Army to saber and saddle industry: Sorry

Army to saber and saddle industry: Sorry

Much like Army leaders in the 1930s had to look to the future and invest in future technologies beyond the sabre or saddle, today’s generals must pick which parts of the defense industrial base it wants to support to give soldiers the edge in future battles, said Army Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8.

“We don’t want to be in the position of 1939 when we say we have to go out and protect the saber and saddle industry because our cavalry is going to need it for the future. We have to make sure we got the right industrial challenges for the future and those are the ones we have to focus on,” Lennox said.

Ears perked up at a Thursday morning breakfast hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army when the Army three-star at first seemed to compare the  sabre and saddle to the tank in terms of what technologies the Army should not invest. The line came directly after he said he understood the concerns people have with the loss of jobs when it comes to shutting down the tank plant in Lima, Ohio.

Congress has repeatedly ripped the Army for its decision to temporarily close the tank production line before re-opening it to upgrade its tank fleet. A comparison like that would only be rubbing salt in the wounds of Ohio lawmakers fighting to keep open the General Dynamics tank production line in Lima.

Lennox said after the speech that he by no means meant to compare the tank to the saddle or sabre.

“All the armor guys in the world would kill me,” he joked.

However, the Army doesn’t have the budget to support legacy systems in order to prop up the entire defense industrial base. It must invest in future technologies such as UAVs or advanced optics.

“There are choices that are going to have to be made and some things are going to be tougher than others,” Lennox said.

He understands this is an election year and Congress is bending over backwards to protect jobs in their districts. Lennox is sympathetic to this, but it can’t cloud the  Army’s judgement and force leaders to invest in equipment that won’t maintain that lethal edge.

“We know there are industrial base implications and this is a challenge for us and we understand there are jobs at risk,” he said.

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How does the Army see a future without tanks?

I think its really been the helicopter thats offset the need for heavy armor. Distance and speed can be just as good a defence and high tempo kinetic warfare and asymetircal arenas prefer the first over the latter. I think it actually shows some good foresight from the Army leadership, that even if they aren’t cutting tanks they’re atleast thinking about the implications of the modern battlefield has on the tank.

Even if we decide to end production of battle tanks, there are still plenty of things we can turn that industrial base on to. While heavy armor has evolved, light armor is still largely just hardened aluminum. Pushing developements in that end of the armor spectrum could net a more impactful outcome as the shear volume of vehicles dependent on light armor is far more significant than the 5000 or so Abrams.

They don’t. They see an immediate future without a need for tank upgrades.

Without a need for _additional_ tank upgrades, beyond the many already done or funded.

Let me say that a slightly different way:

At the moment, it’s not hard to design and build weapons that defeat our most advanced armors and protective systems. At moments like that, the things to invest in are (1) those weapons, and (2) research and development into new ways to protect yourself. It is the worst possible time to invest a lot of money in building expensive-but-vulnerable platforms, or protected-but-too-heavy-to-do-anything platfoms.

I wouldn’t even say that its the vulnerablity. Very few have been destroyed to enemy fire, lighter vehicles are much more vulnerable than the Abrams. In total only about 20 Abrams have every been destroyed, 7 of those were friendly fire in the first Gulf War, and three more were purposefully destroyed to prevent capture after being disabled. Most destroyed by enemy fire have been as a result of mines or long range artillery. None to the ever present fear of RPG’s though many have been servicably disabled.

Its a case that they are the best in the world. They are good enough. The cost of making them even better doesn’t justify the minimal gain. The time to make a significant gain is so far ahead, that there isn’t any rush. Thus there are at this time better ways to spend your scarce resources. Spend the money where you need it, not on the things that are more than adequete for the time being.

This guy is a joke if he thinks tanks are a past phnomina. A T-80 platoon invading Georgia can wipe out a bunch of stupid Strikers or MRAPs with out sweating. M-1s are needed. A new tank may even be needed soon to fit new technologies. This is the Army ready to fight Afghanistan over and over again and that’s NOT the case. Tell Army brass to take a flying leap.

It’s less “what can X do to the Abrams” because, well, what CAN you do to an Abrams? IMO it’s more re-evaluating how we might fight enemy tanks in the future, especially the light and Stryker forces. With the new TOW and the various hypervelocity missile systems we developed in the last decade (LOSAT/CKEM), plus of course ongoing UAV integration, it’s becoming less and less “you need a tank to fight a tank.” When the new TOW-RF gets fielded, we’ll have overlapping spheres of antiarmor missile that can extend all the way to 7,500 meters. That is approximately 2.5 times the range of any tank main gun I’m aware of. If set up properly, a light or Stryker brigade would be capable of completely destroying any non-peer-competitor.

Did you miss the part where we’ve upgraded the entire fleet a couple times over and have 5000 in the inventory? Nobody in the Army has said or even implied they’re getting rid of the Abrams. They just want to slow down the upgrades and not build any new ones.

Unfortunately, LOSAT & CKEM are long dead. And, while the TOW RF is an improvement, it still requires the gunner to remain on the target throughout the engagement. Increasing the weapons range has also increased the challenges (& hazards) faced by the systems operators. One can only assume that fire-&-forget technology has not been integrated into the TOW system due to the hopes that HVM weapons would eventually replace it.

You also have to consider this: A Stryker or Bradley only carries half a dozen missiles or so. An Abrams carries 40 rounds. A missile takes several seconds to acquire the target, fire, wait for impact (and you usually have to stay on target), and drop whatever you’re doing to reload (especially for a TOW). An Abrams takes about 3 seconds to acquire, fire, reload, and move on to the next target and the commander is looking for his 2nd or 3rd target while this is going on. Also, if that Stryker is in range of any similar enemy weapons systems, he’s in real trouble if he doesn’t hit the guy first. A tank is still the best tank killer.

TMB nailed it. The tank is still the best tank killer. For the reasons TMB listed light infantry will almost always get overrun in tank friendly terrain and as a grunt you can’t count on having a city or mountain pass in your pocket to stop a heavy force. Even mech Infantry will be greatly challenged to stop a tank heavy force.

What many missile, smart weapon etc enthusiasts forget is missiles in the launcher, reposition, reload & rounds carried doesn’t trump armor companies. Don’t take the wrong lessons from small numbers of enemy tanks or permissive helo environments.

This sort of talk always scares me. Don’t get me wrong, love tech and the edge it gives us but America gets so infatuated with it and becomes so gullible that it believes the snake oil sellers. FCS alone provided a lifetime’s worth of how technology will allow us to see, know and act first. How robots and tech will lower the numbers of troops and tanks required to fight the next war. (RFLMAOS) All of it to comes crashing down because of the hashish high insurgent hiding under a space blanket with an advanced RPG.

Tech is much easier to beat than soldier with the bayonet (or a sturdy tank).

sorry chief infantry won’t get overrun because ‘tank friendly’ terrain is also CBU-105 friendly, tanks would die quick in any peer to peer fight too much out there can kill them. Armor guys remind me of the old Battleship admirals and they are just as wrong. Battleships could blow the crap out of Chinese sampans shooting fireworks or blockhouses on a beach but not an industrial navy with subs and CVs.

You know how you protect that battleship from subs and carriers? With other subs and carriers. Nice job there magic wanding our own air force out of the battle. In a peer to peer fight, we’ll take casualties. It happens. But an enemy air force isn’t going to win the war on its own for the same reason ours has yet to. You compare tanks to battleships like they’re obsolete. You have any examples where that’s actually happened to our armor? Are you really inferring that a cluster bomb will defend an infantry force from an attacking tank force?

Sorry its not just about the M-1 its about this notion in the Pentagon that armored warfare is over that’s imply a falsehood.

Again, where are you coming up with the DoD saying armored warfare is out? Remember that GCV you absolutely hate and never stop complaining about?

He’s drowning! Throw him an anvil.

To add to TMB’s valid points. That CBU only shows up IF the weather is good, IF the A/C shows up on time, IF the A/C is equipped and tasked to do CAS, IF an A/C is available and most importantly IF the AIR FORCE decides it’s an economical use of it’s assets.

Pardon me, as the former Infantryman I trust Army tankers to save my butt a heck of a lot more than the Air Force. Don’t get me wrong. LOVE when you guys show up. I just know better than to count on it. Bad weather has never stopped 60T of metal on tracks.

I think I understand what the Lt. General was trying to say, but it sounded too much like another “heavy armor is dead” claim. Historically these claims don’t match up to reality.

Considering the costs of getting everything up and running again, is there any real money savings to the shut-down as opposed to upgrading some more older Abrams to A2 SEP standard in the interim? If not, why bother?

APS systems such as Iron Fist can defend against systems like the CBU-105.

I suggest you review the performance of tanks that were properly combined with infantry in the 2009 “Cast Lead” operation.

We need to run Bobo off in Nov.

That Lance… He’s such a card ;o)

I come away with the same feeling.

Sure, but there’s been times when infantry (and SOF in 2003) *have* defeated tanks with nothing more than ATGMs available. It’s tricky obviously, but it can be done; I was mainly just pointing out that Lance is wrong. :p It’s certainly leaps and bounds beyond the situation the 82nd was facing before armor arrived in the Gulf War when there literally wasn’t anything they could have done; nowadays light and medium forces are definitely not a threat to just discount.

This does not look like the kind of weapon you would want to use danger close, or even within a couple of miles of friendly troops. But I quibble. The notion that tanks operate best with no cover or concealment around is refuted with each and every NTC rotation. Personally, I’m rather fond of overhead camouflage. I’m even more fond of the flexible platoon and company tactics we taught and trained in the 70s and 80s before false lessons of Desert Storm convinced everyone that our tanks were invulnerable, and we didn’t need no stinkin’ cover.

I think the issue at this point is the only tanks left to upgrade are already sitting in depots. After the upgrade, they’d go right back to their parking spaces.

Exactly, people have been claiming that tanks are outdated for 50 years yet they keep proving themselves to be useful.

But the Abrams doesn’t need an upgrade yet. Someday we will need a new MBT but not anytime soon.

Helicopters can’t hold ground but armor and infantry can. Helicopters are no subsitute for tanks.

Agree with your general point but doctrinally only Infantry occupy and hold ground. Tanks can’t dig out determined troops unless they have Infantry.


We haven’t gone up against any nation fielding comptent modern air defenses or large scale effective artillery in a long, long time. There are several potential competitors that have made creation of same a key element in their ongoing defense modernization efforts. I am afraid the US Army will be in for a rather rude awakening if it comes to rely on helicopters as a substitute for heavy armor. As for “distance and speed,” we have nothing that can outfly effective modern missile-gun systems. In particular, we (the US) have ignored AAA, and the associated systems that make modern AAA a most lethal battlefield system — especially against helicopters. We don’t even field any dedicated AAA any more. But that is NOT the case for other nations. The Army needs to take a total relook at what a number of potential competitor nations have been building in terms of force structure and capability, and then plan on a “zero base” rebuild. Such a US force rennovation would certainly include a significant heavy armor component.

Thank you for sharing this.

colon cleansing


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