Author Topic: US Army Forced To Buy Tanks It Doesn't Want- Now A Discussion on " What If.."  (Read 46527 times)

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Offline Chris Pook

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ARMY SAYS NO TO MORE TANKS, BUT CONGRESS INSISTS

Really interesting final paragraph:

Quote
"From the fairly insular world in which the defense industry operates, these capabilities seem to be unique and in many cases extraordinarily high art," said Grundman, a former deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial affairs and installations during the Clinton administration. "But in the greater scope of the economy, they tend not to be."

The article describes all of the built in inertia, the myriad ways in which the Abrams is tied into the fabric of the US with many small businesses dependent on its continuation.

That got me thinking about all these efforts to build "replacement" systems that are designed to replace "capabilities" with the best available solutions and end up looking exactly like the thing they were replacing but cost ten times as much.  The article drills home the mountain of earth that needs to be moved to permit innovation.

Here's a question - if the tank hadn't been invented in 1915 as a siege-breaking mantlet, powered by the new-fangled internal combustion engine and designed to supply cover to field guns and machine guns so that they could be brought in range of the defenders - just as the original mantlets and pavises covered ballistas and cross-bows - if the tank hadn't been invented for past wars, would it be invented for modern wars?

Second question - if the tank and its support system disappeared for 20 years - and circumstances demanded that a new siege-breaker be developed from scratch what would it look like?

Third question - does the answer to the second question really matter?  Or should we just cross that bridge when we come to it?

For roughly 100 years the RN fought and won its battles with Three-Decker battleships.  Eventually somebody decreed they were the wrong ships for the world the RN was facing. They were set aside and the RN entered into 100 years of experimentation - eventually leading the world to coal and diesel fired steel ships with turreted, rifled cannons, electricity, radios and computers - all by 1914.  When the Three-Deckers were moth-balled in 1814-1830 does anyone believe that anyone living at that time could have predicted Jellicoe's fleet?
« Last Edit: April 29, 2013, 10:13:03 by Bruce Monkhouse »
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Offline jeffb

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Re: US Army being forced to buy tanks it doesn't want
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2013, 14:22:49 »

- if the tank hadn't been invented in 1915 as a siege-breaking mantlet, powered by the new-fangled internal combustion engine and designed to supply cover to field guns and machine guns so that they could be brought in range of the defenders - just as the original mantlets and pavises covered ballistas and cross-bows - if the tank hadn't been invented for past wars, would it be invented for modern wars?

Second question - if the tank and its support system disappeared for 20 years - and circumstances demanded that a new siege-breaker be developed from scratch what would it look like?


I would say yes. As soon as the internal combustion engine got more efficient then the horse, there was going to be some sort of ICE powered cart the combined mobility, protection and firepower. The tank is really nothing very unique but rather a combination of already developed technologies that are refined to deliver a particular capability. Tracked vehicles are still the best way of traveling across open country. In 1917 there was really no other way to skin this cat. Maybe science fiction will be right and we will see the development of bipedal armoured vehicles but I don't think that is going to happen any time soon.

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Offline cupper

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Re: US Army being forced to buy tanks it doesn't want
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2013, 14:28:09 »
I think that the progress of technology would have made the development of the tank or a tank-like vehicle inevitable.

As automotive technology progressed, it would only be a matter of time for warfare to move from a static trench filled war of attrition, to maneuver warfare utilizing the capabilities of the automobile or it's derivatives. At some point armor would be applied to protect the operator and the troops, cargo what have you. In order to defeat armored vehicles, weapon systems would advance. Naturally these systems would be mounted to vehicles to allow them to move with other vehicles etc.

So it really becomes an inevitable natural progression of technology.
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Offline Old Sweat

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Re: US Army being forced to buy tanks it doesn't want
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2013, 14:44:52 »
And by 1916 wheeled vehicles mounting or carrying machine-guns had already appeared in several armies, including the Canadian. The advantages provided by the internal combustion engine over the horse were already evident, even given the relatively elementary nature of the technology of the time. Before the end of the war the Royal Artillery had concluded that it would have to adopt mechanized transport for moving its guns as the stock of horses was being replaced by motorized vehicles, and the gunners surely were not alone.


Offline Chris Pook

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Re: US Army being forced to buy tanks it doesn't want
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2013, 14:50:52 »
I guess I was thinking more generally and seeing the tank discussion as an opening into a broader discussion about technology and innovation and harnessing technology in a timely manner so that the best available technology can be usefully applied to solve battlefield problems.

Suppose that the anti-gravity machine (the helicopter) had been perfected before the caterpillar track and the vertical flank had been opened?

What would the race to the sea look like?  What would the value of a continuous line of defences have been?

I bring these up not to divert the discussion to address particular technologies but rather to address the issue of innovation in an institutionalized environment.

We have the hammer.  Most arguments devolve into "How can we convert the target into a nail so that we can use our hammer?"

Alternately we could ask "How do we add a screwdriver to the tool bag?"

When we are surrounded by people that design hammer heads, people that design shafts, people that make hammer heads, people that make shafts, people that integrate the optimum head with the optimum shaft, people that build the optimal hammer, people that sell and distribute them, people that are trained to use them, people that train the trainers, people that create the manuals, people that audit the supply chain, people that represent all of the above, people that collect taxes from all of those people ....... how is the girl with screwdriver received?
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Offline Old Sweat

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Re: US Army being forced to buy tanks it doesn't want
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2013, 15:03:03 »
I guess I was thinking more generally and seeing the tank discussion as an opening into a broader discussion about technology and innovation and harnessing technology in a timely manner so that the best available technology can be usefully applied to solve battlefield problems.

Suppose that the anti-gravity machine (the helicopter) had been perfected before the caterpillar track and the vertical flank had been opened?

What would the race to the sea look like?  What would the value of a continuous line of defences have been?

I bring these up not to divert the discussion to address particular technologies but rather to address the issue of innovation in an institutionalized environment.

We have the hammer.  Most arguments devolve into "How can we convert the target into a nail so that we can use our hammer?"

Alternately we could ask "How do we add a screwdriver to the tool bag?"

When we are surrounded by people that design hammer heads, people that design shafts, people that make hammer heads, people that make shafts, people that integrate the optimum head with the optimum shaft, people that build the optimal hammer, people that sell and distribute them, people that are trained to use them, people that train the trainers, people that create the manuals, people that audit the supply chain, people that represent all of the above, people that collect taxes from all of those people ....... how is the girl with screwdriver received?

The tank came along when it did and survived as long as it has because it was the best available solution for the question (how to break through heavily fortified defences) at the time and after. Is it still the best solution? Perhaps that depends on the question. The events of the Summer of 2006 changed the question that a lot of people in the army (and air force) were answering. I am going to pose a question that I have been musing on for a few months: what would our land and air force structures and orders of battle be if the Canadian government had opted to stay in the Kabul area or had been able to negotiate a nice, low key PRT effort in a "safe" area. The question and the perception of the available technologies would have been rather different, as well might have been the inclination of the government of the day to open the till.

Offline jeffb

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Re: US Army being forced to buy tanks it doesn't want
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2013, 15:16:28 »
I would say that history has shown that warfare always trends the best technologies and tactics to the top. To answer your question more directly, the girl with the screwdriver is usually received crossing the frontier into your country. I could cite numerous examples but the most obvious is the German tactic of Blitzkreig which was actually "borrowed" from the British who, perhaps unknowingly, borrowed these ideas from the Americans who stole them from Napoleon.

Even within the German Army there was very high placed opposition to using tanks as more then infantry support weapons. The idea of Armored Divisions was fought over tenaciously. People forget that the tanks of the German Army that stormed across France, and certainly across Poland, were not that technically superior to the French and British tanks facing them. The "screwdriver" in that conflict was changing the role of tanks. Rather then utilizing their tanks to bust through the Maginot Line in a very First World War fashion (at least for the British and French), they used the mobility of their tanks to turn the flank and effectively relegated the very best of the French Army to isolation inside their forts.

Your underlying point is good I think. It is all to easy for us to remain stuck in the tactics, techniques and procedures of the last war. Especially at a time when field time in a year is measured in days instead of months, there is little room for our army to try out new ideas.
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Offline Old Sweat

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Re: US Army being forced to buy tanks it doesn't want
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2013, 15:59:55 »
This thread has the potential to get very interesting. The technology is one thing. The technique is another, and perhaps there is a third factor. One of Edison's standing directions to his employees was that there had to be a better way, find it. In military life that does not naturally come from more time in the field, or less for that matter. There has to be a culture that encourages innovation and experiment, one that asks is this the best way? For example, is a large headquarters better because more people are working on the problem, or does a large headquarters actually impede effective and timely decision making by its commander?


Offline Chris Pook

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Re: US Army being forced to buy tanks it doesn't want
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2013, 17:15:33 »
I think looking at David and Bill Stirling, as described by Roy Farran in Winged Dagger, there is insight to be gained.  Although Slim is a hero of mine and he generally warred with the concept of private armies I think both he and Stirling had much in common.  Both of them made the best of what they had at hand rather than trying to develop something they didn't have.  They didn't have the luxury of time available to wait for a perfect solution.

In Slim's case he had a whole army to play with but he had been raised outside of the institutional British Army.  He was an India Army man - as the Imperials never failed to remind him.

In Stirling's case, he too was an outsider, perhaps surrounded by outsiders - there was a heavy India Army presence in the Middle East.  Did that leave more room to experiment?  Subalterns given more leeway to ignore the pams and figure out different options?

Stirling tried his luck falling out of planes, then he hooked up with the LRDG and discovered the value of the pickup truck, then he employed jeeps when they came available.....found a use for surplused RAF Vickers K-Guns once the RAF adopted turrets and fixed wing Brownings.

The logistics were a nightmare, no doubt.  But then again if you have people that are used to making do with what is available is it as critical to have the proverbial nail to prevent the loss of the King's horse?

The CF has a great tradition of making do.  Perhaps that should be capitalized on rather than holding up pams from multi-million man armies as goals.  Those pams are great for generating ideas.  They may not be so good at generating solutions.
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Re: US Army being forced to buy tanks it doesn't want
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2013, 09:21:00 »
ARMY SAYS NO TO MORE TANKS, BUT CONGRESS INSISTS

Here's a question - if the tank hadn't been invented in 1915 as a siege-breaking mantlet, powered by the new-fangled internal combustion engine and designed to supply cover to field guns and machine guns so that they could be brought in range of the defenders - just as the original mantlets and pavises covered ballistas and cross-bows - if the tank hadn't been invented for past wars, would it be invented for modern wars?

I think the answer to this is yes.  The combination of mobility, firepower, and protection that they provide is a key element to any battlefield.  Consider the idea of the "War Elephant" from Alexander the Great's day.   They had mobility, they provided protection, and provided firepower, not to mention the impact of an 8-10 ton animal thundering towards you.  They were, in their day, the equivalent of the tank.  Move over to the Chariot, it had mobility, it had firepower, but at the expense of protection.  The "holy trinity" of the three would be sought in the future. 

Quote
Second question - if the tank and its support system disappeared for 20 years - and circumstances demanded that a new siege-breaker be developed from scratch what would it look like?

Something with all terrain mobility. 

Something with deadly firepower and accuracy.
 
Something with exceptional protection.
 
Integrating all of the above in a new fashion, well, I don't see a "walker" or any of those sort of "mechwarrior" type devices, but I can see a greater reliance on active protection systems to reduce the weight of the armour, and I suspect that the track system would be retained, however, the idea of switching to a hovercraft type system might be interesting, but this would only be possible with REALLY GOOD active protection, allowing significant weight savings.
 
I think the track system is still able to provide the best combination, so, if we discarded tanks, I suspect that picking them up after 20 years would see a remarkably similar platform being revived.

Quote
Third question - does the answer to the second question really matter?  Or should we just cross that bridge when we come to it?

If we do drop the capability, I suspect that there will be others who maintain it.  Russia still has basically brand-new WWII era tanks hanging around in storage depots (or so I hear)  My understanding is that there are upwards of 1/2 Million Tanks, AFV's etc in the world today.  20 years (heck, 70 years) isn't enough to see them completely removed. 
 
If it came to re-acquiring the capability after giving it up, part of the question would be down to manufacturing.  Your example of Battleships is well served here....the last time someone built a battleship was 70 years ago.  Today, many of the foundries, tools and other specialized equipment used to make those battleships no longer exists.  Instead, navies of the world have transitioned to lighter weight (little or no armour) vessels with increased defensive capabilities (CIWS, Goalkeeper, etc) that literally have the ability to hit a bullet with a bullet.
 
If the ability to manufacture tanks is given up, and the tooling used in it's manufacture is broken up or discarded, then re-building an AFV fleet will see a whole new face of vehicle being built, and I think this touches on the original thread of the article.
 
If no-one has the ability to make a huge tank with Chobham armour (sp?) in 20 years, then what will we build instead? 
 
NS
 
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Offline George Wallace

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Re: US Army being forced to buy tanks it doesn't want
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2013, 09:41:51 »

.............however, the idea of switching to a hovercraft type system might be interesting, but this would only be possible with REALLY GOOD active protection, allowing significant weight savings.
 
I think the track system is still able to provide the best combination, so, if we discarded tanks, I suspect that picking them up after 20 years would see a remarkably similar platform being revived.

Your idea of hovercraft, one I have wondered about myself, is sound for open country (deserts, smooth rolling prairie, Beach Landings, etc.).  When it comes to rough/rugged terrain, they would likely be very restricted in their mobility or totally unusable other than on road systems. 
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Offline Old Sweat

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Re: US Army being forced to buy tanks it doesn't want
« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2013, 09:51:40 »
Your idea of hovercraft, one I have wondered about myself, is sound for open country (deserts, smooth rolling prairie, Beach Landings, etc.).  When it comes to rough/rugged terrain, they would likely be very restricted in their mobility or totally unusable other than on road systems.

Another point is that a disabled hovercraft could be more difficult to recover than a tank. A tank with its tracks intact but engine or transmission n/s can be towed, while it would be a more difficult proposition with an air cushion vehicle that is unable to create the lift.

For what it is worth, in the sixties the Brits experimented with recovering Centurions with Wessex helicopters. No, this did not entail lifting, but rather towing the tank on its tracks. I read the synopsis, but it was a long time ago. I think it required two aircraft and relatively level ground. Once an upgrade was reached, the attempt often came to a sudden halt.

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Hovercraft can't travel up hills and on rough terrain. They would also have to be pretty large to carry some good armament. Pretty vulnerable also, not much protection and once the skirt is damaged, you're a sitting duck.

Oh, and noisy. Really, really noisy.
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Offline Colin P

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Anyone who proposes hovercraft for land operations has never worked on one. While a SRN5 did cross the Sahara, it took it's toll on the machine and was a PR gimmick. They are very, very slope sensitive, they have no real brakes and must either use power or dump their air to stop. The average crown in a road and side drainage ditches will likely defeat them.

Where they do really well is in shallow waters, marshes, mined waters, beaches, mudflats.

funny enough a hovercraft will go faster on a flat beach/mudflat than on water. They are also prone to shallow water effect.

 

Offline Chris Pook

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One other issue with hovercraft - a tool I have been fascinated with since Christopher Cockerell's SRN1 crossed the channel - recoil.

Even with mass tanks rely on friction between the vehicle and the ground to absorb recoil forces.  A hovercraft is really "light" in that regard.  It would need to be equipped with lasers, missiles or recoilless weapons.  I could see a 120mm equipped hovercraft spending as much time returning to battery after every shot as it did advancing.

Still, there are a number of low-recoil options.....
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Offline dapaterson

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[geek]

Pshaw!  Ground Effect Vehicles are exremely useful, especially when combatting OGREs.  Just ask Steve Jackson games.



[/geek]
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Offline Colin P

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Most hovercraft have been fitted with small arms, up to 23mm (Russian) After that it is the missiles. Note there are two distinct types of hovercrafts, "Sidewall hovercraft have solid sides, with a skirt at each end and fans driving air into the space. These will have propulsion systems in the water, either in the sidehulls or exposed shafts within the air chamber. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bora-class_guided_missile_hovercraft for an example

True hovercraft have only skirt material contacting the water and the propulsion system is some sort of propeller/ducted fan.

Within the "true hovercraft" there are sub categories based upon the skirt design. The big US and Russian hovercraft use slightly modified versions of the British high/low pressure hinged skirt design, which is the most damage resistant, but also absorbs much more horsepower to maintain. The French had a design with very large "fingers" that inflated and pushed against each other, sealing the area. it was not that successful. The Griffions used by the Royal Marines have (unless they have updated the design) a "hook and loop" skirt, which requires less HP to run, but is more prone to damage.

One of the fun things about hovercraft is not only do you need to think about C of G, but also "Centre of pressure". One of the most dangerous things for a hovercraft was the "sideplow in" That's when the hovercraft "trips" over it's on skirt, the hard hull edge contacts the water, causing that edge to slow down rapidly, but the momentum of the craft stil wants to continue, so the oppisite sides starts to lift up, at which point the centre of pressure shifts to the raising side, helping to push it higher. if the forces are great enough, the craft will capsize, which the US CCG found out the hard way with their SRN5   

Skirt diagram similar to a SRN6



Offline George Wallace

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One other issue with hovercraft - a tool I have been fascinated with since Christopher Cockerell's SRN1 crossed the channel - recoil.

Even with mass tanks rely on friction between the vehicle and the ground to absorb recoil forces.  A hovercraft is really "light" in that regard.  It would need to be equipped with lasers, missiles or recoilless weapons.  I could see a 120mm equipped hovercraft spending as much time returning to battery after every shot as it did advancing.

Still, there are a number of low-recoil options.....


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Offline GnyHwy

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Here's a question - if the tank hadn't been invented in 1915 as a siege-breaking mantlet, powered by the new-fangled internal combustion engine and designed to supply cover to field guns and machine guns so that they could be brought in range of the defenders - just as the original mantlets and pavises covered ballistas and cross-bows - if the tank hadn't been invented for past wars, would it be invented for modern wars?

I don't think it's possible to imagine a world without tanks given that WWI and WWII occurred.  The requirement to project firepower and protection made tanks a thing of necessity.  Tanks were the product of the arms race during these conflicts, just like rocket and guidance technology during the cold war.  If you remove WWI and WWII then it is much easier to imagine what technologies would have advanced and which ones wouldn't have been required.   

I think we should still assume that countries would still want to conquer other countries, otherwise this wouldn't be a fun exercise and would only be a hugfest.  But instead of blowing them to smithereens and risking hundreds of thousands of lives, the objective would be to take them intact.

This would have likely required covert political and financial "firepower, protection and mobility".  The need for spies and the capability to move them around quickly and covertly would take priority; advanced comms would also be a requirement.  Moving spies around the world and communicating with them would be the focus.  Perhaps the internet would have happened 20 years sooner.

So now instead of beating down the door we would sneak in the side entrance.  The internal combustion engine would still have advanced because of its civilian application, but instead of tanks, how about personal flying machines to move these spies around?  Maybe we would have a world like the Jetsons already. 

I think the requirement to blow things up would still exist, but maybe with a much more precise methodology.  With this approach and communications being a higher priority, perhaps we would have had GPS sooner, and guided bombs would have been invented sooner too.  Maybe even "freakin LASERs". 

In my scenario the world would not have required tanks for the entire 20th century.  Why would we need them now? I don't think that we would.  And even if we wanted to suddenly design a behemoth land rover, it would likely be seen as absurd, and with the previously learned expertise, the solution would likely be very different.  Perhaps active protection systems technology would be the solution already because it would have progressed faster because of the guided missile threat.  As well, early warning systems would be more available because of the advanced comms systems that would exist.  As well, if flying manchines were more prevalent, it would be easier investing in up armouring them instead.

For the military, covert operations would rule and striking targets would be done from all over the world, perhaps even from space already.  The technologies we are seeking today, likely would have already been invented.

Offline daftandbarmy

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One other issue with hovercraft - a tool I have been fascinated with since Christopher Cockerell's SRN1 crossed the channel - recoil.

Even with mass tanks rely on friction between the vehicle and the ground to absorb recoil forces.  A hovercraft is really "light" in that regard.  It would need to be equipped with lasers, missiles or recoilless weapons.  I could see a 120mm equipped hovercraft spending as much time returning to battery after every shot as it did advancing.

Still, there are a number of low-recoil options.....

Whoa, did you just mention the sacred 'hover tank'? Speak of the hover tank and he shall appear....
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Offline Colin P

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The deployment of mobile land based lasers and airborne versions may spell the end of tanks as the dominant weapon system for major armies. They will still hang around for the countries that do not have Lasers or unlikely to encounter them. I suspect that unless a major technical breakthrough happens, anti-armour lasers will be only found in the top 3-5 armies and even then in limited quantities. The power requirements to burn through thick armour at a distance is pretty significant, not to mention doing it quickly enough and being able to do any damage once you get through.
  I do see lasers continue to develop into effective AD weapons for UAV, ground attack aircraft and incoming projectiles. The problem for any AD weapon is the radar signature issue.Thankfully aircraft and UAV airframes are light enough to suffer damage from lasers and even if the aircraft is not brought down, it may suffer enough damage to cripple it and force a return to base.   

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and I suspect that the track system would be retained, however, the idea of switching to a hovercraft type system might be interesting, but this would only be possible with REALLY GOOD active protection, allowing significant weight savings.
 
I think the track system is still able to provide the best combination, so, if we discarded tanks, I suspect that picking them up after 20 years would see a remarkably similar platform being revived.

I briefly quote myself to emphasize that I did not mean to completely throw this therad off the rails....I suggested it might be interesting, but that I suspect that tracked vehicles is still the best way ahead.
 
*sigh*
 
No "Hammer's Slammers" quotes either....
 
NS
 
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Offline reverse_engineer

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Canada pretty much fails at having a general purpose military. There is a greater chance of us contracting our defence out to NATO than there is of getting the proper ships, aircraft, and equipment to do our jobs.

Unless these lasers can create jobs, or the hover tanks are built in Quebec, I don't think we will have to plan our doctrine around them. On the plus side, at least our enemies will have few targets (and far between) to engage when facing us.

 ;D  :cdn:  :salute:


Offline Chris Pook

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.....

This would have likely required covert political and financial "firepower, protection and mobility".  The need for spies and the capability to move them around quickly and covertly would take priority; advanced comms would also be a requirement.  Moving spies around the world and communicating with them would be the focus.  Perhaps the internet would have happened 20 years sooner.

So now instead of beating down the door we would sneak in the side entrance.  ....


For the military, covert operations would rule and striking targets would be done from all over the world, perhaps even from space already.  The technologies we are seeking today, likely would have already been invented.



The chap that wrote Ghost Force would be nodding his head, I'm sure.  He even argued that blowing things up was counter productive.
Damage to physical plant only requires an adjustable wrench and a handful of sand, gravel or water.   Comms are totally insecure and don't need any physical access.
"Wyrd bið ful aræd"

"If change isn’t allowed to be a process, it becomes an event." - Penny Mordaunt 10/10/2019

Offline NavyShooter

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Insert disclaimer statement here....

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