Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Escape the Light Tank Fantasy World

The arguments for light tanks to reinforce Army infantry brigades will get our infantry brigades destroyed.

Oh come on:

The US Army is now evaluating plans to build prototypes of a new highly-deployable lightweight Mobile Protected Firepower armored vehicle expected to change land war by bringing a new mission options to advancing infantry as it maneuvers toward enemy attack – and outmatching Russian equivalents. [emphasis added]

The Army thinks it is important to outmatch Russian equivalents of the proposed light tank? Seriously?

Apparently so:

Senior Army leaders have been clear that the emerging Army vehicle will be designed as a light vehicle, yet one with much greater levels of protection than the Russian equivalent.[emphasis added]

This is insane! In what fantasy world are the Russians so cooperative that they send their light infantry backed by outmatched light tanks to face our infantry and superior light tanks?

This attitude that elevates future magical light tanks over our existing and proven heavy tanks is seriously a problem:

Current Abrams tanks, while armed with 120mm cannons and fortified by heavy armor, are challenged to support infantry in some scenarios due to weight and mobility constraints. [emphasis added]

What scenarios are Abrams tanks unable to support infantry brigades? Name them! This excuse for refusing to use the Abrams is insane. Unless we plan to airlift infantry brigades having a small number of light tanks that can be carried by Air Force transport planes in order to fight other infantry brigades, what is the point?

Good luck getting the Air Force to scrape up the airlift for that light tank-reinforced infantry brigade. And if the Air Force can do that, the Army better not need a second such brigade to win. Because in the amazing situation where there is enough airlift to move a single brigade, I guarantee there won't be enough for a second brigade.

As I argued in my article in the April 2018 issue of Army ("Look to Abrams Tanks to Support the Infantry," pp. 42-45--sorry, not online), the Army should attach tank companies or battalions (or tank-mechanized teams or task forces) to infantry brigades to give them a chance to survive a mechanized fight.

Because I don't know what obscure niche scenarios the Army has in mind for these light tank-equipped infantry brigades, but I think the most worrisome conventional land war scenario we will face is massed Russian heavy brigades storming through the Baltic states heading to link up with Russia's Kaliningrad exclave.

If we throw infantry brigades with light tanks designed to outmatch Russian light tanks into that fight, those infantry brigades will be slaughtered and likely nothing more than a speed bump.

Give our infantry brigades intended for high intensity combat the Abrams tanks and/or Bradley Fighting Vehicles they need to slug it out with Russian tanks.

If we really need lighter anti-tank power for infantry brigades in "some scenarios" that require airlift or movement across light bridges where Abrams can't go,rather than build a light tank for that niche requirement the Army should put anti-tank missiles on Stryker hulls the way the Army put TOW missiles on M-113s and HMMWVs during the Cold War.

Stop pretending we can build a freaking wonder tank powerful enough to destroy enemy armor, protected enough to endure enemy fire, and light enough to airlift two on a C-17.

I'm seriously getting annoyed with that nonsense. Use the Abrams tanks that we have an abundance of outside of our force structure.