The M1A1 Tank: Its Role In The Marine Corps AUTHOR Major Dennis W. Beal, USMC CSC 1991 SUBJECT AREA - Warfighting Executive Summary Title: The M1A1 Tank: Its Role in the Marine Corps I. Purpose: To demonstrate and establish the necessity for the Marine Corps to purchase, employ and maintain the M1A1 Main Battle Tank as opposed to alternate armored vehicles. II. Problems: With the prevalent Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) mentality inundating the Corps, there has developed a mind set that small and light is good, and big and heavy is bad. The truth be told, small and light equates to weak and dead. The Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) is being heralded as the Corps armored "answer" in future conflicts. The LAV is probably the worst made armored system the Marine Corps could adopt. The only answer to success on the battlefield is a system that has proven to be the best in the world, the M1A1 Tank. III. Data: Throughout history the tank has been the battlefields most decisive and devastating-weapon. It has played a significant role in the outcome of every Marine Corps engagement from World War II to Grenada. Its value to the Corps is without question, if the Marine Corps objective is to win the conflicts it fights in. The tank is the fastest, most deadly ground combat weapons system available today. It has innumerable advantages over the lighter armored vehicles that some would have us accept. The M1A1 is so superior to the LAV or any existing ground weapon that comparisons are not possible. The M1A1s primary strengths are: sustainability, speed, target acquisition, gun stabilization, upgraded 12Omm gun and NBC survivability. In all of these areas the M1A1 has no competition. Modern battlefield equations demonstrate that the M1A1 delivers 20 times the projectile weight and destruction ratio of the LAV. The M1A1 carries more rounds, can shoot farther with more accuracy and is more survivable than the LAV. The LAV, unlike the M1A1, cannot survive even heavy weapons, much less ATGMs, kinetic or chemical energy munitions. IV. Conclusion: No ground combat weapon available today has the capabilities or survivability of the M1A1 Tank. As long as the Marine Corps has a charter to wage violent, offensive operations against an enemy it must have the ultimate ground weapon to be successful, the M1A1 Tank. The employment of the M1A1 will ensure victory in any future conflict regardless of its intensity level. V. Recommendations: Procure, purchase and field all 476 M1A1 Tanks needed for the Marine Corps. Maintain the current force structure and Table of Organization to allow for maximum effectiveness and flexibility in employment and to ensure supply support continuity. Scale back and eventually phase out the LAV. THE M1A1 TANK: ITS ROLE IN THE MARINE CORPS OUTLINE Thesis: The tank has played a significant role in the outcome of every Marine Corps engagement from World War II to the Persian Gulf War, therefore, the Corps must procure its full allocation of M1A1 tanks if it intends to win the conflicts it fights in. I. Historical Significance of Tanks A. The Evolution of Armor B. The History of Modern Tanks 1. Tactical advantages are realized 2. The broad and new capabilities given to the field commander C. World war II to the Present 1. Defeat vs victory 2. The uncompromised advantage II. Why the M1A1 for the Corps A. Capability Comparisons 1. The M1A1 2. The M6OA1 III. The M1A1; Modern Battlefield Equations A. Gunpower Equivalents 1. Projectile weights on targets 2. Hit accuracy 3. Target acquisition 4. Speed of engagement B. Armored Vehicle Comparisons 1. M-50 Ontos 2. The LAV 3. The light tank C. Survivability 1. Armor protection 2. Assault sustainability 3. Offensive necessity TABLE OF CONTENTS Table of Contents Chapter I: Historical Significance of Tanks Chapter II: Why the M1A1 for the Corps Chapter III: The M1A1 Modern Battlefield Equations Bibliography CHAPTER I HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF TANKS The tank, the battlefield's most decisive and devastating weapon, has a unique history. Since the development of the first tanks at the turn of the century the significance and worthiness of the tank has made the difference in the tide of battle, from the Battle of the Somme (1916) to the Persian Gulf War (1991). Since the very first tank battle (The Battle of the Somme, September 15, 1916), field commanders have seen the need for large, sustainable vehicles with massive firepower that would be the perfect instrument of war, one that would give them the decisive edge on the battlefield. This feeling has been prevalent throughout history. The Assyrians, the dreaded conquerors of the period before Christ, used large, protected chariots. The crew of these vehicles was composed of a driver, an archer, and two shield-bearers who protected the other two members of the crew from the missiles of the enemy. In the Bohemian Wars of 1410-1420, Ziska, a great warrior of his day, fought off the Catholic crusaders by employing his "wagon-lagers". These wagon mounted cannon and were so devastating that German commanders were forced to develop mobile artillery to defend against them. The Scots, in 1456, invented a wooden cart that encased its crew and protected them from the weapons of the day. Motive power was provided by horses (Fig. 1). However, this cart had its shortcomings, since the enemy soon learned that the cart was rendered useless when the horses were destroyed. The Scots, therefore, went a step further and encased the horses in wood to make it more difficult for the enemy to destroy them (Fig. 2). Although armored vehicles have been around for centuries it has not been until the last 80 years that actual tanks have been the key to the outcome of battles. The differences between armored vehicles and tanks will be discussed later. Since that first Battle of Somme in 1916 tanks have been the deciding factor in combat engagements throughout the world, as this account from that very first tank action indicates: The infantry was held up by wire and machine gun fire and the tank moved into position where he could enfilade the trench from which the fire was coming. He then moved his tank along the trench and is credited with having caused the surrender of about 300 of the enemy troops. Another tank destroyed a 77mm gun in Guedecourt. A tank is walking up the High Street in Flers with the infantry cheering behind it. Although Flers was known to contain a great many machine guns, it was taken out by this tank without casualties to the infantry. 1 Only nine of the original 32 tanks committed to the battle actually fulfilled their mission on that day, but their presence was the decisive factor in the victory. Click here to view image The evolution of the tank on the battlefield went from, "do we need it?" to, "how many do we need to win?". From the early days of the Mark V (Fig. 3) and the Mark IV (Fig. 4), commanders wanted larger, faster, and more devastating tanks. They no longer wanted a vehicle that could simply crush wire, move slow enough for the infantry to follow, and withstand small arms fire. In effect, they wanted a sustainable vehicle that could deliver FAMS (Firepower, Armor Protection, Mobility, Shock Effect), the factors that would make the tank the dominate ground assault weapon with 2 the greatest battlefield survivability. The evolution of war has seen the nature of conflicts increase in intensity and speed. The fast paced nature of modern warfare (since 1920) has made speed, surprise and crushing force the decisive keys to victory. It is the tank that provides the armor, mobility, shock effect, lethality and mounted combat capability that is essential for conducting a war of movement. Survivability from artillery and small arms makes tanks superior to infantry in the assault. The combination of its tremendous firepower, armor protection, speed and mobility produces an effect that crushes and demoralizes the enemy. Perhaps the most dramatic example of the crushing, devastating use of tanks was the German Blitzkrieg of the Second World War. Tanks spear-headed the penetration of the static defenses of Poland, France, the Balkan States and enabled the Germans to take the war deep into the Soviet 3 Union. Tanks were the critical major end item in the strategist evaluation of force combat capability: The more tanks you had the stronger you were! Infantry, artillery and engineers were minor considerations because of their lack of mobility. Germany invaded Poland in 1939 with ten armored divisions. They effected a breakthrough and advanced 40 miles a day completely overrunning the country in 18 days. On the western front in 1940 the armored divisions were organized into corps level units which outflanked the Maginot Line through country that was considered unsuitable for tanks, and raced to the English Channel in 11 days. The battles of Sidi-Bou-Zid, Kasserine Pass and Sbiba Pass were largely decided by tank forces. Another telling example of the necessity of the tank on the modern conventional battlefield occurred on 25 June 1950 when South Korea was attacked by North Korea. The U.S. Army infantry divisions that had been on occupation duty in Japan went immediately into action, but without their organic tank battalions. The lack of tanks was not initially thought of as a major drawback, for the rugged, mountainous terrain of Korea with its few level areas covered by marsh-like rice paddies was not considered suitable for tank employment. The North Koreans, however, employed tanks and on 5 July the American Task Force Smith was over run by T-34 Russian-made tanks. It was not until 16 September 1950 when four battalions of U.S. tanks arrived that U.S. forces were able to break out of the Pusan perimeter. As German General Heinz Guderian said, "Whenever in future wars the battle is 4 fought, panzer troops will play the decisive role". In Vietnam the Army used armor extensively for defensive operations, route reconnaissance and offensive actions. The Marine Corps used its tanks to support the infantry, for perimeter defense, reaction force operations, strongpoint security and convoy escort. They also provided harassing and interdiction fire, destroyed field fortifications and bunkers and thwarted many ambushes by "reconnaissance by fire" (Figs. 6,7,8 & 9). Tanks marked targets for air-strikes, and provided LZ security (Fig. 5). During the battle for Hue City, tanks pivoted in the middle of the street providing cover to the infantry as they moved from one side to the other (Fig. 9). Tanks often provided the only means of evacuating the dead and wounded from bullet-swept streets (Fig. 10). Although Vietnam was primarily a guerrilla war fought on the platoon level, tanks still contributed significantly to the outcome of many Click here to view image battles.5 Even in minor skirmishes like the Grenada invasion of 1983, tanks proved to be valuable. The initial Army Ranger units dropped into the southern portion of the island took five KIAs the first few hours of the battle. They were engagd by Soviet-made BRDM's and BTR-60's. The lightly armed Ranger unit did not have sufficient weapons to defeat these vehicles thus their advance north was halted. The embarked tank platoon from the 32nd MAU (Marines) was landed and the enemy vehicles were defeated. The 1991 Persian Gulf War was an overwhelming example of the necessity to employ heavy tank units and the decisive results they can achieve. As General Hans Joachim Loser so correctly stated, "Whenever the tanks were employed imaginatively and boldly they were a decisive factor in the land battle". CHAPTER II WHY THE M1A1 FOR THE CORPS Since the Marine Corps has a charter to defend and protect the United States, we must win in the event we go to war. The variables involved in winning a war are many but none more critical than quality equipment. Discipline, dedication and tenacity are all admirable traits but they simply do not negate superior firepower delivered by the deadly weapons of war. This was evidenced by the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1987). The Iranians were without question dedicated, disciplined and totally devoted to their cause, but they died by the thousands in their infantry assaults on Iraqi tank positions. It is evident from the Desert Storm Operation that having tanks is essential to victory, but having just a tank is not enough. As the world becomes more high-tech, increasingly it is the quality of a piece of equipment that is important. Since the Marine Corps has national contingency missions to fight in every theatre in the world, we must be prepared to fight adversaries that will most probably be armed with Soviet-made versions of the T-62, T-72, or the T-80 Soviet Main Battle Tank (Figs. 11 & 12). The current M-60 Al (RISE) Main Battle Tank used by the Marine Corps is capable of defeating the T-62 and the T-72 Click here to view image but not the T-80. The only tank capable of defeating the T-80 is the M1A1 Tank. The M1A1 Tank is simply the best state-of-the art tank in the world. What makes the M1A1 so superior to the T-80 and the M-6OA1 is a list of features almost too long to mention, however, its primary strengths are: Sustainability, Speed, Target Acquisition, Gun Stabilization, Upgraded l20mm Gun and NBC Survivability. In all these critical areas the M1A1 is light years ahead of its closest competitor. Here's why. (M1A1 Tank Fig. 13) Sustainability: The reactive armor on the M1A1 is virtually non-penetrable by any ground launched round or projectile in existence today. The specifications and chemical composition of the actual armor is classified and cannot be discussed in this paper, however, suffice it to say that the results of the ballistics tests conducted on the M1A1 are so superior to any other tank that the M1A1 Tank's sustainability is beyond question. When we speak of sustainability, we are referring to the ability to take a hit from a chemical energy round or other type of displacement munition and not be rendered ineffective. This has nothing to do with supportability in regards to logistical matters. The M1A1 tank can engage, close with and destroy the enemy without fear of being destroyed or ballistically compromised. The entire vehicle is sloped, streamlined and contoured so that an external flat surface is not exposed. This causes anti-tank guided missiles Click here to view image Click here to view image (ATGM'S) and anti-tank main gun rounds to hit at angles that reduce their ability to penetrate. While the streamlined design makes it more ballistically sound, its low silhouette and higher ground clearance gives greater ease of movement and presents less of a target on the modern battlefield. Of course armor designed to stop penetration can and eventually will be compromised as technology develops new rounds to defeat it, but the gap between the ability to design impregnable armor and the ballistic ability to defeat it is narrowing; the advantage is swinging toward the side of armor protection. The M1A1 Tank will remain for at least the next decade the most unstoppable force on the battlefield. Although mines and suspension detonations remain a problem, the vehicle will not suffer a catastrophic kill and the crew will survive. Speed: Like any tracked vehicle, the M1A1's speed is dependent upon the terrain it is required to negotiate. The M-60A1 has a top speed of 30 MPH on a hard surface road and can operate off road at speeds of 15 to 20 MPH. In comparison the M1A1 can easily operate off road in rough terrain at speeds between 30 to 35 MPH with on-road speeds of 50 to 55 MPH. This gives the field commander a mobility, shock and surprise factor heretofore unheard of. This single improvement immeasurably enhances the tactical potential of the M1A1 Tank over the M-6OA1. While the weight of the tank increased by 20 percent, the horsepower increased by 50 percent, from 750 HP (M60A1) to 1500 HP (M1A1). 6 Target Acguisition: This is perhaps the most notable improvement over the M-60A1. The target acquisition system, or the sights and range finder on the M1A1, are so superior to that of the M-60A1 that comparison is all but impossible. The M-60A1 has a coincidence range finder that requires the tank commander to manually crank the superelevation on the gun tube, until the double image of the target is brought together or zeroed-out, much like a pair of binoculars. The problem with this system is that it is time consuming and the tank commander can over-crank the target. The existing range finder is more affected by temperature, moisture and needs constant adjustments. A well trained crew can get a round on target at 2000m, or closer, in approximately 7 to 10 seconds. The M1A1, on the other hand, with its laser range finder eliminates all of this by the use of a constant laser beam that bounces off whatever the gunner is looking at through his sights, and automatically puts the proper superelevation on the gun, thus instantaneously ranging to the target. This enables the gunner to simply see a target and fire immediately. The round on target time is reduced to 2 to 3 seconds once the target is acquired. This quick kill, multi-target engagement ability is especially critical in today's fast-moving environment, where it could mean the difference between life and death. The laser range finder has a range of 7,990 meters, or three times that of the M-6OA1. The M1A1 also has dual day optics (wide and narrow view), night infared optics and sight stabilization, none of which are found on the M-60A1. The M1A1's thermal night sight, effective to 4000m, gives it a night fighting capability equal to its daylight capability. 6 The M-6OA1 has a passive night sight that uses available ambient light and is only effective to some 1500 meters. Since the current passive system depends on moon light, it is virtually ineffective on extremely dark nights. The M1A1, however, uses a thermal infrared sight that works off heat displacement and is not affected by the available moonlight, thus the night gunnery capability of the M1A1 presents the field commander with an unprecedented tactical flexibility that is unobtainable with the M-6OA1. The enhanced target acquisition systems on the M1A1 also significantly increase the tank's rate of fire, which could prove to be the deciding factor in a combat situation. Gun Stabilization: The stabilizing of the gun tube to facilitate firing on the move is not a new concept. The M-60A1 has a gun tube stabilization system that allows the tank commander to lock onto target and regardless of the direction the tank goes or the up and down movement of the hull, the gun will hold on the target. This is accomplished by the stabilization system traversing the turret and raising or lowering the gun tube to compensate for the degree of deflection. This is done automatically and only requires minor adjustments by the gunner. The ability to shoot while moving is critical to survival on the modern battlefield. Over rough terrain the M-6OA1 has a stabilized hit probability of approximately 75 percent at 1500 meters, at 15 MPH. Under the same conditions the M1A1 has a hit probability of 95 percent at 2200 meters at 25 MPH, a significant improvement. Of course the accuracy of both systems decreases with the increased ruggedness of terrain and the speed of the vehicle, but the M1A1 is clearly superior to the M-60A1 in this respect. The l2Omm Gun: The M-60A1 has a 105mm rifled bore that has an effective range of approximately 2500 meters. The M1A1 has a smooth bore l20mm gun with an effective range of approximately 3000 meters. The single greatest advantage for the M1A1 is the increased range and penetrating ability of the l2Omm gun as opposed to the lO5mm. NBC Survivability: In an NBC environment the M-60A1 Tank will not survive since it has no sealing or detection capability. The M1A1, however, is "NBC pure" and can be sealed to protect the crew in an NBC environment. It will be the only ground combat weapon system in the Marine Corps, presently, with this capability. Survivability: All of the above factors make this the most survivable vehicle in the U.S. arsenal. The clear superiority of the M1A1 Tank and the enhanced capability it gives the battlefield commander is more than evident. It is especially suited for the Marine Corps because of its ability to survive in the assault and because of its adaptability in virtually any climate. No ground combat weapon available has the ability to move as far, as fast, deliver as much firepower and be as survivable as the M1A1 Tank. As long as Marine Corps combat operations require us to conduct; penetrations, envelopments, exploitations, pursuits, covering force tasks, etc., etc., then the M1A1 will be needed. It can perform these missions with significantly more success than the LAV or the M-60A1 because it is survivable. It is the advent of the Soviet T-80 Tank (a vehicle comparable to the M1A1) and its eventual dissemination throughout the world that requires the Marine Corps to acquire, maintain and field the M1A1 Tank. Put simply, if the Marine Corps is to maintain the ability to fight anywhere, anytime, and under any conditions it must be able to defeat any potential threat it encounters. CHAPTER III THE M1A1 MODERN BATTLEFIELD EQUATIONS The M1A1 Tank is a very expensive and costly weapon. As a result, it is an easy target for budget slashers and those misinformed individuals who question the need for tanks. As we have already seen, tank forces are the combat arm of decision and more often than not the difference between victory and defeat. The question may still arise as to why the M1A1? Besides the reasons already cited, there are more tangible reasons the Marine Corps should acquire and maintain the M1A1. The mere fact that the M1A1 has a l2Omm gun upgrades its punch factor significantly when compared to the M-60A1's l05mm. One simple equation is that the projectile weight of a l05mm High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) Round is 22 pounds. The M1A1's l2Omm HEAT Round projectile weight is 30 pounds. This is an increase of 8 pounds of punch for every round fired by the M1A1. When this is put in terms of 30 rounds in one battle, the M1A1 has delivered 240 more pounds of ordnance on target and it has done it faster, more accurately and at a greater range. The M1A1 has a total round capacity of 40 main gun rounds. With a battalion of Marine Corps M1A1 Tanks the field commander is potentially capable of putting 69,600 pounds of ordnance on a single target by direct fire means. The equivalent infantry unit with its organic direct fire weapons would require a force almost twice as large as a division to equate to the firepower of just one round fired out of each of the 7 battalion's 58 tanks. All the LAV's in the Marine Corps would have to fire six rounds each, simultaneously, to achieve the same results. So employment and superiority of a tank battalion of M1A1's from this prospective is clearly evident. The light tank or armored vehicle advocates fail to see the gross inadequacies of armored vehicles vis-a-vis tanks. The telling difference is the survivability factor. Once again, the LAV, AAV and the PC 113 cannot sustain a hit from a chemical or kinetic energy round and survive. Ballistic test conducted on these vehicles demonstrate that even 7.62 and 50 caliber munitions will defeat these systems. If mere heavy machineguns can destroy or neutralize an armored vehicle, its value is negated. Since the LAV appears to be the armored vehicle of choice by some lets look at it and other armored-vehicles of the past and see how they fared when compared to tanks. Our current LAV cannot mount a large enough gun to compete with tanks because of its helo-transportable requirements. Its light weight and thin armor causes it to be vulnerable to artillery fire and most direct fire ground weapons. These shortcomings have been common to light armored vehicles throughout history, and largely accounts for their poor performance in battle. The Germans employed many types of armored vehicles with little success (Fig. 14). It was the Tiger Tank (Medium Battle Tank) that proved the most effective and sustainable in combat (Fig. 15). While the tank can be used in the assault, armored vehicles only transport, "clean-up" and escort.4 The Marine Corps experimented with the M50A1 Ontos (Fig. 16) but, as with many armored vehicles, found it to be to light to fight the very enemy it was designed to destroy, the tank. The current Marine Corps LAV succumbs to many of the same shortcomings it predecessors experienced. It has to small a gun, inadequate range, carries too few rounds and can be penetrated by heavy weapons. None of these shortcomings befall the M1A1 Tank, however, and since the Marine Corps will continue to have a viable role in the defense of NATO and other global U.S. interest it must have the ability to defeat Soviet equipment. We must be able to deploy heavy armor to assure success Although the tide is changing in Eastern Europe the greatest single threat to NATO remains the massing of 19 Soviet Tank Divisions on the Soviet/German border threatening NATO's Northern Army Group. Limited in-place forces, lack of operational depth and relatively flat Click here to view image terrain make defense of this sector difficult with anything less than heavy tank units.8 While the Soviets themselves may pose less of a threat than ever their equipment is spread worldwide. Since we will fight what the Soviets produce it belies common sense not to have Marine Corps forces that can defeat his best weapons systems. The Soviets are fielding newer tanks i.e.the T-72M1 and the T-80, while retiring older models. Soviet improvements in armor and protection systems for their tanks has seriously diminished the effectiveness of NATO anti-tank missiles. Their is factual evidence that the Soviets are exporting all but their most modern tanks and with world arms sales being necessary to a fledgling economy they will most likely sell even their best equipment to anyone willing to pay for it. Since this is inevitable and our adversaries will have state-of-the art weapons, the Marine Corps can ill afford to be unprepared. In light of this the Marine Corps cannot afford to sacrifice it tank forces. They cannot be reduced in numbers, depleted in quality, scaled down, or be substituted for armored vehicles. As for a tank, the only answer is the M1A1. The Corps must have it to stay on the modern battlefield. Anything less will be measured not only by U.S. Marine casualties in the next conflict but a less favorable outcome in the battle as well. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1.Ellis, William. "The Tank Corps". Great Britain: Nerthwood Dalton & Co. Ltd., 1985; 2-3. 2.History and Role of Armor; "The Future of Armor". The Marine Corps Tank Crewman Proficiency School Publication. 1. 3.Hogg, Ian. "Fighting Tanks". Great Britain: Phoebus Publishing Company, 1977; 27. 4.Barker, A.J. "Panzers at War". Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1981, 6-10. 5.Dunstan, Simon. "Vietnam Tracks, Armor in Battle 1945-75". California, Osprey Publishing Limited, 1982, 132-159. 6.Department of Defense Publication, Technical Manual 55-2350-255-14, M1A1 Tank, 1. 7.Department of Defense Publication, Technical Manual 9-2350-264-10-3, Ammunition Tables, 22-24. 8.Department of Defense Publication, Defense 89 Magazine, November/December, 1989, 23-25.
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