Video Above Tank Modernization and Tank Battles in War
US-built Abrams tanks are arriving in Poland this year as part of a large Foreign Military Sales deal through which Poland will buy 250 tanks, a major development which Polish leaders say will immediately be sent to the country’s Eastern flank to deter Russia.
With large numbers of Abrams tanks arriving in Poland this year, why not send some of them to Ukraine? Would Poland agree? Possibly it seems, given their willingness to support the Ukrainian effort. The Abrams bound for Poland could simply travel a bit further to the East and South to support the Ukrainian Army. US built Abrams tanks to Poland would then be back filled with additional production, assuming General Dynamics has the capacity to generate more new export variants.
Would sending US-built Abrams tanks to Ukraine simply be too provocative? The answer to this question likely pertains to a few key unknowns, because there certainly would not be time to build and send new export variant Abrams given the urgency of Ukraine’s needs.
Even if there were the resolve to do this, there simply may not be ready-made export variants of the Abrams lying around to be sent, and Ukraine certainly cannot wait several years. Also, should this be logistically possible, it does not mean the Pentagon would have the appetite to do this, as it may indicate an escalation of US involvement which could heighten risks of World War III.
T-72 Tank & T-90 Tank
Several Eastern European countries, however, have upgraded Russian T-72 tanks which may in many instances rival portions of Russia’s large, but aging tank fleet. Germany’s Leopard tanks are yet another possibility which one has to think might be under consideration.
Would the Germans be willing to part with some of its cutting edge Leopard 2 tanks? Are there older ones they might be willing to send. Eastern European countries such as Poland and Ukraine itself have soviet-built tanks, however it is not clear just how modernized they may be. An interesting story in Defense News from last year says Poland already operates several variants of the Leopard tank. Why not get some in the hands of the Ukrainians?
What kind of an impact would they have? Global Firepower reports that Russia operates as many as 12,000 tanks, however their effectiveness likely relies upon how modernized and maintained they may be. Russia operates a small number of cutting edge T-14 Armata tanks, but has mostly T-90 and T-72 Soviet era tanks. How modernized are they? Do upgraded T-72s exist in sufficient numbers? They have already proven vulnerable to Ukrainian anti-armor fire.
Abrams Tank vs T-72 Tank
What if the Ukrainians were able to operate upgraded T-72s to repel a heavily mechanized Russian invasion? By extension, what about the Abrams tank? A former Battalion leader in the famous 3rd Infantry Division who led units which attacked and destroyed the Iraqi Republican Guard at the Baghdad airport said Iraqi T-72s simply could not compete with the Abrams tank in warfare engagements during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
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“There was no there was no comparison, the capabilities, the night vision or you know, the mobility, the firepower that exists, and most importantly, the crew and the crew dynamics for us to be able to take advantage of training systems,” Retired Lt. Col. Scott Rutter, OIF and Gulf War Army veteran who is now the CEO of the Valor Network, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Ukrainian anti-armor weapons have destroyed many Russian armored combat vehicles and even disabled or decimated attacking tanks, a circumstance which continues to generate discussion about the effectiveness of hit-and-run ambush tactics with shoulder fired anti-armor weapons. Does the Ukrainian success indicate that tanks may actually be more vulnerable in warfare than had previously been thought?
A battalion commander and land warfare expert who led the charge across the desert to kill Iraq’s Republican Guard in Operation Iraqi Freedom says Russia’s problem is not so much that tanks are unexpectedly vulnerable but rather an inability to effectively use tanks as part of an integrated Combined Arms Maneuver operation.
Video Above: The War in Donbas, Ukraine with Russia
“I think the problem that the Russians have is the lack of combined arms warfare in order to synchronize the efforts of artillery, their observation and reconnaissance plan surveillance,” Ret. Lt. Col. Scott Rutter, CEO of Valor Network and former Army Battalion Commander in Iraq, told Warrior in an interview.
Rutter explained that in order to be effective as intended, a tank needs to operate in coordination with other key assets needed to ensure survivability and combat effectiveness. This often includes the need for dismounted soldiers to operate alongside or in front of advancing tank units to ensure that the tanks are less vulnerable to incoming fire from Anti-Tank-Guided Missiles, RPGs or other anti-armor weapons dismounted adversaries might have.
“A tank out there completely alone without infantry and without being part of a combined arms operation is an accident waiting to happen. That's the biggest fear of any tanker out there….. enemy dismounts out there without its own dismounted force,” Rutter explained.
A tank’s firepower is fully leveraged with a trained crew and accurate, high resolution, long range sensors needed to identify targets for destruction. Tanks can engage buildings, bunkers and enemy armored units with unprecedented power and effectiveness, should they be properly integrated with a Combined Arms Maneuver operation involving artillery, dismounted soldiers, surveillance and air support of some kind. Perhaps most of all, Rutter said a tank needs to sustain its maneuverability to optimize attack effectiveness.
“When we were going to Baghdad, when we were stationary, we became extremely vulnerable. And at that point, you know, that point we have to keep up the momentum, you have to be able to adapt then react,” Rutter said.
Rutter went on to explain that the Russians appear thus far to be almost completely unable to execute effective Combined Arms Maneuver.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University