The Difficult Thing About Tank Columns

BY Herschel Smith
9 months, 1 week ago

News of War.

As the war in Ukraine continues, thousands of anti-tank missiles are on their way to the war-torn country from NATO member states and other countries to repel invading Russian military hardware and forces.

A total of 18 countries will be sending military support to Kyiv following a plea by Defense Minister Alexey Reznikov to send the besieged nation anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.

“We need as much Stinger [anti-aircraft] and anti-tank weapons as possible,” said Reznikov, seated at a conference table with a Ukrainian flag behind him. “In order to provide for reliable procurement of equipment, you may deliver it to Poland. From there we will transport them across the land and quickly saturate our defense.”

Here’s the thing about tank columns.  First, they must be able to sustain with both fuel and food, as well as other issues such as medical care, communications, batteries, power supply, etc.  That means ensuring security for lines of logistics.  Splitting off formations or splintering the column means you cannot do that.

Second, unless they splinter off, they are vulnerable to assault and loss of the entire column in the formation.

Third, the comms must be secure such that the enemy doesn’t know what you’re doing in advance.  The U.S. ensures this with encrypted communications going through MilStar uplinks.

Based on my reading assignments, the Ukrainians have so far caused huge problems for the tank formations because of two weapons: the Javelin, and Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones.  Of course, these are both stand-off weapon systems.

This is fortunate for the Russians because if they had faced down a couple of A-10s, the formation would already have been destroyed by now and it would just have been a matter of collecting bodies to send home.

Never forget the Iraq Highway of Death.

See the source image

At that time it was mainly helicopters and A-10s (with A-10s doing most of the heavy lifting).  Thus far the Russians haven’t been able to ensure security for logistics, have already tried to splinter their columns (that led to disaster), and finally, they aren’t able to engage in secure comms.

Even in the first Iraq war, the M1A1 tanks used crisscrossing routes and other modern tank warfare tactics (here think Marine Corps satellite patrols) to avoid enemy fire and never give them a chance to lay in fires against U.S. tanks (see the Battle of Medina Ridge).  What the Russians are currently pursuing is more akin to tank warfare as it was planned half a century ago.

They can still win, but this will get much more bloody in either case.  But the Russians aren’t fighting German tank columns in WWII.  They’re fighting Javelins and drones.  A lot has happened in 70 years.

This is entirely intended to be a tactical analysis.  Please refrain from geopolitical remarks in the comments.

Learn from these mistakes.


Comments

  1. On March 2, 2022 at 12:14 am, Fred said:

    I was talking to someone today who I’m coming to know, yes *gasp* in meat space. They have a contact in Ukraine and also know Ukrainians here. The word is that the battle is joined, everyone is fighting and they’re serious about winning. We talked a little about small autonomous cells. This Ukraine thing isn’t going away.

  2. On March 2, 2022 at 12:15 am, blake said:

    Yeah, my thought was a couple of A-10’s with F-18’s flying cover and that Russian column is a funeral pyre.

  3. On March 2, 2022 at 12:22 am, George 1 said:

    I saw the photos of the long convoy today. It looks like a few P47s could put the hurt to that. I can’t imagine you could have enough security on that road to have that many vehicles that close together without being attacked.

  4. On March 2, 2022 at 12:30 am, Dan said:

    Somehow I don’t think the Russians sent in their A team for this. They probably held back their better forces for other contingencies. This doesn’t change the outcome for Ukraine. It
    just means the end will take longer to get too with more bodies on both sides.

  5. On March 2, 2022 at 12:39 am, Herschel Smith said:

    @Dan,

    IDK. I don’t know what their A-Team looks like. It failed in Afghanistan. We haven’t seen it since then.

    If they haven’t invested in things like Javelins and drones, their future in warfare looks bleak. If they haven’t invested time in colleges of war for their young officers, it looks bleak. If Putin is promoting only yes-men, it looks bleak.

    As for the future of Russia in Ukraine, it looks bleak as well. It’s one of an unending insurgency and hatred for all future generations of Russians by Ukrainians.

    When this thing started, there was no off-ramp. That’s the thing about war. Memories go long.

    There is still intense bitterness over the American war between the states. It will never be resolved.

  6. On March 2, 2022 at 2:05 am, Matthew said:

    I think you’re buying the spin from the American side, when you should know better. Do you believe literally anything reported on domestic events? Would you ever call the protest at the U.S. Capitol an “insurrection?” So why would you believe situation reports that sound like they’re taken from the pages of the NYT?

    The Russians have significant knowledge about armored operations around modern anti-tank weapons from a decade in Syria. They have also had experience recently advising the Armenians during the Nagorno-Kazabakh War, which was the first peer-on-peer engagement fought with drones. (American forces have never had to face these threats, and I see signs of a growing confidence that the problems the Russians are facing have been solved by our increasingly inept military.)

    Further, most of the fighting is happening off camera, in the eastern provinces. That’s also where the bulk of the Ukrainian military was stationed. The drive to Kiev is mostly uncontested, so the Russians can afford to bunch up. If it were causing them a security risk, they wouldn’t be doing it. I have no idea what’s happening in the east, and neither do you, because there’s almost no information available publicly.

    The main concern for the Russians is the logistical bottleneck developing on the roads. This is a common problem with large movements on narrow roads, and it looks like it’s set back the Russian advance towards Kiev by at least a day, as the forward elements apparently can’t get the fuel (and food) that’s stuck in the rear echelon. Maintenance problems are also apparently causing a real problem, something the Russian general staff will no doubt set out to fix before their next war.

    Finally, yes, an A-10 could take out that column, but if there’s no risk of an A-10, who cares? A nuclear torpedo can take out a carrier battle group, but we sail through contested waters all the time and never worry about it. The bulk of the Ukrainian Air Force was destroyed on the ground. We are not sending any Warthogs to eastern Europe.

    I don’t care who wins this thing, but it will be Russia and quite easily, so long as they can get out of their own way on the roads.

  7. On March 2, 2022 at 3:11 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    Re: “The main concern for the Russians is the logistical bottleneck developing on the roads. This is a common problem with large movements on narrow roads, and it looks like it’s set back the Russian advance towards Kiev by at least a day, as the forward elements apparently can’t get the fuel (and food) that’s stuck in the rear echelon. Maintenance problems are also apparently causing a real problem, something the Russian general staff will no doubt set out to fix before their next war.”

    An armored division can be comprised of as many men as 12,000-20,000 and 200 tanks, depending on its strength (under-strength versus full, etc.). That does not include the vast numbers of supporting vehicles, including fuel & POL, ammo, food/water, spare parts (tracks, high-wear items, etc.), communications, heavy-duty wreckers and tank recovery vehicles, etc. plus HQ staff, intelligence, medical, maintenance mechanics, engineers, etc.

    Most armies now call for armored forces to be supported either by separate infantry, or have attached mechanized infantry, when engaged in fighting against an enemy force. That also adds to the enormity of the division stretched out on what can be many miles of road, especially if advancing up a single road or axis of movement.

    If the column is exposed and in the open when enemy air assets break through, either manned fixed/rotary wing or UAVs, the results can be quite harsh for those on the ground. That doesn’t even take into account intermediate and close-range conventional payload rockets and missiles, either, or TOT artillery fire missions.

    Even the crew of a 65-ton MBT gets nervous under a “rain” of 155mm artillery shells, a rocket barrage or when on the receiving end of PGMs, precision-guided munitions. It is a technological fact of life that any reasonably capable drone can put a Hellfire missile, or something like it, through a given doorway or window from over-the-horizon.

    The U.S. hasn’t fought without air superiority since early in the Second World War, and that period was only relatively brief. A bit during the very early hours of the Korean War, 1950-1953, but by the time armored forces were there in any numbers, the U.S.-UN forces had control of the air.

    Urban combat is very tough on tanks and APCs. That goes double if the terrain is bombed or shelled-out rubble. Streets canalize vehicles, funneling them directly into the hands of ambushing tank-hunter teams. One way to beat that is not to be confined to the road, to go cross-country – but that isn’t always possible in an urban setting.

    Urban operations often lessen the biggest advantages tanks normally have, namely, their mobility and firepower as direct fire, line-of-sight weapons. Even the superb protection afforded by modern composite-armor MBTs is significantly tested in such environments, since swarming attacks are feasible to the enemy.
    Even if tank-killer teams can’t “kill” a tank, they can often score a “mobility kill” by disabling its running gear or knocking out one of its tracks.

    This can be done by pressure-activated mines, anti-tank guns, missiles, and – as Iraq showed – IEDs and other stand-off weapons. Even the venerable RPG-7 and its follow-on man-portable rocket launchers are not to be taken lightly, especially the newest tandem-charge dual-warhead variants.

    Perhaps the most-lethal AT weapons today are so-called “top attack” weapons such as the Swedish BIL missile system. Even the best main battle tanks today have to make compromises in armor protection at certain places on their exterior hull and turret in order to keep all-up weight at a manageable number. Typically, this is done on the upper surfaces of the hull and turret.

    Top-attack weapons exploit this vulnerability by using fly-by-wire or other guidance systems to track a tank, flying nap-of-the-earth until approaching the target, when the missile steers itself above the tank such that its radar seeker can fire a self-forging “slug” or projectile (typically made from molten copper or the like, the precise composition is probably proprietary) down into the tank through its thin overhead armor. These usually cause the tank to “brew up” by setting its on-board ammunition ablaze.

    Even if the enemy does not have such weapons at its disposal, it is still possible to blunt the effectiveness of enemy armor. This is where the lengthy logistical trail of an armored division is exposed. Main Battle Tanks are fuel hogs, and even the best designs need frequent refueling to remain in the fight. Range topped off may be only 250-300 miles – and then only under optimum conditions. Off-road or other difficult terrain can easily cut that mpg number in half.

    Crews have to lager somewhere, meaning that they eventually will, at some point, emerge from their armored home-away-from-home to eat, sleep, or if nothing else, make repairs and take on ammo and provisions. Tracks need changing or retensioning, weapons need cleaning and/or repair, and so on. They are as vulnerable as any other men in the open during these times.

    In extremis, the terrain itself can be manipulated, provided that the conditions favor such natural defenses as rivers, streams, ravines, swampy or soft ground, etc. During various wars, deliberate flooding has sometimes been used to deny an area to an advancing mechanized force. Tank traps and anti-tank ditches are staples of urban defense against tanks, as are man-made tank traps, demolitions against bridges, roads, and other infrastructure, etc. These obstacles can be overcome but they take time to bypass or mitigate, which may benefit the defending force.

    And if enough booby-traps and other nasty surprises are encountered, it slows the advance way down as the combat engineers and bomb-disposal people do their work ahead of the column.

  8. On March 2, 2022 at 3:31 am, Rick said:

    Forget the A-10s, referencing the photographs of the Russian convoys I’ve seen a couple of Marchettis would lay havoc. Alright, Tuscanos, if you please.

  9. On March 2, 2022 at 3:41 am, Rick said:

    Re: aerial photographs of said convoys.
    That apparently they are tens of miles in length, slow moving, in the wide open, (with or without top cover, I don’t know) apparently waiting on logistics, I can only fathom what is shown is not reality/this MSM-driven virtual war is not as it appears.

    I am not a SME, I have studied centuries of warfare including many specific battles. What I’ve seen so far is nothing like modern warfare. Even allowing reporters on the field, embedded, et.c, since VN, I think we’re being duped. It don’t add up.

  10. On March 2, 2022 at 5:09 am, Hudson H Luce said:

    Narrow, tree-lined roads, walls on either side, the occasional bridge… blow up a couple of tanks on a bridge, and everything stops. There may not be much left of those columns once they get to Kyiv, if they get to Kyiv. And the Ukrainians have a long history of fanatical resistance to invaders, and they know their terrain.

  11. On March 2, 2022 at 5:26 am, Hudson H Luce said:

    Just for reference, here’s a satellite map: http://www.maplandia.com/ukraine/ – It’s got place names in both English and Cyrillic… and you can zoom in pretty close.

  12. On March 2, 2022 at 5:48 am, Hudson H Luce said:

    Note the terrain, it’s pretty flat. You can locate this place using the map above. The barricades won’t stop anything, but people with antitank missiles behind them definitely can. https://twitter.com/AnonymeCitoyen/status/1498964945605693441

  13. On March 2, 2022 at 9:49 am, George 1 said:

    Georgiaboy61.

    In your opinion, except as an enforcer in areas with much less capability than the tank users,
    Is the MBT basically obsolete?

    It looks to me like it nearly is now. Like the battleship in WWII.

  14. On March 2, 2022 at 9:55 am, Herschel Smith said:

    I’ll say it. With modern rocket design and lethality, the battleship is obsolete for anything except use against third world countries.

    There. It’s said.

  15. On March 2, 2022 at 9:58 am, Drake said:

    Tanks are kind of specialty weapons but can be brutally effective. I’ve seen tanks on the other side of a battle-field. They are terrifying and can truly cause shock. Like a dragons that shake the earth and spew death.

    On the other hand, without air cover or really good AA and an infantry screening force, they are easy meat for missiles.

  16. On March 2, 2022 at 10:18 am, W Wilson said:

    Yeah , a Worthog would be ideal if the Ukrainian people had some . But the U.S. taking out Russian tanks would maybe make Vlad fire off a couple hyper sonic middles our way .

  17. On March 2, 2022 at 10:25 am, Herschel Smith said:

    @W Wilson,

    Yea, I wasn’t suggesting that the U.S. get involved and fly A-10s into Ukraine. Ukraine would have had to see this coming ten years ago and buy A-10s and the training for the pilots.

    I am making a tactical observation, which is the singular point of the post.

    Yes, the tank is a specialty weapon. They are fearsome.

    The Javelin is also a specialty weapon. It is equally fearsome for tanks. Side armor is irrelevant for this weapon system. It comes down vertically on top of tanks. No one can design a tank with a meter of titanium on the turret. It would never move.

    For every weapon there is a defeater weapon. Except for nuclear, in which the only response means bad-bad for everyone.

  18. On March 2, 2022 at 10:33 am, Fred said:

    The wwII battleship was designed to soften targets onshore from as far away as 25 miles in prep for amphibious landing by pounding enemy emplacements with the 16″ guns. They also had 5″ guns for at sea engagement of surface vessels.

    Although a few were refitted in the 80’s for SAG (surface action group) operation, the refitting was mostly with TLAM (tomahawk land attack missiles) to continue the mission of softening enemy land positions.

    Note: A SAG had no carrier.

    YES, obsolete.

  19. On March 2, 2022 at 10:50 am, Drake said:

    The only argument against battleship obsolescence was it’s armor.

    Missiles capable of destroying modern destroyers cannot penetrate a battleship armor belt. It would force the Chinese and Russians into designing different missiles. They really hated those things in the 80’s because they were so hard to kill.

  20. On March 2, 2022 at 10:53 am, Herschel Smith said:

    I think it’s not that simple. Rockets can come down on top of battleships. Fire kills people. Fire causes ordnance to explode, doing your job for you.

    I maintain: the battleship is obsolete.

  21. On March 2, 2022 at 11:21 am, BRVTVS said:

    Surely, consumer radios in the Russian market are labeled in Russian. I find that photo of a cheap walkie talkie obviously aimed at the western consumer market to be straining credulity.

  22. On March 2, 2022 at 11:24 am, Paul B said:

    I can’t think that this is not a bad case of unrealistic expectations. Russian troops do not train like our units did. Also the people who are in the Russian military are there for three hots and a cot. That does not yield a slim trim fighting force.

    They tried to stuff a cat in a bag and found claws.

    Makes me wonder how good they where back in the 80’s

  23. On March 2, 2022 at 11:31 am, Herschel Smith said:

    @BRVTVS,

    Perhaps. Take the current media situation at your own risk.

    It depends on whether the Russian army outfitted their folks with comms gear (it appears they didn’t), whether they could find commercial radios to buy (quickly) on the Russian market, and any number of things.

    Most Chinese-made commercial comms are labeled in English because that’s where the real market is.

  24. On March 2, 2022 at 11:58 am, George 1 said:

    yep. I think you are right. Aircraft were the beginning of the end for battleships and aircraft and anti-armor missiles will mark the end of the MBT.

  25. On March 2, 2022 at 12:06 pm, I R A Darth Aggie said:

    https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/why-the-russians-are-struggling/

    The conscripts serve 12 months: “twelve months is barely enough time to become proficient at simply being a rifleman”, and that’s after being thru boot and whatever their version of infantry school looks like.

    And this deadly: “the Russians appear to be “noticeably reluctant” to dismount and close with the Ukrainian defenders”. Anti-tank teams will pick them apart, bit by bit if the infantry is unwilling to go and disrupt those teams.

    They seem intent on repeating the mistakes Yeltsin’s military made in Chenya in the mid 90s.

  26. On March 2, 2022 at 12:08 pm, I R A Darth Aggie said:

    If their comms are augmented with cell phones, that explains why the Ukrainian cell network hasn’t be taken off line.

  27. On March 2, 2022 at 12:29 pm, Dov said:

    Interesting stuff.

    As for the A-10’s we used, small potatoes compared to the B-52’s we used. We have a B-52 pilot friend involved in that who has no idea how many he killed….we just say Saul has killed his thousands, and (Buff driver) his tens of thousands.

  28. On March 2, 2022 at 12:42 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @I R A Darth Aggie,

    “If their comms are augmented with cell phones, that explains why the Ukrainian cell network hasn’t be taken off line.”

    Oh wow! Great point, one that had not occurred to me. This would make sense, and is confirmation in and of itself.

    I makes no sense to leave cell phone service in place unless it’s a benefit to them.

    Then again, I’m not sure they are capable of taking it all out. Elon Musk. Star link.

    But they would certainly be capable of taking much of it out, stopping the videos from being taken and distributed world wide.

    See folks, this is why I post things like this. NOT to discuss geopolitics, but to discuss TTPs.

  29. On March 2, 2022 at 12:48 pm, Fred said:

    Both the chinks and ruskies anti ship missiles started targeting the largest section (superstructure) in the late eighties. This did not affect targeting of carrier’s it was thought by the US at that time. Anti-surface missiles That “pop-up” and attack from above followed very shortly after.

    Modern US ships are designed to be light and fast. They essentially have zero armor now.

  30. On March 2, 2022 at 12:52 pm, Fred said:

    If the cell towers are up that means the ruskies are using them for sure. The first OOB otherwise in an initial phase, would be to take out CCCI (command control comms and Intel).

  31. On March 2, 2022 at 1:07 pm, Fred said:

    And anti-surface missiles That attack from above has nothing to do with armor. The US CIWS close in depleted uranium gatling gun easily defeated missiles that attacked just above the water line from straight on. The change in attack profile was due to the US close in anti- missile system.

  32. On March 2, 2022 at 2:07 pm, scott s. said:

    “Although a few were refitted in the 80’s for SAG (surface action group) operation, the refitting was mostly with TLAM (tomahawk land attack missiles) to continue the mission of softening enemy land positions.”

    TLAM at the time was primarily developed as a bargaining chip for the INF treaty. But under Reagan’s 600-ship navy build up the 4 Iowas were ordered back into commission with tomahawk (4 fire control groups tied into a single front end command and control group). The main emphasis became War at Sea (WAS). To that end, the command and control portion was designed to provide fusion of off-ship data sources via UHF SATCOM data links to support TASM strikes. TASM was designed to conduct open ocean radar search and on target detection execute various terminal tactics.

    The BBs were intended to be fast enough to be able to close an opposing force to gun range. They (and the larger cruisers) had organic search aircraft capability.

    Thee see,s to be a total lack of decent media reporting on the status of the war – mostly pictures of dubious provenance of children looking at armor.

    From what I can tell, the main effort appears to be a double-envelopment of Ukie forces east of the Dnieper. One was launched with an amphibious landing from the Azov which had twin objectives of Mariupol and forming a land-connection to Crimea before advancing north. The second was launched from Russia to to the west of Kharvkv. Assuming they follow the doctrine of deep battle they would be bypassing population centers to compete the envelopment. But the slow advance (AFAICT) suggest they aren’t able to execute.

  33. On March 2, 2022 at 2:08 pm, Bradlley A Graham said:

    ” The Russian Army learned many lessons from it’s experience in Grozny, Chechnya 1999-2000 ”

    The psychological impact of high-intensity urban combat is so intense that you must maintain a large reserve. Without adequate reserves, unit’s can’t be rebuilt.
    Training and discipline are paramount. Comms were mainly cell phones and hand held radios.
    If you lose the propaganda/information war it is impossible to regain it.
    Large numbers of well-trained infantrymen is paramount, this included logistical-unit soldiers that were largely unprotected and fell easy prey thus resulting in supply shortages.
    Boundaries between units were always a tactical weak point and not just horizontal boundaries either. Majority of the combat was in multi story buildings.
    Ambushes were common. Chechens response to overwhelming Russian firepower was to engage in man-to-man fights which they were well equipped to win and usually did.
    Chechens were not intimidated by armored vehicles.
    Russian wounded and dead were used as shields or hung upside down in front of windows forcing the Russians to shoot at the bodies to engage the Chechens. Russian prisoners were decapitated and, at night, their severed heads were placed on stakes besides roads leading into the city, over which Russian forces had to travel. Dead bodies were normally booby trapped.

    Guns & Warriors
    John S. Farnam 2006

  34. On March 2, 2022 at 2:30 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @scott s.,

    As I have previously said, I’m trying to embed/link/comment on things that I consider to have redundant verification or else I’m issuing warnings to the reader.

    There doesn’t seem to me to be a lack of media reporting. Whether it’s decent it up to you.

    For example, are the Russians targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure? You decide.

    I already have. My evidence has nothing to do with pictures.

    I have reports from people who have family in Ukraine from a large city there (from two days ago when phone service was viable – it might be today, it might not be).

    They estimate that half of the infrastructure of the city had been converted to rubble by rocket attacks.

    That’s from a reliable source.

  35. On March 2, 2022 at 3:30 pm, JFP said:

    “But they would certainly be capable of taking much of it out, stopping the videos from being taken and distributed world wide.”

    That or they left it up to spy on the Ukrainians, use it themselves, on top of not cutting off civilian communications and thus losing that aspect of hearts and minds. A definite risk but perhaps a worthwhile one to Putin and Russia’s end goals.

    The Russians just might have Stingray “towers” of their own.

  36. On March 2, 2022 at 6:05 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ George

    Re:”In your opinion, except as an enforcer in areas with much less capability than the tank users, Is the MBT basically obsolete?”

    In my view, no they are not obsolete, but in the eternal arms race between protection and firepower, the pendulum may have swung back the other way after years of protection having the edge over AT weapons.

    I am far-from-an-authority on unmanned systems, whether terrestrial or aerial or otherwise, but my understanding is that a lot of R&D money is being spent on unmanned – or perhaps as a bridge design – sparsely-manned – tanks and AFVs, similar to what we see with UAVs and legacy manned air-frames.

    If the automation can be matured quickly enough, a paradigm shift may occur in armored warfare heralding the end of manned tanks and AFVs as the norm. It’s nearly there, the required technology, I think the engineers and other specialists are just ironing out the kinks and working on getting the systems practical for use in the field. DARPA is working on that right now, I bet.

    Much of the difficulty and expense in designing a tank is related to keeping its crew alive, protected and combat-effective. A Sherman tank of WWII had five crewmen, four crew plus the tank commander, who was usually a staff sergeant.
    Then it went down to four, including the TC. Now, some modern tanks run on only three crew members, including the tank commander. That’s usually accomplished by use of an auto-loader instead of a man doing that job. Just the commander, driver and gunner.

    If you can design a tank which is automated and requires no human crew, perhaps only a data-link back to its “driver” in some data center, then tanks would almost overnight become smaller, lighter and less-expensive to make. And in sufficient numbers, they could be used as swarming weapons. Since there would be no crew to keep alive, much of the armored protection which makes modern main battles tanks so large and heavy – could be done away with. Fuel economy and range would likely therefore improve, or perhaps the amount of rounds of ammo for its main gun carried within the vehicle.

    Far as manned tanks go, they’re formidable weapons, but nothing is invincible. Even the best MBTs have vulnerabilities, if one only knows them, and ways that they can be knocked out or at least damaged severely enough to put them out of action. If all else fails, and you can’t knock out the tank, just shift your target to the fuel trucks, ammo dumps and support/maintenance staff and equipment who keep that tank in the field and operational. That’s their real Achilles Heel.

  37. On March 2, 2022 at 9:23 pm, PapaSierra said:

    It’s the long logistical tail of an MBT, which are particularly vulnerable in the world of drones and PMGs, that makes them less useful.

  38. On March 2, 2022 at 10:39 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ PapaSierra

    Re: “It’s the long logistical tail of an MBT, which are particularly vulnerable in the world of drones and PMGs, that makes them less useful.”

    That is certainly true, but couldn’t the same be said of much else which constitutes modern first-world militaries? Off the top of my head, I don’t know the current tooth-to-tail ratio of the Russian military or for that matter, the U.S. one – but I believe it to be a lopsided one. Something on the order of 15-20 logistics and support people per combatant, to hazard a guess. Would not most of that also be vulnerable to drones, UAVs and PMGs?

  39. On March 2, 2022 at 10:42 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    One other comment vis-a-vis the role of armor on the 21st century battlefield. The cost-benefit ratio of using relatively cheap anti-tank missiles to take out main battle tanks costing many times as much, favors the former over the later. Most armies will trade relative cheap and plentiful AT missiles all day long on a one-to-one (or two or three-to-one) basis for knocking out an enemy MBT, say a Russian T72 or T90.

  40. On March 3, 2022 at 12:29 pm, Ohio Guy said:

    IDK men, do you really think the Russians are gonna reveal troop movements to anyone with an interweb connection? Remember, real secrets are kept secret for a darn good reason. Just my .02.
    Ohio Guy

  41. On March 3, 2022 at 12:33 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @Ohio Guy,

    It all remains to be seen. At this point, it seems to me that the Russian military isn’t nearly the thing everybody thought it was.

    Their tank column is stalled due to lack of logistics and fuel and food, and rotted tires are blowing out.

  42. On March 3, 2022 at 1:10 pm, Ohio Guy said:

    I don’t believe one bit of it. We’ve been conditioned to believe certain media. Believe me, the propaganda organs are at full steam right now. All western media is disinfo. Truly, it is.

  43. On March 3, 2022 at 3:16 pm, Hudson H Luce said:

    From a blogger in Kyiv:
    “Edward Luttwak – Last night I participated in a Zoom call with noted military expert Edward Luttwak along with Vladislav Davidzon a Ukrainian journalist. The call was organized by Tablet Magazine (https://www.tabletmag.com/). I follow both Lutwak and Vlad on Twitter, and I know Vlad personally. Here is some of what was discussed:

    · Mud – This time of year, before sowing begins, Ukrainian fields are extremely muddy, forcing Russian columns to stick to paved roads, making them easy targets for Ukrainian anti-tank rockets. Apparently, the mud is forcing large Russian column north of Kyiv to advance 3 abreast along the highway (more on the column later), preventing ability to maneuver to avoid strikes by anti-tank missiles

    · Low Morale Among Russian Troops, Especially Draftees – Probably adding to the low morale is the fact that enlistment periods for many of the draftees ends on March 31st. They are facing extension of their enlistment period, death or injury, or both.

    · Economic Sanctions – By themselves, economic sanctions won’t help stop the war, at least in the short term. What could happen is the people around Putin, many with substantial interests in the West, could decide that Putin has become too much of a liability. As Luttwak said, “it only takes one person to follow Putin into the Kremlin Men’s Room.

    · Nukes Not a Worry – Luttwak said that Russia has controls over its nuclear arsenal similar to what exists in the U.S. The military won’t allow Putin, or those around him, to use nuclear weapons.

    · No Flattening of Kyiv or Kharkiv – Luttwak said that any order to destroy either city would be a “red line” for those around Putin. He said that this was acceptable in the 2nd Chechen War, when Russia flattened Grozny, but for Kyiv or Kharkiv.

    · Cyber Attacks – Luttwak said he expects cyberattacks against the West to take place. However, according to this very interesting article in the NY Times, we have better cyber defenses, and we are sharing with Ukraine. This is probably one reason why in Ukraine the lights are still on.

    · Weapons Deliveries From NATO Countries – Luttwak said that they’re increasing, and Ukraine is able to distribute the weapons to frontline units within 24 hours after their arrival in Ukraine.

    · Pres. Zelenskyy – Both Luttwak and Davidzon agreed that Zelenskyy’s status has risen far above any other Ukrainian political leader, and that the 73% of Ukraine’s electorate who voted for Zelenskyy “got it right.” Davidzon said that the U.S. had pressured Zelenskyy to establish a “War Cabinet,” including members of his Party and opposition parties. Apparently, Zelenskyy declined. Instead, his stature has risen so far above the other political leaders that he’s effectively established a unified leadership, without having to establish a war cabinet.

    · Effect of Television – Davidzon said that all the broadcast television stations, including stations owned by opposition figures, are now solidly behind the government. NOTE: after the television tower was hit yesterday, the broadcast stations are all back in commission. Davidzon said that the stations were referring to Russian troops, as “the horde,” using a Mongol word now incorporated into Russian. When Ukrainians meet Russian troops, they are also referring to Russian as the horde. He said that this must un-nerve Russian troops, who were told that they’d be greeted by garlands of flowers.

    · Urban Tactics – Luttwak said that the urban tactics used by the Russians, sending tanks and APC’s into urban areas with no infantry support, is a recipe for disaster. So far, that has proven to be the case. Tanks are picked off, occupants of APC’s get out of their vehicles, and they are immediately hit by small arms fire and Molotov cocktails thrown by civilians. Indeed, the Russians have still not taken any major urban areas in Ukraine.

    · Collective Memory of Stalin – The current brutality displayed by Russia is like gasoline poured onto the embers of the collective memory of Stalin, including the famine. The Russians are seen as destroying what Ukraine has built up over the last 30 years of independence.

    · Dead Russians – Luttwak thinks that the Russian body count that has been gathered by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is high but, at the same time, when the boys aren’t returning home will cause opposition to the war in Russia to build.

    Luttwak believes Ukraine will win, eventually. No one, not even Luttwak, is willing to predict how the war will end. Always the optimist, I think it will end sooner rather than later.

    The Russian Column – The 40-mile-long Russian column of tanks, APC’s and other vehicles has been effectively stranded outside of Kyiv for 2 – 3 days. There have been problems with fuel, Russian soldiers punching holes in gas tanks, and other delays. The question I am asking myself is why Ukraine doesn’t hit the column. Ukraine has destroyed several Russian armored columns, primarily using aircraft and drone strikes. Ukraine has recently taken delivery of additional Turkish drones. Why not this column. I have two theories:

    1. That Ukraine has concluded that the benefits of destroying the column with the resulting great loss of life to soldiers who might be ready to defect or surrender, aren’t worth the cost of infuriating Putin even further than he already is?

    2. That the column containing a relatively small number of infantry, 40,000 by Luttwak’s estimate, doesn’t constitute a threat to Kyiv.” https://grahamseibert.substack.com/p/8th-day-still-quiet-homans-excellent

  44. On March 3, 2022 at 3:47 pm, PGF said:

    If the column is stalled, hitting the moving columns first is an obvious priority.

    Smart move to not set up a war council. Committees are slow and for every member needed to reach consensus the IQ of the leader drops by 10 points.

  45. On March 3, 2022 at 4:14 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    As every engineer knows who’s tried to design things by committee.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment


You are currently reading "The Difficult Thing About Tank Columns", entry #29533 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Russia,Ukraine and was published March 1st, 2022 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (704)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (40)
Air Power (10)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (22)
Ammunition (226)
Animals (203)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (341)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (83)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (27)
Australian Army (7)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (2)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (154)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (18)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (3)
Blogs (24)
Body Armor (23)
Books (3)
Border War (17)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (38)
British Army (35)
Camping (4)
Canada (16)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
CENTCOM (7)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (16)
Christmas (13)
CIA (30)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (3)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (218)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (201)
Department of Homeland Security (26)
Disaster Preparedness (5)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (12)
Donald Trump (27)
Drone Campaign (4)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (2)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (35)
Featured (188)
Federal Firearms Laws (18)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (1,627)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (15)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (44)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (9)
Georgia (19)
GITMO (2)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (1,483)
Guns (2,141)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
HAMAS (7)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (8)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (16)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (3)
Horses (2)
Humor (67)
Hunting (10)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (98)
India (10)
Infantry (4)
Information Warfare (4)
Infrastructure (4)
Intelligence (23)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (171)
Iraq (379)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (64)
Islamists (97)
Israel (19)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (3)
Jihadists (81)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (5)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (6)
Lawfare (13)
Leadership (6)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (50)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (273)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
MEDEVAC (2)
Media (62)
Medical (144)
Memorial Day (6)
Mexican Cartels (39)
Mexico (58)
Michael Yon (6)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (5)
Military Equipment (25)
Militia (8)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (25)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (25)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (88)
NATO (15)
Navy (29)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (3)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (3)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (62)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (221)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (7)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (70)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (3)
Pizzagate (21)
Police (590)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (960)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (413)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (75)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (37)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (514)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (28)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (23)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (34)
Survival (151)
SWAT Raids (57)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (8)
Tactical Gear (7)
Taliban (168)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (21)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (95)
Thanksgiving (12)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (24)
TSA Ineptitude (13)
TTPs (4)
U.S. Border Patrol (5)
U.S. Border Security (17)
U.S. Sovereignty (21)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (10)
Uncategorized (78)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (3)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (408)
War & Warfare (40)
War Movies (4)
War Reporting (21)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (76)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (21)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

December 2022
November 2022
October 2022
September 2022
August 2022
July 2022
June 2022
May 2022
April 2022
March 2022
February 2022
January 2022
December 2021
November 2021
October 2021
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2022 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.