What is the role of a tank?

What is the role of a tank?

The first tank to engage in battle, the British Mark I tank (pictured in 1916) with the Solomon camouflage scheme

What was the original purpose of the tank?

“It was a weapon designed for one simple task: crossing the killing zone between trench lines and breaking into enemy [defences].”

An M4 Sherman tank in Italy in 1943 during WWII.

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.

Battle Of The Somme
Why do the tops of Russian tanks pop off?
Battle Of Stalingrad
French Renault FT tanks, here operated by the US army. Pioneered the use of a fully traversable turret and served as pattern for most modern tanks.

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!

Aircraft, infantry, and armored vehicles working together, Vietnam War
With the purpose to defeat enemy ground forces and to seize, occupy, and defend terrain.

However, 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.

Moreover, operating as a combined arms team!
Georgian Army T-72SIM1.

As a result, the infantry would not have been able to get close enough to employ the Javelins and NLAWs.

Moreover, there is always a learning curve in every war. Furthermore, as the war continues to drag on it will be interesting to see which side learns its lessons and operates as a combined arms team more effectively.

Russian Combat Effectiveness —

Mission Accomplishment (0-10): 2

  • Conceptual Accomplishment (0-2) — 0
  • Geographical Accomplishment (0-2) — 1
  • Block Hostile Mission (0-2) — 0
  • Command and Staff Performance (0-2) — 0
  • Troop Performance (0-2) — 1

Casualty Effectiveness: Since casualties are unknown at this time, I will use the ratio of vehicles destroyed, abandoned, or captured provided by Oryx Website between the two sides.

As of May 15, 2022 1,045 Total Ukrainian Vehicles Lost : 3,675 Total Russian Vehicles Lost or a 1 : 3.5 ratio.

Since tanks are the “pacing item” of this war, as of May 15, 2022, 163 Total Ukrainian Tanks Lost : 671 Total Russian Tanks Lost or a 1 : 4.1 ratio

Spatial Effectiveness:

Total size of Ukraine incl. Crimea and Donbas: 603,628 km2

Size of Russian occupied Ukrainian territory until February 24, 2022 (incl. Crimea and part of Donbas): 44,000 km2 or approximately 7.3% of Ukraine.

As of April 12, 2022, Russia had occupied an additional 6,500 km2, down from 9,500 km2 in mid-March. Russia had seized an average of 138.3 km2 per day, this is 8.4% of Ukraine if you include the previously occupied territory.

Below is the spatial effectiveness of Russian forces from February 24, 2022-April 12, 2022 from Michael Hippke (Twitter — @hippke). I will update this if I get more recent data.

Ukrainian Combat Effectiveness —

Mission Accomplishment (0-10): 7

  • Firstly, Conceptual Accomplishment (0-2) — 1
  • Secondly, Geographical Accomplishment (0-2)— 1
  • Thirdly, Block Hostile Mission (0-2) — 2
  • Fourthly, Command and Staff Performance (0-2)— 1
  • Lastly, Troop Performance (0-2)— 2

Casualty Effectiveness: Since casualties are unknown at this time, I will use the ratio of vehicles destroyed, abandoned, or captured provided by Oryx Website between the two sides.

As of May 15, 2022 1,045 Total Ukrainian Vehicles : 3,675 Total Russian vehicles or a 1 : 3.5 ratio.

Since tanks are the “pacing item” of this war, as of May 15, 2022, 163 Total Ukrainian Tanks : 671 Total Russian Tanks or a 1 : 4.1 ratio

Spatial Effectiveness:

Total size of Ukraine incl. Crimea and Donbas: 603,628 km2

Size of Russian occupied Ukrainian territory until February 24, 2022 (including Crimea and part of Donbas): 44,000 km2 or approximately 7.3% of Ukraine.

As of April 12, 2022, Russia had occupied an additional 6,500 km2, down from 9,500 km2 in mid-March. Ukraine has given up an average of 138.3 km2 per day.

This is 8.4% of Ukraine if you include the previously occupied territory.

Current Situation — Big Picture

Here is Jomini of the West’s (Twitter @JominiW) latest map of the current situation (May 10, 2022). As he states, “The past 100 hours has seen the Ukrainian military expand on the initial success of its limited counteroffensive around Kharkiv. Russia’s offensive along the Siverskyi Donets Line has generally stalled, with limited successes in Popasna.”

Current Situation — Donetsk Oblast, May 7, 2022

Here is Jomini of the West’s (Twitter @JominiW) map of the current situation in Donetsk (May 10, 2022). As he states, “Russian forces have managed to seize control of Popasna, Nyzhnie, and Velyka Kormyshuvakha. However, offensive efforts in other sectors of the Donbas remain stalled and ineffectual. Moreover, Russian forces may be preparing to shift priority of axes.”

What is the role of a tank?
Russian BDA (As of May 16, 2022 at 15:00 EDT the Oryx Website (Only captures losses from April 9 onwards))

Tracking the Russian BDA in Phase II (the battle in eastern Ukraine) is a combination of art and science. From April 9, 2022, I believe that Russian forces have lost over 600 vehicles in Phase II. Moreover, key vehicles lost include:

  • 195 Losses (28 ⬆️) out of an estimated 675x T-72/80/90s Tanks — 28.9% Losses (Neutralized)
    • Average of 5.6x tanks damaged, destroyed, abandoned and captured per day of Phase II
  • 278 Losses (31 ⬆️ )out of an estimated 2,227x BMPs/BTRs/BMDs (Armored Personnel Carriers) — 12.5% Losses (Neutralized)
    • Average of 8.2x BMPs/BTRs damaged, destroyed, abandoned and captured per day of Phase II
  • 35 Losses (3 ⬆️ ) out of an estimated 282x BAT-2s and 188x IMR-2s (Engineer Vehicles) — 9.5% Losses (Suppressed)
  • 41 Losses (11 ⬆️ ) out of an estimated 405x 152 mm 2S19 Msta and 405x BM-21 122mm MLRS (Field Artillery) — 5.1% Losses (Suppressed)
  • 11 Losses (4 ⬆️ ) out of an estimated 202x Pantsir-S1 (SAMs/ADA) — 5.4% Losses (Suppressed)
  • 73 MT-LB Losses (10 ⬆️) out of an estimated 472x MT-LB ACRV (Command and Control) — 15.5% Losses (Neutralized)

There have not been regular updates or reports on casualties. Until there are updated reports, I will continue to provide this for some perspective:

On April 25, 2022 the UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace stated that “over 15,000 Russian soldiers were killed in Ukraine.”

In addition, there may be another 30,000 Russian soldiers wounded, captured, or missing. Casualties are all soldiers killed, wounded, captured, or missing. With an estimated 190,000 Russian soldiers participating in the invasion — thus, this would represent 23.6% casualties (which, by the way, is in line with the total amount of key ground vehicles lost by the Russian Army).

Ukrainian BDA (As of May 16, 2022 at 1500 EDT the Oryx Website)

I did not reset the Ukrainian data for Phase II. However, it is a good start point to understand how things are going for Ukraine. So far, according to Oryx, Ukrainian forces have lost:

  • 163 Losses (8 ⬆️ ) out of an estimated 630x T-64/80s Tanks — 25.9% Losses (Neutralized)
  • 232 Losses (No Change) out of an estimated 2,215x BMPs/BTRs/BMDs (Armored Personnel Carriers) — 10.4% Losses (Neutralized)
  • 74 Losses (3 ⬆️) out of an estimated 306x 152 mm 2S19 Msta and 306x BM-21 122mm MLRS (Field Artillery) — 12.1% Losses (Neutralized)
  • 15 MT-LB Losses (No Change) out of an estimated 476x MT-LB ACRV (Command and Control) — 3.1% Losses (Suppressed)

Once again, there have not been regular updates or reports on casualties. Until there are updated reports, I will continue to provide this for some perspective:

President Zelenskyy said during an April 15, 2022 interview with CNN that over 2,750 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed (US estimates were 3,000) and over 10,000 wounded. Furthermore, this number does not include civilian casualties.

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What is the role of a tank?

Conclusion

Want even more?

In conclusion, teach 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. Just did a great talk with some banking executives from the midwest.

In addition, want something different?

Lastly, in my day job, I’m an executive coach and leadership consultant. I published a book last summer on how to develop your perseverance and accomplish your goals — Grow Your Grit, available for sale at Amazon. Or reach out to me here to start the discussion about executive coaching opportunities.

What is the role of a tank?
What is the role of a tank?

Invasion of Ukraine

What is the role of a tank?

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