US Army heralds the death of the tank : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 17 2000 US Army heralds the death of the tank BY MICHAEL EVANS, DEFENCE EDITOR THE United States Army is to signal the beginning of the end of the tank with an announcement soon that its future armoured units will be equipped with lighter, wheeled vehicles more suited to peace support operations. Although the decision will not yet kill off the tank, which made its debut in 1916 during the First World War, the American proposal could spark new thinking across Nato, which has about eight different types of battle tank.

The rethink on the role of the tank was demanded as a result of the increasing call on US troops to be deployed at short notice. For last year’s Kosovo operation the Americans sent their 70-tonne M1A2 Abrams tanks to Albania as a protective force for Apache helicopters but they had to be flown one at a time on US Air Force C17 transport aircraft.

Now, after a review of the US Army’s role in the world, there is expected to be a radical change under which the main battle tank will take a back seat and a new-look armoured machine will be purchased that can be transported rapidly in a range of aircraft.

According to The Washington Post yesterday a new “medium armoured vehicle” will form the centrepiece of the US Army’s attempt finally to close the door on the Cold War and to develop rapidly deployable armoured units. The newspaper, quoting senior military officials, said the decision to go for a wheeled and armoured vehicle instead of the tracked main battle tank for its newest units was seen as an historic step comparable to the advent of the battleship and the machinegun, which both transformed warfare in their time.

The new strategy would require changes in the way the US Army trained, deployed and fought, the US officials said, although the heavy tanks would be kept for the foreseeable future to deal with conflicts such as the Gulf War, when the US-led coalition confronted Russian-made T72 tanks.

The US Army hoped to develop a wheeled vehicle armoured with ceramics and equipped with an electric gun by about 2010.

The British Army is also looking at ways of introducing a new form of armoured vehicle that would fit in with the latest concept of forces that “go first, go fast and go home”. For every recent operation requiring armour, such as the Gulf War in 1991, Bosnia in the mid-1990s and Kosovo last year, Britain had to send tanks by sea.

There is no current requirement for tanks to be sent by air and the proposed RAF transport aircraft for the future, the Airbus A400M, will not be capable of carrying a vehicle as heavy as a tank.

The British Army is also studying a future medium-weight force that would come halfway between the Challenger tank and the Land Rover and could be transported by the existing C130 Hercules aircraft. An interim report is due early next year.

The British fielded the first tanks during the battle of the Somme on September 15, 1916. Of 59 tanks available, only 49 were serviceable and 17 broke down on their way to battle.,,37209,00.html

-- Martin Thompson (, November 16, 2000

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