Tanks & Artie Obsolete

Ian Grigg iang@systemics.com
Mon, 20 Jan 2003 18:48:58 -0500


Thanks James!

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Subject: Re: Free Koowait!
Date: Monday 20 January 2003 03:07
From: James Rogers <jamesr@best.com>
To: Ian Grigg <iang@systemics.com>
Cc: dbs@philodox.com

On 1/19/03 10:50 PM, "Ian Grigg" <iang@systemics.com> wrote:
> James Rogers wrote:
>> ...  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.

Let me explain and flesh out some background philosophy.  In the big scheme
of things, heavy armor is a substitute for intelligence and mobility.  If
you have adequate intelligence and mobility you can dodge most attacks,
particularly if you are hard to detect.  Furthermore, superior intelligence
and mobility lets you optimize YOUR attack to maximize results and minimize
damage on your side.  Good armor is a compensatory measure premised on a
historical reality of the battlefield (bad real-time intelligence and
limited mobility).

The problem is that mobile armor as a concept has some serious material
limits, and we are pretty close to those limits.  The US has been working on
the development of the next-generation anti-armor guns for a long time now
and they are getting close to their goal, their goal being a kinetic energy
weapon system that operates at such extreme parameters that no realistic
armor system could withstand it due to the fundamental physical limits of
materials.  In other words, it is an anti-armor weapon so powerful that it
can breach the material limits of physics as we generally know it.  Needless
to say, this weaponry does not use conventional gun technology.  In a sense,
a tank against one of these weapons would be like an armored medieval knight
going up against a trained rifleman -- bad premise, bad outcome.

The US armor systems are excellent, but we know that the armor systems will
become obsolete eventually because we are designing the weapon systems that
will obsolete them.  The platform for these new anti-armor systems are very
fast, very mobile vehicles with state-of-the-art fire control systems.
We'll give up armor on these vehicles for speed because armor won't stop
these weapons anyway.  It is much better to be hard to see, hard to hit, and
to be on top of the opponent before they know you are there and hit them
before they can hit you.

>From a psychology standpoint, think of how futile it must have felt to one
of the Iraqi tank commanders who made short-range direct hits on the Abrams
tank, only to have the Abrams tank armor shrug it off.  Being in armor
already offers little protection against the American military, which is
well-armed for anti-armor work, but when we move to scads of light and cheap
vehicles, all of which sport guns that can slice-n-dice the best armor
systems physically possible and have the fire control systems to best tanks
at their own game, it will change the face of mechanized ground warfare
forever.  The US is no more than a decade from the deployment of these
systems.

>> 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.

Artillery gives good protection to an area, but it is difficult to move and
quite vulnerable to counter-battery systems.  What has happened is that
comprehensive and increasingly sophisticated airborne weaponry is taking the
place of artillery systems.  Even with the development of extremely
sophisticated and relatively mobile ground artillery systems, they are still
fundamentally limited by the basic properties of the weapon system.

The ultimate weakness of artillery relates to what I was talking about in a
previous post, in that the US military takes a 2.5-dimensional view of the
battlefield and requires that it can deliver ordnance to any point in that
space in short order.  Artillery cannot deliver this capability.

However, the question remains regarding what a large combat division is to
do about delivering explosive ordnance on the battlefield.  One system that
we are not neglecting for the infantry is mortars.  In fact, we are actively
designing new mortar systems and developing a myriad of smart munitions for
them.  The reason mortars have been strongly favored over artillery is that
they are very mobile.  Mortar systems have a range of a mile or two, which
is perfectly adequate for most battlefields.  Artillery systems have a range
of a couple tens of miles, but gain that additional range at the expense of
vulnerability and lack of mobility, and perform a role that air power and
missile systems could theoretically perform quite adequately.

So the gist of it is that the military has wisely spent a lot of money
improving the capability and mobility of mortar technology for the purpose
of battlefield support, while giving the long range ordnance role of the
artillery to the air force.

Mobility, battlefield intelligence, and lethality.  Those are the
cornerstones of the future US military.  I personally would not want to be
on a future battlefield, and if I was, I would definitely want to be on
whatever side the US was on.


-James Rogers
 jamesr@best.com

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