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The myth of the Medium Tank and the shape of things to come.

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Vollketten #1 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 18:01

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As the title of the thread suggests I suggest that the concept of a 'medium tank' is fundamentally flawed.
Do I actually believe this? - well sort of. The point of the title is to provoke some interesting discussion.

Why do I say this?
Well.....
The concept of the tank came about to break the deadlock of WW1 caused by entrenched positions covered with machine gun fire. Protect the infantry from machine guns.
People may argue that this is not the case citing the German advances of Kaiserslacht which without tank support also managed to break the stalemate by employing the use of Stormtroopers etc. but fundamentally they were still unprotected infantry, just faster and better deployed and it was a failed gamble so this example fails. Had the Germans had tanks in numbers they would have used them.
http://en.wikipedia....pring_Offensive
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The 'tank' itself was spawned from this trench warfare and started designed for this purpose in mind. Sponson mounted guns enabling the majority of firepower to be directed sideways along enemy defensive lines, the shape of tanks with tadpole tails and tracks designed for crossing trenches. A slow speed to allow infantry to keep up with the tanks because there was an early realization that tanks could not operate without infantry and that infantry were getting mowed down without effective armoured support.
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So originally there were no light, medium or heavy tanks, just a ‘tank’.
Very quickly it was realized that the lumbering Male, Female or Hermaphrodite tanks lacked the ability to perform all of the roles the army required of them. Reconnaissance was still needed and although cavalry was still around the writing was on the wall for it, cars could not cross the rough terrain so ‘fast’ tanks were needed. Sometimes called ‘cavalry’ tanks these were meant to be the eyes of the army on the ground and these light tanks were scouts.

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Subsequently anti-armour weapons and anti-tank tactics improve to counter tanks and so we have infantry support tanks having to have more armour and get slower and heavier as automotive technology struggles to keep up so there becomes a gap for a ‘medium tank’. A tank faster than a heavy infantry support tank but with slightly better armour than a light tank but not as well armed as a heavy tank.

Prior to WW2 we then have a situation where like the French army have heavy infantry support tanks like the B1, very heavily armed and armoured but outmaneuvered by lighter faster and better deployed medium German tanks.

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The need for lots of tanks in a production war of WW2 where large numbers of reasonably reliable vehicles were more important than a few heavy tanks meant tanks like the Sherman and T-34 which could be produced in massive numbers had an automatic preference to armies and politicians over heavier vehicles. The problem was that they lacked protection.
Crews knew that if they met an enemy tank their weaker armour and weaker gun would mean they were at a disadvantage and their casualty rates were dreadful. For some armies though men’s lives were cheaper than vehicles. The apparent success of the medium tank in WW2 then comes due to:
1) an unnecessary cost in human lives – ‘we have a huge manpower pool, they do not so we can use it to our advantage’
2) the need for mass production- ‘we can produce 10 tanks for each one they make’ and standardization of a poor design makes repairs easier
3) they won the war-well in fairness the Germans were pretty screwed from the start and the overproduction of medium tanks did not necessarily make their defeat any more inevitable.
http://www.3ad.com/h...burning.494.jpg

Medium tanks were pretty much hated anyway. Crews want protection so for example when the Pershings come to theater they are typed as ‘heavies’ as much for the benefit of their crews morale as anything to do with reality of their envisaged deployment or role.

Look at the ‘famous’  or ‘successful’ medium tanks of WW2:
The Sherman:
generally hated for a lack of protection- scorned by the Germans for the ease with which the ammunition could be set on fire. Cue ‘tommy cooker’ or ‘ronson’ moniker. Made in huge numbers and lost in large quantities too.
The T-34: a badly made, crude tank with relatively poor armour benefitting from the surprise that it even existed but quickly knocked out. Made in enormous numbers and burned in equally large numbers too.
The Panther: when it worked it was a powerful design but with seriously poor side armour so when it is flanked was knocked out easily. So mechanically unreliable it was never able to be used to its full potential. Made in modest numbers and neither reliable enough to be useful or armoured enough to survive a coordinated enemy.
Were any of them really successful as a tank design? Or was their success in the case of the Sherman or T-34 not just due to the numbers used?
The mythos of the medium tank is that it won WW2. Yes, Germany was beaten but it was beaten by its own corruption, incompentance and the enormnous produciton capability of the allies. Not by some flimsy and substandard tanks.

So what about now?
Well we don’t bother with making light or medium tanks now because we type tanks as Main Battle Tanks (MBT). The MBT is essentially viewed by many as the evolution of the medium tank. The prevailing theory being that heavy tanks were a dead-end-defeated by anti-armour technology and poor reliability. But this is a false dichotomy.
A modern MBT weighs as much if not more than a WW2 heavy tanks and carries significantly more armour. So the reality is that all we have are heavy tanks. Those mediums are what died out due to the lack of armour protection. The lights are a dead-end too replaced by wheeled vehicles with excellent mobility as automotive technology has improved to allow wheeled vehicles to have phenomenal off-road capability.
The size and power of weapons tech means that virtually all infantry anti-armour weapons and those mounted on AFV’s and other vehicles can take out anything other than an MBT. If anything MBTs are getting bigger and heavier.
There are not going to be any 100+ tank on tank mass engagements likely to ever be seen again. The ability to annihilate mass armour movements from the air and have accurate satellite intell. of such movements makes their impact and surprise less and less probably. The trend for tank warfare is for smaller numbers of tanks going back to their original role of infantry support, taking positions and removing enemy strongpoints and tanks.

The Abrams (braces self for incessant whining from fanboys) looks like a case in point to me although all modern MBTs suffer to an extent. Originally designed as X it then gets update after update to maintain its ability to deal with expanding threats. Rather than just admit that it is not heavily armoured enough in the first place to survive threats.

How does this influence my thoughts for the next generation of tank?
Currently we have tanks in service for example like the Challenger 2 or Abrams which we are told ‘service life is due until 2030’ or some such nonsense. Far too long have systems and vehicles which should have been replaced stayed in service for a lack of replacement rather than because they were capable. In 2030 one can imagine a political decision such as 'we have extended the service life to 2050' simply due to cost cutting measures. As if the military or politicians have a clue as to the development of a future threat to these vehicles.
Should we not just be honest about it and say we don’t need X thousand MBTs (pseuo Mediums, but really which are heavies in disguise) but fewer more heavily armoured vehicles?
The military just want a tank which is good enough to do the job and will sacrifice the tanks other attributes in favour of mobility thinking they are some kind of modern day Rommel or that some kind of headlong charge akin in their minds to a Blitzkreig-esque attack is serving some useful purpose and the faster my tank can go the better.
Instead of starting the process by saying ‘we want a tank in the 60 tonne weight class’ which automatically means significant compromise and a tank which cannot survive without serious upgrades over a life of 30 years as front line vehicle should we not say we need a vehicle capable of withstanding not just the current threat but expecting that that threat will increase and prepare for say a 50% increase in the power of anti-armour technology over the projected life-span of the weapons system and design accordingly. The asymmetric nature of modern warfare and the prevalence of more and more powerful anti-armour weapons means we need tanks not limited by a design weigh class but a protection class.

So what if we follow your theory and end up with a 120 tonne or heavier tank?
Well so?
Firstly modern MBT’s are pretty much restricted land and sea haulage anyway. Any vehicle light enough to be air mobile is not heavily armoured enough to fulfill the tank role.
You can solve this by separating the air-haulage anyway hauling armour, body and if necessary the engine separately and combining them at your location.

Oh a bridge can’t take the weight!
Bullcrap. Modern road bridges can easily take hundreds of tones of load and unless you sit your tank on it for a period of time it will be a temporary loading only. Railbridges takes thousands of tones of trains without issue. Engineers and intell. should be sufficiently capable of actually planning an attack to take these crossings into account. If they aren’t then you have a problem beyond tanks. We do have maps you know.

But we fight in countries with poor infrastructure and poor roads, a heavy tank will just sink into the mud!
Rubbish. My Kia weighs about a tonne and will get stuck in a marsh if I stupid enough to drive it into it. The ground pressure from a vehicle is a design issue and overcome by a bigger track usually. If the tanks gets bigger and heavier it only makes sense that the track would get bigger. As for roads, so what if they are poor quality. Is a poor quality road worse than a field to drive over?

But they’ll be too big to fit in a city!
Any streets which are too narrow to fit the tank into should have never been considered to be a suitable tank environment anyway. Tanks and cities are dangerous bedfellows and even at 120 tonnes the tank itself would only be 20-50% bigger in physical than what we have currently.

But you’re just an armour fanboy aren’t you!
No. But if you are going to have tanks which by definition are supposed to have armour they may as well have the amount they need to survive.

So the Germans were right in WW2 then? (subtext-you’re a closet Nazi)
No. An interest in German tanks does not someone a Nazi anymore than an interest in Swimming makes me a fish.
Their [Germans] production and desire for increasingly big machines would have been fine if they had the automotive technology to ensure that they could actually reach the battle. A King Tiger reliable enough to drive 200 miles and fight would have been truly awesome as a weapon. In the absence of such a system they should have just stuck to what they had the capability of making and concentrated their other resources elsewhere. We do not have such time constraints and limitations and should use the example of German failures as a hindrance to our thought process.

It would be such an easy target!
So?
Modern laser fire control systems mean a modern MBT can basically shoot a round through a window 3km away so why bother trying to pretend we can be small and they’ll miss?

But that size it will be so slow!
Again; So?
Do you need a tank capable of doing 60mph?
For fire support they only need be able at most to be able to keep up with infantry. Rapid advances cause nightmare logistic problems and advancing at 40mph should be plenty sufficient. Action in Iraq seems to show that the majority of tank action was not at 60mph but when the vehicles were stationary or moving slowly anyway.
The idea that bigger means slower is also false. That’s an automotive issue not a tank issue. There are plenty of diesel engines out there powerful enough to haul hundreds or even thousands of tones of equipment around.
Can you outrun a shell? No, the extra speed of the Abrams over its contemporaries is pointless and comes at a huge logistics price. Speed does not equal or trump armour in way shape of form.

But we don’t need tanks at all!
Name another weapon system capable of taking a beating from multiple RPG hits and sitting in the line of fire and providing adequate sustained fire-support and the shock of ‘oh shit there’s a tank outside!’ factor. Until you can the tank will be with us.

Well even if we keep tanks they don’t need big guns; airpower takes out tanks not other tanks.
Absolutely not.
The lesson from Kosovo showed NATO with the high tech laser guided bombs and a sustained air-campaign with total air supremacy was utterly incapable of taking out more than the occasional vehicle.
Missiles are being more and more capably knocked out by a multitude of measures from lasers to blind the designators on the missiles to active armour systems. Missiles are larger and travel more slowly than a shell. A tank or other vehicle can carry 40-60 or more shells but only a few missiles. A shell is far harder to intercept than a missile.

Well Vollketten, your logic is flawed then, if missiles are easily stopped and the main threat is RPG’s then a light vehicle with an active armour system would work.
Again No. This is false reasoning.
Active armour systems only work within a certain range, get close enough (like in a city) and fire your RPG and it won’t activate in time. They are also hideously dangerous to your own men and civilians. They are also limited by the number of times they can activate. 40 RPG’s are going to get past any active array. They have uses but are not the be-all and end-all of protection.

Well now you're being unreasonable.
No, this is reality. 20 plus RPG’s launched at a single vehicle has not been unknown and some tanks have already survived this.

It’s pointless, an IED could still knock one out.
No vehicle should ever be designed or thought of as indestructible any more than a ship is unsinkable. But that said; it’s not like IEDs should be a surprise to vehicle designers any more than landmines were in WW2.
Protection from mines and IEDs in a design issue to overcome. Instead of just designing tanks constrained by the ‘weigh class’ and ‘must do X speed’ and ‘can take out enemy tanks’ we need to say that if your tank design is 30cm more off the ground with a ‘V’ shaped hull to overcome an obvious, common and more and more threat then so be it.

So what you are suggesting is that the concept of maneuverability is redundant and we should just change the ‘tank triangle’ of a balance between firepower, mobility and protection to be just a two-facetted consideration of firepower and armour?
Absolutely not. I am suggesting that in the current and in all probability the future (next 50 years) of armed conflict the role of tank will not go away and will be more and more an infantry support role. The mobility required to deploy against Soviet massed advances across Europe of the 1980’s is no longer required.
Modest mobility combined with a significant increase in armour is my point. The medium tank concept was fundamentally flawed as it believes that mobility is more important than either of the other two factors. I say no.
We must stop thinking in terms of WW2 scale battles and of tanks we can trot out to arms fairs which can leap of little ramps to please the self-congratulatory crowds (‘we have the best tank in the world because it can jump and shoot’ - whoopy do) and create machines capable of doing what they need to and keep the crews alive at the same time.
If this means we have to accept a future tank which still has a turret but is say also bigger, heavier, uglier and slower than we have then so what? War is not about looking good.

But if for the sake of keeping our fighting men alive; and fighting more efficiently that Americans may have to drop their bizarre love of gas turbines and adopt diesel or the British might have to drop their beloved rifled guns and HESH rounds then so be it.

The modern MBT concept is fudge. They are enormous medium tanks pretending to be a different animal and are neither. Let’s just build tanks to be what they need to be and not have to constantly fudge and fiddle when the enemy does something unimaginable like shoot at your sides or rear.

The armour comes first, then firepower, then mobility. Why?

Because the lives of the men inside the vehicle are paramount.

If as a result we end up with a fugly tank weighing 120 tonnes, so be it.

Edited by Vollketten, Dec 26 2012 - 18:09.


razzi123 #2 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 18:10

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*Eats popcorn* Nice read.

xTheButcherPete #3 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 18:15

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I allllmost clicked off of this, then I seen the picture of the B1...

WELP that's my educational read for today, you raise some fair points about our obsession with how fast tanks go.

10/10 would read again

BountyHunter177 #4 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 18:34

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:Smile_popcorn1:

thejoker91 #5 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 18:36

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I fully agree. Active protection systems do not replace armour. Russians already made the RPG 32 that fires a decoy rocket to trigger the APS and allow the real warhead to hit the target.

Of course, we are already seeing this. Each new tank is getting heavier and heavier.

AlteredCarbon #6 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 18:43

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A surprisingly good read, wasn't expecting to run across anything as engrossing on the forums today. +1  :Smile_popcorn1:

PelicanGuy #7 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 18:57

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This was a pretty good read.

I'd like to add something about the Sherman. Compare it to the T-34. It took 5 Shermans to take out a Tiger- but that would take TEN T-34s.

The Sherman upgunned with the 17 pounder gun could tear holes in Panthers and Tigers.  Yes, the Sherman lacked good armor, but there is a certain line where quantity becomes more important than quantity.

The Sherman and T-34 were also more mobile than German tanks.

Edited by PelicanGuy, Dec 26 2012 - 18:58.


Nerdynoob2 #8 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 18:58

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My God.

A forum post made sense...

Anyway, extremely thought out and well written. +bacons to you, sir.

cwjian90 #9 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 19:05

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View PostPelicanGuy, on Dec 26 2012 - 18:57, said:

This was a pretty good read.

I'd like to add something about the Sherman. Compare it to the T-34. It took 5 Shermans to take out a Tiger- but that would take TEN T-34s.

The Sherman upgunned with the 17 pounder gun could tear holes in Panthers and Tigers.  Yes, the Sherman lacked good armor, but there is a certain line where quantity becomes more important than quantity.

The Sherman and T-34 were also more mobile than German tanks.

Again with the myth of 5 Shermans/10 T-34s needed to take out one Tiger/Panther...don't people actually look up the kill/loss statistics instead of repeating what the History Channel says?

Vollketten #10 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 19:34

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View PostPelicanGuy, on Dec 26 2012 - 18:57, said:

This was a pretty good read.
I'd like to add something about the Sherman. Compare it to the T-34. It took 5 Shermans to take out a Tiger- but that would take TEN T-34s.
The Sherman upgunned with the 17 pounder gun could tear holes in Panthers and Tigers.  Yes, the Sherman lacked good armor, but there is a certain line where quantity becomes more important than quantity.
The Sherman and T-34 were also more mobile than German tanks.
Thank you.
Kill/loss ratios aside, it is true that the shermans were deployed in greater numbers which tends to suggest the need for 5 to kill one but it isn;t the case.
The 17 pounder wasnt even necessary to kill a Tiger. A 6-pounder could do so from the side.
The difference is range. a British 6 pounder gun could only pen at 100 metres side-on.
e.g.
Posted ImagePosted Image
A 17 pounder just means you can stay further away and pen from the front.

In terms of 'quantity has a quality of its own'. Only to a limited degree. Saddams enormous military machine of 1990-1991 is testament to this not being true.
And in terms of mobility.
The Germans were on the defensive at the end of the war where mobility is less important. A lot of their 'lack of mobility' is as due to the poor reliability of the machines as well.
Mobility is all well and good but a fast coffin is still a coffin.

Edited by Vollketten, Dec 26 2012 - 19:34.


ThomasFranz67 #11 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 19:56

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Interesting read. Well thought out. +1

Salute :Smile_honoring:

Killertomato #12 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 20:16

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I disagree with your point on Kosovo. I often hear eastern European and other non-American people mention the failure of the NATO attempt to take out Serbian armor during Allied Force, but nobody ever mentions what said armor was doing while the Americans were blowing up decoys- namely, sitting around in buildings and bridges, not moving around by themselves, let alone in groups.

Serbian-style maskirovka doesn't work unless your only objective is to keep your tanks alive inside your own territory. The second you try to move them about, for offensive or defensive purposes, they get hellfires through the top armor.

Killertomato #13 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 20:22

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View PostVollketten, on Dec 26 2012 - 19:34, said:

In terms of 'quantity has a quality of its own'. Only to a limited degree. Saddams enormous military machine of 1990-1991 is testament to this not being true.


Saddam was outnumbered, outgunned, and outclassed. There were 956,600 coalition troops and 650,000 Iraqi troops involved- and Iraq's inferior technology was not the only, or even the main reason they lost so badly.

Vollketten #14 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 20:35

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View PostKillertomato, on Dec 26 2012 - 20:16, said:

I disagree with your point on Kosovo. I often hear eastern European and other non-American people mention the failure of the NATO attempt to take out Serbian armor during Allied Force, but nobody ever mentions what said armor was doing while the Americans were blowing up decoys- namely, sitting around in buildings and bridges, not moving around by themselves, let alone in groups.
Serbian-style maskirovka doesn't work unless your only objective is to keep your tanks alive inside your own territory. The second you try to move them about, for offensive or defensive purposes, they get hellfires through the top armor.
Keeping enemy tanks from moving is not the same as destroying them. NATO provied unable to destroy any significant number of Serbian tanks or artillery.
Given that the goal was significant damage to military equipment a tiny percentage of missions were successful. This was a woeful performance against a military of Serbia's nature by the combined might of much of Europe and a lot of US state of the art equipment. It hardly strikes fear into an enemy with better equipment or an actual air-force.
Extrappolate from this failure what would have happened if there was meant to be a ground invasion following where the sudden re-emergence of all those tanks would be an unpleasant surprise. Air power does not control tanks.

View PostKillertomato, on Dec 26 2012 - 20:22, said:

Saddam was outnumbered, outgunned, and outclassed. There were 956,600 coalition troops and 650,000 Iraqi troops involved- and Iraq's inferior technology was not the only, or even the main reason they lost so badly.
Quantity does not equal quality. I was trying to convey a message about numbers of tanks. How many tanks did Saddam have? and how many did he lose compared to coalition losses kind of proves my point. Outclassed is still outclassed.
There are innumerable examples of a smaller, better led, better equipped force defeating larger force though. A crap tank reliant of visual sighting is no match for a modern fire control system. Saddams quantity of tanks had virtually no quality at all.

The 'quantity has a quality of its own' thought process disounts that the 'quality' is at the price of your mens lives. If you don't care about your losses then this may be true in certain circumstances. But quality is still quality. Sure if you sent enough crap tanks against something half-decent they could still win but at what price? That whole thought process is basically admitting that your equipment is crap.

You might as well issue your soldiers with sticks on the grounds that 'we have more men than you have bullets' if that held true.

blurr91 #15 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 20:35

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Again, tanks are designed with the following criteria in decending importance: reliability, mobility, firepower, and lastly, armor.

A reliable but vulnerable tank will still show up to a fight more often than an invulnerable tank sitting in motor pool.

A mobile tank that can maneuver its weak gun into advantageous position is more useful than a clumsy tank with a big gun that can't land effective fire.

MBT grew out of the universal tank concept, where a single tank can support the infantry, engage enemy armor, and fast enough to do some scout work.  The best candidate for a universal tank was the medium tank of WW2.

Some MBTs are extremely heavy, like the Challenger 2 and Abrams.  Some are much lighter and smaller like the T-90 and AMX-30.  But notice they all have roughly the same mobility and reliability.  The armor scheme is vastly different though.  Earlier Leopard 1 and AMX-30 have virtually no armor.  Challenger 2 and Abrams are heavily armored.  T-90 uses low profile and active defense to make up for lack of armor weight.

Reliability and mobility are the utmost important factor in a tank.  They must have the ability to show up at a fight when needed.  Not after the fight is over.  Not break down during the fight.  And must be able to move around during the fight.  If that means we must ditch armor, then so be it.  A broken down tank or a clumsy tank that cannot even contribute to the fight is worthless.

Vollketten #16 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 20:52

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View Postblurr91, on Dec 26 2012 - 20:35, said:

Again, tanks are designed with the following criteria in decending importance: reliability, mobility, firepower, and lastly, armor.
They may be. But it should be armour before mobility and firepower.

View Postblurr91, on Dec 26 2012 - 20:35, said:

A reliable but vulnerable tank will still show up to a fight more often than an invulnerable tank sitting in motor pool.
An unreliable tank is useless you are right, modern automotives can be very reliable. We aren't talking the cutting edge of technology here. A reliable but vulnerable tank will indeed show up first, and will be burning nicely by the roadside when the heavy tank shows up to actual do the job needed to be done in the first place.

View Postblurr91, on Dec 26 2012 - 20:35, said:

A mobile tank that can maneuver its weak gun into advantageous position is more useful than a clumsy tank with a big gun that can't land effective fire.
MBT grew out of the universal tank concept, where a single tank can support the infantry, engage enemy armor, and fast enough to do some scout work.  The best candidate for a universal tank was the medium tank of WW2.
I never said 'clumsy'.
Small can be clumsy too.
The 'clumsy' issue would be a design issue related to gun depression or elevation or the slope able to manouevre up down or across. There are plenty of examples of small crap fast tanks which were anything but clumsy. A fast coffin is still a coffin.
We don't need MBT's to do scouting, thats no they are for. Let specific vehicles such as the Stryker or Fennek type vehicles do that.
The medium tank of WW2 may well have been the best fit for a universal tank of WW2 but that preconceives that a 'universal' tank is something desireable.
I say not.
Universal means compromised in both design and intention. Trying to do more than one thing means doing neither of them well enough. Like sacrificng armour for manoueverability for example. In the days of manual sighting and gun laying, manoueverability was essential for survival. Not so now.

View Postblurr91, on Dec 26 2012 - 20:35, said:

Reliability and mobility are the utmost important factor in a tank.  They must have the ability to show up at a fight when needed.  Not after the fight is over.  Not break down during the fight.  And must be able to move around during the fight.  If that means we must ditch armor, then so be it.  A broken down tank or a clumsy tank that cannot even contribute to the fight is worthless.
Reliabaility is a design issue. We aren't talking Panther problems with reliability on a modern MBT like the Abrams but really a failure of philosophy which says that mobility is all that matters when it clearly isn't. Sure if the tank breaks down all the time there's no point in it. The Germans prove that nicely but modern vehicles don't have the same level of problems they have even if any machine could and will inevitably break down.
MBT's are at the limit of what they can be as is and will be overtaken by advances in anti-tank weaponry like missiles and prove their vulnerability to simple RPGs and IEDs. A lighter vehicle no matter how manoueverable cannot dodge a shell or survive a bomb in the road so we either accept that what we have is good enough or we go back and rethink the concept.
Who says 60 tonnes is too heavy?

Xlucine #17 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 21:38

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View PostVollketten, on Dec 26 2012 - 20:35, said:

Keeping enemy tanks from moving is not the same as destroying them. NATO provied unable to destroy any significant number of Serbian tanks or artillery.
Given that the goal was significant damage to military equipment a tiny percentage of missions were successful. This was a woeful performance against a military of Serbia's nature by the combined might of much of Europe and a lot of US state of the art equipment. It hardly strikes fear into an enemy with better equipment or an actual air-force.
Extrappolate from this failure what would have happened if there was meant to be a ground invasion following where the sudden re-emergence of all those tanks would be an unpleasant surprise. Air power does not control tanks.

Either way, the serbian tanks were out of the fight. If there was a ground invasion it's true there would have been an "oh crap" moment, but only for 5 minutes until they got smooshed by an airstrike. Modern wars are combined arms operations, you cannot expect a single arm to perform anywhere near as well on its own as it does with the support of the rest of them - in this case, they should have been using ground based assets to find & fix the location of the serbian tanks for the aircraft. File serbia under "lacking political will to win", same as afghanistan - low intensity conflict is BS made up by politicians.

blurr91 #18 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 21:38

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View PostVollketten, on Dec 26 2012 - 20:52, said:

They may be. But it should be armour before mobility and firepower.

How much armor is "enough?"

View PostVollketten, on Dec 26 2012 - 20:52, said:

An unreliable tank is useless you are right, modern automotives can be very reliable. We aren't talking the cutting edge of technology here. A reliable but vulnerable tank will indeed show up first, and will be burning nicely by the roadside when the heavy tank shows up to actual do the job needed to be done in the first place.

Tactical situation may have changed by the time slower tanks show up.  Condition for victory is fleeting.  We often don't have time to wait for backup.

View PostVollketten, on Dec 26 2012 - 20:52, said:

I never said 'clumsy'.
Small can be clumsy too.
The 'clumsy' issue would be a design issue related to gun depression or elevation or the slope able to manouevre up down or across. There are plenty of examples of small crap fast tanks which were anything but clumsy. A fast coffin is still a coffin.
We don't need MBT's to do scouting, thats no they are for. Let specific vehicles such as the Stryker or Fennek type vehicles do that.
The medium tank of WW2 may well have been the best fit for a universal tank of WW2 but that preconceives that a 'universal' tank is something desireable.
I say not.
Universal means compromised in both design and intention. Trying to do more than one thing means doing neither of them well enough. Like sacrificng armour for manoueverability for example. In the days of manual sighting and gun laying, manoueverability was essential for survival. Not so now.

First question, what war are you fighting?  Are you fighting the vast tank formations of the Warsaw pact?  Or are you trying to run peace keeping or COIN operations?

View PostVollketten, on Dec 26 2012 - 20:52, said:

Reliabaility is a design issue. We aren't talking Panther problems with reliability on a modern MBT like the Abrams but really a failure of philosophy which says that mobility is all that matters when it clearly isn't. Sure if the tank breaks down all the time there's no point in it. The Germans prove that nicely but modern vehicles don't have the same level of problems they have even if any machine could and will inevitably break down.
MBT's are at the limit of what they can be as is and will be overtaken by advances in anti-tank weaponry like missiles and prove their vulnerability to simple RPGs and IEDs. A lighter vehicle no matter how manoueverable cannot dodge a shell or survive a bomb in the road so we either accept that what we have is good enough or we go back and rethink the concept.
Who says 60 tonnes is too heavy?

Mobility is not only the speed which a tank may achieve.  It's also the ease which it can be transported.

Who says 60 tonnes is too heavy?  C-130 Hercules.  I can airlift an entire platoon of Stryker MGS type vehicles into A-stan (or any other place in the world) for the same effort of a single MBT.  It's not only the vehicle weight, but how the transports land.  We have way more C-130s in the world than C-17s.  C-130s can land in far more places around the world than C-17s can.

You can organize your heavy tank company with heavy transports or sealift.  I can have an MGS batallion fighting before you even land all your equipment.

Killertomato #19 Posted Dec 26 2012 - 21:57

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View PostVollketten, on Dec 26 2012 - 20:35, said:

Keeping enemy tanks from moving is not the same as destroying them. NATO provied unable to destroy any significant number of Serbian tanks or artillery.
Given that the goal was significant damage to military equipment a tiny percentage of missions were successful. This was a woeful performance against a military of Serbia's nature by the combined might of much of Europe and a lot of US state of the art equipment. It hardly strikes fear into an enemy with better equipment or an actual air-force.
Extrappolate from this failure what would have happened if there was meant to be a ground invasion following where the sudden re-emergence of all those tanks would be an unpleasant surprise. Air power does not control tanks.

Keeping enemy tanks out of the fight is exactly the same as destroying them. If the tanks are sitting under a bridge 35 miles from the front but can't move to attack or defend, they are as good as scrap.

View PostVollketten, on Dec 26 2012 - 20:35, said:

Quantity does not equal quality. I was trying to convey a message about numbers of tanks. How many tanks did Saddam have? and how many did he lose compared to coalition losses kind of proves my point. Outclassed is still outclassed.
There are innumerable examples of a smaller, better led, better equipped force defeating larger force though. A crap tank reliant of visual sighting is no match for a modern fire control system. Saddams quantity of tanks had virtually no quality at all.

The 'quantity has a quality of its own' thought process disounts that the 'quality' is at the price of your mens lives. If you don't care about your losses then this may be true in certain circumstances. But quality is still quality. Sure if you sent enough crap tanks against something half-decent they could still win but at what price? That whole thought process is basically admitting that your equipment is crap.

You might as well issue your soldiers with sticks on the grounds that 'we have more men than you have bullets' if that held true.

First of all, your final line is silly since there are more bullets in America than there are people on Earth. Second of all, your main point was that Saddam attempted to counter Coalition technical superiority with numerical superiority, which is untrue because the combined coalition forces had armor numbers equal to the Iraqi forces they faced. Tank quality is immaterial in this comparison.

Tank quality in general is somewhat immaterial to military success, too- there are examples of better-equipped forces with inferior numbers defeating larger forces, but there are also examples of inferiorly-equipped forces with inferior numbers defeating larger forces with better equipment. As long as the two sides are somewhat equal, crew training and leadership beats technology every time.

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View PostXlucine, on Dec 26 2012 - 21:38, said:

Either way, the serbian tanks were out of the fight. If there was a ground invasion it's true there would have been an "oh crap" moment, but only for 5 minutes until they got smooshed by an airstrike. Modern wars are combined arms operations, you cannot expect a single arm to perform anywhere near as well on its own as it does with the support of the rest of them - in this case, they should have been using ground based assets to find & fix the location of the serbian tanks for the aircraft. File serbia under "lacking political will to win", same as afghanistan - low intensity conflict is BS made up by politicians.
Out of the fight? Well the goal was their destruction and it failed so Serbia wins. NATO went to war with Serbia not vice versa, so NATO not winning is a defacto win for Serbia.
If there was a ground operation I'm not to sure I would want all that air-power 'supporting' me at a moments notice with the prevalence of blue-on-blue.
I'm not suggesting that a single vehicle or single type of vehicle on its own is a war winner, far from it. Just that current MBT's are not heavy-enough in term of armour because we are stuck in an immediate-post-cold war mindset.

View Postblurr91, on Dec 26 2012 - 21:38, said:

How much armor is "enough?"
Depend whether you are being shot at or not.

View Postblurr91, on Dec 26 2012 - 21:38, said:

Tactical situation may have changed by the time slower tanks show up.  Condition for victory is fleeting.  We often don't have time to wait for backup.
It will inevitably have changed-thats more of an argument regarding unit deployment which is a command and control issue and not a design one.

View Postblurr91, on Dec 26 2012 - 21:38, said:

First question, what war are you fighting?  Are you fighting the vast tank formations of the Warsaw pact?  Or are you trying to run peace keeping or COIN operations?
Well there is no Warsaw pact anymore and there is no realistic likelihood of facing a Fulda Gap scenario so large scale engagements are almost totally improbable. Most likely will be the hideously termed 'low intensity' conflicts. From experiencence there isn't much peace involved in peace keeping which is exactly the type of conflict most likely to produce the use of pre-planned IED's in culverts etc. or organised RPG teams.

View Postblurr91, on Dec 25 2012 - 15:05, said:

Mobility is not only the speed which a tank may achieve.  It's also the ease which it can be transported.
Who says 60 tonnes is too heavy?  C-130 Hercules.  I can airlift an entire platoon of Stryker MGS type vehicles into A-stan (or any other place in the world) for the same effort of a single MBT.  It's not only the vehicle weight, but how the transports land.  We have way more C-130s in the world than C-17s.  C-130s can land in far more places around the world than C-17s can.
You can organize your heavy tank company with heavy transports or sealift.  I can have an MGS batallion fighting before you even land all your equipment.
I'm not decrying your airlift capability. But those C-130's or any other transport aircraft cannot land until the area is secure anyway, Strykers etc. have a place in the battle line up but equally so does a vehicle with more protection than currently offered. I don't beleive that you could not transport me a 120 tonne tank in say 3 loads if you had to even with the aircraft currently available even if air-movement was necessary.
Some out-of-the-box thinking is required and some free-reign to designers to solve that problem. The difficulty of transporting by air a system if not in of itself reason enough not to have it. Far too often if a primary war fighting tool not used because it doesn't 'fit' with some other elements which are more adaptable. Its like arguing that you can't make a 100 tonne tank because we only have a recovery tank capabale of towing 80 tonnes from a ditch.

Tanks are the tip of the spear of the military it's just a matter of how sharp you want that spear to be. I want a sharper and probably slightly slower spear bcause those fast spears are too easily blunted currently.