Monday, April 11, 2022

More From The Cheap Seats

Col. Andrew Dziengeleski has finished a series of essays on the invasion of Ukraine by Russia that in Introducing From the Cheap Seats

Military operational planning is not a task for amateurs, the meek or the dim. When operational plans fail, not only do lots of people die — usually on your side —   . . .


From Part III:

Emerging Trend #4: The Tank Is Not Dead, Please Stop. Now, as an armor officer, I can be accused of cognitive bias here, so I need to explain why I think tanks are still required in the future. Firstly, Russian training and tactics seem to be wanting. The lack of dismounted infantry providing security for their own vehicles, for tanks and other heavy equipment is a large factor on why so many Russian vehicles have been destroyed. This needs to be taken into account, despite the clear evidence that anti-tank weaponry seems to have taken the lead in the never-ending race between armor and anti-armor weapons. Secondly, if tanks are vulnerable, then every vehicle which has less armor and smaller caliber weaponry is also vulnerable. One must understand what tanks and IFVs bring to the modern battlefield (post-1918) which is operational mobility. Robert Citino’s fantastic book, Quest For Decisive Victory, examined all wars fought between 1899–1940, and for the most part (minus small gains on the Western Front in WWI) because weaponry favored the defensive, and until the development of reliable tanks in the early 1930s, nothing could exploit tactical victories into the rear of opposing forces. The tank was not developed as an anti-tank weapon, although it has certainly acquired that capability since WWII, it was designed as a weapon that could provide armies with operational mobility that could be utilized to exploit the breadth and depth of the battlefield. Advances once measured in meters during World War One, were measured in tens of kilometers from the start of World War Two through today. At first glance, there is nothing that can take the place of the tank and IFV even if the anti-tank weaponry is king for the present time. Airborne and Air Assault forces are raiding forces, primarily, designed to seize terrain for short periods of time until relieved by, guess what, mechanized and armored forces. I suspect we will see some new advances in tank armor, primarily associated with thicker protection on the top of turrets, or new material sciences. Again, the lack of operational mobility is the real loss here, not the tank.

What is Old is New, Again.

Concluding this piece, it’s wise to understand these are snapshots in time, small samples sizes if you like. Russian offensive operations could be more successful if they didn’t decide to attack in the midst of the muddy season, and if they are really dedicated to crushing Ukraine, they would delay future operations until the middle of May, when the ground will get hard enough to support armored offensive operations.

With due respect to Andy, and keeping in mind his warning from Part 2, I do think, barring considerable improvements in tank survivability, tanks may become obsolete, or at least much more important in warfare. Advances in drones, and computer controlled tank killing weapons, the ability of drones and antitank weapons to find tanks at a distance and destroy them before the tanks can engage the enemy with their guns will, at a minimum, reduce the desire to ride tanks into battle. Also, tanks are on the wrong side of the cost curve on this one.

Oh, and Andy, try to keep your heading style straight...


  1. Ha! It's a work in process!

    The lack of operational mobility is a major problem. We've seen this from the US Civil War through the start of WWII as I said. Missiles make softer skin vehicles even more vulnerable, so the tank is not dead. The Russian combined arms tactics are simply woeful, Fritz. They aren't dismounting their infantry from the BTRs and BMPs, and as a result, they lose a lot of infantry for no reason.

  2. Thanks for responding!

    I'm not saying the Russian aren't doing it wrong.

    I do understand that missiles and drone make softer skinned vehicles more vulnerable to, but what that suggests to me is that offensive campaign will become more more difficult. Currently, if drones and missiles are limited, reserving them for more the more dangerous tanks makes sense. As they become cheaper, more numerous and smarter (and they're doing that much faster than tanks are becoming more invulnerable), any kind of mechanized warfare across land becomes much more difficult.

    Bring back the knight on horseback, supported by foot soldiers!