Thursday, February 22, 2018

Fragile, Handle With Care

German Army Leopard II tank
(Source)
It may seem counter-intuitive to refer to a tank as being something "fragile," which needs to be handled with care, but they can be. As the Turkish Army is finding out in Syria. LL has ongoing coverage of that fight, here, here, and here.

The Turks use the Leopard II and apparently the Kurds are eating their lunch. So badly that the Turks are asking the Germans to provide them upgrades to their existing vehicles. Which I got from a YouTube video which the daily timewaster had posted. (I would reproduce that here, but give my buddy c w the traffic, he helped us get going back in the day.)

Back in the day I got a hold of a couple of U.S. Army pamphlets which they were considering publishing. They were in cartoon format but were very useful and easy to follow. One of the pamphlets was how to kill a tank.

"Duh, Sarge. Use another, better tank."

"Heh, I'd use an A-10, slag that mother."

Well, thanks guys but I'm a simple gravel-agitator, a grunt*, all I've got is my rifle and maybe some grenades. But hey, the good news is that we're either in the woods or in an urban environment. Second bit of good news is that our opponent has barged on in with no infantry to support him.

While a tank seems all protective and cool, have you ever been inside one? In the summer you're riding in an oven, in the winter it's an icebox, and it's noisy and smells bad. All that fuel, ammo, oh yeah, and your unwashed buddies who share the tank with you.

What's worse, if you have the hatches closed, you can't see squat.

"Duh, Sarge, open the hatches!"

"BANG! SPLAT!"

"What the Hell was that?"

"Uh that was PFC Schmuckatelli shooting at you with his rifle."

"Okay,  that explains the BANG part. What about the SPLAT?"

"Uh, that was the round from Schmuckatelli's rifle going through your punkin head stinking out of that open hatch."

"Oh, guess I better close the hatch. But I've still got all this armor around me, I'm good."

"GRIND, SNAP, RATTLE, RATTLE, RATTLE!"

"What the Hell was that?"

"Schmuckatelli's buddy jammed some rebar steel (or a good sized tree limb) under your track, that noise was it coming off the rollers. Hey, you can still drive in circles!"

What happens next is like those old WWII movies with guys shooting through your vision ports, jerking your hatches open and tossing grenades in. A blinded, immobilized tank may not be as defenseless as a newborn kitten, but damn close.

Give the infantry rocket launchers and the like and pretty soon the tankers in your army are having a really bad day and are bellowing for infantry to come up and get them out of the jam they blundered into.


In other news, also in Syria, apparently some Russian mercenaries, contractors, volunteers or what-have-you (in battalion strength and looking for a fight), decided to cross the Euphrates River. Which a bunch of people told them was a bad idea. They found their fight. Not so many got to walk away though.

The Good Captain over at HMS Defiant covers that here. Go read.

For the historically savvy amongst you, his title comes from a like-named battle in WWII in the Pacific. Anyone care to guess?

Lesson 2 is: the U.S. military still knows how to kick ass and take names.

Lesson 1? Don't mess with the Kurds.

(Source)
Male or female.






* gravel-agitator, grunt - both terms of "endearment" to describe an 11-Bravo, er, I mean infantryman.

68 comments:

  1. Tanks for the post.

    Paul L. Quandt

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  2. An RPG to the rear drive cog will kill it's mobility. The side armor is the weakest and a series of RPG strikes can pick it apart.

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    1. Yup, an unsupported tank against well-trained and motivated infantry is fairly easy meat. A mobility kill works for me!

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    2. It is amazing that the German made tank doesn't have urban upgrades, oh, like, you know, Schürzen, to help protect against those silly RPGs.

      What a concept. It's like it's never been done before, ever.

      Not by, well, the British in WWI, Everyone in WWII, the Israelis since 1948, The US since entering the Middle East.

      Gosh. What a novel concept. Hang additional armor made out of whatever the hell you have to protect your big fat unarmored ex-teutonic ASS!

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Dumbasses.

      And brilliant tactics there, Turkmenorommel. Tanks support Infantry, Infantry support Tanks. Again, since the beginning of cavalry tactics starting when Ug rode on Urg's shoulders in the good old stone throwing days, Cavalry has most always croaked against Infantry unless Infantry supported Cavalry.

      Gee. There's these strange things call 'books' about 'history' and 'tactics' that point out this very thing.

      Dumbasses. Good dumbasses. The Turks have been needing a sharp reminder that their great empire was long ago and far away. That's what happens when you start having religious services in the Hagia Sophia of the not-Christian variety. Bastards.

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    3. Yeah, a mobility kill works, right up until that turret swings in your direction.

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    4. Andrew - Turkmenorommel, love it. Let's see, what else works? Spare track, logs, sand bags, railroad ties, etc., etc.

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    5. Tuna - Get close and unless they pop the hatch, they can't see you.

      But yeah, the getting close bit can be dicey!

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    6. I remember reading, I think, in Liddell Hart's "The Longest Day" about a German tank, fuzzily I think it might have been a Tiger I, that had spaced armor, and they kept all their extra kit in the space made by the standoff of the skirts hooked to the turret. Mattresses, especially. Something about getting hit and one of the mattresses caught on fire, so they played possum (with smoke coming from their tank,) and then ambushed a Brit unit. Sounds like something Michael Wittmann might have done.

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    7. That would have been a Pzkw IV, the Tiger didn't need spaced armor but lots of IVs had it.

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    8. In Vietnam when infantry wasn't available, US tanks learned to cover one another and back-scratch enemy troops off each other. Back scratching here involves machineguns and use of flechette rounds fired from the 90mm main gun.

      - Long time lurker

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    9. I like that during WWII, GIs called schurzen, "bazooka pants".

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  3. Read Mr. Ringos synopsis over at arfcom where a few debated the validity of it, apparently he has a number of various unofficial sources he gets info from. Have read several of his books, liked The Black Tide Rising series for sheer escape but wish he would FINISH a series....lol. Good to see the gloves off for the US military and not let JAG or political dictates handcuff field commanders.

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    1. When we take the gloves off, the enemy doesn't stand a chance.

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    2. John Ringo. Yes! I have read all of his books and I agree that he just leaves things hanging.
      I had followed the link to John Ringo's facebook post from Peter Grant's website yesterday.


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    3. I'm finding John Ringo's synopsis all over the Intertubes today.

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  4. I have always loved the story, which may, or may not, be true, that the Russians during the Great Patriotic War trained dogs to run under tanks wearing explosive filled packs with some kind of a proximity fuse. So when the big tank battle against the Nazis came the Russkies unleashed the dogs from hell. Unfortunately, no one had thought of the fact that they had trained the dogs using Russian tanks and when unleashed the dogs promptly ran under the nearest T-34.

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    1. That's a favorite story of mine as well.

      Well, except for what happened to the dogs.

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    2. It is, unfortunately, a true story. But the Soviets found a creature that would run under a tank and blow it up. They called them Political Prisoners, as in "Run under the tank and blow it up or we'll shoot your family."

      Not a nice people before being invaded by the Nazis.

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    3. The Japanese had guys who volunteered to do that. Yup. Volunteered.

      In Soviet Union you got "voluntold."

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  5. Must disagree with you about tanks. Like any tool, it depends on the person(s) using it. Ask the survivors of Hussain's Republican Guard. Terrain defines tactics. Incompetent commanders will get it wrong, every time IMO.

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    1. Well disagreement is allowed, nay, encouraged. You're absolutely right about the tool thing and the people using it. Still and all, tanks can be defeated by grunts. Early in WWII infantrymen were terrified of tanks, they weren't that common. Once they'd been trained to deal with them, they weren't so scary anymore. You can't take them lightly no, but they can be dealt with. And of course terrain defines tactics.

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  6. The Kurds are field testing the Leopard 2 against the US made The FGM-148 Javelin. Now if the Turks, who have recently re-discovered their radical Islamic past swallowed their pride and bought the Trophy anti-missile system from the Jews in Israel, they may not have been quite so humiliated. Sultan Erdogan's armored host protected from Kurds by Jews...ironic in the extreme, and we know that the Israelis don't have any intention of seeing him advanced technology. It's so much more fun to watch Kurdish dismounted infantry thump his armor.

    Tanks work very well against infantry that don't have anti-tank rockets, or air superiority, or anti-tank mines, best send the infantry in first to clear those mines. Once the way is clear, enemy aircraft have been swept from the sky, the enemy infantry has been rooted out and the mines are cleared, send in that armor.

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    1. One caveat is that armor vs armor battles (Kursk comes to mind as does WSF's comment about Iraq) have decided campaigns in the past. However the hull-count in Iraq was decided as much by Warthogs and AH-64's as by armor.

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    2. The Turks and their rediscovered radical Islamic past swallowing their pride? Would have been fun to see the Israelis tell them not just "No," but "Hell no!"

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    3. Tanks without supporting infantry can be dealt with in built up areas and close terrain, not easy but doable. Like you said the other day, it's all about combined arms and having the right balance.

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    4. Tanks are great at 'run and gun,' especially against other tanks, or Infantry in an open field. Think of the Cavalry maneuver called the Caracole, where the fast mover runs in, shoots the target in the face and bugs out.

      Tanks in the open are no-Bueno against fixed positions or the fixed-fluid environment of the urban battlefield unless they are modified and supported in depth by at least anti-infantry vehicles or by infantry.

      73 Easting is an epic example of Tank vs Tank in run-and-gun warfare.

      The successes of anything with wheels on it to capture Iraqis during the first Gulf War was more a function of the incredible pre-invasion air campaign which cut off supplies, killed lots of people around radio vehicles and just frucked stuff up, AND the overall mental condition of the average Iraqi Achmed. There were quite a few really tough and nasty infantry units, but after a MOAB or two, well, having your lung tissue sucked out of your mouth is a rather nasty way to pass the message to your fellow soldiers. Bleh, enough said.

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    5. Yes, air supremacy is very nice. Hell, Iraqis were surrendering to helos! Slicks, not guns.

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    6. An Iraqi unit surrendered to The Big Badger Boat's Mastiff drone, because they had seen what 16"/50 rounds could do.

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    7. I did not know that. Pretty cool.

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  7. Towards the end of the war in the European theater, boys armed with Panzerfaust were reeking havoc on our tanks.

    Where these mercenaries crossing into Iraq?

    I’ll have to look at a map.

    You have to read these little blurbs on Facebook with a grain of salt, but there was one “news article“ that said 2000 of our M1 Abrams tanks we’re just sitting in the desert because they had flat bottoms, and they learned that the enemy IED‘s would make easy work of them From their exposed underside.

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    1. Armor is heavy, you can't armor the entire vehicle in a completely uniform way. The thing would weigh too much. So you concentrate the armor on the areas you deem most vulnerable. For tank vs tank, the front of the vehicle is more heavily armored, back and sides not as much, top and bottom hardly at all.

      But as the threat changes you modify your vehicles. Spaced armor to defeat shaped charges, or reactive armor to defeat missiles. But there will still be vulnerable spots.

      One doesn't send tanks into a minefield, so you have to be proactive against IEDs as well. Warfare has always been and will always be measure then counter-measure. If we really have 2,000 M1s sitting in the desert, someone needs to get fired. But it's probably not because they have "flat bottoms." (What shape should it have?)

      I usually take those Facebook blurbs with entire bags of salt. ;)

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    2. The thin armor on top/bottom was why the AGM-65 Maverick did a pitch up immediately after launch to improve the impact angle and minimize impacting the front armor. That pitch up can cause a little consternation if not expected. Launching from the inside pylon of an F-4, the missile flies up into the pilot's peripheral vision before it passes the nose of the aircraft. Ask me how I know.

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    3. Towards the end of the war Armored assets were told not to stick their fat noses in places without infantry support, especially because behind every wall or bush lurked a panzerfaust or command detonated mine or a fougasse or an anti-tank gun or some other field expedient weapon. Just wrecking the tracks was good enough to stop an assault in some areas.

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    4. Juvat - was that the same flight in which the hood of the pickup truck came after you?

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    5. Andrew - It takes balls to get in close to kill a tank in a built up area. Kurds and Germans have them. (In the case of the Kurds, even the ladies have 'em.)

      The Germans had an award (which anti-tank units were not eligible for) sometimes called the Panzervernichtungsabzeichen or Tank Destruction Badge:

      The Tank Destruction Badge (Sonderabzeichen für das Niederkämpfen von Panzerkampfwagen durch Einzelkämpfer) was a World War II German military decoration awarded to individuals of the Wehrmacht who had single-handedly destroyed an enemy tank or an armored combat vehicle using a hand-held weapon. Anti-tank units were ineligible for this award. It was established on 9 March 1942, but could be awarded for actions dating back to 22 June 1941 (the start of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union). (From Wikipedia)

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    6. Uh....Yes it was. The pitch up was the catalyst for a slew of unfortunate decisions regarding post attack procedures. Target fixation being the biggest of them.

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    7. Heh, that post has been one of my favorites for quite some time.

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    8. Oh, yeah, Tank Destruction Badge. Proof once again that Tanks love wide open spaces. Confined areas with lots of cover, not so much.

      A friend of mine who collects German WWII stuff has a display of about 15 TDBs. Surprising how many survived hand-to-tank combat.

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    9. The German soldat has always been good at "war stuff."

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    10. As to the flat bottomed M1s, there are 'in theater' mods available, and as the tanks are brought back stateside the hull is supposed to be being modified to a shallow v shape to aid in blast mitigation.

      The weight of the M1 has been creeping up and up over the years. Especially the latest, greatest version designed for the semi-urban environment, before you add supplemental mine rollers and additional crap.

      Can't wait to see if they'll try to fit the new 130mm Rheinmetal gun into an Abrams turret.

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    11. Now that would be a sight to see!

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  8. All I can say about the epic fisking of the Russkies and their allies was it could have been worse. They could have sent 1 cargo plane.

    I do believe that Mattis just wanted to demonstrate what he could do with all his non-stealth assets. Weeeee, we can ground you into dogpaste without using the B-1, B-2, F-22, F-35, orbit-to-earth weapons and all the really 'fun' stuff.

    You know the BUFFs themselves were smiling, let alone the aircrews....

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    1. I think my spam filter is colluding with the Russians. I had to pull your comment out of there.

      Hey Blogger, word to the wise, Andrew's on our side.

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  9. Whoa! Thanks for the link and super kind words! You made my day!

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    1. Thanks c w. You deserve the accolades.

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  10. Thanks for not one but two links! I can feel the love. :)
    I could sum up tanks from an old Willy and Joe cartoon.
    I'd rather dig. A moving foxhole attracts th' eye.

    He had a masters touch with war cartoons.

    If you haven't read John Ringo's, Last Centurion, I recommend it. There at end of the beginning, his protagonists are using Javelins against Turks in Leapard tanks.

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    1. I stand on the shoulders of giants, of which you are one, don't blush, I mean it.

      Bill Mauldin knew his topic.

      Yes, I need to get to that book.

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  11. Oh....and regarding the challenge....The Great Mariana's Turkey Shoot?

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    1. Just realized, one shouldn't say "bingo" to a pilot...

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    2. Yes, Joker is a much more favorable word. BC, Joker means "Hey boss, if we leave right now, we can make it home without our blood pressure reaching the low 200's". Bingo means, leave now and we might not flame out before landing.

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  12. Hard to spot the mistletoe on that first picture, Sarge!

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    1. Then there's the random, half denuded branch over the engine deck. Yeah, fooled me!

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  13. I had a model kit of a Leopard I, and I always thought it was a good-looking tank. Leopard II just looks like an Abrams with a smushed turret.

    Are the Germans unimaginative with cat names for MBTs, or something? Sort of like how the Tiger I and Tiger II are different beasties, Leo I and Leo II are unrelated...


    (Psst, the US had four different "Patton" tanks... Shush, you!)

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    1. Heh, smushed turret.

      Well, when it's a cool name, you reuse it!

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    2. Want to see something really fugly, google the Leopard 3 (which Germany has admitted they don't have the cash to pay for.)

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  14. Now that we discussed the Turks lack of 'Full Rommel' in Syria... (Okay, you just can't stop laughing at both the Turks and the Russians getting totally fisked by their enemies lately. All that bad press for Putin must have put a shirt-eating grin on our President's face. Hahaha)

    Okay, breath, collect thoughts...

    Hey, did you read about Merkel's Fearless Air Warriors not being able to fly their planes because bio-av gas has a crippling effect on their aircraft engines?

    So, Merkel's subs are all harbor queens, their surface ships, especially the new ones, are either falling apart or unacceptable to the Navy, their tanks are crap (unless totally upgraded. And the Poles have more Leopards than the Krauts. Something wrong or right with that. And the Leopards that the Germans are shooting their barrels out because they have to use a L55 barrel (instead of the L44 barrel in the Abrams) to make up the penetration difference in not being able to shoot depleted uranium.) Their military rifles are a national scandal. And now their fly-boys are grounded because of bad gas.

    Man, the hits just keep on coming, don't they?

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    1. Yeah, Merkel's act ain't working out so well.

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    2. I suppose that depends on whether your native language is Polish or Russian....

      And, keep in mind the last time German arms were so low and dragged in the dirt. There was a firebrand who blamed it all on the politicians if IRRC.

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    3. Well, in defense of that little evil corporal, he was mostly right, about the politicians, screwing up. Even a broke (analog) watch is right at least once a day.

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    4. I'm glad you specified analog, but wouldn't that be twice a day?

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    5. Some analog watches are 24hour units. Even back in WWII. Seriously. Talk about wicked complex, really supersmall cogs and stuff.

      And then there's that whole 'lose an hour, gain an hour' stuff, so theoretically, a standard 12 hour watch that is broken can be right once, twice or three times a day depending on what day it is. Kinda warps your mind, doesn't it?

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    6. He said as daylight savings time approaches...

      😁

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)