The First Crisis:Yom Kippur War, 1973
First-generation, wire-guided Saggerantitank guided missiles (ATGMs) oper-ated by joystick control are fired byEgyptian infantrymen at Israeli tanks op-erating without infantry support, taking aheavy toll on the armored forces coun-terattacking the Egyptian surprise attack and invasion of the Sinai across the SuezCanal. Later in the war, IDF tankerslearn to turn and fire towards the firingsignature of the Sagger missiles, disrupt-ing the Egyptian infantrymen’s aim.They learn also to dodge their tanks atthe last second to evade the missiles.One tank came home after a missionwith over a dozen Sagger wires drapedover its hull.One of the results of that war was crea-tion of tactics, techniques, and proce-dures (TTP) that integrated infantry inM113 armored personnel carriers toclear out ATGM positions ahead of tanks. Another result was the develop-ment of a better protected tank, the verylow silhouette Merkava I, which provedinvincible against first generationATGMs and RPGs in the later war inLebanon in 1982.
The Second Crisis:South Lebanon, 1997
Second-generation, Russian signature-less ATGMs like the 9K111 Fagot (AT4Spigot in the West) are being used byHezbollah to knock out the once-invinci-ble Merkava IIs in mountainous and ur-banized Southern Lebanon. After 28missile hits, Hezbollah guerrillas havebeen reported as having learned whichare the weak areas of the Merkava II andfire two missiles in rapid succession atthat spot. Three Merkava II tanks havebeen knocked out, resulting in two deadsoldiers. Without a firing signature, theFagot (semi-automatic command line-of-sight) SACLOS ATGM can be control-led until it hits the specific spot on thetank aimed by the firer, who holds thecrosshairs there and is free from thetank’s counterfire. The tanker doesn’tknow he’s under attack until the ATGMhits his tank. The IDF is consideringpulling the Merkava IIs out of Lebanonand have dispatched the legendary Gen-eral Tal, creator of the Merkava MBT, tothe scene to solve the problem.We owe a great deal of debt to the Is-raeli Defense Forces (IDF) who, on thefront lines for freedom, are encounteringthe latest weapons made in both the for-mer Soviet Union and the West. Whatthey learn the hard way, we need to heedin our future armored vehicle designsand in our own TTP.When the tank as we know it receivessome setbacks in battle, there will al-ways be a chorus of those who proclaimthat the tank is dead. This shrill messageis delivered with an arrogant attitude thatsuggests we are somehow “above” hav-ing to use extreme physical measures tofight battles today and certainly in thefuture. What these people really opposeis the reality that, in war, EXTREMEphysical measures are needed to win.The modern battlefield is covered byfire, and to advance forward requires ar-mor protection, or else casualties willmount, as we saw in both World Wars,Vietnam, and more recently in Somalia.These critics of the tank invariably offerus no solutions or alternatives, other thanfighting on foot without tanks or fromthe cockpit with “wunderweapons” of the air. Their goal seems to be killing thetank as an end unto itself. What these in-dividuals fail to realize is that, in war,there is a constant ebb and flow of weapons and countermeasures. The min-ute you develop an advantage, a counterweapon is created. To stay on top, youhave to keep advancing new ideas.Those that want to give up the tank sim-ply want to call it quits, and give up,which will be disastrous on the next bat-tlefield. In war, the side that decides tostick to bows and arrows gets wiped outby the side with firearms.If the tank is now endangered by theantitank guided missile, firing beyondvisual ranges without signatures, then thetank must adapt to regain the edge. Thecritics of the tank are partially right: tra-ditional tankers who do not want toadapt to the modern battlefield are mak-ing the tank obsolete, so we must changethe tank paradigm or else it will bechanged for us by our misinformed de-tractors.The world is rapidly urbanizing; peoplecause wars, and people live in cities.Tanks will not only be required to leadstampedes in open rural desert areas, à laDesert Storm, to defeat other tank armiesin third-generation maneuver wars, butthey must fight in closed terrain and as-sist in stability operations in defensiveposture situations like Bosnia and SouthLebanon. Tanks must lead the way intothe cities, but avoid a replay of fightinginfantry-pure, as in Somalia, or tank-pure, as the Russians did in Chechnya.Tanks will be vital to withstand enemyfires and lead assaults by
.Supporting the tank will be shock infan-try in their own armored personnel carri-ers; some with a large-caliber, fire-sup-port cannon to blast buildings/bunkers,others with a telescoping boom ladderwith a capsule to take fire teams to therooftops or selected windows or floorsby mouseholing, instead of the predict-able helicopter rooftop assaults. We’llneed other vehicles with fire fightingmodules or trailers to put out buildingfires before the city we are trying to saveburns down. If tanks cannot swim, atleast the APCs should be capable of thiswithout preparation in order to secureriver crossings for combat engineers tobridge. However, once the area is se-cured, maintaining control of urban areaswill require the defensive use of tanks.Some of the best ideas to defeat preci-sion guided munitions/missiles comefrom the Russians — I suggest readingthe recent article in
magazine at the internet address:http://www.milparade.ru/19/102-105.htmand especially the schematic athttp://www.milparade.ru/19/105-f.gif.The following are descriptions of de-vices the future tank will need to prevailin the city fight. When the future tank ventures into the open, the fight willoften be beyond visual range — missileversus missile. This tank must be air-droppable, so it can be deployed alongwith airborne forces from the drop zone.America is a strategic
, as Eng-land was once a sea power. Our security
A Crisis of Confidence in Armor?
by Mike Sparks