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US Army Forced To Buy Tanks It Doesn't Want- Now A Discussion on " What If.."

The deployment of mobile land based lasers and airborne versions may spell the end of tanks as the dominant weapon system for major armies. They will still hang around for the countries that do not have Lasers or unlikely to encounter them. I suspect that unless a major technical breakthrough happens, anti-armour lasers will be only found in the top 3-5 armies and even then in limited quantities. The power requirements to burn through thick armour at a distance is pretty significant, not to mention doing it quickly enough and being able to do any damage once you get through.
  I do see lasers continue to develop into effective AD weapons for UAV, ground attack aircraft and incoming projectiles. The problem for any AD weapon is the radar signature issue.Thankfully aircraft and UAV airframes are light enough to suffer damage from lasers and even if the aircraft is not brought down, it may suffer enough damage to cripple it and force a return to base. 
NavyShooter said:
and I suspect that the track system would be retained, however, the idea of switching to a hovercraft type system might be interesting, but this would only be possible with REALLY GOOD active protection, allowing significant weight savings.

I think the track system is still able to provide the best combination, so, if we discarded tanks, I suspect that picking them up after 20 years would see a remarkably similar platform being revived.

I briefly quote myself to emphasize that I did not mean to completely throw this therad off the rails....I suggested it might be interesting, but that I suspect that tracked vehicles is still the best way ahead.


No "Hammer's Slammers" quotes either....

Canada pretty much fails at having a general purpose military. There is a greater chance of us contracting our defence out to NATO than there is of getting the proper ships, aircraft, and equipment to do our jobs.

Unless these lasers can create jobs, or the hover tanks are built in Quebec, I don't think we will have to plan our doctrine around them. On the plus side, at least our enemies will have few targets (and far between) to engage when facing us.

;D  :cdn:  :salute:

GnyHwy said:

This would have likely required covert political and financial "firepower, protection and mobility".  The need for spies and the capability to move them around quickly and covertly would take priority; advanced comms would also be a requirement.  Moving spies around the world and communicating with them would be the focus.  Perhaps the internet would have happened 20 years sooner.

So now instead of beating down the door we would sneak in the side entrance.  ....

For the military, covert operations would rule and striking targets would be done from all over the world, perhaps even from space already.  The technologies we are seeking today, likely would have already been invented.

The chap that wrote Ghost Force would be nodding his head, I'm sure.  He even argued that blowing things up was counter productive.
Damage to physical plant only requires an adjustable wrench and a handful of sand, gravel or water.  Comms are totally insecure and don't need any physical access.
As mentioned many times upthread, the idea of the tank or AFV has been around for centuries before the technology caught up to make one. The reason is the need to cross fire swept ground and deliver shock or firepower is a long standing military problem, and in the past was "solved" with such innovations as chariots, armoured knights and even highly trained Infantry soldiers trained to run forward at all costs (Chasseurs à pied). The mechanized solution simply did the job better than anything else up to that time, and, so far, no other technical soution has been able to carry out the essential military task in an equally effective or economical manner. (uneconomical ideas like the 100 ton Maus have been tried, but the T-34 is probably the apex of tank evolution, being both effective and very economical).

So perhaps the best way to look at this is to stand the question on its head, and ask "what essential military tasks need to be performed?", and then see how they can be done.

WRT the massive costs of "improved" vehicles and the institutional inertia, part of this is systematic, since bureaucracies essentially exist to preserve themselves. The fierce resistence to adopting tanks in many armies was more a case of protecting existing rice bowls, and now the Armoured (or Armored for our American cousins) Corps is a big rice bowl all of its own, with a shiny cult object in the center. Part of it is the actual military problem it was ment to solve still exists, so we still need tanks, but now have to figure out how to make them survive a very much more hostile environment. The last part of the problem is that most people really cannot think outside the box, so gravitate towards refining existing solutions rather than look for other ways to attack the problem. (There is no shame to this, the vast majority of out of the box solutions are not going to be effective or economical or both; an "in the box" improvement is much more likely to be accepted and the developer showered with praise and rewards. Consider the people who came up with the idea of the MMEV and MGS as tank replacements in the CF; are they looked at today as visionaries or idiots?).

As a brief aside, hovercraft can be used for vehicular purposes. There have been various ideas combining a hovercraft with a trailer or self propelled vehicle, which allows for wheeled traction and control while lowering ground pressure. You can tow or drive heavy loads over soft ground like muskeg using this system. As a fighting machine, it would suck because the instant the blowers stopped working the thing would sink into the muck, but this might be acceptable as some sort of specialist logistics or engineering platform to operate in that sort of condition. Or you could use a BV-206...
Hover assisted vehicle did not pan out because the machinery involved took up 3/4 of the payload. Hover  tech works well for moving very large objects over prepared ground, such as large oil tanks or hover barges, but there is nothing "tactical" about them.

The real game changer I see is hyper space aircraft, bouncing along the atmosphere armed with KE weapons. The first one gets over the area id's the targets, the strike force comes in, nails them and is back home in a few hours. The ablity to id and react for the enemy will be difficult and a very short time frame.
Kirkhill said:
..... how is the girl with screwdriver received?
I would say thank you but I asked for a pina colada - but you can leave this one here, its kind of hot...

Interesting topic. Some technological advances are pretty much inevitable as it may seem by the tank but the look and feel of it may take different paths through its evolution - the key is who or which side will think out of the box first and what solution will they employ. With this I'm inferring that there may be many solutions to the problem with different limitations and and requirements; the first mover will usually drive development in a certain direction unless that technology or materials are not available to the other side.
If DaVinci had perfected the flying machines, Europe may all be speaking Italian now.  Research would have been driven more towards lighter/advanced materials and also on systems to counter this threat.
But, as someone said earlier, solutions to current issues may be readily available and we do have some ppl that can recognize them and employ them; the challenge is to foster more ppl with that ability and empower them to think out of the box iot reduce the innovation cycle - I'm not saying we need more ppl in the HQs, just more of this type at all levels.

anyway, I'm sick and my meds may be doing the talking...
A fire support platform arriving from Low Earth Orbit may well be the coolest vehicle ever designed. Sadly, a much simpler solution was explored in the same movie ("I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.").

Still, the essential military task is to bring powerful and accurate fire support to the correct point on the battlefield when the commander needs it. In the time of Gustavus Adolphus this was light cannon drawn by a team of horses (Previous cannon were so huge they were drawn by ox carts and often needed hours to days to dismount and set up). Today we look for helicopter gunships and strike aircraft. My guess would be a large strike platform carrying a railgun for tomorrows support vehicle (having a large metal dart impact the target at 6X the speed of sound will do wonders for troop morale, and such an aircraft could prosecute targets from ground level to Low Earth Obit as well).
A few years ago you were being taken to task for adopting a "warlike" posture in Afghanistan.  One of the arguments used to oppose the move to the south was the "need" to take on the "humanitarian" mission of intervening to keep the Sudanese/Taliban/Wahabi out of Darfur.

An argument against intervention was that Darfur was out of range of seaborne forces.  That situation is still true.

At the same time the French are well set up to intervene in Darfur, just as they are in Mali.

The French do have a Navy.  But in the Sahara allies, ground bases, and light, mobile, airportable, and dare I say - special - forces have long given the French a continuing ability to influence events.

The have silly vehicles like wheeled, amphibious "tanks" with silly little 90 mm guns that can be transported by air and manned by troops that can be parachuted in. 

They also use open trucks, as well as APCs, to transport troops.

They don't bring their heavy vehicles to these fights. 

I suppose it can be argued that they are spectacularly unsuccessful in their efforts because they seem to have been exercising their capabilities two or three times every decade since they first took over Algiers.  An argument aided by the fact that they are French....

On the other hand, two or three times every decade since they took over Algiers the French have been well positioned and equipped to influence events in places that the Thalassocrat powers can't reach.

I have thalassocrat inclinations myself and am predisposed to marines and Big Honking Ships.... but the French present some interesting alternatives that could and perhaps should influence Canadian strategy.
Part of the French formula is also the will to deploy those light forces and take casualties in pursuit of their national objectives.  Our national objectives are often the simple act of showing political support for our larger allies by contributing to joint military actions rather than our own imperative need to militarily force a given result on the ground.  This may have as much to do with the planned make-up of our military as any other factors.  What is the cheapest and safest contribution that we can make in order to get the approval of our allies for our actions?  At times we may get caught with our pants down by not being prepared for the task we're forced to take on, but in most cases we've usually been able to find a contribution that suits both our budget and our objectives.

That business of willingness to take casualties is an interesting, if fraught one.

The French willingness to take casualties is mitigated by hiring Foreigners (and anonymous ones at that) to do their fighting for them - French Foreign Legion.  Beyond the foreigners they also have the domestic volunteers available to them.  Not conscripts ... not since the Paras left Algeria singing "Je ne regrette rien".

Another aspect that drives French policy is the need to secure raw materials - something that Canada isn't bothered with.  The French have "rien, rien de rien".  Not Alsatian coal, Nigerian uranium or North Sea oil.

Here is another article that relates to the opening thought - buying stuff you don't need in case you might need it.

Debate Over Army’s Future Vehicle Raises Question: Why Heavy Armor?

This paragraph stands out: 

Capuccio predicts the Army will stand by GCV, even if the rationale for the vehicle is questionable, because it needs its suppliers to stay in business. “They keep building the same stuff to keep the industrial base alive,” he says, but that approach is short-sighted because it does not necessarily lead to innovation. “If you are going to keep the industrial base, it doesn’t mean keep the old industrial base,” Capuccio says. “Keeping the industrial base is not about factories; it’s the intellectual power.”

At the same time there is this article:

Marines Ponder Future of Unmanned Cargo Helicopter

The K-MAX was fielded to safely and quickly transport emergency cargo in dangerous areas. After an uncommonly swift introduction, two helicopters were purchased at a cost of $11 million each to deliver cargo from main supply depots to isolated forward operating bases.

The US now has developed the technology to convert, it seems, any helicopter in an unmanned variant.  They have the Schweizer - Firescout, the Bell 407 - Firescout and now the K-MAX.

The Firescouts are not just recce platforms but like the K-MAX are also cargo carriers.  Except the cargos they carry a 1 to 20 lb packets of HE delivered with 1 m precision from 5 km standoff and 200 km from the operator.
Cargo delivery is another essentiall military task (and a not very glamourous one at that), so inovations like unmaned helicopters and "smart parachute" delivery using GPS guided cargo 'chutes are quite welcome.

I'm not sure I buy the "keeping the industrial base" agument. Building a factory and putting an item into production is not at all difficult any more, and more a test of how well the end producer can manage the supply chain than anything else. Good supply chain managers do things like "just in time" car assembly, while less adept managers end up with embarrassing to critical problems. Boeing's 787 "Dreamlineer" seems to be a victim of that, but similar problems can be seen in the second world war with the modular production of the Type XXI "Electroboote" submarines; modules arrived on time and could be welded together in the slipway, but in the end, only 4 out of about 180 assembled subs ever actually made it to sea duty, the remainder needed pretty extensive correction and almost a complete rebuild die to errors in the manufacture of the modules.

Now there might be a few critical production items that need unique factories or industrial process to make, but the correct answer might be to investigate alternative means of getting the desired item or item of equivalent performance; or opening up competition and allowing interested bidder to provide the items in question. Having the military establishment over a barrel due to a quasi monopoly supply system is what is leading to problems in price, availability and performance.

Capuccio predicts the Army will stand by GCV, even if the rationale for the vehicle is questionable, because it needs its suppliers to stay in business. “They keep building the same stuff to keep the industrial base alive,” he says, but that approach is short-sighted because it does not necessarily lead to innovation. “If you are going to keep the industrial base, it doesn’t mean keep the old industrial base,” Capuccio says. “Keeping the industrial base is not about factories; it’s the intellectual power.”

Yea, so wrong there. Industrial base is specialized machines with people that know how to use them. Take a look at just how old the largest industrial machines are in the US, some of them date back to the heyday of the battleship or to the cold war , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_Press_Program http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TQkHGtjE3I once they are gone, the ability to make certain large components also disappears. Factories need to modernize on a regular basis, but it's not like you can trade up on a 12000 ton press every 5 years
If you lose the corporate knowledge to run such presses, it's going to be very costly to regain that knowledge. 
Kirkhill said:
At the same time there is this article:

Marines Ponder Future of Unmanned Cargo Helicopter

The US now has developed the technology to convert, it seems, any helicopter in an unmanned variant.  They have the Schweizer - Firescout, the Bell 407 - Firescout and now the K-MAX.

The Firescouts are not just recce platforms but like the K-MAX are also cargo carriers.  Except the cargos they carry a 1 to 20 lb packets of HE delivered with 1 m precision from 5 km standoff and 200 km from the operator.
I like the idea of unmanned stuff.  It's like playing Battlefield 3, if I crash it I just wait for my vehicle to respawn and go again.  Right?  Guys?
Colin -

You are closer with your reference to the 3D printer than you are with your reference to WW1/WW2 12000 ton presses, I think.

Those presses were limited in their capabilities.

Modern CNC-Robotics techniques are much more flexible in their applications.  I agree that a good toolmaker is still worth his/her weight in gold - for that matter so is any good craftsman these days. 

But - High Pressure Water Cutting

Multi-Dimensional Lathes

Heavy Presses
Industrial capacity requires the intellectual skills to be coupled with the hands on skills and the machines to translate those designs into physical items. It's good to create new ways of doing things, but capacity to do unique and large items is slowly being lost. I have a friend who is a bit of a industrial historian and he has been talking about the widening gap between what we could do and what we can do now.
I don't disagree with the general thought but if we are hung up on the capital cost of replacing old hardware then you can't advance.

That was Britain's problem after WW2.  It "won" with all of its Victorian and Edwardian infrastructure largely intact.  And its unions and capitalists conspired to keep it that way.

Meanwhile the Germans, who had been forced by circumstances to "do things differently", grasped new technologies and rapidly sunk British manufacturers.

The Americans, especially the shipyards, are very British in their outlooks.  Much of their infrastructure dates to the WW2 boom.  And, I believe, it traps them into this cycle of building what they can with what they have - resulting in high-priced solutions that struggle hard to catch up with other nations.

Conversely, the Americans also have very innovative thinkers and suppliers available to them.  What they need more of is people willing to try the "different".

And as an aside - I personally think that one of the most innovative nations on the planet is the Aussies.  The never seem to do things the same way as other folks.

I'm not quite sure if that's because they are Irish, poachers or just spend too much time hanging upside down or some combination of all of the above.
WRT shipbuilding, first the Japanese and now the Koreans can build massive ships faster and more cheaply than American shipyards (many of these bulk carriers, container ships and RO/RO cargo ships are analogues of various supply ships the military needs, only much bigger). The Norwegans have become able to dominate the niche market of cruise liners, these ships also have the size of many of the largest warships afloat (CVN's). Norway also builds very sophisticated ships to support the oil industry in the North Sea, some with very specialized capabilities like operating ROVs at extreme depths to examine and repair pipelines.

Now we can argue that these ships are "not built to military standards", and there are differences in design like the ability to mount weapons or sophisticated electronic devices, as well as operate at speeds that are uneconomical for cargo or passenger ships, but the essential point is the industrial capacity to build tankers, container ships or cruise liners wasn't "inherited", it was essentially "new build" to capture and dominate the market(s) by the companies which run the shipyards. 

Now even going full tilt, there is no "assembly line", since the scale and scope of ships is far larger than any assembly line hall, and few enough ships are built each year to sustain an assembly line type of production, but these shipyards have innovative techniques both in building and in management to remain competative and profitable. This is the sort of thinking that needs to be tapped (and especially if we need to suddenly ramp up production in order to respond to a crisis).