Page 64 - Australian Defence Magazine September 2018
P. 64

“Both guardian angel of the infantry and highly capable tank-killer, the tank is ideally suited to aggressive mobile action in concert with other arms and services.”
The tank has an important role to play in the combined arms approach.
Royal Australian Regiment during the Battle of Binh Bah in South Vietnam 1969, to the 2008 Combat Officers Ad- vanced Course.
When the tanks base armour is cou- pled with other protective measures such as long range sensors and commu- nications systems shielded against cyber attacks, electronic counter measures effective against improvised explosive devices and defensive aid suites which ‘shoot down’ incoming rockets and mis- siles, its protection is unsurpassed on the battlefield.
While it is not invincible, neither the ASLAV nor M113 have sufficient
protection to protect like the tank does. Furthermore, until an IFV which can deliver infantry onto an objective and support them is introduced into service, as planned under Land 400 Phase 3, the M1 is the only ADF vehicle that can provide intimate support to the infantry during close combat.
Only the tank has the necessary protec- tion levels to withstand prolonged expo- sure to enemy weapon systems. In short – the tank can take a hit and keep fighting.
Given these characteristics, the tank is indeed unique. The tank is designed to move, endure, fight and win in the close combat zone which unprotected humans and lightly protected vehicles cannot survive. In simple terms, CRVs, IFVs and APCs are not tanks. These AFV all make different design trade-offs to tailor vehicle performance to their primary role. Importantly, because of these design trade-offs each of these ve- hicles and armour in general have inher- ent vulnerabilities. These are protected by fighting as part of a team.
The tank is unique; no other capability in the ADF can provide the advantages it provides in close combat.
Why is the tank important to Army and the Joint Land Force? Army defines a combined arms team as the grouping of land systems that together overmatch an adversary’s use of individual weapon systems. This grouping includes, as a minimum, armour, artillery, infan- try, combat engineers and aviation. All of these elements are needed as each possess different characteristics and provide dif- ferent effects to the team.
While artillery provides immense indi- rect firepower to the team, it has limited tactical mobility and protection. Infantry and engineers lack inherent firepower and mobility, but can fight to seize and hold al- most any terrain type and shape terrain for use against the enemy.
Aviation (helicopters) whilst well- armed and largely unconstrained by ter- rain, do not have the persistent presence of ground forces. Armour provides a unique blend of direct firepower, mobil- ity and protection to this team. Although Armour incurs a logistics burden and is by no means invulnerable, it is an essen- tial element of the combined arms team. As one armour advocate has offered ‘Ar- mored [sic] vehicles are immensely im-
portant, unless you are building a force to re-enact World War I’.
The battles fought by Australian com- bined arm teams with tanks in New Guinea, Borneo, Korea and Vietnam shaped the decision to buy the M1, and reinforce the need to maintain it. Studies by the University of New South Wales on combat action in Vietnam demonstrated that a combined arms team which in- cluded tanks greatly reduced the number of Australian casualties sustained in com- bat. In the jungle this reduced Australian casualties from 1 Australian killed for every 1 enemy killed, to 0.6 Australians for every 1 enemy killed. Similarly, the success rate of the action jumped from around 50 per cent when tanks were not part of the combined arms team to 95 per cent when they were.
The Israeli Defence Force shared simi- lar deductions with the RAND Cor- poration during its detailed analysis of Operation Cast Lead conducted in Gaza during 2008-9. Through discussion with Israeli Army officers RAND surmised ‘Quite simply, armored [sic] forces reduce operational risks and minimize friendly casualties.’ This analysis was mirrored by the experience of Canadian officers in Afghanistan who cited that their ‘Leop- ard C2 tanks have saved Canadian and Afghan lives’. Without tanks there is a capability gap which lowers the odds of success in combat and increases the like- lihood of casualties.
Tanks increase the likelihood of mis- sion success and decrease the likelihood of Australian casualties.
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