Think of the savings...
Combine it with "Tank Battles" video game and we're off to the races.
The British Army is looking at ditching its tank regiments and spending the money on keyboard warriors instead, according to reports. Although the proposal to scrap the Army's 200-odd Challenger 2 main battle tanks is clearly a public talking point intended to rally support ahead of long-predicted cuts to defence spending, The …
Two different issues I think:
1. Is cyber warfare a real threat? My bet is yes. And every year, it probably gets to be a bigger potential problem as more and more infrastructure becomes dependent on online communications. Is no one worried about what will happen to smart grids and such if our inspired and dedicated leaders manage to get into a serious pissing contest with clever opponents? That's a rhetorical question. The answer seems to be "No. What's to worry about? What could possibly go wrong?"
2. Can tanks be replaced with autonomous weapons? I should think so. The problem I foresee isn't capability. It's that battlespace communications have always been notoriously iffy. I don't think replacing static-laden voice links with multimegabyte per second digital links is likely to improve things any.
I think when the deployed unit is given a weapons free nod, as it would in a battle scenario, it would default to its "AI" if it lost communications with its fleshy operator, and start shooting up anything that didn't have a friendly QR code stamped all over it.
With our ability to distinguish with a high accuracy between individual humans as they saunter through shopping malls, it isn't such a great feat to have a mobile weapons unit pick with an even greater accuracy between friend and foe, tank and SUV.
Hell! I'd warrant far fewer blue on blue A10 incidents would have happened if the people doing the shooting had been replaced by a Sinclair ZX81, coded by a psycho.
The problem with weapons systems like drones, aircraft, missiles, artillery and such is that they are really very limited in what they can do. A soldier can, for example, capture, occupy and police territory. He can communicate with civilians and even directly assist and protect them. He can take prisoners, and he can operate in a densely populated environment without causing severe collateral damage and civilian deaths.
No other weapons systems can do all these things and more - all they do is blow stuff up (see icon). Cyber weapons fall into this category, as less lethal ways of "blowing stuff up". But I can't really think of many significant wars that were won by just killing people and blowing stuff up - this is only possible where there is an existing regime and no intention to overthrow it or to provide humanitarian protection for civilians. But that isn't the case with most wars, which therefore necessarily involve soldiers in at least the later phases.
As examples, try thinking of how you might occupy and rebuild a defeated country, or police the troubles in Northern Ireland, using just cyber warfare and aircraft.
And, furthermore, if you are going to have soldiers in the theatre of conflict doing these things then you need armoured vehicles alongside them for protection and transport. Otherwise they are just soft, squishy bullet and bomb magnets.
The British came fairly close by using just aircraft and a very limited ground force when "policing" Somaliland, and later Mesopotamia Wikipedia link. It is possible that the relatively cheap use of effective air power, rather than troops on the ground, was also behind Churchill’s Statement in a War Office meeting (Wikipedia) where he considering the use of dropping tear-gas from aircraft.
It was a thing in the inter-war period.
Unruly parts of the empire with fierce tribesmen. Send in the RAF, machine gun them from the air, drop some bombs. Kill their cattle and villagers, that sorts them out. You can thin them out and make them not have suffucient numbers to be a threat to civilisation.
A relative of mine did that, I have read his logbook,
By and large the enemy were unable to counter it - well most of the time anyway.
When the US started using Predator drones from the same thing over the same tribal areas of Pakistan I remember thinking "I've seen this before", only back then the Predator had two wings and an observer with a machine gun.
I believe the preferred methodology was to fly over the village the day before, dropping leaflets telling them that they would be bombed at dawn, sharp, the following morning, because of their unruly behaviour.
Then at dawn, sharp, the RAF would fly over and drop bombs. Which destroyed houses and items, and maybe killed a few livestock, but generally didn't kill the people, because they knew not to be in the village at dawn, sharp.
Which means that the villagers are annoyed at you, but don't have dead relatives that will drive them to resisting to the bitter end; i.e. they suffer a material loss, but not a blood loss. So they may choose to be 'better behaved'.
Which was probably a better way of policing the territories than the traditional manner used by the Ottomans, of sending out periodic/less response, slow moving army columns, where both army and villagers would likely end up suffering more casualties, and where the army's actions were less clearly related to any particular incident (due to the time required to get a column of troops to the right village).
Also, the whole 'Air policing' idea was to a significant extent dreamed up by the RAF, to help them resist post-WW1 pressure to scrap the (newly-independent) RAF as an independent service.
" Cyber weapons fall into this category, as less lethal ways of "blowing stuff up". "
I think you should add "Currently, " to the beginning of that sentence. Military leaders around the world would love to have robotic troops, and the industry will gladly produce them for the money. Very little reason to believe it won't happen as soon as technology permits.
ALLES TURISTEN UND NONTEKNISCHEN LOOKENSPEEPERS!
DAS KOMPUTERMASCHINE IST NICHT FÜR DER GEFINGERPOKEN UND MITTENGRABEN! ODERWISE IST EASY TO SCHNAPPEN DER SPRINGENWERK, BLOWENFUSEN UND POPPENCORKEN MIT SPITZENSPARKEN.
IST NICHT FÜR GEWERKEN BEI DUMMKOPFEN. DER RUBBERNECKEN SIGHTSEEREN KEEPEN DAS COTTONPICKEN HÄNDER IN DAS POCKETS MUSS.
ZO RELAXEN UND WATSCHEN DER BLINKENLICHTEN.
The Wikipedia article on Battlezone goes big on the 6502 as used in the various home computers of the day, for example. "The Atari ST port contains large parts of the original 6502 code which is emulated in real time.", but a Google search accords with my recollection (as a youthful microprocessor design student in those days) of the original being a 4-bit bit-slice implementation:
I think assumption is that they will be taken out either from the air, or with manpad type rocket launcher.
In this sort of clear cut tank-is-the-enemy war, we are already the point where if you can detect it, you can stand off several tens of miles and put a bomb/shell through it. With the bonus that you cant ECM a shell.. Tanks are quite tricky to hide while on the move, and are little better than a static gun emplacement when stopped.
The hard part is identifying proper targets. Is that group of people over there harmless or a threat?
However, a "Cyberwarrior" can cripple C&C systems with anything from spearfishing a higher up, guesstimate troop movements and number by keep an eye on the procurement websites, or at a push, hack a contractor and get complete technical data for one of their best fighters. Y'know, what Russia and China have been doing to us for years. No tanks required.
That's before we talk about the woeful state of civilian infrastructure security.
I think assumption is that they will be taken out either from the air, or with manpad type rocket launcher.
The T-14 has some pretty gnarly passive and active defence systems. That said, it is reckoned to be vulnerable to attack from directly above.
With the bonus that you cant ECM a shell..
DARPA's got that covered, you'll be able to ECM everything right down to a rifle bullet by the time they've finished.
This reminds me of Fred Pohl's short story "The Wizards of Pungs Corners".
In this a crack US Army unit was defeated by a bunch of farmers and good ole boys armed with shotguns because their newly issued superweapons were hugely complex to operate and came with such appallingly written manuals for the wrong version of their kit, that, when the farmers appeared the troops were still trying to work out how to load their weapons..
With the way things are going, maybe Gordon R Dickson's Dorsai stories may be a good model to follow as armies get smaller and armour just gets bigger, more expensive and more specialised.
Tanks are so last century/millennium. Seems that they're of very limited use compared with other technologies, such as drones and lightly armoured vehicles. They'll never again be used in large numbers crossing a battlefield. About the only place is driving across protesters in Tiananmen Square or Red Square (look at the size of my knob)
One would expect that a Challenger 2 would be slightly more expensive than a Mastiff or Foxhound, not to mention somewhat more difficult to transport to theatre.
>They'll never again be used in large numbers crossing a battlefield.
That was largely the attitude that various Important and Clever People throughout the western/NATO countries held after the fall of the Berlin wall.
Then Iraq invaded Kuwait. And all the Important and Clever People went "Where are OUR tanks, WHERE ARE OUR TANKS?" Fortunately, we still had them.
If you have something old and unused, you invariably find you need it just after you throw it out.
You are about a hundred years early on that. Prior to WWI, the Smart People decided that there would never be another crossing of the T. The T was crossed during both WWI and WWII.
Likewise, the MBT is not going to go away anytime soon. Certainly, their utility in a US-China war will likely be limited, but we've got a long ways to go before the tech reaches the point that even the bulk of regional conflicts will catch up. Moreover, the anti-anti-tank technology is ALSO advancing rapidly.
The British Army has only 200 MBTs? Are they insane? What happens if, or rather, _when_ they encounter another Michael Whittmann or a Zvi Greengold or even an Abdul Hamid? (For those who don’t know, Whittmann and two other Tiger commanders shot up a British armoured brigade in Normandy; the slaughter stopped when the Tigers ran out of ammunition and went home. Greengold killed at least 40 Syrian tanks on the Golan in 1973, using borrowed tanks, and losing four of them in the process. Yes, he lost a tank, grabbed another, lost that one, grabbed one more, and lost that one too... but destroyed a Syrian tank regiment in the process. Hamid killed at least six Pakistani tanks and was working on another, using a recoilless rifle mounted on a jeep, before being killed in action. The Pakistanis were particularly pissed because he was Muslim...) Even six tanks is a serious percentage of 200... 40+ tanks would be a major defeat. There’s _always_ a Whittmann, a Greengold, a Hamid, somewhere on one or both sides in any major conflict. Having only 200 MBTs is simply begging to have your ass handed to you if you’re up against even halfway competent opponents. As Hamid proved, they don’t even have to have tanks, just balls of steel and something halfway close to an anti-tank weapon. Hellfire, at Arnhem Bridge 2 Para held off a SS Panzer Division with rifles and PIATs, so you’d think that the British Army would know this...
Hopefully you're also aware that the Challenger II has never been defeated by enemy fire.
It's obsolete, but it's still one of the most imposing presences on a modern battlefield. If you have air superiority.
200 tanks is quite enough. Wittman et al would be entirely buggered by a cheap helicopter these days.
You don't have to kill them outright, you just have to mission-kill them. Blow off a track. Kill the tank commander when he pokes his head out of the cupola. Splash paint across the periscope thingies. Point a laser at the periscope thingies, blind the driver, the gunner, the commander, some combination. Blow the bridge across the river or whatever, with the tank on it or before the tank gets there, now the tank has a problem. They can wade, but not too deep and not on most types of river bed, they'll get bogged in mud while having problems with fast-moving streams with rocky beds. Lots of ways, most of which were thought of in WWII or before.
And while a Challenger II may be nearly invulnerable to current weapons from the front or on the turret, the sides, rear, top, and belly aren't so well protected. There are lots of top-attack anti-tank weapons out there, and there have been anti-tank mines since at least 1918, they've just got nastier. The PIATs mentioned above couldn't kill a Panther or a Tiger from the front, but could from the sides or rear, and partisans in the Ukraine, Poland, Yugoslavia, etc., proved that a few Molotov bombs on the engine deck would kill even a Tiger. One seaman of the Black Sea Fleet was made, posthumously, a Hero of the Soviet Union by strapping explosives to himself and diving under a German tank. The Japanese in Burma would dig holes and wait for tanks to go by and then detonate explosives. (No medals for them, of course, just the glory of dying for the Emperor.)
Give it time. Challenger IIs will be destroyed in action, and with only a few of them the British Army is going to have problems.
I’m reminded of HMS Hood, a fantastic battle wagon. With a wooden deck designed for Jutland where it was almost Nelsonian level of closeness. With long range fire coming down near vertical that deck was suicide. Shell hit the magazine, ship blew sky high. If memory serves there were just 2 survivors. Killed by the Bismarck.
Well, Hood did have an armoured deck, just not well enough armoured (The armoured deck wouldn't necessarily be the uppermost deck, though).
She was also due for refurbishment (from about the late 1920's I think), but it kept getting put back, because, well, you know, cost, and we need to send her here, there and everywhere, so we'll just delay the refurbishment (again). What's the worst that could happen...
No tank is invulnerable but I'd just point out that the Challenger II may be the single safest place to be in the middle of a firefight.
one British Challenger near Basra which survived being hit by 70 RPGs
It's reasonable to assume that they weren't all fired at the front armour.
If history tells us anything its that various European powers are always crashing across the Russian border. It hapens pretty regularly and the last time it happened -- in 1941 -- the Europeans did an immense amount of damage. (...and yes, it was "Europeans", not just Germans. In addiion to Eastern European countries like Romania and Hungary Barborossa included contingents from Italy and Spain. Finland was an ally as well, contributing to the siege of Lenigrad.) The Russian military tends to end up in Western Europe only as a result of these invasions -- bits of their army turned up as far west as Paris after the Napoleonic Wars but they went home, probably leaving just the word 'bistro' behind.
Let's not bother fighting WW2 or even the Cold War again. We all know that when a department becomes redundant the leadership tends to work overtime to protect its jobs. The various Cold War defense organizations -- propaganda/VOA, civic affairs, even NATO itself -- belongs to a different time and should have been upgraded for the modern era rather than acting as a drain on the public's resources.
"The Russian military tends to end up in Western Europe only as a result of these invasions" is complete crap.
Finland in 1939.
Poland in 1939.
Latvia, Estonian and Lithuania in 1940.
Afghanistan in 1989.
Georgia in 2008.
All started by Russian without any European invasion.
Is it possible Putin will send the tanks in to Poland? Not unless he wanted a bloodbath.
Is it possible he'd send them into the Baltic states? Maybe, but the NATO battle tanks would still be loading into the C-5s (or A400Ms) whilst Vlad was stripping to the waist for a homo-erotic wrestle in Vilnius.
Not saying we should get rid of the tank but modern warfare is asymmetric, fast paced and rarely follows the playbook of the last campaign. Entirely right we consider all options.
Tanks are very expensive to purchase, maintain and operate. The Challengers are at least 30 years old technology and for some reason they are never in the right place. The next big battle/war is going to be fought where???? So the next MBT design needs to be capable of what??? Using what technology????? The lead time between concept to ready for action is 10 years+ minimum.
Easier to win the lottery yet the MOD is expected get it right :-)
Because congressmen can't bring themselves to make cuts to defense budgets, and cost jobs in their districts. Tank production happens across a LOT of districts, since the various parts of big military contracts are always spread out as much as possible despite the massive inefficiency to make sure enough congressman have SOME part of it in their district for a potential opponent to challenge them on.
The net result is that the DoD takes delivery of hundreds of tanks in every production cycle that immediately go into mothballs without ever being used. Maybe the UK should ask about long term "rental" of those tanks (the US couldn't sell them, as taking a loss on them would expose the ridiculousness of what is happening, but "rental" would be found money even at a bargain price to the UK)
M1's now have auxiliary generators to provide power when the vehicle is stationary, which has much reduced the fuel consumption compared to the earlier versions (i.e the fuel use per tank in 1991 Iraq where on a tank/mile basis, the M1 reportedly used 4 times more fuel that Challenger I).
So M1 over thirsty? Possibly (but much less so than it was)
M1 armour protection is probably inferior to Challenger 2 (certainty, M1's have been lost to RPGs to the sides where Challenger has shrugged off the same weapon in the equivalent location, based on information that's been made public), but the latest M1's are generally held to have very good protection levels (Probably inferior to Chally 2, but probably inferior ONLY to Chally 2)
So M1 under armoured? No.
M1 uses a 120mm smoothbore gun, as does almost every other NATO country.
Chally 2 uses a 120mm rifled gun. Similar performance between the two weapons (pros and cons to both). Update to Chally 2 may see an all new gun, or a switch to the NATO standard 120mm smoothbore currently used by M1.
So M1 under gunned? no.
The new IT staffers will also fill the new position for attack drone pilots (min tanks, mini planes and missiles).
We will be able to get solders with no empathy, no worry of loss, they can drive an attack drone during their shift, ridding the world of people with the a different opinion than that of our commander. Then go home at the end of the day. And with our ability to adjust the data feed, you never have to see the faces or blood of those you kill. It's just like a game. And it will never end (or we would be out of a job). Join today!
Join in the next 16 hours and get a free upgrade on your gaming chair for the office. Did we mention the endless free coffee?
Pretty sure there was a film based on the same premise - only the bloke lost it when he pushed the button and an innocent bloke got hit by the missile.
I wonder if WFH will be an option - save on office space, commuting etc thus the MOD can claim to be reducing its carbon foot print - Has to be a good thing :-)
Its time for budget cuts again but the pen pushers dont want to be accused of wielding the sword so they threaten each service with taking away their big toys: "NO! You CANT take our tanks/destroyers/fighters, cut this instead...". And along comes some sacrificial goat such as troop accomodation or yet another mostly disused base (but would be useful in a war) or a few mine hunters etc etc. The tanks are safe - this time around, Id lay money on it.
Man-portable HEAT or similar warheads have been able to defeat all manner of armour for some time, to say nothing of heavier missiles fitted to aircraft, helicopters and light armoured vehicles. If a tanks armour is not actually a tactical advantage, the tank becomes a heavy expensive target and little more. On the other hand, no attack helicopter or cyberwarfare unit can hold a fixed position. I'm surprised to see the Warrior IFVs in amongst the equipment being mothballed, for they are far more in line with the requirements of the typical police actions our armed forces find themselves in as a matter of routine. Britain and France invented the tank, and it's looking like we might be the first to drop it too. History is strange.
I have very definitely heard of it. And, while Chobham's full details are classified; I have no doubt that explosives are available that will punch right through it, or bypass it by attacking lesser protected surfaces.
As was noted below, nobody builds battleships anymore because you can out-range a battleship gun with a missile; and a missile can be built to defeat any armour.
Any MBT can be taken out by an A-10 or attack helicopter. Without air cover, a MBT will not last on a modern battlefield. Look at what happened to Iraq's tanks once the allied air forces had air superiority. MBT's are useful for intimidating civilians once the battle has been won or going up against an enemy that has no air support but otherwise are just good ways of getting soldiers burnt to death.
All current MBTs have much thinner armor on the rear (as there is a limit to the practical weight of a tank) - the chaingun of an A-10 can chew through it - reactive armor is not much use against this gun. Many current anti-tank missiles are capable of seeking out and attacking the rear of a tank with dual stage warheads to defeat reactive armor - and these missiles can be launched from well beyond the range of the gun of a MBT.
A MBT is the modern equivalent of a battleship - a large fat target that can be easily destroyed by the right weapons - no navy has built a battleship since WW2 and there is not much point in building MBTs now.
Icon for what happens to a MBT on the battlefield without air cover.
For the UK however the prospect of it being in a land battle where MBTs would be of use is remote to say the least. A MBT in the UK is going to take weeks to get to the site of any battlefront by which time the battle will already have been decided. An A-10, Apache or equivalent can reach any potential battlefield in Europe in one day from the UK.
The UK was involved in Afghanistan. While no Challenger IIs were deployed there, other western nations deployed MBTs. The battle has been raging 2 decades (or a lot more if you want to include everything back to before the Soviet Invasion).
...for a number of years already, isn't that why we refer to other countries as 'actors' so as not to upset them when they have done something naughty?
...and aren't our (UK) Intelligence services such as MI6 and other shadowy gov organizations supposed to be fighting the cyber fight already?
But if the powers that be think the need for tanks is no longer needed then creating a battalion or two of keyboard warriors and signing them up to the ongoing cyber bun fight at least keeps the defense budget up which is probably what this is all about.
This is the same silly thinking that went on in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the US military that determined that small fighter aircraft were no longer necessary as the mission would undoubtedly be intercepting large bombers with air-to-air missiles. This was completely disproved in the early days of the Vietnam war when Russian MiGs completely outclasses and out maneuvered the lumbering F4 phantoms of the USAF and US Navy. The early F4s were not even equipped with a gun relying solely on missiles, which are inadequate one in a close dog fight.
When comms go down and your satellites are disabled all your drones and Mechs go dark. Then you will wish you had man-controlled equipment on the battle field.
The UK government spent so much money building an aircraft carrier but does not have enough money left to buy planes that they have to resort to "renting" out the space to the Americans.
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