Free Koowait!

James Rogers jamesr@best.com
Sun, 19 Jan 2003 11:08:50 -0800


On 1/19/03 6:51 AM, "Owen Byrne" <owen@permafrost.net> wrote:
> And a lot of the technology, frankly, is often just gee-whiz stuff to
> amuse the US Army planners that don't have any opponents
> to actually plan a war against. In the heat of battle, so called "smart"
> weapons are in the hands of human beings who are weak, fallible
> and stupid - they make mistakes - ask the "friendly fire" pilots.


The friendly fire problem (which has always been a problem in all wars)
re-emerged during the first Gulf War, and was a significant portion of all
the casualties the U.S. side suffered.

The US had some pretty good battlefield and theater management software and
systems designed to prevent this when they went into the Gulf War.  The
problem was that the war moved and changed much quicker than their systems
and protocols could accommodate and errors resulted.  As a result of lessons
learned, they've upgraded old systems and developed new systems that are
designed to manage dynamic modern warfare that will undoubtedly be deployed
in any major engagement in the future.

I will point out that this system was not deployed in Afghanistan, which
goes a long way to explaining the friendly fire casualties there.  The
system runs on a bunch of modern mainframes and requires substantial
infrastructure to operate, so they typically only deploy them in major
theater command centers.  Operations like Afghanistan are usually managed
remotely or uses the battle management systems the Navy uses for a carrier
group, neither of which is an ideal solution but expedient for relatively
small forward deployments.


> Tanks 
> are built with all sorts of sighting gear that will allow them to hit
> targets out to 3000 or more meters, but the vast majority of the time,
> the ranges will be only 500 m - similar to tank battles during
> WWII. 


If you check your recent history, many tank battles start when you come
within the effective range of one of the sides.  During the Gulf War, there
were numerous cases of US tank units engaging Iraqi tank units outside the
range of Iraqi tanks.  Effective range is a very important metric for tank
performance, especially since all those fancy sensors locate and identify
targets a very long way off.  There is active research to substantially
increase the range of US mobile anti-armor guns even more.

As the Russians learned during the Afghanistan incursion, tanks aren't the
solution to every problem.  They are at their best in wide open spaces and
plains, and should not be deployed elsewhere.  That said, tanks are largely
obsolete.  The US has extended the viable combat life quite a bit through
the US of very advanced technology (as usual), but older and less
sophisticated systems are pretty defenseless as such things go.  The Abrams
is probably the last Main Battle Tank the US will ever deploy.


> And artillery (which has hardly changed at all, though I'm sure
> someone will correct me) is still going to generate the most
> casualties on the other side.


Artillery is obsolete, which is among the primary reasons the US has decided
not to upgrade their systems while phasing the old ones out.  Classic
artillery is premised on the idea of lines of battle, which as I mentioned
in a previous post, is an obsolete concept in US military doctrine.

The other reason that artillery is obsolete is that counter-battery systems
(such as the US MLRS), have become extremely effective at killing artillery
units, and there is little in the way of counter-counter-measures that will
fix this.   The next generation artillery system, which Rumsfeld wisely
killed, basically used very sophisticated and clever technology to extend
the effective life of artillery on the battlefield, but the invalidated
premise of artillery still remained.  Killing the artillery program has been
unpopular in a number of quarters, but was an intelligent and lucid decision
on the part of Rumsfeld.


-James Rogers
 jamesr@best.com