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Mystics & Statistics recently made a very interesting post about a diagram showing the location of US tanks destroyed during the counterattack carried out by Combat Command C of the US 1st Armored Division near the village of Sidi Bau Zid on February 15, 1943. According to the post, the attack was a disaster, with 46 of 52 M4 Sherman tanks knocked out and over 300 men killed, captured or missing. What makes the diagram so interesting is that it shows not only the location of each knocked out tank, but also what type of enemy weapon knocked it out. Interestingly, not a single one of the Sherman tanks were penetrated through their frontal armor and only one tank was knocked out by an 88mm gun, most tanks having been knocked out by 50mm guns.
The Mystics and Statistics post notes that in this battle the M4 Sherman clearly had a technical advantage in those stats that people like to focus on so much, frontal armor and firepower. The most common German weapon in this battle was the 50mm gun, either found on the Panzer III tank or the towed PaK 38. The Sherman frontal armor was generally effective at protecting against this weapon while the 75mm gun of the Sherman was capable of handling the Pz III and Pz IV tanks opposing it. And yet despite this advantage on paper, the American force got trounced quite thoroughly. The deciding factor was the greater experience and tactical skill of their German opponent.
It’s worth contrasting this example to the battle of Arracourt a year and a half later. In this instance, the German Panzers had the the technical advantage in the form of the Panther tank with its formidable cannon and thick sloped frontal armor. However, by this point it was the German tank force that was lacking the qualities necessary for battlefield success. In 1943, it was the American 1st Armored division CCC that charged in without adequate reconnaissance or air superiority and paid the price, despite have the “better” tank. Eighteen months later, it would be the 111th Panzer Brigade’s turn to learn the same lessons. (For more on the battle of Arracourt, be sure to check out the new book Patton Vs the Panzers.)
Excerpt from Mystics and Statistics:
A few years ago, I came across a student battle analysis exercise prepared by the U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute on the Battle of Kasserine Pass in Tunisia in February 1943. At the time, I noted the diagram below (click for larger version), which showed the locations of U.S. tanks knocked out during a counterattack conducted by Combat Command C (CCC) of the U.S. 1st Armored Division against elements of the German 10th and 21st Panzer Divisions near the village of Sidi Bou Zid on 15 February 1943. Without reconnaissance and in the teeth of enemy air superiority, the inexperienced CCC attacked directly into a classic German tank ambush. CCC’s drive on Sidi Bou Zid was halted by a screen of German anti-tank guns, while elements of the two panzer divisions attacked the Americans on both flanks. By the time CCC withdrew several hours later, it had lost 46 of 52 M4 Sherman medium tanks, along with 15 officers and 298 men killed, captured, or missing.
Read the full Mystics and Statistics post here. There is also a larger format version of the chart available there.
After a fairly quite summer, there has been a veritable flood of new books on tanks and armor recently. We are happy to note that on top of all the other titles we have reported on this past week, there is a new entry in the Haynes Manual series, a title by Dick Taylor on the British Chieftain MBT. This is a hardcover book of 160 pages, with many photos, color illustrations and drawings and is slated for an Sept 1 release. Those who have read any of the other tank books in the Haynes series will know what to expect. While we have not had a chance to examine this particular one yet, we have several of the other books in the series and have found them to be handy and useful references. Author Dick Taylor is a former British Army Challenger tank commander. Over the past several years he has been quite prolific, producing titles such as the Haynes manual on the Challenger I MBT, Firing Now!, Men Inside the Metal, Into the Valley: The Valentine Tank, and several entries in the Armor PhotoHistory series.
The Chieftain was the British Army’s Main Battle Tank for twenty years, first entering service with the 11th Hussars in 1966. One of the first true Main Battle Tanks, it was designed to replace both medium (Centurion) and heavy (Conqueror) tanks in front line service and provided the backbone of the British Army’s heavy armour at the height of the Cold War. It incorporated a lot of revolutionary design features, although some did not work as well as expected. For example, in order to reduce height the driver lay in a reclining position and changed gear with his foot. The L11 120mm gun used a self-combusting bagged charge instead of a brass cartridge case (the gun proved to be highly successful); and the tank was powered by a multi-fuel engine. The Chieftain was continually upgraded during its service life: later marks were fitted with a laser rangefinder; a computerised fire-control system (IFCS), thermal sights (TOGS) and additional compound armour on the front of the turret and around the driver’s hatch (so-called Stillbrew armour). The L60 engine was continually modified and improved to increase its output and reliability. The end result of all these changes was a formidable AFV. The Chieftain hull was also used for a range of specialised AFVs, including armoured recovery vehicles (ARV and ARRV), bridge layers (AVLB) and combat engineering tanks (AVRE). A total of more than 2,200 Chieftains of all types were manufactured by the Royal Ordnance Factories and Vickers Ltd. Some 900 of these served with the British Army while the remaining 1,300 tanks were exported to Iran, Jordan, Kuwait and the Oman. Chieftains saw their share of combat with the Iranian Army in the 1980s when they engaged Iraqi tanks during the Iran-Iraq War, while Kuwaiti Chieftains fought the Iraqi Army during the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Chieftain gun tanks were withdrawn from front-line service with the British Army during the late 1980s and early 1990s, but Chieftain recovery and combat engineering vehicles served with the British Army during the operations to liberate Kuwait in 1991 (Desert Storm).
Today’s POTD comes from the Digital Collection of the New York Public Library. It shows a group of elderly US Army veterans examining what appears to be a M1 Combat Car. If anyone has any further information about the event shown in this photo, let us know!
DVIDS has posted a press release about the US Marine Corps AIDATS system (Abrams integrated display and targeting System.) We have posted half of the article below. To read the full article, click here.
Marine Corps Systems Command is modernizing the tank commander’s weapon station on the M1A1 tank by developing a suite of systems that give tank commanders and their gunners a hunter-killer edge over their enemies.
The new Abrams Integrated Display and Targeting System, Tank Commander Single Handle and slew-to-cue capability make up the modernized trifecta that cuts time to enemy engagement by half while increasing accuracy, range and lethality on the battlefield.
ABRAMS INTEGRATED DISPLAY AND TARGETING SYSTEM
Responding to feedback from Marines, the Abrams Integrated Display and Targeting System, or AIDATS, upgrades the thermal and day sights on the stabilized commander’s weapon station through a state-of-the-art, high-definition camera and permanently mounted color display.
“The most significant benefit—the main reason why AIDATS was started—is the color display,” said Michael Kreiner, AIDATS project officer in MCSC’s Armor and Fire Support Systems. “Users didn’t like the black and white camera that was in the tank before, because they have a hard time distinguishing between different color trucks.”
In battle, situational awareness is key for tank commanders. Kreiner and his team are leveraging technology currently available in the marketplace to provide a thermal sight that can be used around the clock and provide a color day camera with a color display.
“The thermal sight can be used for 24 hours,” said James Shaffer, systems engineer in AFSS. “It has low light capabilities, can see through obscurants, and works in the diverse environments under adverse weather conditions.”
The display for both upgraded thermal and day sights will be hard mounted in front of the tank commander, allowing him to minimize extra movement and focus on the action. Better optics enable commanders to increase identification and detection range while in the tank, which will improve situational awareness.
With AIDATS, tank commanders will have double the identification range with thermal sight and triple the identification range for the day sight, said Gunnery Sgt. Dennis Downes, M1A1 project officer in AFSS.
“AIDATS also has an azimuth indicator that will allow the tank commander to identify where his weapon is in relation to the vehicle at that moment,” said Downes. “On the legacy system, the tank commander had no situational awareness of where the weapon system is in relationship to the turret.”
Lately we have noticed a number of older public domain publications being listed for sale as Kindle books on Amazon. We would suggest that before people spend money on these items, do a quick Google search. In many cases, you can find a free PDF of the same document. One example of this is Spearhead in the West 1941-1945. This book, written in 1945, documents the history of the US 3rd Armored Division during the Second World War. The book can be downloaded as a PDF file here. If you don’t mind spending six bucks for the kindle version, you can do so here. For those that prefer a physical hard copy, it appears that this this book was reprinted in 1980, new copies of this reprint are going for around $35 on Amazon currently.
Today’s POTD is of a German 1939 dummy panzer that was recently auctioned off on E-bay. Source.
Here is a round up of AFV related news stories. As always, click on the title link to go to the full article.
General Dynamics’ (NYSE:GD) Lima, Ohio-based tank-building factory is back from the dead (the rest of General D was already doing just fine). But it’s still a complicated situation — so let me explain. Last quarter, General Dynamics reported a 3% decline in sales across its four major divisions. Combat systems, the division that builds Abrams main battle tanks, LAV light tanks, and Stryker armored personnel carriers took it on the chin, with sales down 7% year over year. This obviously was not great news for the company’s Lima plant, which builds both the Abrams and the Stryker, and where the payroll has been slashed from a high of 1,200 employees 10 years ago, to about 400 today. But there’s better news rumbling down the pike.
Governor Pat McCrory spent time Saturday at the North Carolina National Guard’s 2016 Leaders Workshop honoring a tank crew. The four-member crew is based in Southern Pines and won the 2016 Sullivan Cup at Fort Benning, Georgia back in May during a six-day competition against 15 other teams from across the country. Gov. McCrory presented each team member with a Governor’s Coin. The team is made up of: crew commander, First Lieutenant John Dupre of New Bern; crew gunner, Sergeant Curtis Bowen of Winston-Salem; crew loader, Specialist Brandon Sinor of Morehead City; and crew driver, Specialist Phillip Hill of Greensboro. The Governor also recognized Lieutenant Colonel Miriam Martinez, who served at the governor’s Office of Federal Relations in Washington, D.C. from 2014 to May of 2016. Martinez will be promoted to Colonel in October.
For sale: tanks, good condition, some used during D-Day. The Normandy Tank Museum is selling its entire collection at auction next month before closing its doors because it failed to attract enough visitors. The sale includes tanks, military vehicles, trucks, aircraft and motorcycles, many of which have been restored to working order. More than 40 armored vehicles, along with thousands of military items used during World War II and dozens of mannequins in full battle dress, will be sold on September 18 by Artcurial, a Paris-based luxury auction house. The sale will be held in Catz, a town a few kilometers from Normandy’s Utah beach, where the Allies landed to liberate German-occupied northwestern Europe in June 1944.
(We posted about the M4 tank on sale at the Normandy Museum back on July 26. In the past week we have noticed that this story seems to have made it into the mainstream media.)
Russia’s Tractor Plants Concern is developing a new amphibious tracked armoured personnel carrier (APC) called the BT-3F, a defence industry source told IHS Jane’s . The new APC is intended for the use by naval infantry/marine units. “The Tractor Plants Concern is finishing the designing of the BT-3F APC in order to exhibit its demonstrator at the Army 2016 military-technical forum outside Moscow in September 2016. The vehicle may partially replace the BTR-80 APC of Russia’s Naval Infantry. We suppose that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will take a close look on the new vehicle at the forum,” the source said.
The Minotor-Service Enterprise of Belarus has developed an upgrade suite for the Russian BTR-50PK amphibious armoured personnel carrier (APC). Called the BTR-50PKM, Minotor-Service states that the package is also applicable to other members of the BTR-50 family of tracked armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) including the BTR-50P, BTR-50PU, the Czech OT-62 Topaz APC (which is their equivalent of the BTR-50PK) as well as the Russian PT-76 light amphibious tank. The upgrade enhances the BTR-50PK APC by reducing its fuel consumption, improving its maintainability and reliability, as well as extend its operational life.