15 August 2006

The Future is the Imperfect Past

Delays and cost overruns are affecting the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems. I first became aware of these when I was asked to prepare some sample spreads for a book about 21st century warfare. The idea never sold, and I had forgotten about it.

However, I found this quote reminded me of something:
...the Army has been developing a new generation of tanks that is supposed to be faster and more maneuverable, but will have far less armor than many battle tanks of the past quarter century. That idea has already been thrown into doubt by the devastating effectiveness of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs in Iraq.

The Sherman tank was noted for its propensity to burn when hit, but the real problem was the lack of armour. The Sherman was kept relatively lightly armoured because American planners knew that more than likely it would have to be shipped overseas, and thicker armour equals a heavier weight and fewer tanks per shipload. Furthermore, American tank doctrine of the Second World War envisaged a mobile role for tanks. Enemy tanks were to be engaged by tank destroyers.

It seems the M1 Abrams may represent an evolutionary dead-end for the U.S. Army. It was designed for the anticipated tank vs tank engagements on a narrow front along the Inner German Border, which actually was historically uncharacteristic of U.S. armoured doctrine. We're looking at a future for the armoured forces the way Himself might have envisioned it.

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