Wednesday, February 27, 2019

What Makes a Good Tank?

M4A4 Cutaway: 1 – Lifting ring, 2 – Ventilator, 3 – Turret hatch, 4 – Periscope, 5 – Turret hatch race, 6 – Turret seat, 7 – Gunner's seat, 8 – Turret seat, 9 – Turret, 10 – Air cleaner, 11 – Radiator filler cover, 12 – Air cleaner manifold, 13 – Power unit, 14 – Exhaust pipe, 15 – Track idler, 16 – Single water pump, 17 – Radiator, 18 – Generator, 19 – Rear propeller shaft, 20 – Turret basket, 21 – Slip ring, 22 – Front propeller shaft, 23 – Suspension bogie, 24 – Transmission, 25 – Main drive sprocket, 26 – Driver's seat, 27 – Machine gunner's seat, 28 – 75 mm gun, 29 – Drivers hatch, 30 – M1919A4 machine gun.
(Source)
I know, I know, probably some of you are groaning already, "Sarge, really? Another tank post?"

Yup, I like tanks, a lot. (Seems I've mentioned that a time or two over the past couple of weeks.) While I won't say that this is "Tank Week," it could turn out that way. Because, again, I like tanks.

But I know some of you (I'm looking at you Beans, probably Paul as well) would like to chime in on what makes a good tank. I was going to do a "good tank, bad tank" sort of post, but the research on those takes a while, I mean there's reading, there's comparative studies, field testing, and the like to write a really authoritative "good tank, bad tank" post. As I have a job which pays the bills and keeps The Missus Herself happy (mostly by keeping me busy most of the day, and the week for that matter), I can't research and post stuff all the live-long day. (To quote an old railroad song...)

Before going further, just what is a tank, or armored fighting vehicle, if you prefer? Well, a tank:
  1. has a turret capable of movement through a 360° arc.
  2. has a cannon mounted in the turret. The Swedish S-Tank notwithstanding, more formally known as the Stridsvagn 103, a superb design for use in Swedish terrain, it's lack of a turret makes it, in my book, a tank destroyer, rather than a true tank. For those who need to know such things, stridsvagn is Swedish for "fighting vehicle."
  3. is (duh) armored. Not just covered in steel, armor is a special kind of steel. The M-1 Abrams is wrapped in what is called Chobham armor, which is, simply put, a composite of different materials, including ceramics, steel, and other stuff which is classified. Not even your beloved Sarge knows what's in it, you can read more about that here. Should you enjoy that sort of thing.
  4. runs on tracks. Rather like you'd see on a bulldozer. Why? Tracks are very good on rough ground, a tracked vehicle can go places a wheeled vehicle has trouble with. (No doubt I'll get an argument from Beans on that, he so loves his armored cars.)
  5. carries a crew used solely to operate the vehicle and fire the main gun. It doesn't carry infantry, while the M-2 Bradley might look like a tank. It ain't a tank.
Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle
Looks kinda like a tank, is not a tank.
So what should one look for in a tank? (Should you decide to motor on down to the used tank lot this weekend, these tips might help.)

The "big five," as I like to call them are:
  1. Firepower,
  2. Mobility,
  3. Protection,
  4. Maintainability, and
  5. Usability.
Firepower isn't just how big the cannon in the beast is, but also how effective the cannon and its accompanying optics and support equipment are. It also takes into account the muzzle velocity of the ammunition it fires, primarily armor-piercing but you want some high explosive stuff as well to discomfit enemy infantry and soft vehicles, as in trucks and cars. A general rule of thumb is that faster is better. Remember your high school physics classes?
kinetic energy (K.E.) = 1/2 times the mass times the velocity squared
The kinetic energy is how hard you punch the target (enemy tank). The mass in this case is the mass of the projectile being fired at the target (heavy is good, dense is really good, you can get a heavier projectile which is smaller in size, so you can carry more of them, for one thing), The velocity in this case is the muzzle velocity mentioned above, how fast the projectile leaves the barrel of the gun. (Think in terms of thousands of feet per second.)

How hard you can hit and from how far away makes for a very dangerous tank. The optics are important, if you can't see a target at longer ranges, your gun, no matter how powerful, isn't as useful.

Support equipment in modern tanks can mean the computers and software used to aim and fire the cannon. But in all tanks it's also how much you can raise and lower the main gun, how fast you can turn that turret. How much ammunition is carried for that big gun (and how and where it is stowed in the tank) is also what I would call support equipment. Remember that main gun is the whole reason for the tank's existence. (Which is also partly why the Bradley isn't a tank, the gun is far too small. Though very effective for its intended purpose.)

Mobility is important because you want to be able to move quickly over rough terrain. Roads are nice but the enemy doesn't stick to the roads, neither should your tanks. How good the tracks and their associated running gear on a tank are is an important consideration. Will the tracks break or fall off in a turn? How long will they last before having to be replaced? If something breaks, how quickly can the crew fix them? Oh wait, I've wandered into #4. We'll get to that. Also how good is the engine that drives those tracks? Does it guzzle fuel like a drunken sailor? (What do we do with those?) How far can it travel on a single tank of fuel? (While tanks aren't meant to travel long distances, they do tend to cover a lot of ground in battle. You don't want to "run out of gas" at noon when the fight lasts until suppertime.)

Protection means armor. It can't be thick everywhere otherwise the tank is going to be very heavy and the engine would need to be really, really powerful. Powerful engines drink a lot of fuel and take up a lot of space. So you put the armor on places it is most needed, like on the front of the tank, the part facing the enemy. Yes, yes, the enemy will get on your flank from time to time, he'll get behind you, and (heaven forbid) he'll be above you at times. (If you're really unlucky, he'll be in an A-10. Seventy years ago he would have been in a Ju-87, P-47, or Il-2 Sturmovik, all of which will be the subject of a future post. Think near future. Hhmm, maybe it is Tank Week.)

You need to protect the crew first and foremost, I mean they're the ones who operate the tank, a tank with no crew is just a big expensive "piece of steel," more or less. You also need to protect the engine, and that big cannon, and the other stuff inside the tank. You can use thinner armor if you angle the plates, which increases the relative thickness of the armor.

Par exemple -


For an armor plate of given thickness, increasing the slope increases the relative thickness. As shown here.
(Source)
Maintainability is another important factor in what makes a good tank, and I mean maintainability in the field, by the crew. If they can't fix their tank when it breaks (and trust me, it will break) then you need to haul it back to a maintenance shop, often well in the rear. The crews need to be able to fix things on their vehicle with what they have on hand. Which is why you see all sorts of stuff carried on the outside of a tank: crowbars, jacks, shovels, spare bits of track, and other things to keep the beast running.

Usability means many things to me. Is the interior of the tank well designed? Are the crew members comfortable, are the things they need to do their jobs readily to hand? How hard is it to operate the tank, as in driving it, commanding it, loading the main gun, and firing that main gun. A well-armored, big gunned, fast tank, which is easy to maintain isn't worth all that much if the crew finds it hard to operate.

Maybe the steering is really hard, maybe the driver's visibility sucks. Maybe the gun has a tendency to injure the guys loading and firing it. Maybe the commander has to do more than command the tank. (Here I'm thinking of some of the early tanks in WWII where the commander had to load, aim, and fire the gun, while also telling the driver where to go.) Not good. Maybe the commander can't see squat when his hatch is closed, which is often necessary when enemy infantry is about, nothing they like better than shooting tank commanders!

Another thing about usability is how easy is it to get out of the tank when the crew has experienced what Major Moran likes to call the "significant emotional event" of having the skin of one's tank pierced by an enemy projectile. In other words, "Oh my God, the tank is on fire!" Important for crew morale, believe me!

Let's have Major Moran cover that for a few WWII tanks -



Yeah, if you can't get out of a burning tank, you know it, you've seen it happen to other crews...

You might be a bit reluctant to be a tanker, the infantry is looking better and better. (Or you could have joined the Air Force!)

In many respects, in fact in most respects, the M4 Sherman was a very good tank. Credit where credit is due and damn it, it got the job done. (Hell, even the Soviets loved 'em!)

Anyhoo, that's what I look for in a tank. You may have other criteria, which I hope you'll contribute in the comments. To wrap up, here's an interesting video of someone's "top ten" tanks of World War II. Yes, they left some out, everyone discounts the French tanks, some of them were very good, better than what the Germans had for that matter. Thing is, their pre-war doctrine (the way one uses a tank) sucked and while they were fixing that...

Hey, here come the Germans.

And yes, the computer voice in the video is very annoying at times, there are a couple of errors as well (can you spot them?), but hey, tanks!



Your turn.



94 comments:

  1. I think growing up in the steppes of the high plains in West Texas (which I always thought would be amazing tank country), stunted my ability to cope with being cooped up. Twisting, tight passages, floor joists too close to the ground (compressing your chest to wallow around under the house.... brrrr....) MRI tubes, tanks, subs, etc.... I get a bit.... touchy.

    Illustrated thusly: https://youtu.be/2mbhmqh0O2Q?t=4m39s

    I grew up with stars from horizon to horizon, nothing could sneak up on you out there, and a steel sardine tin isn't on my list of fun stuff. I tried out a Ferret scout car once... Hooo boy.... Thank you, NO.

    Tanks look cool, but "Ronsons" anyone?? Zippos? Tommy Cookers?

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    1. I get that, but I don't really get claustrophobic. In fact, wide open spaces used to make me a little antsy, having grown up in the forests of the Northeast, until I spent time on the Plains out in Nebraska.

      Yes, a fear of burning to death would be a deterrent for potential tank crewmen.

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    2. Shermans got a bad rap from a bad production series that was shipped to the British, issue found, fixed in field and in production.

      The bad rap was repeated by some bad historians and we have the American version of 'Polish cavalry attacks German tanks.' A big lie, but everyone knows it, right?

      And Shermans couldn't defeat kraut armor, right? Well, in the field we'd shoot up captured tanks and found that actually German armor kinda sucked, tended to spall when hit, and in many places the Sherm, even the 75mm standard gun, would penetrate all but the thickest armor. Put that into "We send out a platoon (4-5) tanks to take out 1 German, and... well, actually we'd use the tanks to spot the German, and call in artillery or air strike...

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    3. We loved calling in artillery, the Germans viewed that as "unsporting." Yeah, foxtrot that sierra. As Al Davis was wont to say, "Just win baby!"

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  2. ”What Makes a Good Tank?”

    At the risk of being obvious, a blown off turret?

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  3. The Sexton SP (Sherman hull,open cockpit with British 25pdr qf gun) was a potent wee beastie.

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    1. Yes, it was. I believe the Portuguese had some in service up until the 1980s.

      (Not to be confused with the Priest SP, also built on the Sherman hull. The Priest used an American 105 mm gun.)

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    2. Though the 25pdr was good, I much prefer the US 105mm howitzer. About the same rate of fire, more bang for your buck, and a really nice HEAT round.

      Plus, well, 'Murica!!!

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    3. The Brits had the Priest in North Africa. The 105 mm was not in their TO&E so they had trouble keeping the guns supplied. Mount a 25 lb gun, problem solved. And reborn as the Sexton.

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    4. The M-7 Priest was good in US service. An excellent weapon for an excellent army.

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    5. Well, we had the right ammo, didn't we?

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  4. Great post. I enjoyed the videos. Sexy talking girl, she was.
    How tall is the fellow who gives us these tours? I think, again, that the folks operating these things would have been slighter in build.
    What about a modern (less than 10 years old) tank? Would it have larger ports, doors, hatches and such?
    Fire is no good in any tight circumstance or location.

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    1. I believe the major is over six feet tall, i.e. not short. He was a tanker in Desert Storm, so the Abrams is roomier than the older tanks. I will take a look at the modern tanks in a future post.

      Fire is not your friend when you don't control it!

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    2. 6’6” apparently. Which is rather taller than most tanks are designed to fit.

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    3. Russian tankers tended to be selected from the shorter crews, so shoving Moran into a T-34 which is designed for someone 5'8" or less was just... funny. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

      Was neat watching him just pop out of the Sherman. He could also go out the floor hatch, or climb over his seat and exit through the turret... US medium tanks tended to be built to where the crews could move around in them, rather than wearing them so to speak.

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    4. My dad was 6'4" and about 190 lbs (Texas wiry), but he fit in the turret of a Sherman OK.

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    5. a bear - He's tall, ye. But 6' 6"? Yeah, that's real tall.

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    6. Beans - Not to mention that the Soviet diet didn't really make for large people, they tended to be runts, malnourished growing up.

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    7. Tom - I believe it, the Sherman is pretty roomy for a tank.

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  5. Back in the 80's (when I was in college?) I read a book which I think was titled "M1 Abrams: Queen of the Battlefield" that followed the design process of the Abrams. I think this was very early Internet era and the concept of the M1 was created using what the designers called a "French Soup" with contributions from a number of credible sources as to what "makes a good tank". I've never been able to find a copy, but if you can lay hands on one it was very good.

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    1. I'll keep an eye open for that book.

      I remember when the Abrams was being designed. Lots of media hoohaw about it, most of it nonsense. Still the best tank to actually see combat.

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    2. Haven't come across that book but I read one titled: King of the Killing Zone by Orr Kelly. It also told the story behind the development of the M1 Abrams and it was an enjoyable and informative read.

      - Victor

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    3. I had an electrician buddy that worked in the N.E.area. He was on Aberdeen Proving Grounds, hearing a big bass drum and the bushes were shaking. He said the speed the Abrams was making allowed it to catch air over a berm, then banging down on the ground at speed was unbelievable. He said the trees were shaking.... That was in the 80's some time....

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    4. Victor - Thanks for the book tip!

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    5. STxAR - Yes, a moving tank makes the Earth shake. And the Abrams is scary fast. Something that big shouldn't be able to move that fast, but it does!

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  6. Ya.....definitely clausta......clas......cooped up. Nice post, give me open-topped fighting compartment any day. That voice on the vid.....brrrrr......I for one do NOT welcome our robot overlords.

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    1. As to the robot overlords - yeah, they sound a bit creepy.

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  7. Perhaps as interesting, tank retrievers.

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    1. I'm thinking of doing a post on armored vehicles which are not tanks, self-propelled guns, command tanks, and tank retrievers would make a great addition.

      Great idea WSF!

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    2. Tank week it is then! So let it written, So it shall be written, so let it be done!

      You look good in a Pharaoh outfit, BTW.

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    3. The Hercules is an amazing beast.

      And then there are all the British 'Funnies' and other special purpose vehicles of the past and current. I mean, a MICLIC vehicle is just funny to look at and fun to watch work (Mine Clearance Line Charge - a rope of explosives pulled out by a rocket to fall on things and go boom to set off mines and people and trees and buildings and just about anything else that can be smashed flat by basically a firehose full of explosives.) Aren't humans an inventive species?

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    4. What is this? Foreshadowing? A taste of things to come?

      Patience laddie!

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    5. I don't have patients. I'm not a doctor...

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  8. Ok, so, tanks...about which I know less than what I know about planes, which isn't much. At least I have been in a few planes. Never been in a tank. Due to the close quarters, I am fine with that!!

    Did enjoy the 1st video...bugger, the tank is on fire...then he spends several minutes trying to contort himself out. (I'm sitting here thinking about how fire doubles every 30 seconds, I think it is) No wonder the losses were so high!!! And what is a 0.6 of a human?!?!? The top 2/3'ds? or the bottom 2/3's??
    I would think the preferred method of getting out of a tank on fire would ALWAYS be head first, not feet first!! But that is just me... by the way, exactly what in a tank is flammable, other than the ammo, and fuel??

    While I know guys always like stuff that is bigger and zooms faster, which generally means ya need more ponies to make it go...being able to get it across the local creek/stream/river would also be useful in a battle, otherwise the enemy could just stand off on the other side and go nanar-nanar-nanar and throw all sorts of unpleasant stuff your way. So if the tank is too heavy, or wide, and can't get over a bridge, and isn't able to wade the creek/stream/river...that would also not be useful, or maneuverable, and should be a consideration in your evaluation down at the local tank lot. Just saying.

    Overall, I agree with juvat as to the best profile of a tank...

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    1. Ooh, tanks that can wade rivers! Good idea Suz!

      You and WSF have inspired me!

      ;)

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    2. What is flammable? Fuel, ammunition (besides the main gun ammo, there's the ammo for the secondary guns (usually machine guns) and the crew's guns,) wiring, hydraulic fluids, cloth, rubber, paper, people (at the right temperature, sorry, gross but true,) paint, some metals, wood (think boxes in old tanks,) seat padding, leather, food, personal effects, stuff what the crew picked up along the way (like trinkets, alcohol and so forth.)

      Basically, well, everything given the right conditions. Like when the main ammo rack gets hit and burns and sets everything on fire and you end up with a giant rocket stove on wheels. Yehaw. May burn for hours, be warm for days. Such an intense fire that the temper is burnt out of every piece of metal and armor plate can sag.

      Needless to say, a lot of effort has gone into Western Tank Design (which includes the Japanese after WWII) in eliminating as many sources of flammable material as possible. Special paints, lots of metal where wood would do, NOMEX clothing for the crew and so forth. Kind of like what the US Navy has also done with most of their ships...

      As to weight and width, well, one of the many reasons that British tanks sucked rocks during most of WWII (undergunned and small) was restrictions on railroad tunnels. Well, except for the Churchill series (which could be shipped in sections (track, hull, track) but still restricted turret size which restricted gun size which restricted killing size...)

      And, yes, consideration has to be made for how the beast would move. Track width was very important, basically the wider the track the lower the ground pressure per square inch which meant it could go across softer ground or not tear up roads and stuff as easily as a narrow track for the same weight vehicle. Of course, wider tracks require wider wheels which means more weight which means more engine for same speed which means more weight...

      The Germans solved this later on in WWII by fitting snorkels to many of their heavy tanks. A thing that still is in use today. Some sealing of the crew and engine compartments required, of course.

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    3. As to flammable Part de Deuce: The opponent has stuff that is flammable, too. Like:

      Armor Piercing ammo (of a variety of varieties) - the round can be so hot as it penetrates the armor that it is rather hot. Big chunk or chunks of melting metal flying around in closed spaces... not very good.

      Depleted Uranium - What we (the US) uses. Because the sharp point is self forging... As the sharp round penetrates armor, the outer layer sluffs off and leaves a sharp point, which gets dull, sluffs off, and leaves a sharp point.... All the sluffed off pieces of depleted uranium actually catch on fire and continue their wonderful trip deep into the tank, setting everything ablaze in burning hot depleted uranium fire. (Think Chernobyl. The pile caught on fire. The graphite (carbon) used to dampen the pile caught on fire but when the uranium caught on fire, well, Game Over, man, Game OVER.)

      High Explosive Anti-Tank/High Explosive Shaped Charge - a round that explodes outside the tank and forges a blast wave of copper or just hot gasses that cuts and burns its way through the armor. So, like using a plasma jet to cut metal, so does the HEAT/HESH weapon.

      Then there's the construction of the tank. Is it bolted or riveted, like many early tanks? Well, a rivet or bolt that gets hit breaks off and gets rather hot and...

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    4. And my first comment, "German Tanks..." was supposed to be: German tanks (well, their designers) somewhat solved the crossing-rivers issue by sealing the tanks and using snorkels for the air intakes. It mostly worked.

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    5. Beans @ 10:43 - Depleted uranium, A-10s use it as well. Dense is good, unless you're on the receiving end!

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    6. Beans @ 10:45 - Expect a mention of those German Tauchpanzer in a soon-to-be post. Also known as the Unterwasserpanzer or U-Panzer.

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    7. AHHHH.....Maverick. 654Lbs of shaped charge traveling at 640NM/Hr. 1 maybe 2 Ft/Lbs of energy applied to the hull of the tank. I know for an absolute fact that it will do a number on a old AF Blue Dodge Ram pickup, you know, the one with the Silver Rams Head as an ornament. It also is pre-programmed to pitch up after launch so as to better hit the thinner armor on top.

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    8. But do tanks have a hood designed to fly off and go after the attacking aircraft?

      I do believe AF pickup trucks have that capability. ;)

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    9. HESH (High Explosive Squash Head) was a favorite of the British and was used with their rifled 120mm cannon. It was known as HEP (High Explosive Plastic) in US service. HESH/HEP doesn't penetrate armor but it also causes spalling which in the HESH/HEP's case is what mainly kills the tank crew. For a better explanation of how HESH/HEP works: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-explosive_squash_head

      - Victor

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    10. Having bits of tank flying around inside the tank is not healthy at all. If you can't penetrate it, make it spall.

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    11. at one point UK did try to build a tank destroyer using HESH cannon
      ... in 183mm caliber
      it found its way into world of tanks game as meme source of one-shot kills and nicknamed deathstar
      http://wiki.wargaming.net/en/Tank:GB48_FV215b_183

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    12. I hate that thing when I encounter it. Grrr… Though I love coming up behind it in a scout tank and blowing the bejeebus out of it's rear.

      Wait, that doesn't sound very good....

      I love blowing up it's arse…

      No...

      I love shooting my load up his bu...

      No.

      Okay, Rear attacks from a distance or sniping. There.

      I feel dirty and unclean now....

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    13. As well you should.

      Now I have to wipe my monitor down, next time, spew alert. Okay?

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  9. #4 - On Tracks. Well, never said wheeled vehicles were better as Main Battle Vehicles. There's a limitation as to what one can expect to get from wheels, but they do have some advantages. Faster speed over hard ground. Easier maintainability. Better able to use COTS (commercial, off the shelf - in other words common stuff) components. But for carrying massive weight over broken ground? Treads. Treads all the way.

    And as to carrying troops... What about the Israeli Merkava series, which is most definitely a tank but also has a small 4 man troop compartment and a rear door?

    Really, the definition of a Main Battle Armored Fighting Vehicle (okay, a Tank) are:
    1. Big weapon capable of penetrating enemy armor. May be a gun, usually high velocity, but may be in the future a laser or particle cannon or missile launcher...

    2. Armor to mostly withstand other MBTs.

    3. Mobility.

    4. Useability/Fightability.

    There. It must be an armored weapons platform that is capable of moving, fighting and taking out other armored weapon platforms.

    My 2 cents worth.

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    1. The Merkava is a special case, just like the Swedish S-Tank.

      One thing I forgot to add to what makes a good tank is the ability to produce lots of them at a reasonable cost. The Sherman meets that criterion as well.

      As per usual, your 2 cents is worth more than some folk's ten dollar answers.

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    2. Thanks.

      The Merkava is very much a special case. A tank that is also a personnel carrier. And, in typical Israeli fashion, old versions are converted into all-the way personnel carriers by getting rid of the turret and ammo and decking the turret hole over. And then back into a semi-tank personnel carrier by then mounting various anti-tank weapons on top or a remote weapon turret or even a manned turret firing a big machine gun...

      Trust the Israelis to turn everything on it's ears...

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  10. Hey AFSarge;

    Excellent tank Post. The Sherman was a really good tank in 1942, by 1944 it still was reliable, easy to maintain but seriously outgunned by the German Tanks. When the Sherman was equipped with the 76 MM gun or the firefly version the Brits had, it did well against the German tanks. As far as the M2 Bradley went, during Desert Storm, it had a higher kill ratio than the M1. Funny how that happened, I found that out last year when I was doing "Red Storm Rising" post.

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    1. Did not know that about the Bradley. Kinda cool.

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  11. Chobam armor is made from MRE crackers. Ever notice that no matter what you do to that packet of crackers it never stops looking like a cracker until you open the packet?

    It is known.

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    1. Well, that was a secret...

      Old Dothraki legend I believe?

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  12. I remember watching a program on Wisconsin Public Television, back in the '70's, about armor in WWII. At one point they were talking to a German Pander General, and they asked him, if he could have armed his division with any tank from WWII, which one would be have chosen.

    He said a Sherman, armed with the gun from the Panther. The Sherman, because it always started, and it always ran, and with The gun from the Panther, it could kill anything that was a threat to it.

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    1. Not a bad choice, they would have had to tweak that Sherman turret just a bit though...

      Like they did with the Firefly version of the Sherman. But that would have been an interesting combo!

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    2. 17pdr was very similar in ballistics to long 75mm of Panther...
      and after the war French made 105mm armed variant for the Israelis, who used it as late as 1967 6 days war!

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    3. I do believe the Syrians had a few Panzer IVs in service as late as the Six Day War.

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  13. in your future postings about tanks, how about one on all the inventive field expedient things that are done to solve issues? Two that come to mind immediately - racks on the outside of Shermans to hold sandbags intended to help defeat Panzerfaust projectiles; and the forks welded to the front of Shermans to help rip out hedgerows? And other accessories such as chain flails to clear minefields (I like the idea of the MICLIC better!), skirts for beach landings, etc.

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  14. one can't stop being amazed how fast tech leaped during ww2...
    1939, most armies had tanks armed with machine guns and maybe 37mm-47mm gun.
    1945, first MBts rolled out, in form of Pershing that would evolve into Patton, Centurion I, and T-44 which was precursor to T-54/55 (Germans had plans for 88mm armed Panther but they never had time and resources to materialize it)
    83-90mm was standard and it was soon bound to rise to 100-105mm.

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    1. Yes, the leaps in tank tech in WWII were as wild as aircraft tech in WWI.

      Pretty amazing. Necessity truly is the mother of invention.

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  15. One more thing, tank is only part of the system of systems. Unsupported by infantry, artillery and air cover it will founder. Infantry will ambush it, artillery will harass it, enemy air will pounce on it.

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  16. And yet one more thing, for all its problems, tank crews had much higher survivability rate than infantry in ww2.
    Being protected against shrapnel and small arms might seem not much but these were much morte common than antitank weapons

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    1. Yes indeed. While infantry can dig in, they still need to move around advancing, retreating and the like. The tank crews carried their protection wherever they went.

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  17. Yep. What Pawel is talking about. A combined arms battlefield of Infantry and their Infantry Fighting Vehicles and Tanks and Artillery (floating, flying, self-propelled or towed). Something that the US and it's materialistically heavy military exceeded in.

    And then, in the Global War of Terror, we try to make the light infantryman do it all, without good artillery support, tie the hands of the fly-boys, over-rely on drones, and fight in terrain not well-suited for armor, and far away from any ocean, which is okay as we've given up our shore bombardment capabilities up a long time ago (bastiges….)

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    1. Sigh, oh so true.

      Light infantry are useful, but not as the mainstay of an army.

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    2. In Iraq tanks were quite useful even in urban environments, as mobile strongpoints for infantry.
      Israelsi made good use of their tanks in their COIN, though arrival of newst Russian ATGMs has made life difficult for them.

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    3. Yeah, Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) are deadly. I've read of tank commanders popping the hatch after a fire fight and seeing the guidance wires from ATGMs (which missed) draped over the turret.

      Gets your attention!

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    4. Iraq was flat, for the most part. Perfect tank terrain. Even then, later updates of US armor included better protection vs death from above and from the rear.

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    5. The artillery existed but Rumsfeld and the rest hated to deploy one more body than they thought was needed and after they changed the ROE it isn't like the artillery could fire in anything except direct support outside of built up areas. Artillery is still the last argument of kings and queen of battle. Just remember, shoot and scoot. 3 rounds and shift like lightning. Counterbattery is a stone cold witch.

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    6. Oh, yeah, in Iraq the US mounted com-systems on the back of some tanks, just like the US did in the Pacific theater during WWII, so the grunts can call from the rear of the tank and spot fire for the tank gunner and commander.

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    7. Cap'n - War may be too important to be left to the generals, but tactics shouldn't be left to bureaucrats in DC. Shoot and scoot, yes, counterbattery is not your friend!

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    8. Beans - Shermans had phones on the back in ETO as well. See Thursday's post. I even provided a reference. (Not that I don't usually, well, sometimes I forget.)

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  18. and one more thing, what is best tnak depends much on the character of your army...
    -is it professional or conscript?
    -is it to defend vast country or snall one, or mayb einvade others?
    -what are industry and economy supporting it?
    -what are expected enemies?
    -what is the likely landscape of the fight?
    Merkava is example of tank custom-made for Israeli specific situation, as was S-tank for Swedish. Soviet school of tank building was based on mass formation of easy-to maintain tanks crewed by conscripts, as opposed to US formations of high-tech vehicles crewed by professionals (well since circa 1980, before there was much more commonality with Soviet style, M-60 was not that much different beast from T-55)

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    1. All most excellent points my friend!

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    2. And then you get Poles with their cavalry tradition mounted in Leopard 2s and, dang, the Winged Hussars ride again.

      With the way Austria and Germany are going, will Europe need them at the Gates of Vienna soon?

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    3. That would be my guess.

      I'm glad the Poles are on our side again!

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  19. Loved this one. While I knew some of this I learned a lot. Thank you!!

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    1. Doing fairly good. Still working on our house restoration after our flood last year. My cardiologist wouldn't let me work on any of this last year because of my IHD but I'm finally up to the point that he gave me the okay. I would have preferred not to do this work in the winter but since it's been a year, we're sick and tired of all the mess. I just want to get everything back to normal!! I've got a lot of fishing to get caught up on this summer.

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    2. Glad you're doing better.

      Yeah, those fish aren't going to catch themselves!

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  20. 1. Fuel economy or lack of it...does the tank have legs and how many fuel trucks does it need to keep it in the field.

    2. But the real kicker is air supremacy. The tank is most effective when supported closely with rotors and something like a Warthog. Without that, the enemy will cut your fuel supplies (see 1 above) and you have a cool pill box.

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    1. "My troops can eat their boots, but my tanks gotta have gas!" - attributed to Patton.

      Controlling the air is key!

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    2. The point is made, but if you're going to eat your boots, don't spit shine them first.

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    3. Hahaha!

      (With the right hot sauce, a GI can eat anything. )

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