Rameez Ansari describes a new pattern of thinking Is tank getting obsolete
The Russian-Ukrainian conflict has portrayed destroyed Russian is tank getting obsolete tanks with shattered chassis, broken turrets, gun barrel blackened and burnt, pointing uselessly at the sky conveying the impression that the tank, hitherto considered a decisive weapon of war, may be losing its decisive position. Many specialists are now asking questions about the efficacy of tank in warfare as modern anti-tank weapons have rendered it useless on the battlefield. The images beamed across the world of a Soviet-designed T72 main battle tank revving its engines and clattering towards its target but then getting destroyed in their hundreds by small, agile bands of well-trained Ukrainian infantry wielding drones, Javelin and Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapons. This impression is quite unnerving as the tank is such a symbol of power and when it is rendered ineffective then many people jump to the conclusion that it is the end of the tank.
Many analysts, however, point out that it is important not to draw the wrong lessons from what has happened during the recent conflict. They point out that the Russian tanks in question were typically poorly employed, unsupported by dismounted infantry and without the benefit of a strong non-commissioned officer (NCO) corps, such as one finds in the US Army or British Army. It is mentioned that the defeat of the Russian attack on Kyiv shows what happens when tanks are inexpertly deployed by a force that cannot do combined arms warfare and has weak logistics. The result, therefore, was that they became all easy kills for the defending Ukrainian forces conveying the impression that the tank warfare is not valid now. They also indicate that a competent NATO battle group would push out infantry to stop tanks being ambushed.
The misleading impression about tank – one of the iconic symbols of modern warfare – has been created both by its critics and defenders. In the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, Armenia’s tanks got decimated by Azerbaijan’s Turkish-made drones. In Libya, these same drones, the TB2 Bayraktar, inflicted serious losses on the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, while in Syria, government tanks also fell prey to the Turkish drones. In the early phase of the Ukraine war, modern anti-tank guided missiles, supplied by Britain, the US and other nations, proved to be a game-changer in driving back the Russian armoured columns from north of the capital, Kyiv. Meanwhile, in the second phase, in the Donbas, massed Russian artillery has been the game-changer, using destructive firepower to slowly blast its way forward.
It is reported that so far this year, Russia is estimated to have lost more than 700 tanks – some destroyed, some abandoned. These tanks are often pictured covered in reactive armour – which looks like a large rectangular box. It is designed to set off a small explosion as the missile hits, blunting its effect. But Western-supplied drones and anti-tank missiles have got around this, mainly by hitting the tank from above on the turret, where the armour is thinnest. In this context, it is pointed out that Russian-Ukrainian conflict is essentially characterised by the inordinate dominance of the drone indicating that drones are needed to substantiate defence tactics as armed forces now need classic low-level air defence including lasers and electronic jamming. In this context it is mentioned that something that may prolong the future of the tank is the Active Protection System (APS). It is a way to head off whatever is attacking the tank before it hits its target. There are two types of APS, soft and hard kill evasion suite: soft kill means electronic pulses that can disrupt the incoming missile and hard kill means firing something kinetic at it, like a stream of bullets.
Despite the setback suffered by the tank it is mentioned that advances in counter-drone measures will reduce the effectiveness of drones that now seem to roam about the battlefield looking for easy targets. As far as the relevance of the tank goes, it is pointed out that there will always be a need for protected mobile firepower. It is predicted in this context that in future remote-controlled, unmanned tanks – essentially armoured drones – will be moving across the battlefield in tandem with crewed tanks, increasing their firepower while reducing the risk to life. The general feeling in infantry is that it would prefer to be in any fight in any terrain with the benefit of protected, mobile firepower. It is also mentioned that tanks have a firepower, mobility and resilience that infantry just do not have. It is a flexible platform that can operate day and night, get to the objective and deliver shock to the enemy. Ukraine would not be rebuilding its tank forces if tanks were not vital. They have asked for over twice the number of tanks that the UK possesses. TW