Tank Pioneer

Ludwig von Eimannsberger was an Austrian military officer and armored theorist whose 1934 book “Der Kampfwagenkrieg” proved prescient (though as with everything else, there’s argument about just how influential he truly was).

Regular infantry divisions for the grinding, independent tank brigades designed to be attached to the infantry units for support, and a pair of specialized exploitation forces-divisions with hundreds of tanks to spearhead the exploitation and motorized infantry divisions with massive amounts of antitank artillery to guard the flanks of the tanks. The heavier artillery (Eimannsberger was an artillery officer) was intended to be multipurpose, able to be used for anti-tank, anti-air, and both direct and indirect support fire.

His armored division is a little (forgivably) tank-heavy and infantry light. The formations overall are, with hindsight a little too pure and over-specialized. More interestingly, Eimannsberger was a World War I artillery commander who still thought like a World War I artillery commander in terms of command and control. It’s an open question as to whether a more modest and stiff but doable system like his or a shoot-for-the-moon deep attack that the Soviets proposed at the same time, but were unable to meaningfully do in practice until after years of war and hard lessons was “better”.

Still, it’s an interesting historical footnote.

Five Thrillers

I’ve read so many cheap thrillers that arrowing it down to just five I’d recommend right off the bat is difficult, but here they are:

Team Yankee by Harold Coyle

This is one of the best Cold War hot books I’ve read. It showed me the perils of box-check thinking, because on paper it has every indication of the kind of “Boom boom goes the tank” clunkfests I’d read on the internet. Yet in practice, it’s a smooth-flowing tale that illustrates the best possibilities of the genre.

The Alpha Deception by Jon Land

All right, so most of Jon Land’s books, especially the Blaine McCracken ones, are goofy, crazy, ridiculous and fun. It was very difficult to select the goofiest, craziest, most ridiculous, and most fun out of them. But if I had to, I’d say The Alpha Deception, because Land pulls out all the stops, even by his standards.

Burmese Crossfire by Peter Nealen

Take a love letter to the “Men’s Adventure” books of the past. Now instead of a revolving door of  for-the-money ghostwriters who glanced at one issue of Guns And Ammo, take a veteran with heart and a knowledge of when to be grounded and when to be bombastic. The result is something excellent.

Tin Soldiers by Michael Farmer

Ok, so this is driven up by context, because a 2000s technothriller is surrounded by mediocre-to-terrible neighbors. It also has its share of problems. But it manages to do right what a lot of other thrillers did wrong. This is no small feat, and it’s the technothriller book from that time period I’d be the likeliest to recommend.

Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff

A military science fiction book that has almost none of the baggage associated with the genre. This, apart from being good (if a little derivative-you’d know the movie/historical battle it’s inspired by very quickly), is one of the best cases of a fresh face revitalizing a genre.

 

Tank IFVs – or Tank CFVs

The BMT-72 and BTMP-84 are concoctions of the Morozov design bureau in Kharkiv, Ukraine, representing a tank-IFV, that can carry, besides three crew and a 125mm gun, five soldiers. The BMPT-84 at least had a rear door and raised rear compartment, while the BMT-72 plopped in a troop compartment between the turret and the engine with roof hatches (it looks as ergonomic as it sounds).

I’ve seen it be widely criticized, and understandably so. It takes two vehicles with contradictory roles and mushes them together. However, there’s a part of me that thinks it could be somewhat salvagable as a (western-style) cavalry vehicle, with the dismounts acting as something other than line infantry, something other than just “ok, rather than dismounting from the BMP/BTR behind the tank, they dismount from the tank itself”.

Of course, a separate vehicle holding the cavalry scouts that puts the eggs in more than one basket is still probably the better option, but it’s the least bad way I could think of such an unconventional tank to be used.

T-72-120

The T-72-120 upgrade explains how tank development can pass the point of diminishing returns. It’s a Ukrainian upgrade of a T-72 to have a bustle autoloader for a 120mm NATO tank gun along with the usual advanced electronics. There was a very similar variant of the T-80/84 called the “Yatagan” as well.

t72120

While it looks impressive, it’s easy to see why this tank sputtered out.

  • In exchange for for somewhat safer ammo storage (which is still in a scrunched-up Soviet tank) and a 120mm caliber gun, you have to redesign and rebuild the entire loading system of the tank. The cost-benefit isn’t the best.
  • The post-USSR tank glut doomed it just as easily as it doomed almost every other design of the period. You want a 120mm tank, you get a surplus Leopard II.

That being said, I like the look this tank and the Yatagan had, this sort of “east-west fusion” of low-slung tanks with prominent ERA and long bustle turrets.

USMC Divisions in World War III

So, a RAND study on the (sideshow) southern theater of World War III included this graph.

Notice how low the USMC divisions are placed. Even the WP bottom-of-the-barrel Romanians outdo them. I have my quibbles with this kind of “Battle of the spreadsheets” system, but a look at the USMC’s force structure, especially at the time shows that they were not suited for this kind of mobile continental war.

The Low-Pressure Missile Tank Age

Only a few actually made it into mass production, but around the world, there was eager development in the 1960s of low-pressure gun/missile launcher tanks, the kind best emphasized by the M551 Sheridan and M60A2. The Soviet designs have turrets that resemble”squashed” versions of the classic dome turret.

The impetus was how to extend the firing range of the tank. This arrangement was ultimately made obsolete by the development of better fire control (for western tanks) and barrel-launched ATGMs that could be used in conventional tank guns (for Soviet ones)

But they’re still an interesting footnote.