Page 66 - Australian Defence Magazine September 2018
P. 66

“Combined arms teams now form the foundation of Army’s contributions to the Joint Land Force.”
Following Vietnam the ADFs focus on joint warfare became paramount. Com- bined arms teams now form the founda- tion of Army’s contributions to the Joint Land Force. This force is a combination of naval, air and land assets, which to- gether deliver joint effects during land combat. However, some have suggested that aircraft, drones and precision fires have or will eventually replace the tank in this force.
weather deteriorates or visibility re- duces and are not subject to the same constraints of air or remotely operated forces. The difficulty of targeting mobile forces from the air, and the utility of the tank to the joint force, is illustrated by this statement from an Iraqi tank bat- talion commander during the 1991 Gulf War; ‘when I went into Kuwait I had 39 tanks, after six weeks of bombardment I had 32 left, after 20 minutes in action
against M1’s, I had none’.
It is as illogical to claim that air delivered precision munitions provide the same capability as a tank as it is to argue that air defence mis- siles replace fighter jets or that torpedo boats could re-
place frigates.
The tank’s strengths actu-
ally complement aircraft and other Joint Land Force elements. The so called Blitzkrieg campaigns of the Sec- ond World War, the Arab-Israeli, Gulf, Afghan and Iraq wars all highlight the effectiveness of the tank operating in partnership with aircraft in combat. The tank is designed to endure and fight in
close proximity to the enemy.
It is ideally postured, given its sen-
sors, communications systems and protection, to coordinate firepower from the Joint Land Force at the point of decision. Furthermore, the paucity of some ADF platforms, particularly scarce helicopters and fixed wing air- craft, necessitates a balanced range of
options to support the combined arms team, including the tank.
Additionally tanks, and armour, pro- vide a level of responsiveness, mobility and protection when integrated as part of the combined arms team that precision fires, aerial fire support or naval gunfire simply cannot. Land forces provide complemen- tary effects to the joint team, as the Israeli experience in Lebanon shows
‘The IDF had learned in Lebanon that, in the absence of pressure from ground forces, its adversaries knew how to avoid detection and attack by overhead plat- forms. In Gaza, IDF ground maneuver [sic] “forced the enemy to react, to move, to expose himself. Taking them from amorphous in nature to shaped, which is critical in an urban area. Thus, ground maneuver was critical in creating targets for ground and air fires. Fires were also important because they “paralyzed the enemy,” thus fixing his position.
This allowed IDF ground forces to close with Hamas fighters who were reluctant to expose themselves to attack from air or artillery. The Israeli Navy, in addition to blockading Gaza, also provided fires and UAV support for ground forces.’
Air, Naval and Land forces are all es- sential to the joint team. Given the unique effects that tanks provide, a Joint Land Force committed to combat without them does so at a disadvantage.
Tanks are a key part of the Joint Land Force. They provide unique effects in close combat and enable the delivery of joint ef- fects from air and naval capabilities.
This speculation reveals a poor under- standing of the tank and what it provides. Aerial delivered munitions, precision ar- tillery fires and land attack cruise missiles provide the ability to strike and destroy identified targets at range. Although these provide phenomenal firepower to the Joint Land Force, they like all capabilities, have inherent limitations which preclude them from replacing the tank.
These systems are subject to the ef- fects of adverse weather and have vary- ing levels of persistence and presence on the battlefield, which limit the ability to detect, locate and identify enemy forces. Tanks do not leave the battle when the
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