For over 50 years, the US Army had a simple doctrine for using tanks in urban combat-Don’t.
Oh, sure the manuals listed ways to use tanks in cities if you had to, but the emphasis was on avoiding towns and cities. Tanks bring three big assets to a fight- mobility, survivability, and firepower. Fighting in the close terrain of a city sacrifices mobility. And to a certain extent, survivability. Because ranges are so short in cities, and there is a lot of “high ground” readily available on rooftops, and potential ambush points from alleyways and such, tanks can become vulnerable to a lot of short range, man portable anti-tank systems such as RPGs. Reducing two of the three biggest assets of a tank is really changes the risk/reward calculation.
Also, during the Cold War, while the Army focused so much of its intellectual energy on a possible fight in Western Europe, they had a curious inability to honestly address urban warfare. There are few places on earth with as many cities, towns and villages as Western Europe. Yet the Army seemed to think all the fighting would take place outside of town. This in the face of all the evidence to the contrary. After all, the Army had to fight in all those very same cities and town when they defeated Germany in WWII.
In Desert Storm, you could hardly have designed a battlefield that was more suited to the way the Army hoped to fight. No cities, very few civilians running around, and a mechanized, force on force fight. It’s no surprise the Army was happy to operate in the open desert, and leave the assault on Kuwait City to the Marines and our allies.
But the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent war there were another matter. By necessity, the Army wound up fighting in cities. The learning curve was steep. And city fighting is an infantry intensive form of warfare. Armor was no longer the “Arm of Decision” but another source of supporting fires, much like artillery and close air support.
After a couple years of fighting in cities, tankers started screaming about some of the upgrades their tanks needed to both do their job better, and protect their crews, and reduce the vehicle’s vulnerabilities. Enter the TUSK or Tank Urban Survival Kit.
Most of these are pretty minor modifications. The tank itself can still perform its regular hot-war mission of blasting other tanks at long range, and running around like crazy in the enemy’s back yard.
The tank/infantry phone is great because the team leader on the ground can tell the tank exactly what he needs. M1s never had it before, because it never made a lot of sense when the Army envisioned battalions of tanks and Bradleys charging across the field at 40 miles an hour. Again, they didn’t want to hear anybody saying anything heretical like “tanks will find themselves creeping along at 3mph in a city.”
The loader’s shield didn’t make a lot of sense in Western Europe either. You want to keep the profile of a tank as low as reasonably possible. And in a tank battle, the loader is not likely to come under small arms fire very much. Indeed, his weapon was added almost as an afterthought. But in city fighting, having that machine gun is very handy. And since it is, and the ranges are so short, having a shield makes a great deal of sense, even if it does raise the profile somewhat.
Some other components, like the thermal site for the loader’s weapon, and the remote weapon station for the commander, weren’t really practical earlier, or anywhere near cost effective. Now that they are, they’re being added.
The additional armor on the sides and the slat armor on the engine compartment? Well, an RPG is unlikely to destroy an M1 on the side, but it could damage the running gear, and leave it immobile. This solves that problem. And the slat armor addresses the same issue.
Any tankers our there wanna add something?