Thursday, March 17, 2005

News about Armor at's How to Make War.

News about Armor at's How to Make War.ARMORED WARFARE: Streetfighters Wish List

March 17, 2005: American tank crews have now had two years of using their M-1 tanks in urban areas. While the M-1 has done quite well, the tankers have developed a wish list of upgrades they would like to see. First priority goes to protection. While the M-1 has generally been invulnerable to RPG rockets, there are three parts of the M-1 that were vulnerable. First, there is the rear of the tank, where the gas-turbine engine spews out hot exhaust. Put an RPG round in there and you can shut down the engine. Tank crews have noted the success of the slat armor used by the Stryker. Some of this would work to protect the rear of the M-1. The other vulnerability is the running gear (the wheels and tracks. These items were never meant to be resistant to RPGs, but a lucky shot here can slow down or stop an M-1. The solution here would be side skirts covered with reactive armor (that explodes when hit by an RPG, or anything else, and destroys the ability of the RPG to penetrate armor.) Neither of these additions would cost much, weigh much or otherwise lower the performance of the vehicle.

The third vulnerability is the turret machine-guns. The tank commander has a .50 caliber (12.7mm) machine-gun in a powered turret, and the loader has a 7.62mm machine-gun. In city fighting, these two machine-guns are often more useful than the tanks 120mm gun. There is also another 7.62mm machine-gun, mounted next to the 120mm gun, and operated from inside the tank by the gunner. But it’s the first two machine-guns, out in the open, that need some protection. The tank commander and loader have to leave themselves vulnerable to enemy fire while they are operating their machine-guns. One suggestion is to add some armor shields to these two machine-guns. Some tank crews do that, using material scrounged locally. This approach was followed as far back as World War II. Another suggestion is to install a RWS (Remote Weapons Station) for the commanders .50 caliber gun (like the RWS used with great success by the Stryker), so the commander can operate the weapon from inside the tank. The .50 caliber is a very useful weapon in city fighting, but the RWS adds another bit of complex gear to the tank, and is only really useful in urban warfare, where the tank is likely to be taking a lot of small arms fire. When that happens, the most important weapon tends to be the coaxial 7.62mm machine-gun.

Another problem is communications. Troops outside the tank have a hard time talking to the crew when there’s a lot of enemy fire, and the crew is “buttoned up” inside the tank.

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