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Characteristics of aircraft types

Posted by picard578 on June 1, 2015

ROLE AIR SUPERIORITY BOMBER INTERCEPTION GROUND ATTACK CLOSE AIR SUPPORT
SIZE small (surprise, agility) large (range, missile load) medium-large (surprise vs range, weapons load) small-medium (surprise, agility vs endurance, weapons load)
NUMBER OF ENGINES single (agility, surprise, operating cost) twin (top speed) twin (damage tolerance) twin (damage tolerance)
COCKPIT/CANOPY TYPE bubble (situational awareness) sunk (drag reduction) sunk (drag reduction) bubble (situational awareness)
WING SWEEP moderate (maximum/cruise speed, turning performance, airfield perf.) moderate to high (high altitude performance vs maximum speed) low to moderate (low speed/altitude performance) none to low (low speed agility, airfield / low altitude performance)
WING LOAD low to moderate (agility) low to moderate (high altitude performance) high (gust sensitivity) low to moderate (low speed agility, airfield performance)
CREW 1 1-2 2 1-2
GUN CALIBRE 20-30 mm (firepower vs loadout) 25-30 mm (firepower vs loadout) 25-30 mm (firepower vs loadout) 25-30 mm (firepower vs loadout)
GUN TYPE revolver / linear action (response time) rotary (maximum rate of fire) rotary (maximum rate of fire) rotary (maximum rate of fire)
SENSORS IRST, RWR, LWR, MAWS radar, IRST, RWR, LWR, MAWS radar, FLIR, RWR, LWR, MAWS RWR, LWR, MAWS, (FLIR)
ENGINE TYPE afterburning turbojet / afterburning low bypass turbofan (speed, acceler.) afterburning turbojet / afterburning low bypass turbofan (speed, acceler.) afterburning turbofan (speed, endurance) nonafterburning high bypass turbofan (endurance)

NOTE: reason for selection of certain characteristics is explained in brackets. Aircraft that are intended for more than one of listed roles will have characteristics of several types.

233 Responses to “Characteristics of aircraft types”

  1. jan said

    Very well put: the armchair generals make the same mistakes over and over again.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      Not just armchair generals…

      Like

      • Duviel Rodriguez said

        I cant read section on CAS. Its cut-off?

        I do want to add that just like some have made mistake of thinking that close-in gun fights were obsolete you might be making the opposite mistake. You’re AA design is optimized for close in fight but you make little attempt to make it good for BVR fight.

        Small one engine plane=Less ability to carry avionics, lesser carriage of missiles, lesser thrust, lesser fuel, and usually lesser ceiling. What you gain is better W/L and agility. As well as ease of construction, maintanability, and probably sortie rate.

        I understand that according to your historical analysis BVR Pk is super low but you are analysing data from dacades ago. Some of the more modern Missiles and guidance systems have made some sizeable leaps forward and airplane maneuverability has not so much. Although electronic jamming has progressed on par.

        I understand that at some point when designing you have to make a guess as far as where you think future warfare is going but if an airforce were to go with your design philosophy only and the next air war proves that new BVR missiles have a Pk of 25% or better than that airforce will be in trouble.

        I also have read a few times now that IRST lacks good ability to guide missiles because it provides less info than radar?

        Also, you seem to be all about agility but size and W/L are not only factors in agility.

        In an energy fight you need thrust, and two engines will (all being aqual) add much thrust. Also uses more fuel and for a small airplane fuel carriage might be an issue.

        Also remember that I beleive that best air-superiority strategy is to be able to go into enemy airspace and attack airfields and/or shoot airplanes as they take-off (heaviest and in worst energy state), or as they return to land (running out of fuel to fight). This requires Stealth most of all and, heavy weapons load, and lots of endurance. High max cruise speed will also be helpful.

        Playing devils advocate because it makes conversation much more interesting.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “You’re AA design is optimized for close in fight but you make little attempt to make it good for BVR fight. ”

          Incorrect… I’ll adress your points one by one.

          “Small one engine plane=Less ability to carry avionics, lesser carriage of missiles, lesser thrust, lesser fuel, and usually lesser ceiling.”

          It also has higher cruise fraction, less supersonic drag, better agility in all flight regimes, lower IR signature and lower RCS (for a given design). Also, missiles carried should be counted per certain procurement / operating cost, not per aircraft, and single-engined aircraft is cheaper to buy and operate and easier to maintain, thus giving greater number of sorties (procurement cost is more-or-less proportional to aircraft’s mass).

          “What you gain is better W/L and agility.”

          Also better ability to surprise the opponent due to higher cruise speed and smaller sensory signatures, as well as on-ground survivability.

          “I understand that according to your historical analysis BVR Pk is super low but you are analysing data from dacades ago.”

          Doesn’t really matter. I have analyzed data ranging from 1950s to 2000s, and all of it points towards the conclusion that visual ID and surprise are absolutely crucial for gaining kills. Which, for BVR fight, means optical IR sensors + IR BVRAAM and RWR + IR/AR BVRAAM.

          If you surprise the enemy, you typically achieve a kill no matter the weapon used. If you don’t surprise the enemy, you typically don’t achieve the kill no matter the weapon used. Using radar against a competent opponent means giving up surprise. Of course, you only shoot if you know what you are shooting at, and VID is the only reliable choice… which means IRST but no radar.

          “Missiles and guidance systems have made some sizeable leaps forward and airplane maneuverability has not so much.”

          Defense suites and situational awareness have, however. Maneuverability was, in the past, the least important factor in actually evading a missile. Most important factor was to know that you are being fired upon, and to know where the missile is.

          “I understand that at some point when designing you have to make a guess as far as where you think future warfare is going but if an airforce were to go with your design philosophy only and the next air war proves that new BVR missiles have a Pk of 25% or better than that airforce will be in trouble. ”

          It won’t. I really don’t understand why you (and mostly everyone else) assume that BVR = massive radar. PIRATE can detect a supercruising fighter aircraft at 100 km from front, whereas the longest-ranged missile kill (against nonmaneuvering target and with no ECM) was achieved at cca 40-50 km. IRST range will drop with reduced altitude (OSF has maximum detection range of 130 km from the rear at 20.000 ft and 110 km at low altitude) but missile range will drop far more rapidly (from 180 km at high altitude to 36 km at low level, aerodynamic range).

          And against targets that are aware they are being shot at, your 180-km-range BVR missile will have a useful range of maybe 20-45 km at most, at high altitude and with no jamming. Jamming may reduce radar range to approximately that much anyway (I calculated that Su-35 will start locking onto FLX at 45-50 km), and there is still an issue of identification – radar simply does not allow you to identify targets at adequate range. NCTRs ID range is significatly lower than that of IRST (cca 10-20 km, if I recall correctly, compared to 40-45 km for modern IRST) and can be disrupted with jamming, maneuvering etc.

          “I also have read a few times now that IRST lacks good ability to guide missiles because it provides less info than radar?”

          It provides significantly lower range resolution but significantly higher angular resolution compared to radar. Range resolution can be a problem but it can also be worked around with datalinking, kinetic ranging, and various other ways. It is also not really necessary for all missile engagement modes. Plus, IRST provides VID, which radar does not, so saying that it provides “less info” is a misconception, to say at the least. Less range info, for sure, but more information overall.

          “In an energy fight you need thrust, and two engines will (all being aqual) add much thrust. Also uses more fuel and for a small airplane fuel carriage might be an issue. ”

          Except issue is not thrust per se, it is thrust-to-drag ratio. Significant amount of drag comes from several sources: engine frontal drag, airframe drag and shock cone. Single-engined fighters have advantage in engine frontal drag as engine frontal area increases with square of size increase, yet thrust increases with cube of size increase. They also have less wave drag as single engine allows for easier airframe optimization. If you take a look at my article about supercruise, you will notice that most of the early supercruising aircraft were single-engined (excepting one rather unique twin-engined design).

          And endurance is more-or-less proportional to fuel fraction. Large aircraft with low fuel fraction may have longer level-flight range yet significantly less combat endurance than small aircraft with high fuel fraction, and one larger engine is typically more fuel-effective than two smaller engines (a lot, of course, depends on engine design, aerodynamic design, etc).

          “Also remember that I beleive that best air-superiority strategy is to be able to go into enemy airspace and attack airfields and/or shoot airplanes as they take-off (heaviest and in worst energy state), or as they return to land (running out of fuel to fight).”

          That is true for offensive operations, but if you design for that you end up with hugely expensive, hard-to-maintain long-range “stealth” fighter aircraft that will be procured in too small numbers to be truly effective. Meanwhile, you could have just used smaller aircraft and air-launched (or not even necessarily air-launched) cruise missiles for the same effect, possibly with dispersal submunitions. Also keep in mind that stealth is dependant on sensors, stealth design effective against X band radar may not be effective against VHF or HF radar, and no stealth design is effective against IR sensors.

          And if you really need to put aircraft around enemy airfields, best option will be low-altitude CAS fighters as they can stay on station for huge amounts of time and fly below radar cover. Aircraft that has just taken off is vulnerable to just about anything… even a WWI era Fokker with pair of AIM-9Bs, as it simply doesn’t have the speed or altitude for evasive maneuvers.

          “Playing devils advocate because it makes conversation much more interesting.”

          Indeed it does.

          Like

  2. Silavite said

    What type of aircraft would fly SEAD? The CAS plane would have good endurance, low flight ability, and a fairly tight turn radii.
    About ground attack, how would the A-7F have done as a ground attack plane? http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vought_YA-7F (I remember that there was a foxtrot alpha article about it, but I can’t find it)

    Like

    • picard578 said

      CAS aircraft would be the best, I assume, though you could make a specialized design as well.

      A-7F seems OK as a ground attack aircraft, but I can’t say anything more precise without more data.

      Like

      • Duviel Rodriguez said

        SEAD aircraft needs to be able to loiter but not down low like CAS. Too dangerous down low.

        I would think best airframe characteristics for SEAD would be stealth, high ceiling, and size (for ability to carry enough missiles, fuel, and SEAD avionics). Supercruise and manueverability would be nice to avoid Sams that cannot be jammed or decoyed.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “SEAD aircraft needs to be able to loiter but not down low like CAS. Too dangerous down low. ”

          Mostly because most aircraft are thin-skinned. Sneaking up below radar cover and filling radar full of bullet holes may still be the best way of permanently shutting down SAM network.

          “I would think best airframe characteristics for SEAD would be stealth, high ceiling, and size (for ability to carry enough missiles, fuel, and SEAD avionics). Supercruise and manueverability would be nice to avoid Sams that cannot be jammed or decoyed.”

          I’d change that to stealth, high ceiling, endurance and supercruise. For avionics, you don’t really need much beyond integrated self-defense suite and FLIR.

          Like

  3. Chris said

    Just for laughs:

    ROLE: Money maker for military industrial complex
    SIZE large (lots of avionics and other features, such as stealth; hull can be draggy)
    NUMBER OF ENGINES usually multiple (complexity)
    COCKPIT/CANOPY TYPE sunk (drag reduction) in most cases although sometimes, bubble (situational awareness – such as F-22)
    WING SWEEP moderate (maximum/cruise speed, turning performance, airfield perf.); can be variable wing sweep though
    WING LOAD high (too small a wing for the loaded electronics and other features)
    CREW 1 to many (many for bombers)
    GUN CALIBRE Often none because the MICC thinks missiles are “good enough”, otherwise 20-25mm gattling
    GUN TYPE rotary (maximum rate of fire), but not gas operated; poor spin-up time
    SENSORS radar, IRST, RWR, LWR, MAWS, and various electronics the defense industry has lobbied for
    ENGINE TYPE Excessively high bypass turbofan

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Chris said

    Do you think a revolver type weapon would do better for CAS? Or at least a gas operated Gatling (very fast spinup).

    Like

    • Mike said

      I’d like to see someone try proper artillery for CAS. Literally airbourne artillery.There was a project which fitted 105s to the sides of a Chinook, not sure how it went.

      Saw a video on youtube of Tsetses attacking shipping in a Norwegian fjord, the range they started the runs at was impressive. They were designed for use against subs though, which aren’t a particularly large target, certainly not an awful lot bigger than the area you’d be wanting to hit in a CAS mission.

      Higher standoff range, more hitting power and more than the potential for airbust fuzed with the latest developments.

      If you want a tankbuster / CAS aicraft just make the sea hornet, attach some commercial turboprops and arm it a la Tsetse.

      Like

    • picard578 said

      Gas operated Gatling would be good. Revolvers have quick acceleration but low maximum RoF so they’re not so good against harder targets.

      Like

    • Chris said

      @Mike, it’d be closer to the ground attack variant, although I’d prefer a bubble canopy for situation awareness. A case could be made that the craft should have lower wing loading too (better turn speeds) as you’ll want to get shots off quickly.

      Like

      • Mike said

        For long range shots you’d arguably want higher wing loading. The A10 for instance has almost double the wing loading and is slower with vastly lower loiter time.

        The tradeoff is that you need such an aircraft to be able to get off the deck of a carrier and maneuverability is important too for it’s nose mounted guns. This was the design compromise for the Hornet though if it was anywhere near as stable a gun platform as the Mosquito, which had similar stats, it would have been excellent in both roles. It’s wing loading was only a tadge higher than the Skyraider which was famed for low altitude agility.

        Watching vids of the anti-shipping strikes accuracy clearly wasn’t a problem, looks as though they’d begin their gun runs at 4km or so. 33% hit rate against tank sized vehicles with nothing but a crude gunsight.

        Add in a bit of modern day tech…

        And you have something that could fire from your own side of FEBA away from manpads threat. Difficult to think of anything it wouldn’t be effective against.

        I’d even let Picard put some armour on it. 🙂

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      • Chris said

        It’s a matter of wing shape and wing size as well – I would prefer something very agile, but at the same time, with the endurance for longer patrols (especially if an opportunity “turkey” shoot presents itself). I liked low wing loading for quick turns in case someone does shoot at you (agility matters for survivability).

        With modern fire control, accuracy should be better for sure. You just need to absorb the recoil and to be able to reload (and if you are firing bursts, you would need a fast spinup time).

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      • Mike said

        Think the Sea Hornets were capable of 6 hour plus patrols, certainly the PR versions. Would be improved with turboprops too. Wing loading is about the same as a Gripen.

        No spinup time on the 20mm cannons it carried, though the modern equivalent doesn’t really exist you could get a similar effect from 4 M3 50 cals firing DP. 4800 rds a minute with the old 57mm firing just over 1 round / sec. Modren equiv would increase this, or the Bofors 40mm runs 300 rds / min and also fires 3P.

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  5. Chris said

    A case could be made that a 2 seating Rafale-like aircraft might also be of use as a command aircraft alongside the FLX.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      I’m going to design a twin-seater FLX someday, so not really necessary. I doubt that Rafale could keep up with the FLX anyway.

      Like

    • Chris said

      Yeah that would work best.

      What role do you see the ground attack having? Tank destroyer? Modern day Stuka dive bomber? Or something else?

      Like

      • picard578 said

        Low-altitude strike and general ground attack missions against fixed targets. Though, for SEAD/DEAD, something based off an air superiority fighter would be the best choice (twin-seat FLX), though case could be made for CAS-type aircraft due to its high endurance.

        Like

  6. Chris said

    So for destroying airfields and fortifications. Basically a tactical bomber.

    Something like the Su-34, or perhaps the YA-7F?

    Su-34 – basically a ground attack variant of the Su-27:
    http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-Fullback.html

    YA-7F – smaller single engined strike bomber:
    http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/can-we-learn-something-from-the-defunct-a-7f-strikefig-1591155307

    Like

    • picard578 said

      Actually, CAS aircraft would be good for that. Especially fortifications, which tend to be defended.

      Like

    • Chris said

      The question becomes whether it is worth it for a dedicated tactical bomber then – especially considering the costs compared to a CAS aircraft. You’re looking at maybe 4-5x the cost of a CAS aircraft.

      Another alternative (that has never been extensively used) is the cannon fighters that Combat Reform and several other sites have proposed, although for larger calibres, you’ll need a larger aircraft.

      Like

    • Mike said

      The only aircraft I can think of which were specifically designed for taking on airfields were the Fencer, Tornado and F-111. All big, low altitude performers. Could probably add the F-117 in a different take on things.

      Airfields are very tough targets if properly protected as the RAF Tornados found out in the Gulf War. Read an account of an entire squadron of Tempests being blasted out of the sky whilst attacking a German airbase ( at dive speeds not dissimilar to today’s aircraft), so it isn’t a new thing.

      A typical CAS aircraft would have to swarm them, as the Sea Harriers did in the Falklands.

      For taking out HAS, runways, control towers, taxiways and dumps you really need specialist weapons. The Russians and Chinese don’t bother with aircraft for these missions anymore, their plan would just be to lob IRBMs at large airfields.

      Like

      • picard578 said

        “A typical CAS aircraft would have to swarm them, as the Sea Harriers did in the Falklands.”

        That, or get close enough to fire off cruise missiles.

        “Airfields are very tough targets if properly protected as the RAF Tornados found out in the Gulf War.”

        Aye, but Tornados are large, very sluggish and thin-skinned.

        “For taking out HAS, runways, control towers, taxiways and dumps you really need specialist weapons. The Russians and Chinese don’t bother with aircraft for these missions anymore, their plan would just be to lob IRBMs at large airfields.”

        Missile attack would be the first stage in any case, but I don’t think missiles can take out everything. So it depends on what do you precisely want. If you want to prevent operation for the time, you can have a cruise missile disperse cluster bomblets all over the field… it would do a number on runway, I expect, with added advantage that bomblets are notoriously unreliable, and can explode minutes, hours, days, weeks… even years after being dropped. Which would play merry hell with efforts to bring runway back into operation.

        But if your targets are supply dumps, infantry/artillery positions, aircraft shelters, you’ll need different weapons. For buildings, laser- and GPS- -guided bombs, and heavy-duty cruise/ballistic missiles would be good. But for dug-in, smaller targets you’d need aircraft capable of low-altitude precision attacks with missiles or gun.

        Like

  7. Chris said

    I think that a CAS-Cannon fighter combo might work better than a CAS-Tactical bomber combo – what kind of bomber are you thinking?

    Like

  8. MrBsct said

    BVR=useless
    IRST=DA BEST
    Radar=too heavy
    RWR=make any stealth aircraft useless once they turn on radar
    Jammer=Can jam any motherf*cker modern AESA even on LPI mode
    Stealth=joke
    Ultimate plane designer=Pierre Sprey

    ALL LOVE ALL PLANES(cept F22 and F35, cuz I hate military industrial complex that did 9/11)

    Like

    • picard578 said

      “BVR=useless”

      Radar BVR = useless because successful BVR engagement requires surprise and reliable IFF.

      “IRST=DA BEST”

      See above.

      “Radar=too heavy”

      Too heavy and mostly useless.

      “RWR=make any stealth aircraft useless once they turn on radar”

      If capable enough, yes.

      “Jammer=Can jam any motherf*cker modern AESA even on LPI mode”

      Depends on jammer and radar. But LPI is far from unjammable.

      “Stealth=joke”

      It is.

      “ALL LOVE ALL PLANES”

      Except F-15, F-22, F-35, F-111, F-117, B-52, B-2, Tornado, Su-30, MiG-23, MiG-29, MiG-35, J-20, J-31… and few dozen others I couldn’t remember on a short notice.

      “(cept F22 and F35, cuz I hate military industrial complex that did 9/11)”

      My dislike of these aircraft has nothing to do with MICC and 9/11, even though MICC is the reason why they came out the way they did.

      Read my blog and try to think about what you are reading, OK?

      Like

      • Chris said

        I don’t think he is the kind open to facts or new ideas.

        Most people prefer to be told what to think – not to think for themselves.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          There is always hope… truth is, I made this table as purely an overview, with no explanations, so somebody who doesn’t know how and why I reached these conclusions will likely feel off if they’ve been on a diet of mainstream media (dis)information and corporate PR releases.

          Like

  9. Silavite said

    This is somewhat unrelated, but could you make a counterpoint to the single-role philosophy in that if two role’s needs are similar, the same weapon can be used for multiple roles? (The 8.8cm Flak for example; despite the allies having very comparable 3.7 inch and 90mm guns, neither achieved the same success due to not using them widely in both AA and AT roles.)

    “The Germans became aware early on that the nature of AA weapons, and the type of crews needed to man them, made them very suited to anti-tank work. AA guns were high muzzle velocity, high rate of fire weapons which need better than average optical gun sights. They had to be mobile to keep up with and protect other arms. They needed to track a target very rapidly, establish its range rapidly and shoot it down rapidly. To fulfill these functions, AA gun crews needed to be trained better than most and be able to respond rapidly to changing tactical situations. It turns out these are also all ideal attributes for destroying tanks and other vehicles. It therefore made perfect sense to make sure flak guns had optical sites for ground as well as air combat, could depress and traverse the gun onto ground targets, and had ammunition specifically designed for ground targets; especially tanks.”
    http://www.operationbarbarossa.net/the-eighty-eight-anti-aircraft-anti-tank-and-anti-social/

    Like

    • picard578 said

      “This is somewhat unrelated, but could you make a counterpoint to the single-role philosophy in that if two role’s needs are similar, the same weapon can be used for multiple roles?”

      I’d say yes. But if you want a good result, you always design for a single role – the most difficult one – and then adapt the aircraft for other roles. For example, if you design a fighter for aerial combat, you should design it for combat against enemy fighters (air superiority, more specifically point defense interception) and then adapt it to other roles (combat air patrol, bomber interception etc.). If you design a fighter for ground attack, you should design it for close air support and then adapt it to other roles (battlefield interdiction, maritime strike, SEAD, DEAD). Tanks should be designed primarily for maneuver combat, but you should never ignore the need to provide direct fire support for the infantry. With submarines, you design them for hunting down warships – including other submarines – first, and if they can do that, hunting down merchant ships is no problem. However, you have to again choose wether you want a submarine that is specialized for the open ocean (nuclear attack subs) or for closed, coastal or shallow waters (DE / AIP subs), because you can’t have both (Los Angeles class in, say, Croatian archipelago would be in about the same situation as a beached whale).

      Of course, sometimes weapons will end up useful in very different roles, but that is typically improvisation due to the lack of better dedicated weapons. In your example, 8.8 Flak 38 was excellent in destroying tanks due to the qualities noted. However, a dedicated AT gun of the same calibre was still superior as Flak had very high profile which made it a (comparatively) easy target for enemy tanks, and you had to choose wether to have more ammo for shooting down aircraft or for killing tanks. Targeting sights for anti-aircraft work are also more complex than those required to shoot tanks.

      Like

    • Silavite said

      Now that I think about it, what’s your stance on the IFV philosophy? They aren’t really designed for one specific job, but more like 2 (infantry carrier + fire support) or even 3 on occasion (infantry carrier + fire support + limited anti-tank with ATGMs).

      Like

      • picard578 said

        Anti-tank with IFV is a pure idiocy. Fire support is fine as long as there aren’t any major anti-armor threats, which, with modern AT weapons is a rarity. Careful emloyment may make it useful even then, however. Infantry carrier is the primary purpose, and ability of a vehicle to carry infantry should not be compromised.

        Like

        • Jan said

          There is a difference between the technical characteristics of a “vehicle” and its tactical use. With this i mean, that the carrier can very well be used as a AT weapon, but than the vehicle will not be used as an IVF. A YPR with a TOW capability is very well suited for its task and on a tactical level to be part of a (Dutch) armoured infatry batallion ( as was the case when i was the platooncommander in the Royal Fusileers “Prinses Irene”). The advantage is logistical, technical and tactical. Of course due to its capabilities the “YPR TOW” will not be in front but more in depth (thanks to its range) because of its tactical use.

          Like

        • picard578 said

          “With this i mean, that the carrier can very well be used as a AT weapon, but than the vehicle will not be used as an IVF.”

          IFV can have AT missiles for self-defense, but it should never come into situation to face tanks in the first place. IFVs are simply too thin-skinned and with too limited armament – even with AT missiles – to face tanks. Take a look at how “well” US Bradleys performed against Iraqi tanks… sure, they managed to take out some tanks – in many cases, using 25 mm cannon and not AT missiles – but they suffered far more losses than any actual tanks. Kuwaiti M84s meanwhile performed as well as US M1s and far better than Bradleys.

          Like

      • Mike said

        The israeli’s have learned the hard way that you can either have IFVs that protect your infantry or death traps that soak up anti tank missiles. Also that the best defence is to see them coming, which isn’t too likely buttoned down in a tin can. Sure you can put missiles on an infantry carrier, but much better to have those same anti tank missiles with the infantry where they can dig in and are mobile without guzzling gas and being a three metre high target.

        In fact the Israeli’s converted many captured tanks into APCs, only to find that the very missiles designed to knock the tanks out were very effective against them. In high threat environments they ended up using their Maerkevas exclusively. Interesting design, quite how many infantry it can carry appears to be the subject of some debate. More recently they’ve used the same chassis, only with even more armour, for an APC.

        Infantry are difficult to kill, putting them all in poorly armoured boxes with a whole host of platforms specifically designed to take them out in one lump is not a great idea in my book. There are more effective ways to triple ( very conservatively) the supplies needed by a battalion.

        Also depends upon what you mean by fire support. Remarkably few infantry vehicles are designed for fire support, unless you narrow the definition to slightly implausible direct fire by automatic cannon. If you are in range with your cannon then someone else is well withing range with their ATM and heard you coming half an hour ago. Exercises seem to model this rather well, I’m quite sure that 80% of the mechanised infantry losses were from simulated hits on IFVs in my time, whereas the humble foot sluggers who could never quite seem to keep up didn’t fare at all badly. Rather amusingly quad bikes with a chap on the back packing a LAW type weapon simply eat them for breakfast. Literally run rings around them.

        Almost all armoured forces have recon vehicles which are similarly armed and armoured to APCs, though in their case it is doctrinally merely to lay down lead whilst someone selects reverse gear. No-one suggests that they should charge across a muddy field firing wildly at a tree line. It would be silly.Adding eight automatic weapons which cannot fire wildly at the same treeline is even sillier.

        Sure against a foe with massive amounts of artillery I can see their appeal, though frankly mainly on the retreat. As battlefield ambulances and mortar carriers excellent. Good platforms for mobile AAA as well. Twenty five ton APCs might be all terrain on the move, but leaving them standing for hours on anything other than tarmac and you are likely to get a nasty surprise. Even the reliable ones are only reliable due to the immense amount of servicing they need and you’d be surprised how much of it is often broken. They certainly give you the mobility to outstrip your supply infrastructure, which is of course based upon the humble truck. Quintuples the number of hoccifers needed too in most armies. Instead of a driver you now need a vehicle commander to get everyone lost and a ‘loader’ to powder his feet..

        Other than the humble landrover the only APC I’d really want to be in would be the israeli RAM series. Massively armoured ones might sound appealing, but try spending 8 hours in the back of one and you’d soon change your mind. The big truck based MRAPs are all right, as long as Terry or Ivan has never heard of artillery or air support. Though if they ran on piss the bogs at the Munch beer festival wouldn’t keep them supplied.

        Like

      • Chris said

        @Mike

        That chassis is called the Namer.

        They also found that M113s were very vulnerable to enemy fire. Not a surprise considering converted tanks were vulnerable – the M113 with it’s aluminum armor probably would not stand much of a chance.

        As you note, the problem with the truck MRAPs though is they get stuck easily and are vulnerable to artillery and probably enemy ground attack aircraft.

        Engineering is full of compromises I suppose.

        Like

  10. Silavite said

    I was looking at RSA animations and saw this one.
    RSA Animate – Smile or Die :: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5um8QWWRvo
    They use the corporate world as an example, but the military, especially with weapons procurement, is a shining example of this philosophy of, “Smile or die.” People who raise concerns are forced to retire, transferred to a remote area, or are simply told to shut up before the prior happens.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      Yes, that is a major problem. Humans will sooner forgive others for being wrong than for being right, and those in power especially do not want to admit being wrong in anything.

      Like

  11. Chris said

    @Mike

    There have been other projects. Here in Canada, they proposed using the Leopard 2 as a very heavy APC-type tank. Another was to use the PzH2000-type tank.

    Anyways here is some reading:
    http://www.casr.ca/mp-army-combat-systems-hiav.htm

    + The advantage that I could see is that you get some efficiency from the common chassis with your tanks.
    + Survivability of course should be high – with the tank turret removed, you could add the weight savings from the turret as armor.

    – The big con I guess is fuel and possibly maintenance (keeping everything supplied).
    – There’s also the fact that you have to modify the chassis quite a bit for optimal infantry layout.

    On one hand, if you could have all your tracked vehicles on 1 chassis – tank, APC, engineer, recovery vehicles, support, etc, I could see some operating efficiencies realized. All vehicles too would be very survivable.

    On the downside, you most certainly would not be able to do a Blitzkrieg style deep penetration with this type of “heavy chassis” configuration. The fuel consumption would be prohibitive. The other problem is that even if your tanks, APCs, and vehicles are well armored, the massive logistics train behind that this would entail would be thin-skinned. It might be useful in super high threat areas though and perhaps in urban combat or a siege.

    I think that Russia may be moving this direction. The Armata consists of a tank, APC, recovery vehicle, engineering, and possibly artillery (both rocket and possibly gun).

    I suspect though that the success or failure of the heavy chassis vehicles will come down to quality of your troops – people first!

    Like

    • Mike said

      I doubt any APCs are going to be more effective than light tanks have been historically, which is not very. At the end of the day they can’t protect themselves with firepower or armour and hence only really overmatch – a truck. Trouble is they aren’t raiding vehicles so are unlikely to ever see an enemy supply truck, will see plenty of their own though, for fuel, though not oddly for ammo. The truth behind their utilization you can probably get from their daily ammo requirements. In ww2 the Italians and Germans tried to supply their towed light cannon ( 20mm AA etc) with between 1000 and 2000 rounds per day. I suspect in the British Army you’d happily get away with about 6 for the 30mm Rarden. Even the few Warriors deployed to Afghan were more useful for ramming compound gates than for fire support. This does depend on ROE of course, the Americans probably got more mileage out of their turreted cannon. With lots of upset civilians in tow.

      Not sure about very heavy APCs, the Israelis swear by them and the Russians found out that their APCs were vulnerable to somewhat upset civilians in an urban environment. The reaction is to increase firepower and armour, which pushes their tail up considerably. I still think they’d still get too hot under a few molotovs though and chuck enough RPGs at anything but a heavy tank and you get it in the end. Thermite, red phosphorous and the like are pretty effective even before you start thining about LAWS and guided ATGMs..

      Take the money spent on building, maintaining, supplying and crewing any armoured APCs and I’m sure you could have on call CAS 24/7 no matter what the platform. If you are going to build heavily armoured APCs then armoured against what? Tanks themselves are rubbish against mines, MRAPs are very different to converted tanks. Undoubtedly useful if you’re going to assault a fortress or town, though you could merely surround them, cut off their supplies and wait. To me heavily armoured APCs rather violate the point of manouvre warfare, sounds as though you’re planning on punching through a strongly defended line, but the heavier the vehicles the less distance they’ll make until they outstrip their supply line. How many are you going to buy to accompany your tanks? Aren’t tanks themselves enough protection? If you spot one through any means it does rather give the game away as to the assault target. Operating with tanks as an infantryman is terrifying, they have a habit of reversing suddenly or squishing people though if someone was really laying it down I’d far rather be on foot behind a tank than in any APC.

      The original APCs were just for crew served weapons, half tracks were the solution favoured by the Germans and Americans, though even the latter struggled to fuel them in western european infrastructure.

      The one exception to my mind is something along the lines of the Marine corps amtracks. Something large that can deliver useful quantities of supplies to close to FEBA, potentially from a ship or across rivers, is a truly useful beast. Not sure about the recent one they cancelled though, started to look like a horrible compromise. Back in the day they had it about right with 5 ton capacity genuinely amphibious trucks as well as much larger 60 ton ones. I find it difficult to believe that a hovercraft is as reliable or useful.

      My own pereference would be for all services to embrace ISO containers, something along the lines of the Sikorsky Skycrane, amphibs with an armoured wheelhouse that could carry an ISO container and engineering versions that would both carry and dig in ( cross between a JCB and a supply truck). Oh and trucks. Yes they could carry infantry, with some protection, but not with mine resistant, T-72 resistant, ATGM reistant, air transportable, 30 mm cannon and TOW firing, NBC protected, air conditioned, clusterfucks. Course that would mean the marines, navy, air force and army buying the same kit…

      Like

      • picard578 said

        I should note here something:
        APC: an armored taxi, designed to bring the infantry to the front
        IFV: an APC with heavy firepower, designed to support the infantry it has brought to front

        You write APC but are describing IFV. Bradley was the first (?) IFV, and… just watch Pentagon Wars.
        “…has less armor than a snowblower, but has enough ammo to take out half of D.C.”

        APC has only one crew-served weapon, mostly for self-defense and limited fire support, but is not design to stay around and support the infantry.

        Like

    • Chris said

      They will be ineffective for maneuver warfare (too much tail as you’ve noted).

      You would have to maintain a heavy force (for things like urban warfare and maybe as a “breakthrough”) division for sieges and a light force for deep penetrations.

      Survivability though I think would be better than tanks. With the turret removed, there is the opportunity for more armor to the sides, bottom, and rear. You could also put reactive armor like on tanks and a birdcage. Finally, there’s the fact that there’s no area with lots of 120mm ammo and there’s less potential for explosions there (only the fuel tank really).

      The one thing you would want is very wide tracks though, so that they don’t get stuck in the soft soil (otherwise you’ll be stuck on roads and be vulnerable to IEDs). I think most heavy tanks have to much ground pressure.

      Either way though, I think for a lighter force, the same idea applies, you want the entire force wrapped around the idea of a single tracked chassis so that it’s easier to maintain.

      Agree with the container battle box idea though. They might have to be a bit more heavily armored and it might be a good idea to get a spall liner though.

      Anyways, Combat Reform has an interesting read about it:
      http://www.combatreform.org/battleboxes.htm

      Like

  12. Andrei said

    @Mike ” Rather amusingly quad bikes with a chap on the back packing a LAW type weapon simply eat them for breakfast. Literally run rings around them.”

    I like this, I would even go further. Motorcycle dragoons. Each dragoon equipped with a light weight, electric all road motorcycle, and carrying 5 or 6 AT missiles and one or two MANPADS. The motorcycle allows that much equipment to be carried. I would prefer motorcycles over quads because they can fit on much more narrow roads practically being able to use even goat-trails if the rider is skilled enough, which a quad can not do (to wide), and if the motorcycle is engineered well enough it can carry just as much as a quad. The motorcycle is also much more easy to maintain, it has a very simple transmission compared to the two differentials required by a quad, and also with electric motors you could install them in the hubs of the wheels and get a 2X2 motorcycle much more easy then existing models.
    Dragoons would fight on foot the way dragoons traditionally did, and be used for ambush, motorcycles would be used for transport only, or they could have an option where a missile launcher could be installed for fixed forward firing, to be used for very situational “cavalry charges”.
    Small pigeon sized drones could be used to give the dragoons “over the next hill ridge” type recon capabilities and improve their situational awareness, while being very hard to track and shoot down by AAA or SAMs.
    With the motorcycles being electric, they would be very silent, they could sneak very close to their targets, and also the rider motorcycle combination wouldn’t give more heat then the rider.
    Molecular batteries with high capacity already exist they just have to be made in sufficient quantities to lower they price. A module the size of ones finger costs about 2000$ but forty such modules with a smaller volume then a small motorcycle gas-tank can give an record setting prepared motorcycle 400 km autonomy at 300km/h (saw an documentary a while back 😀 ). Recharge options for moto-dragoons could be quick battery changes if time is not available or maybe wind/solar/portable hydro-turbine charging while the dragoons sleep.
    What do you think? Could such an asymmetric force give “tank heavy armies” fits?

    Like

    • picard578 said

      You could also use bicycles. Maybe not as much autonomy, but even lighter, and easier to maintain. Of course, using both would be the best.

      Like

      • Andrei said

        The idea is to carry as much missiles per man as possible. With bicycles you are still limited to human power, and human carrying ability. Also there is the speed problem. The best road bicyclers get up to maybe 60 km/h downhill, 100km on flat road with a streamlined reclining bike, off road I don’t think a bike can do more then 20 km/h. The idea with the moto-dragoons is to outmaneuver and out-speed tanks over all terrain types so one can choose where to ambush them and set the tempo of operations and keep initiative. With bicycles I don’t think you can do more then react.
        On the other hand the electric motorcycles I have in mind aren’t a whole of a lot more heavy then bicycles. The main weight of a motorcycle comes from the engine and gas tank. Two hub electric motors would weigh a few kg and offer the same power and torque as a 1000cc engine weighing close to 100kg, not to mention that there wouldn’t be any chain transmission and it would have all wheel drive. And also the molecular batteries that I was talking about would weigh less then the 30 kg of a tank with the gas inside it. So I think one could obtain an electric all-road all-wheel drive motorcycle weighing about 50kg, with an autonomy of about 300-400kms and performance similar to the best 200kg adventure bikes.

        Like

    • Mike said

      I think the thing against motorcyles in peacetime is the incredible casualty rate, Going cross country where there could be rabbit holes and whatnot is pretty dangerous. Saying that people don’t join the Army for a safe life.

      Electric really would be an option, I’m less than convinced about armoured vehicles with electric engines but yeah it would work on a motorbike.

      “Small pigeon sized drones could be used to give the dragoons “over the next hill ridge” type recon capabilities”

      Already exists, desert hawk or something, which fits nicely in a backpack. Also electric. Would be the only genuinely air transportable vehicles that would be worth bothering with. Have them pack a few LAWs or a light mortar and would be a fantastic recon asset.

      Like

    • Chris said

      I think that a mixed force might be good. Bicycles are not hard to maintain at all and you could have both – it’s not like bicycles are expensive (even cheaper for an army buying them by the thousands or more). Even high end light weight bicycles have been getting better (advancements in the civilian world).

      Like

      • picard578 said

        “Even high end light weight bicycles have been getting better (advancements in the civilian world).”

        Aye, but I’m not sure you’d want them. Many of these – particularly race bicycles – have composite frame, which is sturdy but will either stay in shape or snap, and it is expensive as hell. Mountain bicycles are better off with metal framework, which is heavier but will bend and twist before breaking.

        Like

      • Andrei said

        “Aye, but I’m not sure you’d want them. Many of these – particularly race bicycles – have composite frame, which is sturdy but will either stay in shape or snap, and it is expensive as hell. Mountain bicycles are better off with metal framework, which is heavier but will bend and twist before breaking.”

        You really don’t want those: high-end downhill mountain bikes have to be sturdy and light weight, thus they are made of carbon fiber and other high end composites and a 8 kg bike winds up costing around 60000$. For those money you could build a electric motorcycle like I just described much more sturdy, fast and comfortable.

        Like

      • Chris said

        You’d want mountain bikes with wide tires.

        @Andrei

        Electric motor cycle would be a bit heavier and it will still need to have the batteries recharged so that would add to the maintenance and logistics load.

        Like

      • Chris said

        There are bikes on the market with tires as wide as 13cm.

        Here’s an example:

        Like

  13. Jan said

    Just read the article ” Death on the battlefield” , Eastridge et al, Acute care, 2012, where it is shown that the main cause for “non survivable” battle casualities since 2001 is gunshot wounds etc (so no “big” bombs etc). Most of it happens in foot patrols. Furthermore, according to the authors more emphasis, in order to bring the numbers down, should be put on prevention. If one can agree, that the probability of getting wounded lies in gunshotwounds and explosions it would serve a purpose to “protect” the valuable footsoldier as long and as good as possible. A strategic or even tactical advantage is not found in having guys drive on bicycles or quads with an rpg on their back. Also: a strategic or tactical consideration is not found is logistical aspects ( there will be not enough diesel! ), because the ultimate goal being keeping as long as possible men in the fight is far more important. This means that there still is a need for APC’s or IFV’s. Keeping the men protected as long as possible, whilst not hampering military objectives, still is a very important goal, when the war is to be won. It is a bit like the tactics the US army developed in the last year of ww2: they demanded a white flag to be shown by the citizens of the towns they were to liberate. If no flag was shown they called in the artillery, who shot the town to pieces. Of course such a tactic is not accepted nowadays, but it shows the most important concern, which is keeping men out of harms way. I am sure that technically speaking an improvement- mini drones, extremely accurate fire, prevention of collateral damage and battlefield intel– can work, before ,as is the case now, men are “sent in”.

    Like

    • Andrei said

      “Just read the article ” Death on the battlefield” , Eastridge et al, Acute care, 2012, where it is shown that the main cause for “non survivable” battle casualities since 2001”

      So that is Irak and Afganistan. Which are not conventional wars, but more like occupation actions. What I was describing with motorcycles is to be used in a conventional war to neutralize an opponents tank advantage with minimal cost in money and life. It’s something to be used with elite forces in lighting raids. I was not suggesting for occupation actions.
      But you do bring in an interesting point that has been debate on the site. The tendency of military to go for multirole platform, to cram as many capabilities into a platform with disastrous results see Bradley and Abrams. Thus they wind up buying overweight gas guzzlers, to be used in cross-country open field scenarios and justify the expense with the need for increased protection to be used in urban warfare and occupation duty. What they should be doing instead is to buy two platforms: a fast, light weight, heavily armed speedster to be used cross-country, and a heavy-weight, slow, economical, heavily armed and armored mobile fortress to be used for urban warfare.
      What am I saying is that ground troops should be more specialized: motorized cavalry for use in open field battles, and heavily armored siege troops and engineers to be used in urban warfare. In fact the same specialization Picard is suggesting for aircraft.
      I think Russians are preparing to do this, in fact an evolution of their organization since WWII. They have 3 platforms, the Armata with tank, APC, IFV and artillery variants to be used by line breaker and urban warfare units, the Kurganests a 30 ton medium weight tracked platform with IFV, APC, light tank (tank destroyer) and mortar carrier variants to be used by cavalry units and open field warfare units , and the Boomerang wheeled platform with again IFV, APC, tank destroyer, motar carrier variants to be used by second line units and occupation units .

      Like

    • picard578 said

      “A strategic or even tactical advantage is not found in having guys drive on bicycles or quads with an rpg on their back.”

      Actually, there is. First one is mobility, as even tracked APCs are far more limited in terms of mobility than bicycles. They can’t go through forrests, or mountain tracks or similar mobility-limited areas. When APC can’t traverse the terrain, you have to leave it and travel on foot. When a bicycle can’t traverse the terrain, you can carry it (it would be problematic, though, I remember my BMX being quite heavy, mostly thanks to its steel frame). Bicycle is far faster and more energy-efficient than walking, and so bicycle-equipped troops will have mobility advantage over ones on foot. Second one is surprise – you can hear APC/IFV/tank coming from huge distance while bicycle is quiet. It is also far smaller, and you can easily hide it in bush when preparing an ambush. Third one is logistics, since troops on bicycles can live off land and/or a small amount of airdropped supplies, whereas armored units require massive logistics trail (less so if they have multifuel diesel engines, but still…).

      Of course, armored vehicles have advantage in survivability and firepower. But there are situations where you simply can’t use them, and in any case, you will never have enough to equip your entire military. So question is not a soldier in APC vs a soldier on a bicycle. Question is a soldier on foot vs a soldier on a bicycle, and I’d say that latter has an advantage in many situations.

      “Also: a strategic or tactical consideration is not found is logistical aspects ( there will be not enough diesel! ), because the ultimate goal being keeping as long as possible men in the fight is far more important.”

      An APC without a diesel is a bunker, except it is extremely exposed and thin-skinned. And being able to fight doesn’t do much good if you can’t get to the fight in the first place.

      “This means that there still is a need for APC’s or IFV’s. ”

      You are misunderstanding. I never proposed abandoning APCs. What I am pointing out is that one should not focus on higher-end systems (APC) to an extent that he ignores a lower-end system (bycicle).

      Like

      • Jan said

        The conventional war, a better description is “industrial” war, is, at least according to General Sir Rupert Smith (former commanding officer of the UK Armoured Division in the Gulf war, commanding officer of UN forces in Bosnia and Deptuty Supreme Commander in Nato) a thing of the past. In his book “The utility of force, the art of war in the modern world”, he describes the “assymetrical war” we see in the majority of conflicts since WW2. A main focus in these conflicts is on air dominance. It “pays” to invest a lot in order to be “the boss in the skies”. This proves my point: the enemy who will have to hide in the population will try to make it as costly for us as possible through the use of IED’s for instance. Which makes investing in the protection of the boots on the ground even more important. Even Daesh is winning its battles (at least it is not losing because of the air weapon) through the use of suicide bombing for example (it is also clear that “stand off CAS” is not working, by the way). Therefore: the main focus will still have to be on protection (and adequate CAS). Of course if one expects WW3 on the plains of Germany the necessities change, but even then in both cases, when the ultimate advantage of the enemy is that it can “afford”, in a political sense, more casualities, our main effort is to protect the “grunts”.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “A main focus in these conflicts is on air dominance. It “pays” to invest a lot in order to be “the boss in the skies”.”

          Assuming that either you or your enemy will actually use air force for supporting troops as opposed to strategic bombing, it definetly does. Air superiority / dominance is “enabler”, by itself it is “disconnected” from situation on the ground, but it “enables” other missions that can influence, or shape, situation on the ground – such as strategic and tactical air lift, battlefield interdiction, close air support etc.

          “This proves my point: the enemy who will have to hide in the population will try to make it as costly for us as possible through the use of IED’s for instance. Which makes investing in the protection of the boots on the ground even more important.”

          True. But best way to minimize casualties is to either not go to the war, or make sure that war lasts as little as possible. Which means that you have to deny shelters to insurgents, and in that, added mobility of a bicycle pays a lot. There are places where armored vehicles simply can’t go.

          Like

      • Andrei said

        “The conventional war, a better description is “industrial” war, is, at least according to General Sir Rupert Smith (former commanding officer of the UK Armoured Division in the Gulf war, commanding officer of UN forces in Bosnia and Deptuty Supreme Commander in Nato) a thing of the past.”

        That is Sir Rupert’s Smith definition, and is a somewhat limited and confusing definition. With I think of when I think of conventional war is war between “state actors” and that is not a thing of the past. A very recent example is the war between Georgia and Rusia. It has not been an industrial war because the industry of either country didn’t play any role in it. It was however a conventional war. On the other hand the war between Israel and the various Islamist militias like Hamas surrounding it is very much an industrial war. The Islamist militias have a quite developed underground industry building artillery rockets and various munitions and Israel is spending billions developing C-RAM measures. On the other hand this war has nothing conventional about it.

        Like

        • Jan said

          A good description of what this kind a war entails is given in “Assymetrical warfare”, Jonathan B. Tucker. Most of the conflicts nowadays are assymetrical and/or irregular. The war in the Ukrain is by both parties for a big part “by proxy” and done by “irregulars”, which shows that the use of terms can indeed be confusing…

          Like

      • Mike said

        ” In his book “The utility of force, the art of war in the modern world”, he describes the “assymetrical war” we see in the majority of conflicts since WW2. A main focus in these conflicts is on air dominance”

        I’d disagree with his definition, though you can call it whatever you like.

        I do like the term asymmetric warfare, supposedly used to indicate that one player is more powerful than the other and should therefore win. The excuses for constant and repetitive losses in such conflicts become so long and tortuous as to be amusing.

        To me the usage of the term actually indicates a complete lack of comprehension as to the aims of terror attacks. Suicide bombings and whatnot are not explicitly designed to spread fear and terror, they are to provoke an overwhelming and disproportionate response from the opponent, therefore showing up the injustice in the system of government.

        The simple fact almost always missed is that due to the huge tail needed for heavily armed and sophisticated forces the actual teeth arms are always massively heavy on firepower but also massively outnumbered. Every man with an AK hidden in his attic with two magazines is actually far more efficient than heavy armoured forces. Calling in a Strike Eagle to precision bomb a Toyota hilux is just such a disproportionate use of force.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          Main problem is that people in the West, especially generals, forget the main aim of use of the force. Clausewitz wrote that war is continuation of peacetime politics by other means. When you are fighting a war, you are fighting to accomplish a certain political goal. In such a situation, it is entirely logical to accept a military disadvantage (or a perceived disadvantage) if it helps accomplish the goal of the war.

          But today in the West, generals, and even politicians I fear, think of a war in terms of “target processing”, that is, killing as many enemies as possible. They can’t wrap their miniature brains around the fact that you can kill more men than you loose and still loose the war, even if forces are of roughly equal size. Hell, you can completely destroy enemy military and still loose the war.

          Like

      • Andrei said

        Again asymmetrical warfare is a deceptive term. The use of electric motorcycles for tank-hunting like I am suggesting with the moto-dragoons is a form off asymmetrical warfare, but like you have observed it’s unsuitable for war against non-state actors and more suited for war between nation states. On the other hand the could be used in proxy wars too. For example in Ukraine the Russian backed “irregulars” use a lot of armored vehicles, the Ukrainians if they would be thinking creatively and pro-active instead of reactive could very much organize special forces to use motorcycles to attack Russian backed irregular armored columns., and would thus neutralize the main advantage the Russian backed irregular have over the Ukrainian army, better vehicles.

        Like

      • Mike said

        “but like you have observed it’s unsuitable for war against non-state actors and more suited for war between nation states. ”

        I’m not entirely sure I agree that bikes would be unsuitable. Would take some balls but the speed of reaction would be magnificent and it fits in with the ethos of young gun toting hotheads in most parts of the world. Rather than having 11 eyes in a tin can ( or 33 blokes in at least 3 tin cans) of whom two are looking forward and one elsewhere those same blokes would I think be much more effective, especially on quiet electric bikes. Even on roads I doubt mines would be particularly effective, command line would be extremely difficult to judge given the difficulty of ascertaining speed. Vulnerable to machinegun fire of course, but arguably less so that the same blokes on foot who are increasingly knackered from lugging kit around in desert climes.

        Most important thing though is the mobility, Get lit up in flat featureless terrain and you’d have a squad around the back of them in minutes. Even in hilly or mountanous they’d still have a massive advantage in speed. Wouldn’t have to stick to roads and noone is going to post a video of blowing up a motorbike, it is almost the opposite of what asymetric warfare is about.

        I have a suspicion it would actually be safer. Design them to form a reasonable barrier when prone and you almost have the equivalent of using your horse for cover. It is surprisingly difficult to hit a moving target at range.

        If anyone tried it I doubt they’d be short of volunteers, lets put it that way.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Andrei said

        “I’m not entirely sure I agree that bikes would be unsuitable. Would take some balls but the speed of reaction would be magnificent and it fits in with the ethos of young gun toting hotheads in most parts of the world. Rather than having 11 eyes in a tin can ( or 33 blokes in at least 3 tin cans) of whom two are looking forward and one elsewhere those same blokes would I think be much more effective, especially on quiet electric bikes. Even on roads I doubt mines would be particularly effective, command line would be extremely difficult to judge given the difficulty of ascertaining speed. Vulnerable to machinegun fire of course, but arguably less so that the same blokes on foot who are increasingly knackered from lugging kit around in desert climes.”

        I got caught in the same trap set by depiction of the War in Irak and started taking of conflicts with non state actors as highly urbanized ones. I forgot that Afghanistan and Mali for example where mostly rural conflicts, and in this kind of environment the moto-dragoons would be perfect. That’s how the French resolved the conflict in Mali so fast compared with the American debacle in Afghanistan. The French in Mali gave up highly armoured MRAPs and patrols in force and large base presences, for patrolling in fast long range vehicles, staying in the field for long periods of time and building a rapport with the native population and supporting the local African forces instead of replacing them like the Americans did with the Afghans.

        “If anyone tried it I doubt they’d be short of volunteers, lets put it that way.”

        Hell no. And it might be good training for prospective combat officers: it builds initiative, aggressiveness and also through Darwinian evolution it selects against those that cannot temper those two traits, because somebody to aggressive and with to much initiative to listen to the orders and recommendations from those with more rank and/or experience then them, would probably not survive training let alone combat.

        Like

    • Mike said

      If you put patrols out, and they get shot up, I wouldn’t really consider doing the same route with a vehicle to be the answer. If the overall aim is to stay there as long as possible with the minimum casualties then yes, politically minimizing every risk makes sense.

      If you are looking to win then you actually want your infantry trading rounds, on an unequal basis of course. That is one of the aims of patrolling… Doing the same patrol with a vehicle ( actually at least three) in tow might deter the attack, in which case you learn nothing. More likely doing the same patrol actually in a vehicle is utterly pointless. They aren’t going to attack unless they think they can take a vehicle out.

      Ladening your infantry with so much kit that they are semi mobile in a country with little natural cover from fire, in order to minimise casualties, is another example. I’m not saying that many would have swapped their body armour out given the option but it did deny the possibility of pursuit, which given the ROEs in place made it a bit bloody futile. Frankly though, whenever rounds were traded the odds were ten to one in our favour.

      “Also: a strategic or tactical consideration is not found is logistical aspects ( there will be not enough diesel! ), because the ultimate goal being keeping as long as possible men in the fight is far more important.”

      Logistics are fundamental and key to both the tactical and strategic aims. For instance the proposals for part electric drive vehicles are not down to concern for the environment or even stealth so much as the harsh logistical reality that in order to keep vehicles with low mpg in the field takes dozens of men behind the scenes and in the supply chain. Only a small part of the Army actually engages in combat, the most efficient armies can put a higher percentage of their men in the bayonet positions whilst keeping them adequately supplied. The least efficient can neither supply their men nor protect those who do supply them. Supermen on the front lines without rounds in their magazines will lose. Brilliant Generals without gas cannot maneuver. In a conventional war the plans made boil down to mere wishful thinking unless the supplies can be brought forward and stockpiled. In an unconventional war too, the idea of being in the middle of Afghanistan whilst your supply and casevac choppers get taken out does not bear thinking about.

      If unconventional war really is about hearts and minds ( not convinced) then putting tanks ( anything with a turret) on the streets pisses the locals off. Don’t forget that the civilians and police, who are more likely to be in a Ford Ranger than an MRAP, run risks too and are probably getting blown up daily. They are more likely to root for the guy using a peashooter against a battleship. Terror attacks do not succeed by blowing a wheel off a multi million pound vehicle. Why use 1000lbs of hard to get HE for such a task when the same quantity could take out 50 police patrols or wedding parties? At some point, when you sign on the dotted line, your job is to protect civilians somewhere or other, riding around in MRAPs does not accomplish that in my opinion. Getting stoned in a police compound by the children of the policemen rather reinforced the point that occupation is not an easy sell.

      “You write APC but are describing IFV. Bradley was the first (?) IFV, and… just watch Pentagon Wars.”

      Arguably the first IFV ( though from way before the term was coined) was the Landing Vehicle Tracked from WW2. Originally just for cargo they used them operationally to storm beaches, found they were slaughtered, so added armour, turrets etc. Honourable mention for the German half tracks too as one in three carried an antitank gun.

      First modern IFV would probably be the BMP-1 (or maybe the HS20, which was crap) which caused many heart attacks during the cold war. Would be interesting to see statistics on whether an IFV is a safer place or more effective place to be for infantry, I doubt it. The original german doctrine was to have a small force ( usually company sized) riding in half tracks alongside the tanks. Targets of opportunity could therefore be hit with combined arms, which is an important point.

      Your recce will decide whether sending tanks in first, infantry in first, or a combination. The idea behind the APC was to protect the infantry from artillery and machine gun fire. This is a fine concept in high intensity warfare. The problem is that since used effectively, in small numbers, by the Wehrmacht the effective range of infantry small arms has stayed about the same. The effective range range of artillery has increased little. The effective range of ATGMs however has doubled and doubled again. Hence the threat the APC was designed to defeat, is no longer the primary threat, if you are using APCs. If you are up against ATGMs you aren’t going to take them out with direct fire, unless they are very stupid.

      In fact, for the western european scenario, the true buttfucker for the concept itself was that the secondary threat was chemical weapons. If your APCs are going to ride along with, keep up with and compliment the tanks, then the infantry inside have to be protected against the same threats. This meant NBC protection, more armour and a hell of a lot more cost. Instead of relatively simple and cheap vehicles they rather quickly became sealed boxes with all of the inherent problems of the tank with added dimensional problems- the same problems the original half tracks and whatnot were designed to overcome, excellent visibility being primary. So now your company of infantry riding along with the tanks is effectively costing you at least half a company of tanks. 🙂 This for a very small number of otherwise stealthy infantry.

      At this point too, which is still in the 60’s and 70s, the mission for the IFV became to suppress and avoid infantry, rather than to potentially charge into positions ( blissfully ignoring machinegun fire) as had originally been envisaged, and help out against potential swarms of opposition tanks. Their unit cost became such that you either ordered them in quantity as a standard piece of infantry equipment or didn’t bother at all.

      So yes, you are correct in that there is a definitional difference between APCs and IFVs. To me though an IFV is just a badly designed APC with it’s priorities all arse backward. Basically if it mounts an autocannon with DS ammunition it might be called an IFV, but it most certainly is not one. To be fair I even disagree with the term APC. By labelling it a personel carrier it rather excludes the history and utility of such vehicles in a resupply role. Armoured carrier, excellent idea. Specially designed Armoured goldfish / paperclip / bathtub / beret carrier, not so much so.

      “Agree with the container battle box idea though. They might have to be a bit more heavily armored and it might be a good idea to get a spall liner though.”

      I’m sure someone could take the non existent ballistic protection of an ISO container and add NBC, compound reactive armour, turrets, the entire sensor suite from an SSN and a shower if you paid them enough money.There is little point though, other than maybe a semi-armoured infantry box ( splinter and MG protection). Thin armour is actually an advantage against heat warheads for instance. The idea would be more along the lines of an air defence ISO, either short range cannon or SAMS. Stick it on a container ship and instant-ish CIWS. Stick it on a truck and convoy protection. Stick it in a 5 foot deep hole with berms around the side and static AAA. Same with an infantry box, stick it on an amphibian truck and you have a makeshift riverine patrol craft ( what do you mean we don’t have any?). This wouldn’t be an IFV, the grunts would be walking the last couple of miles, as they would anyway with IFVs incidentally. Rinse repeat for mortar, artillery etc. Yes armoured carriers would have their uses but for all other scenarios they are still basically a truck. SP arty? Only takes a moment to hoik an ISO onto a trapeze fitted truck.

      Want more protection ( there could be a case for a very small number of protected ammo or fuel containers), get a shovel and dig it in.

      Course you might find a crane equipped truck which could sling these things about might be useful… Onto railway cars for instance or barges / lighters.

      I wonder what else you could use such a crane for? 🙂

      Like

  14. Chris said

    @Mike

    I’d agree that for real COIN, the heavy APCs are not the solution.

    That and I agree ladening infantry with too much is not good. Can’t recall where I found the links but there are very real declines in fighting efficiency after a certain load.

    The issue is that the troops are going to have to integrate into society, live near the people, and eat the food that the locals eat (that also builds relationships and by extension, information). In other words, they need to earn the trust of the local population. If anything, it has more in common with a disaster relief operation than a war in a sense, although the danger is very real still. IEDs will go away I think when the population trusts the military force enough for them to not make IEDs. In the short run though, it will mean casualties.

    The logistics are always going to be the weak point and yes, heavy armor force means lower fighting to logistics ratio, which is another weak point.

    Like

    • Mike said

      “The issue is that the troops are going to have to integrate into society, live near the people, and eat the food that the locals eat (that also builds relationships and by extension, information). In other words, they need to earn the trust of the local population. If anything, it has more in common with a disaster relief operation than a war in a sense, although the danger is very real still. IEDs will go away I think when the population trusts the military force enough for them to not make IEDs. In the short run though, it will mean casualties.”

      Nail hit on head.

      The current, woefully unsuccessful model, is to build massive bases in the middle of nowhere, preferably with a runway bigger than your own international airport, then smaller but still large compounds close to civilian centres. Troops only go in or out either heavily armed, treat every civilian as a threat or in huge armoured vehicles. Meanwhile 90% of the force sits behind guarded walls. So your 100,000 troops in theatre is actually 10,000 going out on patrol occasionally. I doubt the ratio was that high. Didn’t meet that many people who had been outside the wire.

      Imagine living next to that? We are here to help you, we’ve spent $100 million constructing this shit tip and many billions on the main one – here’s $100 now be a good chap and tell me where your brother is hiding.

      The only people who see the locals ( other than the local workers needed to keep such bases going, and who therefore see colossal infrastructure which is likely 10 times better than their own) are… Ta da.. The infantry.

      Now if you were going to get Lockheed Martin to come up with the most expensive possible way to piss the locals off in the shortest possible time, they would probably design the Infantry for you. Getting pissed and upsetting people is their modus operandi. Nice people they rarely are, unless they are eyeing your daughter up. The Infantry are snarling dogs of war waiting for the leash to be unslipped. The face the locals needs to see is the Labradors, the ordinary men and women who just wanted a career, educational qualifications a disadvantage.. Not the bloody hoccifers either, I’m sure they have enough of their own people capable of condescending to them or speaking their language badly. Frankly you are more likely to win such encounters on the end of a pork sword than a bayonet. Long haired translators are the key to hearts and minds me thinks, though clearly there are cultural issues around places that are really, really frighteningly good at beating invaders.

      “The logistics are always going to be the weak point and yes, heavy armor force means lower fighting to logistics ratio, which is another weak point.”

      It is also a backhanded compliment to the courage and tenacity of the bloke with an AK in his attic. Look at us, the greater of the two asymetric forces. Won’t be coming out to play without $20 million dollars worth or kit though. Abdul meanwhile gets a heroes reception for firing a magazine off from maximum range and tying an armoured column down for 8 hours as they try to figure out whether he is still there.

      Think of the fawning admiration for the Mujaheddin who took the Soviets on at their own game. Brave men protecting their families with nothing but a WW2 Lee Enfield firing blindly at heavily armed Russian attack helicopters who are about to strafe a refugeee camp from altitude..

      Same people, different spin on the propaganda…

      Charlie Wilson’s war, Rambo 3, lord knows how many documentaries from news channels exposing the genocidal tendencies of the evil empire as they set about a bunch of goat herders with space age technology.

      We just got our arses handed to us by them too.

      Like

    • Chris said

      In many ways, the Islamic Jihad organizations have managed to use the very strengths of Western conventional militaries as weak points. They in a sense got in the West’s decision cycle.

      Despite the vast disparity in resources, they’ve managed some impressive resistance – and in terms of monetary gains have managed to bleed the West.

      Like

      • picard578 said

        More troublingly, they seem to have understood and accepted Boyd’s theories better than any Western military. Moral > physical, and they are managing to alienate West from indigenous Arab populaces.

        Like

      • Chris said

        I have always found it interesting that the Arabic nation state-armies don’t fare so well, while the unconventional armies do very well.

        In the case of the Western armies, I think that it is a matter of willful ignorance. They do not want to see the truth, because they fear the implications of what it would mean – especially in the case of favored weapons systems and the like.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “I have always found it interesting that the Arabic nation state-armies don’t fare so well, while the unconventional armies do very well. ”

          I believe that issue is simply one of motivation. ISIL fighters aren’t that well trained; neither is Iraqi military. But being religiously motivated, ISIL will fight often to the death and will do their best to defend themselves, while Iraqi troops are prone to running away as soon as they hear some noise.

          You have materials linked in here:
          https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/why-gulf-wars-cannot-be-used-as-a-basis-for-estimating-effectiveness-of-beyond-visual-range-combat/

          Major reason is that Arab countries are actually a legacy of European colonial occupation, drawn on a map with a ruler, with no regard to ethnic composition… or anything, really. So Arabs don’t have any reason to feel loyalty to their country.

          “In the case of the Western armies, I think that it is a matter of willful ignorance. They do not want to see the truth, because they fear the implications of what it would mean – especially in the case of favored weapons systems and the like.”

          Precisely. I’d say that best NATO tanks are Leclerc and M-95, because they are designed for mobile operations. M-1 Abrams and Challenger II are primarily defensive tanks, akin to German Tiger. Similarly, the best Western fighter is Gripen, but militaries want large budgets and shiny toys, and are so buying the F-35.

          Like

      • Mike said

        “I have always found it interesting that the Arabic nation state-armies don’t fare so well, while the unconventional armies do very well.”

        They aren’t really armies in the way we’d understand them. The Muslim world is essentially one theorcracy, the nation states are imposed upon them ( no lines in the desert) and the military are more used to impose and assert the authority of the ruler than to provide security from external sources.

        The Saudis are a good example. Basically if the Army gets a tank, the Imperial Guard gets an anti-tank weapon. Still the Saudis are more stable than most.

        No Muslim army has defeated a western one in battle since Saladin’s day,maybe a Pyrrhic victory against the Serbs.

        I’m not so sure their unconventional armies do particularly well either. Political goals are merely centred around stability rather than outright defeat and the blood price they pay is huge. Time after time we take out their armies, only to see the country descend into chaos afterwards. Me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against any outsider still rings very true.

        Political leaders vie with each other to be seen as an Arab leader rather than merely a national one, which generally involves being mean about the United States. Whoever is meanest and uses the harshest language wins, until the bombers turn up. The only success I can think of was Bin Laden’s. His complaint was centred around the stationing of American troops in Saudi, which they fairly promptly withdrew.

        “Despite the vast disparity in resources, they’ve managed some impressive resistance – and in terms of monetary gains have managed to bleed the West.”

        As the neocons put it, chump change. The reason revolves around the world financial system, oil out of the ground ( the more expensive the better) is effectively new money. It allows the US to borrow at practically no interest so the cost of protecting the resources through exports of military kit and providing guarantees of military assistance is effectively negligible. The blood price is another matter. Times are a changing but that’s the way it’s been since the 50s.

        Interestingly once the mercenaries took over in Iraq the government were quite happy to allow them to kill civilians with impunity. Literally licenced to kill. The only restriction was that all weapons had to be under 50 cal, which was enforced vigorously.

        Like

      • Andrei said

        “No Muslim army has defeated a western one in battle since Saladin’s day,maybe a Pyrrhic victory against the Serbs. ”

        400 years of Otoman domination over eastern Europe would beg to differ. As for the victory against the Serbs I don’t know what history you read but it was anything but Pyrrhic on the contrary it earned the young Sultan barely one day into his reign the nickname Bayazid which means lighting. That’s how the Serbs felt, like being hit by lightning.
        As for no victories of Muslim armies of Western ones let’s see: Nicopolis ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Nicopolis ), Fall of Constantinople ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Constantinople ), Varna which ended Ioan Corvin’s successful until that battle Crusade of Varna ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Varna ), Mohacs ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Moh%C3%A1cs ), Rhodes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Rhodes_%281522%29).
        Practically until the 17th Century the only time the Ottomans lost decisively was when they were overextending they’re lines: Lepanto ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Lepanto ) , Malta ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Siege_of_Malta ), Vienna twice ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Vienna https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Vienna ), or when fighting Romanian rulers such as Stephen the Great in Moldavia ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Vaslui ), Mircea the Elder and his grandson Vlad the Impaler (yes Dracula) in Wallachia ( no he was not ruler of Transylania ) ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Rovine , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_Attack ) and Ioan Corvin, known more by Hungarian version of his name John Hunyadi who was actually ruling Transylvania around Draculas days. Why I call the victories the Romanians (in Wallachia and Moldavia mostly) had over the Ottomans decisive? Because the Ottoman armies always numbered well above 40000 troops some times close to 100000 while the Romanians had at most (battle of Vaslui) 40000 troops (mostly irregulars, poorly armed peasants ) but usually around 10000 to 15000 troops. Usually the Ottomans had at least 1 to 3 numerical advantage and yet lost, mostly because of Asymmetrical warfare tactic used by Romanians. 😀

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “Practically until the 17th Century the only time the Ottomans lost decisively was when they were overextending they’re lines”

          Yes and no. They tended to lose smaller battles – Croatian army could easily go from one end of Bosnia to another – and Matthias Corvinus gave them beating after beating, liberating most of the Bosnia in short order. He was kinda an exception, though. Most of the time, however, Ottomans’ superior command and control and logistical capability allowed them to field and control far larger armies than their Christian enemies, and even when that wasn’t the case, they tended to have superior leadership. All battles that John Hunyadi lost were lost not because Ottomans were superior in any way, but because Hunyadi’s subordinates ignored his orders.

          Like

      • Andrei said

        “All battles that John Hunyadi lost were lost not because Ottomans were superior in any way, but because Hunyadi’s subordinates ignored his orders.”

        Same as Nicopolis where WESTERN knights, refused Sigismund’s Order to hold back and let Mircea the Elder, which had experience against the Ottomans having defeated them a year earlier at Rovine, attack first and thus conduct a Reconnaissance in Force of the Ottoman defenses. So the WESTERN knights charged first in search of glory and the outcome was so predictable that Mircea the Elder choose to simply retreat without engaging the Ottomans at all to conserve his forces for the future confrontations which he knew where to come: the WESTERN knights got tangled in the trench-works prepared by the Ottomans and where massacred by expandable irregular infantry recruited by Bayazid from newly conquered lands and thus unreliable. The sipahii then charged and broke what remained of the WESTERN knights and went on to take crusader camp, Sigismund barely escaped with his life. No glory was to be found that day, but ignominious capture and/or death .

        Like

  15. Silavite said

    If you want to see a funny joke, look at this.

    Click to access MICHEL_III_55.pdf


    (The red bird is the F-16 program, and the Critics are the Military Reformers)

    “The Critics were outmaneuvered by the Air Force, which presented enough serious, carefully crafted detailed arguments to Congress that they carried the day. ”

    “The reason the Air Force ignored Red Bird was that the service saw it as a small, simple fighter with short range and limited load-carrying capability, and the Air Force had previous bad experiences with such aircraft. Range was the major issue. Small fighters carried a small amount of fuel, so they had limited endurance. This meant their patrol time was limited and they were not able to escort long-range bombers. Additionally, small aircraft had to keep their weight down so they could only carry limited armament, radar, electronic countermeasures, and other systems the Air Force deemed necessary for modern air combat, especially based on their experiences over North Vietnam. The Air Force had looked at two small fighters, the F-104 in the 1950s and the Northrop F-5 in the 1960s, but combat tests in Vietnam confirmed that both the F-104 and the F-5 had too short a range and too light a payload to be useful.”

    Like

    • picard578 said

      I’ll take a look at the document later, assuming I can access it… but Air Forces arguments are bullshit. And this: “presented enough serious, carefully crafted detailed arguments to Congress that they carried the day. ” must be sarcasm.

      BTW, F-16A had combat radius of 925 km with air-to-air load and full internal fuel, which is exactly the same as Rafale (I’m not kidding, Rafale also has combat radius of 925 km on internal fuel). YF-16 had even better combat radius, IIRC, in fact it was larger than the F-15As.

      Like

    • Mike said

      He doesn’t like the fighter mafia much…

      Not what I’d expect of a doctorate level in Philosophy, that’s for sure. I’d like to think that my rants have greater academic integrity, at least when my crack pipe is empty!

      What is his background?

      Almost everything he describes seems to vindicate the fighter mafia, small lightweight fighters running rings around their heavier more complex counterparts ( especially in the aggressor and top gun contexts) yet their ideas and values, though reflected in the demands of younger air force pilots, are treated with derision and scorn. The aggressors using Soviet tactics, specifically giving the Air Froce pilots the chance to paint them on radar, yet scoring 80% of their kills unseen, is particularly telling. Saying that I’ve read different takes on the aggressor’s effectiveness in the 70s, usually along the lines of not embarrassing the unit’s commander.

      I’m guessing most of those who participate on Picard’s site are fans of the mafia, so it’s not easy to be objective or know what to make of the document. Well footnoted but the salient points are almost always speculative or based upon perceived qualities and even gossip. Even reductio ad absurdum in places. Boyd thought that range was pointless in an aircraft did he?

      At times it reads more like a script for a soap opera.

      Like

      • Silavite said

        I know nothing about the author, I just found the report in the Wikipedia references on the John Boyd page.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Boyd_(military_strategist)#References
        The person who originally updated the page to include this report and some info within stated their reason for editing was: “updated with new reference, removed biased account.”

        About Boyd thinking range was pointless – I highly doubt it. According to his biography (by Coram) he placed the fuel fraction of his lightweight fighter in high regard.

        Like

      • Silavite said

        About fuel fraction of the F-16; straight from the book.
        Fuel Fraction 1
        Fuel Fraction 2

        Like

      • picard578 said

        “but the salient points are almost always speculative or based upon perceived qualities and even gossip.”

        Wikipedia-quality, eh?

        “Boyd thought that range was pointless in an aircraft did he?”

        Not exactly. However, he placed more emphasis on combat endurance.

        Mission requirements of the F-16 included use of external fuel tanks in order to cut on size and weight. It still had higher combat radius on internal fuel than F-15A.

        You have an interview with Harry Hillaker linked to somewhere in “links” section, I suggest you read it.

        Like

      • Mike said

        “While the Critics, notably Sprey, considered long range a useless requirement, range was a key issue for the Air Force, ”

        Quote from that thesis… The Critics, defined explicitly as unhelpful marginalised people, being the fighter mafia. According to him the Critics had little to do with the LWF, with lots of mental gymnastics to disassociate them from it. According to him it was a career politician and ex sailor who insisted that the design for the LWF should have long range. Which is basically amusing gibberish.

        “You have an interview with Harry Hillaker linked to somewhere in “links” section, I suggest you read it.”

        As I said in my original post, his stance is absurd.

        Like

  16. Chris said

    @Picard

    There is very little realistic testing as you’ve noted – tests are highly scripted. They want to show a weapon in a certain light.

    The Leclerc and M-95 I note are both somewhat lighter in mass (although the Leclerc is approaching 60 tons), so I guess they’d be more mobile.

    And yes, motivation must be the big one. Saddam’s fighters no doubt were poorly motivated and had very little warfare training. Another issue seems to be organization culture.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      “The Leclerc and M-95 I note are both somewhat lighter in mass (although the Leclerc is approaching 60 tons), so I guess they’d be more mobile.”

      That’s why I like them. Tanks are supposed to be used in mobile warfare, not as bunkers or battering rams.

      “And yes, motivation must be the big one. Saddam’s fighters no doubt were poorly motivated and had very little warfare training.”

      In some cases they surrendered to journalists…

      Like

      • Duviel Rodriguez said

        The regular conscripts yes. Large part of them were not even Sunni.

        The Republican Guard was all (or mostly) highly loyal to Saddam and mostly from his ethnic tribe/group. They had good living and high status in Iraq and they were going to fight for that like most in that position.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          True. But even the Guard was ineffective in anything but supressing rebellions, largerly due to excessive centralization. At least they didn’t fall apart ASAP, though.

          Like

      • Duviel Rodriguez said

        They were simply overwelmed by a fast moving force with deadly firepower. If they had benefits of good recon and better weapons that could actually take out Abrahms they might have done well. The T-72’s they were using were older models and were just greatly inferior. They had no good ATGM either.

        But, I think from what I have read that they did try to fight and were willing to die.

        In any warfare If your troops are not willing to risk their lives to acheive objective no matter what other advantages they have they will fail.

        Training helps and professionalism is important but at end of day either by Spirit de Corp, peer pressure, religion, nationalism, or pride troops have to be willing to fight for objective under great risk.

        Best thing is when you are fighting for something you really care about.

        You’re home and family behind you or some type of religious beleif. An enemy who prefers death over defeat or failure is usually going to win the fight.

        Thats whats happening with Iraqi army in most places. These guys dont care about what they are being sent to fight for.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “The T-72’s they were using were older models and were just greatly inferior. ”

          And were employed as static artillery positions most of the time.

          “But, I think from what I have read that they did try to fight and were willing to die.”

          Republician Guard, yes. Regular units, no.

          “In any warfare If your troops are not willing to risk their lives to acheive objective no matter what other advantages they have they will fail.
          Training helps and professionalism is important but at end of day either by Spirit de Corp, peer pressure, religion, nationalism, or pride troops have to be willing to fight for objective under great risk.”

          Indeed. “Moral is to physical what three is to one.” Yet too many times discussions and analyses of wars focus on material factors to the exclusion of human factors, such as training and motivation.

          Like

    • altandmain said

      Actually there is some evidence that the protection of the Leclerc may be better than the 70 ton Abrams. Layout does matter as much and apparently the French use better materials. I think that the Leclerc is more expensive, although the latest version of the M1 haa gone way up.

      The M1 is much more expensive than the Leopard 2, the last I checked.

      I have wondered if the decision to move to 120mm and 125mm was correct for all tanks. A lighter gun would offer more rounds to be stored.

      Like

      • picard578 said

        “Actually there is some evidence that the protection of the Leclerc may be better than the 70 ton Abrams.”

        Possible, though I don’t know enough to say for certain. But Leclerc has smaller profile, so it doesn’t need as much armor weight to achieve same level of protection.

        “I have wondered if the decision to move to 120mm and 125mm was correct for all tanks. A lighter gun would offer more rounds to be stored.”

        It would. But it would also mean lesser ability to penetrate armor of modern tanks or bunkers. In fact, I’d like two tanks:
        45-65 ton main battle tank; 120-125 mm main gun; designed for breakthroughs, tank engagement and infantry support; penetrates enemy defense lines
        25-45 ton light-medium tank; 75-90 mm main gun; designed for deep penetration and destruction of soft targets; exploits breakthroughts achieved by heavy tank, bypassing enemy defenses and destroying and cutting off support infrastructure, supply lines etc.

        As with aircraft proposals, both designs would be used across NATO, so maintenance and economies of scale would not be an issue.

        Like

      • Mike said

        The only modern tank to take on large numbers of third generation SACLOS ATGMs is the Merkava, which fared pretty well. As the design is predominantly based around crew protection I doubt lighter models would have survived. It also faced a massive IED threat.

        Could argue it is an IFV too, used both to carry, medevac and support the infantry fairly recently. Specialist anti personnel rounds from the main armament.

        The return of combined arms tactics.

        The thought of using ‘traditional’ IFVs in such a scenario is frightening. Would have been a bloodbath. Despite this supposedly being their reason detre.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “The only modern tank to take on large numbers of third generation SACLOS ATGMs is the Merkava, which fared pretty well.”

          Actually, there was that time when Challenger II survived a Milan ATGM in addition to 14 RPG hits. In fact, Challie’s Dorchester armor was never breached by anything.

          “As the design is predominantly based around crew protection I doubt lighter models would have survived. It also faced a massive IED threat.”

          Merkava is actually not that good in terms of mobile warfare, but since Israel isn’t very large and is focused mostly on defense, that is not so much of a poblem.

          “Could argue it is an IFV too, used both to carry, medevac and support the infantry fairly recently. Specialist anti personnel rounds from the main armament.”

          Yes, but it can carry either infantry or rounds for its gun. So… you get either an MBT or a lightly-armed, heavily-armored APC. Not both.

          “The thought of using ‘traditional’ IFVs in such a scenario is frightening. Would have been a bloodbath. Despite this supposedly being their reason detre.”

          Depends on scenario.

          Like

      • Andrei said

        So in conclusion best tank is one which can carry it’s own infantry support. I agree.

        Like

      • Andrei said

        “Yes, but it can carry either infantry or rounds for its gun. So… you get either an MBT or a lightly-armed, heavily-armored APC. Not both.”

        Depends on the number of infantry carried. On the blog of an Israeli infantry man ( I wound up on it by following some links from the Military Reform site ) he stated and put up pictures take by himself that the Merkava can carry up to 8 infantry. I imagine that that was without ammo. A smaller fire-team of 3 or 4 for self protection could probably be carried in addition to a decent ammo load.

        Like

      • Duviel Rodriguez said

        I can find some evidence to support anything. Especially when I dont put the evidence up to be scrutinized.

        I wish there was a way to run independant tests. Even than you can argue about which characteristics you value more. Most Frenchman will tell you Leclerc is better of course. Or vise versa for Americans or Brits.

        Leclerc uses less fuel than M1 which does make it more mobile in most type of warfare. Assuming you have not used up your ammo. As far as dash speed and suspension the numbers are about equal. Depends on your bias.

        M1 is more heavily armored anyway you spin it. The size difference is small. I had this argument already with Picard. Leopard II is actually biggest of major tanks in height, width, lenght calculations. Latest Leclerc does have a longer gun so its firepower is probably deadlier. Although I think M1 carries more rounds on board.

        They are both good. Who is better depends on how its used and its supporting network.

        Like

      • Duviel Rodriguez said

        I like your idea Picard. This one size fits all thing is not best idea. Unless for non-tactical reasons you have to have a swiss army knife weapon.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “This one size fits all thing is not best idea.”

          Indeed. Most armies have gone for heavier designs in 45-65 ton class for protection purposes, with result that air mobility and mobility over rough terrain was significantly reduced. Plus, across large distances, tanks are typically transferred by other vehicles – ships, aircraft, trains, trucks, name it. Having a smaller tank design also helps in that regard, though in many situations heavy tanks are necessary.

          Like

  17. Chris said

    The reason why the Merkava is able to do it is because of the tank design.

    The engine is at the front.

    Advantages:
    + That means that if anything breaches the front armor, it is more likely to hit the engine first rather than the crew compartment.
    + It’s can be easier to load/unload your tank
    + Fewer crew casualties if they need to abandon tank (can get out of the back of the tank rather than exposed on top)
    + Easier to convert chassis to things like heavy APC with engine in front
    + Casualties from mines and IEDs are more likely to knock out the engine and not the crew
    + Can function as it’s own APC (this is also to allow the Merkava to pick up crew of a nearby downed tank), although this comes at the expense of ammo capacity

    Drawbacks
    – Distribution of mass is very heavily towards the front (versus in a standard tank with heavy armor in front, turret in middle, and rear engine)
    – Rear hatch can be vulnerable (an RPG 7 once completely destroyed a Merkava hitting it)
    – Maintenance to the engine can be difficult
    – IR signature might be higher (Merkava for example has exhaust in the side); there may also be less room for the radiators – I think this could be solved with good layout
    – Depending on the layout, the transmission can be somewhat less efficient (driving wheel is in front on Merkava)
    – It is easier to mission kill the tank (engine in front) and the sides become somewhat more vulnerable (as does the rear)

    @Picard,

    I think that the optimal tank in many regards will have a good armor mass to profile surface area needed ratio.

    I wonder though, front vs rear is not completely settled. I do know that Pierre Sprey once advocated for a ~45ton medium tank with a Merkava like layout and objective testing.

    Like

    • Duviel Rodriguez said

      I like how you state advantages and disadvantages. I wish more people would do that when arguing about the benefits of certain weapons or characteristics of weapons.

      Like

  18. Chris said

    As far as higher projectiles go, there are several issues:

    Drawbacks
    – At 140mm, apparently to store 40 rounds, you’d need about 4m^3 of internal volume, which in turn has to be shielded (much greater risk of “cook off” which of course would be worse with the larger ammo)
    – Each shell weighed about 60% more than a 120mm shell (autoloader mandatory or rate of fire would go down)

    – The gun would be quite a bit heavier (perhaps as much as 2 tons)
    – Barrel life is shorter (the reason is because the circumference of barrel goes up with the calibre as a single variable, whilst the amount of explosive is a cubic function – ex: double the calibre means 8x as much explosive, but the barrel is 2x – since it’s diameter x pi, so more pressure on barrel per shot)

    – One problem there is that there would need to be more equipment in the turret to allow the gun barrel to elevate/depress at the necessary angles
    – That in turn needs a larger mantlet (which in turn means that the frontal turret armor has to be protected) – that could lead to a big raise in the turret mass (overall perhaps as much as 10-20 tons – the range being depending on how much armor you want on the now larger turret)
    – The turret itself is larger and more likely to take hits
    – It might rotate more slowly, or need a better motor system, which makes that heavier too

    That would in turn mean serious mobility problems.

    – First off, there’s the fact that ammo logistics become somewhat harder to supply.
    – The tracks and engine on such a tank would no doubt wear out sooner. That means more spare parts.
    – It would need more fuel as well.
    – Getting the tank to the location would be harder too. You are limited by your nation’s rail (wide gauge does work better here) and possibly lane width of roads (although double wide can somewhat mitigate this one).
    – It goes without saying that many bridges will not support this tank and navigating in urban warfare would be hard.

    I would imagine that a 152/155mm tank gun would have the same problems as the 140mm tank gun, only bigger.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      Only time I recall a 152 mm tank gun being used was Soviet KV-II, which was designed to take out fixed fortifications. Turret was so heavy that rotating mechanism would jam at any hull inclinations greater than 2 degrees.

      Like

  19. Duviel Rodriguez said

    I think the MBT is overrated in modern combat. When you can take out an MBT with a crew served or even one-man weapon you kind of start to think whats the point? At least in modern peer type combat.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      Point is that tank cannot be employed on its own. It has uses even in urban combat, and is unlikely to completely disappear, but careful attention must be paid in coordination between tanks and infantry.

      Like

      • Duviel Rodriguez said

        Agreed. It does have uses and does need infantry support.

        But still, with mobile infantry (small light vehicle and maybe the motorcycle idea) armed with modern ATGM’s or any portable weapon that can equal firepower of 120mm. An attacking tank force is minced meat I think. Unless, your infantry can out-fight and overcome the enemy your tank is dead.

        In defense same applies. I would rather defend point with light mobile infantry with powerful crew-served or man-portable weapons. Less of a target for enemy to hit from far as they advance.

        If anything, I would use that heavy armor for the supply trucks. You are always going to need re-supply and you will most probably require large vehicles (that cant hide well) to do it. Than again too much armor makes supply vehicles less mobile and if you are going to have armor that cant protect against RPG than why have it at all?

        bottom line for me, mobile light infantry with firepower that can disable heavy armor will win in most war scenarios against a heavy armored force. And the logistics tail will be smaller.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “But still, with mobile infantry (small light vehicle and maybe the motorcycle idea) armed with modern ATGM’s or any portable weapon that can equal firepower of 120mm. An attacking tank force is minced meat I think. Unless, your infantry can out-fight and overcome the enemy your tank is dead. ”

          Which is why I believe we will be seeing more and more tanks being pushed into infantry support. Though tank will keep its maneuver advantages.

          “In defense same applies. I would rather defend point with light mobile infantry with powerful crew-served or man-portable weapons. Less of a target for enemy to hit from far as they advance. ”

          Maybe, but using tanks for static defense is a folly anyway (and even mobile infantry will become somewhat static in combat situations as it will fight from foot). Tank’s main attribute is its mobility combined with firepower, they will be sent where there is need to defeat enemy tanks, enable a breakthrought or cut off enemy supply lines, and even then it will be done in coordination with infantry.

          Like

    • Mike said

      I suspect you might be right. Whilst the Merkava fared reasonably well against the AS-14s it isn’t clear how many of the 1000 ATGMs fired were modern. You would expect a tank introduced in the last few years to be reasonably proof against such a threat. It certainly caused enough problems to be considered effective.

      The MkIV is one of the better protected tanks in the world. If a 30kg missile can take down a 65t tank, and reports suggest that the Abrams is vulnerable too, then we might be seeing the twilight of the weapon’s system’s life.

      Trophy and the like might provide a temporary solution, though having all of your tanks broadcasting their positions on radar can’t be optimal in the vast majority of situations. Tanks don’t have much of a role in counter insurgency, neither do IFVs. ATGMs on the other hand have proved to be indispensable in long range ambushes.

      In a peer type scenario where do you keep your infantry? The Israeli solution, having them ride in the back of tanks and converted tanks, is an extremely expensive one, which doesn’t supply enough infantry to be really useful. What would be more useful is simply more infantry, backed up by indirect fires. If the tanks have lost their ability to hide on the front lines by having to broadcast then I’d suggest there isn’t really a place for them, or a massively declining place. Frankly 120mm can’t do much that a Javelin can’t.

      The problem as I see it isn’t that very heavy tanks can’t smash through a defence, it is that the tanks role is to then to exploit such a gap. Fine, if they can take incoming over their frontal arc then that is still useful but once beyond the first line there is no guarantee that you’ll be taking hits in your frontal arc. The IFVs, if not heavy enough to take the same punishment, will have to play catch up though you’ll have to be very sure that there isn’t still an ATGM threat or your expensive IFVs are toast., which actually means exploiting with infantry.

      Also the Merkavas were operating against little more than a militia, with advanced gunship, infantry and artillery support. Their greatest contribution was firing 105mm anti-personnel, which wouldn’t be the case in a peer conflict as you’d have to loadout your tanks more for anti-tank work.

      “Depends on scenario.”

      What scenario could we paint where the tank is indispensable? Uncontested air, no manpads threat, older ATGMs and an enemy force consisting of lower quality tanks? Welcome to North Korea, but their artillery would be quite a problem in a massed tank assault. Arguably massed infantry with advanced ATGMs and fire support are the superior solution, especially in mountainous terrain.

      Defensive engagement certainly, but that doesn’t argue for lighter more mobile tanks. Combined arms and infantry cooperation? Fine on Salisbury plain, though don’t forget you need to deploy all parts of the combined arms force, which means the ability to take a port, in order to feed the hungrier elements. A month to deploy? Couple of months workup and acclimatisation and sorting your supply situation out? Somewhere in the littoral of course. Not exactly flexible and one hopes the enemy isn’t in a hurry.

      Show of force in counter-insurency? Counter-productive in my opinion.

      What would be the result of a peer conflict where the green force concentrated on infantry with advanced weapons and backup whilst orange force had heavy armoured brigades? Given adequate comms etc I’d put my money on the former.

      If the role of the tank is back to infantry support then none of the current breed look to be equipped to mine eyes. The Merkava far more than most, in fact uniquely so, scraped through.

      If you can rely on the infantry to take out tanks and APCs at range then you’d be better off giving them an armoured bulldozer to help build fortifications and clear mines.

      Like

      • picard578 said

        “If a 30kg missile can take down a 65t tank, and reports suggest that the Abrams is vulnerable too, then we might be seeing the twilight of the weapon’s system’s life.”

        30 kg missile was enough to take down a 65 t tank for the last 70 years (King Tiger weighted cca 60-some tons, and Bazooka could easily penetrate it anywhere but from direct front). But being vulnerable does not equalize being useless, and tactics do exist to reduce vulnerability.

        What we might see, rather, is redefining tanks, where more emphasis will be placed on mobility, small size and active defenses as opposed to heavy armor.

        “In a peer type scenario where do you keep your infantry?”

        On foot.

        “Frankly 120mm can’t do much that a Javelin can’t.”

        It can avoid running out of the ammo on the account of same being hellishly expensive (78.000 USD per missile), and cannot be jammed (poor heat contrast can easily cause Javelin to miss) or have its guidance system damaged. Of course, infantry can use recoilless rifles for the same purpose, so wether tank’s direct fire support will be really required is questionable. Main advantage of tank is mobility, as it is far faster than infantry, can go where wheeled vehicles can’t, and unlike aircraft can do it in all weather conditions.

        “Fine, if they can take incoming over their frontal arc then that is still useful but once beyond the first line there is no guarantee that you’ll be taking hits in your frontal arc.”

        Once you’re past the front line point is to use mobility to try and avoid combat. Which is why heavy tanks create a breakthrough, but light to medium tanks exploit it.

        “What scenario could we paint where the tank is indispensable?”

        Just about any where you need rough terrain mobility combined with direct fire support. CAS aircraft can also provide it, but air support is in many situations less effective and they can’t stay on station forever.

        “Uncontested air, no manpads threat, older ATGMs and an enemy force consisting of lower quality tanks?”

        Not necessarily. You just have to make enemy aircraft worry about something else than your tanks – and remember that most air forces do not have dedicated tank buster aircraft.

        “Arguably massed infantry with advanced ATGMs and fire support are the superior solution, especially in mountainous terrain.”

        In mountainous terrain definetly, in other types of terrain… I’m not so sure about. And you don’t need “advanced ATGMs”, in most cases simple recoilless rifles are far better at duplicating (rather useful) properties of tank fire support.

        “What would be the result of a peer conflict where the green force concentrated on infantry with advanced weapons and backup whilst orange force had heavy armoured brigades? Given adequate comms etc I’d put my money on the former.”

        Depends on exact conditions. Remember that tank’s main advantage is mobility. Assuming that orange force has *balanced* setup as opposed to “heavy armor only”, it can easily pick the green force by the nose with infantry and kick them in the ass with tanks and APCs. Meanwhile, any motorized movement by green force would be suicidal unless it knows precisely where orange force’s tanks are… and mobility is the cornerstone of modern warfare.

        Like

      • Jan said

        In the latter part of my “military life” my function was as a “second” in an “infanrty heavy” team ( company size). This team consisted of armoured infantry and tanks (Ypr and Leo 2 respectively). In the battlefield of today infantry on foot wont last long ( that does not have to be a problem as long as you have enough of them and have not invested a lot of time and money in training them). If the infantry is well trained and thus “expensive” it pays to protect them. By the same token the tank is not to be seen as a stand alone piece of hardware. The principle “funken, fahren, schiessen” is even more valid today as the computer makes coordination and battlefield awareness much easier. In this context in the landwar (for the western democracies at least) the MBT is a very valuable asset still. De “fire and forget” capabilities of rockets are only better when and if the kp of a tank round is worse. This is not the case, which means that firing uder armoured protection and whilst moving, with much better reaction times (-and cheaper at that), with more flexibilty in its use makes the 120mm smootbore an awesome weapon and the MBT an up to date weaponsystem. Having been an infantry (armoured) man myself i did not like the cockyness of the “tankers”, but having said so it must be aknowledged that they are, in offensive and defensive manoeuvres, as was indicated, indeed awesome.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “By the same token the tank is not to be seen as a stand alone piece of hardware.”

          As a side note, a family member of mine was an artilleryman in Homeland War. He theoretized that anti-tank guns (artillery) may have made tanks obsolete. However, a closer look at Serb performance reveals that it is not so much that tanks are obsolete, as it is that they are only effective when properly employed… but Serbs lacked military expertise and common sense to do so.

          Like

      • Mike said

        “It can avoid running out of the ammo on the account of same being hellishly expensive (78.000 USD per missile), and cannot be jammed (poor heat contrast can easily cause Javelin to miss) or have its guidance system damaged. Of course, infantry can use recoilless rifles for the same purpose, so wether tank’s direct fire support will be really required is questionable. Main advantage of tank is mobility, as it is far faster than infantry, can go where wheeled vehicles can’t, and unlike aircraft can do it in all weather conditions.”

        120mm isn’t all that cheap in comparison, $10k a round plus the huge tail involved. Artillery can’t be jammed either, though if you’re waiting for your tanks to call in fires then they’d be better off them getting out and walking around a bit to spot positions.

        Tanks can easily outstrip their own infantry sure, I’d question whether tanks were truly faster than infantry though. Faster to deploy? Sounds like a few months head start. Faster than a heli drop? Faster than their supply line certainly. Go where wheeled vehicles can’t isn’t necessarily that much use when your supply vehicles have to catch up at some point and you have tracked infantry anyway.

        “In the battlefield of today infantry on foot wont last long”

        As an ex light infantryman I’d disagree! Even merely modelling LAWs on exercise the armoured forces didn’t fare too well, the higher the mobility of the ATGMs teams, the more poorly the IFVs and tanks fared. Add in Javelin or similar and the tank forces lose their sensor advantage. With armoured forces which are constantly emitting then how do you plan to deal with ATGMs?

        “De “fire and forget” capabilities of rockets are only better when and if the kp of a tank round is worse. This is not the case, which means that firing uder armoured protection and whilst moving, with much better reaction times (-and cheaper at that), with more flexibilty in its use makes the 120mm smootbore an awesome weapon and the MBT an up to date weaponsystem. ”

        You must have been on exercises trying to take out ATGM teams with direct fire surely? How did that work out for you? You are assuming the tank can spot for itself, we both know that isn’t the case.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “Go where wheeled vehicles can’t isn’t necessarily that much use when your supply vehicles have to catch up at some point and you have tracked infantry anyway.”

          Supply vehicles can have tracks as well, and you can supply tanks from the air. And tracked IFVs or no, tanks are still the best fire support infantry gets to have. Indirect artillery isn’t of much use in many situations, especially when the enemy is close (urban fighting), and aircraft are only useful when the enemy is out in the open, and pilots are actually smart enough, and have aircraft that allow them, to fly low enough to give some useful support. Which leaves tanks and recoilless rifles, both of which have pluses and minuses.

          “You are assuming the tank can spot for itself, we both know that isn’t the case.”

          Open the hatch and peek out. In World War II, commanders of German Tiger tanks had high casualty ratios because they would always, always look out of the top of their tanks. As in, they’d be exposed to the waist in order to get better situational awareness.

          Like

  20. jan said

    The experiences in the war in Yugoslavia illustrate the importance of MBT’s even there. Where the Dutch thought the use of the Leo “too provocative” (they also, for the same reason took the 25 mm off of the YPR), the Danes took their Leo’s with them.
    We all know what happened in Srebenica, but little is known what happened to the Danes. In operation “Bollerud” and “Amanda” the Danes were attacked and they used, in defence, theis MBT’s and shot up the attackers completely. The notion, that the big tanks would be too cumbersome and therefore would lose its mobility advantage was wrong (as was the case also in the battle of the Bulge in WW2) and its firepower was a very big plus.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      Note that what you describe is a defensive operation, not an offensive one. So it is not really indicative of tank’s actual mobility performance. It does show that tanks are still useful, though.

      Like

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