Last week we made a post about a video of an Iraqi Army M1 Abrams tank being struck by an ISIS anti-tank missile. The video is rather dramatic, showing a huge stream of fire erupting from the tank following the missile impact. As can be expected, the video has resulted in a number of news stories, some better than others. Most of the articles seem to based off a National Interest piece by Dan Goure titled “Are Tanks Obsolete? : YouTube Video Makes the Case for Active Protection Systems.” Aside from the rather cliche question in the beginning of the article title (we say the answer is “no”), the article is well written and makes a good case for the authors central argument; that the US Army needs to speed up development and/or acquisition of active defense systems for its armored vehicle fleet. Of course, as Mr. Goure’s article gets re-interpreted by various media entities, the hyperbole starts to increase. Business Insider picks up the story in an article that casts the video in far more ominous terms, declaring that:
Such an attack represents a big win for ISIS, a loss for the Iraqi people trying to reclaim the city of Mosul, and a glaring warning to US soldiers and Marines: Next time it could be you.
But the true champions of hype are across the pond at the Daily Mail. In this stunning piece of overstatement, they declare that “US made tanks are all but obsolete” and that this is “the video that will chill the blood of every American Tank Crew” as “ISIS obliterates M1 Abrams tank with handheld Russian missile.” Nothing like a little bit of hyperbole to sell some extra copies (or get a few extra clicks.)
One thing we have not seen any article mention is that part of the reason for the dramatic fire coming from the Abrams tank is due to the location of the missile hit. The missile strikes the turret rear where the ammunition is stowed. That part of the vehicle is equipped with blow-out panels that are intended to direct the blast upward and away from the crew in the event of a detonation. How effective were the blow-out panels in protecting the crew in this particular instance? We can’t really say without more evidence, but we certainly do not envy any crewman who happened to be in that tank. What we can say though, is that if the ISIS missile crew were looking for the most sensational video possible, they hit the Abrams in the exact perfect spot to achieve their goal.
One other question not addressed in the articles concerns tactics and training. While these articles treat the question of tank vs missile as primarily a technical one, how much of the fault for the destruction of this tank rests on the training and tactics of the Iraqi soldiers? Certainly, we don’t see any fire being directed toward the launchers of the missile after the Iraqi tank is stuck, which does not seem to speak well of the other soldiers accompanying the targeted tank. While we don’t know much about the exact tactical situation in this particular incident, it seems that it does merit some serious questions regarding how the Iraqi Army is conducting its operations if their valuable Main Battle Tanks are being left easy targets to enemy ATGMs.