Are tanks useful anymore? Russia’s Devastating Tank Losses in Ukraine Shock the Military World

Are tanks useful anymore?

Credit: SWNS

Ukraine is difficult for tank operations.

Much of the fighting occurs over open terrain; it is a combination of open lines of sight with zero cross country mobility because of mud. The worst possible terrain for tanks.

Every day we see more pictures of burnt Russian tanks and the question on many minds is simply:

Are tanks useful anymore?

We asked former US Army Paratrooper David Fivecoat who told us:

“The tank isn’t dead — the Russians failed to conduct combined arms warfare where they combine tanks + infantry + artillery + air support together. The tank can work when it is part of the combined arms team”

Moreover, no platform in history has been buried more times than the tank.

The Sagger Missile’s release in the 1970s appeared to write the tank’s obituary

Then, many military minds felt attack helicopters were the nail in the coffin for the tank’s future.

A British AgustaWestland Apache helicopter fires rockets OGL v1.0

With the next generation of anti-tank guided missiles released in the 2000s, the tank was written off again.

What was the Sherman Tank’s Fatal Flaw?

FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile of the United States Army

Now, with Russia’s mess in Ukraine, the question returns.

However, no one knows how to bring that much fire power to a land fight in any other way. Of course, the tanks are gas guzzlers and logistical and supply issues are getting in the way of the Russian advance.

The Russians have learned the hard way what happens to unsupported advances backed up by poor supply logistics.

A lesson usually learned by Russia’s invaders, Napoleon & Hitler. See our piece: Operation Barbarossa : Failures Of Operation Typhoon

Not having power over the Ukrainian sky has proved rather costly for Russia.

Ukraine shot down Russia’s $50 million price tag SU-34

Plus the Ukrainian forces have infrared thermal sighting systems on top of the heat-seeking FGM-148 Javelin. It would also be interesting to see a country that doesn’t get ATGMs in droves from the West. Moreover, how they would fight a tank-led invasion.

There is also the issue of the Ukrainians trying to AVOID presenting a target that the Russian tanks can focus on.

A more traditional strategy featuring a main-line of offense/defense on the battlefield would look very differently. See our piece : The Arab-Israeli War

In many military minds the Tanks are as obsolete now as they were when ATGM’s came out in the 60’s, attack helos in the 70’s, drones in the 2010’s.

Northrop Grumman Bat carrying EO/IR and SAR sensors, laser range finders, laser designators, infra-red cameras

But, tanks are not obsolete.

Moreover, their use shouldn’t be judged on one terribly executed invasion.

However one tank stands above the others.

The Israeli Merkava IV can survive a top-attack hit from the Javelin. Because its roof and hatches have special protection consisting of thick composite armor.

An Israeli IDF soldier told us the Merkava would hold up very well against both RPG and Javelin attacks. All tanks except the Merkava IV are extremely vulnerable to top-attack weapons. In many minds the answer is simply to put thick composite armor on the roof of tanks. However, will armies around the world copy Israel? Or is it simply too expensive to copy Israel’s lead?

Either way the tank is certainly not obsolete or useless and likely has a long future ahead of it.

Back To Military News & History

Fall of Afghanistan

Are tanks useful anymore?