Increasingly complex aircraft are rendering air forces across the globe increasingly impotent; same problem also haunts armies and navies.
Complex weapons are both more expensive and more prone to the cost growth than simpler weapons, as demonstrated by F-22, F-35, DDG-1000, LCS, FCS, VH-71 etc. This is a problem, since it was growing US superiority in numbers that crushed Japanese and German air forces in the World War II, and significantly more numerous Soviet troops tied up and destroyed three quarters of German ground forces. Small numbers of superior Me-262s were overwhelmed by large numbers of prop fighters.
F-35 costs around 200 million USD. F-16C costs 70 million USD, and A-10 costs 16 million USD. So instead of 1 F-35, 2 F-16Cs and 3 A-10s can be procured. And while single F-35 can fly 1 sortie every 3 days, two F-16Cs can fly 7 sorties in the same time, and 3 A-10s can fly 27 sorties. This is far from new problem for USAF, as new aircraft always tended to be more expensive than older ones – exceptions being A-10 and the F-16. F-22 is no better than F-35 – while being capable of flying 1 sortie every two days, it is even more expensive at 273 million USD, allowing 3 F-16Cs and 4 A-10s to be procured, giving 7 F-16 and 24 A-10 sorties in two days, compared to 1 F-22 sortie. For comparision of F-22 and F-35 with other Western fighters, see here.
One very important capability that is typically ignored today is ability to fly from grass, sand and dirt runways. While concrete runways put limits on how quickly large number of fighters can take off, and also means that flights and squadrons have to form up in the air, ability to use grass/dirt runways would allow large number of aircraft to take off nearly simultaneously and form up far more quickly. Concrete runways can also be easily closed off by cruise missile attacks, and take long time to repair; rendering aircraft that require them to operate useless even if they do avoid destruction. Even if runways themselves are not destroyed, easily discovered air bases (even underground ones) are vulnerable to be subjected to intruder patrols, with enemy fighters sneaking up below radar coverage and shooting down fighters when taking off or landing. Similarly, fighter aircraft – especially point-defense interceptors – have to be able to reach desired altitude as quickly as possible. This in turn requires low wing loading, low drag and high thrust-to-weight ratio, resulting in austere design with only absolutely necessary electronics. Norway bought F-35s and closed all but one air base to pay for them.
US Navy is having similar problems, with number of combatants – both surface and underwater ones – consistently dropping. Most complex and expensive of these – namely, nuclear carriers and nuclear submarines – are very vulnerable to simpler and cheaper diesel-electric submarines. New Ford class carriers are twice as expensive as Nimitz class carriers, but carry same number of aircraft – and sortie generation capability of carrier outfitted with F-35s is only one quarter of carrier outfitted with equal number of F-18s.
For ground attack, many Western air forces lack “low-end” systems. While those low-end systems are really low-end cost wise, they do not actually offer less capability than “high end” systems – rather, capabilities that they offer are of a different sort. While light turboprop attack aircraft might not be as heavily armed or armored as the A-10 is, or as survivable in a heavily-contested airspace, it offers far superior loiter performance, can take off from shorter air strips and is easier to maintain. As such, it is superior choice for counter-insurgent (COIN) warfare. Even in a nation-state war, majority of country’s airspace is unprotected by SAMs majority of the time, especially at very low altitude where ground attack aircraft operate (no fire-control radar has ability to observe beyond the horizon; for radar at 30 meter high mast, horizon is 21 kilometers away – SquareRoot(height above surface / 6.752) = distance to horizon, with height above surface being in cm and distance to horizon in km. Further, this assumes that radar is at shore, so there are no obstructions; typically, low-flying aircraft can use terrain features to hide from the ground radar and confuse airborne radar). If fast jet is out of ammunition, it must return to base; a turboprop or dedicated CAS aircraft can stick around and act as a forward air controller for as long as fuel allows.
Worst penalty of complexity is lower avaliability and higher operating costs. Since human factor is dominant in performance of any weapon, theoretically high-performance weapon can well have worse performance than cheaper, but simpler, sturdier, easier to maintain and operate, weapon. In World War II it was lack of pilots that eliminated Luftwaffe as a fighting force. More recently, USAF instructor pilots flying F-5s have regularly outperformed their students who were flying “more capable” F-4s, F-15s and F-16s. Similarly, US National Guard pilots have always performed better than USAF pilots in exercises, regardless of wether they were flying F-4s, F-5s or F-16s against USAF F-15s and F-16s, while Navy instructor pilots used F-4s to beat students flying F-14s and F-18s. F-22s dominance in exercises is based on heavily scripted (unrealistic) scenarios, made worse by much too high probability of kill assigned to BVR missiles. Israeli Air Force crushed Arabs in all wars it has fought, simply because it had far superior pilots; and after Israeli Air Force crushed Arabs in 1973 with 70-1 exchange ratio, General Mordecai Hod stated that result would have been the same had Israelis and Arabs exchanged weapons; General Schwarzkopf echoed that sentiment after the First Gulf War, as did unnamed British pilot after the Falklands war. In Operation Opera, Israeli Air Force sent 6 F-15s and 8 F-16s to strike Iranian nuclear reactor, located deep within Iraq. Attack succeeded, with no casualties on Israeli side.
At very minimum, 30 sorties per month are required to allow pilots to have adequate skill. This means achieving 1 sortie per day. Not a single stealth fighter in service achieves that, with F-22 achieving 1 sortie every 2 days and F-35 one sortie every 3 days. In fact, US pilots today fly less than their Chinese, Indian or some European counterparts.
Aircraft is not out of danger when on ground, as frequent attacks on air bases in nearly every war fought since advent of air power can attest (even insurgents in Afghanistan have proven capable of destroying Coalition aircraft on the ground). More complex aircraft is, it spends more time on the ground, all other things being equal. Since complex multirole fighters need very visible air strips for takeoff and landing, they can be easily put out of action just by bombing the air bases – even if aircraft do survive, they are stuck on the ground if runway is destroyed – and concrete runways are very hard to repair. Even if aircraft are not destroyed, jet fighters – especially heavy twin-engined fighters – will be hard to keep supplied with fuel. A 5000 gallon fuel truck can barely top off a single F-15E with 2 external fuel tanks, giving two flight hours, but can easily top off 27 Super Tucanos, giving a total of 80 flight hours. Gun ammo and unguided rockets are cheap and widely avaliable, and can easily be loaded in the field; guided munitions are far more expensive, and some types cannot be easily loaded in the field.
Same goes for ships. Any ship is at its most vulnerable when it is in the base, as demonstrated by Pearl Harbor attacks. It is likely not going to have full crew complement on board and thus not be able to operate at full efficiency; it also cannot maneuver to avoid enemy fire.
In World War II, German Tiger and Panther tanks were the best tanks in existence; Tiger was the first Main Battle Tank in existence. But they were complex, hard to maintain, could not cross many bridges, and small number of tanks avaliable meant that they soon started to break down from wear of combat – at some points, more tanks were undergoing maintenance than were avaliable for combat.
But high complexity is profitable for firms which underreport weapons costs at the onset; this leads to cost overruns, which lead to less weapons being acquired – but only well after the funding for procurement of a certain weapon has been boosted way beyond originally envisioned levels. Under Boeing’s supervision, Future Combat System has experienced intentional increase in weight, meaning that Lockheed Martin built C-130 cannot carry it, and that Air Force may have to acquire additional Boeing-built C-17s. Further, R&D is the most profitable part of weapon development – and more complex weapon is, more R&D is required, especially since complex weapons regularly require further R&D to fix problems that have been found during production. Worse, FCS itself is useless and even counterproductive – if it doesn’t work, it will only mean more money down the drain; if it does work, it will centralize decision-making, rendering Army incapable of adapting to rapid changes occuring on the battlefield.
Complex weapons proponents will counter this by stating that more complex weapons are also far more capable, thus negating disadvantages brought about by complexity. This is also far from true.
F-35 is promoted as a stealthy multirole fighter. In reality, it is easily detected by just about everything except X band radar (and even X band radar can detect it easily once it maneuvers) and is capable of carrying out only one mission – deep strike. This is a repeat of another overcomplex failure – the F-111. Also originally a multimission aircraft, it ended up being only capable of carrying out deep strike. Idea of long-range radar-based combat is flawed too: unless aircraft is equipped with optical sensors, reliable beyond visual range (BVR) identification friend-or-foe (IFF) is impossible, and if it does have optical sensors capable of that, then there is no need for radar. Worse, radar signal of emitting aircraft can be used to identify it at ranges far exceeding normal identification range with optical sensors. In visual range, it has no rearward visibility, and even if lag problems with helmet mounted display are solved, resolution of video cameras used is inherently worse than that of the human eye. As a CAS fighter, it cannot carry enough ammo, it is not survivable enough to gun strafe the targets when required (for example, if targets are too close to friendly troops for PGMs to be used), and cannot loiter for prolonged periods of time.
F-22, similar to the F-35, is a hugely complex “stealth” aircraft that is actually quite visible to competent opponents. Stealth requirements make it hard to maintain, allowing it to fly only 15 hours per month – and even that only if it didn’t get grounded due to various problems. Its dominance in exercises is result of set-up rules of engagement as opposed to F-22s inherent qualities.
In World War II, P-38 was far less effective fighter than single-engined P-47 and P-51, due to very bad transient performance and large size. If either of engines was hit, P-38 was lost due to either fire or being downed by German fighters. And despite progress in airborne radars, there has been no significant night combat since World War II; meanwhile, many fighters used for night combat in World War II had no radar, relying on ground vectors, flares and natural nighttime illumination. In Pacific theatre, Japanese Zero, a far simpler aircraft, was superior to early-war US fighters; it was able to fight Hellcat and Corsair on even terms, but was eventually rendered useless by the lack of skilled pilots. In Korean war, F-86 achieved Pk of 0,34 when the lead computing gunsight wasn’t used and 0,3 when it was, but a quarter of pilots had average Pk of 0,49. MiG-15s achieved 0,025 kills per pass, primarly due to the low skill of most Communist pilots. In Vietnam, only 2 kills were at BVR and majority of kills were achieved with IR missiles; in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, IAF pasted Arab air forces while only achieving one or no kills with radar-guided missiles, with two thirds of kills being achieved with guns. In 1971 Indo-Pakistani war, subsonic F-86 achieved large exchange ratio advantage against supersonic MiG-21s and Sn-7s, and subsonic Hunters; only Indian aircraft to match it was far smaller, subsonic-only Folland Gnat. Reasons for the F-86 success were several: while its top speed was lower than subsonic fighters, all fighters mentioned cruised subsonically; but non-smoking F-86 with its good cockpit visibility was both far harder to surprise and far better at surprising the opponent than its adversaries (other than Gnat). F-86 also only used guns and IR missiles. Most importantly, Pakistani pilots were on average far better trained than Indian pilots.
Large and complex fighters required to carry large and complex radar can be easily countered by smaller fighters carrying radar detection equipment. Reason is simple: radar range varies as a fourth root of power, where RWR range varies as square root of power as signal tarvels only one way. Thus even if entire signal is transmitted back towards the source, radar will detect enemy fighter at only 1/3rd of distance that RWR will detect radar’s emissions. But majority of signal does not get deflected back towards the source; while family car has RCS of 100 m2, Saab Gripen has nose-on RCS of 0,5 m2; side-on RCS is far larger, possibly few dozen times. As such, even allowing for smaller aperture size of RWR compared to the radar, RWR still gets several dozen times stronger signal than radar itself, as returning signal must be stronger than background noise. Radar is also easier to jam than passive sensors, and proper spacing between fighters in a formation can completely defeat radar’s track-while-scan mode. As radar destroys surprise, it will be mostly kept shut down; but this places large twin-engined radar fighters at disadvantage against smaller, simpler fighters due to their larger visual and IR signature. Even without that problem, BVR missiles are very inaccurate and unreliable. First BVR fighters were expected to use nuclear-tipped BVR missiles for destroying large swarms of bomers, leading to problems when conventional-warhead BVR missiles started being developed.
During Cold War, there were eight conflicts with use of air-to-air missiles, of which four saw use of radar-guided BVR missiles. In these four, 144 kills were made with guns, 308 with IR missiles and 73 with radar-guided missiles. Only 4 kills were actually made at beyond visual range, requiring 61 shots for probability of kill of 6,6%; in total, 73 kills made with radar-guided missiles required 632 shots, for a Pk of 11,6%. Most important shortfalls of radar guided missiles were that the element of surprise was lost (against competent opponent anyway) and that large complexity of radar guidance system and procedures coupled with lack of maneuverability found in long-range missiles led to enemy fighters easily evading BVR missiles once they were aware of being attacked. In the Desert Storm, there were 5 BVR kills, and radar missiles achieved 24 kills, compared to 10 for IR missiles and 2 for guns. One of BVR kills required five shots, while all 24 BVR missile kills required 88 shots.
It is thought that improvement in the Desert Storm was due to improvement in radar missile performance, but closer look reveals this conclusion to be wrong. Out of four wars in which BVR missiles were used, only one (Vietnam War) was fought against a competent opponent; remainer were fought against Arabs. In the 1965-1968 Operation Rolling Thunder, radar guided missiles achieved overall Pk of 8,1% (26 kills out of 321 shots) and BVR Pk of 0% (0/33); in 1971-1973 Operation Linebacker, total Pk was 10,9% (30/276) and BVR Pk 7,1% (2/28). Despite these variations, last AIM-7 model (AIM-7E2) achieved total Pk of 8%, same as first model (AIM-7D), while AIM-7E achieved Pk of 10%. In the 1973 Yom Kippur war, radar guided missiles achieved overall Pk of 41,7% (5/12) and BVR Pk of either 0% or 25% (0-1/4). In the 1982 Bekaa Valley war, overall Pk was 52,2% (12/23) and BVR Pk was 20% (1/5), while in the 1991 Gulf War, overall Pk was 27,3% (24/88). As it can be seen, there is strong variance in missile Pk, which is not sensitive to year in which combat happened, but is very sensitive to the opponent being fought: while Yom Kippur War is far closer to the Vietnam war than the Gulf war, performance of radar-guided missiles in it is closer to the First Gulf war. On the other hand, both Yom Kippur and Gulf wars had modern, well-trained Western air forces going against undertrained Arab air forces. Missile reliability has not improved since Vietnam; whereas in Vietnam, 46% of attempts missed due to technical problems with missiles, virtually all misses in wars mentioned since Vietnam war were due to technical problems with missiles, as targets rarely attempted to evade the missile and typically did not have ECM.
BVR missiles are far more expensive than visual-range missiles, but indirect costs of radar-guided missiles are far greater than direct costs. Fitting aircraft with large radar results in it being larger and more complex – thus increasing both cost per kg and overall cost. These aircraft in turn require very complex maintenance facilities and can only be effectively based in dedicated air bases, making them vulnerable to being rendered useless simply by enemy bombing said bases’ air strips. Effective usage of radar-guided missiles at beyond visual range has so far required assistance of AWACS, NCTR, as well as incompetent enemy. On rare occasions when Iraqi pilots did try to evade BVR missile shots, they were successful – such as two MiG-25s evading 3 AIM-7s, 1 AIM-120 and 2 AIM-54 shots (engagement happened at beyond visual range, post-Desert Storm). It should also be noted that single-role fighters (F-15) have performed far better than multi-role fighters (F-16, F-18) in air-to-air combat; this is logical, since “multirole” in USAF parlance means “mostly bombing”, and General Horner has threatened that the first F-16 pilot to unload bombs to attack Iraqi aircraft will be sent home.
As for ground attack, both stealthy F-117s and “legacy” fighters achieved surprise in most attacks, but F-117 never operated under daytime conditions (all A-10 losses happened during daytime), and other expensive ground attack aircraft (F-111, F-15E) were also used mostly during the night. It also flew only 0,7 sorties / day / aircraft, compared to 1,2 for the F-16 and over 1,4 for the A-10, and unlike A-10 it was incapable of attacking mobile targets. Single role aircraft, with exception of the B-52, performed far better in terms of targets destroyed per amount of ammunition expended.
It should also be noted that while average unguided bomb cost 649 USD, laser guided bomb cost 30.421 USD on average, while cost of Maverick missile was 102.187 USD. Standoff capability provided by some guided munitions did not negate defenses not right above the target, and there was no relationship between use of guided munitions and targets that were successfully destroyed (“one bomb, one target” is, in other words, a lie – for example, each destroyed bridge required on average either 11 laser guided bombs or 85 unguided bombs). Number of PGMs per destroyed target varied between 0,8 and 51,9; for unguided munitions, it varied between 4,4 and 306,9. While unguided bombs did have lower accuracy, cost per destroyed target was higher for guided munitions. While unguided munitions need to be dropped from lower altitude, guided munitons require aircraft to fly in a predictable path for comparably long time; both mean increased vulnerability to defenses during attack run. Guided munitions were also more vulnerable to adverse weather conditions.
In Vietnam, AR-15 proved superior to far more complex M-14 due to its burst fire ability, greater reliability and low recoil. It spawned the M-16, fully automatic, but more complex, heavier and less reliable assault rifle. While M-14 was far more lethal per shot, it was less useful than AR-15, or the M-16 after it was fixed (having been intentionally sabotaged by the Army bureocracy).
Tank’s main purpose is to bring machine guns on bear against enemy’s unprotected rear, by using speed and surprise. Secondary effect is psychological effect that tanks have on the infantry; despite that, tanks alone stand no chance against competent and adequately equipped infantry. This requires (in order) operational mobility, machine gun effectiveness, firefight mobility, cannon effectiveness (rate of kill against multiple targets). Operational mobility requires good average road speed, ability to operate without fuel resupply from logistical components (that is, ability to use various types of fuel), ability to wade rivers and cross bridges with low carrying capacity as well as good reliability.
In terms of firefight mobility, M1 has comparably slow acceleration due to its gas turbine engine. Challenger II should have better acceleration than M1, but inferior to the Leopard II and Leclerc due to its low power to weight ratio; Leclerc likely has the best acceleration as it has both advanced suspension of Challenger II and high power to weight ratio of Leopard II.
In operational mobility, Leclerc is lightest and has highest road speed. All tanks mentioned have multi-fuel capability, but Leopard II and Challenger II are the most fuel-efficient, while Abrams is the least fuel efficient. Leopard II has better fording depth without preparation than Challenger II does (1,2 vs 1,07 m) while fording depth with preparation is 4 meters for both (compared to 2 (!?) meters for M1A2). Abrams is uncommonly difficult to maintain due to its gas turbine engine. Abrams also has the highest ground pressure – over 1 kg/m2, whereas Leopard 2A6 has ground pressure of 0,86 kg/m2 and both Leclerc and Challenger II have ground pressure of between 0,9 and 1 kg/m2.
Cannons are 120 mm smoothbore for all tanks except Challenger II, which uses rifled cannon. Last version of Leopard 2 has longest, 55 caliber, cannon which results in best armor penetration capabilities. Though Challenger IIs cannon is the most accurate, this is not as important in normal European theatre where combat is likely to happen at less than 1.000 meters, so Leopard 2 can be said to have the best cannon (both Leclerc and Abrams use 120 mm smoothbore like Leopard 2, but their cannons are shorter). Leclerc uses autoloader, which adds mechanical complexity and limits maximum rate of fire, though rate of kill is usually limited by the time it takes for smoke to clear.
Turret rotation speed is 40 degrees per second for all tanks mentioned.
In invisibility, all tanks compared are very large with massive turret profile. Abrams is comparably quiet, but has huge IR signature due to usage of gas turbine; turbine exhaust is actually so hot that it can ignite trees and poses hazard to accompanying infantry. As a result, Abrams can be detected by primitive IR sensors at over five times the visual detection range.
In the end, Leopard II is overall the best Western tank while Abrams is the worst, despite Abrams being more expensive (8,86 vs 6,63 million in FY2014 USD). As far as Eastern tanks go, T-72 family of tanks tends to have good mobility (tactical and operational), but low cannon effectiveness thanks to use of auto-loader. Most models (with exception of prototype M-95 Degman and maybe some newer Russian models) do not have a separate ammunition compartment with blowout panels, resulting in the entire tank being lost if ammunition storage is hit, and turret rotation speed is slow. They do have small silhouette, especially turret side, when compared to Western tanks. Degman is expected to cost 2,6 million USD, giving 2,5 tanks for each Leopard 2; this, plus greater operational mobility, might make it a better option than any of the tanks compared here from strategic point of view.
Going back to World War II, T-34 was a far better tank than German Panzer III and IV, with its wide tracks allowing it impressive mobility, and sloppy tolerances allowing it to perform in harshest of conditions, when German tanks froze in place. Its fuel was also easier to manufacture and less flammable.
Western militaries are however intent on ignoring this, especially US military. USAF is far from the only service that “massages” the tests and exercises to make complex weapons seem better: in the (internal, at least) US Navy exercises, aircraft carriers are not allowed to be sunk.
For more info, read following:
Click to access 09-sprey-w-covers.pdf
136 thoughts on “Dangers of complex weapons”
Right… not enough simple weapons that are robust and economical.
The fuel issue with the jets and the logistic tail that creates which is vulnerable to simple tactics and weapons such as ambush, road side bombs, etc. requires more soldiers to protect them. Tthere is a curve of diminishing returns where you add technology and get little back.
Or weapons that fail to work in the tropics or in cold weather. I read an Argentinian pilot who said their aircrafts broke down in Falkland weather and USA aircrafts… particularly naval jets… had trouble in Vietnam with heat and humidity.
“As for ground attack, both stealthy F-117s and “legacy” fighters achieved surprise in most attacks, but F-117 never operated under daytime conditions (all A-10 losses happened during daytime), and other expensive ground attack aircraft (F-111, F-15E) were also used mostly during the night. It also flew only 0,7 sorties / day / aircraft, compared to 1,2 for the F-16 and over 1,4 for the A-10, and unlike A-10 it was incapable of attacking mobile targets. Single role aircraft, with exception of the B-52, performed far better in terms of targets destroyed per amount of ammunition expended.”
Another issue is that the US for whatever reason insisted on putting the A-10 in dark green in the desert.
“(with exception of prototype M-95 Degman and maybe some newer Russian models)”
Russian T-80 and T-90 have blow-out panels.
Some of the newer autoloaders interestingly enough can load faster than humans can. Whether they are reliable though … not sure. I’d still keep a 4th person in the tank either way as a radio operator.
Anyways, I’ve heard that if the calibre ever exceeds 130mm, it favors an autoloader (you start to reach a point where you need 2 people).
With the tank gun’s auto-loader I think that the limiting factor is the space inside the tank. If there was more space the loader would work better but the tank would be easier to spot.
“Anyways, I’ve heard that if the calibre ever exceeds 130mm, it favors an autoloader”
Cutoff point is 127mm according to Wikipedia, which might explain why the Russians like them taking into account 2 things:
1) They use 125 mm cannons
2) They are very pragmatic when it comes to which body morphology goes to which branch. So if you are a big guy then you go to the infantry. Medium persons get sniper duty (if they can shoot). Little guys (or girls) get vehicles, either motorized infantry, tanks or aircraft. This goes back to world war II, when this policy aloud them to integrate women very easy in the army (they served everywhere were their body morphology allowed: aircraft, tanks, snipers but not infantry, artillery etc. ) and it aloud them to make smaller tanks. If any off you saw the inside of a Russian tank then you know it’s very cramped and unsuitable for anybody above 1,6 m. All this means that the average Russian tank crew member might not be capable to load 125mm tank shells very fast.
Also I found interesting the claims in this video about T90 vs M1 : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAofuApy5sc at 4:30 it claims that in a demonstration a T-90 hit 7 targets ranged 1.5 to 2.5 km away in 54 seconds and that the best the western tanks with human loaders were capable were 6 targets in 54 seconds. So the point is that even if a well trained human loader could achieve rate of 15 rounds per minute for short periods versus 12 rounds per minute that the LeClerc (which probably has the most efficient auto-loader having had the turret built around it.) it’s highly unlikely that in real conditions the tank will need that speed or that it will be even capable to achieve it while moving at speed over broken ground.
Andrei, you are guys are going to have to get your act together… is it the soldier and tactics more important than the weapon or is it the weapon more important than the soldier and tactics? According to some of these military thoughts a good crew in a tuna fish can will beat a bad crew in any tank.
The Russians have a history of problems with automatic gun loaders. The cabin is too small for at least those loaders that I have read about. Also, the Abram is an old design… the Army does not want any more of them and that might tell you something. Today we are seeing anti-tank weapons that are more accurate and reliable than ever. Many of the new smaller Navy missiles are navalized versions of those missiles and their accuracy against moving targets is astonishing. So I do not have any idea what a tank that can deal with those threats might look like.
USA tank battles in the middle east have an air of irrelevancy to them based on the particular conditions of that region. They moved under total air supremacy with few battles such as “73 Easting” able to provide some insight.
Notable about the 73 Easting encounter was for example that Iraqi tanks with their engines turned off where by-passed. The where “cold” and did not project a thermal image so the USA raced by them with out notice. These same Iraqi tanks then turned on their engines and started operating in the rear of the US causing great confusion and forcing the USA to have to consolidate their position and give some ground.
The artillery, mortar and air including helicopters where decisive. Again, it is not tank against tank but the entire system of tanks, mounted infantry, artillery, air and the logistic tail that supports all that. You can argue that if it had been just tank against tank the USA would have lost.
The forward USA units ran low on munition and TOW. This brings another point… munition has to be moved to the front lines or the units there running short of munition be relieved by others that have full magazines… larger shells means you carry fewer of them in the tank AND that you need more supply trucks to carry the same number of them to the front lines and it is possible for tanks to run completely dry of munition and fuel and have the fight devolve into hand-to-hand combat (happened in WW2).
Also, unless you are fighting you direct next door neighbor your tank needs to be transported and then supported. Professional people who show great interest in very heavy tanks are those who have troublesome armed next door neighbors; India and Poland come to mind.
But others like the USA who have imperialistic types of defenses (first used by Ramesses II against the Hittites) that seek to fight its enemies at their door-steps rather than wait to be attacked by them need to think how they are going to get there and sustain that forward defense. All great empires (Egypt, Rome, Spain and the USA) have fought their battles on some one else territory preferably that of their enemy.
We really do not know what a good tank looks like until we know where and what it is going to be used for. The USA got lucky that a lot of the Cold War equipment was useful in Iraq but that is not something you can count on. Can you imagine transporting equipment like this to the Outer Island Chains of the South China Sea?
My wish here is stimulate some discussion.
“is it the soldier and tactics more important than the weapon or is it the weapon more important than the soldier and tactics?”
People > tactics > weapons.
“We really do not know what a good tank looks like until we know where and what it is going to be used for.”
Exactly, tank must not be too heavy for crossing bridges for example, but you don’t know what “too heavy” is until you know specs of said bridges. Which makes me think that abandoning light tanks was an idiotic move.
“The Russians have a history of problems with automatic gun loaders. The cabin is too small for at least those loaders that I have read about. Also, the Abram is an old design… the Army does not want any more of them and that might tell you something. Today we are seeing anti-tank weapons that are more accurate and reliable than ever. Many of the new smaller Navy missiles are navalized versions of those missiles and their accuracy against moving targets is astonishing. So I do not have any idea what a tank that can deal with those threats might look like.”
Question is whether newer autoloaders are better than their older counterparts. No doubt the older ones had their share of issues.
What kind of tank? It is the old trade-off, speed-armor-firepower. You can never build a tank that can defeat ever conceivable threat. Gotta compromise. Tactical invulnerability is not a realistic goal. That is not for lack of trying though – look up the Ground Combat Vehicle; 84 tons.
I would argue a smaller, lighter tank with good mobility should make up the bulk of tank forces. It would have to use it’s small profile to survive (height no more than 2.25m I would say), along with it’s great mobility. It would be agile, have low ground pressure, and preferably have a good sustained average speed.
“Notable about the 73 Easting encounter was for example that Iraqi tanks with their engines turned off where by-passed. The where “cold” and did not project a thermal image so the USA raced by them with out notice. These same Iraqi tanks then turned on their engines and started operating in the rear of the US causing great confusion and forcing the USA to have to consolidate their position and give some ground. ”
It’s the preferred position of tanks. To be concealed (ideally in a defilade), with engines off and looking for targets. That allows the terrain to help shield the tank as well and for the tank to gain a surprise shot.
Combine that with sophisticated decoys and it also becomes very hard to identify which targets are real and what is a decoy.
Had the US fought a more competent opponent and a higher proportion of tanks could very well have used such tactics.
“We really do not know what a good tank looks like until we know where and what it is going to be used for. The USA got lucky that a lot of the Cold War equipment was useful in Iraq but that is not something you can count on. Can you imagine transporting equipment like this to the Outer Island Chains of the South China Sea? ”
I don’t imagine that a heavy MBT is going to be of much use in the South China Sea in a hypothetical war against China. It’s unlikely that they could be transported in sufficient numbers quickly enough to make a difference in war. They would have to compete for air lift capability and transporting by sea would be risky.
Also probable is that the sea and skies around that area in the event of a war with China would be very heavily contested. For the defense of Taiwan, light armor would be much more appropriate (better strategic mobility).
I am of the opinion that the US needs light tanks and tracked APCs (like the M113, but with wider tracks and better IED protection). Bird cages (to detonate incoming RPGs) and applique armor could be applied as needed. Such weapons need to weigh less than 25 tons, be lifted by tactical airlift where needed, and have good range.
The concealment was not the issue… Iraqi tank engines where not turned on so they did not show up as working tanks. That is why they where by-passed. And the Iraqi where not wholesale incompetent. They lacked air cover so if they moved they where dead but that was not a consequence of incompetence on their part. It was just the cards that they where handed.
“I would argue a smaller, lighter tank with good mobility should make up the bulk of tank forces. It would have to use it’s small profile to survive (height no more than 2.25m I would say), along with it’s great mobility. It would be agile, have low ground pressure, and preferably have a good sustained average speed.”
Mobility does not offer that kind of protection. The missiles that we have today are so accurate against moving targets that the tanks are sitting ducks if caught with out air cover. The new missiles can hit them from the top where they are vulnerable and very soon they will be able to circle them and hit them from the side. You can entrench or conceal the tank and turn off their engine like the Iraqis did but that is it.
The side that can dominate the air has tanks and infantry that moves around while the other side is still.
Light tanks can also be destroyed by infantry weapons and mines, etc.. So you have to be careful about how light you make a tank. And if they drag their SAMs with them those can be also destroyed by infantry with portable missiles.
“And the Iraqi where not wholesale incompetent.”
Actually they were. In few occasions, Iraqi armored divisions did not react to the enemy fire.
Yeah I think the French have a similar mentality with their tanks.
Women Snipers often outperformed their male counterparts during the Great Patriotic War, so it makes sense to put snipers as women for example. They have a steadier aim.
That said, I wonder how much crew ergonomics plays a role in improving fighting efficiency.
Also noteworthy about the M1, it does have other flaws:
1. It’s fuel consumption and the high thermal signature are well known, leading to a long “tail”
2. The gas turbine engine has the shortest lifespan of all Western tanks
3. The tracks are apparently have a shorter lifespan than anticipated as well (export versions have different tracks)
There are a few weak spots that don’t reveal themselves on paper.
The area between the turret and the body of the tank is somewhat larger than on other tanks. Apparently it can be shot at from further away than other tanks, owing to the large turret ring.
Look at this picture:
Note the gap between the turret and hull.
Challenger 2 also has this vulnerability. On the British tank, the glacis plate is a vulnerable spot. One hit near the driver’s position from a modern 125mm round and it will penetrate.
Here’s a Challenger 2 picture:
Note the large gap between the turret and the hull.
The Leopard 2 has a smaller ring in this regard. The issue though if you want to get rid of this vulnerability completely is that you’d have to relocate the driver, which impedes forward visibility.
Now take a look at this image:
Note the much smaller gap between turret and hull.
I think that in this regard, the Russian tanks with their circular turrets may help address this vulnerability. That and any direct hit will increase the chance of ricochet.
I wonder if the Merkava may be a better configuration than most Western tanks in this regard.
Personally I think the Merkava has the best configuration of any tank period. Engine at the front increases protection, turret is flush with hull without any gaps. And it can even carry it’s own infantry. I read the blog of an Israeli tank man a few years back, he ha pictures and all. In combat conditions they can squeeze up to 7 infantry in the back.
Merkava does have a few benefits:
Engine is in front. Higher mission kills, but few crew kills. I wonder if this impedes visibility though?
The crew cab in the back I think can only carry 4 or 5 people. Real reason why it was done was so that another Merkava could pick the up crew of a disabled tank.
Sloping of turret could aid in it’s survivability
Picard neglected to mention this, but how many rounds a tank carries is very important.
Merkava 4 carries 48x 120mm rounds.
M1A2 carries 40x 120mm rounds.
Leopard 2A6 42x 120mm rounds.
Leclerc 40x 120mm rounds (22 in turret, 18 in hull)
Challenger 2 52x 120mm rounds (an advantage here over the other Western designs)
T-80U 45x 125 mm rounds (older ones had only 36)
T-90MS 40x 125 mm rounds (22 in autoloader?)
Arjun 39x 120 mm rounds
Type 96 42x 125mm rounds
Type 99A3 63x 125 mm rounds (22 in autoloader, 41 in hull)
K2 Black Panther 40x 120mm rounds
Al-Khalid 39x 125mm rounds
Anyone know the capacity for the M95 Degman or the Japanese Type 10?
Abrams carries 51 rounds.
See 4:30 for the data.
This is an old tank. While it might have been up-dated
Degman can carry 42 rounds, of which 22 in the autoloader.
Is that for the 105 mm version or the 120 mm version though?
I knew the 105 mm version carried 55 105 mm rounds.
Not 100% sure, but it’s possible that the latest upgrade is 42 rounds, not 40 rounds (which I knew was accurate for M1A1).
It does not really matter. Make a list of the large tank operators in the world and you will see that outside the Middle East and Europe you only have a few like China and India. The likelihood of the USA having tank battles in the near future are slim.
Also Type 99A3 should be Type99A2; was typing too fast.
In the interest of stimulating some discussion I’ll tell you what my ideal tank design is something I think blends well new advanced technology with sustainability.
1) Fist of all the ammunition issue. Problem with modern tank cannons is that just like PC CPUs before the multi-core paradigm shift, they rely on more and more brute power to defeat Armour. This results in increasingly bigger calibers and lower ammunition complements. But since the seventies when APFSDS ammo were first introduced a little bit of a paradigm shift has come into being. Now I propose to take it a little bit further. Considering that the dart of the APFSDS is something like 30 mm in diameter, the only advantage of increasing caliber is that you can use a bigger charge which is partially wasted on accelerating the sabot which is discarded once the projectile leaves the barrel. Now my proposal would be to take something like the OTO Melara 76mm cannon develop for it a low profile turret that can be installed on tank chassis and also develop for this cannon an Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot Rocket Assisted (APFSDS-RA) projectile. In this design the sabot would not be just a useless piece of metal but contain rocket motors that would accelerate the dart to velocities similar or superior to the muzzle velocity of a modern 120mm L55 weapon, once the motor cuts off the sabot detaches and the dart continues on it’s own, with the same or bigger energy as the muzzle energy from a modern 120 mm tank cannon. If a motor like then one in the Starstreak ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starstreak ) missile is used, considering the Muzzle Velocity of the cannon, then I believe that the sabot could detach in under 100 m. By using smaller shells up to 100 projectiles could be carried in a turret similarly sized to that of a modern tank and an auto-loader would be much more easy to install and would offer higher performance. Auto-loaders for 76 mm weapons have existed since the HS-123 aircraft that the Germans built in WW2. A 76 mm weapon would also have the advantage of being dual use it could elevate more then a 120mm weapon and could offer pretty high Anti-Aircraft performance especially if using the guided ammunition for the OTO Melara 76 mm cannon ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otobreda_76_mm#DART )
2) For Armour I would propose modular armor like AMAP. The main hull would be built from light weight steel capable of resisting small arms fire and on top of that you put AMAP modules proportional to the threat. Also an active protection system similar to a multiple-round version of AMAP ADS ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTmas41tVhY ) should be fitted as default to the basic hull.
3) Propulsion would be true hybrid-electric were you have an internal combustion engine functioning at it’s optimum recharging batteries which drive electric motors in the hubs of the wheels. This way fuel consumption is proportional to weight. If you carry lower weight then the electric motors will work easier and consume less electricity which would require that the batteries be recharged less often and thus consume less fuel.
4) Ordinance. The turret would be completely unmanned. Crew would be in the main body in front of the turret ring. Turret Ring would be in the rear half of the body. Ammo would be in the turret bustle but not in a carousel but in several cassettes. The auto loader would retrieve a round from a cassette and then drive it along the length of the turret and ram it in the breach. The empty space in the turret ring to the left and right of the cannon breach would be taken up by two revolver vertical missile launch systems. Considering that that would be the highest part of the tank missiles up to 2 meters in length would fit. So AT missiles and SAM missiles with bigger range then the 4 km of the main cannon could be fitted. Ammo for the main cannon would be APFSDS-RA, and thermobaric instead of HE to compensate for the lower caliber and also DART ammo for anti-aircraft work.
5) Secondary weapons: 1 or 2, 40 mm grenade launchers on remote weapon stations with high elevation, on the main body, linked to a network of IR and acoustic sensors. IR sensors would be similar to aircraft IR Missile Warner but lower ranged, and thus much more cheaper. Once missile is detected grenade launchers would fire to intercept at ranges of above 50 m, offering another layer of defense against missiles in addition to passive Armour and active AMAP-ADS, and would also offer protection to top attack munitions. Acoustic sensors would be used to detect the positions of snipers and grenade launchers would have the option to suppress their position in one or two seconds from the moment the shot was fired.
6) Tank would be about 25-30 tons in basic version with minimal passive armorall weapons and active defenses. and would go up to 40 tons in maximum protection version. Weight reductions would come from smaller main gun and crew of 3 or maybe just 2. Smaller crew has additional advantages to being able to make smaller tanks, you could man 4 or 6 tanks for the 12 people that would take you to man 3 traditional 4 man crew tanks. Higher numbers of small tanks always beats lower number of big tanks, see WWII for example.
That’s about it.
“Ordinance. The turret would be completely unmanned. ” – I think this is the future of the manned tank. I also think there will be unmanned ones.
I also believe that we will also have missile armed tanks and missiles with optical guidance to the target. Those technologies are already in place but too rudimentary to be used yet. They are working on them.
Yeah I would have to agree with that assessment. Another thing I would recommend is to put reactive armor bricks on the tanks. When idle too, you could be on battery power to lower your IR signature. Ideally you’d want a shovel in front for digging defilade positions.
Another possibility is a scramjet assisted projectile (not need to carry propellant – only fuel).
See my posts below for details.
The mechanism that raise and lower the gun are exposed. Why not have a remote controlled turret like originally suggested. It is already this way in ships.
But, the gun could be a reusable guided missile launcher that could alternate between surface and air missiles depending of circumstances. It could pull along a radar that would feed it information. We already have that in ships… not exactly but in a way.
“It could pull along a radar that would feed it information.”
Radar is prone to breakdowns when in movement.
Another problem with radar.
Radar needs you to be either in the sky or a flat terrain (ex: the sea). Otherwise you will not get full coverage all the time.
Also, the Sheridan ELKE:
It was an old testbed project.
There were very similar proposals made earlier.
Kenneth Macksey wrote a book on the matter, based on his historical analysis and interviewing former tankers. Anyways his ultimate vehicles were called “Goliath”.
Look at the tank? Do you see any similarities?
The other design is essential a modern Stug.
Anyways, the scramjet would be something like this:
There was an AEDC Scramjet project a while back in the early 2000s to accelerate a projectile very rapidly. I suspect that tank projectile could be made. It would be a very long and thin weapon.
Totally off topic, but does anyone know what tags you need to get pictures to show as pictures in WordPress comments and not as links?
That is very similar to Macksey’s proposals then, at least the silhouette.
Yeah I agree – staying to what works for now. Scramjet assisted projectile still highly experimental. I suppose maybe in a few decades it could be done. The problem fundamentally has always been to carry x amount of propellent to accelerate a projectile of y mass to z velocity, while retaining acceptable accuracy (which is why the UK opted for rifled at the expense of ammunition variety and barrel life). I think that what you might end up with is a longer, thinner projectile.
I’d say a tank needs ideally 60 rounds. Otherwise, if they use say, 20 rounds, with a 40 round capacity, tankers are reluctant to advance (from real world experience). They have used half of their ammunition already.
Curiously, I have heard of tests that have claimed that at very high velocities, tungsten may well be better than DU. That’s because DU’s self sharpening properties may actually work against itself at higher velocities – tungsten can better take the heat. The DU projectile will burn from the friction before going more than a couple of kilometers.
I think you’d want 3 versions:
– A 25 ton light tank version for rapid advancing and deep penetration (as well as air lift ability)
– A 35-45 ton medium tank version for higher protection
– A 55-65 ton heavy tank version as a defensive weapon (this one will not be built in large numbers)
I’ve said this to Picard, but I think that a modern Stug is a very viable concept too as a defensive weapon, so maybe the heavy version is totally not needed.
Stug gets you a lower silhouette than just a rotating gun on top, less mechanical complexity (cheaper and more reliable), and potentially the same tank in a lighter mass tank or a heavier calibre gun. Mixed those 2 would be my ideal force.
I would have some light calibre and some with heavier guns, some of which could double up as SP guns along with their infantry support function.
These are the problems…
And other similar. Missiles… Plus you need a plain or a desert to mass tanks. Not always will that be there.
I am thinking something like this is the future…
Against ground and air.
And do listen to a first hand account of the battle… the importance of finding the enemy first, of the rate of fire with a manned loader and how fast it ended.
It is almost like Naval warfare. First one to be found is the looser.
ATGMS do present a threat to modern armor, no questions there. The question is – replace tanks with what?
I suppose a missile tank is viable, but it is not a panacea either – fewer missiles than tank rounds for one. I think that the answer is that heavy tanks are starting to become irrelevant.
You still need an armored fighting vehicle to bring firepower to an enemy, to move on rough terrain (tracks are preferred over wheels due to lower ground pressure), and out-maneuver any opponent; essentially a tank. I do not believe that ATGMs make tanks obsolete, but they do make them more vulnerable.
After that scalding comment by Andrei I will say that if you follow the procurement money more is going to armor personnel carriers than to tanks… and probably because they are more useful in the battlefields that we face now. They can move a squad, are easier to transport, etc.
The question is, what will be bought? The GCV is very heavy and probably cannot be bought in huge numbers.
If you want to have a discussion you should at least read what other people are saying. If you go back and read my post you will notice that I already considered the danger of missiles and I proposed two active systems working in conjunction to defend against them:
1) AMAP-ADS which is a short range high-reaction-speed system designed to defend against both kinetic energy penetrators and rocket propelled projectiles (RPGs and missiles) fired from as close as 10 meters. It reacts in milliseconds as opposed to hundreds of milliseconds and even seconds like other active protection systems.
2) Development of a new system to complement AMAP-ADS and specifically designed to handle missiles. This systems would use 40mm grenade launchers that would intercept incoming missiles with a barrage of HE or thermobaric grenades at distance above 50 m and because the grenade launchers would have mounts capable of high elevation they would be able to intercept top-attack munitions.
Now if a tank is built with these 2 systems, current AT missiles would become useless, they are too slow, too visible, because of their very hot engines and too predictable.
To penetrate the layered defense I propose , with infantry launched missiles, those missiles would have to be very fast, and I’m talking hypersonic here, at least Mach 4, and to not move in a straight line but in a random approach pattern. These two methods will improve the chance of the missiles to hit, because it will give the active defense systems less time to react (because of the speed of the missile) and it would be much harder for the computer on the tank directing the grande launchers to calculate an intercept solution (because of the random trajectory). But even these two measures will not guarantee a hit as simple upgrades to the software and hardware of the computers directing the two active protection systems would increase their reaction speeds and improve their capacity to handle missiles. So missiles would become unprofitable to destroy tanks because a very expensive program to develop a new generation of hypersonic missiles would be countered by a simple and inexpensive upgrade program.
Probably then the only infantry carried weapon that would be able to damage tanks would be lightweight high caliber anti-material rifles firing hyper-velocity darts. These would be next to impossible to intercept because of their high speed, low observability (no engine so very small heat) and low flight altitude (centimeters if fired by a prone sniper). Or maybe Anti-Tank grenades (like WWII sticky bombs), but these would require Powered-Armour for the infantry man to be able to survive the grenade barrage and get close enough to the tank to stick it with the grenade. (Sorry to much Heinlein inspired Science Fiction 😀 )
I am reading!
You seem to think the anti-tank missile is a thing of the past. I do not. I think that is one area of military technology that is improving and getting better every day. But I do think you have the economics on their head… we are using a $100K missile to knock out a multi-million dollar tank and the missiles could be fired in barrages.
The main issue right now is weight. The infantry model weights about 50 Lbs. and is cold launched into the air. If you put them in a vehicle they can be much larger and can be fired at much higher initial speeds. So I do think they have a lot of potential… and bear in mind that there would be drones flying around and the tank has a big foot-print.
If I were to design a tank today, I would do the following:
I think that past wars have shown that even heavy tanks like the M1 are very vulnerable to mines and in Iraq, IEDs. Crew can still get killed and of course the tracks can be blown off. Well, not much can be done for the tracks, save to armor the sides, but for the crew, I think that situating the crew to the rear is probably the best compromise.
Another option is to put the crew in an enclosed capsule to isolate them from the rest of the tank. There just needs to be a way for crew to get out quickly if the tank is about to explode though.
Active defense systems to shoot down missiles like the Russian Arena or Israel’s Trophy. Shoot projectiles of sharpnel to pre-detonate missiles.
Such systems will likely I think be combined with the pre-detonation cages for RPGs and ATGMs already mounted in today’s tanks. The other benefit of these cages is that they may be able to impart spin in incoming tank projectiles (APFSDS and high velocity darts from incoming recoiless rifles).
Maybe some sort of tank roof could also be proposed? Could be useful for anti missiles and against CAS aircraft.
I agree that the engine in front is probably the best compromise. Engine in front leads to the least amount of crew kills, although somewhat higher mission kills. It can be somewhat harder to maintain as well than engine in rear.
Diesel engine is way to go. Gas turbine is very visible on IR sensors and comes at a massive cost in fuel consumption. The tank must have enough fuel for 2 days of sustained combat. In fact the entire tank company ought to be able to operate for that period without any support from the division or from tank transporters.
You would want the fuel of course to be in self-sealing tanks (apparently there’s a lot of tanks that don’t have this even). Like on existing tanks, auto fire-extinguishers should be present.
Particularly important, you also want a fire extinguisher near the vulnerable grill areas (most tanks have one).
Finally, gotta make sure the engine does not emit smoke (can see that from a distance).
At the front, you’d want to present as small a turret as possible and as low a profile as possible. Historically when tanks have been hit, the turret frontal area has been the largest sources of hits, so a small turret – just a rotating gun as Kenneth Macksey proposed.
As indicated, the other proportion of my tank force would be Stugs.
I would try to make the full as low profile as possible – no more than 2.25m hull, and with gun, no more than 2.75 m with just the gun exposed.
A lot of current tanks do not have the ability to elevate their guns to higher angles and to lower angles. Problematic because tanks are often used in urban combat, where that is important (hitting higher buildings), and in defilade of course, lower angles is important.
For the Stug, seeing as it is to be used like a self propelled gun at times, higher elevations will be crucial.
Try to go with wide tracks if possible. Tanks have the tendency to get stuck in soft soil. Even the medium and lighter tanks. Wide tracks is good for this, even if it does increase the weight and frontal profile somewhat. It allows for better cross country mobility.
Apart from blow-out panels, could ammo be stored in water? Would this damage the propellant? Or some sort of vessel to contain an explosion if the main magazine is ever breached?
A surprising number of tanks have been lost due to their hydraulic fuel lines burning. That needs to be addressed.
In fact, fire fighting as a whole needs be overhauled I think. There should be dedicated fire fighting vehicles alongside dedicated recovery vehicles.
Stug tank won’t have as much a problem with this one.
Integrate existing tank features like anti-spall liners.
As you’ve noted, a lighter calibre gun could sustain similar performance to modern 120/125mm guns. A lighter gun could allow for as many as 80 to 100 rounds if that were the case.
I think all of this could be done in a tank weighing perhaps 40 to 45 tons, with less armor for a light tank version.
I also think we should think up of a good machine gun layout. I’m thinking 1x 12.7 mm MG and 2x 7.62 mm MG.
I don’t think missiles are irrelevant. If you notice you would see that I used a lot of “if’s” and future tense. Missiles are a serious threat mostly because they cost 100000$ and they have the chance to knock out a 4 million $ tank. That’s why, my opinion is that most research now should go in active defenses, and not just in dedicated systems like Trophy and Iron Fist but also in something like a proposed taking full advantage of remote weapon stations and thus to create a more versatile defensive system capable both to intercept missiles and suppress infantry. If, please notice the IF, this course of action is taken then in 20 or 30 years we will come to a point were active defense systems are an established technology with very high technology readiness level, that would be easy to adapt to new threats and thus the advantage of expenses would be on the part of the tank with active defenses, because with an established technology you have a lot more people that can work with it and adapt it to emerging threats. If, please notice the IF again, this happens missiles will have to evolve in a similar way of decreasing costs, and especially footprint. You say missiles can be fired in Salvos by infantry, really? Javelins are so heavy that only one or two per platoon are carried and they leave the firing squad vulnerable. The only reason why they are a threat right now is that tanks have practically now way to defend against them except passive Armour, which is not sufficient. An antitank guided missiles has to become hyper-velocity and light weight to be able to be fired in salvos. A missile with performance similar to the Javelin has to be at maximum 10 kg heavy and every soldier in the platoon should be able to carry it. Only then the concept of salvos of AT missiles becomes feasible. And a hyper-velocity missile can be very light weight because it would have high kinetic energy and thus would not need a warhead. For example the Javelin is 22 kg out of which 6 is the launcher and 8 the warhead. If you loose the warhead and lighten the launcher to 2 kg, by maybe moving some of the sensors on the launcher to the soldier then you have a system weighing 10 kg.
My opinion on what a tank should be I already gave it. It has to be light weight, adaptable, mobile both tactical and strategical and have active systems compensating for the lighter passive Armour . To ad to it I would say that the tank platform should be as versatile as possible and allow for the creation of IFV versions (40 mm cannon, 8 man infantry squad), Command & Control versions, APC versions (the self defense grenade launchers I described and 2 8 man infantry squads), logistic version (a sort of pick-up that behind the crew compartment were the turret ring would be has a flat bed). Examples exist: the Swedish CV90 IFV has not one but two tank versions also the Polish have now two competing designs of families of AFV, both unveiled for the first version the light tank version. (PL 01: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-LupA0YkeU, and Anders: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnAnyVrpnwI both of them by the way use the AMAP-ADS active defense system that I was proposing 😀 as well as other AMAP modules – cage armour, ceramic armour, reactive armor – the AMAP system has a total of 19 different types of armor modules )
The pick up logistic version I suggested could also be used as an artillery carrier. It could carry a howitzer on the flatbed, and if the howitzer is designed accordingly it could be fired from the flat-bed, as well as be dismounted and fired from a fixed position.
Practically because of economies of scale you could have a very cheap tank because the basic chassis, sensors and active defenses (grenade launchers and AMAP-ADS) could be used to create a whole family of vehicles that fulfills all roles an army needs except for a few specialized ones.
There can also be a STUG variant, a massive redesign of the chassis (moving the engine to the back) with a massive cannon perfect for defensive battles and for urban assaults. But it would be a version used only by specialized formations, heavy infantry formations for urban assault and heavy tank formations for defensive battles, operating close to a logistic base. Luckily both scenarios imply short communication lines. Urban assault implies that the assaulted city has already been bypassed by mobile formations during a blitzkrieg style campaign, or that it’s a counter insurgency operation, in both cases the logistic base would be very close. The defensive battle implies that an enemy offensive had to be stopped and again the logistic base is very close.
No… the salvoes would be from vehicle launched missiles not by infantry. The marines are looking at systems that can be moved with a helicopter and that have optical targeting.
Then the missile looses it’s main advantage If you fire it from a vehicle you put all your eggs in the same basket and become vulnerable to infantry just like a tank. Besides a salvo of light weight hyper-velocity kinetic kill missiles fired by an infantry platoon would be 20 missiles fired at the exact same time. A nightmare to intercept. A salvo fired from a vehicle would be what 2,3,4 missiles fired at the same time? Much more easy to intercept. No. Vehicle carried missiles are either a secondary weapon like I proposed for my tank to extend the range of the weapons past the range of the cannon, or a main weapon system for a light, tank substitute, like the Russian Krizatema which is supposed to work with airborne troops and marines that can’t use MBTs because of weight restrictions.
Well… you are correct that in the USA the Marines are the most active in looking at vehicle carried missiles because those can be transported by helicopter the 50 to 80 miles that will separate the ships from the shore at the start of an assault. Regular tanks can’t.
Missiles that are very accurate and those that have pea sized warheads are ideal for urban environments because they avoid collateral damage, damage to civilian infrastructure and friendlies. These guns that you describe are probably too destructive for that use too. The Hellfire is an efficient and effective weapon that is not used in urban environments precisely because it is deemed too destructive and tanks are not used because of limitation on their cannon’s arc movement in constrained streets and vulnerability to attacks by infantry weapons from other quarters other than the front.
Before you continue much further let us start with the basic… who are the two theoretical adversaries that you have in mind? This will help weed out options.
Yeah I can see where you’re going. I typically design for a medium tank first, then take out what I don’t think is needed and then conclude with a light chassis.
I agree though with your idea that the tank should be a base chassis for many vehicles (to simplify construction and logistics). I believe personally there should be 3 base chassis, a light, medium, and heavy from which all vehicles would be built off of. Light especially would be built in large numbers and would be designed from day 1 to be air droppable.
The light chassis would have about as many variants as the M113
– Base Light tank
– Logistics (all types)
– Light engineering tank
– Dedicated recon vehicle
– Light APC (like M113)
– Light Stug
– Perhaps a light mortar
– For towing towed artillery and ammo for artillery
And the list goes on.
My Stug doctrine though is quite different from yours – Stugs would see a lot more usage in a hypothetical force I would build.
They would be used for (lighter Stug variants)
– Infantry support
– Light armor fire support (towed guns may struggle to keep up with light armor making deep attacks)
Any Stug variant:
– Alongside tanks to the rear to provide indirect fire
– Counterbattery fire
Heavy Stug variant
– Urban assaults (Stug could have thicker roof armor and higher elevation of gun)
– Defensive battles against enemy tanks to provide indirect fire
In fact, I would even consider building more Stugs than tanks due to the lower construction costs.
“Missiles that are very accurate and those that have pea sized warheads are ideal for urban environments because they avoid collateral damage, damage to civilian infrastructure and friendlies. These guns that you describe are probably too destructive for that use too. ”
If the missiles are so small then you don’t need vehicles to carry them 😀 . The gun I was describing at 76 mm is practically the upper limit to use in a city if you want to avoid collateral damage. The APFSDS-RA ammunition I was describing is practically just for anti-tank work and because it relies on kinetic energy it has practically no potential for collateral damage and is useless against buildings. The STUG gun Chris was talking about that for all out urban warfare WWII style when you don’t give a flying f*** for collateral damage.
“Before you continue much further let us start with the basic… who are the two theoretical adversaries that you have in mind? This will help weed out options.”
Considering we are talking about tanks, then we are talking about 2 conventional adversaries 20 or 30 years into the future. So take your pick: NATO vs. Rusia – unlikely, NATO+Rusia vs. China trying to take Vladivostok (somewhat more likely), China+North Korea vs. Japan+USA+Taiwan+South Korea unlikely to use tanks. So to have the most difficult scenario lets have China trying to take Vladivostok by land, with Russia fortifying the city for a siege and USA+NATO contingents coming in to relieve them.
Do you think that’s plausible though, even China vs Russia, or China siding with North Korea if the event of another Korean War?
I’m not saying that it’s not possible (especially the former as the world warms up and China faces population pressures), but the later, I think is less and less likely. China seems to be moving away from North Korea of late.
Chris and Andrei, the most likely conventional wars are going to waged be by surrogate states or collapsing states. A kleptocracy like North Korea could very well be the next one since it could qualify as either.
China’s bullying is a little more complex since it is separated by water from most of its friend / enemies to the East and with competent militaries that can put up considerable resistance in the other directions or nuclear powers like Russia and India in the others. Plus fighting abroad using the Navy and Marines is not for the faint hearted since adventures can easily devolve into disasters… ask Demosthenes and Nicias how bad these can go in an expedition!
The problem are many including those tanks would be used in urban or tropical environments where they are vulnerable to ambushes, improvised explosive devices or other different types of infantry weapons. Here a tank can be disabled by an asymmetric weapon costing a fraction of what the tank costs by an enemy that consumes a fraction of what a tank equipped armies do. And amphibs can only land so many of tanks… you need a port and facilities to land a substantial number of them to fight a tank battle.
In a fight between major economies armed with nuclear weapons tanks would be of limited value other than to buy time and see if things can be cooled down. Their future use of tanks will probably be more in line with what the USA did in Iraq.
You do need vehicles even if the missile is small. You are transporting a battery of them and associated gear and you want mobility. And in Iraq the USA issued portable missiles for tank crews to use in urban environments.
OK… if you are talking about Russia and China you are talking about supply through the Trans Siberian Railroad and the logistical choke point that represents and a conventionally armed Russian Army that will be consuming materials in large quantities and that can’t hope to cope with the much larger in size and shorter logistic lines of the Chinese ground adversary. That would be true even if Russia is armed with much higher quality of weapons.
So first the Russians will try air and see if that will wilt away the Chinese advance. Maybe they will try politics too and see if they can isolate China. If that does not work then you will see nuclear weapons used in a tactical environment… melted tanks.
By the way, Pakistan and India are also armed with Nuclear weapons and you know that if either side breaks through they will be bombarded by missiles with nukes. More melted tanks.
Now, disperse the troops and infiltrate around strong points and do not concentrate where you can be targeted by tactical nuclear and then what? What is the second act of this?
Well first of all nuclear weapons would not be an option. A conventional war of this magnitude would not commence unless there would be anti-balsitic shields in place that would make all out nuclear strikes impossible. Tactical nuclear weapons remain an option and might be used if there is no fear of strategic retaliation but that is all.
Well first act would be for the Chinese to cut the Transiberian that is actually very easy for them, hence forcing the Russians to fortify Vladivostok and provision it by sea, which by 30 years into the future they will be able to do very easy because global warming will keep the Arctic Ocean from freezing over in winter. (Russians are practically the only ones looking forward to global warming, it opens up Siberia to them and allows them to use the largest coast in the world year round.)
Now Vladivostok is the only objective worth taking in the Russian Far est. But to tie up Russian reinforcements Chinese will attack along the whole border. The only thing the Russian would be able to do is give ground (they have a lot of it there), break up their mobile formations in smaller more maneuverable ones and use their maneuverability to concentrate on individual Chinese units overwhelm them then retreat. Practically it’s the only way the Russians could fight the Chinese which outnumber them 10 to 1. With enough terrain and if their troops have enough endurance and if the Russian obtain favorable attrition rates then they could stall the Chinese advance and maybe even stop it. The only point on the border where this is not an option is Vladivostok.
So the Chinese attack along the whole border and at the same time use their best units to strike at Vladivostok. Russians resist at Vladivostok but are unable to relive it because all their available troops are tied up stopping the secondary attacks along the border.
The only option for Russia would be to ask for help. India might refuse politely, so the only other options would be USA and NATO. Now both of these entities would dread to have the Chinese control the other end of the important trade route that by 30 years in the future will be the Arctic Ocean, so they will answer favorably to a plea for help. But they will avoid to make the conflict to large so their intervention would be limited to Russian territory and they will make everything possible to avoid operations in Chinese territory. So the only option for NATO would be an amphibious landing south of Vladivostok followed by a fast strike to cut the lines of comunictation of the chinese.
I agree that cutting the railroad will be easy but disagree with everything else. If you are the Chinese you have to march along roads and truck in your supplies including fuel or how else will you support the troops there. So the Chinese supply lines are as vulnerable as the railroad is.
The Russians can disperse but why? The Russians will sail their subs to blockade the Chinese ports and will do so with impunity since I can’t imagine the Chinese blocking Baltic or Black Sea ports… can you?
And serious inroads by the Chinese will be met with tactical nuclear weapons.
Compounding the issue substantially would be that 30 years from now, it’s very possible that China will be at the peak of it’s power and US economic dominance will have been all but a memory.
But as HGR notes, it’s most likely that a third rate power is the most likely target of modern armor … for the foreseeable future anyways.
“30 years from now China will be at the peak of its power” – Why would anyone say that?
If most of Europe is at peace and nuclear powers are not likely to have significant conflicts among themselves then where will you fight?
In many way it is aviation what seems to be the answer… it can move over all types of terrains or water and it can destroy tanks or artillery or whatever needs to be and can be transported more economically than a tank army can be transported or it can self deploy. Cannot do everything but it can do a lot and minimize the ground needs.
If China continues to grow at a rate of 7-10% per annum for the next 30 years, at some point, the growth will level off. It if sustains for another 10-15 years, we’ll be looking at a China with a 50% higher GDP than the US. If it sustains as long as say, Japan or the Asian Tigers did, China’s GDP could conceivably be 50% greater than the combined GDPs of the US and EU combined.
Given that over the past 30 years, China has sustained tremendous growth, comparable to the Japanese and the Asian Tigers, confounding skeptics, I think it’s a fair possibility that although the growth may slow down, it will continue to grow at an impressive pace.
It may very well be that China could stop growing or hit a speed bump in the near future (there’s the possibility that China could face a financial meltdown in the near future), but at the same time, there’s also the possibility that the growth could sustain itself.
“there’s also the possibility that the growth could sustain itself” – fat chance.
Today there was an article in the New York Times dealing with this very subject. They are already in retreat but their macro-numbers are so obscure that you must extrapolate from things like coal and iron ore stock pile, etc. to figure out if their economy is growing or not.
In many way spending their reserves weakens them… if they sell US dollars the additional supply makes USA goods cheaper in export markets including their own.
“Today there was an article in the New York Times dealing with this very subject. They are already in retreat but their macro-numbers are so obscure that you must extrapolate from things like coal and iron ore stock pile, etc. to figure out if their economy is growing or not.”
My reply is, look at history. The 1997 Asian Financial Crisis was in many ways, a failure of neoliberal economics. Yet at the same time, it proved on a temporary slowdown to the rapid growth of East Asia.
It’s possible that China could enter a period like the “Lost Decade”. It really is. It is also possible that there may be other long term problems that catch up.
But at the same time, it’s also possible that China could continue to grow – in fact, it may even accelerate. For the past couple of decades, China has pretty much beat all skeptic expectations. Gordon Chang, a China Collapse predictor, is an example of a person, who again and again, has been proven wrong.
I think that one reason that motivates people who predict China’s doom is because well, it’s what people in the West want to hear. I have noticed that among people in the West for example, there’s a reluctance to acknowledge Russian aeronautical achievements. I wonder if a similar logic is at work with China. Remember, for most of the world’s history, China has been a major power, if not the dominant world power. The 19th and 20th centuries may very well prove to be the exception, not the rule. I think people in the West are in deep denial about this.
So will China grow or enter a period of economic difficulty? It’s very hard to say. But since the end of WWII, there has been a profound shift of balance of the world’s power Eastward, first with the rise of Japan, then with the other Asian nations. Japan is now in a period of 2 “Lost Decades” and a rapidly aging population. In a sense, Japan’s growth has run out of steam. How long will China’s growth last? That’s a hard to answer question that nobody truly knows the answer to.
The big takeaway though, is that being complacent is a very dangerous thing indeed, particularly when it flies in the face of history.
Well… there is a difference between “possible” and “probable”. It is possible that they will continue to grow. It is possible.
But experience shows that at some point other economies that have enjoyed decades of growth eventually slow down… and with China that would bring some austerity to the armed forces… maybe make “human wave attacks” fashionable again.
Chris… I just read today that the Su-50 PAC FA is in trouble. No less than with India… the price tag will go up as apparently the aircraft requires further development and does not work as advertised.
“But experience shows that at some point other economies that have enjoyed decades of growth eventually slow down… and with China that would bring some austerity to the armed forces… maybe make “human wave attacks” fashionable again.”
They’ll slow down eventually. The question is when. It could happen tomorrow. But what if … they don’t slow down until they reach a living standard comparable with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, or Singapore though? The only real bottleneck here is amount of natural resources on this world.
I do not believe though that “human wave attacks” will be likely to happen again though. China’s wealth has reached a point that precludes that, unless there’s a drastic decline in wealth. That said, I do believe that China’s numbers could be an advantage in the future. It already is, from a world’s economic standpoint.
“Chris… I just read today that the Su-50 PAC FA is in trouble. No less than with India… the price tag will go up as apparently the aircraft requires further development and does not work as advertised.”
Like the F-22 and F-35, I expect that the aircraft will be more expensive than initially planned.
“The only real bottleneck here is amount of natural resources on this world. ”
Considering how much resources said countries use, and China’s population, I don’t see China ever reaching their standard. Current economic situation is unsustainable from ecological and resource standpoint as is.
“Considering how much resources said countries use, and China’s population, I don’t see China ever reaching their standard. Current economic situation is unsustainable from ecological and resource standpoint as is.”
That’s the big issue.
Let’s face it – the world is running out of oil. It’s also running out of a whole ton of other minerals too. Energy will be a huge challenge in the future, as will insuring that people get enough food and clean water.
In the case of China, growth has come at a huge environmental toll. The question is – what will be the long term impact?
Historically, all nations in this stage seem to have a great deal of pollution. Before the environmentalist movements began to pop up, here in the Western world, pollution was a serious issue. In some areas and in many issues, it still is.
The environment they will throw to the trash… that is not what will hurt them. It is the economy based on low cost labor and exports that will do then in. You can only apply so much percentage of your GDP to the military before you get a revolution or start devolving into a primitive society with scarcity of everything but military goods.
That is the way the Soviet Union was and that is how the European countries where also prior to the 1800… which leads to a lack of social cohesion and unity and then revolution or at least crisis.
And China is not like North Korea which can avoid crises by virtue of the largess of its northern neighbors.
“It is the economy based on low cost labor and exports that will do then in. You can only apply so much percentage of your GDP to the military before you get a revolution or start devolving into a primitive society with scarcity of everything but military goods. “:
Issue is, China at the moment is not spending so much on the military that it is in danger of bankrupting itself from excessive military spending. Is it spending a lot? Yes. It is it a drain on national resources? Yes. But at the moment, there isn’t the danger the way that there is in the USSR.
“And China is not like North Korea which can avoid crises by virtue of the largess of its northern neighbors.”
You seem to think that China is still a very poor nation with little growth. It is still poor (especially in GDP per capita), particularly as you move away from the East Coast, but at the same time, it has managed to sustain impressive growth over the past 30 years.
That said, it is export-based, like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. In this, I do see a vulnerability. In fact, that may be why China’s growth has recently begun to slow.
Since WW2 every economy the USA has opened up to has done really well… first it was Japan and Germany. Then it open itself up to Korea and look how that country moved from a poor nation to a modern first world one just because it has the USA market available. Now it is China’s turn. But every one of these export led economies is vulnerable to the whims of the main buyer of its goods and provider of capital who is the USA.
China will be replaced by another country just like all the others have been replaced too and then what?
“Since WW2 every economy the USA has opened up to has done really well… first it was Japan and Germany. Then it open itself up to Korea and look how that country moved from a poor nation to a modern first world one just because it has the USA market available. Now it is China’s turn. But every one of these export led economies is vulnerable to the whims of the main buyer of its goods and provider of capital who is the USA. ”
But what then? You assume that every economy – Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China are dependent solely on the US.
70% of Germany’s exports go to the rest of the EU
China’s largest trading partner by exports is the EU (although technically not a “nation” in a sense), followed by the US
The largest source of imports and exports for Japan is China
South Korea too, largest sources of imports and exports is China
Similarly, Taiwan’s largest sources of imports and exports is China
The point is, China is not dependent on the US entirely for it’s prosperity. Heavily reliant yes, but not totally dependent. That’s why they are buying US Debt in part, to keep the current system going.
You also assume that the US will simply stop trading with China whenever it wants. It’s not that simple.
“China will be replaced by another country just like all the others have been replaced too and then what?”
It is already happening. China’s labor pool is drying up. That and China’s rising wages have led to outsourcing to Southeast Asia.
That’s a question … although not for the reasons you think. The US is in danger of reaching a point where it can no longer afford to buy the world’s goods – it’s only being propped up by an overvalued USD. China at the moment is trying to raise it’s domestic consumption.
“China is not dependent on the US entirely for it’s prosperity. Heavily reliant yes, but not totally dependent. That’s why they are buying US Debt in part, to keep the current system going. ” – Bingo.
China is in deep trouble… the way the international economic system works currencies are mediums of exchange that exist as entries in ledgers. The foreign reserves that you are talking about need to be used to purchase something… the act of buying something with them increases the supply of the foreign currency in exchange markets and weakens it when compared to the native currency. This makes goods sold in the native currency uncompetitive while making foreign good very attractively priced regardless of the cost of labor.
It will take China maybe 10 years or more to correct these imbalances or maybe they decide not to and allow the reserves to depreciate and loose value.
Many of the countries that you mention are suppliers to China and they will also feel the jolt.
“China is in deep trouble… the way the international economic system works currencies are mediums of exchange that exist as entries in ledgers. The foreign reserves that you are talking about need to be used to purchase something… the act of buying something with them increases the supply of the foreign currency in exchange markets and weakens it when compared to the native currency. This makes goods sold in the native currency uncompetitive while making foreign good very attractively priced regardless of the cost of labor.”
The entire world right now is in deep trouble – mostly due to neoliberal economics.
The last time I had the chance to speak to a large group of Germans, I’ve noticed something. They are very resentful towards the rest of Europe. They feel that they have been subsidizing the Euro. There’s a tendency among the Western European nations to look down upon the Eastern Europeans and North Africans – call it a sense of “superiority complex”. It seems to have worsened of late, mostly due to the economic crisis and the issues in Africa. Truth is, Germany has a pretty unsustainable export surplus that cannot continue. The other issue is that since the re-unification of Germany, wages for middle class Germans have stagnated, while for lower class Germans, wages have actually fallen. All of the gains have gone to the very top.
Now what does this have to do with Asia? China it would seem has a different issue. They’re exported oriented. Problem is, consumption in the Western world is in danger of falling. At the same time, China is trying to increase it’s living standards for it’s people. In the short run, the Chinese, Japanese, and a few other nations, like the Germans have been buying US Debt more or less to finance all of this. In the long run though, this system is not sustainable.
The big issue will be for China to increase domestic consumption to compensate … which will be difficult. I suspect that there will be a difficult transition period. But you’re also forgetting the real reason for this decline. The middle class of the developed world is being hallowed out. That’s the core problem. That’s a function of neoliberal economics at work here. I think that the relative decline of the US has been the real reason why the US has been losing so much power – waste on military spending, but also the pursuit of neoliberal economics. When it’s over, I think we’ll be living in a very different world – one where the US is just another “Great Power”, rather than the sole superpower.
Finally, the world is running out of natural resources, which hinders everyone’s growth potential. Again, the current economic system offers no real solutions to the problem and is actively trying to deny the problem in many ways.
There is a say here in the USA… you can fool a person all the time or fool a lot of people some of the time but what will not work is fooling everybody all the time. The so call no-liberalism which is really capitalism has a huge propaganda machine that is first rate and deceivingly subtle but it might be running out of steam in particular here in the USA. Last time this happen was in the 1960.
Germans… of course they are bone headed. The Euro competitiveness in world markets is based on the overall GDP of Europe as a whole and if it was based solely on Germany’s economy it would be a very strong currency and a drag on exports… but try to explain that to a properly propagandized German electorate who believes that fallacy that Southern Europe weakens them when in reality they are a source of cheaper labor, an outlet for their surplus capital and because of their demographics a consumer of German industrial goods. So that is why the Germans will punish southern Europe even if that will cost them dear.
Things here will be easier… the trade imbalance is financed internally through government debt. That means all those foreign exchange reserves in the hands of China, et al are dumped into what ever portion of those debts we can’t finance internally. That debt’s origin are the middle east wars and the huge tax decreases from the Bush years that are expiring. Guess what is going to happen then?
In the long run, all that foreign debt is going to probably be worthless. So yes, anybody who holds reserves – China, Japan, Germany, Russia, et al are going to take a big hit.
Question is, what happens to the US though?
Out of curiosity, what percentage of total time does a modern aircraft spend on the ground?
Even under the very best situation I can imagine, an aircraft probably cannot spend more than 8 hours per day on average in the air. With larger, complex fighters, I bet it’s even less than that.
Two-thirds of time for Gripen, if SAAB is to be believed. At least 90% of the time for the F-22.
So 8 hours a day looks accurate. I imagine that for older airframes, the percentage of time spent in the air would decrease.
Hmm … F-22 you said 45 hours per hour of flight? How many people are assigned per F-22? The big issue I imagine is probably re-applying the stealth coating each time, which likely falls off due to friction.
I heard it was 105 hours of maintenance per hour of flight for the B-2. During the Kosovo bombings, I think the entire fleet only sustained 1 sortie per day.
AFAIK, Gripen undergoes 10 hours maintenance per hour of flight.
Chris… it does not work like that… the F-22 at the present flies daily on patrol for a period of about 15 days and then it needs to be retired for maintenance so it is out for a while then. The numbers that you hear include that bigger maintenance.
All you hear assumes no progress. The F-35 anti-radar coating is harder and durable than the F-22 and the latter eventually will benefit from that.
Normally as they gain experience with the aircraft the number of maintenance hours is reduced. It should get better.
“Chris… it does not work like that… the F-22 at the present flies daily on patrol for a period of about 15 days and then it needs to be retired for maintenance so it is out for a while then. The numbers that you hear include that bigger maintenance.”
Yes and no.
Within those 15 days, how many hours is it up in the air? For every hour that it is not up in the air, in the event of a real war, it would be a target on the ground vulnerable to destruction.
Similarly, during the temporary retirement period, it is vulnerable 24 hours a day for the duration of the maintenance, until it goes back to the 15 day cycle at which point it will be vulnerable only during the time spent on the ground.
“All you hear assumes no progress. The F-35 anti-radar coating is harder and durable than the F-22 and the latter eventually will benefit from that.”
As the specifications for the F-35 become more and more finalized, we’re likely to see less and less opportunity for that reliability progress.
I’m not 100% for military aircraft (I would need more data), but reliability typically is what is known as a “U” shaped curve for large capital projects in the civilian world. For the first time it enters service, there are issues to be resolved. Eventually, those issues are satisfactorily solved, at which point, the reliability begins to peak. As the equipment ages, reliability issues begin to re-appear as you approach the end of the equipment’s life.
Anecdotally though, talking from people who have worked on fighter maintenance, I expect similar results. From what I am told, the USN’s older F-18s for example have seen their maintenance requirements go up. Near the end of the F-14’s life, flight to maintenance went up from 20:1 to 50:1.
That is what happens, and curve is sharper for more complex weapons – yet it never goes as low as it does for simpler ones.
Chris… tyou are right on your assumptions; the very oldest of aircrafts that are not being up-dated have problem with flying hours. The Indian airforce is a good example of that with a very high accident rate on their older aircrafts because of their age and lack of up-dates. They could be re-built and modernized but it is a loosing proposition in the sense that both Pakistan and China are fielding increasingly more sophisticated planes so they fly the old planes while shopping for new ones.
So yes and no… as the design mature the availability of hours goes up because of experience as well as up-dates and corrections to problems but… with the very old aircrafts that can’t be economically re-built and up-dated the avalability does go down and accidents go up even if the ground crews are top-notch.
The Turkish airforce flies F-4 in a bomber mode. They are obsolete as fighters and interceptors but are a credible bomber and are flown as such… but those are F-4 that have been heavily maintained and up-dated. Not typical. they are good.
“Western militaries are however intent on ignoring this, especially US military. USAF is far from the only service that “massages” the tests and exercises to make complex weapons seem better: in the (internal, at least) US Navy exercises, aircraft carriers are not allowed to be sunk.”
Speaking of which, the US Army had a similar debacle with the Stryker. Reportedly, they did not really hold an exercise. They just made the Stryker look good in a way.
I remember, in Canada, between 1996 and 2005, there were approximately 10 LAV III rollovers, resulting in a couple of fatalities, despite the vehicle having not seen combat for the majority of that time.
“The note said it is especially prone to tipping on ground with an angle of 30 degrees or greater, and should be driven in the centre of roads in countries with poor highway systems, where edges of roads tend to be prone to breaking away under heavy weights.
In the six years the LAV III has been in use, two other Canadian soldiers have died in 10 rollover accidents. As recently as September, a 24-year-old Quebec soldier died when one of the vehicles rolled into a river during a nighttime training exercise in Alberta. ”
Despite this, both the Canada and US armies still see fit to deploy this vehicle.
Strykers are the only type of vehicle that is slated to increase in the US Army with I think 3 additional brigades planned. For all its problems and tempered realities it has received decent reviews by a military that is increasingly involved in counterinsurgency and securing areas. It provides road mobility at decent speed, direct fire support and protection against bullets and artillery, etc.
The M113 is a problem. It is the same thing as when the Marines ask for propeller driven aircrafts… they work in benign environments. So does the M113.
What I would like to see is a diminutive troop carrier. It might be wheeled and armored with a four man squad and two operators. This could be used for airborne mobility and to pull helicopter transported artillery, missile batteries, etc.
Basic design of the M113 is far better for dangerous environments than Stryker is. And fact that US Army is ordering additional Strykers just means that US Army is adept at ignoring combat lessons.
Wheeled vehicles are simply not meant for war zone. They’re good for parades on asphalt, when nobody is shooting at you, but that’s it.
The problem with the Stryker is that it’s really top heavy and the ground pressure is very high, so off-road performance will suck in soft soil. That seriously hinders mobility.
It’s also a very high profile so it’d be easier to hit than a lower profile tracked APC.
“The M113 is a problem. It is the same thing as when the Marines ask for propeller driven aircrafts… they work in benign environments. So does the M113.”
M113 certainly isn’t perfect. Issue is it was never designed to survive in a high threat environment with IEDs. It was designed to use it’s cross country mobility to avoid them altogether. That said, the fundamental concept that Gavin had when he had the vehicle pressed into service is solid, imo. The same cannot be said I think for the LAV.
What I think is needed is as I indicated to Andrei earlier, a light tracked vehicle with wide tracks. It would have a V-shaped hull at the bottom. Being an APC, it would have to be able to take at least 12.7mm bullets in any direction. Options for an RPG-cage, applique armor, explosive reactive bricks would also be available. To simplify logistics, it would then share the same chassis as several other vehicles. Heavy enough for some survivability, but light enough for air dropping.
Only way to make something that can survive a very high threat environment is something like the Israeli Namer, but that comes at the expense of strategic mobility.
Israeli Namer = 60 tonnes!
With the Stryker we are talking about vehicles in the 20 ton +/- range. I am thinking we need smaller still for certain applications… something like this,
All these wheeled vehicles are thought for use behind the line for security but because there is a problem with transporting something big they are being called to do other things. So a smaller still vehicle that can be moved by helicopter and can help to pull, move other weapons like a missile battery for antitank and antiair, transportation a small squad and provide direct fire from a turret.
Say with two operators that can fight dismounted and a four passenger will make up a six man squad. Right now there is nothing like that.
“Israeli Namer = 60 tonnes!”
Hence my emphasis – limited strategic mobility. Their mass means you can only deploy a limited number to the front and they are undoubtedly very expensive to build.
“With the Stryker we are talking about vehicles in the 20 ton +/- range. I am thinking we need smaller still for certain applications… something like this,”
As far as APCs go though, the proposal I had would be in the light tank range; aiming for 15-25 tons. 15 to 20 tons maybe empty and more as you add modular armor components as needed you’d get closer to the 20-25 ton mark. That’s heavy enough to offer decent survivability but not so heavy that it’s strategic mobility is limited.
My proposed vehicle is not intended to survive a very high threat environment – it’s more to maneuver troops and survive against small arms fire. Tactical invincibility is in my view, impractical for such a vehicle.
All these wheeled vehicles are thought for use behind the line for security but because there is a problem with transporting something big they are being called to do other things.”
The problem again is not the concept, it’s the fact that it’s on wheels.
Say with two operators that can fight dismounted and a four passenger will make up a six man squad. Right now there is nothing like that.”
Mini-Gavin, also known as the M113 Lynx is the closest thing to it, although it’s built mostly for recon.
Here is the big problem… fighting vehicles have to have cross country mobility and protection that is compatible with main battle tanks. That means they often are tracked or if wheeled they have high ground clearance. But biggest problem is speed and protection to move with the main battle tank which translates into weight. Lots of weight.
Security vehicles have no intrinsic requirement to keep up with a battle tank so they are normally road bound and lighter. Much lighter weight.
So far no problem.
Here is where you start having problems… it is with hybrid type fighting. This is when you send a light infantry unit like paratroopers that is not motorized… ditto for Marines. These guys now need to walk or march to where ever they decide to move. They are also limited to what equipment they can carry. They are rather immobile. Typically you can get them Humvees by helicopter but those are too lightweight for almost any real fighting.
So we now arrive the be-deviled Stryker which is really a security type vehicle that has been steroided into a fighting vehicle the same way that armoured Humvees have been adapted for that. The M113 was a fighting vehicle but it will not do well in today’s world… no one is designing anything like the M113 and there are good reasons for not cloning it.
What it is really needed is a fighting vehicle that can be transported with air and sea assets that light infantry is transported with to hot-spots around the world where it would be the solution to transportation, direct fire and pulling other weapons along through all types of roads and some terrains giving the light infantry mobility. Can’t be a Humvee and it can’t be too heavy either.
Okay, what type of vehicle are you talking about here – are you designing a real fighting vehicle or a “security” vehicle?
“So we now arrive the be-deviled Stryker which is really a security type vehicle that has been steroided into a fighting vehicle the same way that armoured Humvees have been adapted for that. The M113 was a fighting vehicle but it will not do well in today’s world… no one is designing anything like the M113 and there are good reasons for not cloning it.”
That’s not entirely correct, outside of the US. Heavier APCs are being designed and in service throughout the world.
Russia for example has the BTR-T, which weighs about 30-35 tons. They also have their lighter BMP series.
Germany has the Puma, which are medium weight 30-35 ton APCs.
Sweden uses the CV 90, which doubles up as a light tank.
Once you reach this weight, it starts to blur. I think that if you could keep it under 20 tons empty, you could have a fairly transportable tracked vehicle.
But those vehicles that you mentioned are not transportable in the same aircrafts or helicopters the light infantry will be transporting itself. So they do not work.
Here is the problem that I see with the criticism of the Stryker… at 16 or so tons it really is light enough that it can move with the Army troops to a location that has an airport. The others you mentioned that are bon-a-fide fighting vehicles can’t do that. So the alternative to the Stryker is to arrive with out it or with the less capable M113. That is the end of the options available.
So in the absence of options I think we should temper our criticism of the vehicle. It is better for the soldiers to arrive with a Stryker than with out it. The same holds true for the M113… it is better to arrive with it than with out it no matter how obsolete it might be.
The Marines have a tougher situation. Unless they can bring a landing craft with equipment they might arrive to a beach with nothing but what a helicopter can carry on a sling… a Humvee? The Marines could use a smaller Stryker or a larger Humvee type that had a weapon and can be moved by air.
You could have a tracked vehicle that is lighter than Stryker while being more mobile and just as well protected, or as heavy as Stryker, still more mobile but also better protected.
LAV 3 empty is about 17 metric tons. The problem is that when you fully load it up, you’re looking at something on the order of 25+ metric tons, especially because the LAV needs more protection than a comparable tracked vehicle would. They also tend to roll over.
Seeing that this entire thread is about complexity, the issue with such a vehicle is that it has a lot of mechanical complexity too – 8 wheels and a hard to maintain suspension.
As I’ve said, what I’ve been calling for is a tracked vehicle under 20 tons empty which could be armored as needed. The criticism with the Stryker is not about it’s mass – it’s about the fact that it’s on wheels.
There are options for the amphibious landings too. Amphi-Gavin comes to mind.
I am going to read the cbo report.
Military vehicles gain weights for the same reason other things in the military gain weight… mission creep. They keep wanting to do more and more with the vehicle. Examples,
The armored Humvee does not exist because we needed an armored Humvee but because we did not have the right kind of vehicle for that sort of war and still do not have it. The same thing happened with the Stryker… they started using it for other things besides accompanying light infantry in rapid mobilization and found it lacking so they are now adding to it which sabotages its initial mission.
The decision to go with either a wheeled or tracked vehicle is based on where you think the vehicle will be used. You can guess one environment and end up with another.
For example, you propose 20 tons but really even 16 tons is too heavy to move quickly. The Army wishes the Stryker would be lighter than that. After all it is the vehicle that would accompanied units arriving presumably 90 hours after the call to duty with follow up units arriving 120 hours latter… so if called to act say in Africa then they would be airborne… so weight and logistics matter. And there is no real Wehrmacht in Africa that will require a 35 or 40 ton behemoth to transport men around. We will probably be facing infantry armies accompanied by missiles, artillery and long weapons but no real tank armies.
Wheels work better behind the front lines and the vehicle is more economical to operate.
The armored Humvee does not exist because we needed an armored Humvee but because we did not have the right kind of vehicle for that sort of war and still do not have it. The same thing happened with the Stryker… they started using it for other things besides accompanying light infantry in rapid mobilization and found it lacking so they are now adding to it which sabotages its initial mission.”
Agree with the mission creep.
In the case of the armoed Humvee though, large numbers of IEDs in Iraq also drove the reason why they entered widespread usage, although they proved inadequate for the purpose.
Single role vehicle best for most tasks.
“For example, you propose 20 tons but really even 16 tons is too heavy to move quickly. The Army wishes the Stryker would be lighter than that. After all it is the vehicle that would accompanied units arriving presumably 90 hours after the call to duty with follow up units arriving 120 hours latter… so if called to act say in Africa then they would be airborne… so weight and logistics matter. And there is no real Wehrmacht in Africa that will require a 35 or 40 ton behemoth to transport men around. We will probably be facing infantry armies accompanied by missiles, artillery and long weapons but no real tank armies.”
It’s the classic survivability vs mobility trade-off you get. You gotta make compromises somewhere.
“Wheels work better behind the front lines and the vehicle is more economical to operate.”
True – tracks need maintenance, but once you reach an area with enemies wheels are much more vulnerable and have more limited cross country mobility.
The other issue is that there are not formal “front lines” in a 4th generation war.
As your post arrived I was re-reading the Popular Mechanic article that Andrei posted and there at the bottom of page 70 and top of page 71 it stated the weight requirements which have not changed since. The Army wants to transport the light tank on a Hercules and the Marines in a CH-53 and there is a difference in weight between the two standards.
By the way, the problem for the Marines has grown because access denial means that whatever the helicopter can carry might be the only thing those first few Marines will have in the form of firepower.
It looks to me that they are about to throw the towel and simply buy something that they will need to move by rail and cargo ship to a well equipped port… so that when the time to move quickly again all they will have will be Humvees and leather boots.
“The Army wants to transport the light tank on a Hercules and the Marines in a CH-53 and there is a difference in weight between the two standards.”
No objections here, a light tank is urgently needed.
“By the way, the problem for the Marines has grown because access denial means that whatever the helicopter can carry might be the only thing those first few Marines will have in the form of firepower.”
I think that a heavy lift chopper can do some of the work.
“It looks to me that they are about to throw the towel and simply buy something that they will need to move by rail and cargo ship to a well equipped port… so that when the time to move quickly again all they will have will be Humvees and leather boots.”
Reality is, in any military, airlift is a limited resource that everyone is competing for. Not everyone is going to get what they want.
The other consideration is that the chances of an Iwo Jima type battle are slim for the Marines for the foreseeable future. Far more likely is an Iraq or Afghanistan type war.
The protection and firepower that they want cannot be airlifted. What can be airlifted while offering less it is better than the alternative which is none.
Chris, the problem that is not being grasped by the public is the progress in defensive weapons that will force the initial entry to be made by lightly armed troops that can be moved very quickly by air from a distance of 50 miles plus into an area that will probably be remote but lightly defended. When they arrive they will need fire support, mobility, etc. or else they will be sitting ducks. All that the Marines and the Army have that meet this criteria is wheeled.
Right now a practical limit to the weight that can be transported seems to be 16 tons. So for all the arguing we are probably going to continue to see wheeled vehicles lightly armed with missiles or 30MM cannon. Probably derived from existing designs to avoid developmental risk. No tracked vehicles because those would be heavier.
Now, that two man tank in the Popular Mechanic piece with a remotely operated gun might offer something in the form of firepower and protection at a reasonable weight. They need to get out of the squares.
Actually, tracked vehicles are lighter than wheeled vehicles for given protection and firepower.
This is the last tank made that has fitted the bill…
And it was a tank, not a troop carrier. God only knows what it would have weighted if it had been a troop carrier too.
The problem it had then is the same problem the Stryker has now. Made to provide fire support for light infantry it is SOMETIMES thrown against heavy tanks that it can’t handle. So you get this mountain of criticism. But it was better to have a Sheridan then or a Stryker today than the alternative which is a big jeep with a 50 caliber or a mortar.
The problem of mobility once you arrive is serious. So is the need for long weapons for direct fire support to deal with strong points.
And by the way… all of this assumes that the troops’ airborne deployed will avoid the lion’s jaws and land in a location that is thinly defended.
“The protection and firepower that they want cannot be airlifted. What can be airlifted while offering less it is better than the alternative which is none.
Chris, the problem that is not being grasped by the public is the progress in defensive weapons that will force the initial entry to be made by lightly armed troops that can be moved very quickly by air from a distance of 50 miles plus into an area that will probably be remote but lightly defended. When they arrive they will need fire support, mobility, etc. or else they will be sitting ducks. All that the Marines and the Army have that meet this criteria is wheeled.”
Airlifting by nature demands maneuver warfare.
It depends too on the nature of the operation how much resistance you end up facing.
“Right now a practical limit to the weight that can be transported seems to be 16 tons. So for all the arguing we are probably going to continue to see wheeled vehicles lightly armed with missiles or 30MM cannon. Probably derived from existing designs to avoid developmental risk. No tracked vehicles because those would be heavier.”
The LAV weighs more than 16 tons empty. Throw in everything else you want – soldiers equipment for example, and maybe additional armor (or bird cage like protection) and you quickly exceed that.
Best option with a 16 ton limit would be something closer to the M113 although somewhat up-armored. Other advantage is that a tracked vehicle doesn’t have such a high profile. LAV is a very tall vehicle (so easier to hit).
“Airlifting by nature demands maneuver warfare.” – It is the opposite. Those rapid response units are all light infantry. So are the Marines. Neither can maneuver the way mechanized Army armor does. Bottom line is if any of them had to fight motorized armor that can really maneuvers they would be wiped out.
The message that I am trying to convey is that making a 16 ton tracked fighting vehicle must be really hard because no one has one. And the M113 is obsolete. And that maybe some alternatives are plausible.
“It is the opposite. Those rapid response units are all light infantry. So are the Marines. Neither can maneuver the way mechanized Army armor does. Bottom line is if any of them had to fight motorized armor that can really maneuvers they would be wiped out.”
Light tanks and light tracked vehicles manuver. So too do medium tanks to some extent. Wheeled LAV/Strykers cannot … and that’s a serious shortcoming. Heavy armor is limited by it’s fuel consumption (logistical demands) and to some extent by the ground pressure of it’s tracks, although it can certainly manuver more than wheeled vehicles.
Only alternative is a head-on assault. And a vehicle under 20-tons cannot possibly survive any form of frontal assault.
“The message that I am trying to convey is that making a 16 ton tracked fighting vehicle must be really hard because no one has one. And the M113 is obsolete. And that maybe some alternatives are plausible.”
But why do you think the M113 is obsolete? There are even derivatives of the M113 being considered today – like the MVTL.
Also why is 16 tons the hard limit? Is there a particular aircraft limited to 16 tons?
“Also why is 16 tons the hard limit? Is there a particular aircraft limited to 16 tons?” – yes.
The Army has made a commitment to have a rapid reaction force that can be deployed with in 90 hours and that means air-transportable. That is why the 16 ton limit is significant. But it is not only them; the marines need to move very quickly from ship-to-shore a distance of about 50 miles and that means there is a limit to the amount of weight they can transport usually by helicopter.
The 20 ton vehicle will not stand in the way of a frontal asault by heavy armor. But neither will a 28 ton Bradley or any other non-heavy personel carrier.
Chris, this is the problem… people critizice the light weight personel carriers like there was something that could be done about it but there is nothing available as of now. It probably represents the best solution that can be transported that quickly and protect a squad of men.
The M113 does not have a roof and it is susceptible to artillery fragments, granades, there are advanced misiles that will explode over the vehicle effectively destroying all soft targets inside, etc. The M113 is more vulnerable and not less vulnerable.
You are going back to light tanks and medium tanks but those can’t be transported by air. So if not these wheeled vehicles or another yet to be found tracked vehicle with a roof that weights less than 16 tons what else is there for those first troops to use?
Is there an aircraft that is limited to 16 tons particularly? The C-130 for example has a much higher capacity – the M9 is 24.4 metric tons and is C-130 transportable for example.
Also equally important are the dimensions of the vehicle.
The 20 ton vehicle will not stand in the way of a frontal asault by heavy armor. But neither will a 28 ton Bradley or any other non-heavy personel carrier.
Chris, this is the problem… people critizice the light weight personel carriers like there was something that could be done about it but there is nothing available as of now. It probably represents the best solution that can be transported that quickly and protect a squad of men.”
The Bradley, although a flawed vehicle (see Burton’s memoirs), has a lot better survivability than a LAV would.
“The M113 does not have a roof and it is susceptible to artillery fragments, granades, there are advanced misiles that will explode over the vehicle effectively destroying all soft targets inside, etc. The M113 is more vulnerable and not less vulnerable.
You are going back to light tanks and medium tanks but those can’t be transported by air. So if not these wheeled vehicles or another yet to be found tracked vehicle with a roof that weights less than 16 tons what else is there for those first troops to use?”
You do realize as I said that the LAV 3 has an empty mass of 17 tons right? Then after equipment is added, you’re looking at 20 tons+ easily.
Why is a LAV 3 the solution then? Why not a competently new tracked vehicle of the same mass (which could have better cross country mobility)? Or an up-armored M113 (the Israelis have a few variants upgraded)?
Chris, just name any current track and armored military vehicle in recent production by any European military that is 16 tons or so in weight. Any vehicle that you can think.
You see? Yes to the problem of increased complexity and no to the problem of unrealistic expectations. The M-113 is vulnerable… no one is cloning it or building on that model of a vehicle.
And while transport aircrafts can lift higher loads than 16 tons you are back to the same logistic paradigm of the main battle tank… go ahead and count say the number airports in Sub Sahara Africa capable of handling a massive military transport aircraft. And you will see that they are few… making landing on them predictable and facilitating defense. Smaller aircrafts have many more airports available and you must defend more locations.
Right now the Marines will launch their assault 50 miles out on helicopters that are projected to move that distance in 20 minutes… give as little time as possible to the defense to prepare. When those kids arrive they need to arrive with transportation and equipment. 16 tons is as big as they can manage.
“Chris, just name any current track and armored military vehicle in recent production by any European military that is 16 tons or so in weight. Any vehicle that you can think.”
Off the top of my head, none.
But the question I have for you is, which European military set a 16 ton hard limit. We’ve established in your argument that the US Army might have a 16 ton limit, but among the European nations (and I presume you’re referring to the Western European NATO nations here), there has not been a solid requirement for such a vehicle.
“You see? Yes to the problem of increased complexity and no to the problem of unrealistic expectations. The M-113 is vulnerable… no one is cloning it or building on that model of a vehicle.”
Canada has sent later variants of the M113 into Afghanistan along side Leopard 2 tanks, after the LAV 3 proved inadequate for the task at hand.
“And while transport aircrafts can lift higher loads than 16 tons you are back to the same logistic paradigm of the main battle tank… go ahead and count say the number airports in Sub Sahara Africa capable of handling a massive military transport aircraft. And you will see that they are few… making landing on them predictable and facilitating defense. Smaller aircrafts have many more airports available and you must defend more locations.”
Main battle tank is 65+ tons. Light tanks will be under 30 tons.
That ‘s a pretty big stretch from 16 tons to 65+ – I think that something in the middle can give the right compromise between mobility (both strategic and operational), survivability, and firepower.
The Canadians did not switch to M-113 in Afghanistan… a cursory search of this subject clearly shows that the M-113 where complementarity used in areas where wheeled vehicles had problems. Canada is searching for a replacement to M-113 and everything they are looking at is much, much heavier. Maybe twice as heavy. The Americans tried and withdrew the M-113 from front line duty in Iraq; the vehicle is obsolete in that role.
The European card… this is interesting. Countries that are mountainous and have narrow roads and bridges (think Switzerland) tend to prefer certain vehicles that are lighter. Those that have large plains (think Germany and Poland) gravitate to heavier, big gun tanks. So there is a large variety in Europe.
But the point that you want to make seems to be a little confused…
You are comparing fighting vehicles that can be moved by air quickly and saying they are not good because others that can’t be moved by air have more armor and bigger guns. Well, what is new here? The point that you miss over and over again is that being able to move the vehicle by air is important to the USA because they will be fighting elsewhere than their own country so they must consider how they will transport their vehicles quickly. And arriving with a wheeled vehicle like the Stryker is preferably to arriving with a Humvee… agreed? There is no way to airlift a Bradley in a C-130 or by Helicopter.
Chris, I will give you some food for thought…
The Stryker has a remotely controlled 50 caliber or 7.25mm and that is no accident. It could not afford the weight of a turret. The moment you put a turret in a fighting vehicle the weight jumps up several tons. They are trying to up-gun it to 30mm still with no turret but that is in the future.
While not having a turret the Stryker is up-armored when compared to the Canadian version.
Protection against mines and improvised explosive devices is adding weight to all of the vehicles.
The 30mm cannon that the Canadians have is important. In urban setting you can’t use mortars, etc. with our risking substantial collateral damage but the 30mm cannon is another story… you can put direct fire on the position with limited damage around it. Similarly the cannon provides rapid responses in the field or against moving targets like Humvee type vehicles, trucks, etc.
So… where I am getting at. A true fighting vehicle with space for a mini-squad (say 6 to 9 men), a turret and a cannon, with tracks for off road mobility, thick armor and protection against mines and roadside bombs, an engine that can propel it at the same speed as a main battle tank, etc. you are now at 30 tons.
Eliminating the infantry squad and replacing it with more armor, the gunner, the magazine, the gun and an appropriate turret will send its weight flying above 30 tons.
So to keep it under 30 tons you need to cut back more than you think.
By the way… let us talk about technology. The Tow out ranges the main gun of most battle tanks. That was one reason why the Bradley’s IN THAT ENVIRONMENT destroyed more vehicles than the tanks themselves.
More Bradleys where lost to friendly fire than to enemy fire. It is very important that in such battlefields they retain situational awareness and technology offers a way to that.
“a cursory search of this subject clearly shows that the M-113 where complementarity used in areas where wheeled vehicles had problems.”
Problems with off-road mobility. That by the way is from me talking with some soldiers returning from Afghanistan (I live in Canada, btw).
The LAV 3s had the tendency to have problems off road. The problem is, in Afghanistan especially where the roads are not well developed, you have to move off road (and even in something like Europe you would too to try to out-maneuver your opponent.
“Canada is searching for a replacement to M-113 and everything they are looking at is much, much heavier. Maybe twice as heavy. The Americans tried and withdrew the M-113 from front line duty in Iraq; the vehicle is obsolete in that role.”
Both Canada and the US are talking about M113 replacements. Most proposals are in the 20 to 30 ton range.
“The European card… this is interesting. Countries that are mountainous and have narrow roads and bridges (think Switzerland) tend to prefer certain vehicles that are lighter. Those that have large plains (think Germany and Poland) gravitate to heavier, big gun tanks. So there is a large variety in Europe. ”
When you say, Europe, it’s important to remember that “Europe” is not one nation. It’s a collection of nations, cultures, and each military has it’s own unique requirements.
For some nations, force projection to a distant land is not a priority and their armed forces are primarily defensive forces. Others have specific requirements, like operations in Africa or for peacekeeping.
I think it may be best to specify which nation in particular you are referring to.
“You are comparing fighting vehicles that can be moved by air quickly and saying they are not good because others that can’t be moved by air have more armor and bigger guns. Well, what is new here? The point that you miss over and over again is that being able to move the vehicle by air is important to the USA because they will be fighting elsewhere than their own country so they must consider how they will transport their vehicles quickly. And arriving with a wheeled vehicle like the Stryker is preferably to arriving with a Humvee… agreed? There is no way to airlift a Bradley in a C-130 or by Helicopter.”
No. What I have been saying is that a light tracked APC is what is needed, with wide tracks.
A wheeled vehicle will always have shortcomings compared to a tracked vehicle of similar mass. That’s because:
High ground pressure, which explains why wheeled vehicles off-road tend to get stuck often
Vehicle is taller, which makes it easier to see and to hit
Rubber tires have the tendency to burn, so they’re more vulnerable to tracks
28% less efficient armor layout due to suspension
High center of gravity, which makes the vehicle prone to tipping and worse, flipping over
In return you get for wheels:
– Somewhat higher road speeds (although band tracks somewhat narrow this gap)
– Maybe less maintenance (track maintenance is a pain on tracked vehicles, although from my anecdotal talking to Canadians who have been to Afghanistan, from what I understand, the LAV 3 is quite maintenance intensive.
Up-armored Humvees also tend to be very maintenance intensive, largely because the chassis was never made to support the extra mass.
In other words, there’s trade-offs with every type of vehicle, but a tracked vehicle for an APC offers a better overall package. So I believe that a light to medium mass tracked vehicle is the way to go.
“No. What I have been saying is that a light tracked APC is what is needed, with wide tracks.”
Chris, that is not exactly what you are saying.
What started this string where disparaging remarks about these lighter wheeled vehicles. I am not saying that tracked would not be needed or even better but I do say that to vilify a complete family of vehicles in the absence of context is not good. Many of these wheeled vehicles exist because choices had to be made and they represented the best choice in the face of limitations.
In the USA military that choice is based on airlift and mobility.
Now, you can built a fighting vehicle that is 8 tons or like that report said build one that is 80 tons. They all have their virtues and limitations. But do not simply write off an entire family of fighting vehicles just because they do not have tracks. They can have other features that make them valuable to their operators.
And there is no way in hell that a tracked vehicle is cheaper to operate over roads than a wheeled vehicle. Or that it can move as fast or that it can do patrols as well, etc. They are noisy, slower, too heavy, consume too much fuel and those tracks and undercarriage will have to be re-built at some point and that will be very, very expensive.
“Chris, that is not exactly what you are saying.
What started this string where disparaging remarks about these lighter wheeled vehicles. I am not saying that tracked would not be needed or even better but I do say that to vilify a complete family of vehicles in the absence of context is not good. Many of these wheeled vehicles exist because choices had to be made and they represented the best choice in the face of limitations.”
I beg to differ.
I said precisely that a light tracked vehicle with wide tracks is what I wanted. If you scroll up, I expressed similar thoughts with Andrei. That vehicle would form a baseline for several different vehicles.
Anyways, I spent considerable time explaining why I think wheeled vehicles are ineffective and why a tracked light vehicle would be superior.
As far as wheeled vehicles existing because they are the “best choice”, I’d have to disagree. The procurement process in the US is shockingly corrupt at times.
“Now, you can built a fighting vehicle that is 8 tons or like that report said build one that is 80 tons. They all have their virtues and limitations. But do not simply write off an entire family of fighting vehicles just because they do not have tracks. They can have other features that make them valuable to their operators.”
“And there is no way in hell that a tracked vehicle is cheaper to operate over roads than a wheeled vehicle. Or that it can move as fast or that it can do patrols as well, etc. They are noisy, slower, too heavy, consume too much fuel and those tracks and undercarriage will have to be re-built at some point and that will be very, very expensive.”
I said a wheeled vehicle was faster on roads.
But as far as off-road performance goes, tracked is going to do better. It won’t get stuck as often, and can go through obstacles inaccessible to wheeled vehicles.
Speaking of costs, actually, the LAV 3 is a very expensive vehicle – $3 million per unit (and I think more with the cost overruns, plus additional protection that has often been equipped). M113 is a much cheaper vehicle by comparison, coming in at under $500,000 (and possibly as low as $150,000 for a rebuild from an M113 build).
I give up… tracked vehicles for everyone. Let us hope all the fighting takes place in front of the garage!
It does not surprise me that an M-113 refurbished is $150,000. The law of supply and demand is still in place and for something obsolete there would be a huge supply in comparison to its corresponding tiny demand.
And I am not sure if people make comparisons that apple to apple. What would it cost to build a Bradley from scratch in today’s dollars? It was $3 million each in 1981. Today it would be something like $10 million. So $4 million for the wheeled vehicle in today’s dollars would be cheaper and it could be transported by air which is worth something too.
“Let us hope all the fighting takes place in front of the garage!”
That is the whole idea behind wheeled vehicles.
I hear you… wheels-bad… tracks-good.
Tell that to the grunts that move from ship to shore in a helicopter with nothing but his leather boots and soft-skinned Humvee to move around.
Stryker is inferior to equally heavy tracked APC in every possible measure – protection, reliability, mobility. I don’t think grunts would complain if my idea was ever made reality.
There are some obsolete tracked vehicles of which the most talked about here is the M-113. But modern fighting vehicles that are comparable? I do not know of any.
We could bring this one back… look at the track width of this baby!
“Like the army’s M113, its light armor was effective against small arms but vulnerable to mines and rocket-propelled grenades. Consequently many Ontos were deployed in static defense positions.”
Many vehicles that worked in the past will not work today. They are obsolete.
Picard, did you write this?
I am kidding of course but it is a like minded writer.
I very much agree with the sentiments in the article written.
But a question for you?
– How well does a LAV 3/Stryker stand up to IEDs?
– How well does it stand up to RPGs?
Answer to both is not well. Rubber tires tend to burn and the RPGs require a bird cage, which makes the vehicle even more top heavy.
With the Stryker you keep missing the point. The troops that are getting Strykers or for that matter the Marine version (LAV 25) used to arrive in a Jeep or Humvees or soft-skinned trucks. To them the Stryker and the LAV is a major improvement.
Keep in mind that both services have tracked vehicles too. They have Bradleys and Abram tanks, etc. The Marines have heavier track personel carriers and fighting vehicles.Their fleet is overwhelmingly tracked. And they also have these.
Trying to turn the Stryker into something else is actually hurting. It needs to stay light.
When Irak invaded Kuwait the first marine units to arrive had wheeled vehicles. They performed very well. What else could have arrives so fast?
I am reading another article now. Tomorrow I will posted it here. It is academic in tone but excellently written so far.
This is an excellent read. Kind of a decision maker manual with real examples. Every one of the vehicles described can be found quickly in the internet.
HGR, you’ve spent the entire dozen comments or so explaining to me why you think a LAV 3/Stryker would have superior survivability of similar mass.
Reading through the RAND study, around page 280, there are very similar shortcomings to what I have highlighted:
Very vulnerable to IEDs
Only suitable for low threat environments (in this case it was deployed to North Iraq rather than the far more heavily disputed Central Iraq)
More survivable than thin skinned Humvees but less so than tracked vehicles, although the tracked vehicles in this case were heavier (the US does not have a light tank like the one I proposed in its inventory)
it was praised for it’s road mobility. As expected – wheels will have an advantage on road. Off-road though … it’s silent. I suppose one advantage here is that in the desert, the soil is generally hard. In soft soil, there will be problems, to say the least.
The study also acknowledged the relative vulnerability of the vehicle, along with other issues (particularly weapons stabilization).
The real question is, would a tracked vehicle within the 20-30 metric ton range (which is about the mass of a fully equipped Stryker depending on configuration) do better for most, if not all missions the Stryker has been assigned?
Chris… you still miss the point. Those units that today use the Stryker in yesterdays used to move in armored Humvees with no protection at all.
What would you rather have? A Humvee or a Stryker?
I think this article is informative, even handed and shows the good and the bad with out demonizing the vehicle or any vehicle.
And is not like the USA has any shortage of tracked vehicles. It has plenty.
“The real question is, would a tracked vehicle within the 20-30 metric ton range (which is about the mass of a fully equipped Stryker depending on configuration) do better for most, if not all missions the Stryker has been assigned?”
Chris, the Marines used wheeled vehicles in Iraq. Why not demonize those instead of the Strykers?
You are going to find the services will use these wheeled vehicles in circumstances that suit them.
What would I rather have?
I’ve already indicated that it’d be a tracked vehicle.
Buying a Stryker costs at least $3 million (and possibly as much as $5 million factoring in the cost overruns). That’s a huge opportunity cost. A better vehicle, a tracked vehicle could have been built for that price easily.
track = good
wheels = bad
I can see is turning into a crusade to eliminate all wheeled vehicles from the armed forces. Next thing you will want is a Humvee with tracks.
Chris, there are other studies of when it is better to have track vehicles instead of wheeled ones and vice-versa. Diverse terrain, heavy armor, large weight, the large guns with heavy recoil, the opponents’ armament all play a part in making a tracked vehicle a better choice. And the USA has plenty of those.
The real issue is that you are so blind to when a wheeled vehicle is a better choice that you will not accept any small percentage of the fleets vehicles to be wheeled or replacing very vulnerable Humvees with much better protected Strykers.
Stryker and Humvee are not comparable vehicles. Stryker and M113 are, and M113 is far more mobile simply because it has tracks.
The Stryker is replacing Humvees in light infantry that is armed with rifles. It is not a fighting vehicle since the main weapon of the Stryker is its mounted infantry.
The M-113 is an obsolete vehicle. Obsolescence and large supply creates a glut and low prices. But that does not mean that an M-113 is a desirable vehicle that it can compete in the battlefield with say the Bradley or in raids in urban areas or for road mobility with a Stryker.
And it is not like the Army’s entire arsenal of vehicles is made of Strykers. They wheeled vehicles are the minority with the vast majority being tracked. So what is wrong with having a few brigades that used to march on their boots ride with the Strykers now? And bear in mind that the percentage of urban areas and roads continues to grow plus the US Army might not be able to pre-position vehicles every where it might need them and that something transportable and with relatively low logistic requirements might not be a bad thing to have.
And no one is looking at the Marines who have operated wheeled vehicles for some time with success. They lobbied congress trying to keep the Army from obtaining the Strykers because they wanted to retain the quick mobility role for themselves and saw the Army encroaching on it. The Marines wheeled vehicles are transportable by helicopter.
From what I can see it is difficult to keep a protected fighting vehicle below 25 tons or more likely below 30 tons which means they all will be track vehicles. But these Strykers are not meant for that role.
Tracked vehicle has advantage in survivability (better protection for equal mass, lover silhouette) when operating both on and off the road, with no real disadvantage in road mobility (you can have rubber implants in tracks).
And problem with the Stryker is that it is several times more expensive than the M113 while being less survivable.
The M-113 is better if you are in a jungle or in a tropical country or in undeveloped countryside or deserts with soft sands, etc. Or if you are predominantly doing cross country. And the M-113 has tracks and can do all of that and we have far more M-113 than any other vehicle. So no problem there.
The Stryker is not less survivable. Not if you are talking about the armor. It has tires and a higher profile and its critics focus mercilessly on that but while the M-113’s faults are simply ignored. Not very balance.
But can you imagine having caterpillar construction equipment rolling around on rubber pads or not all over the roads of an urban country or moving from here to there all day long on patrols or trying to do raids with it inside a city?
So the question that I have is what is wrong with having a certain percentage of your armor on wheels for certain uses? I do not see anything wrong with that.
Stryker gets stuck even on bad roads in some cases. And wheels with rubber tires are a vulnerability – molotov cocktail and you can get stuck.
And tracks are vulnerable too. many anecdotes of how easy it is to throw a track off. And when you do you are immobile.
None of these vehicles are perfect but they all have their use.
Also, the GCV is planned to weigh as much as 64 to 84 metric tons, which is to replace the Bradley.
Click to access 11-06-2012-Ground_Combat_Vehicles.pdf
“The U.S. Army plans to spend about an additional $34 billion in FY 2013 dollars through 2030 on the
development, production, and fielding of a new infantry fighting vehicle, the Ground Combat Vehicle
(GCV). The Army wants the GCV to be capable of operating within the full range of potential conflict
types while providing unprecedented levels of protection for an infantry fighting vehicle. The Army also
wants the GCV to carry a full nine-person infantry squad. Meeting those goals will require a large vehicle
with high levels of protection on all sides of the vehicle, including the bottom. (Traditional combat
vehicles focus protection on the front.) To achieve that aim, the GCV would weigh from 64 to 84 tons,
making it the biggest and heaviest infantry fighting vehicle that the Army has ever fielded. It would rival
the M1 Abrams tank in size and weight and be twice as heavy as the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle,
the current infantry fighting vehicle. Even at that weight, the GCV would still need to employ new
electromechanical active protection systems to meet the Army’s survivability goal.”
By the way if you have the time to, it’s worth reading the full report.
84 tons???? What is going on? Do they plan to put battlements in the vehicle? Land helicopters on its roof?
This is a crazy statement. You would not be able to move this thing over third world bridges, would need a fairly decent port to unload it, the logistic tail would be crazy. It is heavier than a front line tank.
This is intended to be used where?
Based on the report, for COIN combat like Iraq. It also appears to be intended for use in peacekeeping. Anyways, it’s all in the report.
Latest on the F-35, speaking of complex weapons:
This is what the Marines use right now for transportation…
“YCH-53E testing showed that it could lift 17.8 tons (to a 50-foot (15 m) wheel height), and without an external load, could reach 170 knots (310 km/h) at a 56,000 pound gross weight. ”
“The base model CH-53E serves both the US Navy and Marines in the heavy lift transport role. It is capable of lifting heavy equipment including the eight-wheeled LAV-25 Light Armored Vehicle, the M198 155 mm Howitzer with ammunition and crew. The Super Stallion can recover aircraft up to its size, which includes all Marine Corps aircraft except for the KC-130.”
So yes… the 16 ton limit is an important limit for them.
And I think for the Air Force too… a C-130 can transport one Stryker vehicle and a C-5 four or five of them. But the key one is the C-130… because it can reach so many more locations.
What I see happening is mission creep… they up-gun the vehicle and the extra weight busts the suspension… the vehicle can’t even ride right. Or they add armor with the same issues. Right now the question is if given the choice do you want to arrive with a Humvee or with a Stryker. And do not start the M-113 comment again because those vehicles where retired from front line duty due to vulnerability.
“And no one is looking at the Marines who have operated wheeled vehicles for some time with success. They lobbied congress trying to keep the Army from obtaining the Strykers because they wanted to retain the quick mobility role for themselves and saw the Army encroaching on it. The Marines wheeled vehicles are transportable by helicopter. ”
Was that in the most contested areas though?
In Iraq, the Stryker was kept out of hostile areas in Northern Iraq. Interestingly enough, it was 2% of all vehicles but 4% of all losses despite this.
High profile is only part of the problem. Wheels are inherently vulnerable. They burn and can easily be flattened. That and the high center of gravity, which tends to cause the vehicle to flip.
The Marines where in an area where they could refuse combat and flee if necessary but at the same time it was an area that required very high mobility… it was towards the East in the border between Saudi and Iraq. They where the first units there and for a while they where the only thing that stood in front of Iraq.
Again, what would have been the losses if instead of Strykers those soldiers had Humvees and patrols on foot? Losses to snipers and ambushes… or holed up inside their tracked vehicles? That was the alternative.
I would see your position more balanced if you at least recognized certain conditions such as,
Flat un-obstructed terrain
Road bound patrols (60 or 70 percent of the time)
Transporting infantry and raids on urban areas
Rapid movement of equipment by air is required
Low logistic foot-print
Rear guard duty
And I would admit that in diverse terrain, jungle, off road, undeveloped landscapes and fielding large guns with substantial recoil or heavy armor presumably for use against other armor or as direct fire support for infantry the tracked vehicles are better. And fighting vehicles that can keep up with main battle tanks would be included.
The above is the USA Army formula more or less.
“Again, what would have been the losses if instead of Strykers those soldiers had Humvees and patrols on foot? Losses to snipers and ambushes… or holed up inside their tracked vehicles? That was the alternative. ”
Is it though?
For $3-5 million USD per vehicle, there’s a lot of options.
It should have been more like this one…
That would be $900,000 per copy. But the Army has a bigger budget.
Mission creep… they try to use it for so many things and all goes up including weight and price. That marine version in the link is less than 13 tons, transportable by Helicopter and can arrive way before much heavier stuff does.
It is with some hesitation that I post this link…
Chris and Picard… cheer him along!
It’s interesting that even the US Navy seems to be aware of the dangers.
The F-20 did pretty well apparently:
Just 5.6 man hours per flight hour, plus 5.5 from general support.