How the Pentagon is Preparing for a Tank War With Russia

Don’t forget the new Russian Armata tank can penetrate over 1 meter of steel. Russia is also not getting rid of their old tank units, but turning them into remotely controlled vehicles. Meanwhile, America sends their old ones back to the scrap heap.

Russia is now on par with America in terms of military capability and technology.


Reactive armor and cross-domain fire capabilities are just some of the items on the Army’s must-have list.

When Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster briefs, it’s like Gen. Patton giving a TED talk — a domineering physical presence with bristling intellectual intensity.

These days, the charismatic commander of the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command is knee-deep in a project called The Russia New Generation Warfare study, an analysis of how Russia is re-inventing land warfare in the mud of Eastern Ukraine. Speaking recently at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., McMaster said that the two-year-old conflict had revealed that the Russians have superior artillery firepower, better combat vehicles, and have learned sophisticated use of UAVs for tactical effect. Should U.S. forces find themselves in a  land war with Russia, he said, they would be in for a rude, cold awakening.

“We spend a long time talking about winning long-range missile duels,” said McMaster. But long-range missiles only get you through the front door. The question then becomes what will you do when you get there.

“Look at the enemy countermeasures,” he said, noting Russia’s use of nominally semi-professional forces who are capable of “dispersion, concealment, intermingling with civilian populations…the ability to disrupt our network strike capability, precision navigation and timing capabilities.” All of that means “you’re probably going to have a close fight… Increasingly, close combat overmatch is an area we’ve neglected, because we’ve taken it for granted.”

So how do you restore overmatch? The recipe that’s emerging from the battlefield of Ukraine, says McMaster, is more artillery and better artillery, a mix of old and new.

Cross-Domain Fires

“We’re out-ranged by a lot of these systems and they employ improved conventional munitions, which we are going away from. There will be a 40- to 60-percent reduction in lethality in the systems that we have,” he said. “Remember that we already have fewer artillery systems. Now those fewer artillery systems will be less effective relative to the enemy. So we need to do something on that now.”

Karber, the president of the Potomac Foundation, went on a fact-finding mission to Ukraine last year, and returned with the conclusion that the United States had long overemphasized precision artillery on the battlefield at the expense of mass fires. Since the 1980s, he said last October, at an Association for the United States Army event, the U.S. has given up its qualitative edge, mostly by getting rid of cluster munitions.

Munitions have advanced incredibly since then. One of the most terrifying weapons that the Russians are using on the battlefield are thermobaric warheads, weapons that are composed almost entirely of fuel and burn longer and with more intensity than other types of munitions.

In a 3-minute period…a Russian fire strike wiped out two mechanized battalions [with] a combination of top-attack munitions and thermobaric warheads,” said Karber. “If you have not experienced or seen the effects of thermobaric warheads, start taking a hard look. They might soon be coming to a theater near you.”

Karber also noted that Russian forces made heavy and integrated use of electronic warfare. It’s used to identify fire sources and command posts and to shut down voice and data communications. In the northern section, he said, “every single tactical radio [the Ukrainian forces] had was taken out by heavy Russian sector-wide EW.” Other EW efforts had taken down Ukrainian quadcopters. Another system was being used to mess with the electrical fuses on Ukrainian artillery shells, ”so when they hit, they’re duds,” he said.

Karber also said the pro-Russian troops in Donbas were using an overlapping mobile radar as well as a new man-portable air defense that’s “integrated into their network and can’t be spoofed by [infrared] decoys” or flares.

Combat Vehicles and Defenses

The problems aren’t just with rockets and shells, McMaster said. Even American combat vehicles have lost their edge.

“The Bradley [Fighting Vehicle] is great,” he said, but “what we see now is that our enemies have caught up to us. They’ve invested in combat vehicles. They’ve invested in advanced protective systems and active protective systems. We’ve got to get back ahead on combat vehicle development.”

If the war in Eastern Ukraine were a real-world test, the Russian T-90 tank passed with flying colors. The tank had seen action in Dagestan and Syria, but has been particularly decisive in Ukraine. The Ukrainians, Karber said, “have not been able to record one single kill on a T-90. They have the new French optics on them. The Russians actually designed them to take advantage of low light, foggy, winter conditions.”

Anti-Drone Defenses

No Foolproof Technological Solution

“What’s necessary is political accommodation, is what needs to happen, if we don’t conduct operations and plan campaigns in a way that gets to the political accommodation,” he said. “The most important activity will be to broker political ceasefires and understandings.”

Sometimes that happens at the end of a tank gun.

Full article: How the Pentagon is Preparing for a Tank War With Russia (Defense One)

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