Friday, May 05, 2017

Keep the Tanks Moving

Maybe the best way to support Abrams main battle tanks on the move is an Abrams tank fighting vehicle (TFW) that carries a couple infantry dismounts but relies on reachback technology to man remote weapon stations (RWS) on such an Abrams fighting vehicle to support the Abrams tanks.

I ran across an article that I had saved for "Reachback for the Squad." It was perfect for my premise.

The article includes this lesson from the Russia-Ukraine War:

Light infantry fighting vehicles, which prioritize mobility and firepower over survivability, are vulnerable to anti-tank weapons, medium-caliber (30 mm) automatic cannons mounted on other light armored vehicles, artillery submunitions and thermobaric warheads. When hit, infantry fighting vehicles tend to suffer catastrophic damage, killing or severely burning everyone on board. Since troop losses are so high, soldiers prefer riding on top of the vehicles, and assaults are conducted with dismounted rather than mounted infantry. As a result, tank attacks are less effective because they no longer have accompanying mechanized infantry with equal mobility to protect them from other infantry.

One of the authors is Doctor Karber, featured in this post's video that put the fear of God Artillery in me.

Three years ago, when I pondered the notion I set forth in "Reachback for the Squad," I did address the protection issue and suggested that using our excess Abrams tanks and modifying them to carry infantry and remote weapons stations might provide attacking heavy armor the fire support against infantry that the tanks need to survive.

In that post I suggested using mounted soldiers manning the RWS, with reachback over a battlefield internet used only to operate the weapons when the passenger soldiers dismount. But after my evolution in thinking shown in my article, why not have the RWS manned only by reachback, requiring just a couple infantry dismounts as passengers?

Obviously, the few dismounts advancing with the heavy armor would not be able to engage in much combat. They'd essentially be forward observers to call in fires missions. And they could reload onboard weapons (machine guns, anti-tank missiles, etc.) fired by soldiers to the rear via the battlefield internet.

But as I quoted in the Infantry magazine article, the armored attack grinds to a halt when you "drop the rear slab" and dismount the infantry (and Karber and Thibeault note this in that quote above). So ideally the infantry (whether 2 or 9) stays mounted--or is even absent for the moving to contact (or pursuit) part of the mission completely, relying on reachback for operating the RWS only--as I suggested in the article.

I would like to see how infantry support in a heavy brigade using Abrams tank fighting vehicles (TFV to avoid the acronym AFV which stands for armored fighting vehicle) works at the National Training Center against our OPFOR, which is the best Russian-style combat unit in the world for fast tempo combat operations.