Is the Main Battle Tank obsolete?

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by Pistolenschutze, Mar 3, 2007.


Is the Main Battle Tank obsolete?

  1. Yes, get rid of the MBTs and concentrate on newer weapons systems.

    0 vote(s)
  2. Yes, but they still play a significant role. Phase them out slowly.

    7 vote(s)
  3. No, the MBT will be the key to land warfare for the foreseeable future. Build more tanks!

    10 vote(s)
  4. No, but we should not neglect newer weapons systems in favor of tanks.

    30 vote(s)
  1. Ever since their invention in World War I, there have been those who have predicted the demise of the Main Battle Tank (MBT) as viable instrument of warfare. In more modern times--especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union--the argument has been that with modern artillery and strike aircraft capabilities, its days are numbered. Some argue that instead of these very expensive and often difficult-to-deploy-and-support pieces of machinery, our military should move away from them and spend its budget on more efficient weapons and tactics, such as, for example, attack chopers armed with Hellfires and such.

    Opinions and comments?
  2. Marlin

    Marlin *TFF Admin Staff Chief Counselor*

    Mar 27, 2003
    At SouthernMoss' side forever!
    There is still a role for the tank in battle as evidenced by both Iraqi wars. A most helpful tool in both was the latest version of the Abrams tank. In any situation where war is fought on the ground, they will continue to be valuable.

    At the same time, we should continuously brainstorming any other modes of fighting that will assist in gaining an objective. We should tailor our weapons toward winning at any fight and must be at all times up-to-snuff, as my Colonel cousin used to say.....
  3. Agreed, Marlin. My own view is that the MBT, as it is improved over time, will remain an integral part of any fully capable national military force over the foreseeable future. In essence, the equation remains as it has always been: offensive force v. defensive counter measures. Modern armor is very resistant to weapons designed to take it out, the M1 A2 Abrams being a prime example of that. Yet anti-tank weapons continue to improve in both power and accuracy, and sooner or later the counter-measures will catch up to, and ultimately overcome, the defensive capabilities of the tank. Before that occurs, it behooves us to develop still more efficient materials for armor protection and more effective main gun armament to keep the tank a viable and survivable weapons system.
  4. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    Feb 23, 2001
    Minn-eeee-sota, ya, sure, you bet!
    You still gotta "take the high (or flat) ground and hold it"......which you can't do from a "Warthog" or B-2, or F/A-18......or from a bunch of 155's behind the lines.

    In a fast moving, mobile environment, the MBT can't be beat. As an example, look at "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf's "Left Hook" in Gulf War I.

    Granted, there are situations and terrains where the tank just isn't suitable, but when & where you need 'em, ya gotta have 'em......and if the enemy has 'em and you don't, you're in a world of hurt.
  5. Like the Mekong Delta, for example. :D But yeah, I entirely agree, X. Air power is a magnificant force multiplier, but it can't take and hold ground. For that, the only solution is boots on mud, and for that to be effective, if the enemy has armor (and most do), we had better have it too or we're up the proverbial odiferous tributary without apposite means of locomotion. ;)
  6. 17thfabn

    17thfabn New Member

    Apr 21, 2001
    North bank of the mighty Ohio River
    Tanks in Vietnam

    My father in law served with the 1st Cavalry Regiment Americal Division in Vietnam. According to his division history when U.S. forces first went into Vietnam they did not bring armored units because it was believed that Vietnam was not good tank country.

    Latter studies showed that much of Vietnam was good for tank use, such as open areas around rice paddies. Other areas such as heavy jungles tanks were less useful.

    I think for U.S. forces tanks will remain useful for many years to come. We have air superiority. Countries who face a heavy air threat will see the usefulness of tanks decline.

    I don't see attack helicopters as a more efficient system. I see them becoming more vulnerable as time goes by and light man packable anti-air systems become more common. It is much easier to add armor to a tank thanit is to add it to a helicopter. And helicopters are even more expensive than tanks, and require huge amounts of maintenance to keep them in action.

    I will make the prediction that the M-1 will be the last "traditional" main battle tank that the U.S. builds. It will be in the U.S. Army and Marine inventories for many decades to come. They will see a lot of action, and many upgrades. But some thing new that will be "tank like" will replace it. What that will look like I don't know, but it will probably be faster and lighter, with more fire power and protection. How about a jet propelled hover tank?
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2007
  7. Re: Tanks in Vietnam

    You could well be right, 17th. The M1 is a fantastic tank, in fact, I'm inclined to argue that it is the best tank every designed and it has many years of service left in it with upgrades. Yet, as we've seen just over the last 25 years or so, weapons systems evolve, battlefields change, and so must tactics. I would not bet against a "hover tank" or something similar in years to come. One area of enormous improvement I look for will be in main gun armament. It would not surprise me to see an evolution away from a projectile-firing weapon and the development of some sort of particle beam weapon or the like. Another possibility lies in propulsion. As good as the M1 is, it is a major gas hog. How about a hydrogen fueled tank?
  8. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

    Mar 25, 2001
    No countries on earth have economies that can afford to develop, train with and MAINTAIN modern heavy armored forces except the democracies that will probably never war against us, and most of them can't afford them either.

    Any heavy tanks left any of our potential adversaries (China, Russia, and clones) can be dealt with with our newer lighter armored units, LAVs, Bradleys with TOWs, along with our close air support. And they will never be even as good as the Abrams, they simply can't afford the $5-7mil a pop it would take. But frankly, it's getting to the point we almost can't either.

    Our "Armored Companies" in the future will consist of two platoons of fast moving LAVs and/or the next gen Bradly type IFVs with an intrinsic platoon of forward based attack helicopters operating as a single command.

    CAVALRY will ALWAYS be with us, but it just won't have heavy armor.

    Now this won't happen overnight, so we have to keep our Abrams we have up for a while, just in case someone in the next 10 years or so with leftover Russian or Chinese crap doesn't get it, but we don't need to be wasting any money developing a replacement....we can use the money on technology, better low tec weapons, better and faster logistics moving capacity, and frankly, MORE PERSONNEL.

    And unfortunately, we can have this same discussion over manned fighter aircraft too....I lament that it's days are coming to an end as well....
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2007
  9. Not to worry, Polish. If all else fails, the Germans will design and build a tank that no one can stop . . . just like they did in World War II. :D ;) :p
  10. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

    Mar 25, 2001
    And will it be SO good it will stop ITSELF just like most of the crappy Panthers and Tigers did in that war? Usually while trying to pivot around and shoot at the M4s in their REAR and throwing a track, if they didn't already strip a gear in the fragile Maybach transmission too flimsy for a CAR? And that is of course if they managed to get it STARTED that morning.....

    Face it, PS, the Germans only made once or future "scrap metal," the only tanks they could ever WIN with were Czech-made....;)
  11. Polish, once again you mistake insufficient industrial capacity and production numbers for designed capability. Yes, the German Tigers and Panthers did have their mechanical problems, stemming mostly from manufacturing problems late in the war, and from insufficient time to work out the bugs before they had to commit the tanks to actual battle. What simply cannot be ignored, however, is that, tank for tank, even tank for several tanks, the American M4 simply could not stand up to either the Tiger or the Panther. It was barely a match even for the earlier German tanks, the Panzer IIIs and IVs. The problems were simple: lack of armor and lack of a main gun that could penetrate the German tanks except with a lucky, close-range shot from the rear, or a plunging artiller shot from above. The Americans tried everything they could think of to add armor and firepower to the M4, and while these measures helped somewhat, the German 76mm high velocity and the 88mm high velocity guns went through the M4 like it was made of soft cheese, even with a hit on the frontal armor. The ONLY tank we had (and we only had a few of them even at wars end) that could SOMETIMES stand up to the Tigers and Panthers was the M26 Pershing with its 90mm main gun. And even the Pershing could be penetrated by the German 88. Face it, Polish, we won the tank war with numbers, not with better technology.
  12. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

    Mar 25, 2001
    No we did NOT win the war with sheer numbers, PS, that is one of the MYTHS of WWII....

    The numbers HELPED, granted, but is it a FAULT to any tank to be easily built in high numbers and THEN shipped thousands of miles to ANY battlefield and still reliably do the job assigned? The Germans could have LEARNED from the M4....and would have been better off with a tank equivalent to it, rather than trying to make a heavier dinosaur....

    No reliability and MOBILITY is the main weapon of any AFV, and ANY German tank after the PZ III and IV simply did NOT have it....

    You have to face it, PS, panthers were a failure because of mechanical reliability, even though on paper they were perhaps the best design of the war, and both Tigers were underpowered and too heavy to be tactically effective even WITH enough fuel and transmissions that worked....

    No, PS, the M4 was a VASTLY superior tank to any German tank when it came to doing what tanks were designed to do.....

    In WWI, when the Allies had the reliable and relatively mobile and quick Renault and the Whippet and even the Mk IVs, the Germans only developed the A7, which was nothing but a slow unreliable underpowered PILLBOX....

    At the end of WWII they were back to square one, in a war of rapid mobility, which the kicker is THEY pioneered, they developed only slow and unreliable PILLBOXES that they ended up with....
  13. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

    Mar 25, 2001
    Gosh, who resurrected THIS one?;)

    Did you notice my new avatar, PS? An "Easy 8!"

    Slap on a bustle and mount a 105mm tube and you have the Israeli "Super Sherman," able to beat any Soviet Armor up to the T60, and viable even against the T72 and T80...and probably STILL a viable MBT And it was first fielded with the 76mm in mobile as the T34, and just as fast...

    (I actually just figured out what an avatar WAS much less how to add it...:p)

    My wife and I hit the Patton Museum at Ft Knox during our anniversary trip last week, and I got some good pictures...some of them pretty creative if I say so myself, since we hit the Jim Beam Distillery and sampler on the way!;):p
  14. I couldn't possibly guess who might have the unmitigated audacity to resurrect such a dastardly thread Polish, dead horses and all. :D Could it be some delusional Polack with a "thing" for the M4 Sherman Tiger target, er, I meant to say, tank? :p;)

    I would only have noticed your new avitar had you used a Tiger tank, Polish, i.e., a machine that truly qualifies as a battle tank instead of a piece of tinfoil wrapped around a potato gun. :eek::D

    Polish, face it. The Sherman tank could run, but it couldn't hide, not when it actually encounted opposition from German armor. Fortunately for "our side" the Germans didn't have many Tigers or Panthers so, yes, the Sherman did its intended job, its hellacious losses notwithstanding. Success through overwhelming numbers alone does not, however, determine the degree of quality and design efficiency. The Germans only managed to build about 1300 Tigers, the Americans built nearly 50,000 Shermans. They had to; they kept getting blown up from impacts of 88mm shells and Panzerfaust fire.
  15. Hmmmm, that may explain a lot Polish. Let's see . . . resistance to modern technology, unwillingness to try something new and innovative . . . Yup, now I'm finally beginning to understand why you like the M4 tank so much! ;) Since it wasn't much improved over the French tanks of WWI, I can see why you admire it. :D;):p

  16. 300 H&H

    300 H&H Active Member

    Apr 1, 2007
    Hey Pistol from the looks of Polish's "avatar" you are beginning to look like you are "out gunned!":eek: I wonder with all the gemany technological abilities, especially the Benze aircraft engine that was such a marvel, why they could not build a engine with enough power to pull those tigers along at a reasonable speed...AS I recall they were powered by a diesel engine, something on the order of 500+ h.p. Really only about half of the power needed to really "move" that kind of weight. Shermans on the other hand were equipted with several moters, each with more power than the last, Multiple Caddy moters to radial aircraft engines. All were gasoline powered if I am not mistaken. I guess this leads ot the question, did the germans have to supply two types of fuel, gas and diesel to move there army? Best reguards, Kirk
  17. They were indeed gasoline powered, 300, which is why the M4 acquired the nickname "The Ronson" . . . because it would light every time! :D Any hit that penetrated the M4's armor, which almost all of them did due to its thinness, was automatically catastrophic.
  18. BillP

    BillP New Member

    Sep 9, 2007
    On a lake near Detroit Lakes, MN
    Pistolenschutze & polishshooter :D I just love your posts! I learn a lot from your heated exchanges. If either of you ever write a book, the other should write the introduction.
  19. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

    Mar 25, 2001
    Ah, beware the "cheap" wive's tails of History, and those who repeat them...ESPECIALLY after they were REFUTED...;)

    I can show you many quotes, where German Tankers claimed their Panthers "burned too easily," where Soviets called the (Diesel!) T-34 "Their little Lighter..." But everybody that feels the NEED to slam the M4 "conveniently" remembers the British called the EARLY model "the Ronson." (AMERICANS would have called it the ZIPPO.:p ) EARLY models without wet storage of ammo, or the applique armor over the sponsons where the ammo was stored, DID brew up more quickly than most Gasoline powered tanks (and MOST were still powered by gasoline!) But AFTER the "Wet" modification, showing again the VERSATILITY of the design, , which virtually ALL of ours after 1943 WERE, except the MANY early ones that SURVIVED to roll into Germany in '45 of course...they "brewed up" with no MORE frequency than OTHER gasoline powered designs, the Cromwell, the Churchill, or even the Pzkw IVs, Panthers and Tigers! YES they were "Petrol powered" as WELL!.. (BTW, PS, how many German tanks made in 1942 were still in action in 1945?)

    This really DOES get tiring, PS, ;) ESPECIALLY having to defend the tank that actually helped WIN the war, against proponents of the tanks that actually HASTENED the defeat of Germany!

    Bill and 300, they made the Sherman in Diesel too, that did NOT "light up" any faster than other diesels AFTER the wet stowage, but the Army refused them just SO we wouldn't have to ship two types of fuel over 3000 miles TOO...the USMC, as well as the Free French, Polish (which made no sense, we had to supply THEM diesel in Europe too....) and the Russians via lend-lease used them...the M4A2s...

    The one thing the M4 ALSO brought to the table that no German design could match was VERSATILITY, but that's another story, even though PS and the Sherman detractors ignore THAT the M10 and M36 TDs with guns that DID defeat German armor rather easily? Like the M4A3 105mm that could ALSO defeat all German armor with HEAT, BESIDES giving tremendous HE support?

    The M4A1s and M4s (Kinda funny the A1 was produced BEFORE the standard 'M4,) had the radials, the M4A2 had the Diesel, the M4A3 (the most common US type after '43) had the three Ford V-8s, the M4A4 (used mainly for training, none supposedly saw combat) had the weird 4 or even 5 Chrysler engines hooked together. And YEAH, the three Fords gave 500hp power for a much lighter tank than the 600hp of the Maybach in the Tiger or Panthers...but better than that they usually STARTED each morning, not like the German crap...:p

    The limiting factor on the horsepower though, for the Germans, was not that they couldn't MAKE bigger engines, they could! It's just that they couldn't make TRANSMISSIONS that could handle the wear and tear of anything much larger than a ton and a half TRUCK! Almost as MANY of those "parked" Panthers and Tigers you see captured almost unscathed (as opposed to the ones burned out from getting smoked by Jabos or by the fast moving Sherman's (or M10s, M36s or Hellcat TDs!) hitting them in the flank and from behind by surprise, are parked because of a stripped tooth on a ring or pinion gear, or a smoked clutch, as from lack of FUEL!

    One of the very FIRST definitons of a "Tank, what they were DESIGNED for, includes the term "MOBILITY."

    You can have as much armor and gun as you want, but without MOBILITY that you can DEPEND on, you have a PILLBOX. A very DIFFICULT pillbox to destroy possibly, but one that should have used non-strategic CONCRETE instead of STEEL to save valuable RESOURCES....

    One thing PS and all the other "German Superiority" preachers NEVER discuss is where the line of ABSURDITY of German Tank design in WWII was crossed...they ALWAYS spout, almost with PRIDE, and with the Prussian Marching Music almost AUDIBLE in the background, the "Invincible Tiger II, or Panther..." but what about the 100 ton Sturmtiger, the 240 ton Maus, or the even HEAVIER German designs and prototypes actually being TESTED at the of the end of the war armed with NAVAL guns and ALSO eating up precious resources and industrial capacity??? If bigger is BETTER, why not extoll THEM, in your wistful fantasies of "What if?????"

    I actually simply place the line of absurdity, in front of the Tiger II. It really was as absurd as the Maus, any tank that takes 150000 man hours apiece to build, too heavy for all BRIDGES on a continent where river crossings are a fact of military LIFE, and have been for CENTURIES, so they have to waste time experimenting with SCHNORKLES is "Absurdity" in neon lights!

    The PANTHER is another story, and it is TRULY a good thing it was too little too late, still a little too complicated for the state of the mechanical aptitude of the German tanker and mechanic, and rushed into service before any of the bugs could be worked out, and crews could be adequately trained in it. When it WORKED as designed, it was the toughest adversary the Shermans (and T34s) had, thank God they had relatively only a few, and those few broke down as much as they did, so they did not affect the outcome of the war.

    Horrendous losses? More wives tails...I've said it before, but PS doesn't hear well;)...knocked out Shermans averaged one (do you HEAR that PS? ONE!) casualty for EVERY Sherman "Knocked out." American tankers did NOT suffer "horrendous" casualties due to their "Inferior tank!"

    That rate is actually BETTER than the average casualty rate of MOST tanks of the war, INCLUDING the Germans!

    Yes many more American/Allied tanks WERE knocked out in Western Europe than German...WHY??????

    For the ENTIRE war they were ATTACKING, which is what tanks were DESIGNED for....the GERMANS only "attacked" at the BEGINNING...(with "inferior tanks," by the way the only ones they WON with...;)) and when the Allies learned how to STOP them, they rarely EVER attacked again.

    The OTHER thing PS ignores, is Tank vs tank encounters in Europe, from June 6th 1944 until VE day were RARE. One on one "Shootouts at high noon" which is what is envisioned when people ONLY refer to published gun/armor ratios and thus "pronounce" the "best tank", NEVER happened!

    For EVERY instance where "one Tiger held up an entire army and destroyed 30 Shermans," I can show you SEVERAL incidents where one 76mm WHEELED US AT gun or an M10 tank destroyer at Bastogne or Elsenberg ridge did the same THING in reverse to the Panthers and PZKW IVs! (Granted, not to any Tiger IIs, because remember they were too HEAVY for the terrain to be USED in the main attack through the Ardennes at the Bulge, so for Germany's "last Gasp," it's "Best" :p tanks could only play a minor role in a feint in the SOUTH, that fooled no one, especially Georgie Patton, driving up from the South in a maneuver even the GERMANS thought was impossible with TANKS and SMASH into their flank, with of course. "inferior" M4A3s...;)

    MOST of those "horrendous" losses PS cites were to entrenched towed Anti tank GUNS usually 75mm, (giving the devil his due, they had GREAT 75mm AT guns!) NOT 88s.. and PANZERFAUSTS carried by INFANTRY in built up areas, and the cheap, reliable and easily made tiny and quick HETZER Tank Destroyer with the LOW velocity 75mm gun, based on a small. RELIABLE Czech chassis and engine!

    My point is simply that the Sherman, ALL things considered, that it was made and TRANSPORTED many thousands of miles to hostile shores to carry out a doctrine that it was built and specifically TAILORED to carry out, SUCCEEDED wonderfully, in a really epic campaign of rapid MANEUVER and MOVEMENT that probably will never be equaled by armored forces, and is probably the only tank that COULD have done it......

    ....while late war GERMAN tanks, (after YEARS more of armored experience than anyone else, ((heck they INVENTED "Blitzkrieg"!)) they SHOULD have gotten it right, but DIDN'T) that could be DRIVEN from the factories to the front, still were designed to be RAILROADED to the front because the road march would cause too much wear and tear, (AND when designed, the designers even KNEW air superiority was LOST, so there might not BE any railroads left!) and were fragile mechanically, and many times too HEAVY to maneuver around a battlefield due to available BRIDGES did NOT were FAILURES.

    And thus, the M4 series Shermans were BETTER tanks, all things considered...

    Counselor, your witness...:D;):D:D:D
  20. Polish, there is a word whose definition you should look up and consider well before you assert you have "refuted" anything about the weaknesses of the M4 Tiger Target. That word is "sophistry." :D;):p By the way, have you considered taking up a new profession after your recovery is complete? My suggestion would be speech writer for a Democratic politician. You'd make a killing!!! :D
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 2, 2007
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