Happy “Tanksgiving”

tanksgiving_special

To all our readers in the USA, we hope you have a happy Thanksgiving.  To our readers outside the USA, have a great weekend.  While our goal here is to post new material on a daily basis, several events have conspired to make that impossible this month.  However, we are hopeful that moving forward we can get back to our regular schedule.  Thank you for reading!

From the Editor: The Next-Gen Combat Vehicle of the US Army

Defense News has posted a new article titled “What is the Next-Gen Combat Vehicle?” which reports on recent statements from US Army officials concerning future AFV development.  The article can be read here, but for those in a hurry, allow us to summarize.

The Army has no idea what the NGCV (Next-Gen Combat Vehicle) will look like and will need four years of analysis before any ideas “begin to take shape.”  This analysis will include “conceptualizing the NGCV” through the “prism” of the movement and maneuver functional concept for the brigade combat teams.  According to the article, there is a “roadmap to show where potential decision-making points could exist to bring a NGCV to life.”  However, this roadmap is in no way “set in stone.”  Don’t worry, the Army does not intend to repeat the mistakes it made in the FCS (Future Combat Systems) program.  In fact, the Army “will make conscious decisions about what NGCV will or will not be and what capabilities and technologies it will have based on our assessments of technology and where it is.”

Or to summarize even further:

The Army wants something better than what it has right now but they have no idea what it might be.

From the Editor: Media Reaction to Iraqi Abrams missile strike video

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.

 

From the Editor: Bad Headlines, Big Traffic

tumblr_ofl884dr1d1rqpszmo1_1280Last Friday we make a photo of the day post titled “Casting a Tank Hull” which showed a red hot Swiss Pz 68 hull being lowered into a vat as part of the hull manufacturing process.  We came up with the title of the post rather quickly, and frankly, it’s a sloppy title.  As several readers have pointed out, the image does not depict the actual casting process, but rather the heat treating of the hull after it is cast.  As one reader in the comments section noted:

Looks like oil bath tempering of the pre-heated casting. The hull will have been cast , fettled (de-scaled), runners and risers removed, then reheated to homogenize, before quenching.

So yes, we admit it was a less than accurate headline.  Normally we would move on without mentioning it, except for the fact that this post has, as they say, “gone viral.”  It would seem that Facebook is to blame.  Typically, our facebook posts reach a number of people in the two digits range.  “Casting a Tank Hull” has reached 83,155 people and been shared 231 times.  And while we are very grateful for the exposure, we really wish it hadn’t been for a post with an inaccurate title.  Oh well, any publicity is good publicity, as they say…

From the Editor: War is Boring blog on Russian tank history

In the last couple weeks, a couple articles on Soviet tank history have appeared on the War is Boring blog.  One is a somewhat critical look at the WWII era KV tank while the other is a brief examination of post war Soviet heavy tank development.  By themselves, we didn’t really feel they merited posting about, but since they keep showing up in our daily searches for tank related articles, we did want to raise one point concerning them.

It seems both articles are based in part on an old ARMOR magazine article by Stephen “Cookie” Sewell titled Red Star – White Elephant.  As part of our “From the Vault” series of posts, we posted that particular article, as well as another ARMOR article by Sewell called Why Three Tanks?  in 2015.  Sewell is a well known figure in the AFV model building community, being the founder and first president of the Armor Modeling and Preservation Society.  He is also known for his model kit and book reviews which have appeared in Fine Scale Modeler magazine or online at the missing-lynx.com forum.

It is worth noting that Amazon has listed for release next summer a new book by Sewell on the Soviet T-10 Heavy Tank and Variants.  All we know about the book at this point is that it will be published by Osprey and will be a 144 page hardcover.

 

Patton versus the Panzers: An Interview with Steven Zaloga

Two years ago we had a chance to interview author and historian Steven Zaloga.  That interview became the first feature of this website when it launched in January of 2015.  We recently had the chance to do a follow-up interview with Mr. Zaloga in late August, 2016.  We were able to get his thoughts concerning his two latest hardcover books, Patton Versus the Panzers: The Battle of Arracourt, September 1944 and Armored Champion: The Top Tanks of World War II, as well as a variety of other topics, including Soviet tank development, the 1940 Campaign in France and the tank book publishing business.


 

sz15Steven Zaloga is an author and defense analyst known worldwide for his articles and publications on military technology.  He has written over a hundred books on military technology and military history, including “Armored Thunderbolt: The US Army Sherman in World War II”, one of the most highly regarded histories of the Sherman Tank.  His books have been translated into Japanese, German, Polish, Czech, Romanian, and Russian. He was a special correspondent for Jane’s Intelligence Review and is on the executive board of the Journal of Slavic Military Studies and the New York Military Affairs Symposium. From 1987 through 1992, he was the writer/producer for Video Ordnance Inc., preparing their TV series Firepower.  He holds a BA in history from Union College and an MA in history from Columbia University.


 

Why did you decide to choose the battle of Arracourt, September 1944 as the topic for this book?

There were two reasons. The first reason is that I wanted to cover a big US-versus-German tank battle. The underlying theme is stated in the forward of the book- there is this impression that US tanks are always getting defeated by German tanks because the German tanks technically were so much better. But I’ve spent so much time doing campaign books, not tank-oriented books but general campaign books on the ETO for the Osprey Campaign series, that I was aware that that was simply not true. There weren’t that many large US-versus- German tank battles. As I mention in the book there were really two big ones: Arracourt in September 1944, and of course the Ardennes in December 1944 – January 1945. I selected Arracourt partly because it’s not very well known. So it makes a more interesting and fresh subject. And also it’s relatively confined in time and space. It took place over a couple of weeks and it’s not over a very large area. Doing the Ardennes would be interesting. But the problem is that inevitably I have to basically do the whole Ardennes campaign all over again to explain what is going on. And that would make it unmanageable in a book the size that Stackpole wants. So I ruled out the Ardennes for that reason. Also I had done the earlier Osprey Ardennes book (Panther vs Sherman: Battle of the Bulge 1944 (Duel)).

The second big reason was availability of research materials on both sides. The German side in a lot of battles is not especially well covered because a lot of records were lost. The Germans lost the war. At one point in the war the main German Army archive was basically burned down. So a lot of records were lost there. And a lot of records were lost during the course of campaigns. But I knew from having done some previous work on the Lorraine campaign that the German records from that battle were fairly good. I actually have day-to-day reports at corps-level and in some cases at divisional-level explaining what’s going on. And the US side also is fairly well covered. The strange thing is that in many cases you would think that US battles are very well covered because we have all the records. In fact, there often times are after-action-reports, but they are very skeletal and don’t give much detail. But I knew that in the case of the Arracourt battles there had been an Army historical team stationed with 4th Armored Division and they did a set of interviews after the battle of Arracourt. This included a lot of maps, which of course, is very useful for trying to explain exactly what happened in the battle. So those were the two reasons; there was some inherent reasons in the nature of the Arracourt battle that made it attractive for a book; and I knew from having done previous work that there was enough historical material that would enable me to make it detailed enough to keep it interesting.

In the course of researching this book, did you find anything that surprised you or was it more a case of fleshing out the framework you had established in earlier works? [Read more…]

We are on Facebook!

fb_icon_325x325Want to follow Tank and AFV News.com on Facebook?  Now you can!  For the past couple weeks, we have been posting our website updates onto the Tank and AFV News.com facebook page.  We will be checking the facebook page daily, so feel free to contact us or comment on posts there.