Recent conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan and, more tellingly, the current war in Ukraine have brought a renewed focus on the role of the main battle tank in modern, conventional military operations. 

Unfortunately, the abiding images in the public view are of heavily armed and armoured, not to say highly expensive, armoured fighting vehicles being destroyed and neutralised wither by plucky individuals with hand-held anti-tank weapons or by cheap – relatively speaking – armed drones and the so-called ‘loitering’ or ‘kamikaze’ munitions. What has been widely portrayed in the popular media has led, once again, to predictions that “the age of the tank is over”.


This article is the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the UK Defence Journal. If you would like to submit your own article on this topic or any other, please see our submission guidelines.


I have heard this cry numerous times before over the past forty years and it has yet to come to pass. And it won’t come to pass this time either, not yet anyway, for reasons I shall now explain.    

First, the history of the tank in warfare since its first introduction by the British in 1916 during the Great War has been one of a see-saw battle between its protection levels and the potency of weapons designed to defeat that protection. When first deployed on the Somme the tank was proof against German machine guns (although not against artillery rounds). The enemy quickly devised and deployed anti-tank rifles which fired a bigger, heavier round to penetrate the tanks’ armour.

This competition has continued ever since. Bigger guns versus thicker armour. Then spaced or composite armour designed to defeat an attack by high explosive shaped-charge warheads designed to penetrate steel plate using molten, focused metal jets. Then explosive reactive armour, placed on the outside of conventional protection, which detonates to disrupt the incoming attack. And finally, active armour, which senses the incoming round or missile and intercepts it before it even reaches the MBT.

So tank protection can now be considered in the categories of passive (armour plate or composite), reactive (exploding bolt-on boxes), or active (interceptor missiles, disruptive munitions, or jamming), sometimes categorised into soft-kill and hard-kill systems. The key to defeating loitering munitions and kamikaze drones lies in the latter, usually referred to as active protection systems (APS). The best known of these is perhaps the Israeli Trophy system which has saved many a tank or armoured vehicle of theirs for a good few years now, and which I understand is being procured by the British Royal Armoured Corps for Challenger 3, of which more later.

It was, however, the Soviets/Russians who developed the first active protection system between 1977 and 1982, named Drozd. This system was designed as an addition to passive or reactive armour against anti-tank weapons using shaped-charge technology. The current Russian APS is called Arena, a hard-kill system like Drozd, designed to destroy an incoming missile’s warhead through the use of munitions before it reaches the vehicle being protected. 

So it would appear that Russia has the technology to defeat many of the anti-tank weapons (Javelin, NLAW etc) which have been used so effectively in Ukraine against its MBTs and armoured fighting vehicles. Which begs the question why haven’t they done so? The Russians must have known that their vehicles would be attacked in this manner. It happened during the Battle of Grozny during the First Chechen War, where they lost over 200 vehicles to Chechen rebels armed with hand-held anti-tank weapons, so it’s not that they have no experience of this. Has the kit been fitted to their tanks and proven unreliable or have the Ukrainians managed to disable it in some way? I don’t know the answer here.

We also need to consider tactics. I think most people now accept that the likeliest Russian strategy adopted by them at the start of the war was to drive down the motorway to Kyiv meeting little if any resistance and replace the Ukrainian government with one of their own choosing. Hence the advanced recce groups in lightly armoured vehicles were given a good shoeing by the courageous and competent resistance shown by the Ukrainian army and militia groups that confronted them. That must have come as a complete surprise.

The corollary of this aim was that the Russian follow-on forces, the second echelon if you like, were committed in peacetime like columns of vehicles expecting just to breeze in and intimidate and establish control over the locals. But they got stuck because the initial advances by light forces were repulsed, and they ended up stranded in long columns on roads which they were unable to leave because of the muddy conditions, in the north of the country at least.

They also outran their logistic support and, perhaps more importantly, their air defence cover. At the same time, the Russians had not been able to suppress the Ukrainian air defences nor had they been able to establish air superiority, a prerequisite of nearly every successful land operation since the Second World War. And so, stranded in long convoys on roads they could not leave and without sufficient air cover, the Russians have suffered heavy casualties.

Even those whose sum experience of la vie militaire is buying some gear from their local army surplus store would know that this is likely to lead to a hiding to nothing, and so it has proved. The lack of professionalism and competence appears to be staggering, and yet this is – at the time of writing – where we find ourselves. Now, their presumed initial strategy stymied at every turn, the Russians appear to be replenishing, regrouping, and digging in for the long haul, plus focusing efforts in the south. 

Back on track (no pun intended), Russia’s losses in tanks and armoured fighting vehicles are pretty enormous. No wonder less well-informed commentators, looking at the destruction of the invading columns by lightly armed defending infantrymen and women, are forecasting the end of the era of the MBT.

But I think they’re being a bit presumptuous. 

Technological innovation does not stand still, after all, and after the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict everyone was looking at how best to counter the armed drones used so effectively in that confrontation. And, lo and behold, there were a variety of counter systems already available on the market, it was just that no-one up to that point had taken the threat seriously. Now, knocking down cheap drones with expensive anti-aircraft missiles can be effective but economically counterintuitive, but there are a plethora of mobile cannon systems that are up to the task. 

The key is, of course, to fight in carefully coordinated combined arms groups, incorporating MBTs, infantry in IFVs, recce vehicles, engineers, artillery and, most importantly, air defence. On paper, the Russians seem to have embraced this principle in the organisation and equipping of their battalion tactical groups (BTGs), but in practice appear to have been unable to put the whole thing together. They have performed rather like a large orchestra without a conductor, where brass, strings, and percussion are all following different parts of the score.

However, we need to come back to the inability of the Russians to achieve air superiority before launching their ground attack to understand why they have ground to a halt and, in some places around Kyiv, been forced to retreat. Whilst vastly outnumbered and having suffered their own losses, the Ukrainians have proved to be remarkably adept at conserving their aircraft and using them at the right place at the right time. They also appear to have dispersed their assets before the Russian assault. I suspect they are getting their intelligence from elsewhere, which may or may not explain the large numbers of NATO SIGINT aircraft buzzing around on the Ukraine borders.

Nonetheless, it appears that tactics, not technology, have defeated the Russians so far; their military is not completely stupid, and in many areas, they have led military thinking over the decades. But they appear not to have applied their doctrine to the task at hand and have suffered accordingly. Plus the Ukrainian defenders have proved to be courageous and competent.

So, what now for the MBT?  In terms of available technology, there seems to be no reason to presume that the MBT cannot protect itself against the new threat spectrums, including that from above. At the moment it seems that the pendulum has swung in favour of the new anti-tank weapons, but just as surely the pendulum will swing back again. We will all have noticed, I suspect, that the number of Russian MBTs that have suffered catastrophic destruction appears to be large, and ammunition stowage practices will no doubt have to be hastily reviewed. But those predicting the end of the MBT are being a bit previous, as they might say on East Enders.

General Haig reputedly said that “there will always be a place for the well-bred horse on the battlefield” and was proven wrong. I am not going to paraphrase him and say likewise about the MBT. But its place on the modern battlefield is not over, not yet anyway.

Stuart Crawford was a regular officer in the Royal Tank Regiment for twenty years, retiring in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1999. Crawford attended both the British and US staff colleges and undertook a Defence Fellowship at Glasgow University. He now works as a political, defence and security consultant and is a regular commentator on military and defence topics in print, broadcast and online media.
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Rick Lewis
Rick Lewis
20 days ago

I have to agree, within a combined arms force OR as a force multiplier in irregular warfare the MBT will be around for some time yet. Outside of those and it’s easy prey for the tractor driving scrap merchants!

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
20 days ago

I’m inclined to believe that, notwithstanding the much vaunted CH3, Challenger 2 could still rain on the T64, T72, T80 – (T90?) parade. At least, judging from recent performance in Ukraine and catalogued deficiencies in these Russian designs.

Tommo
Tommo
20 days ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

GavinThank the Lord we didn’t go down the road of a carousel and Auto loader for munitions like the Russians have meaning a 25% reduction in crew and lower profile ,but what a gift for NLAWs and Javelin no protective stowage for munitions it’s a god send for turret popping

AlexS
AlexS
20 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Challenger 3 will have reportedly 15 rounds in the hull and 15 rounds in the new turret blow out panels.

Tommo
Tommo
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Cheers Alex Blow out panels, Shame the T class designrrs didn’t think of that safety aspect oh well life seems too be cheap in Russia can’t have luxuries like a blow off panel for your common conscript But for Oligarchs now that’s a different Kettle of Fish or Caviar so too speak

AlexS
AlexS
19 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Challenger 1-2 also had all rounds in hull. Only M1 didn’t.
Note that Armata have crew separated from turret,

Jonathan
Jonathan
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Yes they apparently sit in heavily protected cabin in the hull. Which will be interesting from a crew protection point of view and something very new, sort of like when the Israelis stuck the engine in the front as added crew protection.

Airborne
Airborne
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

The Armata crews are separate form the tank mate, as its all a load of overblown chuff and it will never make full production in any numbers.

Andy A
Andy A
14 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

Thought was cancelled

Airborne
Airborne
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

But the charge bags were in the charge bins, plastic coolant cooled flame retardant 3 and 5 charge vertical bins.

Tommo
Tommo
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Weren’t the Rds behind a a blast panel not out unprotected such as the T class Alex ?

AlexS
AlexS
19 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Blast panel might be not enough. If it penetrates the ammunition it needs to go somewhere and if there is no blow out it goes into crew compartment.

AlexS
AlexS
19 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Note that the modernized Challenger 3 will only have 15 rounds in the hull. That is a considerable reduction from 47 it had in Challenger 2.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Plus 15 rds in turret makes 30.

AlexS
AlexS
19 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Yes, but my point is that Challenger 1/2 had a a very risky ammunition setup. With Challenger 3 with 15 instead of 47 in the hull should diminishes the risk considerably.

Last edited 19 days ago by AlexS
AlexS
AlexS
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

From Tanknet Forum, topic: List of ammo storage in various modern tanks FV4034 Challenger 2 : Projectiles : 4 lying behind the driver seat 3 standing in front of the turret basket (left corner) 3 standing in front of the turret basket (right corner) 7 in a rack on the turntable, below the gun cradle 5 in a rack on the turntable below the gun breech 1 standing on the turntable, below the gunner seat. 3 strapped on the left wall of the turret fighting compartment 1 standing on the turntable, against the turret basket wall (below the 3 previous) 1 strapped… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Alex Why didn’t we take a leaf out of the M1 abram with munitions all stowed in a blast proof compartment tòo rear of Hull no more than one rd out of its stowage at a time panel is only open for loading and when a Rd is required

AlexS
AlexS
19 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Alex Why didn’t we take a leaf out of the M1 abram

Don’t know Tommo. I guess there might be limitations with original design and weight distribution. Just a guess.

Tommo
Tommo
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Thanks Alex at least we didn’t go down the T class pop off turret design route

Rob Smith
Rob Smith
13 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Only KE rounds (APFSDS etc with no explosive content) above the turret ring, HESH, Smoke, Illum were all stored lower down, turntable, behind the drivers seat etc.

ExcalibursTemplar
ExcalibursTemplar
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

IIRC the design choice to store charges in the hull was because hulls are more rarely penetrated. When they are penetrated, it was less likely to lead to catastrophic damage.

IIRC at the time it was though to be much more likely the turret would be penetrated. That and when it was penetrated it would be more likely to cause catastrophic damage.

I think it was to do with the tactics as well at the time. With NATO tanks expected to be in a hull down position. Facing off against hordes of maraudering Russian tanks.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Not sure why it was risky – it is safe to store your ammunition and charges below the turret ring. No CR1 or 2 was ever destroyed by the enemy.

AlexS
AlexS
19 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

It is risky because tanks have weak side, top and rear armour.
If it is a peer to peer battle things get messy, you can’t always fight in best case scenario with hull down and just showing the turret front profile..

Daveyb
Daveyb
13 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Don’t forget the round + cartridge is nearly a metre long. Trying to store any more is probably not practical.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Only 30 rounds? CR2 has 47.
Not sure it is clever to deviate from traditional British practice and to now carry rounds above the turret ring. Blow-out panels means back end of your turret will be destroyed.

Last edited 19 days ago by Graham Moore
AlexS
AlexS
19 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Blow out panels is the only way to save the crew.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

…or stow below the turret ring.

AlexS
AlexS
19 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Disagree. Below turret ring is not enough and makes it also vulnerable to mines. Crew vs Ammunition separation is the best solution.

steve
steve
5 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

What, just like the Russian turret poppers!?

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
5 days ago
Reply to  steve

Below turret ring was always considered the best place to stow ammo safely (behind the thickest armour (hull front), our charges are in water filled containers, unlike the Russians.

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
20 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Know what you mean, Tommo. All that techno; made me smile when read the Ruski tank crews preferred the four man layout.

Tommo
Tommo
19 days ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

With optional Detachable Sun turret when visited by the inlaws sorry when visited by the NLAWs Gavin

Tommo
Tommo
19 days ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

T class great foe sunny weather, you can have the top on or off when the in-laws arrive sorry NLAWs Gavin

Jonathan
Jonathan
19 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

It is interesting as the inclination of Soviet designed tanks to kill the crew was always thought to be a characteristic of cheap exports to middle eastern nations, but it looks like even the home market models are set up to kill the crews.

Tommo
Tommo
19 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

The design bureau for the Tclass must of raised questions after what was seen during OP Granby Johnathan every carcus we climbed over in 91 was minus a turret usually 50 yards away , the Russians even had observers in country so why didn’t they inform the manufacturers how abysmal their Tanks had performed Although a lot had been taken out by A10s with 30mm spent uranium rds the rest by Sabos and they’ve had 30 yrs too rectify the problem get you thinking doesn’t it

Jonathan
Jonathan
19 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Yes it does show how many shits the Russian ruling classes give about the average Russia soldier or citizen. They are just disposable assets of the state to.be used up as needed. Russia has not come very far from its feudal past. There is still a tzar, lords who own everything and a state full of peasants who are told what to think. The middle classes think for themselves but they hold little power in Russia and are aways the first to be removed by the Russian state, something learnt from the Bolsheviks, leaders lead, middle classes get suppressed and… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo
19 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Quite agree Johnathan, putin is following in the footsteps of Stalin , he positioned himself behind Lenin, as Putin did with yeltsin then surround yourself with cronies and bugger the rest , Both had/have a devoted security service willing too do their bidding Communism today is the purest form of Fascism

Jonathan
Jonathan
19 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Yes it’s funny how close Fascism and communism actual are. Infact Mussolini was a communist before he became a facist! Swapping the idea of class revolution for nationalist revolution, which is actually not far from the Stalinist view that the international revolution should be guided by the Soviet Unions ruling body ( russia) as the only National elite that could lead the international revolution. Basically it all communist and facist governments all end in the same way with an uncaring bunch of scumbags in charge, a group that become less than human and are murdered, the need to invade others… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo
19 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Totally agree, the only difference is the quota of state sanctioned assinations carried out by the Ruling elite of each ism everyone talks of the Night of the Long Knifes ,but hardly anyone talks of the year of the Soviet army purge whereas us Brits just get upset about Partygate but at least we don’t get a hole in the back of the head if we complain

AlexS
AlexS
19 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Fascism is moderate Communism. Basically instead of class struggle you have corporatism. In fact since Communist leaders want to preserve their heads Communism ends up being similar to Fascism.

Airborne
Airborne
19 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Had a good peruse over the years of the youtube footage of the auto loaders in action! FFS the inside of the Russkie tank is a shit show, looks half finished and if finished looks fucked and old! As for the auto loader, that also looks a heath Robinson set up, and its quite obvious to see the issues with the ammunition on the carousal on the extremities of the turret. Death traps!

Tommo
Tommo
19 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

I’ve seen better carousels at the fair Airbourne

Daveyb
Daveyb
13 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

At nearly a 1m long, the one piece ammo does cause storage issues. The bustle is the best and most practical place for them. Unless you consider going down the Merkava route?

USL
USL
19 days ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

Training, leadership and logistics would prove you to be correct. UK, USA, French armor vs Russian armor (all things being somewhat equal), Russia gets smoked.

Tommo
Tommo
20 days ago

I Know this may be slightly of thread, but with Ukraine in the news ,The pictures coming out so of possible War Crimes mass graves being found after Russian troop withdrawl the spokesman for Russian Defence said its Fake news oh really Just like the Katlyn forest was as well Putin has morphed into his hero Stalin

simon alexander
simon alexander
20 days ago

tanks look vulnerable at the moment to my uneducated eye

AlexS
AlexS
20 days ago

Tank since 1943 have been vulnerable to Bazooka etc.. Israelis have got heavy losses to ATGW’s in 1967 and specially 1973.

Nevertheless the APS changes things, if it proves to be now the main AFV defence it means heavy armour 70t tanks are not necessary and a 40-50t maybe the sweet spot.

AlexS
AlexS
20 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

I think the ideal tank configuration is an Armata that works and can be “dronized”. . All ammunition separated from crew when there will be crew.

Last edited 20 days ago by AlexS
Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
20 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Good point

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
19 days ago

…so are IFVs, APCs, SPGs, towed artillery, trucks, helicopters, the dismounted soldier. In fact everything can be countered – and this has always been the case.
So what? Just need to develop counters to the counters and use your kit much better tactically.

Mark Forsyth
Mark Forsyth
20 days ago

I am not sure whether CR3 will have “cased” ammunition, but certainly the use of “bag-charges” on Chieftain and Challenger 1 and 2, allowing for the propellants to be stowed in below the turret “charge-bins, ensured that the chance of secondary explosions from the on-board ammunition being ignited form an external force was greatly reduced.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
19 days ago
Reply to  Mark Forsyth

True. No CR1 or CR2 was ever destroyed by the enemy. The same is not true of M1 Abrams or Leopard 2 – in part at least due to this factor.

AlexS
AlexS
19 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

No CR1 or CR2 have been in a serious war. You probably can count their combat instances by the number of your fingers.

Dern
Dern
19 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

If you dont count the two Gulf Wars as serious Wars, then neither has the M1, Leopard, T-80 etc.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
19 days ago
Reply to  Dern

True. We sent 221 CR1s to first Gulf War, and tanks to Bosnia and Kosovo. We sent 120 CR2s to Gulf War 2 (Iraq).

A CR1 gained the record for the longest tank kill in GW1 (5.2km).

There are many stories about the success of their incredible armour protection, one CR2 in Basra shrugging off 70 RPG hits.

These were serious wars, mostly involving a lot of tank-on-tank engagements. I am surprised Alex has not heard of them – is he American?

AlexS
AlexS
19 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

M1 , Leopard faced Kornet and TOW(and Iranian equivalent) missiles.
The number of combats that Challenger faced were small number and never faced missiles of same class.

Anyone that believes that a tank can get hit by 70 RPG’s are deluded. Sorry to say it.
What do you think is the Challenger armour by rear and top? Not even 100mm. And by side it certainly do not protect against a ATGW without additional armour.
This is not a defect of Challenger per se.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
18 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2905817.stm
“Apaches are not heavily armoured and it takes just one rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) to bring one down. Compare that with one British Challenger near Basra which survived being hit by 70 RPGs.” The editor of Defence Analysis, Francis Tusa

AlexS
AlexS
18 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

We know the physic capabilities of a RPG. HEAT round…
It could even be anti-personnel rounds.
Without evidence it means nothing. Seems more a war tale.
Can be 70 enemies, can be 70 hits including RPG but not all being RPG , etc.

AlexS
AlexS
18 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

The MoD has finally confirmed that the tank’s armour was breached last August and has said that an investigation was conducted to discover why the ERA appears to have failed. However, the department refused to comment on its findings, citing security reasons.

In the August attack, which occurred during an operation to arrest a leading insurgent in the town of al-Amarah, in southern Iraq, the Challenger was damaged when a Russian-made rocket-propelled grenade, known as an RPG-29, defeated the ERA and penetrated the driver’s cabin.



Graham Moore
Graham Moore
17 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Yes, just one tank had an armour breach of the front belly plate (very weak part of the tank) when it crested an obstacle and the enemy got a lucky shot in. The driver had a serious lower limb injury. The tanks was not destroyed. It was repaired by my old Corps (REME) and was in action the next day.

Dern
Dern
19 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Cancel

Last edited 19 days ago by Dern
peter Wait
peter Wait
20 days ago

Initially the 8 mm side armour of World War One tanks was bullet proof, however the Germans developed the K bullet and later the 13.2 mm Mauser anti-tank rifle as armour got thicker. So development to counter threats to armoured vehicles is ongoing !

John Hartley
John Hartley
20 days ago

As the author says, it is not just the tank in isolation. A good, mobile medium tank paired with a good close support aircraft. In 1940, the Panzer IV + Stuka. In 1944, Sherman + rocket armed Typhoon. The Americans may be buying a new medium tank (politics willing) + whatever new armed helicopter they select. That might be the perfect late 2020s combo. Also, giving tanks extendable masts with EO, means less “fog of war” + their own mini recon air drones. Also, as the author says, a Boxer equipped with Skyguard AA canon, is a good anti drone/helicopter… Read more »

DanielMorgan
DanielMorgan
19 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

I wouldn’t count on the US buying a new light tank anytime soon. BAE and General Dynamics both delivered a protype to the US Army. BAE’s was a year and a half late and Janes reported it was eliminated from competition because of non-compliance issues. The US Army now has one protype to choose from and there is still the matter of cost.

John Hartley
John Hartley
19 days ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

Whenever you think UK MoD procurement is mad, the US (Congress + DoD) trump it. We will have to wait & see, whether it is medium tank, new scout helicopter or 6.8mm smallarms.

Ian M
Ian M
19 days ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

Hi Daniel, The competition was stopped by the US Army as only GD provided a prototype on time. The bids have now re-opened with 5 companies vying for the contract.

David
David
19 days ago

Tanks in future would be able to launch and recover their own mini drones and weapons such as Switchblade from hull mounter launchers. That would effectively allow a God’s eye screen to look over buildings and terrain, coordinated with their infantry who will have the same situational awareness. That pushes the ATGW further out. APS takes care of the rest. Drones and unmanned vehicles will cause a swing back into favour of heavily protected vehicles to keep the crew alive. Troops without hard cover may become obsolete. Anti personal hunter killer drones will cause another shift in systems to defeat… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
19 days ago
Reply to  David

Troops in trenches/shellscrapes may be less vulnerable than troops in AFVs.

Bringer of Facts
Bringer of Facts
19 days ago

Is it possible we have overrated the T-72 / T-80 / T-90?
Or is it the case, as the poster suggests good tactics have defeated technology?

I remember a comment on Gulf war 1 saying: ” If it was Russians in those T-72s , the outcome would have been different “. I’m not so sure now seeing how quickly the Ukrainians have destroyed Russian MBTs.

It is well known that the ammo carousel is vulnerable in these designs, it is also well known that the carousel sits below the turret ring about level with the road wheels.

Simon
Simon
19 days ago

“I remember a comment on Gulf war 1 saying: ” If it was Russians in those T-72s , the outcome would have been different “ Unlikely, there was an issue with Egypt and them using Soviet aircraft in the late 60’s,early 70’s were they were getting blow out of the sky by Israel. Egyptian pilots blamed the aircraft and were told by the soviets, no it is your pilots, nothing wrong with our aircraft. the next step was for a group of Soviet advisers pilots to tell the Egyptian we will show you how it is done. They promptly took… Read more »

Alan Reid
Alan Reid
19 days ago
Reply to  Simon

Ah, yes – “Operation Rimon 20”, conducted on 30 July 1970, over the Sinai peninsular.
Five Soviet MiG-21s destroyed by the IAF for no losses.
Well worth a read.

Simon
Simon
18 days ago
Reply to  Alan Reid

Alan Reid, that’s it great stuff. read about a long time ago, didn’t know the name. thanks for pointing that out

Klonkie
Klonkie
18 days ago
Reply to  Simon

And not forgetting the air battles against the Syrian air force in 1982 over the Beka valley. The IAF was and is world class.

Airborne
Airborne
19 days ago

We could labour this point for ages, but I will make it an easy read…..correct tactics, training and tech will ensure that the tank remains a valuable and effective system. In a well trained, well equipped combined arms trained and experienced BCT, it remains just as effective, if not more, than ever. The tank is here to stay, we just need to ensure we keep up with the neighbours on passive and active defensive systems.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
19 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

Hear hear. Well said. The question in the article is why didnt Russian active protection systems stop javelin and NLAW? well….looking at what we now know. Rusdia has on paper a vast armed forces but not the budget to support them. So training and equipment suffers. Reloads and replenishment of smart munitions also suffers. We know some Russian tanks went into Ukraine with reactive armour tiles strapped onto them which were actuslly filled with sand and grit. Maybe the Russians can (like C3 and Trophy APS) omly actually afford to equip a small number of their most elite T90 and… Read more »

Airborne
Airborne
19 days ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Agreed Mr Bell.

John Hartley
John Hartley
18 days ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

One online video, claims Javelin crews are told to aim ahead of the Russian tank. That way its laser detectors are not activated.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
17 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Ummmm

If you don’t lase the tank you can’t fire the weapon?

The ToF (Time of Flight) of the missile is so short that you can’t really adjust the aiming point.

In any case what is the tank going to do in a couple of seconds it has pre impact?

Frank62
Frank62
19 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

Indeed. The advent of air to air missiles in the 1950s led some to think guns on aircraft were obsolete, yet combat soon stopped that when gunless fighters became a liability in any dogfight.
Just another stage in the tank-anti-tank arms race.

Last edited 19 days ago by Frank62
Airborne
Airborne
19 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

If humans are good at anything Frank, its developing the next level of offensive or defensive weapon systems lol.

Peter tattersll
Peter tattersll
19 days ago

It’s over well and truly up.against weapons like Apache .A10 . Javelin .

Hamish
Hamish
15 days ago

If that was the case then the role of infantry is over with the use of bullets and artillery.

Jonathan
Jonathan
19 days ago

What it clearly shows is attacking during the spring Rasputitsa is as stupid now as it’s was during the Napoleonic wars, first world and Second World War. The campaign season in Eastern Europe is Summer time only and modern technology does not change that. The Rasputitsa forced russia to drive massed armour down roads against a dug in highly motivated enemy. This proves Putin and the Russian leadership were made to be fools by a mixture of arrogance and underestimating their enemy. It does show that to much armour is not aways a good thing and it needs to be… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
17 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Sadly the spring Rasputitsa is likely to end from mid to late April, then replenished, repaired, relocated and refuelled Russian tanks will prove to be a challenge, especially if they get combined arms tactics right.

Russians only used roads before for their armour because of Rasputitsa; Ukraine is mostly ‘good tank country’.

There is no danger of us having massed tanks in future, just 2 regiments (battalions in US-speak) at most and possibly not all in one brigade?

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
19 days ago

People are thinking too narrowly about the future of the MBT. We should be considering the following non-exhaustive points at a minimum in planning for future battlefields. A new tier 1 MBT is heading towards costing $20-25M including APS, if the costs aren’t already at this point. Plus additional costs for heavy infrastructure support in HETS, recovery and bridging for a 75+ tonne vehicle. All the MBT brings to the fight is a protected direct fire 120mm weapon. There should be a major question mark over whether this is a good return on investment versus alternative weapon systems to achieve… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
18 days ago

I agree the 60+ ton heavy tanks are hard to get to theatre & once there, are limited on what bridges, mountain tracks & tight urban roads they can use. However, I still think a good, modern medium tank (30-50 tons) is a vital part of a deployable army unit. Yes it needs to be with armoured infantry, mobile air defence, overwatch helicopters & drones, but with all that backing it up, a tank is still a good way of taking & holding land.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
18 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Is it really hard to get 60+ ton tanks out to Theatre? – you just stick them on a ship, as we have done since 1916, along with other heavy/medium vehicles and artillery pieces. I expect we used rail to get our heavy vehicles to Estonia. Really not difficult.
Everyone bangs on about sea and rail transportation being slower than air, but air has limited capacity, and is hugely expensive.
Have our tanks ever arrived ‘late at the party’?

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
18 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

If we can deploy before a hot war then rail and sealift work. That’s a big IF though and a dangerous assumption to be reliant upon. What are the chances of being able to protect a Point-class trying to get to and then off-load armour in any of the Baltic states or Poland if we’re already in a hot war? Such ships would be HVTs for missile attack, submarine attack and/or air attack under protection from Russian IADS. All this launched from Kalingrad and/or from within the main landmass of Russia. Ditto for interdiction of rail lines/rail bridges. “Have our… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
18 days ago

If NATO had an intervening role, then NATO troops and materiel could have moved to Theatre by sea/rail/road soon after Russia started positioning troops en masse near the Ukraine border – in March 2021 – in plenty of time. Rarely does a war, especially one requiring sizable build up of aggressor forces, happen without any notice. Is it hard to defend Point-class vessels in transit, with NATO ships and aircraft? You are supposing that Russia would interdict NATO forces on the high seas when their focus was on launching Land-Air war on Ukraine. How are C-17s, A400Ms and C-5s landing… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
17 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

You said “…you just stick them on a ship, as we have done since 1916, along with other heavy/medium vehicles and artillery pieces. I expect we used rail to get our heavy vehicles to Estonia. Really not difficult.” There was no mention of Ukraine wrt your point or in previous posts. So yes, in the event of Russia moving into the Baltics at some future point, as the sole focus of their campaign at that time, they would interdict sea lift, rail and yes possibly air too. But air deployment is extremely limited in its capacity as you point out.… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
18 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

If the theatre of operations has weak bridges, narrow roads, mountain tracks with drops on one side, tight urban streets, then 60+ ton tanks are likely to just sit at your base.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
18 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

True. Also true of a 35-40 ton tank or IFV or Ajax recce vehicle. In fairness, heavy armour has always avoided the terrain you describe – most countries have much terrain that heavy armour can access.

John Hartley
John Hartley
17 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

During WW2, it was thought tanks would be useless in the jungles of Burma, but 30 ton Grant tanks were driven up narrow mountain roads. If only just, with the crews avoiding looking at the drop on oneside.

Klonkie
Klonkie
17 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

John, your point reminds me of Henry Ford’s maxim “Whether you think you can or cant , either way you’re right”

Jonathan
Jonathan
18 days ago

Thats all good points and when you take into consideration they struggle to operate in some theatres with mobility completely buggered by mud, old bridges and heavy woodland they become even more expensive niche weapons. I really don’t think people have come close to what swarming drones could do especially if networked by quantum communication systems, using quantum sensors Jamming quantum communication is not really possible at present. we may be hitting a point were lethality is so dominant it changes warfare. It does happen, World War One was such a bloody stalemate because offensive capability had overwhelmed the ability… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
17 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

I’ll throw in something else that I don’t believe has been considered – the near-future (next decade) pervasive surveillance making it difficult for anything to hide on the battlefield. Today we see the use of UAVs for tactical surveillance. We get the satellite images from Maxar. Both only provide intermittent data on a location. The deployment of LEO satellite surveillance using networks similar to Starlink and OneWeb will be able to provide a robust continuous surveillance using a variety of sensor technologies, not just in the visual band. The west will have this capability. Its very likely China will. Russia… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
17 days ago

Why do you play down the value of a protected direct fire 120mm cannon? That’s the biggest direct fire weapon the army has; it has killed tanks at up to 5km in combat. Protection levels are the best that can be provided. Of course a tank can be disabled or killed by a cheapish anti tank weapon used bravely and skilfully. Every combat system has effective counters. What do you suggest an alternative to the tank to provide that level of direct fire? Swarming drones, loitering munitions. They can not (with Infantry) seize ground – and are not immune to… Read more »

Lee Cook
Lee Cook
19 days ago

I think these are tough times for tankers. Of course, if Russia had all of its various tank protection systems in place on all its MBTs, active and passive, losses may have been very different. But I’m not sure they would have been that different. You talk of combined arms and tactics in general as being the solution, but despite the initial miscalculation in sending in fast moving advanced columns of lightly-armoured vehicles, the Ukrainians have since been squaring up against full-on armoured forces, ostensibly fighting as combined arms. And the picture for MBTs still looks bleak. 422 confirmed MBT… Read more »

DJ
DJ
19 days ago
Reply to  Lee Cook

There are various problems with the modern day heavy mbt. They have become overly heavy & as a consequence overly expensive & a logistical nightmare. They have the majority of the armour concentrated across the front, which is great if the enemy is in front. Not so good when they are not. Large formations of tanks are asking for 155 artillery response, which doesn’t even need to score a hit to take out a mbt. If you don’t or can’t have massed tanks than you are relying on IFV or dismounted troops to stop them getting hit from the side… Read more »

izy
izy
10 days ago
Reply to  DJ

The knights lifted by crane is a historical myth long debunked. (A very few late renaissance tournament armors were that heavy; most plate armor is agile and balanced enough you can easily jump about in, and a knight’s overall load was somewhat lighter overall than many US or British soldiers carry today). Of course some knights drowned in mud at Agincourt; some soldiers drowned in mud in the WWII trench warfare as well, but this was more the fault of the press of bodies than the armor.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
18 days ago
Reply to  Lee Cook

That economics looks much worse when a new start-of-the-art western MBT with APS is considered. It is notoriously difficult to get at true costs of weapon systems but Qatar provides a first order illustration, albeit a bit dated. Hungary would be a more modern example but I haven’t found a source for what they paid. In April 2013, Qatar signed a contract with the German defense company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) for 24 PzH 2000 artillery systems and 62 Leopard 2A7+ main battle tanks. The project’s total cost was €1.89 billion, including the delivery of peripheral equipment, training installations and additional… Read more »

Ian
Ian
19 days ago

‘The age of the ‘X” in general is over-simplistic. The state of technological progress is a factor in determining the circumstances in which a particular platform is useful. e.g. battleships are too vulnerable to be useful if an adversary controls the skies- but in the presence of adequate air cover and ASW capability they could still perform a useful function. The reason they are no longer used is that the same functions can be carried out more dynamically and cost-effectively using other technologies.

JimmyB
JimmyB
19 days ago

ATGMs and drone launched missiles will kill ..anything.. If there werent tanks there, they may have been APCs or IFVs or Trucks full of infantry. Its beyond me to weigh up the value of human life against steel and electronics but a squad or section of well trained infantry as well as the vehicle they’re riding in is surely worth as much as one Tank, if not more. The Tank is only the problem because its role is too narrow, its role can be summised as ‘Big gun.’ Now dont get me wrong, Big gun good, especially as APS’s become… Read more »

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
17 days ago
Reply to  JimmyB

Agreed. It is entrenched thinking. Speed, agility and situational awareness are the important dimensions to build upon. Ukraine is the death of old school armour formations thinking writ large. True the Russians must have thought they were on a road trip, but the fighting after week one has been downhill all the way.

Alan Reid
Alan Reid
19 days ago

Excellent essay, Stuart.

Knight7572
Knight7572
19 days ago

So Challenger 3 is being modified with lessons from the current war

Paul T
Paul T
18 days ago
Reply to  Knight7572

The Challenger 3 Specs would have been decided well before this conflict started.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
19 days ago

I disagree with the conclusion of this welcome article. The effects that Main Battle Tanks produce are kinetic and psychological. The former could be more easily reproduced today by other means; the latter has had little discernible effect on organised determined Ukrainian response. Building, owning and transporting these huge machines is in itself a task requiring continuous investment in single use systems. APC’s are similarly of questionable utility in their present configuration and – as Ajax demonstrates in full measure – a very expensive way to manoeuvre infantry about the forward edge of battle. The description in this well informed… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
17 days ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

Ajax is a recce vehicle – it does not carry infantry.

IFVs are more expensive than 4-ton trucks but their armour protects the embarked rifle section, their tracked running gear provides better mobility to deal with complex terrain and their cannon provides a good weight of supporting fire. Why does that mean IFVs have questionable utility?

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
17 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

I used Ajax as an illustration of expense; the role is irrelevant in context. The U.K. clearly cannot afford to own and maintain even foreign built A.P.C.s in any significant numbers. I remember listening to a former British officer involved in armoured formations and he asserted that for all the costs of protection versus the kill quality of (then) anti-armour weapons, one might as well use ordinary road vehicles – just looking at the scrap yard that is north western Ukraine today I think he had a point. I saw a film clip of a replacement I.D.F. officer being brought… Read more »

GlynH
GlynH
19 days ago

Can’t help but think there are some “some” parallels with the demise of the BattleShip. Large armoured bemouths suddenly at the mercy of small smart units with small smart munitions.

John Hartley
John Hartley
18 days ago
Reply to  GlynH

Umm, I think the large Battleship was replaced by the large aircraft carrier.

John Hartley
John Hartley
18 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

&/or large nuclear powered attack submarines (SSNs).

GlynH
GlynH
15 days ago
Reply to  GlynH

I said “some” parallels, CVs & SSNs are there for many reasons. My point was a 8000t “destroyer” weighing less than a WW2 CL is far more potent in concept than a BB. Case in point, was it not light weight bradleys that killed more T-72s in 1991 than abrams did.

ArmyBrat90s
ArmyBrat90s
18 days ago

For me, disregarding the tactics used by different armed forces, I can see two things in particular when I compare the Russian tank engineering and design. To the three most battle proven western tanks. The Abrams the Challenger 1 and challenger 2. The composite armour used on these vehicles is specifically designed and constructed to withstand the shaped charge anti tank warheads used on the modern battlefield. Some people will claim they know the “penetration resistance” of this particular armour, and express it as an equivalence of comparable steel armour. This armour on Abrams and the challengers is not steel.… Read more »

dan
dan
17 days ago

Just because Russia doesn’t know how to support it’s tanks with infantry doesn’t mean tanks are obsolete. Tanks can be very effective when used the correct way.

johan
johan
17 days ago

The only issue and this fella will never admit it, MBT in a urban fight are a dinosaur.
and makes a joke on what and how he would spend the good old British Taxpayers money.
as in his previous comments he would have purchased 500 Leopard 2s on a loan agreement.

much like his career his comments live in a Cold war age

Postpositivst
Postpositivst
17 days ago

Here’s a link to a recent article from DefenceNews entitled Tanks and helos: How Ukraine can inform military modernization efforts.

https://www.defensenews.com/opinion/commentary/2022/03/31/tanks-and-helos-how-ukraine-can-inform-military-modernization-efforts/

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
17 days ago

So how heavy would a tank have to get to withstand hits on all sides? If the tank is smaller will that make much difference with the area needing covered?
If the day of the tank was over that would apply to all vehicles. That then leaves foot soldiers only.
Combined units are what’s needed. Missile and drone defence is more important than ever.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
17 days ago

The poor tactical use of the tank by the Russians, in part due to extreme muddy conditions, and the loss of many to anti-tank weapons, does not flag the demise of the tank.
Also, given that we bought 386 CR2s and only ‘need’ 138, then why don’t we supply Ukraine with as many of those ‘spare’ 250 CR2s that are languishing in the Ashchurch depot, as can be made servicable. [I know training and maintenance/logistic support would be an issue]. Perhaps, more realistically there are other less complex surplus equipments they could have, rather than selling stuff off for profit.

Grant
Grant
17 days ago

It must take balls the size of watermelons to take on a tank with a man portable ATGM… the sort of things you’d only do if you didn’t have a choice, or if someone was driving T72s through the high street of the town you live in. It goes without saying your far better off inside something with an engine and protection then not, and of course if it has a decent weapon that outranges opponents then so much the better. Whether that thing is an MBT as we understand them, or something lighter or differently armed who knows. If… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
15 days ago
Reply to  Grant

Depends what you doing and where. Stick a tank in a confined environment and it’s not a safe place to be and the infantry is in a better place. But if it’s in an environment with room to be mobile and places to be hidden Yet with good visibility, it will dominate. That’s why you need combined arms, different tools working together to manage individual weakness.

Jean
Jean
15 days ago

The idiot who wrote this article doesn’t even understand what top attack munitions are… he’s still wondering how Russian tanks are getting destroyed. Easy no reactive armor on top.

Lisa West (Comment Moderator)
Lisa West (Comment Moderator)
15 days ago
Reply to  Jean

…You do realise who the author of the article is?

Jonathan
Jonathan
15 days ago
Reply to  Jean

That’s actually fun. I suspect he’s forgotten more about armoured warfare this morning eating his breakfast than we ever knew.

Melchor Bigornia
Melchor Bigornia
15 days ago

Yes because old generals still think MBT’s are invaluable, even with present realities. They’re still within their comfort zone of what works in World War II and not the modern realities of computers, hacking, accurate & more advanced MANPADS, armed AI drones and more.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
10 days ago

Melchor, if we faced a tank army in combat do you think we could totally destroy it with computers, MANPADS (they kill aircraft, not tanks), and armed drones?

There has been much kinetic use of tanks since WW2; don’t draw too many lessons from the mishandling by Russia of their tanks in Phase 1 of their war.

Bluemoonday
Bluemoonday
13 days ago

Fantastic article on such a fascinating topic. Any chance of another article opposing this argument?
It is such an interesting debate, but hugely important, as the prevailing opinion will steer future defence strategy.

Daveyb
Daveyb
13 days ago

Nice one Stuart, I totally agree. In discussing the tank and its usefulness only: On this forum, I have banged on about the continued requirement and use of main battle tanks (MBTs) and how they may be seeing a renaissance, instead of being sent to the scrap heap. My reasoning is based on Israel’s experience with their Merkava 4 and the Rafael Trophy active protective system (APS). I also have a mate who is in the Israeli army who is also a tanker. He originally started as a non-com and made his way up through the ranks. His first MBT… Read more »

nonsense
nonsense
12 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

No needed to attack the tank’s front armor. Attacking only the sensor on the top of the tank will make the tank blind.
No need to knock on the APS, no need to knock on the tank’s front armor. This is because the sensor at the top of the tank can be sufficiently suppressed with a machine gun.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
10 days ago
Reply to  nonsense

You need to be really brave to get in close and destroy tank optics and sensors with a machine gun.

nonsense
nonsense
12 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

the 40mm CTA can devastate the upper part of the tank with just a few attacks.
If shelling the front of the tank with the incendiary shells, it can disturb the sensor of the enemy tank and the human view. Armoured vehicles capable of fast movement can attack the top or rear of the tram.

Last edited 12 days ago by nonsense
peter Wait
peter Wait
11 days ago
Reply to  nonsense

The Russian tanks have ERA on the side of their turrets, if they returned fire your AJAX would be toast as only good for about 30 mm rounds without APS !

nonsense
nonsense
11 days ago
Reply to  peter Wait

theres no ERA at top and back 

nonsense
nonsense
11 days ago
Reply to  peter Wait
peter Wait
peter Wait
10 days ago
Reply to  nonsense

Would not any sensible gunner dismount and use a man portable anti tank missile on a tank ?

izy
izy
10 days ago
Reply to  peter Wait

One issue of potential concern with regard to anti-tank weapons is logistics and cost. Good anti-tank weapons capable of top attack (e.g. Javelin, NLAW, etc.) are certainly cheaper than tanks, but missiles are costlier than tank shells, and usually, a vehicle or team will carry fewer of them. Ukraine is being heavily supported by ATGM and LAW stocks from much of NATO, but not every country may be in that circumstance (friendly land border, numerous allies) and even in this war, if the war drags on with a lengthy second phase, will they start to outstrip production? (Also, suspect some… Read more »

nonsense
nonsense
11 days ago
Reply to  peter Wait

In Napoleon’s Battlefiels, there was no need for Haevy infantry

Heavy armor does not block bullets. – Anything on the front, back, side, top, same thing. Bullets getting faster and more powerful over time, and heavy armor can’t keep up.
Enemies attacking tanks are infinite. Efficient and inexpensive, Enemies will easily defeat expensive tanks.
Trying to protect your tank with CIWS would be futile.
What is important is not a tank, but a surveillance + reconnaissance drone that operates 24hours in real time and in a small space.
In future warfare, The Eyes, not the armor, rule everything.

Graham
Graham
6 days ago
Reply to  nonsense

We always had the mantra: Find, Fix, Strike. You are obsessed by drones. Drones if they don’t get shot down or jammed can Find. They cannot Fix. They can Strike but only if they don’t get shot down or jammed and payload and loiter time is limited.
Drones cannot do everything, or do everything well.

nonsense
nonsense
2 days ago
Reply to  Graham

Drones will be better at anything than tanks with people on board. 
With cheaper prices and lighter weights that are easier to transport. 
I’m not just obsessed with drones.

If you like expensive ones, 24-hour surveillance satellites and ground surveillance planes are also good instead of drones. 

Even if it’s not count on drone, you need satellites and ground surveillance planes, but it’s cheaper with drones. 

The American drone that monitors Ukraine every day, isn’t it a drone?

izy
izy
4 days ago
Reply to  nonsense

IF you need a $170,000 javelin missile to kill a tank, of which a single soldier can only carry 1-2, and most platoons can’t afford more than a couple, your force isn’t going to be inexpensive or infinite, though it may still be lethal and efficient. Of course, it’s also possible the tank has a Trophy-type system (which unlike the Russians one can elevate more than 20 degrees) and shoot down the Javelin’s first shot, and they takes you out with its MGs or an HE round from the main gun. Nice future tank 2050 era tank design might be… Read more »

nonsense
nonsense
2 days ago
Reply to  izy

The concentration of many resources for the tank will be an opportunity to see what the tank is for. Current tank latest faces 10M. The current trophy cannot stop Javelin. The trophy will be improved and the tank’s upper attack will be intercepted. So how about a Martlet or a Spike missile? Of course, it’s simple to speed up a missile Can the poor trophy’s radar, sensors, and controls help you defend a small missile that is approaching project tile speed? Royal Navy is trying to improve CIWS to respond to more than Mach 5-6 missiles. Can tanks be equipped… Read more »

nonsense
nonsense
2 days ago
Reply to  nonsense

project tile = projectile

Rob Smith
Rob Smith
13 days ago

The drone footage that showed the Ukrainian T64 engaging what in the old cold war days a Russian Combat Reconnaissance Patrol (CRP) it just demonstrated the lack of training and experience with the Russian Tank crews. Not only do they go static, they obviously do not inform the Vanguard Company that also drive straight into the same “killzone”, who then go static and only start manoeuvring, when the drones and Artillery start engaging. We would have been crucified in BATUS if we had performed like that against the OPFOR, the After Action Review at Range Control was brutal enough as… Read more »

stevethemanc
stevethemanc
11 days ago

I would not be jumping up and down with enthusiasm at the thought of climbing into one.

Mark B
Mark B
11 days ago

Stuart would you think it fair to say that the MBT’s the Russians are currently using would need a root and branch overhaul, if not scrapping and starting again, in order to thrive on the modern battlefield?

Clearly the modern anti-tank weapons are exploiting vulnerabilities in existing tanks. These vulnerabilities could abviously be addressed as tanks evolve however will they be able to keep pace with the evolution of anti-tank weapons?

The most controversial question is do we really need tanks in their current form?

Graham
Graham
6 days ago
Reply to  Mark B

The Russians have been using their tanks ineptly, not working in combined arms groupings and constraining them to roads where they have Ben liable to ambush. It is not news that there exists counters to tanks, there have been since 1917, however top attack weapons are particularly hard to protect against as top armour is thinner, but I am sure that the Russians will develop some sort of counter but it remains to be seen how effective it would be. Future tanks will have to be designed to defeat or mitigate top attack weapons. No AFV is invulnerable but tanks… Read more »

Larry Baker
Larry Baker
8 days ago

umm… no disrespect Mr Crawford, but a “regular officer in the Royal Tank Regiment for 20 years” telling us that the age of the tank is not over might be… just a teency bit biased? The evidence from Armenia, from Grozny and now from Ukraine strongly suggests otherwise. Would you send your son/daughter to war in a Challenger 2, or even 3? I wouldn’t. Although you list the various theoretical counter-measures against drones and ATGWs, no-one has effectively defended against them so far.

Graham
Graham
6 days ago
Reply to  Larry Baker

Larry, Chally is the best protected vehicle in the British Army. Would you send your son or daughter to War in a 4 ton truck?

steve
steve
5 days ago
Reply to  Larry Baker

Would you send you son/daughter to war in a Land Rover? Boxer? Warrior? Ajax?(if it ever gets into service), all off which have less protection than a Challenger and much less firepower. The warrior can’t even fire on the move (the Ajax could, if it was safe to move but even then it would not have the firepower to punish a modern MBT). There is nothing else on the battlefield that has the protection and direct fire capability of an MBT. The drone or loitering munition does not just threaten MBT’s, they are a threat to all systems on the… Read more »

izy
izy
4 days ago
Reply to  steve

Right. If you get rid of heavy armor, it just means the enemy can attack with even cheaper drones. E.g., a tank needs the costlier “heavy” version of the Switchblade drone. If you’re just driving about in the a landrover or afoot, the enemy could use the lightweight version – much cheaper and they can buy more of them! Of course, another key reason for heavy fully protected vehicles is that ordinary artillery with cheap airburst HE shells can slaughter forces that aren’t under armor, while a tank or IFV formation can just drive through unless the enemy have invested… Read more »

Ian
Ian
7 days ago

Thank you for your article Stuart that I’ve only just got around to. As I understand it the role of the tank is to a) take ground, and b) destroy other tanks. While the proponents of modern MBTs will often assert that the best defence against a tank is another tank (i.e. b)) I just wonder how that stacks up against the evidence (& not just modern ATGWs but the success of Stug III and M18 in WW II)? So while agree the rumours of the tank’s demise are no more than just that, I do wonder what the tank… Read more »

steve
steve
5 days ago
Reply to  Ian

Interesting and very informative video on YouTube by Bernhard Kast, Military History Visualized, ‘Tanks are obsolete, apparently since 1919’. In a nutshell, if the MBT is obsolete on the basis that it can be destroyed too easily (and the evidence from the Ukraine may not necessarily support that assertion, considering the way the Russian MBT’s have been utilized), then every truck, MICV, SPG etc. etc. must also be obsolete as they can all be taken out with greater ease than an MBT! The humble infantryman, being that he/she can be taken out by a simple rifle bullet, clearly has had… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
5 days ago
Reply to  steve

Steve, I have been saying just the same thing for years. The first anti-tank weapon was fielded by Germany in 1917 – everything on the battlefield has several counter-systems. We (UK) lost no tanks in GW1, GW2, Kosovo, Bosnia etc. As well as well-protected tanks you need to use them tactically properly. [Based on our ship losses in the Falklands, I wonder if anyone predicted the demise of the frigate or destroyer?]. I think tanks will continue to evolve – I could see the weight coming down with smarter materials and a smaller envelope, the fitting of smart protection systems… Read more »

izy
izy
4 days ago
Reply to  Ian

Well, even in WWII there were many who believed the actual role of the tank was neither to take ground nor destroy tanks (both being useful, of course) but instead that of breakthrough, i.e., to exploit its armored all-terrain mobility to find and penetrate weak points in the enemy defensive lines (which might require both armor and a good gun) then get into their rear area, and smash things up by blowing the hell out of supply trucks, artillery, etc. and panic or machine gun infantry.

Paul.P
Paul.P
3 days ago

Read an article today April 21 in Shephard Media re the Ch3 upgrade program that the full rate phase is for 203 tanks. I thought we were upgrading just 150. Did I misunderstand something?

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 day ago
Reply to  Paul.P

It has always been stated that it is 148. Shephard Media must be wrong.
Just heard today that we are gifting Poland some Chally 2s, so they can gift their spare T72s to the Ukrainian army.

nonsense
nonsense
2 days ago

don’t need tanks, don’t need armored vehicles in the future A school bus is enough.  or carry truck Drones are needed to analyze enemy information on the battlefield: location behavior, future behavior.   In war, if you have all the information of the enemy and can predict future actions, There is no need to defend anything. All you have to do is crush and defeat the blind enemies with a high-performance main gun. Is it hard to understand : spot enemies in advance from afar, and shoot them instantly from afar? if rule the battlefiled with drone eyes, can kill anything with no… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 day ago
Reply to  nonsense

What is your high-performance main gun carried on? Could I suggest a well-protected, highly mobile, tracked vehicle.

nonsense
nonsense
1 day ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

comment image

If everything is ideal: the enemy is blind and our army can destroy the enemy from a distance enough

It won’t matter if it’s a technical truck. 

What I’m saying is that we should focus on C4I and CEC, which are linked to surveillance assets and suveillance drone, rather than spending money on increasing the armour of tanks and armed vehicles by 1mm more.

drone eye, satellite eye, Istar aircraft eye whatever.

sniper doesn’t need armour, and well protected

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
23 hours ago
Reply to  nonsense

That looks like an indirect fire weapon, so artillery really. Tanks not only destroy enemy tanks but seize ground together with the infantry and deliver shock action. No sure the technical in the photo can cover all that.

nonsense
nonsense
3 minutes ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kelseyatherton/2020/05/18/farming-drone-goes-from-plowshares-to-grenade-launcher/?sh=2315046bb572 Crushing down all enemy tanks, armored vehicles and trucks, or completely neutralizing the enemy’s military base, the enemy will only have infantry left  soldiers who lost heavy weapons and surveillance assets would easily be slaughtered by cheap drones. An infantry kills an enemy and takes more than 100 bullets, compared with a grenade fired by a drone, a 40mm grenade, capable of killing at least 1 to 10 enemy soldiers. The purpose of the tank is to destroy enemy tanks and slaughter infantry. Isn’t it easy to see tanks being destroyed by foot soldiers or easily destroyed by drones… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 day ago

Just heard today (22 Apr) that we are gifting Poland some Chally 2s, so they can gift their spare T72s to the Ukrainian army.
Is it true? How many? Will we do the same with all those spare Scimitars and Warriors?