• Hi Guest! Forum rules have been updated. All users please read here.

Army Wants 'Air Droppable' Light Tank & Ultra-Light Vehicles

TomS

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2008
Messages
4,610
Reaction score
1,762
I think recent US combat experience generally supports this. They jumped in the lead echelons of the 173rd Brigade and followed by airlanding something like a company of heavy armor (Abrahms and Bradleys). I believe the armor did little or nothing while 10th Group SF was busy demolishing an Iraqi armored brigade mostly using an apparently endless stream of Javelins.
 

marauder2048

"I should really just relax"
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
3,158
Reaction score
501
I think recent US combat experience generally supports this. They jumped in the lead echelons of the 173rd Brigade and followed by airlanding something like a company of heavy armor (Abrahms and Bradleys). I believe the armor did little or nothing while 10th Group SF was busy demolishing an Iraqi armored brigade mostly using an apparently endless stream of Javelins.
A rather unique set of a circumstances where they could trade rations/water/other consumables for ATGMs and rely on the Kurds for everything else.

The point of this armor with its HV gun is to destroy all of the other things in order to conserve ATGMs for the armor threats that a 105mm can't handle.
 

Foo Fighter

I came, I saw, I drank some tea (and had a bun).
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2016
Messages
1,918
Reaction score
805
I think there is a disconnect in the understanding of armoured warfare and tactics, frankly. Until that is changed there will continue to be calls from the uninformed to remove tanks from inventories. Basically the platform itself is still extremely fit for purpose and adaptable. NOT the whole story but they would be missed if they were lost, there is nothing to replace them with right now.
 

TomS

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2008
Messages
4,610
Reaction score
1,762
I think recent US combat experience generally supports this. They jumped in the lead echelons of the 173rd Brigade and followed by airlanding something like a company of heavy armor (Abrahms and Bradleys). I believe the armor did little or nothing while 10th Group SF was busy demolishing an Iraqi armored brigade mostly using an apparently endless stream of Javelins.
A rather unique set of a circumstances where they could trade rations/water/other consumables for ATGMs and rely on the Kurds for everything else.

The point of this armor with its HV gun is to destroy all of the other things in order to conserve ATGMs for the armor threats that a 105mm can't handle.

How many sorties were used up flying in and supporting the heavy armor that could have brought those consumables instead?
 

shin_getter

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Messages
257
Reaction score
211
You could move a lot of rations plus organic transport for it plus a lot of ATGMs (what, 500 missiles and hundreds of launchers) for the weight of a Bradley. Shooting every hole in the ground with sophisticated missiles is expensive, but nothing about dealing with the air force is cheap and there are cheaper missiles like Tow or Carl Gustav (now with thermobaric round or laser guided rounds).

If the airborne do get non-IFV organic vehicle support, I'd probably go for a Nona like gun mortar with option to up armor and modern guided rounds. Missiles and air can kill point targets, but nothing beats mortars for responsive and efficient area fire while direct fire is also available if seriously needed.

If one could even get a C-17 anywhere near the enemy one would also have the ability to stack low cost ground attack aircraft to render tanks and visibly identifiable AFVs a very marginal problem. Infantry hit and run in complex terrain is a problem that air power and missiles are less effective against.
 

marauder2048

"I should really just relax"
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
3,158
Reaction score
501
I think recent US combat experience generally supports this. They jumped in the lead echelons of the 173rd Brigade and followed by airlanding something like a company of heavy armor (Abrahms and Bradleys). I believe the armor did little or nothing while 10th Group SF was busy demolishing an Iraqi armored brigade mostly using an apparently endless stream of Javelins.
A rather unique set of a circumstances where they could trade rations/water/other consumables for ATGMs and rely on the Kurds for everything else.

The point of this armor with its HV gun is to destroy all of the other things in order to conserve ATGMs for the armor threats that a 105mm can't handle.

How many sorties were used up flying in and supporting the heavy armor that could have brought those consumables instead?
No idea but lets remind ourselves that this operation was SF elements liaising and coordinating the attack of
70,000 Kurdish Peshmerga militia and calling in airstrikes.

My suggestion is that this was unique set of circumstances not likely to recur
ex: The fact that the SF units C-130s were just doing Javelin runs was only useful because the Kurds
furnished the vehicles to bring up the missiles.
 

Fluff

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Sep 9, 2019
Messages
487
Reaction score
267
If they dont, you dont need a 'near' MBT with you.
Drastically incorrect approach. Fighting enemy tanks is not the only and not even the primary job for MBT. Lack of enemy tanks does not negate need in one.
This thread is about Light tanks, not MBT. On the Abrams replacement thread you can see my view on MBT - still needed, but maybe changing roles given the changing threats.

To expand on my point, if you give your airmobile forces a light tank, chances are you are trumped by the enemy getting a few real MBT into the fight. So your light is not going to go up against an MBT.

So in the current world, where US forces dont have a light tank, I suggest there are ways for a light force, to achieve objectives, even against an enemy with light tanks.

I also like the suggestion for the mobile mortar systems, you will get more coverage with a few of these, than a relatively low number of 'light' tanks.
 

marauder2048

"I should really just relax"
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
3,158
Reaction score
501
Except that your airmobile force does have ATGMs with utility against MBTs.
They just don't have enough ATGMs to service MBTs, LAVs, bunkers, obstacles, dug-in infantry, observation posts etc.

Something like NLOS-M would be extremely useful but keep in mind that something like PGK alone is nearly expensive
as an AMP round and it's not totally clear you could service the same target set above as effectively as with direct fire.
 

Pioneer

Seek out and close with the enemy
Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2006
Messages
1,951
Reaction score
346
If I may, just my personal thoughts....

I've come to the conclusion, although obviously not ideal, that any modern 'Air Droppable' Light Tank will need to be designed with the reality that's it's survivability is going to be limited in terms of armoured protection. That it's operator - the US Army must come to the conclusion that it can not and will not have the armoured protection of an M1 Abrams, no matter how hard they try - period.
I think the Soviet/Russian Airborne sensibly knew and appreciated this as far back as the ASU-57.
Am I right to say that any Airborne Light Tank realistically has to rely on its compact size, shaping, speed, and armament to maximise it's survival rate? To employ it's firepower for as long as practically/tactically possible, until either their shock tactic of capturing a given target is completed or they are relived by heavier/more numerically larger conventional forces, which can meet enemy with like for like combat capability and firepower.....
Again, I think the Soviet's/Russian's appreciate d and came to this conclusion some 60-years ago.
Also, if I may, I think it's safe to say, that the lack of serious use of the M551 Sheridan by the US Army in any real/serious combat operations throughout its use within the US Army Airborne ORBAT, let alone any real emphasis to replace it, seems to emphasis to me that either the US Army is reluctant to use its Airborne forces in any serious matter or they instinctively know and appreciate the futility of such limited/vulnerable airborne armoured assault vehicles period.....

So personally, I've come to the conclusion that:
1/ The US Military/Political willingness to actually employ the likes of the 82nd Airborne Division in its intended role and capability as an airborne shock force in its entirety makes me question the money, time and effort for such a program.

2/ Any Airborne Light Tank has a limited survivability from its conception, due to the realistic need for its size, dimensions and weight limitations.
Although all means possible should be practically sorted to maximise the survival of such a Airborne Light Tank, the US Army should not, can not lose sight of the reality that a Airborne Light Tank can not and will not be a M1 MBT no matter how much time, effort and money they spend.

3/ US Army doctrine seriously has to determine tactically where and when the employment of Airborne forces will actually be employed and what the real calculated offs of their survival are.

4/ The principle purpose of an Airborne Light Tank is to facilitate the carrying and employment of heavy/high velocity weapons for both assault and defence. If there is a reluctance to employ such a vehicle/weapons platform because of its perceived 'survival' vs its intended role and purpose of employment as a weapons platform, then is it really needed at all?

5/ Going by actual combat history from Post-WWII of the actual intended use and employment of the 82nd Airborne Division in its parachute deployed role and intent, I guess the true question that needs to be asked - if the US Army/Political Administrations aren't prepared to use the 82nd Airborne as a shock unit in mass, by means of parachute, is it's existence and the cost of its existence really warranted?

Anyway, these are just my thoughts and I apologise if I've detracted from the principle topic/subject.

Regards
Pioneer
Oh, if I may, I intended but overlooked another point I wanted to include:

6/ One should not underestimate the importance and effectiveness of Direct Fire Support in both the offensive and defensive manner.

Regards
Pioneer
 

marauder2048

"I should really just relax"
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
3,158
Reaction score
501
6/ One should not underestimate the importance and effectiveness of Direct Fire Support in both the offensive and defensive manner.
This point is controversial on this forum and at the core of much of the debate convulsing several threads.
 

Foo Fighter

I came, I saw, I drank some tea (and had a bun).
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2016
Messages
1,918
Reaction score
805
An air portable support vehicle can be lighter and while not am M1 have some survivability built in, it depends on how good the trophy system or whatever they use is. Yes it will have less use than an M1 but possibly better the trying to hunt tanks with man portable anti armour weapons. No doubt at all that armoured vehicles are going through another evolution so nothing is set in stone yet.
 

riggerrob

I really should change my personal text
Senior Member
Joined
Mar 11, 2012
Messages
1,336
Reaction score
745
I suspect that the next generation of anti-tank missiles will be launched from vertical tubes and guided onto tank top decks by drones/satellite imagery/DARPA wizardry/etc. Since tank top decks are much thinner than glacis plates, smaller warheads can penetrate. Vertical attack missiles are also handy for killing infantry hiding in trenches or behind walls or behind hills, etc.
 

marauder2048

"I should really just relax"
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
3,158
Reaction score
501
Vertical attack missiles are also handy for killing infantry hiding in trenches or behind walls or behind hills, etc.
I think most of those trajectory profiles end up practically requiring forward firing fragmentation warheads which
gets tricky with the typical placement of ATGM seekers; some of the concepts I've seen patented eject the seeker
section or displace it before the warhead detonates in order to get a uniform/unobstructed fragment pattern.

Height-of-burst fuzing for "conventional" multi-purpose warheads (integrated blast frag + SC/EFP) has tended
to worsen the danger close properties of ATGMs.
 

Pioneer

Seek out and close with the enemy
Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2006
Messages
1,951
Reaction score
346
6/ One should not underestimate the importance and effectiveness of Direct Fire Support in both the offensive and defensive manner.
This point is controversial on this forum and at the core of much of the debate convulsing several threads.
In all due respect marauder2048 how so?

Regards
Pioneer
 

shin_getter

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Messages
257
Reaction score
211
Oh, if I may, I intended but overlooked another point I wanted to include:

6/ One should not underestimate the importance and effectiveness of Direct Fire Support in both the offensive and defensive manner.
One should not underestimate how much waiting 20 minutes to deconflict a indirect fire mission because accidents are more dangerous than the enemy distorts what people expect.

----------------
Expensive munitions might just have to be a way of life: With a very tight weight constraint, it is hard for air transported forces to have much combat power. One has to throw money at high performance light weight weapons. Guidance packages increases weapon performance at very little weight penalty.

The other things ways to have more combat power for weight is more brains (people), more electronics and less "bulk" everything that is cheap but heavy.

The weight constraint also changes the values for components:

For highly weight constrained forces, a man is 200kg while a vehicle is what, 10,000kg and if both is necessary for mission success, we can calculate what is more replaceable here.

So having the AFV operate by indirect fire to protect it, and suffer the greater manpower losses due to response time may be the right call here. This is very unlike low intensity, non-logistics constrained warfare where losing dozens of tons of not too expensive equipment is totally worthwhile if it saves even a life.
 
Last edited:

Fluff

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Sep 9, 2019
Messages
487
Reaction score
267
Oh, if I may, I intended but overlooked another point I wanted to include:

6/ One should not underestimate the importance and effectiveness of Direct Fire Support in both the offensive and defensive manner.
One should not underestimate how much waiting 20 minutes to deconflict a indirect fire mission because accidents are more dangerous than the enemy distorts what people expect.

----------------
Expensive munitions might just have to be a way of life: With a very tight weight constraint, it is hard for air transported forces to have much combat power. One has to throw money at high performance light weight weapons. Guidance packages increases weapon performance at very little weight penalty.

The other things ways to have more combat power for weight is more brains (people), more electronics and less "bulk" everything that is cheap but heavy.

The weight constraint also changes the values for components:

For highly weight constrained forces, a man is 200kg while a vehicle is what, 10,000kg and if both is necessary for mission success, we can calculate what is more replaceable here.

So having the AFV operate by indirect fire to protect it, and suffer the greater manpower losses due to response time may be the right call here. This is very unlike low intensity, non-logistics constrained warfare where losing dozens of tons of not too expensive equipment is totally worthwhile if it saves even a life.
As with all conversations on here, defence is usually multilayered, so yes a ISO container full of VL ATGM is going to be heavy and hard to handle, but I dont see anything stopping us putting 4 missiles on a quadbike trailer, or 1 in a backpack or 2. As always dependent on what your facing, a scout mission will want some firepower, an attack on a laggered up tank division will be different.

I totally understand the ultimate desire, if I had to go to war I would want to be in a UBER armoured, fully upgraded Abrams, with a dedicated F35 escort, and a carrier less than 50 miles away for evac.
 

marauder2048

"I should really just relax"
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
3,158
Reaction score
501
Oh, if I may, I intended but overlooked another point I wanted to include:
6/ One should not underestimate the importance and effectiveness of Direct Fire Support in both the offensive and defensive manner.
One should not underestimate how much waiting 20 minutes to deconflict a indirect fire mission because accidents are more dangerous than the enemy distorts what people expect.
Even ATACMS deconfliction time was down to seven minutes by OIF; you could argue that deconfliction times are closer
to a minimum since comms are unimpeded and positional uncertainty is very low.

----------------
Expensive munitions might just have to be a way of life: With a very tight weight constraint, it is hard for air transported forces to have much combat power. One has to throw money at high performance light weight weapons. Guidance packages increases weapon performance at very little weight penalty.
I'm not sure that true for guidance since the overall trend has been toward multimode seekers; SDB II's guidance section is over 30 pounds.

Yes, if you look at single wavelength imaging infrared they've achieved weight reductions though better
pixel pitch and going uncooled. But that's being offset by other trends.

It's not totally clear what the volume/weight tradeoffs are for missile vs. gun systems in the 120 - 130mm gun
caliber range. You could argue the volumetric advantage would be with the gun since you could always go
for two piece ammo
 

marauder2048

"I should really just relax"
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
3,158
Reaction score
501

uk 75

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
3,095
Reaction score
1,801
But nonetheless they are what the US are trying to imitate..
 

Fluff

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Sep 9, 2019
Messages
487
Reaction score
267
Oh, if I may, I intended but overlooked another point I wanted to include:
6/ One should not underestimate the importance and effectiveness of Direct Fire Support in both the offensive and defensive manner.
One should not underestimate how much waiting 20 minutes to deconflict a indirect fire mission because accidents are more dangerous than the enemy distorts what people expect.
Even ATACMS deconfliction time was down to seven minutes by OIF; you could argue that deconfliction times are closer
to a minimum since comms are unimpeded and positional uncertainty is very low.

----------------
Expensive munitions might just have to be a way of life: With a very tight weight constraint, it is hard for air transported forces to have much combat power. One has to throw money at high performance light weight weapons. Guidance packages increases weapon performance at very little weight penalty.
I'm not sure that true for guidance since the overall trend has been toward multimode seekers; SDB II's guidance section is over 30 pounds.

Yes, if you look at single wavelength imaging infrared they've achieved weight reductions though better
pixel pitch and going uncooled. But that's being offset by other trends.

It's not totally clear what the volume/weight tradeoffs are for missile vs. gun systems in the 120 - 130mm gun
caliber range. You could argue the volumetric advantage would be with the gun since you could always go
for two piece ammo
I would suggest next step would be a common hull, with 2 versions, a gun armed, with lots of active Defense systems, and networked to a VL atgm version. Probably configured to fire both systems on a single target. As an aside, what happens to a iai suicide drone that runs out of fuel?
 

jsport

what do you know about surfing Major? you're from-
Joined
Jul 27, 2011
Messages
2,425
Reaction score
461
VLS simply reveal ones position and are defeated by evolving as well current APS.

A Multi-role 105mm rd was developed over a length of time and purchased as Marauder has pointed out in contract activity in this thread.

Likewise, Ramjet rds are as close to missiles as should ever to be pursued for AFVs.

Next generation energetics propelling rds would give even a 105mm enough umph.

Remember tanks are to be destroyed by helicopters and Man portables.

AFVs must engage muliple tgt types.
 

shin_getter

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Messages
257
Reaction score
211
If we think about the constrains, the combat scenario should fall out:

1. A Tank: Offensive action
2. Moved and supplied by airhead: Weak opposition
3. C-17 don't land on the enemy: move significant distance on land: mounted
4. Air mobile force scale: insufficient to continuous front lines: convoys into enemy territory, threatened on all sides
5. Air mobile time scale: time sensitive operations

----------
Some thoughts:
1. What kind of scenario would need major offensive power in short time, given the tempo of political decision making? Is the USA going to try to surprise attack nations and knock them out before mobilization?

2. A new vehicle can enhance the scenario in two ways:
a.improve combat power: enable the landed force to take on stronger opponents
b.reduce casualties:

If we think about the marginal gain for money, to improve combat power the best way is likely to just buy more transport aircraft. How many C-17s class transport can you buy for a MPF program? (M8 exists for 30! years) While existing air mobile vehicles is not perfect it is not horrible. How much can you fix Stryker MGS for the money?

If we want to reduce casualties, under the above conditions the greatest losses probably comes from destroyed infantry transports. In this condition it'd take a incompetent opponent to shoot at the front armor of your spearhead as opposed to everything else. Using tonnage to upgrade the vehicles with all the men inside would be a better course of action.

Not sure how much better the MPF would be over a MGS with APS. What are odds of bmps being a real casualty dealer as opposed to suicidal vehicles to use against Americans?
 

jsport

what do you know about surfing Major? you're from-
Joined
Jul 27, 2011
Messages
2,425
Reaction score
461
As stated before, if the island democracies do not have an airborne tank able to retake after an (internally) directed invasion, then the West ends.
 

riggerrob

I really should change my personal text
Senior Member
Joined
Mar 11, 2012
Messages
1,336
Reaction score
745
And there is the other one
Which at that standard configuration is inadequately protected.

Amazing how narrow the tracks are on Russian air-droppable AFVs.
We wonder about their ground pressure when crossing swampy ground.
How do they compare with the British Scorpion series of light tanks?
 

Pioneer

Seek out and close with the enemy
Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2006
Messages
1,951
Reaction score
346
And there is the other one
Which at that standard configuration is inadequately protected.

Amazing how narrow the tracks are on Russian air-droppable AFVs.
We wonder about their ground pressure when crossing swampy ground.
How do they compare with the British Scorpion series of light tanks?
riggerrob, I think nobody appriciates ground pressure more than the Russian's, just as I think the Soviet's/Russian's appriciates the importance of mobility and firepower over that of armour, when it came to the likes of the ASU-85 to the BMD-4.

Regards
Pioneer
 

Fluff

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Sep 9, 2019
Messages
487
Reaction score
267
And there is the other one
Which at that standard configuration is inadequately protected.

Amazing how narrow the tracks are on Russian air-droppable AFVs.
We wonder about their ground pressure when crossing swampy ground.
How do they compare with the British Scorpion series of light tanks?
riggerrob, I think nobody appriciates ground pressure more than the Russian's, just as I think the Soviet's/Russian's appriciates the importance of mobility and firepower over that of armour, when it came to the likes of the ASU-85 to the BMD-4.

Regards
Pioneer
And the will to take casualties proportionately.

The BMD-4 is approx twice the weight of a CVR(T) scorpion.

It is all a trade off.
 

uk 75

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
3,095
Reaction score
1,801
I think it is worth pointing out that the Soviet method was to use an airport (Prague or Kabul) to insert their Airborne Division rather as the US did with the 82nd in Saudi Arabia.
Divisional Airborne drops are surely consigned to history in the face of modern weapons.
Dropping an armoured vehicle out of a plane has as far as I know not been done except in exercises.
The Scorpion family were designed for RAF transports (Argosy, 681 and Herc) and included 76mm, 30mm and ATGW. They were the closest the West came to the BMD family. The US had planned a very comprehensive Sheridan based family. France had impressive wheeled stuff.
 

marauder2048

"I should really just relax"
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
3,158
Reaction score
501
Dropping an armoured vehicle out of a plane has as far as I know not been done except in exercises.
The M551 combat drops over Panama in Operation Just Cause notwithstanding apparently.

Not sure how much better the MPF would be over a MGS with APS.
Given the demonstrated unsuitability of every developmental and non-developmental APS out there on the Stryker...
 
Last edited:

uk 75

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
3,095
Reaction score
1,801
A handful of obsolete Sheridans against a low level opponent does not really count. I always thought they could just as easily driven off a C130.
 

marauder2048

"I should really just relax"
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
3,158
Reaction score
501
A handful of obsolete Sheridans against a low level opponent does not really count. I always thought they could just as easily driven off a C130.
Right..because the Russians rolled through airmobile armor from the airports into the face of some real first rate opposition...
 

uk 75

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
3,095
Reaction score
1,801
You make my point. Noone has used Airborne Armour against serious opposition (ie more than poorly trained and equipped locals or none at all).
NATO reserves with lightweight ATGW and M48s in the German case would have made short work of any BMDs that drove out of Hamburg airport or were dropped into N Germany.
 

marauder2048

"I should really just relax"
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
3,158
Reaction score
501
You make my point. Noone has used Airborne Armour against serious opposition (ie more than poorly trained and equipped locals or none at all).
Right. Because:

a. there were a huge number of opportunities to employ airborne armor
b. there was a lot of (ill-defined, your agenda driven classification of) serious opposition out there

The thin screen of M551s in Saudi Arabia was probably the best example if you want a blocking force in the face
of a credible armor threat.

NATO reserves with lightweight ATGW and M48s in the German case would have made short work of any BMDs that drove out of Hamburg airport or were dropped into N Germany.
Do you have the NATO wargaming results to corroborate this claim?
 

uk 75

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
3,095
Reaction score
1,801
I have no quarrel with having an air portable armour capability. I suspect a British formation with Scorpions/Scimitars/Strikers w Swingfire flown in by C130 or even Heavylift Belfast could have filled a similar blocking/tripwire role.
I am basing my assessment on conversations I had with officers from UK and FRG about N Germany and Berlin in the 80s. Large and small scale Sov Airborne assaults were prepared for.
 

marauder2048

"I should really just relax"
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
3,158
Reaction score
501
I have no quarrel with having an air portable armour capability. I suspect a British formation with Scorpions/Scimitars/Strikers w Swingfire flown in by C130 or even Heavylift Belfast could have filled a similar blocking/tripwire role.
So I'm guessing that force runs out of Swingfire before the Russians run out of obscurants.

I am basing my assessment on conversations I had with officers from UK and FRG about N Germany and Berlin in the 80s. Large and small scale Sov Airborne assaults were prepared for.
What else did you expect them to say?
 

uk 75

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
3,095
Reaction score
1,801
Er Russians in Saudi Arabia in 1991 I thought the Iraqis were coming to challenge the Sheridans ps what are obscurants?
As for my conversations, I guess working for the British Government and they being military and all I should just go ask some bloke posting on a blog.
 

Similar threads

Top