ST-1 Tank Destroyer
A large display of domestically developed arms used by Chinese land forces was presented to hundreds of foreign military officers at a shooting range in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region on 16 August 2017. The event was held by the State-owned China North Industries Group Corp, commonly known as Norinco, the country's biggest maker of land armaments, and was aimed at showcasing the latest achievements of the Chinese land weapons industry. About 230 officers from more than 50 foreign nations, mostly military attaches to Beijing and procurement officials, attended the show in Baotou, which included live-fire performances by battle tanks and antitank missiles at a shooting range owned by Inner Mongolia First Machinery, a subsidiary of Norinco.
During the live-fire stage, a VT-4 main battle tank and an ST-1 tank destroyer fired rounds of armor-piercing ammunition, and a VT-5 light-duty tank launched antitank missiles.
Judging by the 8×8 chassis, the ST1 is a ZBL-09 with a tank turret mouting a presumably 105mm gun. The promo photos show the turret supports a laser rangefinder, which suggests a digital fire control system, and a 12.7mm machine gun over the commander’s hatch. Smoke grenade dischargers are on either side of the turret and a 7.62mm machinegun is probably attached next to the main armament.
In World War II, the light armor protection of the Tank Destroyer made the crews vulnerable, but offset this with the fact that the vehicles were mobile and could move into and out of firing positions rapidly. The Tank Destroyer is the land combat counterpart of the Battle Cruiser - heavily armed, lightly armored, fast, and vulnerable. Both seemed like a good idea at the time, but neither met expectations. Doctrinally, the ST-1 may be advertised as a "tank destroyer", but it is far more likely to be employed as an assault gun in urban operations.
Passive, static and cordon defense doctrine againt armored forces had failed miserably in Europe during 1939-40. The military doctrine and tactics of the United States were antitank or defensive in scope. Some method had to be found to counter the growing achievements of armored forcas. A couunterattack negating passive defense -- antidoctrine -- was introduced in advocating and directing an offensive weapon and organization to combat armred forces.
In the US Army in World War II, tank destroyers originated out of fear of an immense German armored threat, based on the early days of the war, particularly the German invasion of France in 1940. German success now rested on a continuation of storm trooper tactics developed during the final years of World War I. The backbone of this team lay in the fast-moving German armor.
It was not until the Russians stood on ground within the USSR proper that there was a defense against tanks in this war which did not warrant the term “makeshift.”
The US Army’s first self-propelled antitank gun known as the M3, or 75-millimeter gun motor carriage, which would make its debut in the largest army maneuvers in the nation’s history, the 1941 Louisiana maneuvers. An outstanding feature of the maneuver was the success attained in anti-tank defense, due primarily to guns.
US Field Manual (FM) 18-5, Tactical Employment, Tank Destroyer Unit, printed in June 1942, became the doctrinal basis for American tank destroyer training and combat operations. Doctrine warned against “slugging matches” with German tanks, but stressed that tank destroyers must rely on mobility and superior observation to carry the day. Naturally, the Germans were expected to be at a disadvantage because of the limited visibility of the tank crew and the lesser mobility of the tank. Mobility was singled out as the most important Tank Destroyer characteristic. The tank destroyer was to have greater mobility than German tanks in all conditions. The feeling of vulnerability served as a constant reminder to the crew that they were not in a tank and tank tactics would not work. Tank destroyers ambush hostile tanks, but do not charge nor chase them.
Once the U.S. Army found itself facing German armor, American forces found there was little practicality in using tank destroyers as the initial doctrine prescribed. This was not due to failures in the tank destroyers themselves or their doctrine, but changes in German armor and its employment. German armor doctrine changed because the Allies learned to combat it. The Germans sacrificed mobility for more lethal and more survivable tanks. With the absence of large German armor formations, heavier German tanks, U.S. Army commanders at all levels, employed tank destroyers as they saw fit.
Their non-doctrinal employment is usually interpreted as incorrect and a waste of tank destroyer assets. But this nondoctrinal employment was instead an evolution in the development of tank destroyers and necessary to allow the branch to grow from its peacetime concept to the realities of the battlefield.
There is no perfect mix of vehicle characteristics for a weapons system. An army that compromises survivability for lethality must make sure that the increased lethality allows for the destruction of the weapon’s primary opponent at distances outside of the opponent’s ability to strike.
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