Smoke dischargers

I've got a very old suspicion, and it's quite simple technical-tactical one:
Tank design doesn't seem to place enough emphasis on smoke.

There are two main types of smoke generation for main battle tanks; smoke dischargers (smoke grenades shot forward for a near-instantaneous smoke screen) and vehicle exhaust smoke systems (VESS; diesel creates huge amounts of smoke if in contact with a hot exhaust pipe).

A third type is unintentional; worn tanks can have excessive engine/exhaust problems and produce smoke as a result of power output (happens also with cold engines). A fourth category are dedicated smoke generators on smoke-laying vehicles.

The German Leopard 2 has no exhaust smoke generator. That was a mistake in my opinion*, for it wouldn't have cost much volume, mass or funds. It's likely too late for an upgrade now, as exhaust smoke generators are outdated (their smoke doesn't conceal in the infrared spectrum and infrared sights have become much more ubiquitous than they were during the 80's).

The focus of interest is therefore on smoke dischargers like these:

The Leclerc has an unusually large quantity of such dischargers (2x9 instead of normal 2x4 to 2x6), and an unusual variety of munition types for them. It's the most modern MBT base design in NATO service (although the relatively low tech Ariete is newer).

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I am interested in such dischargers because camouflage only works until a tank opens fire with its main gun. The blast and flash is simply too large to hide.
A detected tank can quickly be aimed at and is in great risk of destruction - unless its team achieves a timely firepower kill on the enemy, reaches cover or is able to at least conceal itself. Smoke is a reliable and also very quick means for concealment. It's extremely useful to break contact on the vehicle and platoon level.

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The common sets of smoke dischargers suffice usually for two thorough smoke screens. I'm a big fan of smoke, and I'd expect a MBT to lay four or more smoke screens without reload during a battle.

This isn't only about tank vs. tank combat. Imagine an AFV formation moving quickly through a defended bottleneck between two areas of closed terrain. The formation could waste much time by calling for smoke or by laying a smoke screen by mortar, or it could simply advance with an outer shell of well-hardened MBTs and let them lay a smoke screen (the old variety that doesn't block thermal sights) in addition to suppressive fires (aimed with thermal sights, an advantage of tanks over most battlefield opposition) on the move if necessary.

Repeated hit & cover actions in a prolonged battle would also require a lot of smoke.

Smoke dischargers are external, cheap, lightweight and very useful. I simply don't get why we've got only a handful mounted on our AFVs. The ability to reload is no satisfactory substitute for readiness to fire.

*: The Leopard 2 lacks several useful things. A heavy calibre machine gun, an external telephone for easier communication with infantry and an optional mine roller/rake set, for example.

P.S.: Putting those dischargers mostly under bulletproof armour would also be a good idea.

1 comment:

  1. Smoke modernization programs are pretty dead in the US Army. We used to have a good smoke program when the USSR was the main enemy and survivability was a bigger consideration. I think today that there are assumptions that M1 tanks and other main battle tanks can ride through hybrid/irregular attacks and just destroy conventional opponents, so why add smoke?

    Very shortsighted, but it's hard to prove to combat arms guys the value of smoke when they haven't lost enough tanks to appreciate the need for alternatives to thick armor and poor gas milage.