Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Stop the Light Tank Madness!

No, active protection systems (APS) are not like a "force field" and they will not replace heavy, bulky, passive armor. There are many ways to defeat APS if the vehicle is lightly protected.

This is a necessary layer to protection but the hype is nonsense:

Astonishingly futuristic new tech creates a seemingly invisible, impenetrable, protective bubble around military armored vehicles making enemy attempts to fire at U.S. tanks pretty pointless – those rounds won’t hit the tank, they’ll explode mid-air. ...

APS gives soldiers massively better protection, but without adding the weight of additional armor slowing down the vehicles’ speed and maneuverability.

The implication is that APS can replace traditional armor, making the protected vehicles faster and more maneuverable because they are light.

But APS isn't a force field. It needs an ammunition supply. Ammo that runs out.

As I noted eleven years ago, APS cannot replace armor because there is more than one way to skin a cat. What if we replace armor with APS?

With bulky passive armor, you can just take the hit and keep going. Even with just some armor, you can afford to take some smaller weapon hits and so minimize the number of times you have to fire off the APS with friendlies or civilians nearby to nail the incoming stuff that can kill you.

So we are probably going to have vehicles that can take heavy machine gun fire passively and knock down incoming HEAT rounds from missiles and RPGs and high velocity tank shells.

The problem is, what if an enemy fires something too heavy to be stopped by the passive armor yet too numerous to be stopped by limited APS capacity?

What if the enemy uses 30mm chain guns firing high velocity rounds to spray the FCS with penetrating ammo? With no heavy Abrams-like armor to defeat, why would an enemy bother with 125mm cannons?

Heck, why couldn't you use a carrier round for the big cannons that detects the target as the round approaches and releases dozens of submunitions outside the range of the APS that blanket the FCS and overwhelm the APS while still packing a punch to penetrate the thin legacy armor?

Or maybe enemy infantry just fires RPGs in volleys.

Or perhaps the enemy just goes for mission kills by using weapons that only aim to shred the tracks or wheels, or knock out the vehicle's sensors, defanging the target for the duration of the battle.

I'm seriously worried about the survivability of light vehicles against enemy heavy armor equipped with APS, too.

APS is a vital new layer of defense but it does not replace heavy traditional armor. So just stop this nonsense that gave us the Future Combat Systems (FCS) at the turn of the century (see pp. 28-33).

Come back to me when we have an actual force field.

UPDATE: We are updating 135 Abrams tanks to the latest standard per year. That's enough to upgrade 1.5 heavy brigades per year. We have 10 active and 5 National Guard heavy brigades.

This is higher than before but is not major production. Clearly, a lot of our heavy brigades won't have the latest Abrams for quite some time. Let alone giving the Army the option of giving infantry brigades the latest Abrams, if the Army chooses to do so.