Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Let's Not Pretend 30mm is a Huge Deal

I'm all for upgunning our Europe-based Stryker infantry carriers from (usually) 12.7mm machine guns to 30mm auto cannons to have a better chance in a mechanized fight, but let's not get silly about this necessary but insufficient move.

Oh, please:

A “Stryker’s not a tank, but if you go from a 20mm to a 30mm it will enable us to be a lot more effective if we ever did have a kinetic engagement,” Hodges said.

The Army plans for General Dynamics Corp. to integrate 30mm cannons from Orbital ATK Inc. into unmanned “Protector” turrets built by Kongsberg Gruppen ASA of Norway. General Dynamics will first build eight test vehicles.

“The 30mm is a big deal,” Jim Hasik, a senior defense fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said in an e-mail. “I frankly used to doubt that, but I’ve had enough armored infantrymen tell me otherwise” because the weapon in close terrain “can hold off heavy tanks by damaging their sensors, weapons, running gear.”

That American general is right, changing the upgrade to a 30mm weapon instead of a 20mm weapon upgrade [Note: although I thought it was a 25mm upgrade like we have on our Bradleys] is very helpful. But let's not oversell this. I'm not sure what Hasik is thinking.

Nobody in their right mind wants to go up against 125mm gun-armed main battle tanks with 30mm guns on lightly armored wheeled vehicles (although that is more sane than trying it with machine guns).

Sure, the small cannon could smash up sensors, gun tubes, and running gear if the gun battle gets that close. But the 125mm rounds will slice through Strykers--and keep going.

And close terrain that denies the Russian tanks long fields of fire to kill Strykers without getting into 30mm damage range is not what I'd count on in eastern Europe.

The 30mm really just means that the Stryker can tear apart infantry fighting vehicles and scout vehicles.

If the Stryker is to take on the big tanks--unless we assume absolute aerial supremacy to let air power take the job--the Stryker will need anti-tank missiles added to them in addition to the 30mm.

And as I've said before, if you want a quick increase in Stryker brigade anti-tank power, add a tank battalion to the brigade.

Heck, up-gun the Strykers and add the tanks and you are getting close to recreating the old armored cavalry regiments that our Army is probably missing a lot right about now.

And if there was the money, I'd upgrade all the Stryker brigades and not just the Europe-based brigade.

And while I'm at it, rotating more Army troops into Europe as the article discusses is a nice short-term measure; but in the long run we should have the leading edge of a corps there.