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Skybird 08-15-2006 04:19 PM

1973 revisited: tough lesson for Israeli armour
This is about the matter of facts of Israel's commitment of heavy armour in it's latest battle in Lebanon -where it apparently suffered serious losses.

Don't let it turn into a political debate.


Tough lessons for Israeli armour

By Jonathan Marcus
BBC diplomatic correspondent Tank crews have provided a significant number of casualties

One of the major military surprises of the fighting in Lebanon has been the apparent vulnerability of Israeli armour to Hezbollah anti-tank rockets.
No detailed figures are available and it is clear that many more tanks may have been hit than actually destroyed.
But a significant proportion of Israeli casualties have been among tank crews.
Hezbollah has also used its anti-armour weapons to bring down buildings around sheltering Israeli troops, again causing multiple casualties.
Hezbollah has fielded some of the most modern Russian-made anti-tank weapons, which the Israelis insist have come via the Syrians.

The potency of infantry anti-armour weapons is nothing new for the Israelis. One journalist reported seeing the sophisticated Kornet

In 1973, after Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal, Israel tank units learned the hard way about what Russian-made missiles could do.

The Egyptians put across the canal large numbers of soldiers armed with wire-guided Sagger missiles.
As long as the operator kept the target tank in his sights, signals sent along the unreeling wire would guide the missile to its target.
As counter-attacking Israeli tanks raced towards the canal, they were met by barrages of these missiles. You can be sure Israeli Defence Forces planners... will be studying these engagements in detail

Commanders spoke of vehicles emerging from the fighting festooned with wires from the missiles, and many tanks were destroyed.
Since then a complex design battle has been underway between the tank and the infantry anti-armour weapon.
For the foot-soldier the key is penetration but also weight: What can easily be carried into battle?
Tandem charge
For the tank, too, there are weight considerations as more and more armour places heavier strains on engines and running gear and also potentially limits the areas in which a tank can operate.
In Lebanon Israel has come up against some of Russia's most modern anti-tank weapons. Crew protection was a key element in the Merkava tank's design

The AT-13 Metis or Saxhorn is a modern tube-launched successor to the Sagger.
Its tandem-shaped warhead can punch through armour of up to 46cm (18 inches) thick.
The tandem warhead is designed to counter reactive armour as used on many Israeli vehicles.
Reactive armour is essentially made up of explosive pads or bricks on the outside of the tank which explode outwards when hit by an incoming missile.
This disrupts the effect of the missile warhead, which needs to impact upon the surface of the tank to achieve its penetrative effect.
A twin or tandem charge is designed to get around this.
The first warhead triggers the reactive armour and the second penetrates the tank.
Hezbollah is also reported to have used the RPG-29; a shoulder-fired weapon, again with a tandem charge.

Infantry carriers
And a journalist from the London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper reports also seeing abandoned Kornet missiles in Lebanon.
The Kornet was first shown by the Russians in 1994 and represents state-of-the-art technology.
It has either an optical or a thermal sight - effectively "riding" a laser beam to its target. It again has a tandem warhead.
It has a range of up to 5km (three miles) and is said to be able to penetrate armour up to 1,200mm thick. Hezbollah has fielded some of the most modern weaponry

The Kornet has been exported by the Russians to only a few countries, including Syria.
And all the evidence suggests that the Syrians have passed them on to Hezbollah.
Israel is so concerned that it has despatched a team of officials to Moscow to show the Russians the evidence of what they say can only be Syrian weapons transfers.
In the longer term, the experiences of 1973 played an important part in shaping the philosophy behind Israel's Merkava battle tank.
The Merkava or Chariot is among the most modern in the world, but its unique feature is the extent to which crew protection figured in its design.
Quite apart from carrying highly sophisticated armour, it is almost unique in having the engine in the front, affording additional protection to its crew.
The need for well-armoured infantry carriers that can keep pace with the tanks has led Israel to convert a large number of older tanks to carry troops.
The Achzarit is a good example. It is based on the Russian T54/T55 tank which Israel captured in large numbers during the 1973 war.
Its turret and main gun have been removed and various other changes made to allow it to accommodate a crew of three along with seven infantrymen.

New armour
But all of these enhancements have not proved sufficiently effective against the most modern anti-tank systems operated by determined fighters on the ground.
You can be sure Israeli Defence Forces planners and indeed military observers from around the world will be studying these engagements in detail. Part of the answer may be to adopt new kinds of armour. But, as ever, part of the answer will be tactical - changes to the way tanks are employed and the way they operate in concert with other elements of ground-power, like infantry and artillery.

TteFAboB 08-15-2006 07:33 PM

Tanks = Death traps.

Tanks vs Tanks in SB Pro is all fun. But only a retarded opponent would fail to employ this kind of AT weapon effectively on the scenario at hand.

I would ride your Leo 1 into battle against T-90's anyday, but I wouldn't venture into Lebanon in any kind of tank at all. It's a sea of AT Infantry, sneaking, hiding, ambushing. Unless you send the troopers far ahead to fall in the traps for me, die and take out the missiles along the way.

The answer is: unmanned radio-guided MBTs. :D

Either that, or ED-209 - shoot first, ask questions later.

Yahoshua 08-15-2006 07:46 PM

Perhaps what is needed, is not a revolution of technology but a change in tactics.

What is done now by Israel is to send in the tanks either with a handful of troops or air support.

What needs to be done is the "Russian Rush." In where artillery shells a position while tanks and infantry advance under the cover of artillery bombardment. With tanks on the vanguard they take the most hits, infantry is just as vulnerable. This way, the enemy is suppressed until the ground forces are ontop of the enemy position, thereby destroying the AT units first and then proceeding on with shock troops/armor and pin-point airstrikes as needed.

So the question becomes of who to sacrifice? The tank or the footsoldier?

Although this is a pointless question for Israel (the tank goes first, and I kid you not when I say this) I'd rather sacrifice a couple soldiers and take out an AT obstacle than let the tank get hit and have no real firepower or moving cover for the footsoldiers.

ReM 08-16-2006 02:14 AM


Originally Posted by Yahoshua
Perhaps what is needed, is not a revolution of technology but a change in tactics.

What is done now by Israel is to send in the tanks either with a handful of troops or air support.

What needs to be done is the "Russian Rush." In where artillery shells a position while tanks and infantry advance under the cover of artillery bombardment. With tanks on the vanguard they take the most hits, infantry is just as vulnerable. This way, the enemy is suppressed until the ground forces are ontop of the enemy position, thereby destroying the AT units first and then proceeding on with shock troops/armor and pin-point airstrikes as needed.

So the question becomes of who to sacrifice? The tank or the footsoldier?

Although this is a pointless question for Israel (the tank goes first, and I kid you not when I say this) I'd rather sacrifice a couple soldiers and take out an AT obstacle than let the tank get hit and have no real firepower or moving cover for the footsoldiers.

These are nice tactics when engaging a regular army, but Hezbollah is not a regular army; it operates more unleash hell over their suspected positions and then rush with all your armour and infantry, only to find that there is nobody left to fight with....!:o

History has enough examples how difficult it is for regular armies to defeat an opponent that uses guerilla tactics (Vietnam, Afghanistan - Russian and US occupation- , present day Iraq). You can add the latest Israeli incursion into Lebanon to this was not the quick fix the Israelis expected, nor the victory that Hezbollah claims....

There is definately a role for the MBT on the battle field; in this case the MBT was just not well-used....

Skybird 08-16-2006 05:12 AM

First the Guerilla-argument that speaks against the "Russian rush". Second, what Western army has the "Roman spirit" to accept self-sacrifice, and high losses like the Russians, to overcome an enemy? I think the tactics being used were wrong from the beginning, deriving from very bad intel (not informed on how strong an army Hezbollah could field, and what kind of sophisticated weapons they have), being too hesitent to mobilize full reserves, waiting too long to go in on the ground, in strength, and then switching the thing on and off and on and off. Israel designs it's MBT's to be troop carriers at the same time, so that infantry can travel the battlefield in what probably is the best-protected troop carrier in the world - they like personnell losses even less than American and european armies (especially this may be the core problem and weakness there is no remedy to, even more so against an enemy who believes in finding death on the battlefield is a divine mercy and honour). I would have used ground forces exclusively to find out about enemy fighters, than fix them in place, but not fighting them on the ground - instead, let artillery and air force bury them with overkill capacity. For tanks - I wouldn't have seen so much use. Maybe in a role of a most immediate mini-artillery, but as leader of attacks - a no go for me.

SubSerpent 08-16-2006 11:14 AM

I'd just drop a few dozen mother of all bombs (MOABS) on them. If the explosions don't kill them the sound will by will blowing out their hearing. Then they wouldn't be able to hear a tank if it rolled up on top of them.

First, send in the jets with precision guided bombs to take out their power and fuel infastructure.

Second, MOAB them several times in various locations, especially around food producing infastrucuture (farms, ports, towns, etc)

Third, send in Tanks, Artillery, and Troops and go house to house with no mercy on life. Kill EVERYONE!! Take NO prisoners! :arrgh!:

snowsub 08-16-2006 04:09 PM

Me being a tank ignoramus...

Why do israel tank have suck different turrets on their tanks, nothing like US/UK (even soviet) turrets, very much angular (some almost flat).


Yahoshua 08-16-2006 05:41 PM

The reason why is to prevent other tanks from disabling/destroying the Merkava(Chariot) type III/IV. The version we see most in the news is the type III tank. Type IV has been repeatedly delayed but I'm not sure if it was tested in Lebanon or not.

Anyway, when a tank fires at another tank it fires in a near straight line, save for the arc of the round. So what you have is a shallow arc that needs to hit a solid object at the right andle in order to penetrate and detonate within an armored vehicle. The Merkava was designed with this in mind, with live-fire tests bouncing off the tank from ranges of over 3,000 meters to point-blank range.

Also, learning from lessons in the war of 1973/1982 is that Anti-tank rockets were successfully stopped from penetrating the tanks' turret, but would jam the turret itself and leave a dangerous situation in which a live missile had to be removed. The response to that was to lower the profile of the turret, making the Merkava less identifiable, and less prone to jamming. However, the rear of the turret was still vulnerable to jams by missiles that strike true. So chans hanging from the back of the turret are for the express purpose of stopping these missiles. (Also, the balls on the end of the chains are magnetic, so that magnetic mines will not jump onto the tank and stick to it.

So far, there have been only two known wasy to positively destroy the Merkava tank. One, was a direct hit by an artillery round in live-fire testing and hit the tank at a near 90 degree angle on the left side of the turret(can also be done with air support via precision bombs?).

The second means was by a buried bomb that killed 4 crewmembers in Jenin when apx. 1,300 kg of high explosives blew the turret completely off the tank, killing the crewmen inside. The tank commander would've survived since he was thrown clear of the turret, but the turret itself landed ontop of him.

Skybird 08-16-2006 06:38 PM

Pro tankers over at SBP-forum said that 12 Merkavas alone were destroyed in recent days. I remember, like one guy there, to have seen 4 burning Merkavas in one video scene alone, some days ago.

I honestly doubt that modern kinetic penetrators like those being used by the US or Germany just "bounce" off that easily, no matter what the angle of armour is. russian penetrators may be loighter, but then, they travel with far higher speed, and are fired with higher muzzle velocity. I asked in their forum once for the flat angle of the Leo2-A5's new frontal turret armour, this wedge that has been added to the original flat A$-armour, and if a hit on the downside of that wedge would not funnel a deflected shot towards the most vulnerable ring connecting the turrent with the hull. They said these flat angled armours are no match for high velocity kinetic penetrators, it is very rare that the just bounce of. More likely is that they penetrate the armour at a deflected angle, getting them stuck effectively inside the armour before it reaches the inside of the tank.

Russian ATGMs are famous for having serious punches, and no other country fields such a huge diversity of missiles like the Russians. I fear some of these, as well as modified TOW missiles, probably really showed that the Merkava is not as much "über" strong as is often said. However, I also remembered to have red somewehre in recent days, that the casualties amongst crews of the hit tanks are very low. The Merkava certainly is, by design and with it's front-mounted motor, the tank with the best crew protection in the world (and best crew escape with it's backside hatch, like an APC). But I wouldn't automatically conclude from that that it also is the most difficult tank to disable. And it also is not only armour angle that decides if a hit is lethal or not, but also material composition.

However, those ATGMs being used surely must have been a nasty surprise for the IDF. And not only Israeli tank analysts and tacticians probably have smoking heads about this war currently.

Lebanon is not really a place made for tank warfare. I think the losses for the main are caused by wrong tactics, that again may be caused by incompetent political leadership, planning a wrong kind of warfare on the basis of thin advise from the military planners that for themselevs were planning on the basis of a rushed enterprise, too little time, and too little reliable intel. It's a complex mixture of variables that finally resulted in surprisingly many tanks beeing lost. One phrase I constantly have on mind concerning this war: "extremely bad preparation". And a major strategic defeat for Israel.

snowsub 08-16-2006 09:50 PM

So what is implied is the Israels' tanks are more TankVTank then against infantry?

Cause though it seems very different, if it was such a leap forward then the US etc would have adopted it?

Another Q
Appart from Australia who will be buying 70 odd M1A1 tanks, what other country uses the US M1A1?
I'm gathering the leopard is the most widesread of the Western types but I haven't seen other contries with either the M1A1 or the UK Challenger.
(they US/UK just don't sell them, or only to selected allies of they are just too expensive?)

Yahoshua 08-16-2006 11:09 PM

In all honesty, the Merkava is a step up from the M1A1. The Merkave can move 60 Km/h on rocky terrain without throwing tracks. It also has such na good stabilizer that you can get a lawn chair, a cup of coffee, and a magazine to read while you sit ontop of the tank while it races along a road. You wouldn't spill a drop.

Best of all, the Merkava is lighter than the M1A1. Problem with the M1A1 is that it's too heavy to move to places with timely delivery to the battlefield. And it guzzles gas faster than an Irishman in a beer factory. I don't know how the Merkava performs in regards to mileage, but i doubt it's much better.

I don't remember how much the comparison of price was but I'm sure it's expensive for both of them.

And to answer your other question, yes the merkava was designed primarily as a tank vs. tank, and it's secondary was infantry support, not to have the merkava go in alone against waves of infantry. It's just suicidal.

And thanks for elaborating on points I forgot/didn't cover Skybird. Seems like we make a good pair together. (You are a girl right?).

Skybird 08-17-2006 12:49 AM


Originally Posted by Yahoshua
(You are a girl right?).

No, and if if you are not already, I could turn you into one! :stare: :arrgh!: :hulk:

ATGMs, especially at close range, are so lethal today that none of the major MBTs today would rate as anything different than tank-vs-tank machines. By doctrine, German tanks for example carry almost exclusively kinetic rounds for that reason, they are not meant to hunt infantry.

The M1A1/A2 has a 1450-1550 PS turbine that consumes fuel always at the same rate: maximum rate that is, even if it sits still. That's why logistically, M1s are a nightmare. Leopard2 use a 1500 PS Diesel engine, later versions, I think, even a 1550 PS engine, which consumes fuel at varying rates, and almost nothing when the tank sits still, else it is "the faster, the more". Even at maximum speed the Leo needs far less fuel than an Abrams. These differences lead to a slight advantage of M1s in terms of acceleration, while the Leopard-2 has higher top speed.

The Merkava is result of the needs of the IDF, and focusses on crew protection, and mobility, since Israels army is not too huge and plans to compensate for that by high mobility in formation maneuvering and the ability to quickly relocate combat units. However, keep in mind that tanks only travel on the battlefield, between combat atcion they use to be carried arround by according trucks, which is faster, less fuel-consuming and less stressing/wearing for the material (engine, transmission, tracks).

The rough history of developement for all tanks can be found in brief essays at wikipedia. Just enter the tank name.

Yahoshua 08-17-2006 01:47 AM

Yeah, although I think it'd be a better move for the U.S. to design and produce a new tank (fuel efficient, lighter, better crew protection and 2 versions one for AT and one for inf. support).

Israel could use the M1A1 in a more timely manner since everyman and his neighbor is only next door.

If need be, Israel can put the M1 tanks in reserve while using the Merkavas' more actively. When the next big war breaks out, out come the M1s' too. THEN we'll see how the M1 really performs in combat vs enemy armor.

snowsub 08-17-2006 04:44 AM

And about other country's that have the....

1. M1A1 - US, Israel (soon Australia) .... ???
2. Challenger - GB ... ???
3. Leopard - Germany, Australia, .... ???
4. Lectalec - France (is this even in actual use yet?)
5. T-80 - Russia, ... ???
6. T-72 - Eastern Europe, China, ... ???

(??? as in who else?)

...and about Skybird being a girl :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl:
(sorry skybird, that just cracked me up)

Skybird 08-17-2006 12:17 PM

Leopard2 is used by Finland, Austria, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Chile (in delivery), Greece (in delivery), Switzerland, Turkey, Poland, Norway, Sweden. Mostly the A4 model got exported.

German military industry has two special items on offer about which one can say that Germans really know a thing or two how to build them: tanks (both Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 are record sellers), and submarines (206 and 209 belonging to the most produced submarine classes ever, now the 212/214 is very much wanted, too).

France's Lectalec actually is the Leclerc. And yes, until 2004, 240+ tanks got delivered, 420+ are planned to get bought.

badhat17 08-19-2006 11:12 AM

I understand that Jordan have taken a number of Challenger 1 off the hands of the British MOD.

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