks too.
Other than a false sense of security, does this sort of sand bag & “egg crate” provide additional protection in any circumstance?
I think Robin has it pretty much right. There has always been an evolutionary cycle to warfare/weapons. At times one weapon may hold sway and provide an advantage but in time something is found to make it obsolete or at least diminish its effectiveness to some degree. You can pick just about any given period and see this cycle at work. Robin has given a very brief and somewhat simplified explanation but he makes the point very well.
Agreed! And as for this question:
I have never been a huge fan of ERA. I fell that it is way overrated and does not really work all to well.
I am not to sure about slat armor. A lot of countries use it, including the US; but it does not seem to be much help.
an additional point to what Ken writes:
Iraq dug in their T-72’s behind sand berms (think HUGE sand bags).
APFSDS went straight through the sand berm, into the T-72 (blowing the turret off)
and I think it came out on the other side and lodged in that sand berm.
Those sand bags could possibly cause an RPG to detonate a few inches further out.
I don’t think the sand bags are soft enough to slow the RPG down and prevent the fuse from
going off. Maybe the Russian designers know exactly how sensitive that fuse is but if the
sand bag meets an RPG or similar weapon manufactured elsewhere which has a more sensitive detonator …
Without getting too far ahead of reality- I think that for the next generation of ‘Active Protection Systems’ there will be some form of drones involved- ones that move against the threat just like the armor on rails. I’m not sure if drone ‘swarms’ have actually been tested in the field yet but imagine the tank as the ‘mothership’ able to autonomously command the swarm (of small drones from bird size to insect size) that can move to counter threats.
Plus things that were once the realm of ‘sci-fi’ are now becoming reality- like the ability to mask a tanks thermal signature. Technological progress doesn’t necessarily mean the tank will become obsolete- it could, just as @Trisaw said, make it more relevant on the battlefield than ever before.
Speaking of new/newer technology, anyone know more details about IBD Deisenroth Engineering’s Mat 7720 a new Aluminium-Titanium alloy, that only needs 38% of the weight to be as effective as RHA sounds pretty slick. That means the alloy would be more than twice as protective as RHA of the same weight.
I hope it’s better than the aluminum armor of the M113.
That armor did what it was supposed to do, and on a bunch of other vehicles as well.
I know nothing about tanks compared to basically everybody else on this forum, but here’s a complete idiot’s two cents nonetheless…
It seems that everytime a conflict with tanks like Chechnya or Ukraine pops up, people question if tanks are still relevant. Well, here’s an anecdote from Canada’s fight in Afghanistan that may be of interest to everybody.
Prior to the war in Afghanistan, the Canadian army was planning on ditching the Leopard tanks in favour of a lighter wheeled AFV, perhaps something akin to the Rooikat, but I digress. Budget and resource arguments aside, there was a school of thought that argued that tanks were just becoming obsolete.
When Canada entered the war, it was with Iltises (Iltii?) and LAV-3s. The LAV-3 proved quite effective at hammering the Taliban, but it quickly became apparent that, between RPGs and IEDs, they were underprotected. So there was a major need in the fight for an armoured vehicle that could strike with much greater protection.
First it was uparmoured Leopard 1s, then it was the further uparmoured Leopard 2s
If anything, Canada’s experience in Afghanistan proved that tanks are still relevant, even in asymmetric fighting. I contend that, if they are used judiciously and with respect to the threats designed to counter them, tanks are still quite relevant.
Amen brother, amen! And hats off to the Canadian tankers in A’stan!
My two cents on this is that this fight reinforces the concept of combined arms. Tanks on their own are quite vulnerable to various threats. When used in proper coordination with infantry, artillery, and air assets, they will dominate the battlefield. Yes they will take losses. But the past thirty years has seen mismatched opponents in open combat, not peer, or near peer opponents, especially in armored force on force combat. In this fight, so far what is showing up online is that the Russians are doing a very poor job at combined arms operations.
The role of Armor is evolving. The point about the infantry only carries a few anti tank missiles is important. Yes tanks operate in groups of 4 normally. What happens is 2 are destroyed. Do the remaining 2 stay not knowing if there is a 3rd or 4th antitank missile maneuvering to knock them out,or do they withdraw taking themselves out of action? How do you replace the lost tank? Most countries are not running tank production at war time replacement rates. How do the Ukrainians replace their losses? ( I know you are thinking “by tractors” but that is not really true.) At some point logistics are against you. If every time you used the tanks several are knocked out, then their future effective use becomes limited. If they work a kilometer behind the infantry and shoot over their heads, they are better protected but lose the shock value. Now add in drones and Attack helicopters and soon most anything on the battlefield can knock out a tank. The line of charging tanks is becomming a tactic of the past. It worked in Iraq where the disparity between the forces was great. Balance forces and the game changes.