Future light anti-tank defences (III)

earlier D&F articles on the subject:

It is fairly safe to assume that modern (mid-1990's and later) portable anti-tank equipment can cope with old main battle tanks - up to 1980's tanks that received no upgrades. Well-upgraded tanks from 1970's and later might pose a difficult challenge to portable anti-tank firepower, though. We may or may not see improvements in light anti-tank defences that provide an upper hand even against 2020's threats.
The fight against large groups of main battle tanks (tank company up to united tank battalion) would be very tough for infantry especially if the latter is dispersed for better control of large areas and better survivability. Large groups of tanks employed in the framework of a large combined arms effort would likely suffer minimal losses at hands of portable weapons under most circumstances.
The dismounted force facing large groups of tanks would thus do well to report, evade, hide, and to strike only under favourable circumstances (tank company not battle-ready, attack on lesser-protected vehicles, much support available and so on).

An infantryman's and indeed army soldier's most important asset against hostile tank forces might thus (still) be the knowledge about their capabilities and limitations, for this opens up paths for survival. Dismounted forces could nevertheless be very important (especially if they keep motorised vehicles nearby for high mobility) by providing reconnaissance (detecting, identifying, tracking and reporting the threat force) and weakening the opposing force bit by bit (eliminating some recovery tanks, bridgelayers, command vehicles, EW vehicles, air defence vehicles, supply lorries, IFVs, APCs in most of many small strikes).

The level of ferocity of such actions can be increased from the opposing forces' brigade resting area (maybe 200-400 km in front of our corps' logistical hub) towards areas of greatest importance (corps logistical hub, capital, important river obstacle, rear national border of invaded country). This can be done by successively increased levels of ambition not only of small units, but up to manoeuvre brigades.

A delaying effort may see highly mobile mounted forces engaging advancing mechanised opposing forces again and again with combined arms effects, (far) ambushes and deception to slow and wear them down. This would be particularly promising if the employed forces enjoy a mobility advantage over the mechanised threat. This may be achieved with wheeled vehicles vs. tracked vehicles in some areas, but also with equal vehicle mobility by adding counter-mobility efforts (blowing up bridges, minefields, fake minefields, ambush positions faked by radio deception, deception and diversion by noises, smoke walls triggering fear of ambushes et cetera).

Finally, the forces with great utility for rapid offensive action ("our" mechanised brigades held in reserve) could switch from a stand-off supporter role (providing MedEvac, area air defence* and artillery support) to an aggressive role in direct engagements. Their tank companies in particular could exploit the well-shaped battlefield (worn down, scared, exhausted, partially damaged opposing forces by now lacking crucial but originally rare support vehicles & superior situational awareness by defensive reconnaissance effort & superior air support this far "back") and strike, preferably still exploiting the benefits of surprise and crossfires.
Their equipment would not be light and could thus bring to bear superior levels of penetration, sensors and mobility in face of threats compared to any "light" effort.

This "heavy" effort would be the one that should strive to keep a penetration surplus over even the best-protected areas of even the best-protected opposing vehicles. This is where things like 130 mm tank guns belong to. Furthermore, attack helicopters (of which I would not recommend to procure and maintain many) might be effective and worthwhile in a well-shaped battlefield (though almost certainly not 'far forward').

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This leaves several interesting questions:
  1. How could and should still kind of "light" forces engage the intruding mechanised threat in a delaying effort (instead of a dispersed harassing and incremental reduction effort)?
  2. How to defeat hostile mechanised forces - and in particular 2010's technology main battle tanks - when one is on the offensive (raiding or advancing for possession), and thus unable to exploit such gradual shaping of the battlefield to one's own advantage? Or in other words; how to counter the described defences?
  3. How best to make use of legacy equipment (and training)?
  4. Why do I imply a marginal role of air power in AT efforts?
  5. What motive behind this series did I hide so far?
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I told you it's a big topic, even four parts do not suffice.


*: Assuming area air defence is organic or attached to manoeuvre brigades. This is standard exactly nowhere to date. It would be feasible, though.


  1. ad 1. Check the Chechens.
    ad 2. Artillery, as in Ukraine.
    ad 3. You wrote it - mainly against supporting vehicles.
    ad 4. Because in possible Baltics scenario air force will fight oposing air defence and air force for several days.
    ad 5. Schlag aus der Nachhand?

    1. Not quite
      (1) I meant the mobile focused efforts of lighter-than-mechanised forces, not the dispersed light forces
      (2) not going to work as a mainstay for multiple reasons IMO. I actually gave the answer a few times over the last years already.
      (3) I probably didn't fully make up my mind on this yet, but yeah, that's the trivial answer. This was meant to be a tactics-oriented article though - so I meant how to reform (or make use of) old and possibly outdated principles of operation that have been indoctrinated already. Civilians who never were in a military can hardly fathom how thorough the indoctrination is in armed services and in particular in a highly developed army.
      (4) kinda, mostly - though I would tend to say rather weeks than days
      (5) I actually think that "Schlagen aus der Nachhand" and Blitzkrieg in general are quite obsolete. I have a kind of replacement for it, and yes, I know how arrogant this sounds.
      I meant something entirely different, and I hinted at it in this series.

    2. Good thing I don't need to work this Friday, this got really late.

  2. I hope you keep up the series, it's a great read.

    1. Light forces should aim for mission kills on every level as it’s unlikely total kills would be achieved anyway. On the lowest level this means aiming to destroy enemy tanks' sensors and tracks. Lots of mines, smoke, mortar and artillery fires together with portable AT weapons. Perhaps some heavy calibre sniping should be included as well. Concealment, deception, the whole kit.
    In the bigger picture this means attacking softer support assets and avoiding the full blow of enemy armour.
    2. Surprise and speed are always helping when on the offensive, but I suppose you meant similar shaping actions on the offensive side? Armoured recce and lighter but mobile units should first be employed to create favourable conditions on the field, and mechanized force should be held back and wait for the right time to take advantage of these efforts.
    3. Answered already
    4. This one also.
    5. A main battle tank of 2010’s is too capable for infantry to match directly. This is not just a hardware issue but should be reflected in tactics also. Do you see a paradigm change here?


  3. Russia now suddenly plans for modernization of her 3 000 T-80s tanks.


  4. http://www.stern.de/digital/technik/panzer-fuer-moskau--putin-laesst-3000-alte-panzer-modernisieren-7204014.html

    1. The discussion on tank-net suggests that the T-80's may be meant for units based in cold climate garrisons where the cold start characteristics of the turbine are advantageous.

      Depending on the degree of modernisation and stocking of spare parts such modernised T-80's may be anything from a T-26 equivalent to a T-34 equivalent.

  5. In seventees, old T-80 was much better than Leopard 1. So modernized T-80 can be easily 70 % solution compared to L2. But much, much cheaper... - As Dzhugashvili said: "Quantity has some quality on its own." I`m not sure concerning infantry shaping operations against force of 6 000 tanks or so. 300 tanks for whole Bundeswehr is a joke.

    1. The T-80 has a huge thermal signature, difficult maintenance and poor parts durability are no good for weeks of high tempo ops and its base armour is of little use even against early 120 mm munitions.

      Its ability to resist 105 mm L7 with 1970's munitions and to penetrate a Leopard 2 matter little nowadays.

      It may or may not be able to resist 120mm DM63 in frontal 60° (I rather suppose it won't, except in some areas at lucky angles).
      It may or may not be able to penetrate Leo2A5/6 in frontal 60° (probably it would with year 2020 ammo, at least against the glacis and some tiny ballistic windows).

      It's much more important how the tank units would be employed/supported and how well the crews are trained (and motivated).

  6. But you have to (hypotetically yet, but it is planed for 2020 - 2025...) fight thousands of tanks with only few hundreds of tanks.

    There isn`t always succesful "Golan Heights scenario"; and the Israelis in 1973 were better equiped and much better trained than their foes; they were also strongly favoured by Syrian idiotic tactic and by mountain terrain.

    Helmut Schmidts Ostpolitik was: "Have strong army, then talk with Russia." Today, "Gazprom Ostpolitik" of SPD is completely different thing. "We don`t need strong army, we are just going to talk with Russia, you know?" - Much contempt of Kremlin towards whole "chattering" West is now only vindicated, from the point of view of Russian power elites. Long internally fractured West is seen as chicken without beak. You have to give Russians Eastern Europe if you want some deal. They really don`t fear that Western Europe alone can pose some military threat to them.


    1. Well, we're no threat to them - and Russian leaders understanding this for a change would be nice - but we can defend ourselves, and if attacked, would kick in a wartime mindset in which the gloves are off and the unthinkable happens self-evidently.

      I bet the Bundeswehr would even disregard traffic regulations on its way to Poland. Maybe even tell railway worker to STFU if he protests because a tank was loaded onto a railcar 1 cm too far to the left.

      Besides, it's not all about tanks vs. tanks, even though I paint a bleak picture about infantry AT firepower.

      Finally; I wrote "T-80's may be anything from a T-26 equivalent to a T-34 equivalent" as a hint: The ~12k Soviet BT and T-26 tanks didn't matter much in 1941.

    2. It`s always great to poke fun at "cirkus plechowy". You know, PzKpfws I and II, even T-26 was better than these. Polish 7TP was much better, at least on paper. If only they had more of them.

      Next year Russian defense spending amounts 17,5 % of state budget, overtly (there is massive spending on classified items also). They will use up reserve fund and even healthcare fund for it.

      Either they will implode economically in a few years, or they will go to war. Or maybe all at once.

  7. It seems that Kremlin really wants to keep large quantities of its tanks, not just limit itself to last Armatas.

    There was initially plan for 2 300 Armatas, 900 T-72B3 and about 400 T-90 past 2020. Now we can count on up to 3 000 T-80s also and this modernisation can again go similar way as mentioned by Jane`s.


    So why they need all this equipment? I guess, maybe for spectacular parades in a capital far, far away?

    1. The Russian army doesn't meet its recruiting goals. Slowly mobilised reserves who had their active duty pre-2010 aren't much of a concern.
      So there's not really personnel for this many tanks, and won't be without going back to larger scale conscription.