Category Archives: armor

The Army and Amphibious Warfare- Repost

Here’s a repost of one of the earlier works on the blog, but that might seem fresh to newer readers.

When you mention the words “amphibious warfare” most people think immediately of the US Marines, and rightly so. But during WWII, the Army invested huge resources into the ability to land on a hostile shore and conduct operations.

There are two general types of amphibious operations: ship-to-shore and shore-to-shore. Ship to shore operations are those in which the landing force is transported to the objective in large, ocean going vessels, then landed via small craft onto the shore. Shore to shore operations take place over relatively short distances, and generally the troops are carried in smaller craft, rather than large transports. Obviously, the anticipated objectives will dictate which approach is taken.

In the late 1930s, with war clouds clearly on the horizon, both the Army and the Marines came to the conclusion that they would need to develop a serious amphibious capability, but they reached different conclusions because of very different assumptions about what type  of war they would be fighting.

For 20 years, the Navy had forseen war with Japan in the Pacific. And the cornerstone of the Navy’s strategy to defeat Japan was to defeat the Japanese fleet in a battle, likely somewhere near the Philipines. Since it would be impractical for the fleet to steam all the way from San Diego or Pearl Harbor and fight in those waters, the need for advanced bases was clear. And the Marines understood that as a consequence of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, any islands that could serve as an advance base would almost certainly be held by the Japanese. That meant the Marines had to be ready to travel the huge distances of the Pacific, land on remote islands, and seize relatively small objectives. For the Marines, this was a raison de etre.

The Army faced a different challenge. The Army had no desire to get into the amphibious warfare business. But watching the rise of Nazi German power, the Army leadership was convinced that sooner or later, they’d have to go fight in Western Europe again. And, unlike 1918, they weren’t at all sure the French ports would be available to land the huge armies planned. After the fall of France in June of 1940, the cold realization came that just to get  the Army to the fight would mean sooner or later, landing somewhere in Western Europe, under the guns of the enemy. And not only would the Army have to land there, they would have to build up their forces and simultaneously supply them over the beaches until a suitable port could be seized. Fortunately for the Army, England was still available as an advance base.

The Army didn’t completely ignore the ship to shore model of amphibious warfare, mostly because they couldn’t. When it became apparent that no cross-Channel operation to invade Europe would be possible in 1942 (mostly because of a lack of landing craft) President Roosevelt made the decision that a front in the Atlantic theater would be opened in North Africa. A combined British and American force would be landed in the French occupied territories of North Africa, then drive east to engage the German forces in  Tunisia. Due to the distances involved, this could only be a ship to shore movement. Many forces sailed from England, but a significant portion sailed all the way from ports on the East Coast of the US. Even against only fitful French and German resistance, the invasion fleet lost five large transports. One of the lessons the Army learned was that transports waiting to discharge their troops and cargoes were extremely vulnerable. In response, the Army wanted to make sure as many ships as possible had the ability to beach themselves to unload, minimizing the reliance on small craft such as the Higgins boat, LCVP, and the LCM.

LCM(3) (Landing Craft Mechanized Model 3)

LCM(3) (Landing Craft Mechanized Model 3)

Higgins Boat (Landing Craft Personnel Light)

Higgins Boat (Landing Craft Personnel Light)

LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel)

LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel)

These craft were carried near the objective by transports, and lowered over the side by booms or davits. That took time, time during which the transports, only 5-10 miles offshore, were vulnerable to submarines, airplanes and even coastal artillery.  While they were fairly good for getting the first units of lightly armed troops ashore, they were less efficient at getting ashore the huge numbers of follow-on troops needed, and importantly, the massive numbers of vehicles the troops would need to break out from any beachhead. Further, they just weren’t capable of bringing ashore the cargoes of supplies, fuel and ammunition the troops would need.  Something bigger was needed. And the first of these bigger craft was known as the LCT, or Landing Craft Tank. An LCM3 could carry one tank, barely. An LCT was a much bigger craft and could carry from 3 to 5 tanks. Five was an optimum number, as that was the number of tanks in a platoon, and keeping tactical units together on a landing greatly assisted in the assualt. As you can see from the picture, the LCT was essentially a self-propelled barge with a bow-ramp.

2lctmk5pageThe LCT could easily sail from England to France, or from Mediterranean ports in North Africa to Sicily and Italy. And while it could carry real numbers of tanks, something even better was in the works- the Landing Ship Tank, or LST. Early in the war, espcially as the Allies were first gearing up  for the invasion of North Africa, the Army (and especially the British) realized they had no way of shipping tanks overseas and landing them across beaches in any numbers. The LCT couldn’t handle the voyage, and loading LCMs over the side of a transport was problematic in anything but a flat calm. Worse, tanks kept getting heavier and heavier, faster than the booms on transport ships could grow to handle them. The idea arose of converting vessels originally built to carry rail cars from Florida to Panama as tank carriers. But while they could drive the tanks on at the embarkation point, the problem of discharging them remained. To unload them, the Army would need to seize a port. Indeed, this limitation was precisley why Casablanca was a target of the invasion. Enter the British. They had built a series of very shallow draft tankers to serve the waters around Venezuala. The reasoned that the design could quickly be adapted to build a large vessel that could safely beach itself, unload tanks held in what had formerly been the holds via a ramp in the bow, and then retract itself from the beach. Unlike an LCT, the LST might be ungainly and slow, but it was a real seagoing vessel.

LST (Landing Ship Tank)

LST (Landing Ship Tank)

While the LST was very valuable in bringing tanks, up to 20 at a time, it turns out the real value was in trucks. The Army in WWII was by far the most mechanized and motorized army in the world. And that meant trucks. Lots of trucks- to move people, supplies, tow guns, you name it. And the LST could carry a lot of trucks, already loaded, both on its tank deck, and on the topsides. And unlike the hassle of unloading a regular transport, all they had to do was drive down a ramp. After making an initial assault, as soon as an LST had discharged its tanks, it would turn around, go back to England (or where ever) and load up on trucks to build up the forces on the beachhead. To say the LST was a success would be a bit of an understatement. The US built roughly 1100 of them during the war for our Navy and the British.

While the LST was great for carrying tanks and trucks, it didn’t do so well at carrying people. One thing the Army really wanted was a small ship that could carry a rifle company from England and land them on the shores of France, non-stop and as a unit. The trick was getting the size just right. It had to be small enough to be built in large numbers, but big enough to cross the Atlantic on its own. It wouldn’t be expected to carry troops across the Atlantic. Those would come across on troopships. But any vessel large enough to do the job would be too large to carry aboard a transport. Pretty soon, the Navy designed and built the Landing Craft Infantry, or LCI. This was a vessel designed almost entirely with the invasion of Normandy in mind. It carried about 200 troops, roughly a reinforced rifle company, for up to 48 hours, which is about the time it took to load and transport them from ports in the Southwest of England and discharge them over the beaches of Normandy.

LCI (Landing Craft Infantry)

LCI (Landing Craft Infantry)

The Army had one other great tool for bringing supplies across the beach. In the days before the LST was available, the only method of getting trucks ashore across the beach was to winch them over the side of  a transport into an LCM. Someone at GM had the bright idea of doing away with the LCM part, and making the truck amphibious. That way, the truck could swim ashore, then drive inland to the supply dumps.  The result was basically a boat hull grafted onto a 2-1/2 ton truck, known as the DUKW, and commonly called a “duck.” Thousands of DUKWs, almost all manned by African American soldiers, brought wave after wave of critical supplies ashore across the beaches of Normandy and at other beaches the Army invaded. Unlike most landing craft, these were bought by, and operated by the Army, not the Navy.

DUKW Amphibious 2-1/2 ton truck

DUKW Amphibious 2-1/2 ton truck

Finally, in the Pacific, when you speak of amphibious warfare, again, you rightly think of the Marines. But in fact, the Army had a huge presence there as well. Indeed, it was always a larger prescence than the Marines. The Army made over 100 amphibious assualts in the Pacific theater, many in the Southwest Pacific in and around New Guinea. In conjunction with the US Seventh Fleet, MacArthur’s forces in the Southwest Pacific became masters at the art of amphibious warfare, striking where the Japanese least expected them, and routinely conducting sweeping flanking movements that left Japanese garrisons cut off and useless. Dan Barbey, the Commander of 7th Fleet became known as “Uncle Dan The Amphibious Man.” All this with a fleet mostly composed of tiny LCTs, a few LSTs and LCIs.

The Army also fought alongside the Marine Corps in some of their most storied battles, such as the invasions of Saipan and Okinawa. Indeed, if the atomic bomb attacks had not lead to the early surrender of Japan, the invasion of the home islands would have been mostly  an Army affair. Largely as a result of the Army’s preocupation with the European theater, these magnificent efforts have received little attention from the public at large.

After WWII, the Army’s focus again turned to Europe and the Cold War. For several reasons, including the vulnerability of shipping to nuclear weapons, amphibious operations fell out of favor with the Army. The Marines of course, continued to maintain that unique capabilty. Currently, the Army has no capability to conduct a landing against opposition. Current doctrine does still provide for limited ability to sustain forces by what is known as LOTS or “Logistics Over The Shore” and for the rapid deployment of troop units to hot spots via Afloat Prepositioning Squadrons. Basically, sets of unit equipment are mainained aboard large ships just days sailing from their possible objectives. If needed, they can sail to a friendly port or harbor, and unload their cargoes to meet up with troops flown in by either commercial aircraft or military transport planes. Alternatively, they can serve as a follow-on force to reinforce a beach seized by Marine amphibious assault.

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The New Russian Armata Tank

It’s actually a family of fighting vehicles.

The prime variant is the T-14 tank. Finally some pics of it without  a tarp over the turret are coming out.

The big innovation here is that the turret itself is unmanned. That has the advantage that you can make it significantly smaller, in that you don’t need to leave space for people. That means a given weight of armor provides more protection, as it has less surface area to cover. But it also means any failure of the autoloader is much more difficult to remedy. The gun is basically the same 125mm smoothbore the Russians have been using for nearly 40 years. The flat panels suggest either composite armor similar to the M1 series, or integrated Explosive Reactive Armor panels. The bulky side sponsons along the hull suggest ERA. The prominent boxlike projection on the left top of the turret appears to be an independent thermal viewer similar to that of the M1A2 tank. What level of sophistication the fire control has is unknown. Interestingly, there are reports the tank will field a radar based fire control channel.
http://img2.goodfon.su/wallpaper/big/1/87/armata-t-14-boevoy-tank-4929.jpg

The tank reportedly uses a 1500hp diesel engine, downrated to 1200hp for normal operation, on  a tank with a combat weight of 48 tons. Even at the downrated horsepower, that yields a very respectable 25 horsepower per ton.

The T-15 Heavy Infantry Fighting Vehicle variant uses the same chassis and engine, but apparently reverses the arrangement, with the engine in the front, and the troop compartment in the rear. This is actually a fairly common adaptation of tank hulls. Many early US self propelled artillery series used this trick. The T-15 likewise has a remote controlled turret, with a 30mm autocannon, and an anti-tank missile launcher. The troop compartment has space for 6-8 troops.

 

The first “public” display of the Armata family is expected Saturday, during the parade in Moscow celebrating 70 years since the victory over Nazi Germany.

Other variants ordered include a 152mm self propelled artillery piece.

Once you’ve developed a successful vehicle chassis, it makes sense to adapt it to other roles, to reduce development costs, and to benefit from commonality of production, spare parts, logistics, and training.

Of course, the downside is that an IFV on a tank chassis is much more expensive than one on a lighter chassis. The trend however, suggests most future IFVs will be tank chassis based, and have much higher levels of protection than those of today.

The Armata family appears to be quite capable, certainly near peer to our own M1 and Bradley series.

Having said that, virtually every vehicle produced so far will be in the parade Saturday, a force of somewhere around two dozen vehicles. And while Russia claims that some 2300 will be produced, the economic challenges Russia faces may make that production schedule difficult to keep. There are suggestions that the T-14 and T-15 will be specialized units, and that a less ambitious IFV will be the main replacement for legacy BMP-1, 2, and 3 series. The Kurganets 25 has been touted as the main replacement for older IFVs.

Kurganets-25 30mm gun variant with turret covered

The numbers of T-14s scheduled for production also suggest older T-80/T-90 series tanks will remain in front line use for many, many years to come.

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Spall

Courtesy of Think Defense.

Embedded image permalink

When armor is struck by a projectile, the kinetic energy is transferred through it. Depending on the type of projectile, that can cause armor on the far side of the impact to detach and turn into projectiles on the protected side. In fact, during the 1950s, a type of projectile called HESH was designed and fielded to exploit this possibility. HESH was a High Explosive Squash Warhead. Basically a lump of plastic explosive would flatten out on armor then explode. It was never intended to actually penetrate the armor, but instead generate a lot of spall on the inside.

Fortunately, there’s a relatively simple way to counter spall, called, amazingly enough, a spall liner. A prime example is on the M2/M3 Bradley fighting vehicle. Bolted to the inside of the hull’s armor is about a half inch thick layer of Kevlar sheeting. Kevlar has only modest capability against HEAT rounds and kinetic penetrators, but it is more than sufficient to stop spall (which both HEAT rounds and kinetic penetrators also generate). A Bradley might suffer badly from  a hit, but minimizing the spall tends to make the crew much more likely to survive.

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Vulcan/Chaparral

This film is from circa 1965. Even in 1990, the Vulcan/Chaparral/FAAR team formed the backbone of the armored/mechanized infantry division’s Air Defense Artillery battalion, though by that time, there were also several FIM-92 Stinger missile teams available.

Some of the platoon and company life fire gunnery ranges at Graf in Germany were especially fun when, as a dismount grunt, I could stand right next to an M163 Vulcan, and watch it dispatch bursts at targets.

By 1990, both systems were clearly obsolete, and would be hard pressed to successfully engage most any Soviet aircraft, and even struggle with helicopters such as the formidable Mi-24.  The Vulcan had been slated to be replaced by the M247 SGT York 40mm gun* but the failure of that program meant the Vulcan and the Chapparal eventually were both replaced by the Stinger missile, and a lot of hope that Stinger would be enough.

*Which, the Vulcan itself replaced the earlier M42 40mm gun carriage, popularly known as the “Duster.”

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Movement to Contact

One of the key battlefield tasks is avoiding being surprised by the enemy. The way to do that is to maintain contact with him. If contact is lost, it should be reestablished as soon as practical.

The way to do this is known as Movement to Contact. As the video explains, this is an offensive task. In effect, it’s something like a hasty attack, except you don’t really know where you’ll be conducting the attack.

Mind you, careful analysis of the terrain, and a fair appreciation of the enemy order of battle can often give you a pretty good idea where contact is likely. 

A doctrinal  here- to fix an enemy is to place sufficient fires upon him as to preclude him from either disengaging, or maneuvering.

While the video is geared toward the Combined Arms Battalion, Movement to Contact is a mission that can be conducted by light forces as well. Indeed, even Attack Aviation does it. The tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) differ somewhat, but the fundamentals are the same.

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Squad Integrity, and the ACV

So, in our post about the Marines catching some flack for choosing a wheeled amphibious combat vehicle, jjak had a decent question:

So how will a 10-man vehicle hold a 13 man squad? Based on this http://xbradtc.com/2015/01/13/the-rifle-squad/ discussion the 13-man squad is superior. Any idea if the Marines will choose to cut down the squad size or split into multiple vehicles while waiting for the gen 2 vehicle with more seats? If they ever come.

Once the gen 2 vehicles arrive what happens to the 10 seat version? I’d make them engineering vehicles or mortar carriers or some other specialist vehicle, but maybe someone has a line on the official plan.

The answer is, as always, the Marines are weird.

Actually, not so much weird, as they do mechanized/mounted operations a little differently than the Army does, and because of that, the lack of squad integrity in the vehicle is not quite an insurmountable challenge. It’s not ideal, no, but it’s not the end of the world.

As we’ve mentioned, the Marine rifle squad is 13 men, a Squad Leader, and three four man fire teams.  A Marine Rifle platoon consists of a four man headquarters, and three rifle squads. That’s 43 men. Obviously, that means four ACVs, with a capacity of 10 each is insufficient lift for one platoon. Of course, units are almost always understrength, so there’s a good chance everyone present for duty would find a seat.

Except, each Marine Rifle Company, in addition to its headquarters and three rifle platoons, also has a weapons platoon, with 60mm mortar teams, SMAW assault weapon teams, and six medium machine gun teams. The weapons platoon is not normally deployed as a single tactical unit. Rather, its teams, particularly the SMAW and machine gun teams, are attached to the rifle platoons to augment their firepower. Add in the Navy Corpsman that routinely accompanies a platoon, any other attachments such as Forward Observers or Scout Snipers, and pretty soon, you’ve got 50 or more men that need to travel with the platoon.

One major difference between Army mounted infantry, and Marine mounted infantry is that in the Army, the vehicles are organic to the unit, all the way down to the platoon level. That is, every mech or Stryker infantry platoon owns its four vehicles.

But in the Marines, the infantry platoon doesn’t own any vehicles. The Amphibious Assault Vehicles (and presumably the ACVs in the future) belong to the division, and are shared out as needed to support various units.

Further, the size of Marine amphibious vehicles has never been keyed to any particular tactical unit. Instead, space restrictions on amphibious assault shipping argued instead for larger vehicles carrying as many Marines as reasonably possible.

Because of this, the Marines are far less concerned with squad integrity when mounted. Provided unit integrity can be maintained at the platoon, or at least the company level, they’ll improvise, adapt, and overcome.

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What a Statesman Sounds Like

The contrast with our President is stark indeed.  A clear and rational petition for the safety and existence of his nation and his people.

Small wonder that Obama and the far-left Democrats objected so much to Netanyahu’s appeal for the survival of Israel.  We get the Cairo speech, and “don’t insult Islam”.

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What’s some of the reaction to Netanyahu’s speech from the Arab world?

Tzvi Yechezkieli, the Arab affairs expert of Channel 10, said that many Arab commentators supported the content of Netanyahu’s speech. He cited a commentator on Al-Arabiya TV, who had said that he could have written a large part of the speech.

Yechezkieli said that the Arab countries are convinced that Obama will not safeguard their security interests in the current negotiations with Iran and will not protect them against Iranian aggression.

The above is not isolated opinion, either.  There was this on Bibi’s speech at AIPAC:

Yesterday, Faisal J. Abbas, the powerful Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya English, published an editorial under the headline: “President Obama, listen to Netanyahu on Iran.” Abbas’ editorial was a reaction to Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC yesterday.

He wrote: “In just a few words, Mr. Netanyahu managed to accurately summarize a clear and present danger, not just to Israel (which obviously is his concern), but to other U.S. allies in the region.”

The Saudi Daily Al-Jazirah published an article written by Dr. Ahmad Al-Faraj, who supported Netanyahu’s decision to speak to the U.S. Congress against the upcoming deal with Iran. He called Obama “one of the worst American presidents” and said that Netanyahu’s campaign against the deal is justified because it also serves the interests of the Gulf States.

Barack Obama and his fellow travelers seem to be the only ones, aside from Iran, that were critical of the Prime Minister’s address.

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