Armored Warfare–Is it dead?

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bolo3_1 Post-Modern warfare has lessened the dominance of the main Battle Tank.

The US’s dominance of Phase III battle has forced our enemies to resort to guerilla warfare. Any confrontation by battalions and brigades on the field of battle will and has resulted in the utter defeat of our enemies.

WW I established the armored fighting vehicle as the determining factor in linear warfare. No longer could a single man, armed with his rifle, stop the advance of platoons and companies. And those companies could advance faster than ever, riding in the holds of Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Today’s IFV’s are armed with auto-cannons capable of laying down withering fire from, spraying 25mm HE rounds at enemy positions. The US’s Bradley IFV is armed with TOW missiles capable of destroying any foreign armored vehicle.

The Israelis, in their recent war with Hezbollah, discovered that modern armaments have outstripped the defensive capabilities of armored vehicles. Hezbollah troops, reportedly armed with advanced Russian HEAT missiles such as the Kornet, were able to score numerous mobility kills. A significant amount of Israeli injuries occured in tank crews, Remember, the Israeli Merkava MBT represents the cutting edge of armor and weaponry, and yet individuals, armed with man-portable anti-tank missiles wreaked havok on them. We have come full circle, finding ourselves in the same position as armored knights, ponderous and outdated, feeling safe behind walls of boron/ carbide matrix, but then scorched by third-world soldiers carrying not blunderbusses but tandem RPG-29 rounds. We have been forced to meet them on their terms, in the dirty streets. Door to door, house to house–hand to hand.

The elephantine and half-blind tanks are now at a severe disadvantage in todays small-wars. IEDs, RPGs and conventional mines are the substitute for super-advanced tanks capable of defeating our M1A2s. We have countered with the advanced Warlock System; electronic countermeasures capable of disabling command-detonated IEDs.

The late Keith Laumer, author and creator of the awesome BOLO series of military science fiction, envision a future battlefield dominated by huge and computer controlled tanks called BOLOs. The picture at the start of this blog entry shows one artist’s interpretation of a BOLO unit. BOLOs with their artificial intelligence flintsteel armor were capable of defeating any enemy on Laumer’s battlefield. Even nuclear missiles were no threat thanks to heavy armor and nuclear dampers. The BOLOs sported Hellbore cannons, huge weapons refitted from spacecraft, plus the BOLO had flechette rounds for dealing with infantry. The BOLO’s ability to monitor the battlefield would have put any Ticonderoga Class cruiser to shame.

Alas, current technology prohibits us from deploying any BOLOs. From an engineering perspective, the sheer weight of the BOLO would make it incapable of crossing bridges and moving through extremely muddy terrain. Its size would prevent a BOLO from moving into cities–where todays forces are needed most. An d without the imaginary nuclear dampers or flintsteel armor, a BOLOs size would be a huge detriment: it could be seen for miles away. Also, Laumer’s BOLO could move far faster than what would be capable by tracked armor.

Maybe we’ll achieve some of the near-magic technology used by the BOLO–someday. For now though, we have taken some small steps in minimizing the ability of non-linear fighters to effectively engage our troops. The Stryker Infantry Fighting Vehicle displays the attributes of an excellent counter-insurgency system: It’s fast and mobile, modular, and can be armed with the Boomerang anti-sniper system, which can triangulate incoming sniper fire and the Raytheon Quick Kill anti-rpg system. The Quick Kill detects the launch of RPGs and fires its own micro-missile in order to intercept the incoming round. The Stryker can carry a 9- man squad too. Oh yeah–it can carry all sorts of remote weapons systems too-so no more cheap kill son our soldiers who are sitting in turrets.


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