Is the tank still relevant? What is the importance of combined arms operations? And Why The Tank Is Essential!

What is the importance of combined arms operation? And Why The Tank Is Essential!

Is the tank still relevant?

After watching the conflict in Ukraine, someone asked me “Is the tank dead? I responded, “Heck no.” Since its introduction during World War I’s Somme Offensive on September 15, 1916 pundits have been trying to declare the tank dead. After World War I, World War II, the Yom Kippur War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and now the Invasion of Ukraine observers have tried to declare the tank dead.

Combined arms is a military concept that calls for the combination and synchronization of tanks, infantry, artillery, engineers, aviation, and joint capabilities (think US Air Force or Navy fighters, bombers, and UAVs) to defeat enemy ground forces and to seize, occupy, and defend terrain. By synchronizing combined arms and applying them simultaneously, military leaders can achieve a greater effects than if each element was used separately or sequentially. Combined arms draws its effectiveness from balancing the capabilities and limitations of each of these systems and from the synergy of their combined effort.

This is tough, challenging work — not every military or every unit in the military can do this well.

I believe that Russia struggled to conduct combined arms operations during the Invasion of Ukraine. The videos I have watched rarely show the Russians combining and synchronizing tanks, infantry, artillery, engineers, aviation, and joint capabilities to work together. Technology continues to change the balance between the combined arms. As many of you have seen, technology enabled Ukrainian infantry, armed with Javelin and NLAW anti-tank weapons, to destroy Russian tanks and other armored vehicles operating alone (not part of a combined arms team). On the other hand, if the Russians had been better at synchronizing their tanks, helicopters, UAVs, artillery, and infantry together — operating as a combined arms team — the infantry would not have been able to get close enough to employ the Javelins and NLAWs.

There is always a learning curve in every war. As the war drags on it will be interesting to see which side learns its lessons and operates as a combined arms team more effectively.

Current Situation

Here is Jomini of the West’s (Twitter @JominiW) map of the current situation (March 29, 2022). As he states “Todays update briefly focuses on the Chernihiv & Sumy Oblasts. Ukrainian forces have made important gains in Sumy; however, Russia is preparing a long-term defense in the Chernihiv Oblast.”

Is the tank still relevant?

Crowd Sourcing Battle Damage Assessment

Each day the conflict continues, both Russian and Ukraine forces lose vehicles from combat. These vehicles were destroyed, damaged, abandoned, or captured in battle. Battle Damage Assessment, or BDA, is “the estimate of damage composed of physical and functional damage assessment, as well as target system assessment, resulting from the application of lethal or nonlethal military force.” In the old days, the Battalion or Brigade Intelligence Officer had to collect reports from helicopter pilots, Air Force pilots, forward observers, and ground forces who engaged the enemy. Based on these reports, the Intelligence Officer would make an assessment of how badly the enemy had been damaged from the actions of friendly forces.

Stijn Mitzer, along with Joost Oliemans, Kemal Janovsky, Dan Janovsky, and Jakub Janovsky, have taken this idea into the 21st Century. The five people are attempting to crowd source battle damage assessments in real-time from both the Russian and Ukraine armed forces during the invasion of Ukraine on The Oryx Website. The team finds photos of destroyed, abandoned, and captured vehicles and then tries to count them based on the vehicle type. They also categorize them based on the vehicles destroyed, abandoned, or captured. Furthermore, the team does its best to make sure that they are not counting the same vehicle twice and are updating it daily. Check it our yourself — the link to their regularly updated article is here.

Battle of Stalingrad

Advanced BDA:

Just counting damaged, destroyed, and captured vehicles is Basic BDA. Advanced BDA is taking the raw numbers and then assessing the impact on the invasion force. Advanced BDA helps military leaders understand the context and make better decisions.

The military uses three categories to measure the impact on enemy units: suppressed, neutralized, or destroyed. As you would expect, each of these terms has a military definition. These terms use the US Army’s Field Artillery percentages for suppressed, neutralized, or destroyed.

  • Suppress is a tactical mission task that results in temporary degradation of the performance of a force or weapons system below the level needed to accomplish its mission. It is the lowest level and typically equates to 3% of a friendly or enemy unit’s equipment being destroyed, damaged, abandoned, or captured.
  • Neutralize is a tactical mission task that results in rendering enemy personnel or materiel incapable of interfering with a particular operation. It is in the middle and usually equates to 10% of a friendly or enemy unit’s equipment being destroyed, damaged, abandoned, or captured.
  • Destroy is a tactical mission task that physically renders an enemy force combat-ineffective until it is reconstituted. It is the highest level and usually equals to 30% of a friendly or enemy unit’s equipment being destroyed, damaged, abandoned, or captured.

Russian BDA (As of March 31, 2022 at 15:00 EDT the Oryx Website)

Russian forces have lost:

  • 350 Losses (32 ⬆️) out of an estimated 940x T-72/80/90s Tanks — 37.2% Losses (Destroyed)
    • Average of 10x tanks damaged, destroyed, abandoned and captured per day of the conflict
  • 459 Losses (20 ⬆️ ) out of an estimated 3,102x BMPs/BTRs/BMDs (Armored Personnel Carriers) — 14.8% Losses (Neutralized)
    • Average of 13.7x BMPs/BTRs damaged, destroyed, abandoned and captured per day of the conflict
  • 8 Losses (1 ⬆️) out of an estimated 376x Shturm-S ATGM Carriers — 2.1% Losses (No impact)
  • 65 Losses (4 ⬆️ )out of an estimated 282x BAT-2s and 188x IMR-2s (Engineer Vehicles) — 13.8% Losses (Neutralized)
  • 146 Losses (10 ⬆️ )out of an estimated 564x 152 mm 2S19 Msta and 564x BM-21 122mm MLRS (Field Artillery) — 12.9% Losses (Neutralized)
  • 53 Losses (1 ⬆️ ) out of an estimated 564x Pantsir-S1 (SAMs) — 9.4% Losses (Suppressed)
  • 122 MT-LB Losses (7 ⬆️) out of an estimated 658x MT-LB ACRV (Command and Control) — 17.5% Losses (Neutralized)
    • Average of 3.5x MT-LBs damaged, destroyed, abandoned and captured per day of the conflict

On March 21, 2022, Komsomolskaya Pravda, a pro-Kremlin tabloid. Reported that according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, 9,861 Russian soldiers were killed in Ukraine and 16,153 were injured during the invasion, there may be an additional 10,000+ Russian soldiers captured by Ukraine as well. On Wednesday, March 23, 2022 a NATO spokesperson announced estimates between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine. Furthermore, up to 40,000 Russian troops in total have been killed, wounded, taken prisoner or are missing.

Ukrainian BDA (As of March 31, 2022 at 1500 EDT the Oryx Website)

I believe these numbers are low since the Russian forces are not using social media and it makes it difficult for the Oryx team to crowd source the data. However, it is a good start point. So far, according to Oryx, Ukrainian forces have lost:

  • 86 Losses (7 ⬆️ ) out of an estimated 630x T-64/80s Tanks — 13.6% Losses (Neutralized)
    • Average of 2.5x tanks damaged, destroyed, abandoned and captured per day of the conflict.
  • 133 Losses (5 ⬆️) out of an estimated 2,215x BMPs/BTRs/BMDs (Armored Personnel Carriers) — 6.0% Losses (Suppressed)
    • Average of 4x BMPs/BTRs damaged, destroyed, abandoned and captured per day of the conflict.
  • 54 Losses (7 ⬆️ ) out of an estimated 306x 152 mm 2S19 Msta and 306x BM-21 122mm MLRS (Field Artillery) — 8.8% Losses (Suppressed)
  • 12 MT-LB Losses (No Change) out of an estimated 476x MT-LB ACRV (Command and Control) — 2.5% Losses (No Impact)

President Zelenskyy said on March 13, 2022, that over 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers lost their lives (US estimates were 3,000). Remember casualties in war are killed, wounded, and captured, this would also imply that there are about 6,500 Ukrainian soldiers wounded or captured. This uses the same ratio (1 killed to 5 wounded/captured) from the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. This number does not include civilian casualties. There have been no updates to Ukrainian casualties for the past 10 days.

Map Notes

To help you understand the maps better, here is a short guide to some of the symbology above the units. Russian units are in red. Ukrainian units are in green. Name of the unit is typically to the right of the symbol.

  • Combined Arms Army (CAA) — Symbolized by XXXX above a unit on the map. The Army Group system was developed by the Soviets during World War II. Moreover, when the echelons of corps and armies merged together. Army Groups typically have at several motorized rifle and tank divisions and brigades; headquarters, artillery, air defense, reconnaissance, and MTO (logistics) brigades. And an engineering regiment and a NBC defense regiment. These formations have over 20,000 soldiers in them.
  • Divisions — symbolized by XX above a unit on the map, these formations have about 8,500 soldiers and resemble Soviet-era divisions. With three motorized rifle regiments and one tank regiment (for a motorized rifle division (MRD)). Or three tank regiments and one motorized rifle regiment (for a tank division) in addition to supporting units.
  • Brigades — symbolized by X above a unit on the map, these formations typically have 3,000-4,500 soldiers
  • Battalion Tactical Groups — symbolized by II above a unit on the map, these formations typically have 600 soldiers. See Invasion of Ukraine, D+15, SITREP for more details on the BTG.

More Information on Both the Russian Invasion Force and Ukrainian Defense Forces Found at:

Invasion of Ukraine, D+33, SITREP:Invasion of Ukraine, D+29, SITREP:Invasion of Ukraine, D+26, SITREP:Invasion of Ukraine, D+22, SITREP:Invasion of Ukraine, D+19, SITREP:Invasion of Ukraine, D+15, SITREP:BTGs, OoB, and Crowd Sourced BDA in Ukraine, D+11

Conclusion

Want even more? Reach out to me me here for a virtual talk to your group or company on the Invasion of Ukraine. And its tactical and strategic implications.

Lastly, use your deeper awareness of the invasion of Ukraine to go on the offensive and follow the conflict with better insight.

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Is the tank still relevant? What is the importance of combined arms operation? And Why The Tank Is Essential!

Written by Colonel David Fivecoat

Managing Partner of The Five Coat Consulting Group & Former US Army Paratrooper : Is the tank still relevant?

Is the tank still relevant? What is the importance of combined arms operations? And Why The Tank Is Essential!

Is the tank still relevant?

Is the tank still relevant?